Rhyming drama by Leja Dvorsek
Characters: AUNT, NURIO (AUNT’s nephew), TAZIA (NURIO’s fiancée-to-be), MAID
ACT 1, SCENE 1
(Kitchen, where the MAID is silently peeling potatoes and NURIO is fiddling with his bowtie.)
NURIO: (Glances down at his tie) Urgh! It cannot be! For a full 10 minutes have I been bothering myself with this task! I’d rather be stung by a bee and learn… I don’t know – Basque!
AUNT (Arrives into the kitchen): What bothers thee, dear Nurio, on such a splendid evening? Is the knot against you winning? (She looks at the MAID, sighs) I see you are not the only one who troubles with a simple duty. Were you hired only for your – average – beauty? Away with you and these potatoes! What I asked for was tomatoes!
MAID: Apologies, mistress. There was no harm intended. A faerie must have resided in mine ear and whispered wrongly for a jest to be landed.
AUNT: A faerie indeed, away with thee!
(MAID quickly starts cleaning the things and dirt off the table and putting the bowls with potatoes away.)
AUNT: And put the milk back in the fridge. Tazia must have left it outside. The girl and I will have a talk later aside.
MAID: Of course, my lady. Oh, this fridge is an annoyance to open – (drops milk and gasps)
AUNT: And now you dare smudge the cleanliness of the floor by thine incompetence? My eyes must deceive me, for my brain told me that hiring you was a good investment! Clean the white mark of deception at once!
MAID: Yes, my lady.
AUNT: Nurio, I cannot bear to watch you struggle so. Come here. Let your auntie have a go. I used to do this for your uncle, you know. However, that was such a long time ago, my fingers may be stiff and the pattern might not be clear anymore.
NURIO: Looking down has given me a dizzy spell. Please, do save me from this hell.
(TAZIA, wearing heavy make-up and a dress which would in no social circle be called conservative, arrives in the living room where AUNT and NURIO are sitting.)
AUNT: (snarkily) Tazia! Your appearance was managed. Quite a delay it was but no matter. I am but an old lady with time to spare and no other things need my care.
TAZIA: (dramatically) Apologies! Hundreds and hundreds of apologies!
NURIO: Tazia, my love. Your presence brings a pure light which banishes this dreary weather. Who would have thought a storm would announce itself on our engagement party…?
TAZIA: Of this storm, I know. It threw troubles at me, left and right, while travelling here. Just now a tree branch–
NURIO: (gets up) What of this tree branch, my dove?
TAZIA: A tree branch nearly fell me over. It landed not but a hair’s breadth away, resulting in mine near turnover.
NURIO: The evil tree spirit must have been boiling with jealousy, knowing you to soon be my wife and it – a silent wooden strife.
TAZIA: It was the tree in front of your house, if I may say. I wonder how long it had been planning this plan.
NURIO: Let’s go upstairs and freshen you up, my dove. We cannot leave with you in such disarray.
TAZIA: And then be quickly on our way. (TAZIA and NURIO leave)
AUNT: (brooding) The tree has failed me too, I see. A second disappointment today it be.
(Same evening a bit later. AUNT alone in her study, she is writing something down at her desk but has trouble concentrating. She stops and is just sitting there, thinking.)
The lady of the house. That is currently my title.
I preside over all things here and my disciple.
My Nurio – I wished to pave his way
into the world, to keep troubles away.
If only t’was not that engagement to be,
my heart would live in peace.
Alas, the engagement of my dear old boy,
whose mother left him for another joy,
brings sorrow to mine breasts.
A decade and two years I nursed his quests:
to have fun, to be smart, to be a looker…
And now his “love” is a hooker.
The child disappoints me – he could do better!
God knows, into the ground I wish this whore to batter.
Yet avoids all things she, which I throw at her.
Guess I’ll have to try some more, yes Sir.
At least this affair gives me a lease
to have my mind occupied with something.
or should I cease?
My endeavours have since all been for nothing.
Should I leave it?
Let the child live on his own,
learn from his mistakes and…
And watch his goals in life die due to this love which has
With my dying breath I will plough on
to blow this relationship apart, so hold on
my dear boy, auntie will go as far as to the moon.
The seductions of that snake will end soon.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
(NURIO and TAZIA come home, a bit intoxicated from the party. They are giggling, trying to be quiet but failing.)
TAZIA: (hugs him close) Nurio, Nurio. Wherefore art thou Nurio? Thy name itself is truly a curio. Elegant and sleek, never heard before – unique.
NURIO: Doth they know; you are my Anastasia? A princess in my eyes. Lost and wearing a disguise, I found you. To be elevated back to your former glory you are due, as soon as I marry you. With this ring upon thine finger, I swear to you, I’ll always around thee linger. Use me as you wish and do command, I shall always do as you demand. (A short pause.) My dear, ‘tis better if we part. My stomach is not happy with the dinner’s cream tart.
(NURIO leaves, the MAID comes in the background, but she and TAZIA don’t see each other.)
TAZIA (to herself)
Would it be that I harboured less worry – more patience,
I could sleep without a sorry and not be my guilt’s patient.
To cross out this long planned task off my list
to jump over the hurdles I shall insist
until it’s accomplished,
this brilliant plan.
she wants this vain man.
Polishing and cleaning –
I would do it all
as long as I could see you, my dear Nurio.
In the corners I hide and steal of yee glances,
knowing I could never push forth my advances.
For I am a maid –
of poor class was born.
Found half-dead on the street
and was raised to be torn
by the gentry above me
whose souls are forlorn.
Such high love’s beyond me
my heart is forborne.
TAZIA (planning and smirking)
First, I shall kiss him
on a whim it’ll be done.
How I wish to be kissed,
in his arms be amiss’d.
Then the fires I’ll start
in his fresh red young heart.
His whispers in mine ear
are all I’d hold dear.
Then get with a child…
from nights very wild.
My heart couldn’t take it
if you were to stake it
by saying “I love thee”
to any but me.
By the end of this summer
your hand will be mine.
No longer the mummer –
soon riches and wine.
(NURIO and AUNT alone in the living room, reading. AUNT keeps glancing at him, feeling restless. Finally, she can’t take it anymore.)
AUNT: How was the party yesterday, dear nephew? Was everything in accordance with that shre- I mean – how was the menu?
NURIO: Many showed face and the music was pleasurable. But I ate too much cake and my stomach’s a bit vulnerable.
AUNT: I’ll send you the maid to administer aid. Such ills of the body best not be unbothered. Now tell me of Tazia. How has she been? I barely know her. Is she already eighteen?
NURIO: You jest me, dear auntie. You jest me for sure. D’you not think I’d check if she was mature?
AUNT: Your courting just started from nowhere so fast. Love exclamations made ready to last! I find it suspicious, her dress and her lore. Had I not known better, I’d thought her a whor-
NURIO: (interrupts her, angrily) -Horribly treated and never conceited – a maiden whose home was the shore. Raised by the sailors and despised by the neighbours, living itself was a chore!
AUNT: I meant no offense but I fear you should know that women like her carry much less than soul. Constantly searching for places not cold, the hearts aren’t of gold where pleasure is sold.
NURIO: You hate her. I knew it. For weeks I’ve been told, but Tazia’s words I chose to ignore. We’ve tried and we’ve tried and you wouldn’t let us breathe. Well, my dear Auntie, I’m afraid I must leave.
(Stands up and leaves the room while the MAID enters and unintentionally eavesdrops, not noticed by Auntie, facing the other way.)
AUNTIE: (Hurt to herself) There’s nails in my heart, you put them all there, you beat and you nail and you won’t stop or care. That’s it! I’ve decided – if words fail by thee, a poison on table will speak for all three.
(MAID slowly exits the room with shock on her face.)
ACT 3, SCENE 1
(The stage is separated by a wall, on the left is a simple cell room with grates, behind which the MAID is standing. On the right is the dining room where TAZIA, AUNT and NURIO sit at the table and act out what the MAID narrates.)
MAID (teary-eyed, sobbing)
A storm was a-coming and that we all knew.
The servants, the gardeners, his aunt – and that shrew.
Poor Nurio didn’t know what was to hit him.
I wish I could turn back the clock on that evening.
They started as partners,
Hors d’oeuvres were the starters.
Their smiles were everywhere,
poisoning the air.
Both Mistress and Tazia
– witch and a Lamia! –
had plans of their own
to each other unknown.
(Servants serve soup at the table.)
First was the soup,
my soul I bet on it.
Mrs’ eyes blackened,
her arms became slackened.
(Servants take away the soup and bring roasted quill. TAZIA spills her wine all over herself because AUNT “accidentally” pulls the table cloth with her slightly sluggish movement.)
The second was quill
where there was a spill.
Mistress asked servants
to bring some more wine.
The fetch was achieved
and goblet refilled.
Deeply drank Tazia,
with peace on her mind.
(Servants start bringing cake as dessert.)
“my only” now gone.
Why hadn’t you stopped
and looked at your aunt?
How come you ate it?
I thought you felt sick
and avoid you would sugary
moist cakes that thick.
I killed you with love in mind
that I admit.
It was an accident
a plan poorly writ’.
(GHOST NURIO slowly appears behind the MAID and inches towards her.)
Memories of you,
your face turning blue,
haunt me at night.
You’re now my wight.
(MAID turns towards GHOST NURIO, unafraid but still crying.)
Repentance you seek
in my heart chaos wreak.
I loved you, I still do!
I’m sorry, it’s true!
You never loved me,
but to me you were all.
You reap what you sow
– Adieu, Nurio.
(MAID kisses him and the lights go off.)
Originally published in Issue XVIII in May 2019.