#WritersWednesday: September 5 – Julian’s summer: Mother and Son

 

 He admired Sarah for her resilience, her ability to work long hours, to keep a clear mind, to  be the long haul woman she was. Travelling made him broody: strange dreams came to him at night, projects he never worked on, women he had never met, but yet look familiar to him, men who appeared to have a grudge for unknown or forgotten reasons. He feared falling asleep at the wheel, a recurring nightmare, a dream where he woke up, driving, his car out of control, facing imminent disaster. As they were navigating through Münich, the Sunday traffic smoothly flowing through the roadworks and narrow lanes, Sarah said to him he had to take the time to readapt. He thought about this for a while, then starting talking as if Sue – the girl from Apple – was in the car. As he was driving his thoughts drifted back to the busy London street. Sarah decided not to ask questions: Julian in this mood, half here, half elsewhere, had to be left drifting, lest too sudden a recall to reality made his driving less rational. They were pulling out of the city now, the traffic clearing up, powerful cars on the fast lane disappearing at vertiginous speed. Tall pine trees bordered the autobahn, dark hills appeared on the horizon shrouded by little grey clouds. The car instruments were showing a cool 20 degrees ambient, the ideal temperature for Julian’s working brain. He remembered the stiffling 32 degrees of the belgian motorway.

Sarah at the wheel, her naked thighs a source of lusty meanderings in Julian’s tired mind, they crossed the Europa bridge, the Brenner Pass, then they were in Italy. Somehow the sky seemed bluer, the air lighter. As they left the motorway, the Pustertal opened in front of them, and he reflected how lucky he was to know this place, how lucky he was to have met, and been accepted, by his wife. The usual guilt feeling – “I am not worthy” – invaded him, then went, swept away by the cooler air through the car windows. At St Laurenz Sarah veered towards the mountains and Val Badia, a familiar and always renewed feeling of “going home”. The stream was flowing, silver tide through the shiny rocks. Drifting, he was thinking Sue would be a good mother too: strong legs, generous hips, a madonna smile. Sarah was talking to him: they had arrived, their mountain towering above them, their host welcoming.

He woke up with a vague headache, still dreaming of a girl both alien and familiar, a contradiction he did not attempt to resolve. The previous night’s storm had left the air clean and cool. Big white clouds were slowly dissipating, the sun shining bright. The mountain shone in the light, streams of rain water flowing down the cliffs. Sarah was cheerful and smiling: she reminded him that it would take a couple of days to adapt to the altitude, the pure air and the slopes! He smiled, and remembered how carrfully they had packed their gear, lifelong habit of the professional mountaineers they had now almost become. The long road and the heat would soon be forgotten, their legs tired at first, getting stronger.

They went up with the ski lift, reaching a a small plateau, and followed a path that wound its way through the pine tree. The sky was blue with small white clouds, the smell of the pine trees strong in the morning air. He had now forgotten about Sue and was watching his wife’s brown legs with a deep pleasure. Sarah strode on, her beautiful thighs shining below the grey shorts, her muscled shins and arms glistening soon with a light sweat. The climb was at first easy, then got steeper. He knew the magic valley altered his mind, his feelings, his soul, he knew the place was inhabited by spirits older than man.

It took him another couple of days to feel his legs’s strength coming back, that wonderful rise of power in the calves and knees, being able to climb, the going back to primeval life. He sometimes thought that mankind genesis was in the mountain. There was security and food, safety from the evils of the plains, its dangers, its plagues: pure air kept mankind evolving, developing skills, farming, breeding animals, the plentiful of medicinal herbs, the plants that feed and heal. Much later had come the luxuries of the plains, the easier life, and corruption, perdition, and then societies that no longer recognised the natural order of seasons and time, and ignored the spirits. He talked once with Sarah about his beliefs, she smiling indulgently, “here goes my romantic and ever so dreaming husband…” She kissed him and said she did not believe in his story. Far from being mortified, he laughed too. He knew there was little evidence for his theory, and that, to the contrary, if there was evidence of early development, it was in the fertile plains of the great rivers of the Middle East that such existed. Yet, like Reinhold Messner, he believed in the mountain people as a source of a universal culture. And there was ample evidence of extraordinary resilience in the face of implacable odds. Here in the Südtirol, the Ladin culture had resisted persecution, economic disaster, invasions and worse. As recently as the Second World War, they had been at the vortex of power struggles and mad schemes to reshape the geography, human and physical, of their valleys.

They drove up the road to the pass, surrounded by magnificent views, sensing a rising tension around him. Sarah and their son were talking climbs and times of ascent. Slowly the traffic was building up, the sky was blue, little clouds had started their own ascent. The tension was probably all his: after a week in the mountains he felt tired, although at home in the landscape: it always took him at least a week to adapt, to the climate, to the changing scenery, to the air. He had become a creature of habits, and finding back his Tirol’s habits was taking time. They got to the car park, below the telepherique, the big batallions had not arrived yet, there was plenty of space. Sarah and the boy got their gear out of the car trunk and got ready. The boy was no longer a boy, he reflected, in fact people could take mother and son for a pair of handsome lovers. Part of him wished he could go with them, part of him was just happy having to drive back. They waved at him from the cabin as he left the car park. The sun was already hot.

He stopped at the next town, bought some special flour at the pharmacy (the pretty girl at the till tried to sell him more specialties), then drove to the supermarket and refilled in pasta, rice and olive oil. He knew the place, the car park where Italian drivers queued, the incredible view over the massif above through the shop windows. Back in the house the older brother was getting ready for his own expedition. The tension subsisted and this surpised him. He considered calling Sue: she had, after all, given him her phone number. He thought better and decided not too. He sat down for a bite, heated up some coffee, opened his laptop and started reading. He was hoping to finish off the Cryptonomicon this holiday, but he was becoming a very slow reader. Slow reader, slow worker, slow walker: was he just getting older? A vision of his son and wife overwhelmed his mind: him, tall, trim, athletic, all muscles and bones, his very seductive male face, her, so beautiful: mother and lover, no, mother and son… He knew of the medieval portraits of Madonna in the little church, where the Mother was eclipsing the Son.

It had been a long walk, with, at the end, the scary progression on the scree, the narrow path, the climb, up to the little charte where the alpine club bivouac was. They looked up and Sarah explained which way she and their son had gone. She said the descent was even scarier. The way up was nearly vertical with a long steel rope guiding the climbers. Their path curled around the mountain, down at first then up again. Walkers had gathered near the bivouac, looking at climbers and telling tales of past exploits. The view over the Tofanas was magnificent. The drop from the top was awesome: a smooth and very steep descent, just scree. He thought he’d hated that if he was to climb. Sarah was dismissive. He thought she did not really trust him to do anything that difficult. Well, the guide said one of the most difficult klettersteigs of the Dolomites. Sarah said their son had to lift her over an overhanging rock. His mind wandered, on the vertical cliff, the beautiful young mother and her handsome and skillful son.

He said “for another day”, and she laughed. Later they’d argue about car parking and trivial things. In the WW1 Open Air Museum, a steep slope towards the Hütte, they looked at small shelters, carved form the rock, officers quarters, food stores, dormitories for the troops. The entrance to the long caverns was there. Sarah asked him if he wanted to visit: the steps were in complete darkness, visitors having to wear helmets with lights, like deep coal miners. He declined, the place was a great emotional strain for him. The path was busy, families and kids playing where those soldiers had suffered and died. This was the advanced front line of the war in the Südtirol. The Austrians had held out for the most part of the war, until their food reserves were exhausted, and supply lines cut. Around the mountain was his favourite climbs, the Kaiser Jäger Steig, carved by the Austrian élite troops, winding its way to the summit over the void. An Italian flag flew over the Hütte. The view from the top, 360 deg., was extraordinary. They drank Malacchio, and ate a piece of struddel. The air was cool, even cold when the sun disappeared behind the clouds. For him Sarah pointed out the summits, the Civetta, the Sassongher, the Sella, even the Neuner, towering over the Farnès. On the bus he fell asleep, exhausted.

This story continues here

 

Mistress G goes clubbing…

 That evening I felt like going clubbing. That little place, near Mayfair, is just right for an intimate evening: good music, soft lights, good company, fabulous drinks. I take my senior sub Amanda, Manda for her Miss, with me. But, wait a minute, have we met before? Maybe not, so, let me introduce myself…

My name is Mistress G. Well, this is how my girls and other doms call me. My real name you don’t need to know. Enough to say that, in my professional life, I am a medical doctor, and a teacher of forensic science. My passion is to teach girls, young women if you will, the practice and mysteries of obedience and devotion. Yes, I am a “real” Mistress.

We arrive fairly early, a few couples dancing, the band plays smooth jazz, Chic Corea and other classics. Michael, the owner, leads us to a nice corner table, not far from the stage and close enough to the dance floor. S(h)e’s a sweetie, and, I am told, a devoted sub on her own right off work. Manda looks at me obediently, and on my approval look, orders herself a vodka orange. I stick with champagne. We savour our drinks and the music for a little while, observing. Manda’s very elegant, her grey suit enhancing her lovely shape and long legs. She wears her new collar with pride, with her name engraved in gold on the black leather. Her white shirt glows under the club’s soft lights. We dance: Manda is a superb dancer, and she has style, both being led – evidently – or leading. Salsa, bebop, jitterbug, rock, she’s perfect, and, of course so am I… The club is filling up now. The band plays Miles, it’s a slow. Manda asks silently, and I let her place her arms around my shoulders. The closeness of her body, which I know so well, my property after all, inspires me.

Suddenly I see them, a couple who must have just arrived, and who went directly to the dance floor. They are almost enlaced: the tall girl who’s leading is striking, leather clad, but refined, not punk, her face framed by flamboyant red hair, strong hands holding her smaller friend tightly, impervious. Domineering she is, although probably not a dominant, but I am guessing. Our gazes cross, she smiles: a roman profile, beautiful, voluptuous lips, as she reaffirms her ownership of her pliable partner. But it is the sight of her friend that goes deep into my Mistress’s heart: the delicate pale face, the dark large eyes, the short black hair, the delicate silver necklace around the slender neck. I sense Manda’s observing her too. Time for introductions? I wait a little, the band moves on to Chuck Berry, in one smooth and firm move the tall girl comes closer, still holding her friend with one hand, and asks me: “Do you mind us joining you at your table?”

Manda looks at me, hopeful. I smile: “It would be our pleasure”. We sit down, Michael, who observes everything, comes to us immediately, beaming, and takes more orders. The tall woman introduces herself as Sarah, and her friend as Helena. I do the introductions on our side. Manda drinks Sarah’s words, who explains that they come rarely to this place, but may come back again, because of the music, and the company, she adds with a wolfish grin. I smile, ask Helena what she does. It is clear who leads in the couple, but she’s no sub. She answers me directly: she’s a freelance writer while her partner, Sarah, works for the health service. The calm dark eyes dip into mine: my mind is racing. Helena works from home. Sarah works long shifts. Sarah and me exchange a few jokes about the medical profession. She’s noticed Manda’s collar but does not ask any question. Helena wears a thin blue, long-sleeved, cotton dress which does not hide her features: she’s a delicate beauty, and I have to exercise control not to fix her steadily. Sarah offers Manda to dance, Manda looks at me and I acquiesce, quickly and discretely. The two of them disappear through the little crowd of dancers.

Helena’s looking at me, smiling: I stay silent, admiring her mouth, her lips, the fine beauty of her face. “Amanda’s your sub isn’t she?”, she asks playfully. And she continues without waiting for my answer: “I have always wondered what it feels like to be a sub to a Mistress like you”. Mind over body, I repeat the mantra, controlling my breathing. If this is not an invite what is? Yet I refrain from jumping: I wait, smiling my Mistress smile to this elven creature. “How many girls do you have?” asks Helena finally. I invite her to dance. She is not a good dancer: she’s an exceptional dancer, evidently professionally trained. We rock: her feet hardly touch the ground. A few couples stop to watch us. I am aware that Helena’s eyes haven’t left mine, as I lead her through 50’s classics, already knowing that I want her, not to play, to own. “Sarah’s not jealous, she knows am hers for ever” she says matter-of-factly as we start a slow to the tunes of Patricia Barber’s Verse. “Would you accept an invite to my place?” I say finally, forcing my way through caution, sensing the shape of her not merely ethereal body in my arms. She looks at me and says with a crystalline laugh: “I was wondering when you would ask…” She gets closer to me, her thin arms around my neck, so warm, I can feel her heartbeat. She’s a top prize for sure. Thoughts of enslaved Aphrodites pass through my mind… Mind over body, slowly zen breathing…

Back to the table Sarah and Manda are in a deep conversation about sport and female athletes. Sarah smiles a direct smile at me, and as Helena and Manda disappear to the ladies, says in the most charming voice: “Helena wants to know you, and possibly will submit to you. I have no objection, even to you collaring her, as long as you don’t seriously hurt her. If you did, I want you to know: I would kill you.” She’s smiling, serious, I sustain her gaze, smiles back: “I don’t know how you met, and it will not be my wish to interfere with you as a couple. However if Helena becomes my sub, she will remain my sub for a long time”. We look at each other, silent for long minutes. Then Sarah raises her glass to our friendship. We toast, she gives me her phone number and says Helena is at home most days, unless she’s training at her dance club, or attending some newspapers meeting. I give Sarah my card. Then we dance: for the first time, for a long time, I have the feeling of dancing with a rival.

Later that night, with Manda at my side sleeping the deep sleep of a satisfied sub, I think of Helena, and imagine her initiation.

To be followed…

#DiaryOfAWriter – May 13: a cycle ride

The rain stopped on Friday, leaving time for the roads to dry a little. This morning an immaculate blue sky welcomes me: a call for the open road. Just after  8am I am getting the bike ready: this ritual is soothing, and a good prelude to warming up on the pedals. First checking the tyres’ pressure, the level of the saddle, the bar alignment, the side bags, and their content: the small tools, the spare tube, the lock, and finally I am ready to pack the water bottle, the phone and the identity papers, just in case I end up squashed and crushed like a snail on the tarmac. Shoes on, helmet, gloves, last look at the gear, yes a touch of grease on the chain, and off I go.

Before 9am the motorised hordes are not yet away from the breakfast table: a good ride on the main road, to the round-about taking me to that beautiful little village, the old bridge, the lovely pub that would be noisy and crowded a few hours later… On the brow of the little hill, just before turning off to the small road, I am overtaken by a couple of much younger cyclists, all black-clad, riding super-duper road bikes… I take my old bear across the road and turn off into the poetically named Knatts Valley Road. Very quickly I am out of the village, on a narrow and still wet country road: on both sides small hills overlook the hedges, in a mix of sharp green and violent yellow colours. The sky is beautifully blue, the air fresh and clean. The legs are getting into the rhythm, a welcome change to the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere of the gym.

Soon the road follows small woods, the occasional farms, and there is no traffic. After ten minutes a girl runner comes towards me, waves, I wave back and continue, nearly regretting not to have taken the camera to seize some of the scenery. I left home less than an hour ago, and this looks like deep countryside! I ride pass a few beautiful houses, some decidedly old, of Edwardian or older architecture. My imagination is beginning to free-wheel.  A large 4×4 drives past, at a good speed, but the driver leaves a large enough space for this fragile rider. The road is indeed fairly narrow, just enough space for one car and one bike. There is a small hill and I stay in high gear deliberately: good training for those legs (not that I have any Olympic ambition, please believe me)… Around the bend is a small hamlet. And then a long stretch without any building.

Then, perhaps a kilometre or so after the hamlet, I see the house, apparition half hidden by a stone wall, overlooked by tall trees. I feel like stopping, perhaps prompted by a need to drink water, and also by an irrepressible curiosity. I stop, stand the bike safely against the wall, and armed with my water bottle I walk towards the gate. This is a massive wood construct, and it is half open, enough to let me in through the massive wall: and curiosity trumps my usual reluctance to trespass, I walk into a paved front yard. The house is old, probably much older than the ones I rode past earlier. It is Sunday morning, but there is no vehicle in the yard. I look up, there is one floor, and the windows appear dark although the façade is bathed in sunlight. The front door opens: a svelte young woman appears at the top of the steps, smiles and asks me how “they” can help. Bemused I say something about cool water, gesturing to my bottle, and starts an apology for the trespass. She laughs, the crystalline laugh of a very young person. She must be in her twenties at most, a pale elven face framed by very dark shiny hair masking her gaze, she wears a long grey frock that falls all the way to her bare feet. “Come in, the others are waiting in the kitchen” she says – and, puzzled, I follow her. What others? She turns towards me, as we progress along a long corridor between white-washed walls and dark lintels. “Don’t look so surprised” she smiles, her long hair obscuring her face, as she let me in into a huge old-fashion kitchen. The ceiling is low, the stone walls are decorated by bright copper pans of various sizes. From a huge chimney a wooden fire lit the space: at a long solid wooden table sit four people: a man and three women. Contrary to the elven princess who let me in, those four I recognise well, and I cannot hide my amazement. The man says: “Welcome to our place, we were hoping you’d find your way here on such a beautiful morning. You remember Sarah, Jane and Melissa of course, and I guess you don’t need me to introduce myself. But you did not know Ruth, and we thought it was best for you to meet her first: a promise of a new future, as it were.” Julian adds the last sentence with a smile, and invites me to sit at the table. There is fresh apple juice in a carafe on the table, and Ruth serves me a generous tall glass. I smile and thank her. Then, for the first time, I see her light green eyes, and I shiver a little. Follows a few minutes of silent peace. I drink some cool juice, suddenly happy to be here with them

Julian then says:

“The four of us have been talking for sometime. Sarah prompted us to act, whenever the opportunity would arise. And then Ruth said it was high time you took notice of her. She’s impatient to come alive…” he adds turning towards Ruth who sits, demure, hands crossed on the table, and gives me a smile to shatter an army. “You see, continues Julian, we realise you got yourself into trouble… because of us. For example, you got into a real pickle with me being in love with my sister!” “Yes, intervenes Jane, with uncharacteristic audacity, there is nothing ambiguous between us, Julian and me, we do appreciate each other but there is not a shade of anything deeper”. “Moreover, starts Sarah, you left me in the lurch with Julian ill, his sister, here, clinging to me, and then Melissa standing on her beach, probably catching a cold!!” They laugh, and I laugh. “Of course, resumes Julian, it’s not just us – your characters – it’s also you, as the writer, getting just too close, not taking some distance, wanting to rationalise things back to your own reality, or your view of it.” “For example, observed Sarah, suddenly grave, I am not quite myself according to you, more like a shadow of your own wife, I think she said that herself didn’t she? But I am not your wife you know, I am Julian’s wife. I know there is, how shall we say? some lineage, but some important differences too, and I am my own woman. You are not Julian either, are you?” I acquiesce, silently. Melissa’s voice then rises: “You cannot use us solely to exorcise your own demons, your readers will get bored, and your story line will get lost in the sands of your own psyche. Take me for example: I am supposed to come back to haunt Julian, but I feel I am haunting you, you seem to try to avoid any contact with me, literary speaking, and it’s a great shame.” I thought  about this for a while. They are silent now. The fire burns brightly. I notice the high windows, showing trees and what looks like an old cemetery. Then Ruth speaks: “We, your characters, including myself who you had not met until today, want to help, but you have also to help yourself. No more introspection, no more self-indulgent returns to your past. We are real, as far as fictional characters can be, we have a life of our own. So, from now on, don’t try to rationalise everything, let us play, live the way we want. And you will find things taking  a far better, easier shape.” She smiles directly at me, and I feel overwhelmed.

For some minutes, or is it longer? I look at the walls, the deep dark colour of the wooden table, at the sunlight filtering through the windows coloured glass… and then I realise they have gone. I am alone in this beautiful old kitchen, the chimney is full of ashes… and yet, I feel elated. I find my way back, the corridor where Ruth guided me. The front yard is inundated by sunshine. The door closes behind me as I walk through the gate, which I carefully shut, and get back on the bike.

I follow the old road, past farms and country houses, and at the junction take the well known road through woods and gardens which I love so much in the summer, because of the shade. At home, after the delicious shower, I start working. Green eyes are looking over the page.

#BlogMeMaybe: May 3 – May I tell you something about someone else? Daphnée and Sarah

 I want to tell you today about two people I care very much for. I have known them for a while, indeed, they are close friends. You may have met them already there. Writing this makes be smile.

But I’ll let one of them, Daphnée, tell you, herself, how she met the other. So it goes…

D: I am  a writer, and a successful one at that. I am also deaf and mute, from birth. This does not affect my writing, all the opposite.  I needed a translator, for a novel that was so successful that publishing houses were pushing my own publisher to let them translate and publish elsewhere, for a lot of money.  However I had retained the rights for other countries and wanted to keep my work as mine.

So I did some research, and advertised. 

My ad said: “ Published and successful deaf-mute writer seeks an independent, proven and qualified translator, from English into at least three EU languages, as well as Russian and Japanese. Please reply to xxx.”

And Sarah replied, one of a few dozen replies I received. But hers was special. She said:

S: I am an experienced translator into four European languages (German, French, Dutch and Italian), and Russian and Japanese. I’d love to work with you. I must tell you that I am paraplegic from birth, and work mainly online. However I am prepared to meet you in town, if you wish, but please make sure you chose a place suitable for my chair.

I know how to talk to you.”

I thought about the last remark, and concluded Sarah knew sign language. I thought it was rather sweet of her to say that. Her credentials were perfect. Sarah mailed me a picture of her as well. I looked at it, hesitating, somehow moved by it. Her red hair came out of the photo, framing a beautiful elvin face, with a smile, well, explosive, lighting her delicate features. That photo went straight to my heart. I replied, and attached my own pic, that of a tall athletic black woman, who could have been a model. I said I wanted to meet, and gave her a date, and the address of a wheelchair friendly bar in London.

 On the day, I was sitting there, the place was already busy and, I assume, noisy. I ignored the usual show of males parading and approaching. I was wearing my badge: “F***off I’m mute”. Then I saw her, she was wheeling herself into that place, gracefully, and I realised that the bar had fallen silent. All eyes were turned to her. She was exquisitely beautiful, in a way that only exists in dream, or in the mind of a writer. I stood up, went to her, greeted her in signs, she smiled, replied, and as she spoke I read her gorgeous lips, my heart beating the chamade, and I helped her to my table. We looked at each other, silent for long seconds. We talked about the book, then ourselves, then were silent again, just absorbing the pleasure of each other’s presence. We talked again about ourselves. Our hands touched, ever so lightly. Then she signed:

“ You are how I imagined you would be. I know this is a professional interview, and I am at risk of failing. I am just very emotional, and you are so impressive.”

She succeeded as you already know. Ever since, we have been working together, and she’s of course much more for me now. As I am for her.

#FiveSentenceFiction: Explosive

We walked around Covent Garden, a light rain falling on the already wet pavement.

You signalled to me to walk into the new Apple Store, your beloved face upturned towards me, your red hair shining in the  September light.

The young people at the door smiled at us, one elegant man came to us, and asked me: “Miss, would you and your companion like to have a demonstration of the new photo program?”

With your explosive smile you replied: “Sir, my friend cannot reply, she does not hear you, but yes, thank you, we would love to”.

And slowly I pushed your chair towards the demo area, smiling, drinking every second of our lives together: my red haired, o-so beautiful lover, in my silence.

Red Hair Beauty

The Page

Chapters One and Two are out! I’m grateful for comments from readers and writers… This is “work in progress”, an unfinished novel which is still evolving, with characters running away, doing their own things!

The virtual locations, Berlin and then the “Mindless Island” are in Metaverses (respectively Twinity, renamed Tarsus, and SL) but also, in the background, in the “Street”, invented all those years back (1992) by Neal Stephenson, an author I much admired. You can see some of the (real life) places Sarah and Julian love here. There is a picture of Jane, Julian’s sister, in her SL avatar here. Enjoy!

A montage showing author Neal Stephenson and f...
A montage showing author Neal Stephenson and four historical characters from his book series The Baroque Cycle: (counterclockwise from top left) Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Electress Sophia of Hanover and William of Orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Day to Remember

The Kiss

A moment to rejoice, a day of fun

In this crowd we are lost, a small island in a wild sea

We hear the laughter, the songs

The sweet tunes that carry us deeper into the city

The air is clear, the people so friendly

And all this time

I see only you…

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

 

Expectations

Lesende

In the following days he was entirely absorbed in his work. The new project occupied his mind totally. He had suppliers to meet, staff to brief, some new technologies to explore and get practical knowledge of. His was busy. His staff adored him when he was in that mood: enthusiastic but ready to pause and explain, leading from the front, positive always. He worked longer hours. Mrs X wrote to his boss to express her deep thanks at the work Julian had done in Paris. His boss said there was a new business proposal with an offer to pay for Julian to work for one year there. The horizon was blue. Julian was happy. Sarah and him were preparing their summer holiday. The Alps. The long hikes. He following her on those cliffs. Her supple body. The southern winds in the night. He’d switch off the phone. Two weeks of paradise…

The Page

L' école

At home a medical check determined he had to undertake surgery. He felt ill. A long wait was starting. Yet he had plenty to do, a business to run, projects to oversee, the occasional technical challenge, papers, spreadsheets… What he wanted was to be back in the valley, feeling the rocks under his boots, breathing the clear and cold air. He wanted to see the pine trees, look at the white clouds disappearing behind the summits. He longs for solitude, and closer intimacy, a contradiction he chose to cherish.

He soon made up his mind to stand his ground: he would follow the advice of his surgeon, bite the bullet, train regularly, cut down on drinking and all those things that were now bad for him, and probably always were. He also decided to view her page.

Every month he took tests and followed the usual routine for cancer patients. He ate raw vegetables, got his will in order, transfer those assets that were still in his name to Sarah. She was positive and was no less tender or tough with her partner – as he deserved – than she’d always been. She was supportive in the only way she knew to be: by acting and living as normal. She was genuinely confident he would recover, defying statistics. She changed nothing to her normal work week.

Neither did he unless it was to see his oncologist.

And, finally, one evening, after a successful workday, he logged on to Mel’s page.

At first he was a bit lost. His own page was minimalist. Her wall appeared to be densely packed, with an impressive list of “friends” and pictures. He looked at her profile. The red hair, the young face, the green eyes, the full lips, a simple flowered blouse… a beautiful young woman, a little old-fashion. Something stirred at the deep end of his memories…  That picture looked strangely familiar, but still he could not recall who she was. He decided to read her profile. Mel had listed as much as she could, her schools, where she’d lived, where she’d worked.

She was born two years before him, and in the town where he’d spent most of his childhood. She’d also attended the same high school. He paused. Something was wrong with Mel’s page. One of her pictures was that of an adolescent, fresh-faced, athletic, standing in what looked like a school yard in a group of other youngsters. Julian looked at the picture, heart beating, suddenly transported in time.

It was his school, and that young man was him, probably a year or two before he left for the army – all those years back. He realised at last that Sarah was standing behind him: “An old flame has caught up with you?” she asked tenderly, with a touch of concern in her voice.