Venus and Cupid
The waning light of sunset brought forth night’s cloak over the little town of Gembrook. Cupid rested on a fragment of cloud; his eyes were dark, deep and blazed with trickery as he held the shaft of his ominous arrow.
A golden curl framed the youthful glow of his cheek, but his all-knowing
expression revealed he had seen the passing of the ages. Cupid grimaced at a ghastly screeching sound. His gaze followed the sound to a crooked cottage with cracked walls and a corroded roof. Through its open window a woman with masses of raven hair, sat on her bed playing a violin.
He traced the perfectly arched brows over her sad eyes. “She has a delightful face,”
Cupid muttered to himself, with a captivated look. “The lovely curve of her face is like Venus.” His cheeks grew ruddy as he looked at her bow shaped lips. “And she is named after the goddess,” he said, reading her mind.
Venus awkwardly clasped the neck of the ebony violin, playing the same piece of
music over and over again. But it did not sound any better.
Venus threw her violin on her bed in frustration.
I try so hard, but I never get what I desire, Venus thought, leaning closer to the
Cupid thought she looked as if she was waiting for someone.
She perked up her head when a tall man dressed in black, with a high forehead and
thick red hair walked past. He was carrying a violin case.
If only I had the courage to tell Levin that I love him, Venus thought, watching
him until he was out of sight. If only he would love me.
Cupid felt a prick of jealousy, but he knew that her shyness would buy him
Cupid perched on the silvery clouds of dawn as he hovered over Levin’s cottage the following day, waiting for him to wake. It was not until noon’s sun warmed the town’s rooftops, that the creak of the front door revealed Levin’s red hair. He stepped out, carrying his violin case.
Cupid’s glare followed Levin through a rasping wind as he walked along a
Levin raised his blue eyes to a cheerful face.
“Good morning,” said the town baker, his wife walking by his side.
“Good morning,” said Levin, catching a lascivious stare from the baker’s wife.
Sneering, Cupid flitted among the swift clouds as he followed Levin. “He’ll be a
simple target for my arrow.”
A mischievous look crossed Cupid’s face when a young woman appeared
in the distance. Her name was Natalia. “This will secure Levin’s love is elsewhere. He will never love Venus!” he said. Thoughts of Venus had not left Cupid’s mind since he had first laid sight on her.
As Natalia approached, Cupid’s claws drew back the bow’s string. The arrow
released and soared into the air as Levin and Natalia’s gazes met.
Levin jolted slightly as the small prick of Cupid’s arrow struck his heart. With a
new gleam in his eye, Levin admired Natalia’s golden-brown tresses cascading down her flamed-coloured dress.
Cupid grasped the arrow as it swiftly returned to its bow. “If I let them choose
whom to love, they never choose wisely. If I take pity on them and choose a love that I can foretell will make them happy, they will ruin it with childish behaviour and greed. Levin and Natalia might be happy they have met, but let’s see where their choices will lead them.”
Levin wore a grin while he talked to Natalia.
“They are all fools! They amuse me with how stupid they can be,” said Cupid,
a crooked smile played on his lips.
A few days later, Cupid lay on the coiled branch of a willow tree. He peered into Venus’ bedroom at her solemn, lonely gaze. She sat by her window, waiting at the same hour each day, for a glimpse of Levin.
Venus raised her head as he appeared in the distance. But this time he didn’t
walk alone, he held Natalia’s hand and carried a violin case that was not his own.
Does Levin love Natalia? Venus grasped her head. I have loved him for years; she
can only have loved him for hours.
Natalia was beaming.
Why does she have everything, and I have nothing? Venus thought. She is
beautiful, but I know others with greater beauty that don’t have half of her good fortune. Venus’ mouth sagged. And she is renowned in the village for being a virtuoso violin performer. Everything is effortlessly hers. But I struggle.
Levin gave Natalia an affectionate look as they both walked past.
Natalia is known to be fickle with men, her love will be short-lived. I am a better
match for Levin.
Cupid let out a loud cackle. “Sometimes the truth is not easily visible and
appearances may be false. Venus envies them because she imagines they live a perfect life, but her thoughts are based on her romantic ideas, that are seldom true of reality.”
How can I make Levin love me? thought Venus.
It was then Venus remembered the witch who had helped her a long time ago.
Cupid glared, for he too knew the witch who lived in a cottage made of stone.
Moonlight struck the arch of Cupid’s wings as he landed on top of a redwood tree.
He fixated on Venus as she walked through the dark forest surrounding the town of Gembrook. A glow in the distance led her to the witch’s cottage.
Cupid’s ears perked up ready to listen. Venus knocked on a little wooden door. No
one answered. She turned the handle and the door opened. As Venus entered the cottage a lambent light emitted from burning candles. She looked around with wonder at bottles filled with bubbling liquids and herbs that were scattered on a cluttered table.
A vapour rose from a cauldron creating a stench in the air and a witch stood by a
table hovering over a book with ivory pages. Her skin was akin to a deathly pallor and
strands of silver hair poked out from under a black hood that shrouded her eyes. When she became aware of Venus, the witch crossed the room.
Venus’ breath grew deeper.
“What does your heart desire?” asked the witch.
“Love,” replied Venus, earnestly.
Venus trembled as the witch drew nearer.
“I love a man.” Venus’ voice shook. “But he does not love me.”
Cupid grew green-eyed.
“He loves Natalia,” continued Venus. “Natalia triumphs in everything she does.”
The witch undid a leather pouch tied to her cloak. “I cannot give you a spell that
will make him love you, but I can give you a spell that will cease his love for her,” she said, with a low voice. “It is only Cupid’s arrow that holds the power to make people fall in love.” The witch pulled out an object from which blood seeped.
Venus screwed up her nose. “What is it?”
“It’s a heart,” said the witch, placing the heart back in its leather pouch. “He will
be rid of Natalia if you place this near the bed where you sleep.”
A sudden shadow of guilt emerged on Venus’ face. Natalia’s love won’t endure.
Venus reassured herself. Venus reached into her pocket, she laid three golden coins on the table, grabbed the heart from the witch’s bloody hands and left.
Cupid turned red with rage as he trailed Venus through the forest back to
An evocative tune from a violin pervaded the centre of the town. Venus stood on
the outskirts of the crowd that had gathered to listen to Natalia as she immaculately performed. When Natalia finished her tune, the crowd broke into applause. Natalia gave a slight smile to her father and then to Levin; both stood at the front of the crowd.
“Your daughter plays so beautifully,” said an old woman to Natalia’s father.
“Thank you,” he said, his round face filled with pride. “I arranged violin lessons
for her when she was a child.”
“It’s very generous of her to play for the townspeople,” said another woman.
Venus frowned at the townspeople’s praise of Natalia. When Natalia walked to
Levin, their lips met. Venus walked away in a huff.
Cupid sat on the rooftop of Levin’s home, watching Venus walk towards the forest.
She had grown even more desperate for Levin’s love. Her face sagged, dark shadows encircled her eyes and the jealousy that gnawed at her mind had spawned hatred for Natalia.
Cupid followed Venus’ steps through the redwood forest to the witch’s cottage
again. He peered through the window and listened to a frantic Venus.
“I’ve laid the heart by my bed for days, but Levin still loves Natalia.”
“Cupid’s arrow binds Levin to her,” The witch’s face was concealed behind her
dark hood. She stood by a smoky cauldron. “The ox’s heart is no match for Cupid’s magic.”
“I thought love would bring me happiness, but it has brought me grief,” said
Venus. “Why does Cupid torment me?”
“Cupid was once in love with a fair woman, Psyche, but she betrayed him. She
burnt his skin with hot oil while he slept by her side,” said the witch.
“A quarrel between lovers,” said Venus.
The witch languidly walked to Venus, while finishing her tale. “He flew away in
despair and never saw her again.”
“Does he want me to suffer as he did?” asked Venus.
“Love has become Cupid’s unscrupulous game. We have all become his
playthings. He cares not who he hurts, as long as the outcome pleases him.”
A momentary silence ensued. Cupid clenched his teeth. He could not hear the
“Too many people have been tormented by Cupid’s arrow,” said the witch with a
quiver in her voice. “He has come back to Gembrook to create more mischief.”
Venus let out a loud sigh. “If I had the courage to speak with Levin, things could
The witch took out a small bottle from a pocket in her cloak, a chain dangled from
“This shall give you courage.” She removed the lid with her elongated fingers and
an overpowering odour filled the air. “The liquid inside will protect you if any harm should come your way.”
Venus screwed up her nose. “Must I drink it?”
“No,” said the witch, placing the lid back on the bottle. “Hang it over your heart,”
she said, handing it to her. Venus placed its chain around her neck.
When Venus left, Cupid attempted to descend and enter the witch’s house, but
couldn’t get any closer.
“The witch has grown powerful. She shields herself from me,” he said, with a
When the witch’s gaze met his, he caught a hint of wickedness in her eyes.
“Love is excruciating,” said Cupid, sitting on the chapel’s rooftop. “Fate has set me a cruel path,” he looked down at his bow and arrow. “Everyone is quick to blame my arrow, but even without my interference love can be catastrophic. Venus’ fixation with love causes her misery, as it causes misery to many others, including me.”
Venus walked along the street. She stopped and looked through the window of the
town bakery. The baker glanced at his wife tenderly, as she took the freshly baked bread out of the oven.
They have been married for ten years. They must be so happy, thought Venus.
Venus turned her attention to the wooden bench near the chapel, where a bony man
with a creased face, beamed as he held the wrinkled hand of a woman sitting next to him. Venus smiled.
Cupid’s wings fluttered over the rooftops as he trailed her steps. She entered a tiny
shop with a rosewood violin displayed in its window. Handcrafted violins hung on every wall and the shine of the burnished wood reflected a burgundy hue on the floor.
A tall man with red hair stood behind a table, fixing the broken bridge of a violin.
“Levin,” called Venus.
He stopped repairing the violin and looked up at her.
He placed the violin on the table. “Do I know you?” he asked, exploring her face
“No, you do not,” said Venus.
“Have you come to buy a violin?”
“No,” she said.
He looked puzzled.
“I have one. My mother gave it to me before she died, but unfortunately I cannot
play it,” she said, looking at him coyly.
“It’s a difficult instrument to learn,” he said.
They were silent for a while; Cupid could tell they were wondering what to say.
“You have walked by my window for years,” Venus said, finally breaking the
“Do you live near here?” he asked.
“Yes, I live on this street.”
“I am surprised we have not met. I have not seen you in the violin shop.”
“I seldom go out,” she said, nervously. “My name is Venus.”
“That’s a lovely name. You must be the namesake of the goddess.” A hint of desire
crossed his face. “What can I do for you?”
She coloured. “I- I-,” she stuttered unable to speak or meet his eyes. I have
loved you for years, she thought. She could not say it aloud.
Cupid felt a stab of despair.
The shop door creaked open and a woman entered. It was Natalia.
Venus pursed her lips. Levin reached for Natalia’s hand as she approached with a
grin. They exchanged a besotted look. Natalia shot Venus a frosty glance.
“I must leave,” said Venus, she began to fidget nervously with her hands.
“Good day, Venus,” said Levin.
“Good day,” said Venus. She left the shop with her head bowed.
When outside, she ran to the back of a nearby chapel, hid her face behind her hands
and wept. As Cupid watched her tears flow, in a moment of pity, he descended. He sensed Venus’ fear as she heard the flutter of his wings.
“Venus, I can find you a love that will make you happy.” His gaze traced her
Cupid aimed his arrow at her. She looked at him in horror. The arrow bounced off
the witch’s bottle hanging around her neck and returned to Cupid, wounding him on the shoulder.
With a loud cry Cupid pulled the arrow from his wound. The bottle around Venus’
neck began to shake on its chain. Cupid’s face filled with surprise and he aimed the arrow at Venus’ heart once again. But before the arrow was released, Venus removed the lid and threw the potion at him. The potion seared his skin.
Memories of what Psyche had done to him assailed him. Cupid shrieked in pain.
He dropped the bow and arrow. His breath grew erratic.
“I only wanted you to love me,” he said, looking at Venus as he drew his final
She stood for a while looking down at his lifeless body. Venus was puzzled. What
did Cupid mean? “He wanted me to love him?”
Cupid’s body was covered in old scars. Venus realised these must be the scars
inflicted by Psyche. Cupid had small limbs akin to a child. A trace of guilt filled Venus. But she thought of what the witch had told her: “Too many people have been tormented by Cupid’s arrow.”
“The witch will be pleased that you are unable to hurt anyone ever again,” she said,
angrily. But then she froze.
Venus grew pale. The witch has fooled me, she thought. The ox’s heart, did
not cease Levin’s love for Natalia, but it filled my heart with desperation and the bottle of potion that I wore around my neck, filled my heart with courage to kill Cupid. Venus recalled the quiver in the witch’s voice. The witch was seeking her revenge!
Cupid’s arrow glinted on the floor. She picked it up. It felt heavier than she
imagined, and it was icy cold.
Venus remembered something else the witch had told her. “It is only Cupid’s
arrow that holds the power to make people fall in love.” Venus smiled.
Venus drew the curtain in her bedroom, the morning light revealed her bright face. Her hand held tightly onto the golden arrow.
This will be the day that Levin will love me, she thought. She placed the bow and
arrow in a bag.
Venus walked down the street with a wide smile. But her joy faltered when she
saw Natalia turn the corner into the same street. Natalia’s face was puffy and red and there was a remnant of a tear at the edge of her eye.
How unhappy I am. A voice that was not her own had popped unbidden into
Whose voice am I hearing? thought Venus. It sounded like Natalia, but Natalia had
not moved her lips.
Natalia walked past sighing. I don’t believe he loves me.
I can hear Natalia’s thoughts! I must have the power of Cupid’s arrow! thought
Venus. Was Natalia talking about Levin?
Venus approached the chapel; she passed the old couple that had sat on the bench
each day. With the magic of the arrow, she knew they had both loved each other for six decades and would continue to do so until death. Venus’ joy returned.
Venus removed the bow and arrow from her bag as she neared the violin shop.
Familiar voices were shouting angrily from the other side of the street. They also appeared to be heading towards Levin’s shop.
“Levin had an affair with my wife!” yelled the baker.
“My daughter cries every night because of Levin!” exclaimed Natalia’s father.
“My sister was convinced he loved her!” A stout man angrily shouted.
Venus walked faster, now in a panic. Who are they talking about? Venus
wondered. Surely not the Levin I love?
Her brows rose. A man with red hair was sneaking out of the side window of the
violin shop. When the townsmen caught sight of him, they ran after him, furiously waving their fists in the air.
It can’t be Levin, Venus thought. He is honest, good and heroic.
But when the man with red hair turned his head with a look of terror, she realised it
was Levin. With a sombre stare she watched Levin and the angry men disappear into the distance.
She glumly looked down at Cupid’s bow and arrow. Maybe another time, she
thought, putting them away in her bag.
Sometimes there’s a reason someone won’t love you in return. Perhaps I will be
happier without him.
The violin music sounded sweeter as it floated out of Venus’ window. Venus’ lashes lifted at a knock on the door; she put the violin on her bed. When she opened the front door, her friend’s kind smile greeted her.
“Good morning, Venus. You’re becoming better at the violin.”
“Good morning, Beky,” said Venus. “Thank you, I have had a few lessons.”
“I’m sorry, I’ve arrived a little late.”
“There’s plenty of time to get there, the recital doesn’t begin for another half an
Venus closed the front door behind her.
Their shoes clattered as they both walked down the narrow street.
“Someone else is managing the violin shop,” said Beky.
Venus’ head perked up, looking through the window where the rosewood
violin was displayed.
“Her father bought the shop and asked Natalia to run it,” said Beky.
Venus was surprised. Natalia had her hand in a brace.
“Poor Natalia. A broken wrist. I hear she may not be able to play the violin
ever again,” said Beky, with a sad look.
Venus noticed a smile on Natalia’s face. “She looks happy.”
“Well, I don’t think she ever liked playing the violin. Her father forced her to have
lessons as a child.”
“Has she heard from Levin?” asked Venus.
“No one has heard from Levin,” replied Beky.
“I was told Levin was hiding in the mountains.” Venus held back laughter.
“Yes, I think so. Natalia has a new beau now.”
The aroma of freshly made bread reached them as they walked by the bakery.
Venus turned to the bakery window where an unknown man stood behind the counter.
“Is there a new owner of the bakery too?” asked Venus.
“Yes,” replied Beky. “As of today.”
Venus looked at the baker’s dark curly hair and his warm gaze lingered on her. A
hint of hope crossed Venus’ face. She was silent, deep in thought. Venus had hidden Cupid’s arrow and didn’t intend to take it out. She had a newfound happiness with her friend Beky and her violin playing was improving. If he loves me, he can chase me, Venus thought. I know I can create my own happiness.