It had been a long and arduous journey to the cottage and all eight of Madlyn's legs were throbbing in pain. She could not tell which was worse, the steady, intense throbbing of her exoskeleton, or the hunger pangs wracking her stomach. Since there was no trace of Jelena's scent, she inferred that her lover had not yet arrived to their rendezvous point, and decided to spend what little strength she had left building a web to catch a desperately needed meal.
As she was wont to do, Madlyn lost herself in the process of weaving her web. Back home her elders and peers all treated the task like a structured science, or a mere chore, but she wove every web motivated by aesthetics and originality. She focused every nuance of her attention towards details that nobody but her would ever even notice after she finished, but which meant everything to her. Due to having completely lost herself in her work, she did not notice when Jelena quietly approached and stood watching her for several minutes.
A deep love had developed between the two over the last several weeks, but to their families, friends and communities their connection would be viewed as either an absurdity or outright blasphemy. Female spiders were not to develop personal relationships. They were to compete for hunting space and mating partners. Madlyn and Jelena had bonded over the belief that a life of gathering dinner, creating offspring and murdering male mates was empty and nihilistic. They had each sought something more in their lives when they found one another.
"You just gonna spin the day away up there, or are you gonna come down and say hello?" Jelena startled her with the sudden loving mockery.
Madlyn leapt from her web and nearly landed on her lover in the rush to be near her, "Sorry. I was just famished and thought I would try to gather a bite while I waited."
Rather than respond directly, Jelena disgorged a clot of glistening blood, and then took a step back so Madlyn could ingest the meal.
"I found some food in an abandoned web not too far back, and I saved you some since I figured you would scurry all the way here without any thought to practical affairs like eating," Jelena teased again.
These were their roles, the artist and the comedian. One always creating, the other always joking. This relationship was strengthened by the fact that each found the other's thoughts and behaviors endlessly interesting. As a bonus this meant that each could be saved from their species ingrained tendencies towards introversion by the grace of mutual appreciation, which drew them out of their little spheres and into one another's. Most of their peers had already grown into two dimensional adults, lost in the solitude of duty and stoic appearances. The two lovers had vowed never to become the anti-social hermits that their kind inevitably turned into after the robustness of youth had faded, and made a promise to be a lifelong reminder to the other of what more they could become with the kind of love and support they were supposed to have learned to see as childish and weak by the time they started building webs and hunting.
Each held their silence as Madlyn consumed the delectable sustenance. Immediately she could feel the warmth of it in her stomach spread through her body, melting away some of the pain and fatigue, and promising the relaxed playfulness she hoped to offer her beloved during their romantic retreat.
"You're absolutely the best. I really needed that. Now come over here and give me some sugar," Madlyn offered, as she positioned her body in a submissive pose so Jelena could rub her own carapace on it in an act of affection and embrace. Before long the two were giggling and tumbling around, sixteen legs akimbo, in a clumsy, spontaneous dance of tenderness and trust. When they finally stopped rolling around in surreptitious snuggles, Jelena broke the joyful laughter.
"We should go inside. There are all kinds of nasty rodents and birds here, and we're easy targets goofing off like this out in the open."
The two of them shimmied up the side of the cottage and quickly skittered through an abandoned dryer vent, eventually finding themselves inside the cozy, safe space. There had been no Stompers in this structure during their previous visits, but just to be sure they investigated to assure the absence of the giant, murderous galoots. When they were sure there was no threat, they made their way to their favorite spot, an old chimney where they could set up a web and then just wait for lost, confused food to fall into it while they talked and cuddled and enjoyed one another's company. After a period of updates, observations and various small talk, Madlyn got suddenly serious.
"I don't think I can go back this time, Jelena," she spoke in desperation. "There is suspicion about where I keep disappearing to, and they think that I am weak. There have been several plots against me since we last met. I just cannot live in that world anymore. The constant pressure of competition is killing me."
Madlyn paused for a moment, looking forlorn and frantic, then continued, "But what scares me most is that I might just give in and become like them to survive. Not only would I lose myself, I would lose you. I just can't..."
As Madlyn's words broke off Jelena moved closer to comfort her, "I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way. It's okay, don't feel bad. It's not your fault. We cannot help that we are not like the others."
"Better," Madlyn whimpered. "We're not just not like them, we're better. They are beasts. Slaves to their instinct, habits and tradition. We're not. We know more and feel more. We're better."
Jelena flashed her lover the most enormous smile she could muster. At any other time she might have teased Madlyn about her lack of modesty, but not only did she agree, she realized the catharsis of saying it out loud was a positive thing.
"You're magnificent when you're indignant," Jelena complimented her. "And you're right. Not just that the rest of them are all troglodytes, but that we cannot go back."
Madlyn's many eyes suddenly lit up like the morning sunlight glittering off a million dewy webs, "Really, you're ready? This is it? We can be together...forever?"
"Longer if you like," Jelena reverted back to a slightly teasing mode to clear the tension. "I got nothing planned for the rest of my life but you, baby."
This time Jelena found herself laying low as Madlyn climbed on top and covered her in gestures of affection. They both knew they had a difficult road ahead, but never again would they travel it alone. Never again would they suffer the painful times apart with nothing but the promise of their next rendezvous to the cottage to sustain their courage in the fight against loneliness and dread. No matter what happened from here on out they would have each other, and there wasn't a silk in the world strong enough to pull them apart.
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Loved the opening; it sets the tone for the whole story. I enjoyed reading it, Joshua! Would you mind reading my recent story out, "(Pink)y Promise"? Thank you :D
Thank you. I read your story, too. Great work!