“Everyone’s asleep,” she said softly, placing the oil lamp carefully on the floor and slinking down beside it. Her back against the wall, the skirt of her nightgown tucked gently beneath her bottom, she knocked once and waited for a response.
“Thisbe,” a muffled voice called from the other side of the cracked wall.
Her breath hitched. “Yes,” was her strangled cry, as her eyes slipped closed and her head fell back against the wall. “Every night I fear it will be someone else’s voice I hear.”
“Never. So long as I live I will take my place beside you.”
“If I could only see your face, touch my hands to your skin. The distance is maddening. All day, I can think of nothing else. This damnable wall, how long will it keep us apart?”
“I would tear it down,” he said, his voice deep and thrilling, even through the barrier. “I’ve dreamt of it a million times. Taking a mallot to the crack and watching it crumble.”
“And if you saw me, truly, for the first time since our childhood, might you not change your mind?”
She imagined his furrowed brow when he paused, and smiled. “Can a man change his heart? It is not with my mind that I love you, Thisbe. It is with every other part of me. I know without a doubt you have grown to be as beautiful outside as you are within.”
“You flatter me.”
“I speak from the heart. Though were standing together I would not object to a kiss in exchange for the truth.”
Another pause stretched between them.
“We could runaway, Thisbe. We could leave this place with our feuding families and find peace and happiness on our own.”
“And how would we survive? I would lose my dowry, any rights to my inheritance. We would be penniless. Assuming my father did not come to drag me home.”
“We fly on lovers’ wings. How could they harm us?”
“It is a beautiful dream, but a dream none the less.”
“It is a cruel world where I cannot lay my eyes upon you. Where I cannot run my fingers through you hair. Will we be aged and still whispering secrets across the crack in the wall? And what happens when your family marries you to another man and you’re forced to leave me behind? How am I to live then?”
“Pyramus,” she whispered gravely, turning suddenly to place her ear and hands against the wall, as though if she pressed hard enough, she could touch him on the other side. “I know where this line of reasoning is headed. They must never know. You must never tell them. They would send me away, far from this place.”
“Better that you be ripped away from me than married and touched by another man.”
“Pyramus, please. I could not bear it.”
“And if we disappeared? If the only trace we left behind was one so morbid they would not think to chase us?”
She sat up slowly as his words took shape, creating awful pictures in her mind. “There are many dangers in the forest,” she whispered, her lips pressed to the crack in the wall as though she whispered in his ear.
“And two young lovers finding solace in each other within the darkness of the trees….”
Her heart raced. With each word he uttered, her future became brighter still.
“They would never take note of a bear, or a wolf.”
“Is that a yes, Thisbe?”
She waited. For a moment, she feared she heard one of her parent’s stir. She held her breath, her hand reaching toward the lamp. Her lips were pursed to blow out the flame, to conceal herself in darkness. But the sounds were only those of the night and the house settling.
“Yes,” she whispered, relieved at the silence.
But it was only a matter of time. One night, the sounds creaking through the house would not be the old furniture or the aging stone, it would be her father, and her time with Pyramus would be over for good.
“Yes,” she said, gathering her bearings. “We will meet in the forest. Bring a sharp knife and extra clothing.”
“I’ll care for you, my love.”
“I know, Pyramus. I know. Just point the way. I will follow you anywhere.”