In the beginning, when she was younger and what was called ‘ripe’, the word was No. Whispered, shouted, flung into faces that leaned too close, sung as an orison, simply said half-hidden beneath the delicate blossoms of the dogwoods, No.
It enraged them, drove them wild. Flowers they threw at her feet, and diamonds, and rare spices, and costly woods, and fangorous monsters; fruits of their labours, poetry and magic spells and small and polished gods. One killed himself for her, left a bowl of his blood bright as anemones to glitter among her pearls and her gaudies. This shocked her into silence, and so for awhile she stopped saying No. They adored her, they loved her, they worshipped her, in a million places and a million ways. She drove them away in the end with blows and whippings and withdrew to think.
She thought in magnificent opulence for twenty years. At first the crowds around her door were numberless, but as time went on one by one they lost hope and left, settled, breathed in relief that she had eluded them. At last she was old and still lovely and only one was left. She opened the door and knew him.
“Yes,” she said.