She was golden perfection; he was common but young and strong. Behind carnival masks in San Marco they whispered their passion. In the alley they acted upon it, fifteen springs ago.
Now she was dead and his rival, her husband, Antonio di Vecchio sat in front of him.
“They say, Maestro Francesco, you are descended from Fiolario, the glass alchemist, is that true?”
“They say you are a wizard with glass, that you can make anything…”
The grieving nobleman put a sack of gold on the table.
“What is it you desire?”
He handed him a portrait of Angelica.
“I will think about it.”
He thought about it. As the sun set over the Mediterranean, he sat on the levee outside his shop on the isle of Murano and wept.
And now in the furnace room he formed her in pieces. First her torso, her head, the arms that had held him, the thighs that had gripped him. He blew the glass, with the assistance of Carlo, his apprentice. For hours they worked. When they were done with the main shapes, they moved on to the ornamentation. He added dollops of glass to form her perfect breasts, like inverted goblets. To the head he added flaxen strands of filigrana hair, to the hollow parted lips rosso rubino, the pink glass that gets its color from pure gold. With his breath he blew his love into her, like the Creator himself. With his ancestor’s spell, he fused her pieces together, for Antonio.
How could Antonio not be dazzled by her? How could he not be enchanted by her? Yet Francesco Fiolario felt a pang when he unveiled her and saw only wanton, possessive lust on Antonio di Vecchio’s face.
“What is it, sirrah?”
Francesco swallowed his annoyance. “Whatever you do, whatever happens, you must leave her alone by dawn’s light.”
Antonio di Vecchio exhorted his boatman to rush back to Venice.
They hoisted her into the villa bedchamber where the setting sun could illuminate her. Antonio ran his hands over her cool curves. So much like his lost Angelica….
The sea breeze came up, blew through the window, hit her parted lips. She made a deep sound like the hollow vessel she was. But what was this? She sounded…yes…like his lost love.
Caro mio, she said. My darling. Come, Antonio.
The sun slipped below the water. In the dimming light, he blinked. Did she move?
Put your arms around me, my love.
Entranced, he embraced the statue, and found her… warm! Warm like flesh! Transparent blue eyes looked into him, and he felt he was transparent, himself.
“Kiss me, my love,” she said.
He did and found yielding lips…and Angelica was real to him again.
All night he made love to her. All night, until the sky lightened and he thought of the parting words of that fool glassmaker. You must leave her alone by dawn’s light…
When the sun came in the eastern window, sure enough, she was glass again, cold and hard.
His pleasure seemed, dare one say, hollow. He wondered what to do. How could he stop the sun in the sky? He got the thickest drapes he could find to block the sun. In endless darkness, they coupled…
But when he left the chamber for just a moment, just a ray of daylight would turn her to glass again.
Worse, it seemed that Angelica herself would not be satisfied. She would cry and yell when he left her. Soon he remembered what a nuisance she was as a wife, and could not wait to open the drapes and see her freeze. If only she did not look so cross all day…
And yet at dusk, the wind would hit her and she’d start to murmur again, promises, apologies, and he would fall into her arms once more.
One morning he got careless, and she too greedy. The sun darted like a knife through the chamber. He tried to pull away but the morning light reached her while he was in her arms, and she froze. He yelled, trapped.
And then watched with horror as his own fingers turned to glass, then his arms, all the way to his sightless eyes.
Francesco Fiolario was summoned to Antonio di Vecchio’s villa. A lone servant showed him to the bedchamber, crossed himself at the horrific sight and ran. Somberly, Francesco and Carlo wrapped the statue of the lovers and took it home across the lagoon to Murano.
In the furnace room, alone, Francesco unwrapped Angelica and now Antonio, turned to glass. He got what he deserved. And yet, look at the terror in Antonio’s face… The man’s figure was reticulated, as if it had not annealed correctly. With a cudgel, Francesco tapped the male figure. It shattered to colorful frit at his feet. She, his creation, was still in one piece, well made…
Spooked, Francesco opened the door to let fresh air into the furnace room. The sea breeze picked up in the dusk.
Francesco… Francesco… Fiolario!
No, it couldn’t be!
Her voice. Sweetly her voice sang. Mio caro, my love, come to me!
“No!” But he staggered toward his beautiful statue, enraptured by his own spell.
Come to me, my darling…
He put his arms around the cool glass, feeling her warm to his touch. Her legs parted and wrapped around his waist, her hot breath whispered into his ear. With all his strength he took her into his arms and carried her across the room…
Time melted into a river of molten glass. He was young again, she completely his.
“Oh my darling, Francesco — ”
“Angelica, my Angelica!”
As they neared the furnace, hotter than a thousand Hells, she glowed like the demonic creature she was. The hair on his arms singed. His resolve wavered.
“My darling Angelica,” he whispered. “Forgive me.”
With a cry, he kicked open the furnace door and heaved her in.
Valerie Kravette is a former actress and cabaret singer. She lives with her writer husband in Tucson, AZ.