Fiction: Death in the Phoenix’s Nest

**This is a scene from a short story/novella I wrote back in 2008. The story is about a shy art student who married an Australian musician to give him a green card. He then becomes extremely wealthy, and they live together in a loveless marriage, both resentfully indebted to one another. A fun idea, but I had just begun my eternal love affair with Oscar Wilde, so much of the writing is embarrassingly pretentious. Not to mention, the story has enough plot holes to fill the Grand Canyon. But, there are some parts of it I like. I never published it anywhere, so I thought I’d put a scene out here. 

In this scene, they have just met, and he is trying to  get her to fall for him, so that he can pull off his proposal in a few weeks. **

Excerpt: Death in the Phoenix’s Nest 

The rain beat down on the glass-walled apartment, the roar creating an intimate cocoon of sound. Orphan drops tapped on the window like long pointy fingers, and ricocheted off creating a fine mist resembling fog. Lightning illuminated the night sky and then flashed back into darkness.

Mandy and Phoenix lounged on the leather couch lingering over conversation and wine, both flowing freely. She noticed a thin leather volume on the end table. She curiously picked it up.

“Shakespeare?” She observed, intrigued.

“I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately,” he answered. He took a sip of wine, swirled his glass and leaned back into the couch.

“Exquisite literature,” he continued, “I wish I could write lyrics that beautifully. But, even if I could, you can’t sell that kind of music. It’s too…showy.”

She flipped through it, noticing highlighted and annotated passages. She passed over pages of complex sonnets, and fell on an obscure piece.

The Phoenix and the Turtle,” she read, skimming the verses.

“That’s an excellent piece,” he remarked. He set down his wine glass and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “One of my favorites, really. It’s about two lovers who die to themselves to achieve a metaphysically intoxicating love.”

“A metaphysically intoxicating love,” She repeated.

“Well, there’s really a bit of debate about the true meaning of piece. The lovers are birds that explode, and in their death, create love. Beautiful concept, very poetic, and very Shakespearean.”

She thirstily drank his words. She had relished thoughtful conversation in art school, where she had been quite adept. But the inanity of real life had weakened her critical mind, and now she worried she would disappoint him.

“I guess,” she ventured, “Both death and love are these consummate physical, emotional and spiritual experiences, by which one loses one’s self…it’s sort of abstract and poetic, but I get it.”

“Could be,” he shrugged. “But, I see it a bit more subtle. That these lovers die to themselves so completely and attain an unselfish love so pure, it is humanly divine.”

He flicked open a metal lighter and lit a cigarette.

“Do you smoke?” he offered her one.

She quietly took it. He absentmindedly lit it for her, still chewing on the Shakespeare piece.

“And it is only when we die to ourselves that we can truly love, anyway,” he continued, “So, when you think about it, the piece is a model for perfect love, I guess?”

She nodded.

“Perfect, unselfish love,” she repeated. “Do you believe that’s even possible?”

Long soft curves of smoke spiraled from his cigarette and disappeared. He inhaled, and looked at her thoughtfully.

“I don’t know,” he stared off pondering, “That’s a great question.”

Finally, he suddenly said, “Here, I’ll read to you, if you’d like.”

She smiled. “I’d love that.”

She slipped off her strappy heels, and curled against him on the couch, her bare feet caressing his black dress socks. She listened to the gentle rhythm of his voice, and the soft lilt of his lazy Australian accent against the rain.

Here the anthem doth commence;
Love and constancy is dead
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence
So had they loved as love in twain
Had the essence but in one
Two distincts division none
Number there in love was slain.

He gently brushed her lips with his, both hypnotically succumbing to one another. He read on in a low titillating voice.


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