The Apple Tree
It was almost sunrise. Another nice sunlit day at Pella. Two boys were running across the grounds. The smaller one of them was a golden haired one with beautiful gray eyes. The other boy was slightly older than his friend .His blue eyes competed with the sky in brilliance. He was being chased. He reached the apple tree in the premises and halted to a stop.
"Alexander!" He cried. " No more! I am tired". In answer Alexander pouted. He was still on a sugar high thanks to the sweet motherly cook who had fed him too much honey cake in breakfast. He wanted to run, jump…to sum up, he wanted to drive Hephaistion crazy. Desperate to divert Alexander's attention Hephaistion pointed at one of the wide low lying branches and exclaimed, "Alexander…lets play horse! I will even let you ride".
Alexander looked at his friend as if he had suddenly grown two horns. "No need to play horse..Phai! We can ride the real ones." He exclaimed. He started to say something else but promptly shut up. Phai was frowning. Alexander was fearless. Very few things scare him. An angry Phai was one of those them. Last time Phai was angry, he had stopped talking to Alexander for an entire day. He had teased Hephaistion that he snored liked the pot bellied gate keeper in Pella. Wisely, he kept quiet and looked at Hephaistion.
"How can it be a horse, Phai?" To that Hephaistion smiled fondly and shook his head. "Imagination, Alex. Imagination". He ran off somewhere after asking Alexander to wait there. When he returned , he had a saddle with him. He went on to fix the saddle in a low lying branch of the tree ,that was leaning towards the ground. After some arrangement , the branch looked like a nice ride indeed. Hephaistion hopped on it excitedly and said, " You are the fair maiden Alex. I will slay the dragons who are holding you captive and save you. We will live happily ever after. You have to scream for my help ." To that Alexander's pout intensified. His lower lips quivered and he looked at Hephaistion with hurt eyes. "But you are the pretty one Phai! Why can't I save you?"
Has Hephaistion ever mentioned that Alexander was a crybaby? He got down from his 'mighty warhorse' and went to Alexander. "But I am the older one Alex. It is my job to keep you safe from any harm." A sunny smile broke out in Alexander's face. He hugged his friend and looked up at his face. "But I am safe whenever you are with me! Lets ride our horse together and conquer the world! You and me together."
Hephaistion smiled back at his friend. " But what about the fair maiden Alex?"
"We don't need one Phai! We will save each other"
With the great dispute finally resolved, the two mighty warriors sat on their mighty war horse and rode with all their might. Noon approached and they rushed back to their rooms after taking the saddle. It was their secret.
Years later, two young men sat under a huge tree. There horses stood nearby. They were hardened warriors . Just a few weeks ago, they had made the mighty Persian empire crumble to dust. They were resting and recuperating from their battle wounds. The golden haired man was sitting beside his long haired companion, head bent on the latter's shoulders.
He looked up at the tree and suddenly sat straight. "Lets climb the tree Phai! It will be our war horse."
Hephaistion looked at his mate with wide eyes. "By Zeus! Have you gone mad?"
To that Alexander pouted. Yeah, he still did that. Just not before every one. He didn't know what would happen if people knew that their mighty emperor pouted regularly.
"Your back wound…remember? No exertions."
Alexander looked up at his friend and smiled. "But you will be up there with me to keep me safe, remember?"
Hephaistion fondly shook his head and proceeded to climb on their 'horse' , while their real ones neighed merrily. They found a thick branch on which they sat just like they did in their childhood, Alexander in the front, and Hephaistion behind him, holding him to save the mighty conqueror from a concussion.
The eastern sky had turned crimson. A new sun was on the rise. An orange hue was scattered all over the sky. They looked at the eastern horizon and smiled.
"You and me together Phai. ", Alexander exclaimed.
Hephaistion smiled. "Yes. Just like always."