A/N: I've always loved the story of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I've been in a production of it, seen several spectacular productions of it, and studied it a number of times... and every time the curtains draw, I've been left with this burning question of what would happen next? The fact that Demetrius is left under the spell of the flower always unsettled me - that he only loves Helena because of the spell. What if she learned of it and actually remembered that night?
I've taken the setting and moved it to modern day Athens, Georgia. It's fanfiction, right? Have some fun with it.
Disclaimer: All glory to Shakespeare! All of the characters are his: duh.
I thought I had been living a dream, I honestly thought that he loved me. Now I'm not so sure.
My day began like any other day recently – a quick breakfast with my husband of two years, Demetrius, and out the door we both went to our respective jobs. Demetrius worked in investments and I owned a small antique store we had worked to open just a few months ago. Sometimes he would drop by my shop during his lunch and bring me flowers or coffee, and that was one of the reasons why I loved him so much. He was always thinking of things like that, how he could brighten my day. He never failed to dote upon me, and I couldn't imagine having a better husband.
That morning, my friend Hermia was already at the store when I got there. Since it was a lovely day in July, she had propped open the door, beckoning in customers strolling down the street in the summer heat. I had convinced Hermia to help me out with the shop shortly after opening it, and she gladly lent a hand. Her mother was happy to look after her and Lysander's baby during the day. They had a beautiful daughter they had named Maia. She was just a year old, with lovely blonde curls and big, sparkling blue eyes. Hermia missed her while she worked, but she had found just as much joy as I had in this little store. Both of us were always on the lookout for treasures to sell.
"Good morning, Hermia!" I called when I strolled into the store. The fans above me circled lazily, pushing around the warm air. Hermia was nowhere to be seen in the front, but she called a greeting from the back room. When I stuck my head in, I saw her holding a lovely glass flower, the likes of which I had never seen. The petals were a vivid yellow, and it had this bulbous pod in the center of the brightest red.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she asked, transfixed by the object and examining it from all angles. I leaned over her shoulder to get a closer look – it was beautiful, but something felt wrong about it. Something about the flower made me very uneasy, but since I couldn't pin down the feeling I let it pass. Often things came into the store that I found unusual or strange, but such was the life of an antique store owner.
"Where did you find it?" I asked, straightening up and depositing my handbag in one of the cupboards and donning an apron with the store's name on it.
"I didn't – it was in a box by the front door when I arrived," she explained. "I figured it was a donation, so I opened the box and there it was, sitting in a bed of freshly picked leaves."
"How strange…" I mused aloud, picking up the box beside her. Indeed, those were freshly picked leaves. Packing peanuts would have sufficed, and I wondered why this donor had gone through so much trouble with this flower. I checked the sides of the box – there was no sender, no address, nothing. "How much do you think it is worth?" I asked Hermia. Hermia flinched.
"You want to sell it?" she exclaimed, apparently horrified.
I laughed. "I course I want to sell it, Herms," I said. "This is a store; that is a donation."
"Oh, but couldn't we just hold onto it for a while? I don't want to see it fly out the door anytime soon, it's so beautiful," she crooned. I frowned, but shrugged off my friend's odd behavior. We had been childhood friends, and I knew how she could attach herself to certain objects.
"Sure, I suppose we could keep it for a while. Do some research and see if you can pin a price or an artist or something," I said. A creation such as that could be worth a lot.
"I will!" she said delightedly.
Recently, I've been having these recurring dreams. I'm running through the forests, I'm fighting with Hermia; I'm being pursued by both my Demetrius and by Lysander… I get so frustrated, nobody will listen to me. I am the only one who is making any sense, and the chaos overwhelms me. The dream ends happily, everything back in order again as it should be. But every day I wake up and there is something wrong with the way the sun shines through my window and with my husband by my side.
Demetrius used to love Hermia when we were in college. We were all attending the University of Georgia at the time, and even though Hermia and Lysander were clearly together, Demetrius tried very hard to get her to leave Lysander for him. I spent the majority of Junior and Senior years fawning over Demetrius, wishing he would see me, but for ages I was stuck as the awkward fourth wheel (though I couldn't imagine how a fourth wheel could be awkward on anything except a tricycle) in the love triangle that was Lysander, Hermia, and Demetrius.
Then one day it all just… changed. It was as though Demetrius woke up and decided that Hermia was nothing to him and suddenly I was his whole world and he devoted his whole life to me. We were married shortly after graduating and have been happy ever since.
Later that day, I heard Hermia call to me from the back of the store. Since it had been slow all morning, she had stayed in the back room researching the mysterious glass flower. "What is it?" I asked, hurrying back to join her. I hoped she had found something – a price, an artist, anything to get it valued and out of my store.
"I found something. Supposedly, this flower was made by a woman known by the name Tania," Hermia explained, pulling up a website and pointing to the brief biography. According to the text, Tania was a woman who had lived in Greece four or five centuries ago. She had produced a dozen or so of these flowers sold to aristocracy all over Europe and none of them were extant. The webpage was accompanied by paintings and illustrations of what they had looked like, posed on shelves behind women wearing elaborate, expensive dresses.
"Are you sure?" I asked Hermia, hesitant to accept what she had found as truth. "If art historians are not able to track these down, who are we to say that we have an original? This could be a copy," I pointed out. It was not uncommon to stumble upon magnificent copies of art, especially in the business of antiques. I knew from an Art History class I took as an undergrad that many of the statues housed in various museums were replicas of the original Greek and Roman pieces.
"I suppose it could be a replica…" Hermia agreed.
"Keep looking," I said. A replica would mean one price… an original would mean I could sit pretty on thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. This flower, unusual and unsettling as it was, could potentially make my career. I heard the bell tied to the door tinkle, and with pep in my step, I brightly returned to the front of the store to greet the customers.
That night I am visited by the dream again. This time, though, elements I have not noticed before crop up: A nymph-like man scrambles around the wood, clutching the glass flower, but not made of glass. A beautiful woman, hair spun golden and gossamer wings spouting from her back floats in an out of the scene, accompanied by a man with the head of a donkey. I am running, I am fleeing, I see the forest's edge. I fall… I am dragged back into the forest. It fades…
When I awoke, I felt more drained that when I had gone to sleep. Demetrius was already awake and, propped up on one arm, he frowned down at me. "Are you alright?" he asked, reaching out with his other hand to push some hair out of my eyes. "You were crying out in your sleep," he elaborated.
"It's just a dream," I explained, "I've been having it a lot recently, and I can't seem to shake the images from my head."
"Do you want to tell me about it, love?" he asked. I relaxed. I felt incredibly lucky to have him supporting me and loving me the way he did every day. I nodded my head. It was time I told someone.
As I began to tell him about the dream, I found that it was hard to explain. There were too many elements in balance, too much chaos to make the dream fully make any sense. I could tell that I was not doing the dream justice; that he did not truly understand what I was trying to convey, but as I finished speaking about the dream, he frowned.
"That seems somehow familiar," he mused, "as if I had a similar dream once." When he could not isolate his thoughts, he shrugged and leaned forward, kissing my lips softly. "It does not matter. It is only a dream, remember?"
"Yes… only a dream," I agreed. When Demetrius rose to shower, I watched him go from my place on the bed. "I just wish I would stop dreaming it," I said sulkily to myself.