19/12/11

Haileen - Ch. 4


Chapter Four

The cabin was small – there was just one room with a bed, a fireplace, a cupboard, a small wardrobe, a table and a couple of chairs. There was no toilet – just a shed outside – nor running water, but I thought I had seen a well when I had risked a glance out the back window. The window shutters were closed, and I left them so. Thus there was little light inside. I opened the wardrobe: a gun and some spare hunter’s clothing were all there was. I had more luck with the cupboard. It was filled with canned food – meat, beans, tuna – even some fruit. And there were some silverware, dishes and pots and pans. A few shelves completed the furniture. In a word – I could really live here comfortably enough.

I sat down at the table with a couple of cans and the water bottle. I did not want to start a fire, so I made do with tuna and fruit. I then collapsed on the bed and fell asleep. I slept fitfully all afternoon, and awoke towards evening. Sleep had not refreshed me at all, but had left me with a mild headache and a strong sense of longing.

The sun was rapidly setting behind the trees. I could hear the sounds of the forest, and strained my ears for more, but could hear nothing unusual. I then decided to risk a quick walk outside. I needed to go to the toilet – now that there was one, albeit primitive. And I wanted to draw some water from the well.

I went out. The air was crisp – definitely cooler then the days before – and I couldn’t help thinking that it would be cold outside tonight. The wheel at the well was rusty and it stuck at first, but the lid was still in its place, so that the water was clear and there was plenty. I filled the pail I had found in the cabin and went back in. With water at my disposal I undressed and proceeded to make myself more presentable. I washed with a rag towel and changed into the spare clothes I had brought with me. The ones I had had on since the day I had left were dirty and torn in places, and I marveled at the damage that few days in the wood had done. I had no comb or brush, so I used my hands to tidy my hair.

As clean as I could be, I sat on the bed and looked around. There were an oil lamp and matches on a shelf, so I took one and lit the lamp, screening it partially with a rag, so that very little light shone. I put a blanket around my shoulders, laid Windy on the pillow next to me, and opened Mother’s book. I was not hungry at the moment and – since I was supposed to wait – I settled down to read.



“Long are the hours of waiting,

When alone you lie with yourself.

They will soon be over,

Forgotten in the happiness of reunion.”



Was it just my imagination, or there always seemed to be an appropriate line in the book I was holding? I had experienced it before, in the many hours of reading and re-reading. It was as tough my mother and I shared the same thoughts – it gave me a sense of communion that was soothing and invigorating.

I wished Paul were here already, and at the same time I wanted to freeze this moment in time. What would we do? What would he tell me, and what would I tell him? I wished there could be just the two of us, and that any decision could be postponed indefinitely. It is of the young to search deferral, as if a problem would go away just by not thinking about it.

And I felt lonely. Lonelier than I had felt in the wood. I had gone there of my own volition, and it had seemed fair to me that I should be alone. Loneliness was my haven and I felt safe. Now that we had met, and that I was in an unfamiliar place, loneliness weighted upon me as it had never done before.

.

“Loneliness is a mere state of affairs; whether it becomes friend or foe is a state of the mind.”



I kept reading, flicking through the pages – retracing my previous readings. There were things in the book – things I had collected and then used as bookmarks. And so a bird feather found its way into my hand; a dried flower kept silent vigil on my mother words; a brown leaf – now worn out by use – kept track of an inspiration. Each item was part of my past, and I reminisced every moment.

I loved to keep track of time. That’s why I used to keep a diary. I wanted to keep the images of my life sharp – to be able to track events that were long gone. I loved to look at the family’s photo album for instance, and I was always the one to suggest we take a photo. If it were up to my parents, we would have none! I had dozens of boxes of various sizes – candy boxes, soap boxes – anything would do – and I used to stuff them with things: a stone, a strip of clothing, a used pencil, a dog-eared notebook. They were mementos, and I had collected already so many that I wondered what would happen when I got older. I could not bear to think of throwing something away. I had had a terrible row with Mom once because she had disposed of a pen she thought I no longer used. But I had made my point clear then, and nobody had ever tried to touch my things again.

I was still following my strain of thoughts when I heard the beating of hooves outside. I extinguished the lamp and kept still. I heard somebody get off the saddle, tie the horse at the rail and come to the door.

Paul knocked and came in. I recognized his figure silhouetted in the pale moonlight. I struck a match and lighted the lamp again, and he closed the door behind him. He was carrying a bag and a sack, which he let fall on the nearest chair. We were in each other’s arms in a matter of seconds. We hugged and kissed and then he looked at me.

“They have caught me going back and they know everything. Let us sit down and I’ll explain everything to you.”

We sat side-by-side on the bed, and he started talking. He explained how, while going back, he had encountered my father, together with some friends, and had not been able either to hide or to make out a good excuse. But he had succeeded in convincing them that I was all right. He had pleaded they go back home, and he would tell everything. And so they had done. He had walked home with them following the path to the road, and then up – first to his house to reassure his parents, and then to mine, where Mom was waiting. Mom had prepared lunch, and he had sat with them.

He had told them what I had told him, trying to break to them as gently as possible the news of my pregnancy. Father had been very upset and had walked outside in the middle of the meal. Paul had sat there at the table –silent – Mother watching him all the time. Then my father had come back, and they had resumed talking.

At the end of the meal they had decided that they all needed time to themselves, and so Paul had gone back home. They had agreed to meet again in the evening. He had told the story to his parents – more or less as he had told mine. Just after dinner my parents had showed up. Mom had prepared a bag with clothing and other stuff for me, and they had asked him to give it to me. He was to tell me that I need not fear, that they were waiting for me and we would work things out together. They had sat long in the sitting room at his house – that’s why he was late. After a while he had taken a horse from the barn. When he had left, our parents were still talking.

I had been sitting next to him, stiff and silent. Now he rose and went to the fireplace. There was dry wood and kindling, and he had a fire going in no time. Then he went out to fetch some water and hung the pail on a hook over the fire. He must have done that other times. While the water was heating up, he set the table – taking food from the sack – and opened some of the cans in the cupboard.

“Your Mom has sent tea; would you like any?”

I sat at the table, nodding assent. He heated the beans directly in the can, and served me a platter of cured beef to go with them. When the tea was ready, he sat next to me and watched me eating.

“I’ll stay with you the night and tomorrow. I’ve brought the books with me, in case I have time to study a little.”

“I’m so sorry, Paul! I’d completely forgotten about the exam! You have to take it. It’s so important!” I felt guilty for having forgotten. Of course it was very important that he take it and get his diploma. No matter what he was going to do later – and I doubted that, given the present circumstances, his mind was set on College – he needed that.

“Don’t worry about that. I’ve studied all year long. I’m not going to be more prepared than I already am. I need to be in school Wednesday morning and then again until the end of the week, but we can be together in the afternoons.”

It was Monday, so he had just one day before the exams.

“Why don’t we go to your place tomorrow? You have to trust your parents. They need to see you and talk to you. I’ll be with you, and we’ll work things out together.”

“I don’t know. I feel as if… Oh, I don’t know how I feel! It’s just that I’m afraid, that’s all.”

“Why didn’t you tell me, Heileen?” His face was stricken, and it was clear that he badly needed to know, but did not know how to ask. Maybe there was no right way to ask.

“I did not want to force you. I wanted to have you because of me, and not because of the baby, or responsibility, or other people’s opinion. It’s not for lack of trust, and I love you so much I don’t want to lose you. I meant to tell and kept putting it off. I’m sorry.”

“You must not worry. I’ll never leave you, and everything will be all right.”

We smiled, and I finished my meal.

It was cozy now in the cabin. The fire sent out a warm glow. There was little light – from the lamp and the fire – so that everything looked softer – the lines smoothed by dimness. It was time to go to bed. Now that Paul was here with me I had calmed down. All I needed to do what get a good night’s sleep.

While Paul was out to see to the horse, I got ready. He had brought in more cold water, together with the one he had set to boil, so that I could wash myself better. Moreover, Mom had sent comb and brush, together with soap and a toothbrush. I had all I needed. When I was ready I slid under the covers.

After a while also Paul came to bed. He had banked the fire for the night. Everything was quiet. The wood was dark and no creature stirred. I felt at peace. We put out he lamp. I could feel his body, gently brushing against mine as we lay on the bed. We had never slept together before – lying in the barn was not quite the same thing! – and I rejoiced in the intimacy. To me it was a taste of our future life. We fell asleep like that – too taken by the moment or too shy (how ironic!) to make love. We did make love eventually somewhere in the middle of the night, and fell asleep again to wake up in each other’s arms in the morning.

It was he again who rekindled the fire and prepared breakfast, while I got up and dressed. The horse must have heard us, because it snorted in response. We opened the door and walked outside.

“This is Pearl. Pearl, please meet my sweet Heileen.”

It was a brown mare, her eyes calm and benevolent. Paul gave her an apple, and she munched on it, crushing it with her back teeth. He told me she was used to sleeping in the barn, but that he had already ridden her to the hut, so that she was used to the surroundings.

We went back inside to our breakfast, which consisted of bread and jam – thoughtfully provided by Paul’s family – and tea, of course. My family liked to have coffee with their breakfast, but I loved tea, and was happy to see Paul did, too. We were still eating when we heard movement outside and then a knock on the door.

It was my mother. Her eyes were red, and she hesitated before entering. We embraced, and I hugged her hard, keeping her close to me for a long time. She sat at the table and looked at us, her eyes going back and forth from one to the other, as if she were trying to familiarize with the new situation.

“Come home to lunch today. Paul’s parents are coming, and we have much to discuss”, she said. Then, as if foreseeing a negative reply, she hastily added: “We won’t keep you there. You can come back here if you want to. Just don’t hide anymore. We need to see you; your father needs you, too.” They were both staring at me; could I refuse? I nodded. She told us what had happened after Paul had left the day before. Our parents had talked a lot, until the wee hours when everybody had resolved to go home and defer further talking to the next day. That’s why they had planned to meet at my house. After a while she rose to go. We kissed, and she started down the path.

I thought about her and all the things she had done for me. I was an only child; my mother had had a difficult delivery, and doctors had told her she should not have any more children. So Mom and Dad had reserved for me all the care and the dedication. They did not spoil me; I really don’t think so. Dad believed in a certain amount of discipline, and I was taught from an early age to do my part in the house. And Mom was always gentle but firm. My father was practical, whereas she was more the spiritual type. Not in a religious way – we went to church on Sundays and holidays, but were not very pious. She would always come up with a saying or moral teaching, and when she didn’t have any, then she would make one up for the occasion. And she was sure to write her thoughts down; that’s where the book had come from. There would be more in the future.

We went back inside and busied ourselves with tiding up and other chores. I did not know whether this would be our home for some time; actually, I could not envision myself really living here, as romantic as it would look. We probably needed some time to ourselves. So while he was fetching wood and carrying water to the horse trough, I swept the floor and made the bed. It did not take long, and I was sitting idly at the table when he came in. The fire would need more wood, but he let it die down – it was warm enough, and we didn’t need to cook.

I realized I’d let him take care of things – even the ones that were considered to be a woman’s job, like cooking. All this seemed unreal. I had wanted it when I had decided to run away, but never could I have imagined how things would develop. As I said, it was much easier to let things take care of themselves. He had probably realized it, and had accepted it, presuming I’d go back sooner or later to being my normal self again.

“Promise me something. Whatever happens, you’ll never hide anything from me again. All right?” Those black eyes were fixing me again. And for the second time that day I just nodded.

Closer to midday we left the cabin together. Paul sat on Pearl and helped me on behind him. The path was longer than I’d thought –it wound through the wood before reaching the paved road. There were several houses on that road, which was the only one up the hill and to my house. Everybody knew one another, although some kept more to themselves. The news of my running away had spread by now, and the people along the road waved at us in greeting.

When we reached the house, Paul turned toward me and kissed me lightly on the lips; then he helped me off. Mother had heard and was there. She told him to put Pearl in the barn with the other horses. So it was just Mom and I who walked into the house.

Dad was sitting on the couch in the living room. He looked up when we entered, and I went to him, squatting down at his side. He looked gravely at me.

“Next time you run away, leave a note, will you?”

“I won’t run away again.”

He tried to smile, and I saw relief in his eyes.



Paul – who had remained outside – entered now with his parents. I had met them, of course, on more than one occasion – I had even been to invited to lunch to their house once, but – our families not being close friends – I had had no occasion of really getting to know them. They were – relatively speaking – the only newcomers in the neighborhood. They had bought the house about three years before, and tended to keep to themselves. Or maybe we were just so used to our friends – who’d always been there and whom we took for granted – that we’d always acted aloof towards them.

Mom had done her best. She was a good cook, and had outdone herself for the occasion. We sat at the table and started talking at once – everybody saying his or her opinion, giving advice. We spoke of our love, and of how it had evolved over the months. We made it clear that what we had done had been – yes – foolhardy, but that we did not regret it at all. The child had brought us closer then we had been, and – we believed – closer than couples in general are at our age. If it meant having to grow up faster than expected, then grow up we would. We wanted to stay together from this very moment, and we would not accept to be separated. We had the cabin in the wood, if nothing else. In general, there was an air of amiability, which struck me as very odd – I had thought we would be reprimanded.

On the contrary, they did not waste time in pointless remarks or regrets. Since nothing could change the situation, our parents were trying to make the best of it. After a while I understood that our families already had something in mind – which they had probably worked out the day before – and were simply awaiting the right moment to tell us, so that we couldn’t refuse.

As it turned out, they suggested we go and live with Paul’s parents. There was enough room. Moreover, one of their sons had left when he had gotten married, and there also were a couple of rooms in the back, which nobody used. We would have our own privacy, and they would help me once the baby was born. Paul would work on the farm, as he was already planning, and they would pay him a wage, so that he could provide for his family. I could go to school the following year and get my diploma. After that, it was up to us to decide what to do. We would of course be welcome to live there as long as we wanted, but we could also decide to put money away and live on our own. My parents were supposed to leave in a few days, and would do so. They would have much preferred to have me close to them, and find us a place in the city, but it was clear from the beginning that that was not what we wanted. They had decided to sell the house and move to the city because the income from the farm and been very low in the last years, and they wanted a better life. They had thought of renting instead of selling it, and – since it had in fact not been sold yet – they were evaluating that solution, and would help us by sending money. The people who were working already for us – we had three workers that came in every morning – would keep working on the farm and take care of the animals there. One of them had been our overseer for as long as I could remember, and they trusted him to carry out their interests. Maybe one day – why not? – I could go back there to live myself. As far as the very near future was concerned, I still had three days of school, and Paul had his exam, and my parents were inflexible about that: tomorrow I would go to school.

It took lunchtime and part of the afternoon to work these things out. As far as we were concerned, we were more than happy about what they were proposing. We felt very lucky to have such parents, and I must say that – to this day – I am still overcome by emotion when I think of what it had involved. We had thought that we would have to live apart for the sake of decorum – until we got married. That’s probably what would have happened had my parents not planned to leave. As it was, it wouldn’t have made any difference for me to live at Paul’s house and not share his bed – people would talk anyway.

They also warned us that it would not be easy – both because starting a family is a serious undertaking, and because of what other people would say and do. Ours was a small community; people knew everything about one another and tended to talk and judge. We had broken one of the most deep-rooted moral rules, and we would have to deal with it.

By and large, the cabin in the wood looked like an island of tranquility. On the other hand, if I had to face the community sooner or later, I’d rather start by going back to school, where I was sure to have some friends, and to find – I hoped – some sympathy.

Then it was settled: we were allowed to stay at the cabin for a few days, until we could move in with Paul’s parents. We would go to school and help them in the afternoons, since it was their hospitality we depended upon. And we would negotiate a truce with the community. And so we did.

13/09/11

Heileen - Ch. 3


Chapter Three

It was my favorite book.  A book of notes and verses.  Not rhyming poetry; short poems and thoughts mainly – words of wisdom written by mother.   Mom had always liked to write, and a large number of poems had collected in and on her desk until Pa had decided to have them bound and published.   He had some copies made for the family and friends, and had handed them out as a Christmas gift.   One of them had been for me. I was then twelve and have cherished the book ever since.  I never left home without it.  I used to carry it with me on holidays or school trips.   It sits now – battered by use and with company – on the shelf above the fireplace at my house.  Mom had written a dedication on the first page.  It read:

“To my one and only daughter – May the sun always shine and Life be kind to you.”

The sun was shining all right, but I doubted life was being kind to me!  For the first time since running away I felt all the weight of my decision, together with its implications.  And I felt utterly alone.

“Behold the stillness of the storm
And the clamor of respite.
So that when your heart leaps,
Your mind will harness it.”

Mostly, I felt I could not keep the secret much longer.   It weighted on me since the middle of May.   I had not told anyone, not even Trisha.   Not even Paul.   We’d been going steady for almost a year before we decided it was time to strengthen our relationship.   Well, strengthen it we did!   Our recklessness would become evident quite soon; until then I had resolved not to think about it.  I wanted to be my old self for a while longer – to remain the cheerful girl I’d always been.  I would have enough time later to sober up and take care of… well – whatever was coming, I guess.
So this was the real reason.  Of course my parents’ decision to leave would have upset me at any moment, but now it was even worse; I had a boyfriend and we had something together.   The feeling hit me like a real blow.   I missed him so much – had not even said goodbye to him.
We were not in the same class; he was a year older than I, and high school would be over for him in a few days.   He hadn’t decided yet what to do afterwards, which meant that he would probably remain on the land – to help with the running of the farm – as one of his brothers had done before him.  Being the daughter of a landowner myself, I liked the idea of being the girlfriend of a farmer.   He was tall, lightly built but not lanky.  His eyes were dark deep pools: you would do anything for those eyes.
Even get pregnant at sixteen.  There – I had finally said it.   I had not said those words yet, not even to myself.  What would I do?  What could I possibly do that would not change my life altogether, and the one of those around me?  So I had kept my mouth shut, and the secret had gone unchallenged.   He had not noticed anything, of course – how could he?   He was so taken by me, by life in general – by the simple fact of being seventeen and having the world at his feet.   At that age you feel you can do anything, or chose to do nothing special and still be someone because of it.
We had met at a school party more than a year ago.   I had blushed when he had asked me to dance, and was relieved when I noticed that he, too, was a poor dancer.   But he was holding me as if he would never let me go, and so we had danced until the party was over.   After that he had asked me out on a date from time to time, more frequently as the days passed.   Sometimes he would come up the road to our farm before school, and we would walk there together.   Lately, though, because of the final exams, I had not seen him in the mornings.   I had hoped to see him the day I’d run away.  Maybe we could have worked something out together.
About four months ago we had celebrated our first anniversary.   That’s when I had gone to the wood without my parents’ permission.   We had taken some fruit and a bottle of apple juice with us, and we had made a toast with it.   And he had told me that he was ready for more; he had made it clear that it was not just a question of sex.  He loved me truly and deeply, and that’s why he wanted to make love to me.  I had been afraid at first.   You hear so many things – how you should wait for Mr. Right; how boys won’t look at you in the same way when they find out you’ve done it already; the ever present danger of getting pregnant.   In his defense I must say it did not take him long to convince me, and so one night he stole away from his house and came to me.  We met in the barn, I having climbed down the pipe from my window.   He was tender and caring, and cradled me in his arms before and after.  
We’d met in this way every week since.   As a game, it was never on the same night, so that I would never know in advance when he would come.   When he did come, he would walk under my bedroom window as soon as he was sure there was no danger, and would throw a small stone or make some light noise.   I was always waiting for him.  I knew that, if he didn’t come before a certain hour at night, then he would not come at all and I could go to sleep.   And of course we’d meet at school and otherwise during the day – at some friend’s house or in town.   The town was somewhat distant, and we didn’t go there frequently; but the school was close to it, and a lot of friends lived there, too.  
The last time I had seen him was five days ago.   Since this was his last year in high school, classes were over for him, and he did not have to go to school until next week for his final exams.   That’s why I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye.   He had come to me on Tuesday, and we had made love in the barn as always.   It was hard for us not to be able to see each other more frequently, but this increased our passion – and we were happy for that.
Of course I would have to tell him about the baby soon.   I kept telling myself that it was the fruit of our love, and that – although the situation was not the proper one – we would manage.  I thought he would be happy to become a father – although it was very early; one of his brothers had gotten married two years ago and at the end of last year they had had a baby girl.  He was very fond of his niece and kept speaking about her.  But sometimes I was afraid that he didn’t want to manage.   What if he didn’t want to have anything to do with it?   He might get scared – like I was – and decide not to take responsibility.   And I did not want to press him.   Of course everybody in school knew we were steady; our families knew that, too.   It would be clear that the baby was his.   But I did not want a forced marriage.   I wanted him to be free to make his decision as I had made mine the day we had made love the first time.  

“Enjoy every single day
And delight in your happiness
But do not shun sorrow:
It’ll stalk you forever

A child is reason for joy, not sorrow.  And if fate had decided to give me one now, then who was I to question destiny?    I would raise my baby – possibly with the man I loved – and be happy for it.
As the last rays of the sun disappeared, I squinted at the book in my hands:

“Don’t cry over broken toys or fret about your misbehavior. 
Remember that Mom and Dad will always be there for you.”

            This had clearly been written for me; there had been a number of situations that could have inspired such lines.  I closed the book and ate a second apple. Then I rose, put on some additional clothing, wrapped myself in the jacket, and sat in the hollow, teddy bear on my lap.  
            I would have liked very much to be able to go to my parents and tell them everything; sometimes I thought I would burst if I did not tell them.   But I was so uncertain!  What if they did not want me to keep the baby?   I was too young to think about abortion, but I certainly knew about adoption – a friend in school had been adopted – and I did not want that!  And they might get very upset with me.   I was afraid they would feel I had shamed them with my behavior.   What if they did not want to have anything to do with me anymore?  
            So time had passed and I had kept silent, until the day in which I was told we had to leave and change our life completely.   Well – I was not ready to change it that way!  It was going to be changed already by what I had done; let it be at least in my environment, with the people and things I loved. 
            I fell asleep almost immediately – I had been very tired after all – and slept good part of the night.   When I awoke – stiff and cold as always – I was caught by a sudden restlessness to get going.   It was too dark outside, though, to be able to do anything, so I just waited.   When the sun finally rose, I stumbled out of the tree and proceeded to collect my belongings.  Not that I had many right now!   I packed everything in my backpack, took the bottle and the last apple, and went to the stream.   The fish smelled, so I threw them away and resolved to catch some more as soon as I arrived at the tree where I had to turn left towards the cave.   I washed as well as I could and then drank and refilled my water bottle.   Then I started walking on the left side of the stream, nibbling at the apple as I went.
            The rising sun warmed me, and – as the stiffness went slowly away – I made my way faster downstream.  I had been walking for almost the hour it should have taken me to reach the tree, when I heard somebody call.   I ran to the left and hid among the trees.   The sound was far away, coming from the west.   My heart began racing.   Was that it?   Had they finally found me?   My flight hadn’t lasted long then!   I tried to hide as well as I could, at the same time keeping an ear out   for the sound of voices.
            The call was repeated over and over and – as it drew nearer – I realized it was my name being called.   It was a male voice, and there seemed to be only one – if there were more pursuers, they were keeping silent.   All at once a figure materialized on the other side of the stream.   My heart missed a beat then, and I barely kept myself from coming out of hiding. 
            It was Paul.   He stood there, in the light of the sun, squinting in my direction and calling my name.    He repeated the name dozens of times; it looked as though a hunch or something was keeping him there.  He wavered for a while, unwilling to go on.   There really seemed to be nobody with him.   He must have stood there for at least five minutes – I would had seen the others by now had there been any. 
So I stood out of the shelter of the trees and walked into the light.   I don’t know what made me do it – maybe the memory of those eyes.  It took some time for him to realize somebody was standing on the other side of the stream; I think the sun was blinding him.   He ran towards me, crossing the stream as well as he could, splashing water all around and getting wet in the process.   He stopped a few feet away to face me.   I must have looked like a scarecrow to him – the result of three days’ hiding in the wood.   He had an astonished and at same time stricken look on his face.         
“Is it really you?  Honey, I…”
He did not finish the sentence.   We ran into each other’s arms.  The force of the impact almost threw us on the ground, and we gladly surrendered to it.  We rolled for a while, kissing and hugging each other.   All my worries – my darkest fears – had melted away that very minute.   Then he finally released me.   We sat on the turf, speechless.
“Are you alone?  Is somebody else coming?”  
I must have looked really worried, because he hastened to reassure me that he was alone.   People were looking for me, but were far away to the north.   Nobody had probably thought I could be this far out.    Mother and Father had guessed the reason I had run away and had decided to give me some time to work things out.   They were sure I would go back by myself.   After the second night, though, they had started to really worry, and on the third day they had begun looking for me with the help of friends.   They had gone to his house the previous night – to see if he knew anything about it.   And today he had decided to come looking for me.   It had been hard for him to leave the house without anybody noticing, and would have to go back soon, lest they discover him.   But why was I here?  Why had I run away?
And so I told him everything.  How I had come home and had heard the news of our leaving; how I had planned everything during the night and had told only Trisha because he wasn’t at school.   I told him about how much I had missed him and how I was afraid of losing him.   I buried my head in his chest and started sobbing.   He stroked my hair lightly, murmuring endearments.   So I raised my head to look him in the eyes and told him.
“I will have a baby.  Our baby.”
He was silent then – a look of bewilderment on his handsome face.   I could see worry and uncertainty, pride and … happiness?   Mastering his emotions at last, he rose to his feet, pulling me up with him.  He stepped back a pace, and – holding me at arm’s length – he looked at me deep in the eyes. What I saw was determination.
“I will stand by you.   Always.  Because I love you”.  
My head was spinning then; I must have looked rather faint, because he picked me up in his arms and carried me closer to the water, with which he sprinkled my face.   He took a small package out of his pockets; there was some cheese in it, and I ate it gratefully.   I hadn’t realized how hungry I really was.  I had gone without food for a day, with the exception of three apples and some fish, and my stomach was rumbling softly.  
While I was eating he told me of a place in the wood.  It was a cabin some relatives of his had built long ago.   Nobody used it now except on occasions – when his father went hunting and had to spend a night out, for instance.   That’s why there was always some food there.  He suggested he accompany me there, and then go back home.   He would come to me in the night, and we would decide then what to do.
And so we got up and started walking.   The cabin lay to the north, away from the main road – which ran northwest – but on a path.  We would have to be careful and keep our eyes open.   We retraced my steps to the hollow tree, and I told him how I had found it and used it these past nights.   I told him also about the pond and the cave, and how I was planning to live there.   As we walked farther north, we were careful of sounds and proceeded with caution.   We found the path towards midday.   It was disused but still visible, and large enough that a car could be driven along it.   We turned west then and walked for not more than a quarter of an hour. 
He opened the door; went in to control nobody was there, and then left me – with the promise to come back as soon as possible.   He told me to shut the door and remain inside.  And then he was gone down the path.

21/05/11

Heileen - Ch. 2


Chapter Two

The sun finally came up. As a strip of light made its way through the opening, I got out.  I found out then that the entrance was not in the shade at all – at least not all day long.  It was facing east, and the sun rising behind the trees on the other side of the stream made my heart leap up!  I grabbed an apple and went down to the stream.  Although my body still needed warmth, it felt good to dip my hands in the water.  It was reviving.  I sat down next to it, and started to exercise.  Can you imagine: me – who’s always hated the idea of getting into a room for the sake of gymnastics!  But of course this was not a room in a school, and if I didn’t like P.E. lessons at all, on the other hand, I had always loved being out in the open, surrounded by Nature, and the feeling of being in good shape.  I resolved that, if I did manage to let a few days pass without being discovered, then I would take the time to run around, climb trees and do all the things that would make my body feel well. I just needed to feel safe.  I started munching at the apple and making plans.  My spirits had risen considerably, and I felt better than I’d felt in days.  The novelty of the place and of my situation was spurring me on.  But I needed to have it all well thought-out.
After eating the apple, I carefully hid its core in the dirt and stood up.  I then crossed the stream by stepping on some rather convenient stones and began climbing up the other side.  There the trees were closer together, and little light was coming in.  It was cooler than by the riverbed, but I had warmed up by now.  I was going farther away from the house, and I felt confident in walking away from the tree, too, because the rucksack would be well hidden in there.    With all the thinking I had done the night before, I now let my mind wander, without paying much attention to what came to it.  I was just walking, rejoicing in the beauty of the day, the sweetness of the air, and – later – the warmth that the rays of the sun, now stronger, were carrying.  The wood was alive, and I wanted to experience the most of it. 
I was watching with interest a couple of squirrels run up the tree in front of me, when a sharp cracking sound from behind forced me to stop in my tracks.   I hid behind the tree, and looked in the direction of the sound.  Some other squirrels ran past me, oblivious of my presence and – it seemed to me – not at all scared.   This reassured me a little, but I would have to be more careful in the future!  So I started thinking of my situation again.  Since I had wandered quite some way from the tree, I resolved to keep walking until noon, keeping an ear out for the sounds of possible pursuers, while looking for a more permanent place to hide.  And – of course – while looking for food.  If I thought about it, I could still feel the dismay of the previous night, when my prospects had seemed rather bleak.  I needed more warm clothing and a blanket.  Could I risk going back to the house?  Not for a few days.  When I had planned all this, I had actually considered going back sooner or later, but that would be after my parents had moved; that meant waiting for at least another six days, provided they would go as planned even without me.   I thought that was rather likely if they did not want to lose their jobs, but that would also mean that the house would be locked, and with it, my bedroom window.   But no – now I remembered!   Of course the house could not be locked up!  We had animals that needed to be taken care of.  Surely they had thought of somebody who could do that, maybe living there, too.   And then the door wouldn’t be shut. Or – even if these people did not live there, then the place would be deserted at night, and I would have enough time to break in, and take what I needed.     Why hadn’t I thought of hiding things in the barn?   I could have done that during the night, and then it would have been so much easier.   Yes, I had been naïve – if not dumb altogether – and I felt I was going to regret it sooner or later.  
Well, since thinking of warmer clothing or blankets was not going to be of any help, I might try seriously to look for food.   Since I had not taken the sandwiches with me, I would have to either hunt or fish.  I did not want to set any snares.   This would take time, and the people looking for me could easily detect them.   Moreover, I did not think I would stay here long enough for them to be of any help.   I had the sling with me, though; I never left the house without it, and had gotten into trouble at school more than once because of it.   If I could catch a squirrel or a bird, I would then just have to light a fire….  
I was still trying to recollect how to light a fire with sticks when I arrived at a clearing.   This one was different than the one close to the hollow tree.  It was more alive with birds and small animals and had a different smell.   I soon realized I had come very close to a pond, and the dampness of the area accounted for the strange sensation.   There were many ducks on the water, and I saw plenty of fish swimming in it.   The presence of birds and fish meant that I would not have to skin an animal – provided I caught it first, of course.  I had never done that before, and was very much afraid I would not be able to, with the small jack-knife I carried   (this had gotten me into even more trouble than the sling).   There were many pebbles on the edge, and I collected some, which I stuffed into the pockets of my skirt.   Then I took out my sling, chose a round pebble, aimed at a duck and – whoosh! – away flew the pebble and all the ducks together.   They eventually settled back on the water, and I was able to aim again and again, until I finally managed to hit one.   I was so excited I cried out, remembering too late I was supposed to keep quiet.  Besides, with all the racket the hunted ducks were making, I doubt my cry would make any difference! I had caught the duck on the right wing, and it could not fly away.   I undressed, stepped into the water and dived closer.   It kept flapping its wings, trying to escape, but managed only to move in circles.  I grabbed it by the feet, and swam ashore.   I set it down, wondering if I would ever have the courage to kill it, and started to put my clothes back on.   They stuck to my body because of the water, and I realized, that – duck or no duck – I would really have to light a fire.   The animal in question was looking at me.  It had given up trying to fly away, but it could still walk – I suppose it was just too afraid to do so at the moment.   I undid a string from my shoes and used it to tie its feet.   With that taken care of, I took some time to collect sticks.  I had to walk away from the pond, to where the grass was much drier, and so was the wood lying around.   I then made myself comfortable – my legs bent under me – and prepared everything as Pa had shown me.   It took ages to even get it right, and much much more to see a whiff of smoke rise from the dry leaves I had used as kindling.   If I could just make it burn without extinguishing it…
I sat back holding my hands above the flames.   It had worked!  I felt worn out; I was not cold, nor did I feel wet anymore.  Only then did it occur to me that it must really have passed a lot of time.   I glanced at the watch: four o’clock.   I had been careless again.   I could retrace my steps to the hollow tree, of course, but I doubted I could get back before sunset, as much as I doubted I could find the way in the dark.   And I hadn’t eaten yet.   I went back to retrieve the duck.   Unable to move, it had sat there all this time, but it seemed to have recovered some strength and – what’s more – the wing didn’t look broken at all.   It would actually flap both its wings from time to time, trying to fly away.   So I released it.   Much as I was hungry, I had been thinking about it while lightning the fire.   I had never killed an animal – had always loved them – and I felt I could not do it.   Maybe given some time, when I would really need to kill something in order to survive.  Maybe with a fish it would be easier.
Now that I had a fire, and there was no chance of going back to the tree and the sandwiches, I resolved I would try to catch a fish.  I went back to the drier area to check: the fire was burning and didn’t seem in need of immediate attention.   So I picked a stick and sharpened one of the ends with my knife. I was warmer; my hair – which was short to start with – had dried out, and I felt all right.   I went back to the pond, removed my shoes and my socks, and set to the task of catching fish with a stick.   The fish were big and slow, absolutely not afraid of coming within inches of my feet.   Some even ventured to pick on them, curious.   I had to learn by trial-and-error; it was hard to gauge the distance because of the distorting effects of the water and the deceitful rays of the sun, now on my back.   After a while, though, my efforts were rewarded, and a sizeable silvery fish wriggled from the stick.   I removed it, banged it on its head, and put it aside.  Now that I had learnt, I wanted more.  I caught two more fish in this way.  At the end I cleaned them, stuck them back on the stick, and returned to the fire, collecting more wood on the way.
The place were I had built the fire was at the edge of the clearing, next to the trees that would shelter me during the night.   The warmth from the fire was so nice I indulged for a while in the idea of keeping it up until morning, but I did not dare do that, lest I be discovered.  So I hastened to cook the fish before the sun set.   It felt like camping, and I could actually envision my family and myself doing that.   It had never happened.  My father was the practical type, and although he felt I should know how to care for myself, we’d never put my knowledge to the test.  Life could be uncomfortable enough by itself if you didn’t work hard; there was no need to make it more uncomfortable by going camping.  I ate two of the fish, wrapping the third one in a large leaf, and hastened to put out the fire.   I felt sorrow to see it go – it had taken so much to light!  I covered the ashes as carefully as possible, retrieved the fish and stepped into the thicket in the direction I had come from.   The sun was just setting.
I did not walk far for fear of losing myself.  I just wanted to be away from the clearing and surrounded by trees.      I found a spot sheltered by a slight incline, wrapped myself as well as I could in my jacket, and set to spend my second night alone in the wood.  Eating had made me feel better, and the pungent smell of the fire on my clothes was soothing.   I remembered how we used to spend winter nights by the fireplace at our house.  Mom would cook dinner and after that I would help to clear the table.  Pa would sit on the rug in front of the fireplace, and we would sit next to him.  He would then start telling stories to pass the time.  He said it reminded him of the old days, when there was no television and people used to spend the evening like that.   I usually ended up falling asleep with my head on his lap, and they would have to carry me to my bed.
Tomorrow I would try and catch some more fish, although – now that I thought about it – there must be some also in the stream next to the hollow tree.   I would then return to it, and – if there was time – start walking in another direction.   I still had to find a better place to stay.   This time, though, I would not make the same mistakes.  I would carry my pack with the food, the water (although the pond had been clear, its water had not tasted as good as the stream’s), and the extra clothes.   There was no point in leaving behind something that, should I find the right place, I would then have to go back to retrieve.   And I would look at my watch to make sure I would not have to spend another night outside.   I eventually fell asleep thinking of Windy, and whishing I had him here to hug.  
I slept fitfully and woke up in the morning with a healthy appetite.   I was also stiff with cold, but counted on the sun to warm me up later.   I ate the fish.   I did not taste as good as the day before, and I had nothing to gulp it down with, but   it was OK.  I then dug a hole to hide the remains of my breakfast and walked back to the pond.   The sun was up and warm.   Thank God for another beautiful day!  I did not dare think what I would do in bad weather…   The fire had darkened my stick – I had used it as a skewer.  I was starting to look for a new one when I remembered that fire was supposed to harden wood.   And so it was that I caught four more fish, spiked them back onto the stick and made my way to the hollow tree.   Before going, though, I made sure I drank plenty of water, as I had no means of carrying it.
 I walked back in the direction I had come the day before, but after an hour (I did remember to check the time) I decided to make a detour: if I headed south for a while – that is if I turned left – and eventually turned west again, I should find the stream sooner or later.   I would then be able to follow it to the hollow tree.   This would allow me to see another part of the wood – retracing my steps was of no real use.  So I walked pleasurably for another hour or so.   The wood was unchanged, except for the fact that, after a while, it started sloping down again.   That made sense.   My house had been built on top of a hill, and was surrounded by the wood, with the exception of the area – northwest of the house – where the road was and, on it, other houses.   As far as I knew, only this area had been settled, leaving the rest of the wood untouched for generations.   The original settlers were Nature lovers and had tried in every way to pass that love down to the following generations, ensuring that the wood be preserved.  So that now – even in the second half of the 20th century – not many people were fortunate enough to enjoy such beauty.   There were some campers and several hikers coming in on the weekends, but generally the wood would be left to itself and its animals.   Today the birds were singing, the trees were whispering in the breeze, and the small animals were running busily around – and there were no hikers to be seen.  
I turned right as planned and kept walking.   This area was full of birch trees, and the sun cast long rays of light through the foliage.  It was majestic.   After a while I stopped.   The ground was rising more sharply on my right, and there was an entrance of some sort, partly hidden from the foliage.  I bent to look closer.  The hole seemed to be large enough to host a human being, and I thought it went on for some feet, although I could not see more than a few paces away.   Bingo!  I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw a cavern, tall enough in most places that I could stand, the ceiling sloping sharply near he entrance and then again towards the end.  Little light got in, because the entrance was small and hidden by the foliage, and I wondered whether something could be done about it – maybe a hole a little higher up to let wood smoke out?
I was so stunned I had to sit and collect my thoughts.  So I stepped out and sat on the ground.   I would have to go back to the hollow tree immediately to retrieve my stuff.  I wanted to sleep in the cave this same night.  I would have been warmer and more sheltered.  It was now ten in the morning.   I could reach the tree, eat something, and leave soon after.   I just needed to be back before sunset.   I was so happy!!
 And so I left, walking west as fast as I could, sure I would find the stream soon.   At noon I began to despair. Surely I hadn’t walked so much the day before?  And of course I couldn’t have missed it!   The ground on my right was now sloping gently, and I hoped the stream would do the same.   I was getting tired, and was worried of having to climb up some steep incline.   I kept going, but I couldn’t see any sign of water.  I had almost resolved to stop for a rest when I heard it.   Water was rushing nearby.  I renewed my efforts and reached it.  It was the stream I was looking for: yesterday I must have walked much more than I had thought, but now that I knew where I was, I had only one more hour to go.  I stopped and, before going on, took the jack knife out of my pocket and – with it – carved a deep mark in a tree nearby.   It was larger than the others, so I was sure not to miss it on my way back.  I then crossed the stream and turned right.
As I had hoped, the going was easy enough. But I had been tired already, and was tiring all the more every minute.  When I finally reached the hollow tree, it was all I could do to drop to the ground and lie there for a while.  I had to fight hard not to fall asleep.   After a few minutes, I stood up and went to the stream to drink and splash some water on my face.   Thus revived, I went back to the tree.   I stepped in to retrieve the food.   The sandwiches had become prey of some very voracious ants and other vermin, and were now completely covered by them: no chance there.   The apples were in much better state, and I resolved to keep them for later.  I had to eat something if I wanted to restore my forces, so I got out and searched a nice spot to build a fire.   I still had the fish with me. I could cook them all; eat part of them and save the rest for tomorrow.  
I tried hard;  I did everything as I had done the day before, but – try as I might – the fire wouldn’t start.   My hands, reddened and excoriated already from yesterday’s work, refused to roll the stick as fast as was necessary.   Or maybe the leaves were not dry enough.   Or maybe it was just me…  I was so depressed I could not think straight.   When at last I managed to get hold of myself, it was clear I could not get to the cavern this very day.   I would have to spend the night here.    The hollow tree was a good hiding place after all – better than being out in the open – and I needed to rest.   The sun was still up, and would be for more then a couple of hours.   I resolved to be brave about it.  Besides, what else could I do?
I threw the sandwiches away, burying them in the ground a little away from the tree.  I then cleaned the natural shelf as well as I could, and proceeded to make the place as comfortable as possible.  I refilled the bottle at the stream and – once back – sat down facing the sun – one apple in hand and the book on my lap.   Since I did not want to use the torch at night, I might as well use the  time left to read, as long as there was light.

16/05/11

Heileen - Ch. 1

Chapter One

I remember running through the wood around our house when I was young.
            It was not a big house; more like a cottage, it had been built long ago by my great-great-grandfather, and added upon over the years in order to accommodate an increasing number of children and other members of the family. 
            In time they had all drifted away, though, and only the three of us remained. 
            My father, my mother and I used to live a very simple life at the top of the hill that overlooked what I thought was the most extraordinary wood I’d ever seen.  Oh – not that I’ve seen many woods in my life!  And of course I hadn’t seen any other then, but I was so fond of it that I delighted in the pretence of being an expert, and – as such – deemed it the best of woods indeed.  I loved the simple things of it: the passing of the seasons; the abundance of creatures that inhabited it; its soothing tranquility.
            Now that I think about it, I also remember very well why I was running.  I was trying to put as much distance as possible between my parents and me.  I wanted to hide; I figured that, after some time, they would stop looking for me and go away for good.  Then I was sure I would be able to remain there, either at the house or – why not? – in the wood itself.  Surely I could find a cave or some such to spend the rest of my life?
             After some time I grew tired of running, and sat in the shade of some aspen trees.  I had brought with me some sandwiches, a few apples and a bottle of water, and I started sipping the water – I would surely need the sandwiches in the following days – while thinking about the past hours.  
I had come home the evening before after a walk in the wood – as I always did after schoolwork and the day’s chores were over – and I had sat at the big table in the kitchen.  Dinner was ready and Mom was serving Pa.  Suddenly it had all begun.  Well, maybe it was not so sudden after all – it’s hard for me to recall exactly the sequence of events.  They were trying to say something to me, to make me understand.  Why did they have to do that?  Why did I have to do it?  It was all planned; they had it all worked out already – up to the tiniest detail.  They were planning to sell the house (but had not done it yet, thank God!), and had rented one in the city.  We would leave in a week’s time.  Pa had found a job as an accountant; Mom would work as a nurse in a private hospital, and as for me – I was to go to school there.  I would have to say good-bye to my friends, my house, the animals, the wood…
            I had run upstairs to my room as soon as I could – there was no standing up from the dinner table if you had not finished you meal – and started crying my heart out.  Mom had come to try and soothe me at a certain point, but I was absolutely miserable and heartbroken.  At last I think I must have cried myself to sleep, because I woke up in the middle of the night still in my clothes and with a mild headache. I washed and changed into my pajamas, but –since going back to sleep was out of the question – I started making plans. 
            Could I change their mind?  Absolutely not.  I knew there was no way once their mind was made up. And if they had not asked for my opinion in the first place, how could I make them see?   In the end I decided that running away would be the best solution.  I would act as nothing had happened, and then…
            I stole downstairs to the kitchen to see what was available as sustenance for the next few days.  I prepared myself four ham sandwiches; took four big apples and a bottle of water; and got back upstairs in a matter of minutes.  I had the bag I used to put my schoolbooks in, but that was of no use, being – obviously – full of books.  So I dived into the closet and came up with the rucksack grandma had given me some months before she died (oh, had she been still alive nothing of that would have happened!).  It was not as big as I wished, but I would have to make do.  I stuffed it with some spare clothes, a towel, an electric torch, a book, and the food I had brought up from the kitchen.   And of course I did not forget Windy, my favorite teddy bear; how could I leave without him? 
Then I tried to go back to sleep.
            On the following day I got up as always and acted as nothing had happened.  Father and mother were quite taken aback by my sudden change of attitude, but probably decided not to push the matter further.  I had breakfast and went to school as always; came back around half past one; had lunch, and then went upstairs to do my homework.  Why did I not just pretend to go to school and then run away?  Well, to say the truth, I had thought of doing just that, but I felt I could not leave Trisha like this, without even a word of farewell; she was my best friend and the only one to know about my plan.  School would be over soon, and we were looking forward to a happy summer together.
            As soon as I was in my room, I locked the door behind me; put the schoolbag on the floor; took the rucksack from under the bed – where I had hidden it – and got out of the window and into the back yard. I had done this a number of times, when I felt bored and wanted to play instead of studying; it was actually no big deal: a pipe ran from the roof down and passed just a few inches from my window.  It was easy sliding down – a little harder going back up, but I wouldn’t have to do it this time.
            So that’s how I came to be sitting under the aspen trees.  The weather was warm, and it felt good to be in the shade. Birds where twittering above my head, and I felt the bustle of animal life around me.  I did not dare to stay long, though, in case somebody would come looking for me.  I knew of a nice place to hide.  I had spotted it some days before on one of my walks, and – in the light of recent events – maybe it had been a sort of a sign: was it my destiny to run away like this?   It was not a cave, but rather a large tree, which was hollow at the base.  There was not much room; I could barely sit with my knees drawn up against my chest, but I thought I could hang out there for a few days.  The opening was in the shade and overlooking a riverbed, that was almost dry – the river being more like a stream.  The ground went down in a steep slope, so that it would be very difficult for somebody to walk by it, unless they knew what they were looking for.
            I stored the bottle away, stood up, and started walking.  I was not running anymore.  I wanted to keep as quiet as possible, in order to be able to hear sounds, should anybody be approaching.  The going was easy.  The wood was gently sloping down, so I didn’t tire walking.  After some time I arrived at a clearing.  Happy for having found it – I generally never doubted my sense of direction, but you can never know, can you? – I crossed it, turned to my left and walked just a few more minutes. 
            I found the tree I was looking for, walked around it and stepped – or rather bent – in.  The hollow was maybe a little larger then I remembered, although still small.  I felt cramped and wondered whether I could stand the position for days.  True, I could get out once in a while, if I was careful enough…  I opened the rucksack and took out Windy.  I sat there hugging him for a time.  When my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I started looking around the inside of the tree. The space was narrow, but it went a long way up.  There was a spot just above my head that looked like a shelf: that’s where I stored the bottle and the food.  With a lighter – and softer – rucksack, I made myself as comfortable as possible, the rucksack acting as a pillow against the rough inside of the tree.  With my hands and feet I started removing the leaves and sticks that had collected on the floor; I smoothed the surface as well as I could, and even started scraping bits of wood from the inside, to see if I could make the hollow a little larger.   Then it dawned on me that all that work – together with the walk to the tree – might have left easily legible prints.  So I carefully ventured out of my hiding place and used my jacket to wipe and spread the leaves around – starting from the middle of the clearing, and working my way slowly back to the tree.  I then assembled all the dead leaves and wood I had removed from the hollow and tossed them down the slope.  Doing this I noticed that the sun was now setting; it must have taken me quite some time.
            I had not thought of looking at the watch before.  It was now around half past seven in the evening.  As the sun went down, the air started to cool, and I put my jacket back on. The inside of the tree was now completely dark, so that I would have to use the torch to see.  I thought it over for a while, and realized that Father and Mother would be very worried by now, but hadn’t probably really stated to look for me yet.   My absence should have gone unnoticed for a couple of hours while I was supposedly doing my homework; it then would be thought odd that I had not come down for a snack, or had not been around the house or the barn doing some chore.  It had happened already, though, that I had fallen asleep and taken a nap, and – although I would be scolded later for my laziness – I would be left alone for at least another hour.  This meant that my parents would probably have started wondering where I was at around half past five – even six o’clock if I was lucky.  Then they would have assumed that I had simply gone out for a walk.  True, it was without their permission, but I had done that already a couple of times.  They had been very angry with me when I had come back for dinner, but they had not moved from the house and were simply waiting for me.  I had no reason to doubt that they had done so even today, so that I did not have to fear of being spotted for some time.
            That’s why I went out again and walked to the stream.  It took me some time, because the slope in front of the tree was very sharp, and I did not want to leave footprints that could be easily spotted; so I had to work my way away to the left, where the ground was going down less abruptly. I wanted to wash a little (my goodness: was the water cold!), and fill the bottle.  I also took a sandwich with me, and sat on a rock eating it.  The air was cooler than before, and I realized I must put on something warmer soon.  Thank God I had thought of bringing some spare clothes with me.   At half past eight I returned to the hollow tree.  I retrieved my rucksack, put a sweater on under the jacket, took another one out to use as a blanket during the night, and stepped in.  I then lit the torch, placed it on the natural shelf in the tree and proceeded in finding the best posture I could.  When I was ready, I turned the torch off, and hoped to go to sleep quickly.
            I was actually tired.  The little sleep I had gotten the night before – toppled with the excitement of the day – had left me feeling odd and worn out.  I was still very excited, though, so it was difficult to sleep.  I eventually nodded off and slept restlessly, waking up in the middle of a bad dream.   I was in a clearing; fog had come up, and I couldn’t see where I was going, nor did I remember where I was supposed or wanted to go.  I was very cold and scared.  When I opened my eyes I realized that I was, indeed, cold.  Moreover, I felt very stiff from sitting in the same position for a long time.  I was reluctant to use the torch, but did so nonetheless, just for the time it took to glance at the watch.  It was three in the morning.   So I shifted for a while, failing to find a better position, and then resolved to give it up and try to go back to sleep.
            It was much harder that I’d thought, and – now that I had rested a bit – my mind began racing, and I started to examine what might possibly happen in the day ahead.  As soon as there was light I would carefully go out and walk to the stream again.  After all, I could not keep that position all day.  I needed to stretch my legs and warm up a little; and since going back to the hollow for a long period of time was out of the question, could I risk looking for a better shelter?  Or should I rather spend at least another day there, sitting or standing in the vicinity of the tree, wary of sounds or movements?  I decided that – cramped as it was – still it was a good shelter, in what I thought a good position.  So I would stay close to it, maybe wandering around a little bit if I thought it safe, and I would spend another night in there.  The prospect seemed more daunting every minute…  The events of the last day kept coming back. I thought my resolve of running away was the right one, but I began to have doubts about some of the things I had done.
            Perhaps I should have left in the morning, instead of walking to school as always.  This would have proven right in at least a couple of ways.  To begin with, I would have had more time before my absence was detected.  True, coming to this tree hadn’t taken up much time, but then I could have looked for a better accommodation – maybe the cave I was thinking about.  I would also have had more time to assess my surroundings better.  This part of the wood was far away from the house, and I did not normally go this far in my wanderings.  Also, I could have collected fruits or other vegetables.  My father had often taken me  to the wood, and had pointed out to me the edible plants. Since he did not have a son, but had so much wanted one, he had raised me as such – much to my mother’s dismay – and I could do things that most girls my age didn’t even think about.  So I knew how to set a snare and catch a bird with my sling. He had also tried to teach me how to light a fire, but I have to admit I had not mastered that (why had I not thought of bringing matches?).  We were now in late spring, so I thought I could count on the wood to feed me for a while.  I had three sandwiches and four apples left; they would not last forever.  Secondly, not going to school would have meant that I could have also used my schoolbag to carry more things with me.  I could have used a blanket (why hadn’t I thought about it yesterday?), and more warm clothing.  I could have brought more food, and maybe some simple tools.  Of course both bags would not fit in the hollow of the tree, and then I would have really had to look for a better place.  The thing is, I had not thought I would need a more comfortable hiding so soon.  I had not realized the discomfort would become painful, nor did I know that the temperature would drop so much during the night.  Being almost summer, I thought I did not have to worry about cold for a long time.
            Then I began fearing that my timing had not been right at all.  If I had left after a few days, that is at a date closer to the day we were supposed to leave, then maybe I would have made things worse for my parents and better for me.  As it was all settled – even the day they had to start their new jobs – it would have been harder for them to organize a search.     But then whom did I want to fool?   Of course they would come looking for me, and would have a lot of people to help them, too.  Even telling Trisha had been a mistake, though fortunately I had not told her about the tree, nor the direction I had planned to take.  If I ever had a chance of succeeding, then it would be in hiding very well for as long as I could.  Towards the end of the night I had worked myself into a frenzy, and was beginning to despair.   I was clutching Windy to my breast, whispering soft endearments to him, while the one who badly needed soothing was I !!   The first time I had really enjoyed having him beside me was a few days after my tenth birthday.  I had opened the package at the party to find a very cute, very soft teddy bear winking at me.  I had set it on the shelf next to my bed and left it there.  Not that I had forgotten about it – I had received other gifts that day and I had a doll I was very fond of – so I hadn’t even thought of naming it, let alone play with it.  A few days later it had started to snow – I was born in January – and the wind had risen.  It was building up to a real blizzard, and I was getting nervous.   So I had gone up to my room, but had not been able to calm down.   Then I had seen it, and – taking it down from the shelf – had set it on my lap.   I had started talking to it, and we became friends.  Holding it had had a soothing effect on me.   I had named it Windy, because of the weather, and we have been very close friends since then.   Only with him did I feel secure and at peace.  I hoped he would help me now, too.

13/04/11

Ciao a Tutti

Inglese, Francese, Tedesco, Russo, Spagnolo
English, French, German, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Ciao a tutti. 

Prima di tutto mi presento. 
Ho 45 anni, sono italiana, e ho una grandissima passione per le lingue
Le lingue per me indicano comunicazione, conoscenza, libertà, condivisione:
  • comunicazione, perchè a cosa serve studiare una lingua straniera se non a comunicare con la gente?
  • conoscenza, perchè durante lo studio di una lingua si impara a conoscere il popolo che la parla;
  • libertà, perchè conoscere una lingua libera chi la parla dal bisogno di intermediari;
  • condivisione, perchè condividere significa comunicare conoscenza.

Mi piace molto viaggiare, il che ovviamente sta alla base (o forse ne è la conseguenza -- dipende da che parte uno considera la cosa) dei primi tre punti. Viaggiare mi permette inoltre di parlare, esprimermi ed imparare meglio la lingua del posto. Il che mi porta al quarto punto. 

Da anni insegno lingue presso la mia abitazione. Organizzo corsi individuali ad ogni livello di lingua inglese, ma in realtà, se mi chiedete una mano per una della altre lingue, sono ben disposta ad accettare la sfida. 
Inoltre svolgo traduzioni dall'italiano nelle lingue che conosco e viceversa, e lavoro come interprete in inglese.

Per cui, se siete interessati, lasciatemi un messaggio. Vi risponderò al più presto. Grazie! 

Hello everybody!

First of all, I'd like to introduce myself.
I am 45 years old, Italian, and languages are my passion.
Languages to me mean communication, knowledge, freedom, sharing:
  • Communication, because why study a language unless you want to communicate with people?
  • Knowledge, because as you study a language, you also learn about the people who speak it;
  • Freedom, because knowing a language frees the speaker from the need for intermediaries;
  • Sharing, because sharing means to communicate knowlegde.

I love travelling, which is obviously at the base (or maybe it's the consequence -- it all depends on how you look at it) of the first three points. Moreover, travelling allows me to speak, express myself and better learn the language of the place I'm in. And this takes me to the fourth point. 

I'be been teaching languages at home for years. I organize individual English language courses at all levels, but -- to say the truth -- I am more than happy to help you with the other languages I speak -- all you have to do is ask.
I also do translations from Italian into the other languages, and vice-versa, and I work as an interpreter in English.

So, if you are interested in what I do, leave a message. I'll answer as soon as possible. Thank you!