Valentina and the Village Listener

Valentina and the Village Listener

A Story by TLK
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A folk tale about simple riches, which are riches still.

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Once there were two lonely people living in the same village. Valentina was a simple woman who did not know the joy she brought to others, for she gave them more than she took for herself without thinking. She felt cursed by her name, which meant 'healthy'. The village listener was a simple man with an important job, and he too was ignorant of his importance. They both lived simple lives in the simple village, and tried their best to feel that this was enough for them.

Valentina had recently come to work in the household of the village elder. She quickly made their house the most beautiful in the village, without ever asking for her fair share of attention or praise. In her own time, which was meagre, she never failed to contribute the most to all facets of community life. Already, have only seen two new moons there, she was indispensable. The village elder's wife knew this and, not lacking in either compassion or gratitude, made up her mind to reward her in some way.

So, one bright autumn morning the village elder's wife stirred crisp leaves with her feet on her way to the village listener. He, too, was grander than he realised; a solid foundation on which many people rested their problems. His job was very necessary. All kinds of people would come to him with their problems. And, as they talked, he would listen. He was very sympathetic. And, after listening sympathetically for ten minutes, or half an hour, or an hour, or longer still, he would remind you of what he had just listened to.

Using his soft voice, and his forgettable face, and his slender hands (to comb the air into more pleasing shapes), he would remind you. He might remind you that you had expressed a wish to take control of your fears, and to face them. He might remind you that you had said that what was unfair needed to be challenged, and show you that you owned the determination to do just that. He could remind you of your wish to leave your past behind.

At every turn, he lanced the boils of common life, and he needed nothing more than time spent listening and reminding. For having been reminded by such a patient and thoughtful man, what you yourself had said seemed to be much more important. In fact, it seemed exactly enough to act on in order to improve the future. It was as if he had given you a course of action that you had known all along. And perhaps this is why people downplayed his importance as - looking back on what he had done - it was like he was not needed at all.

The village elder’s wife was aware that the village listener was talked to, but not listened to himself, and often took the time to ask him how he was keeping. It was clear that he had taken on the problems of others in the village to the point that he had forgotten his own. He continually reminded himself that he loved his simple life, even though to many it would have been far too empty. He reminded himself to take pleasure in the small things that he had, even though to many they would be far too small. But even he could not remind himself that he was not lonely, for in no way was this a truth. Even he could not make himself believe that he had no need of companionship.

So, one day, the wife of the village elder came to the village listener, looking for his simple wisdom. With her, he was particularly sympathetic and would take all day to listen. For, while her husband was the one who gave orders for when each farmer must plough to the limits of their land, and then punish those who took more than they could cultivate, she was the one who set the limits of village life. When she gossiped, gossip became truth. When she held her tongue, truth became idle gossip. At all turns, she was in charge of the moral life of the village, and it was having a moral life that the Village listener wanted most.

This time, however, it was hard to exercise patience. She was so excited about her plan that she talked fast; in fact, sometimes she had to repeat herself to be understood. The village listener was surprised at the speed of her problems, the speed of the solution, and the speed of the conversation. At last, having concluded business and reached the proper time, she mentioned Valentina. “There is a woman,” she started, “who has come to work for us. She works hard, and she works long: and she must, for everybody pities her. That pity is all that he has. Without these efforts she would lose the pity and she would have nothing. I will let her see you after church every Sunday and we will see what happens.”

And the village listener was glad.

 

Valentina visited, as promised, every Sunday. She was scared of looking foolish each and every time. Her name was a cause for laughter behind her back, as she was not healthy at all. Her body racked with coughing when she was wet. Her hair hung limply over a face that had the sheen of a boiled egg. Worst of all, she was given to fainting. If not for her hard work and the pity she had earned ever since she had left home to make her own way in the world, she would never have found employment in the house of the wife of the village elder.

But from the first time she saw the village listener, his serious thin face would make her smile. Her fear would find no crack in his tenderness to take root, and would always slip away. The look that came over him as he listened intently made her feel important. And the attention that he paid her were all the riches of the world that she felt she had. Simple riches, but riches still.

 

Over time, having something more than pity made Valentina stronger. She did not realise it, as she had always buried herself in hard work, but it was true all the same. Her roots were being nourished with gratitude, kindness, tenderness, and respect as she slept. All she knew was that she liked nothing more than to visit the village listener every Sunday, even though each and every time it caused nervousness to begin with.

 

 

 

One day, at the centre of the village, around a stout tree which stood sentinel over the community, a labourer noticed the strength coming to Valentina and reasoned that she would think less of herself than she should. He regarded the colour in her cheeks, the thickness of her hair, the darkness of her brows, and he thought Best of all is a weak woman who is thankful for your attention, for you will have to give her little else in return for her devotion. He had also heard gossip of the money she earned and did not spend, and grew thirsty upon smelling it.

Coming up to her, he said “Although you are weak and ugly, Valentina, I will show you pity. Come with me and we shall be woman and man together.” And he was so cruel that he thought this was a good offer.

Valentina turned away from him, tears coming to her eyes. She tried to refuse but sadness was a lump in her throat. The only sound that came out was another sigh from a lifetime spent sighing.

He did not like this response. He grabbed at her elbow, now both demanding in voice and also demanding in body. She pulled her elbow from him, she made to run away; but with a fierce push he sent her falling to the ground.

“No-one will have you,” he jeered, “for you look like what you are - a slave in poor hand-me-down clothes that are covered in dirt.”

Valentina did not want to be seen lying on the ground in the centre of the village. She picked herself up and looked around for a safe place to hide. She found herself behind the house of the village listener. Being so quiet himself, the village listener heard her sobbing, and she had almost been brought in by his gentle hands before she had time to protest.

“I refuse to come in, I am too wretched,” she said, but he held her arm more tightly and pulled her through the door.

“I refuse to lie down, I am too dirty,” she said, but he held her hand more comfortingly and laid her down on his couch.

“I refuse to talk, I am too sad,” she said, so he waited, as patient as ever, for her mouth to open.

Then the anger came out. Anger at the labourer, anger at her health, but most of all anger at herself. And Valentina turned to the village listener with this hatred in her eyes.

“I am already invisible to everybody. Please make me disappear to myself also.”

The village listener did not know what this meant.

“I want to be reminded that I am nobody, that I am nothing. I want to go through my life, working hard for no reason, unaware of my lack of reasons, and undisturbed by my own wretchedness. I want to stop coming here; I want to stop wasting your time. And I want you to remind yourself that you were happier before you wasted your time on me.”

And at this she resumed sobbing.

He screwed up his courage as he waited for her to stop. And in a voice different to the one he usually used, he made an offer. “I could love you,” he said.

She blinked at him, eyes wet. “You would do that for me? Out of pity?”

He did not give an answer, and she took this for a ‘yes’.

 

They went straight to the village elder's house, and explained their decision, and received much joy in return. And Valentina thought even though this is not true, it is enough like true love to me. And she looked at the village listener and marvelled that he would give up so much for her.

Then they went around the village, and told everybody the news, and received well-wishings in return. And Valentina thought even though this is not real, it is enough like a real life for me. And she looked at the village listener and marvelled that he would live this lie for her.

Valentina had little family, but to what she had she sent a letter. And, eventually, she received a reply of happy surprise. And Valentina thought even though this is not going to be forever, it will last long enough for me. And she looked at the village listener and marvelled that he could allow her happiness for so long, when he must be suffering from her presence.

 

Now, it was a good day to get married, and that is what everybody remembered afterwards. Two nights before, without thinking, Valentina had told her future-husband that it was a tradition in her own village for the man and wife to tell each other a secret on their wedding day. And the village listener looked serious and pensive, and Valentina realised she should be scared of what he would tell her. So Valentina thought even though his secret will be that he does not love me, I have loved him enough to make this marriage real. And she looked at where the village listener had been standing and marvelled that he had reached this far for her.

The wedding itself went without a hitch, although she was distracting herself by looking for signs that everybody else knew the village listener’s happiness was just for show. And she went along with the story too, and almost forgot that it was not real at all.

 

Then, with a lurch in her heart, she realised that they were alone in the village listener’s simple house. The ceremonies and celebrations were concluded, and it was time for the masks of happiness to be removed, and secrets to be spoken in their place.

She did not want her husband to tell her that he had lied for her, for he did not deserve to live a lie and she did not deserve to have him doing so. So, as if she was at work, she made herself busy. Right there in her wedding dress, she made herself busy, and it was ridiculous.

Her husband would come up to her in the kitchen, and she would shoo him out.

And then she started to put the bedroom right, and he would come to her, and she would shoo him out.

She even went outside, looking like a spectre in the moonlight, and started to harvest spring cabbages.

Her husband came out to her, and just like before, held her arm tightly and brought her in.

“I do not want to hear your secret,” she sobbed.

“But you must.” And he started. ”There is only one reason for a man to spend all this time with a woman.”

With a red face full of tears, she sobbed “Because he pities her.”

“There is only one reason for a man to open his house to a woman.”

With red eyes full of tears, she sobbed “Because he pities her.”

“And there is only one reason for a man to marry a woman.”

She tried to speak, but her sobs were too loud.

 

Her husband had to wait for her to be able to listen. Finally, pulling her hands away from her face and letting her blow her nose, he whispered into her ear: “Simply because he loves her.”

 

And she was reminded of all the times she brought a smile to his face, as he had brought one to hers, and believed him.

And they would remind each other of this truth, again, many times.

© 2013 TLK



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Featured Review

This story reads like something that would be told around a campfire, which is cool - I don't see many stories told like this. I think the action with the laborer didn't have as strong an effect because of way it's told, but that scene was more about the meaning behind his aggression than the act itself.

Your characterization and word selection is excellent all the way through. I loved the line; "to comb the air into more pleasing shapes..." Good work.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Wow. This was a really engaging tale,start to end. I have nothing useful to say.mi was engrossed in the story I forgot even why I was here. I love when that happens.,mthank you. Thanks.

Posted 5 Years Ago


TLK

5 Years Ago

That's one heckuva review. Hopefully you were here just to enjoy some good writing, and probably ba.. read more
I really enjoyed this story! It reminded me of something I would have read in school, and it also brought a smile my face.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

5 Years Ago

Heh, I hope it reminds you of something GOOD that you would have read in school. Thanks for the rev.. read more
Krystal L. Elliott

5 Years Ago

Yes, I always looked forward to English class. =)
This is a wonderful story, I like how you open it, it's like reading a fairy tale and a romantic poem at the same time. This is very cute good job!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

5 Years Ago

Thank you for being the first reviewer, and having such kinds words for my work.

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Added on August 8, 2012
Last Updated on April 22, 2013
Tags: village, marriage, pity

Author

TLK
TLK

Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom



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