Category Archives: Novels

Photodermatitis part 3

“Hey – your eyes!”

“Mm? What about them?” she instantly looked back in the bowl, where she mixed the flour.

“They were green yesterday, now they’re blue…”

She had to be stupid to think he wouldn’t notice in this shady place. Forget the obvious was her weakness – he had to be used to seeing things in dark.

“I wear contact lenses.” She dismissed him fast. “I have poor eyesight.”

“And that’s why you wear those pointless pieces of plastic that have no optical need?”

“Huh?”

“People don’t usually wear colored lenses because they just have poor eyesite.” He sounded pleased from catching her from such simple lie.

She didn’t comment, wrinkled her nose instead and pressed her lips together, forming a straight line.

He smirked – that was interesting to see her rattle up on something so trivia.

“Ok, what’s the story with the contacts?” he folded his arms and leaned back on the chair, waiting.

She stopped stirring the dough and let out a slow sigh.

“You’re not the only weirdo around, alright?” That didn’t gratify his appetite, only made him grin wider. “I have freaky eye color. People tend to call me names when they happen to look in my eyes, they want it or not, so I don’t…”

“What’s so freaky about having odd eye color?” he didn’t get her problem. He thought it was fascinating to have different eye color, but she didn’t seem to agree.

“They are…” she searched around until she found a glass and filled it with water, placing them on the table in front of him.

“See the color of the water?” she asked. He stared at the glass, then her eyes, then back on the glass.

“Yes.”

“That’s my eye color.” She said bluntly.

“Water grey eyes?”

“Not exactly. Look through the glass. Water has no color, see? It takes up the color of the glass.” She waited for him to say something, but as he did nothing more than stare her blank, she turned and searched out the eggs, smashing one after another in the bowl.

“You’re telling me you are an albino?”

“No,” she corrected, “I just have so light irises, people think I must be one.” She smashed the last one in the bowl and started stirring again. “Actually, the usual references are a zombie, evil eye and – oh, and I love that! – demonic possession!”

“What?”

“Oh yes! Happened to forget lenses one time I went to the church and some true believer picked me up for being possessed. She even convinced the priest to have exorcism and I gotta tell ya, this was no amusement park for an eight year old! Sure cured me from religious decease.”

He stared at her open eyed.

“You don’t believe in God?” he asked, shocked.

She frowned. All that babbling about her eye color and that was all he took out of the conversation? She didn’t answer him, but turned to search out the pancake pan instead. Her religious beliefs were her own problem, she thought, she didn’t have to explain them, especially now when she wasn’t in good terms with them. She still believed in God, only she had no trust on the system praising him.

“I have priest come here on every other Sunday to give me communion – I hope it won’t be against your belief.” He explained.

She stopped her fussing and sighed, looking at him. “I believe in God. I just… I don’t get involved with congregations anymore.”

“You’re not very religious then?” he continued prickling the subject, before she snapped.

“I don’t know, what world you live in, but those same people, who live only few blocks away from here, belayed me to my bed, yelled at me, spat on me, whipped me and all that in the name of freeing my spirit! I will not take communion from a priest, who sent me to hospital with broken hand and then said he did the right thing! I was tortured by this flock of sheep they call themselves mild mannered Christians! Just because I have white eyes! God has no place in this parish and if you try to turn my faith back on track as they did, I swear that is the last day the church will stand on its ground, ’cause I’ll burn it down!”

Her voice had grown into a roar of pain and she suddenly gasped, tears flowing from her eyes. Promising to burn the church down before a man, who just talked to you about a communion was bad.

She sagged on the chair against him, avoiding looking him in the eyes.

“Brother Thomas is a good man from Lawsonville, who has been employed by my overprotective mother to take care of my soul and has been my friend more than five years. He was eager to meet my new ‘chaperon’, but if you don’t feel comfortable near religious man, you may have a day off on Sunday.”

“I’m sorry.” She whispered quietly.

“You are forgiven and to get you started – you don’t have this Sunday off as I wish you to meet him.” He nodded. “Now, I may be an idiot in making pancakes, but as far as I know, pans don’t have brains of their own, yet that pan is giving me smoke signals.” He changed the subject and laughed as he watched her wake from her misery, let out a yelping scream and turning back to pancakes.

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Photodermatitis part 2

The problems started already on the next day, when he walked bye from the hall in the centre of her part of the house and he thought he saw something yellow lashing across the floor. The illusion was so appalling, he almost crooked over wishing to see it again.

“What is going on here?!” he bellowed, breath stuck in his throat, seeing another sunbeam flying across the floor.

She yelped from her spot on the top of two chairs and had to pull out several very risky stunts to keep her balance. After gaining it, she thought better to clime down as judging by his face, he was just starting with yelling.

He jumped around the rays as if he was dealing with lasers and pulled the curtains closed again, leaving them both in the dim light. She observed his hand that he had forgotten exposed between the slides, jaw dropping – it was covered with deep scars and the tone was almost ivory, shining through.

“I’m cleaning.” She stated the obvious, gathering all her power not to look at his hand. He hissed at the same moment she managed to get her eyes away from the horrid site and he jolted it as if he just touched a fiery iron.

“I can see that! Why are you doing it?”

“Because it’s my duty list and…”

“I did not…” He was taken back.

“Yes you did. Last night. You had me repeat your every order and you nodded vigorously.” She sighed, turning her attention back on the curtains. “Seeing the place, I’d say the last cleaning lady left hundred years ago…”

“Curtains are not to be removed during the day – I assumed my mother already explained you, why!”

“You get blisters from Sunlight.” She repeated her words. “But if you’re not even in the room, you won’t get any sunburn!”

“I’m very sensitive to light!”

“Ludicrous!” she grunted and stooped up on the back of the massive sofa to pull down the thick dusty curtain to shove them into the washing machine.

“You touch that and you’ll be the first one I come haunting!” he shout out with real fear filling his voice.

She stopped cold, then stepped down, feeling she’d fall the moment she burst laughing. That was the most idiotic reason not have a clean house she had ever heard.

He glared her rolling over laughing, before nailing her between him and the couch.

“I said I don’t want anyone touching the curtains! What part from my order did you not understand?”

Her good mood vanished and after filling herself up with the anger, she shoved him off with a heavy punch to his stomach that sent him crouching on the floor.

“I will wash them and that’s that! You may enjoy living in the house that makes you sneeze fifty times a minute, but it’s unhealthy! And you won’t die from mere minutes in sunlight – you’ll get few blisters and that’s all. Tough! I know! But life is touch! Get used to it! Besides, you said I can do what I need with this side of the house and I’m not gonna spend my time fighting with mites.” as she said it she climbed back on top of the couch again and freed the first snatch from the rod, wondering, what color those might have been.

The light that penetrated the dusty glass made him take rapid steps back to the door. He stared in shock how she removed one fabric after another sneezing like crazy.

“They look like… They look as if they haven’t been washed since they were put up here. Tell me, did you buy the house with the furniture and the curtains?”

“I only wanted some peace and no fuss with decorating!”

“Oh you did manage that!” she mumbled, letting out another loud sneeze. “Oh!” she struck him cold, when he had jumped away from another spot of light. “In the light of the recent fact – I’m planning the same tour with your side of the house!”

“You will not!” he roared, but his anger was short as he pulled another inch further back.

“Oh yes I am!” she stood in the straight sunlight, hands akimbo. “You don’t buy a house that was last cleaned the last century, move in and start living there!”

It took him half a minute to understand her anger – he was stunned how she shined there, standing on the backside of the couch, angry as a devil and glimmering like an angel.

“Why not?”

“You really wish to play that vampire thing?” she asked suddenly and earned a deep scowl. The angel turned back into tiny pest he had thought her to be the first time he laid his eyes on the little woman. She took it as agreeing to her point. “Then don’t ask, why! Besides,” her voice picked up bell like glimmer, “if you allow me this – I have a surprise for you.”

“I hate surprises!”

He hid himself in his room for the whole day, pretending to be reading, imagining how he will march up to her and tell her she was no longer welcome in the house. He was thoroughly agitated by every noise that came from the house – the batting steps, the noise of the washing machine… He would gladly walked over her room, scrambled her clothing back together and thrown her out on the street, but he was stuck in his room with no passage to out.

When all finally quieted, he didn’t go out. He feared the daft girl had removed all the covers, so he decided it was best to wait for the sunset before going exploring and then tell her she was fired.

The first thing he noticed was indeed what he had expected – all the curtains were pulled back. And it smelled different, fresh. He automatically reached his hand to pull the curtains closed, but stopped a second before the deed. His eyes landed on the centre of his garden and on Kristin, sitting there, head back and observing stars with hot drink warming her hands. The Moon was high now, fully glowing and bathed her in smoothing blue shine.

“It’s quiet.” She said, when hearing him walk behind her. “And beautiful.”

“Yes.”

“Do you come out often?” her voice was dreamy and he figured she had thought about it a lot.

“No.”

“I opened the windows.” She continued, calmly zipping her hot drink and sighed, pushing her head way back so she could see his face. “I’m sorry I did this.” She apologized fast. “I know I must look like some lunatic, but…” she had to pull her head up again. “Well, I’ve been afraid of this house for so long and… I don’t know, I just had to do something to like, gain control over it I guess…”

He watched her tiny neck shudder for a moment and smiled in recognition. When he first came here, he had felt the same thing. Only his way of dealing with it was scowling at it for a long time, like scaring the building before entering.

And it did need cleaning, he found himself thinking, remembering the flowery smells from home, where he remembered his nanny constantly cleaning something. He felt like smacking himself – he was now making up excuses not to send her away! What was wrong with him? And what was wrong with her? She talked with him as if they’d known each other in years while one of the girls never got over formalities.

He sat on the chair next to her, wondering when the last time he had stepped outside was. It had been too long for sure – he remembered daffodils blooming. Now it was near the end of the dandelions.

“You said something about surprise…” he murmured half loud, laying back and staring at the sky, eyes wide.

“Surprise!” she giggled and offered him her cup, filling it from the thermos. It had hot chocolate in it. He let out a loud sigh, seeing the drink. “I found the closed package on the shelf.” She explained. “Judging by the thickness of the dust and a handwritten February on the cover, you haven’t made it for long time.”

“No I haven’t.” he purred, eagerly gaping it in. “Brother Thomas brought it to me, he said it will cheer me up on a damp day.

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Photodermatitis part 1

She stopped before the old mansion next to the old cemetery. She remembered it from her childhood, before moving away ten years ago. It was still as ugly and untended as she remembered, only with little difference – she was older now and didn’t run home crying when a shadow happened to pass the window. She had seen quite some for her tender age and that had only toughened her for jobs like this.

Only, this wasn’t the job she went after when phoning to the family searching for a companion for a sick child. She had studied nursing in school for a year thinking it might be helpful in future, so she didn’t bolt from the add, when searching for work. Anything will do, she reminded herself often, anything that keeps the bills paid and her away from turning back to her aunt Sandra, who effortlessly filled in the evil stepmother role. The four children soon discovered after their parents death how ‘having a relative to take care of them’ can prove worse than entering the foster family system.

Still, youngest from all the four, she had survived living with the woman for all six years and now, finally on her own, she wasn’t eager to look back in the past and analyze it, keeping her eyes only forwards, strictly on future. Loosing her job as pharmacy aid wasn’t helping, but her boss had no other choice and she knew it too well to blame him.

It had taken her a week to find the new job and though she had called in several advertisements, this one was the only one that didn’t ask for specific diploma and they sounded happy to arrange a meeting, especially after hearing she lived in the other end of the state. It had seemed odd even then, but now, comparing the card in her hand and the house number, she understood, why they had been so eager.

“Never irritate the master of the house.” The woman, who hired her, had told her. “He searches excuses to get rid of the chaperons we hire and you wouldn’t be the first that doesn’t work there more than an hour.”

Well, one thing was sure – he couldn’t dismiss her before morning even if he wished – the next bus back home went seven in the morning. It took twelve hours in a hot, damp bus to get here. Unless he was some miserable young brat, who thanks to avoiding human contact had grown to be a vile excuse of mankind and sent her off to find a hotel in this god forsaken town. She knew there were none here – there wasn’t in the past and it was unlikely they had built some in her apsence.

It was a trick knot not many knew about, even she herself had learned about it by accident when seeing the old gardener leave one evening. It was there to keep away strangers she thought, but found the idea utterly amusing, considering the glass panels right next to the main door and huge glass windows – they were like open invitation to any robber willing to look past the ugly rumours.

If she could only get the knob in the right angle… “There!” she let out a glad sigh and entered.

She took a deep breath, preparing herself to move that old gate she had so despised as a child. The thought of someone actually buying the place with other intentions than just pulling it to the ground racked her nerves pretty good and she felt chilled, realizing the new owner had heard the front gate and was already standing behind the thin curtains of the French doors that surrounded the main door, still figure staring at her fingers working on the knot.

“This is child’s game!” she reassured herself when she took the last sixty steps left to the balcony. “Yup, nothing more than a…” she rose her eyes and viewed the dark brown exterior, “horrid little game…” she sighed, turning her light eyes back on the curtains, behind which the man was already waiting her to scoop up her stamina and climb up.

She unwind her wrist, before rising the hand to knock. It seemed ridiculous as he was watching him right there, but as he seemed to have no intentions of fastening the process, she knocked two times and waited, staring him back.

He didn’t want to move and she was starting to think this was too weird and perhaps it was better to turn back, find some old dweller willing to take her in for the night, travel back home, to her little apartment and find a job as a clerk in the market or something.

Then she noticed her shadow and immediately agnized her mistake. The woman had said he can’t come in contact with direct sunlight, yet she was standing right in the middle of it, feeling the warmth of the hot summer sun on her half exposed back. Weather forecast had promised hot day and she had dressed accordingly – light jeans and vest top with simple blue flowers embroidered on the back.

Well, there was nowhere to go from the balcony either and as she figured, she was going to stand here for the next hour before the Sun set or any of the clouds reached to cover it up. Either way she had no other alternative than to wait and stare back at the man hiding behind the curtains.

He wasn’t much taller from her when she was wearing high heals. She couldn’t make out much else as the curtains disfigured him a lot.

Five minutes passed and he didn’t move. She didn’t either, only slammed her traveling bag on the floor.

There was a back door she knew would be hidden in shadow if the Sun was bathing the front, but his arrogance about opening the door, which as far as she was aware opened inwards, thus giving him a good hide, made her stand her ground and not move.

After another five minutes she started wondering if the figure behind the curtains was even alive – it would be awfully painful to keep that posture for more than few minutes, she thought, but then his weight lifted from one leg to another, like answering yes, he was alive. But the door staid closed.

She was starting to feel hot soon enough, the lack of anything that would lessen the heat was making her lightheaded and now, quarter an hour later, she was ready to leave, thinking the paycheck they promised wasn’t even close to what they should pay for putting up with someone, who was obviously enjoying testing others.

She let out disgruntled sight, dig out her red phone and the card she had got from the employer and dialed the number, turning her back to the door and the figure in the window.  She had had enough of this game and decided to call ends to it.

“Hey,” she span the carton between her fingers, “Kristin here.” She paused, not really knowing how to out this. “Yes, I just arrived…” she drawled, “um… I was wondering if I got the address right, could you repeat it for me, please.”  She read the card while listening intently the voice on the other end of the phone. “Uh-uh, the big brown ugly house on the edge of the cemetery,” she repeated vaguely, turning to judge the building behind her, “no-no – I think I see it.” She confirmed disappointedly. “I walked past it, but I see it. Thanks!” she closed the lid and stared at the closed door.

“What an ass.” She marked then, dug in her bag, searched out a notebook and a pen and scribbled simply Hi! I’m off to find something to drink. I’ll come back later when the Sun has set.  Best, Kristin Havel And dug it in the letter box lid in the door.  Then she pushed her bag in the shadow of the balcony guard rail, searched out her wallet and walked back from where she came from.

She knew he had taken the letter and was probably reading it as she was taking off, but she didn’t really give a damn anymore – the headache was getting stronger now and she wanted something cool enough to dig in before fainting. The shop ought to be still open, she figured, confirming it on her watch which showed forty minutes past five. It was only ten minute walk from the house and she knew if she hurried, she’ll make it in time before the owner closed.

The little shop had only changed its color from inside since she last was here. The owner was the same old grumpy man she used to call Mister. She had been scared of him, his huge belly, his peering eyes and mouth that let out any gossip the little town could bosses. Now that she thought of it, she’d been scared of almost anything that was taller, higher or bigger.

Thankfully the man didn’t recognize her, she had changed a lot since she left, changing anything from eye color to her hair. She had hoped to keep away from the town as long as she could, hoping the man had someone else to do the shopping or have the goods delivered right to his doorstep.

“Are you new here or just passing through, miss?” the old man drawled with his slow local accent when she placed the cola bottle on the counter.

“I haven’t decided yet.” She tried to keep her eyes sparkling and smile shining, hoping he’ll dismiss her as a mindless traveler.

She finished him off with wishing good evening and rushing back on the mansion. The clouds had covered the Sun up and so she hoped she’ll get to see the inside before the evening chills arrived. He wasn’t staring at the window anymore and she took a seat on the stairs, before noticing her bag had vanished from the hidden corner.

She drank half the bottle empty, staring at the corner, then sighed deep and strolled back to the door, knocking again.

This time the door opened and without even a welcome an almost milky hand reached out, took the cola and raised it up to his lips. He finished the bottle, glaring at her, before stepping aside and letting her in.

“Hi! Kristin Havel, nice to meet you.” He reached out his hand to shake hers and contrast to his look, his hand was warm. Inside, hidden from distracting bright light, it also seemed as if he did have slight sunburn, but only enough to keep the veins from shining through. He wasn’t a bloke from a block, but wore dark office pants and fitting wine colored blouse. His dark hair was cut short to frame his not very friendly grey eyes and firm jaw line.

“Ruslan Dobrev – I guess my mother has already done the honors,” he said with malice, letting her finish her observations.

“Well, she only said you weren’t a toddler anymore.” She gave him a cute smile, but only managed to wheedle a tiny hint of a smile from him.

“Come, Kristin” he continued, “I gather you are hungry after long day – I prepared the dinner for us.” He showed her in. “As you probably noticed – I don’t go outside with Sun at all, I apologize for the inconvenience.”

“Well, I should have chosen the rainy day to arrive, but I gathered they don’t have many here.” Her voice didn’t hide the temper that little outside show had raised in her.

He smiled openly now. “No, they don’t.”

The dinner conversation went slowly as neither of them had much to start with nor much will to continue. He explained the endless details on what was allowed and what was not, what he didn’t like, who worked there besides her and how little he acknowledged his parent’s tries on getting him more sociable.

“Say, how you knew about the knob?” he started after another long pause he had used to bring them a bottle of red wine and had taken his seat in the shadow. He seemed to enjoy staying hidden, so only the lower half of his face was viewable.

She shrugged. “I lived near here when I was a child. The gardener showed me.”

“I don’t think so – he said he never showed it to anyone to keep the children away.”

She laughed. “The old man is still alive then?”

“Yes.”

“He was a nice man – little daft, but nice.”

He agreed. The man was eager to keep the secrets the garden and the house obsessed, but he spent less and less time noticing anything else going on around him, which made him an open book for any man passing by.

“Repeat my commands.” He said suddenly, grabbing his drink.

“You never repeat yourself. You never contact anyone outside your employees or your parents. I must cook, clean and spend time with you. I must be available all times. You never go out in the sun.” She continued listing the facts. “Why don’t you stand out from the shadows?”

“So…” he drawled, “who am I?” he had heard everything and not one of them amused him more than being called the prince of darkness.

That stung. She knew what he expected from her and felt desire to irritate him with answering exactly what he wished to hear – it wasn’t her problem to cure the man from his prejudgments.

“A vampire?” She let the word out. It tasted vile even to say it out loud.

“Now… wouldn’t that be romantic.” He carp at her.

“No.” she snapped. His grin vanished. “I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but I have no interest in becoming somebody’s evening snack or have a predator with sharp teeth hang that near to my Jugular vein. Romantic or not, such men should stay dead.”

He swallowed his wine and coughed. So much of playing the vulture with the girl to scare her off – it had worked with the two previous companions his parents had put him up with and he hoped they’ll eventually stop hiring ‘friends’ for him. It was embarrassing and even more was that they had developed some sort of fantasies about him being a vampire and them damsels, who could give him back his soul. He didn’t know, where they got it, but that was the last time he asked his mother send him someone immature and foolish.

“You don’t like getting ravished by a vampire?”

She gave him a pathetic stare. “You’re not one, so how can you even come up with the offer?”

“It wasn’t an offer.” He passed the not being one part and moved straight to where he could have an argument with her.

She did not know how to react on that statement. What did he mean by that? That he’ll rape her? Or that he hadn’t meant a word he said? She disliked such double meaning sentences and decided to wait until he adds something more meaningful to it. He didn’t, but seemed to understand the light it gave to the conversation and he rose fast, moving in the back of the house, gulping in the wine.

The way he emptied the glass and pour himself another gave her an early warning to do something about that or be indeed in danger of loosing one’s virginity to a man who hardly gave himself sense on what he did.

She rose and went after him, determined to make him loose this habit of his. Even if not a rapist, she still didn’t wish to spend the rest of the night and all the following with a guy, who either slept through the conversations, got too talkative, got too depressed or too cocky. Any of those seemed a beginning of disaster.

She entered the kitchen just to see him empty a palm full of medicaments in his throat and reaching after the wine to rinse them down, but she smack his hand away, frowning in disbelief. He reached after the glass once more and she placed it further away, filling another glass with water and giving him that one instead. Hadn’t he had his mouth full of pills that started to melt and tasted vile, he surely would have said something nasty to her, but instead grabbed the goblet with water and drank it harsh to get the awful taste off his tongue.

“I’ll banish all the alcohol from the house if I see you do that again.” She said harshly, turned around and walked back in the living room.

He stared her with wide eyes. That was first! She had just changed the endless chain of those little follow-up girls, who had never understood, that being hired as a companion didn’t mean sucking up, but standing up! He liked that.

“Chaperon’s quarters are on the south side of the house.” He jumped on the next thing. “I took your bags there. As the house is mostly the only area I move around, never forget to close the curtains.”

“Yes, captain!” she saluted him suddenly, giggling like hell.

He frowned. “What’s wrong with you?” he was confused.

“I’m drunk.” She admitted. “I usually don’t drink after receiving sunstroke – it goes straight to my head.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” He nodded, trying to scowl at her, but couldn’t.

She looked so strange, different from the youngsters he had put up with so far. Her eyes were laughing, like she’d seen something funny, though her smile was sad and utterly tired. She was dressed well though, better than he expected from a simple girl, yet the sassy hair and the girlish string she had gathered her hair back gave a hint of one very childish joys.

He watched her eyes close as if they had will of their own and just stared at her sleeping there, on the other side of the table, stretched out on the cushions on the chair. His first impression had been of an office worker, who had come to gather offerings for the poor. That was enough to play the stupid game of who’d give up first. Then he heard her phone call to his mother, realized too late of why she was standing behind his door even fifteen minutes later, but then she let out that little remark that fired him up and than the little note through the mailbox. Drugging her meal had been his little revenge that now gave him time to explore her whole body for signs of what sort of person she was. He never skipped that part of getting to know them – the body didn’t lie, the brain did.

For some reason he felt nervous. It was easy with girls. She on the other hand was no girl nor did she smell like one – wine mixed with tropical flowers made his head swim just as hers must have before she passed out. Her upper part had no secrets – the blouse was more than revealing, the fabric hardly covered up the tiny bra underneath.

No, she had nothing to hide, he decided, nothing she would have memorized on her body and for once he was glad.

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Lighter part 2

On the next evening he was back. He didn’t bother to be nice, he told himself, it was time for a show and he tended to play it as spicy as she could eat her curry he was taking her to eat. Yes, he was taking her out. Part of his ingenious plan.

He pushed the black button and the door bell rang four times.

She appeared on the door with the same lazy outfit he’d seen her the night before. He scanned her from her hair to her feet and grimaced resentfully. The medallion was still hanging around her neck and he took a second longer to sense her reaction through that. A heat wave rushed over her.

“Come on, get dressed, we’re going for a dinner!” he announced with vile piling up in his mouth and walked straight in, pushing her back in her small apartment. He made his way straight to her bedroom’s closet and pulled the doors open.

“What?” she frowned, feeling life returned in her frozen limbs. “Time out!”

He turned around, raising his eyebrows as high as he could manage. “Yes?”

“W-what are you doing here? I told you to take time for yourself and now you’re here?”

He let his brows drop with demonic smile and took a step closer. “Where else could I be?” he pushed through his teeth, “You hold my medallion. So? There’s only one place I CAN be!”

He sensed how her body heated up, knowing suddenly what he meant, but she didn’t want to believe it just yet. “W-what do you mean by that?”

“That you made a miscalculation, Peachey! The medallion never was what forged my promises in iron – it holds me from nothing! It’s my gateway to the rooms where I’m called in!” he whispered straight to her ear, but kept his distance enough not to touch her. It may not hold him from breaking every law she forced on him, but he found the don’t-touch rule pretty much to his liking, especially since he resented the thought of touching her at all right now.

A flip through her stomach made her radiate so much warmth for a moment that he choked on his own thoughts. She moaned in agony, realizing fully what he meant with that.

“You have a choice,” he decided it was the best time to bring out his ultimatum and save them some night time, “you either give me the medallion back now and I can go on doing my business or you keep the little adornment and feel the full heat of my anger while I force you give it up!”

Why did it make him sad then? He frowned, but straightened again fast, happy that she hadn’t noticed it. She wasn’t in the mood to notice much though. She was still standing there, her eyes closed and thinking so tensely it was making her head swarm. She looked as if she was going to faint right there and that brought him back to life, searching for the chair, finding one under a pile of clothing, pushing them on the floor and tugging it in the back of her knees forcing her to take a seat.

He waited for her answer, but she didn’t give any. That WAS his answer, he thought cheerfully, glad she hadn’t tossed it back to him, and strode past her, back to investigating the interior of her closet.

There were several items there he would rather tossed in the recycle bin before continuing, but he held back his whim and instead concentrated on what he DID like there. Like the light green summer dress that would’ve nicely complimented her cleavage or the cobalt dress that would make her slightly bigger and curvy than she appeared in that dreadful outfit she had on right now or the short ammonite colored dress with enough space around her breasts that every time she’d lean, she’d show quite a lot of her…

She leaped from her spot just as he was reaching his hand into what he thought must have been her underwear drawer, because he felt an intriguing jolt right before his hand was pulled away from there.

“What are you doing?” she demanded fiercely, snapping the blue gown out of his hands.

“You don’t give it back to me– I’ll drag you to every place I want to go! Clear?”

That was too sudden for her and she frowned with such force it made him skip a heartbeat.

“You can’t force me to go with you against my own will!”

“You said you’re using my service for two weeks and instead gave me two weeks without my medallion. If you don’t want to see my face here twenty-four-seven, I suggest rethinking the boundaries of your own agreement or give the necklace back to me!”

“I ain’t giving it back! Two weeks, remember?” she announced without thinking twice and watched his wide evil smile. She blushed and he sensed her heartbeat quicken under that ugly top. “Alright, I’m coming with you to eat. But I’m not wearing this dress!” she showed it up between her fingers against the light.

He felt his own heart jump as if thrust under his chin and he gulped, suddenly yearning to see her in that, slowly walking through the aisle of tables, men staring lustfully after what he had in his possession all the time.

“Yes you are,” he immediately advocated, forcing those thoughts on the back of his mind. “If you change into anything else, I’ll set them on fire, one by one. While you’re wearing them.”

The last threat seemed to have merit, because her face paled notably even in the bad lighting of the room. He strove out of the bedroom, leaned against the cupboard in the kitchen and watched her backside while she changed into the blue gown.

She disappeared from his view few times, running across the room, forcing her dark yellow stilettos on while searching for something she couldn’t find.

She seemed surprisingly eager to go out, he suddenly thought and the grease between his eyes deepened. Something she was hiding? He quickly skimmed over the kitchen table and saw what she was hiding scattered all over the place – pieces of clay covered with patterns from the medallion!

He picked the closest one up, utterly confused and shaken by this little revelation. She could’ve just taken the medallion and force it’s face into a mold or something! What was she doing with it anyway? Really make a souvenir to herself and her friends? Replace his with her creation and fooling herself even for a second he wouldn’t notice?

“Ready!” she cheered and stopped dead. “Fff…”

He sensed how flushed she was, heat running up her spine. So fear was what made her lose control! If so, he knew exactly where to start!

“What is that?” he asked through his teeth, fiddling with the piece before kneading it into a ball.

“I was bored,” she said quickly, not indulging into details. That didn’t satisfy him.

“And?”

“There’s no and. I make jewelry, it’s my hobby. I was bored and I liked the pattern, so I…” she shrugged.

“Why, so you could make a copy for your friend?”

She inhaled soundly. “No! But she did send it to me, because she thought I might be interested in it and she was right, I am!”

So THAT was the sensation he had felt! She wasn’t interested in him after all, only in the damned pendant!

“But I wouldn’t copy it. It is part of you and copying somebody’s soul, be it as small part as it is, is criminal in every sense of its word!”

“Why should I believe you? Have you any idea what it means? These markings are unique! If anybody, who has encountered me before, happens to see the jewelry, they’ll know immediately, where it’s from!”

“I told you I wasn’t copying it!” Her voice yelled high over his and with force it was released from her vocals, he knew she meant it.

“If they see the patterns, they’ll remember how to call me again, do you understand?”

“Of chores I do! I made that connection long before your arrival yesterday!”

“Then stop carving it!” He bellowed and all the clay pieces burned into dust with such heat it made her flesh blush as if she’d been exposed to Sun.

“Fine!” she shouted back, hands crossed over her breasts, forcing them up.

He waited. He didn’t know, what, but he waited and was rewarded whilst her eyes shut towards the ceiling.

“Fine!” she repeated with anger stroking her throat, collected her carving tools, dashed them into the box that already contained the other stuff she used for metal and clay work and shoved the shoebox into his stomach. “If switch, then switch – I keep your pendant for two weeks, you keep my carving tools! Is that fair enough for you?”

Not really as he was planning to get it back already tonight, but he nodded in agreement and without blinking burned her tools into ash that fell off his fingers on the ground.

Her shoulder slump, her fingers pulsate in agony and her lips parted to express the despair, but not a word passed through.

“You owe me one night with you!” he blackmailed her instead, deciding to take everything if she was already so apologetic.

Her eyes widened and shot up to look straight at him. Her clutched fists fell on her side and she turned to leave.

“No!” she said firmly as a yew in a longbow. “I said no touching! I mean it – you don’t love me, hence you ain’t touching me!”

“Oh, what a whiny!” he winched his nose. “You do understand this kind of thinking was good in middle age, love?  Not in the 21st century!”

She stopped, glowering at him over her shoulder. “You may be personification of obsessive thoughts, but some things in this life are still reserved for those, who appreciate what they’ve got.” She opened the front door and left before he could say anything else that might

That shut him up. He tried to understand why it hurt so much when she said it, like he didn’t appreciate every woman, who needed him. In a way he knew – she wanted the man to want her, not the other way around and she wasn’t interested in getting the fake. And he was the fake kind.

He watched her disappear down the stairs until nothing could be seen anymore before going after her. She had thoroughly ruined his mood for the night and he swore she’d pay for that.

He followed her around for the first blocks, always few steps behind so he could watch her squirm in her blue dress. There was no sunlight that would’ve made it shine through, but it was obvious to anyone around where her flesh touched the fabric and she felt utterly uncomfortable showing it. He had been right about the gorging sighs she gathered, but instead of enjoying it he shot the man second later glances of such obsessive jealousy that made them diminish in their size nearly three times or flee altogether.

They had gone for six blocks already before she stopped and turned around. “Where are we going anyway?”

He passed her without looking back and snapped. “To eat curry.”

“I’m allergic to Tamarind paste!”

“It isn’t that kind of curry.” He pushed through closed teeth, eyeing the sign of the curry restaurant. “We’re here.”

She reluctantly followed his gaze. Adoni. He felt her heart flutter and he knew the reason – this was one of the most known red light district places around! But he wasn’t going for any other place either. They did offer the best curry he’d tasted, hot enough to burn her senseless.

He opened the door and let her in, following her close after so she couldn’t back out. It was all she was probably thinking about and he wasn’t in the mood to give in.

The rooms here were better lit than the streets, making her dress show through even more and her comfort flew out of the window, crossing her hands straight over her bare breasts.

“Stop it!” he hissed to her ears. “No one will notice it here! It’s a whore house! You’ll fit right in.”

She gasped and tears would’ve found their way to her cheeks hadn’t she got enough sense to gulp them down. No crying in public, he thought reluctantly gazing down at her, that’s my girl.

He pushed her further in the room, grabbed her elbow and forced her sit down in one of the corner tables and let her get familiar with her surroundings. She openly looked around in the lushly decorated room and people around small lit candles. The shadows made their face jump and dance while they were talking, few eyed around just as she did and though they were nicely hidden from the main rush, he still sensed some curious stares.

He frowned, disturbed by them way more than he had let him feel earlier and grabbed the menu, hoping it would put him off for a while.

Her chair creaked and suddenly stopped. The heat in her body was becoming unbearable, that sick feeling she had inside, growing and he knew she was ready to flee.

“I’ll walk right out of here!” she announced bluntly after a whistle from the other end of the room, followed by her laud gasp.

“And I’ll fry your dress!” he murmured without looking up from the menu.

“I can’t stay here!”

The heat was starting to disturb his thoughts, making him so hot he wanted to tear his clothes off. He had to cool her somehow or he was the one loosing his wits and he needed them if he wanted to have his medallion back before the sun raised.

“Yes you can! You told me I’m on vacation, and you, my dear, are holding my key, so sit tight and shut up!”

That helped. Her attention was without a doubt on him and he could finally feel the fresh breeze passing.

“And I wish to leave!” she didn’t give in.

“You can leave later. Right now I’m hungry.”

The heat returned and he frowned. He placed the order for both of them, hot curry without tamarind and some cold drinks. After that he took his dark coat off. The moment he put it down next to him on the couch he felt her fingers grab it and the next he knew it rested on her shoulders her pushing her long hands through the sleeves. In a weird way it suited her well and she calmed a bit, giving him some space, too, so he didn’t protest.

OK, so the woman wasn’t the type to turn on through public display, he admitted to himself. Next time – the ammonite dress. No next time! He refused to believe his own thoughts and forced himself to scowl at her, but it didn’t work, so he turned his anger towards the waitress.

Now, nicely tucked in his dark velvety wonder, she finally allowed herself to really look at him. He forced himself to be oblivious of it, keeping his on the waiter, who eagerly tried to please and by that trashed the glasses over on a by standing barman.

He felt his skin crawl. From the corner of his eyes he could tell her fingers had climbed up to her neck and she was gently groping the medallion. The way her touch moved, so did the sensation that heaved through his body. It moved up over his chest, carefully over his neck, down on his right arm, almost to the middle, then down to his stomach. He bit in the breath that was making his body just as tight as the metal she was touching. His eyes closed as her move took the feeling way lower. He listened tensely as her breathing started to change, slow at first, but still and it added to his joy. She was finally giving in to her own fantasies.

Something cool passed his nose and two glasses landed on the table with subtle thud. Just as quietly he heard the waitress ask her if he was tired.

He gasped hard, hearing a familiar click and the next thing he knew he was holding her hand above the glass of water and ice cubes, his medallion only an inch away from the freezing water.

The waitress, who was still standing next to them, held her breath, eyes wide like a kitten and stepped back, realizing she was way over her heals trying to find a man from this table. She quickly disappeared, straight between the kitchen doors.

“Stop that!” he hissed and pushed her hand away. “You have obviously no idea what it does to a man!”

“You’re no man!” She snorted. “You’ll handle it!”

“Oh, I am a man, honey, more ways than you can handle!”

Her face stayed masked.

“Good, our food is here.” he announced, seeing the woman arrive with two plates. She used the moment to drink. “Don’t gulp too fast, dear,” his voice fell low, “you’ll need it after you’ve tasted the food here!”

She nodded to the waitress and ate without adding a word and he watched. Like insane. Her every movement was like music he yearned to learn. Why didn’t she call for him?

“Stop that, I can’t eat if you stare.”

“Get used to it.”

She raised her eyes and looked at him and his plate. He hadn’t touched a thing.

“Why aren’t you eating?”

“I want to know something before I eat.”

She lay back on her chair, finishing her mouthful, put the fork down and nodded then. “Alright, ask.”

“If I burn your dress, will you still be so calm and reserved as you are now?”

He meant it, every word of it. If this dress was making her so uncomfortable, he had ways of disposing it.

A shriek of laughter escaped from her full lips, then another and another until it filled the whole room with echoing beautiful laughter.

“You wouldn’t.” she said calmly and picked her fork up, smile still playing on her lips. It was too silly.  Her smile echoed over on his lips too, with slight difference. She got to know it as a smell of burning fabric.

He had never seen a woman froze all over. All of a sudden her face paled and he wondered if he’d seen the blood flowing away or was it just a mirage.

She let her fork fall, rapidly trying to breath and pulling his jacket closer to her bare skin.

Don’t start crying now, you big fuzz, you’ll kill all the joy…

 

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Llyr 1

Me küla, Llyr, on väike ja piisavalt vaene, et mitte huvitada maad laastavaid sõdurite salku, kes jahivad seda, mis neil sõjas saamata jäi. Kokku on meid tegelikult kakskümmend maja, mis ei tundugi nii vähe, kuid kuna me oleme paigutunud kõik suure oru põhja tundub, nagu oleks meid vaid käputäis. Kuna me juurde on aga ilma kindlaid radu tundmata raske laskuda, ei hakka siia eriti keegi tulemagi, enne langetakse hundikarjade või karude saagiks.

Nädala eest ilmus me küla ümber paks roheline udu. Algul oli see nagu iga teine udu- valge, piimjas, tekkinud jahutava õhu kokkupuutel kuumava maaga, mis hakkas vaikselt juba sügise märke näitama. Puud olid veel rohelised ning särasid seega üle madala pilve, kuid mida päev edasi, seda rohkem hakkas tunduma, et lehed kaotasid oma roheluse udule, muutudes ise kuldpruuniks. Vähemalt ladvast, sest allapoole me ei näinud.

Kui oli aru saada, et see udu ei kao kuhugi, ei lubatud lapsi enam külast kaugemale ja loomad hoiti kinni. Vanemad inimesed ei tahtnud meid, noori küll hirmutada, kuid me nägime, et nad olid mures ja see mure ei olnud tekkinud praegu, vaid see oli hirmust millegi ees, mida ei osatud veel sõnadesse panna.

Noored aga ei hoolinud eriti vanemate hirmudest ning jätkasid oma igapäevasi kogunemisi pärast päevatööd küla peamajas. Kuid me ei lõbutsenud, ei õppinud tantse ega harjutanud pillimängu, vaid tegime lihtsalt seda, mis meil parasjagu pooleli oli.

Me armastasime istuda üksteisele lähedal ning soojendasime end ka sellel, udu seitsmendal ööl endid kamina paistel, surudes alla seda rõskustunnet, mis majades oli tekkinud.

Noori oli külas pea poole vähem kui oli majapidamisi, kuraditosina jagu. Noormehi kuus ja tüdrukuid seitse.

„Kas te märkasite?” küsis heledapäine Adine, jättes kõrvale oma heegeldamise ja purustades teda ümbritsenud nohiseva vaikuse.

„Mida?” küsis Aaron  kamina eest, voolides puust väikest kujukest, mida ta agaralt meie eest varjas, nagu oleks tegemist suure saladusega. Ometi voolis ta seda aga alati siin, meie keskel, lihtsalt istudes kogu aeg meie poole seljaga ning vaikides oma töö kallal nokitsedes.

„Kui sa siia tulid, kas sa märkasid midagi imelikku?” jätkas Adine nüüd otse tema poole pöördudes.

Jätsin oma heegeldamise samuti pooleli ja jäin ootama, mida noormees vastas. Pingutasin, kuid ei suutnud meenutada midagi, mis võiks olla teistmoodi kui varem. Muidugi välja arvatud see roheline udu.

Teises kamina servas istus Reed, popsutades tillukest piipu, millest tõusis suur pahmakas suitsu, mis ühines hetke pärast kamina omaga ning tõusis siis koos sellega korstna poole. Ta oli omamoodi kosjasobitaja, kes meid pidevalt üksteisega paari kippus panema, hoolimata seejuures, mis tegelikult toimus. Ka seekord tundus tal lõbus hakkavat.

„Jah, Aaron, kas sa märkasid midagi imelikku?”

„Ära ilgu!” pahandas Deven, keeras end patjade peal kõhuli ja vaatas ükskõikselt edasi tule paistel lakke tekkivaid varje. Ta oli meist kõige vanem ning seejuures üks suuremaid võrukaelu, kuid kui ta midagi ütles, et talle ei meeldi, siis esindas ta tavaliselt meid kõiki. Nii ka seekord.

Aaron ajas selja, mis pikast koogutamisest kindlasti juba valus pidi olema ning pööras end ringi, jättes oma kätetöö viisakalt Reedi eest varju.

Mind huvitas, mis see oli, mille kallal ta nii palju vaeva nägi. Ta oli seda teinud juba mitu kuud- esimest korda märkasin seda siis kui ta ühel õhtul hajameelselt kaminapuid uuris ning neid siis sõrmitsema hakkas. Ta märkas mu pilku ning tõmbus kohe köhatades eemale, kuid kui ma temast näitlikult enam väljagi ei teinud, jätkas halgude proovimist kuni valis välja ühe väiksema pakujupi. Pärast seda saime me õhtuti vestelda tema seljaga.

„Ei saa küll öelda, et ma midagi erilist märkasin.”

„Ethel? Nevil? Te ei märganud midagi kummalist?” küsis tüdruk edasi, muutudes iga sõnaga aina elavamaks. „June?”

Kehitasin õlgu. „Ma ei pannud midagi nagu tähele. Kas pidanuks?”

Ta kõhkles, seda oli ta näostki näha, kuid raputas siis pead. „Ilmselt ei ole see midagi, lihtsalt mu oma kujutlusvõime.” Ta võttis uuesti kätte oma heegeldamise ja jätkas pooleli olevat rida.

Heitsin Aaronile imestunud pilgu, enne kui tüdrukult küsisin: „Mis seal siis nii kummalist oli?”

Ta raputas algul pead, nagu ei tahaks vastata, kuid me jätkasime tema pinnimist kuni ta lõpuks järgi andis.

„Lihtsalt… kui ma siia tulin, siis tundus mulle nagu oleksid linnud lihtsalt vakka jäänud.”

„Adine, linnud lähevad igal õhtul ju magama – muidugi jäävad nad vaikseks.” Naeratasin tahtmatult tema rumaluse üle.

„Ja kui nemad magama lähevad, tulevad nende asemele uued, palju huvitavamad linnud, kes teevad UHUUU!” kõkutas Ethel imiteerides Nevilile öökulli, mis noormeest ka lõbustas.

„Ei, see ei ole see!” pahandas Adine ning kortsutas rätiku, mida ta tegi, endale sülle. „Lõpeta!” Nende naerulagin vaibus ja ma tundsin ebamugavust, mida Adine küsimus oli tekitanud.

„Me muutume niiviisi kõik närviliseks, Adine.” Kostus äkki tüdruku selja tagant ja Emily patsutas neiule õla peale, „Ehk oleks kõigil aeg koju minna, aeg on päris hiline.”

Noogutasime ning hakkasime usinalt oma näputöid kokku panema kui Reed ootamatult pahvatas, et misasja me nii väga kardame, ukse juurde kalpsas ja ühe tõmbega ukse lahti kiskus.

Tundsin, kuidas mul süda rinnus kinni pidi jääma ja ilmselt teistel ka, sest nad kõik ahmisid sel hetkel õhku. Ootasime hinge kinni hoides, mis edasi saab. Paistis, et julgus oli Reedi ukse peal maha jätnud, sest ma nägin selgesti, kuidas särk ta seljal niiskeks tõmbus.

Nägin silmanurgast Aaronit endast mööda voolamas ning siis oli ta juba ukse juures ja surus oma kondised sõrmed sügavale Reedi õlga.

„Tule, kangelane! Sa jääd niiviisi veel haigeks.”

Ohkasin kergemalt ning ühmasin rõõmsalt. Aaron naeratas selle peale sama lõbusalt, patsutas vennale õlale ja kadus pimedusse.

Ruumi täitis selge ja õhkkerge naer ning poisid läksid järgemööda talle õlale patsutades minema, jäi vaid Nevil.

Toppisin oma vähese varanduse kukrusse ning jäin tüdrukuid ootama.

„Nooh,” venitas Nevil uhkelt ning plaksas traksid tagasi oma kohale. „kes siis minu käevangus täna tuleb?”

Ethel äigas sääse eemale ning raputas pead. „Ei ole mulle sinu värisevat tuge vaja.” Oma jutu selgitamiseks haaras ta kiiresti Katherine ja Bettie käevangu ja kadus ukse poole.

„Sina aga, June?”

Raputasin viisakalt pead. „Ma lähen ju teisele poole,” tuletasin talle meelde.

„Kas tõesti ole siin ühtegi värisevat damslit, keda koju saata?” tuli väga hale küsimus kui talle paistis ,et ta tõepoolest üksi koju pidi minema.

Ta oli armas poiss, samasuguse helepruuni peaga nagu Emilygi, ka oli ta meist kõige noorem, kõigest seitsmeteist aastane. Minust seega kaks aastat noorem.

Emily mõnus kurgune naer pani tühjeneva saali kajama. „Damslit? Ei, aga ühe jänki võib ju koju saata küll.” Haaras ta tal käevangust ja lehvitas. „Ma lähen saadan ta õige ukseni, enne kui tuleb oja ja me kõik selle järgi koju võime minna. Nägemist!”

Nad olid juba peaaegu uksel kui Dani neile järgi jooksis ja häbelikult ennast ka kaasa pakkus.

Kui mul poleks olnud teisele poole minek, oleksin ennast meelsasti ka kaasa pakkunud – Emily oli siin kõige kindlam inimene, keda ma teadsin. Välja arvatud ta vanemad, kes olid veelgi enesekindlamad ja nagu rahu ise. Soovisin, et ka mul oleks sellist kindlustunnet, kuid see jättis tihti palju soovida.

Vaatasin tühjas ruumis ringi. See jutt vaikivatest lindudest oli mulle vaikselt mõjuma hakanud, tahtsin ma seda tunnistada või mitte. Mu pilk langes Adinele, kes kolistas veel toolidega ning ma olin kindel, et kui ma ta siia üksinda jätan, siis tulevad ta vanemad teda varsti otsima.

„Adine, tule, lähme koju.”

Adine vajus tooli peale istuma ja vaatas mulle suuril silmil otsa.

„Ma ei julge.”

„Miks siis ometi?” Istusin tema kõrvale.

„Lindude pärast.”

Ma kuulsin ta häälest, et ta tõepoolest kartis, mis ei olnud tema puhul kuigi ebatavaline, kuid see oli midagi teistmoodi, nagu mu vanemad, kui nad arvavad, et lapsed on juba magama läinud ja siis omavahel räägivad – emal oli samasugune hirm.

Tuli kaminas oli praktiliselt lõpuni põlenud ning praksatas viimaseid kordi, heites ümbritsevale veel piisavalt valgust. Isegi Kuu ei olnud väljas, õigemini oli, aga udu tõttu polnud teda õieti nähagi.

„Aga ma ise kuulsin vareseid just hetk tagasi kui Reed ukse peal seisis.” Ajasin talle vastu, kuid ei teinud katsetki tõusta.

Oleks vaid Reed või Aaron siia jäänud, mõtlesin endamisi, nendega oleks kindlam olnud, sest mida see tüdruku mõistus sellisel jubedal õhtul ikka teeb kui mitte ei mõtle lollusi välja. Vähemalt Reed pööraks selle väga totraks naljaks ja me oleksime päästetud.

„Pane tähele, see on kõigest see udu, mis sind hirmutab.” Üritasin teda rõõmustada, kuid see andis hoopis vastupidise tulemuse. Ta läks näost valgeks. Ilmselt ütlesin liiga otse välja. Jätsin selle meelega tabamata ning tõmbasin teda käest. „Selles ei ole ju midagi hirmutavat- udu tuleb ja läheb. Lähme, ma saadan su koju.”

Vedasin ta kiirustavalt püsti ja uksest välja, andmata talle võimalust ümber mõelda. Eelistasin oma jubedust tunda kodus, sooja tule ääres koos väikese õe, ema ja isaga ja oma armsa suure koeraga.

„Tule nüüd!” tegin pahase näo, sest ta tundus ikka veel natuke kange. Ta oli kui jahukott, mida pidi kaasa vedama. Lõpuks hakkasid tal jalad ikka tööle ja ta klammerdus tugevalt mu käsivarre külge.

Astusime välja terrassile. Me ees avanes sama võigas vaatepilt nagu eile ja üleeilegi. Pidin kahjuks tunnistama, et siin oli tõepoolest kuidagi vaiksem ja linde polnud praktiliselt üldse kuulda, vaid mõned üksikud kraaksatused koos kajakate kiledate hüüetega. Kajakad? Siin ei olnud kajakaid- mere ääres oli, aga siia sattusid nad üliharva, nüüd oli neid lennus vähemalt tosina jagu.

Adine surus ennast mulle nii lähedale kui võimalik, lükates mind sellega peaaegu ümber. See sundis mind oma hirmujudinad heaga maha suruma.

„Tule!” ütlesin erksalt ja hakkasime minema.

Olime käinud kõigest paarkümmend sammu kui Adine äkki ennast mu kõrva juurde kallutas ja sosistas, samal ajal oma kuivanud huuli niisutades. „See udu ei ole normaalne!”

Et ta ennast sellest ka kuidagi välja ei suutnud tuua. Patsutasin ta külmi sõrmi.

„Kindlasti on, me lihtsalt ei ole veel sellist näinud. Loodusel on ju oma rütm, mäletad? Nagu õunapuudki – ilmselt on see midagi, mis lihtsalt ilmub kord eluaja jooksul.”

Naeratasin talle sõbralikult, kuid süda hakkas ikkagi puperdama ja ma lootsin, et Adine seda ei taju.

Me ei näinud kuigi kaugele endi ette- udu oli nii tihe, et kolme sammu kauguselt ei paistnuks isegi tormilatern. Seepärast hoidsin pilgu rajal ja läksin mälu järgi.

Mu vanemate maja ei asunud peamajast kuigi kaugel, vaevalt paarsada sammu. Adine pere elas meist veidi kaugemal, kuid siiski nägemisulatuses, nii et me saime üksteisele öösiti selge ilmaga märku anda kui näiteks külla tahtsime tulla. Kaks lühikest signaali tähendas jah, üks ei, kaks pikka tule külla ja kolm pikka oli hädasignaal. Ma ei mäleta, miks me seda vajalikuks pidasime, sest siin ei juhtunud kunagi midagi muud kui et hundid ja rebased käisid aeg-ajalt loomi murdmas.

Tahaks karu näha- ma pole nii ammu karu näinud. Mitte et see Nevilile meeldiks, mesinikele ei meeldi nad eriti. Olin neid tihti jälginud kui nad varahommikuti oru madalamatel niitudel poolvesisel maal rohtu sõid  Minu jaoks oli karu midagi ilusat- ta läikiv karv, hiiglaslik kogu ja suured pruunid silmad. Vähemalt kaugusest olid nad ilusad vaadata ja hea jälgida.  Siin oli peamiselt kaks karuperekonda, kes pidevalt siin söömas armastasid käia- ühel emasel oli parasjagu kaks poega kaasas, nii aastased ning neid oli hea vaadata, nende hüppamisoskusi, mis päikesetõusu taustal uhkeid veekaari moodustasid.

„Millest sa mõtled?” küsis Adine. Ta oli mind vist juba mõnda aega toksinud, kuid ma ei paned seda tähelegi.

„Karudest,” vastasin unelevalt ning pilgutasin pettunult silmi kui avastasin end taas keset seda tuima udu.

„Karudest?” see kõlas väga üllatunult ja ta jäi seisma, lastes mu küünarnukist lahti.

„Nad on ilmselt juba tagasi oma koobastes ja magavad.”

Ta hakkas itsitama. Tore, et ta vähemalt enam ei kartnud.

„Ma tahaks ka koopas olla ja magada.” tunnistas ta.

„Varsti oleme kohal, siis saame endale ette kujutada, et oleme karud, kes heidavad talveks magama.”

„Sa saad kiiremini koju kui mina!” Ohkas ta südamest ja ta vajus uuesti longu, hirm tuli tagasi.

„Adine!” haarasin tal uuesti käest ja tõmbasin ta liikuma. „Ma saadan su koduni ära, sul pole millegi pärast vaja muretseda.”

„Tõesti?”

Noogutasin.

„Tule nüüd.”

„Aga kes sinu koju saadab?” Olime vaevu jälle viis sammu edasi saanud.

„Mind?” hea küsimus, olin sunnitud tõdema. „Ma saadan end ise koju.”

„Ja sa ei karda?”

Raputasin pead. „Aga varsti hakkan küll kartma kui me siin veel kaua olema peame! Lähme nüüd!” muutusin juba tõredaks, sest ööd olid juba üsna jahedad ja mu kinga otsad hakkasid niiskeks muutuma. Ta surus oma külma käekese mulle uuesti pihku.

Me kõndisime kiirustades ja vaikides. Kirusin end vaikselt, et oma salli maha olin jätnud. Udu oli sama paks kui enne, isegi öösel võis eristada selle rohekat külma tooni, mis meid endasse mattis. Ma lootsin, et vähemalt öösel seguneb see nii palju pimedusega, et muutuda märkamatuks kuid ei.

See mõte looduse ringkäigust piinas mind. See popsas mulle tagasi pähe kui ma Adine õuel õunapuud nägin, nagu halb uni, mis ei taha ära minna. Otsustasin, et homme lähen Emily vanaema juurde ja küsin, ehk on tema oma ligi saja aastase elu jooksul midagi sellist näinud. Miski ütles mulle, et see ei ole mulle vist meeltmööda, mida ta räägib. Vähemalt seda, mida ta mõtles, sest viimasel ajal oli tal suuri raskusi oma mõttelõnga hoidmisega, nagu ei mäletaks ta, mida ta eelmisel kahel minutil tegi. Mis ei olnud muidugi imelik arvestades ta vanust, kuid samas õõvastav, mõelda, et ükskord saame kõik tema sarnaseks.

Jõudsime Adine juurde ja ma jätsin temaga kiirustades hüvasti, joostes nii kiiresti kui jalad võtsid koju.

Kodus olid vähemalt soe kamin, koer ja õde, kes pakatas ootusest teada saada, millest me täna rääkisime. Pidin teda kurvastama, sest me ei rääkinud praktiliselt mitte millestki. Istusin selle asemel kaminale lähemale, tõmbasin märjad kingad jalast ja koukisin kotist välja oma pooleli töö. Ema istus mu vastas oma kiiktoolis ja kudus kampsunit jälgides samal ajal Abigale ja kuidas ta oma nukku riietas.

„Abby?“ Isa hääl oli rahulik kui ta oma raamatu kõrvale pani. „Homme ärge külast välja minge.“

Ta ütles seda igal õhtul viimased nädal aega ja tüdrukutirts noogutas, pööramata nukult pilku. Isa leppis sellega ning tõusis, et end sirutada. Ta meel oli täna uitav ja ma jäin teda tahtmatult uurima. Ta ringutas, enne kui ta pilk aknast välja suundus ja ta uuesti tõsiseks muutus.

„Homme peaks koosoleku kokku kutsuma.“

Heitsin talle võimalikult ükskõikse pilgu, nagu ei saaks ma aru, mis toimub. Nii sinisilmset poleks olnud vaja mängidagi, kuid nad nägid sellist vaeva varjamaks oma muret meie eest ja ma pidasin parimaks nende pingutusi hinnata. Nägin ta veidi kohkunud olekust, et ma olin kehv näitleja ja ma pöördusin rutuga tagasi oma käsitöö juurde. Kuid ma ei leidnud enam rahu ja jätsin töö kiirustades pooleli.

„Ma lähen magama.“ Jätsin heegelduse kamina kõrvale. „Head ööd.“

Mõne hetkega olin juba voodis teki all ja üritasin keskenduda külmade linade vahel varvaste soojendamisele. Abby, kes oli minuga kaasa tulnud, uinus kiiresti- Emily tegi päeval nende õpetamisega ikka head tööd, et nad õhtuti nii väsinud olid, leidsin, imetledes ta heledaid juukseid. Miks on nii, et väikestel lastel on kõigil heledamad ja säravamad juuksed ja suuremad silmad kui täiskasvanutel?

Ma magasin akna pool ja seega avanes mulle kena vaade üle oru. Mitte et see vaade praegu midagi väärt oleks. Üritasin pea tühja hoida kuid ikkagi tungisid pähe mõttes ilma silmadeta mustadest koletistest, kes aknast sisse ronisid. Ma ei ole eriti kergesti hirmutatav, ausalt, kuid sellistel hetkedel ei saanud ma selle peale kihla vedada.

Tõmbasin teki kõrgemale üle kõrvade ja peitsin pea sulepatja, nuusutades Abigale’i küpsiselõhnalisi juukseid.

„Homme,“ otsustasin, „homme mõtlen edasi…“

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Llyr 2

Järgmisel päeval koosolekut kokku ikkagi ei kutsutud- kutse naelutati küll küla väljakule plangujupi külge, kuid kokkusaamine ise määrati alles järgmisele päevale. See rõõmustas mind, sest siis ei pidanud ma teiste tüdrukutega nooremaid hoidma ning neid oli siin külas palju.

Udu oli sama roheline kui eile, kuigi veidi õhulisem ja veidi madalamal, suutsin eristada Adine aia õunapuud ja kahte põõsast teine teisel pool teed, mis märkisid nende aia algust. Ma ei saanud argugi, millest see põhjustatud oli – udu läbipaistvusest või sellest, et ta oli vajunud allapoole.

Lõpetasin kartulite koorimise ja haarasin korvi, et seda mullast puhtaks koputada ning suundusin õue.

„Kuhu sa lähed?” küsis ema hirmunult kui olin vaevu saanud terrassil kahte sammu teha. Tardusin paigale- ta hääl lausa värises hirmust.

Pöörasin end üllatunult ringi ja osutasin korvile, andes nii rõhku oma sõnadele. „Raputan korvi puhtaks ja siis mõtlesin enne pimedat põllu pealt veel kartuleid ja porgandit tuua.”

Ema kuivatas närviliselt oma põllesabasse käsi. Talle ei meeldinud mu plaan, kuid noogutas siiski vastumeelselt. „Olgu, aga too siis rohelist ka.”

„Olen varsti tagasi.” Lubasin naeratades ja läksin harja otsima, millega kuivanud pori maha saada. Me korvid olid alati mudased, kuigi vihma eriti ei sadanud. Sellest hoolimata oli põld niiske – lähedal asuva jõe maaalused allikad niisutasid seda piisavalt.

Kutsusin koera endaga kaasa, kuid see keeldus, mis mind üldse ei rõõmustanud. Heitsin talle pettunud pilgu ja hakkasin julgust kokku võttes astuma. Järsku kuulsin, kuidas Mosh mulle ikkagi järgnes, ilmselt usaldamata mind üksinda väljale. Jäin seisma ja ootasin, kuni ta järgi jõudis, enne kui teekonda jätkasin.

„Tead,” pöördusin tema poole, „mul on hea meel, et sa otsustasid ikkagi kaasa tulla nii on palju kindlam minna.”

Koer urahtas nagu vastates ja sörkis minust mööda. Ilmselt oli ta tundnud mingit lõhna, mis lausa kutsus endale järgnema, midagi sellist, mille lõhn minuni ei küündinud.

Olime jõudnud just kuusetukani, mis küla põllust lahutas kui tabasin, et ei kuule enam tema samme ega hingeldamist.

„Mosh, ma ei mõelnud seda turvatunde asja sedamoodi! Mosh? Tule tagasi!” hüüdsin ehmunult, kuid ei saanud mingit vastust.

Ta oli tegelikult juba vana koer, peaaegu kaheksane ja  tundis neid piirkondi hästi – isa kasutas vanapoissi meelsasti jahi pidamisel, kuigi ta oli sündinud karjapidajate pesakonda. Praeguste segaste ilmadega see mind aga ei lohutanud, et ta ümbrust paremini tundis kui mina, sest nii jättis ta minu sinna teeserva üksinda külmetama.

„Mosh!” Kuid vastust ei tulnud.

Jätsin teekäänaku paremale ja suundusin purdele, mis viis üle madala oja. Siit veel paarkümmend sammu ja ma jõudsin põlluni, mis hajus kuhugi kaugusesse udu sisse. Siin tundus udu taas paksem ja piimjam, rohelisus jooksis kui kihtidena kõrvuti valgete voogudega, mis salapäraselt olematu tuule suunas kuju muutsid.

„Tuult ju ei ole?” imestasin, uudistades muutuvat valget viirgu endast mitte kuigi kaugel. Olin paigale naelutatud. Ajasin silmad punni, et paremini näha ning ohkasin seekord kergendustundega see oli kõigest metskitse pull, kes rahulikul õõtsuval sammul end kuusetuka poole asutas. Ta kuulis mind ja jäi mulle üllatunult otsa vaatama. Ta tundus jätkuvalt üllatunud, kuid see polnud hirmunud pilk, vaid pigem rabatud vaatlemine.

Ilmselt hakkasid va metsaisandad juba ära unustama, kelle maa peal nad liiguvad kui udu tuli, ei tulnud enam keegi põldudele.

Naeratasin võidukalt, taibates, et seega oli minul üllatusmoment, lasksin korvil kõksudes maha kukkuda ja plaksasin peopesad kokku. Kus siis läks sahinaks! Kogu udu lõi virvendama, segades kokku need kaks võikat värvi, mis siin kihinenult seisid ja minu eest vuhises mööda mitu noort pulli ja lehma. Surusin keeletult käed ümber üksteise julgemata end liigutada või veel vähem iitsatada.

Hääled kadusid ja ma ohkasin südamest, paisates õhku hingeauru. Raputasin end veel igaks juhuks, et hetkega jahtunud kontidesse elujõudu saada ja kummardusin korvi järele. Kuulsin veel mingit kerget krabinat ja tõstsin silmad. Mosh oli tagasi ja istus minust nii kümmekonna sammu kaugusel nagu poleks ta vahepeal kusagil käinudki.

„Sa nägid neid, jah?” küsisin muiates.

Muidugi ta ei vastanud. Pigem tundus ta pinges olevat, oodates, et ma oma toimetused kiiremas korras aetud saaks ja me tagasi majade juurde saaks minna, kus ta saanuks oma seiklusi naabrikoertega jagada. Või rahus terrassile magama heita, et näha und oma uhkest nooruspõlvest kui ta oli veel karjakoer ja onuga lambaid käis karjatamas. Onu läks aga oma teed ja aastane kutsa jäi meie hoolde.

Praegu oleks hea kui onu siin oleks – ta ütleks kõigile, et see on puhas lollus udu karta ja läheks kõigist hoolimata oma lammastega alla orgu, kus on pehmem rohi ja rohkelt päikest ja siis näeksid ka teised kui mõttetu see on ja pöörduksid oma tegemiste juurde tagasi.

 

Oled sina ikka valvur…” usutlesin teda ning keerasin põlleserva vöö vahele, et see ei segaks kartulite sonkimist. „Vaatame, on meil siis homseks veel midagi võtta või mitte.”

Oli. Vähemalt porgandipeenra pealt, kus kitsed olid pealsetel hea maitsta lasknud, aga juurikad puutumata jätnud. Paar vagu edasi olev kartul paistis ka puutumata, vilja poole ei julenud ma aga vaadatagi.

Maapind oli juba jahe ja kätele tegi mullas sonkimine haiget, muda oli jõudnud hanguma hakata ja kivistus kõvaks kui telliskivi.

„Tead, ma vahel vaatan, et sul on ikka tõesti hea elu,” puhkisin edasi, „juba ainuüksi see kasukas – mida ei annaks, et saaks selles kasukas ringi joosta!

Jõudsin kartulite juurde ning tõmbasin lähimad pealsed mullast välja tõmmates pinnale ligi kaks tosinat keskmisi kartuleid.

„Muidugi mitte suvel kui oma kleidiski on tapvalt palav, aga talvel ja sügisel. Nagu praegu. Ja su küünised näevad ka nii tugevad välja. Laenaksid neid ehk korraks?”

Nädalaga olid kartulid jõudsalt kosunud ja see ainult rõõmustas mind, vähemalt üks hea uudis sel nädalal.

„Näe va metsalised ei osk” Jäin sõna pealt vait ja kuulatasin ehmunult ümbrust. Mulle lähenesid metsa poolt sammud.

Sirutasin end pikaks ja surusin käed tugevalt vastu külgi. Ma ei näinud, kes see oli, kuid mu silmad olid suunatud endast paremale. Esimesena ilmus nähtavale hall mehe kujutis, mis lükkas enda ette jäävat udu eemale. Järgmisena kuulsin kerget köhimist ja nuuskamist, enne kui mu kannatus katkes ja nõudlikult uurisin, kellega on tegu.

Kuju peatus. Ta õlad hakkasid köhast taas kergelt vappuma.

June – mida sina siin teed? Ja räägid ka veel omaette…Mosh põntsutas paar korda saba vastu maakamakat, enne uuesti kuhugi kaugusesse vaatamisse süvenes.

Ohkasin südamest ja surusin külmad näpud igatsetud sooja põlle alla.

Sa ehmatasid mind!” pahvatasin pahaselt ja kummardusin tagasi korvi kohale, jälgides silmanurgast kuidas ta minu kõrvale vaole maha kükitas. Ta oli kergelt riides, mis tähendas vaid üht, et ta käis jalutamas, mitte jahil. Siiski kandis ta oma nuga, mis ta tumeda vesti alt välja piilus.

Vabandust. Ma ei arvanud, et praegusel ajal keegi ringi liigub.” Jätkas ta kui oli aru saanud, mis mind siia tõi. Ta lõhnas tubaka järele.

„Seda minagi.”  Sosistasin segaselt ja loopisin järgmised kartulid korvi, see hakkas täis saama. Kartul oli kena ja kollane, kuid enne korvi panemist võttis ikka mõne aja, et see mudast puhtaks lükata.

„Käisin püüniseid üle vaatamas.” Vastas ta tõsiselt.

„Oo? Kas saite midagi kätte ka?” küsisin lootusrikkalt.

„Ei.” Lükkas ta oma laiaäärse riidest mütsi kaugemale kõrvadele, nii et ta hele juuksetutt selle alt välja pääses.

Jätsin kartulite noppimise ja noogutasin arusaavalt. Liha oli vaja, kuid loomi polnud siin juba mõnda aega nähtud ja oma pudulojuste kallale veel minna ei tahetud.

„Ma ei tea, ma ei ole nagu loomi ka liikumas näinud, ehk istuvad ka oma urgudes, kardavad udu. Ta oli pettunud ja see oli täiesti aru saadav.

Kuulsin taas kajakaid me pea kohal tiirlemas ja kriiskamas. Tundsin, et see puudutas mind, kuid otsustasin neist võimalikult vähe välja teha ja puistasin selle asemel üle huulte: „Aga ma just nägin tervet karja kitsi.

Ta oli siiani vaadanud, kuidas ma kartuleid korvi viskasin, kuid tõstis nüüd silmad ja vaatas mulle vapustatult otsa.

„Valetad!”

„Ei valeta, just äsja, siinsamas. Ma imestan, et sa ise neid ei näinud – nad tulid ju sinu poole.”

„Tõesti?”

„Jah.”

Vaatasime üksteisega tõtt, tema uurimas mu näost nalja jälgi ja mina

„Ma ümisesin, ehk pelutas see nad eemale?” ühmas ta äkki kui oli isu täis vaadanud ning vahetas teemat. „Oled lõpetanud?”

„Mille?”

„Korjamise.”

Naersin vaikselt oma lolluse üle ja ajasin end punastades püsti. „Olen.”

Ta haaras korvi ja suunas mu märkamatult koduteele. Mosh ei lasknud endale kaks korda minekust vihjata, vaid oli kui truu seltsiline ikka meie ees ja näitas oma valge sabaga teed.

Jõudsime tukani, enne kui midagi öelda taipasin. Noor neiu ei tohtinud vestlusel kunagi soiku vajuda lasta. Nii oli vähemalt selles raamatus kirjas, mida Dani kiivalt oma kirjakasti peitis. Ta oli seda mulle vaid korra näidanud, siis kui ema selle talle kuueteistkümnendaks sünnipäevaks kinkis. Mulle tegi see toona nalja, et tüdrukutele on sellised ettekirjutused tehtud, kuid kui ma ise kaheksateist sain, hakkasin ise selliste näpunäidete järgi ihkama.

Me olime siiani tulnud vaikides ja see tundus nüüd, kui ma sellele mõtlesin, väga ebasünnis.

„Kas metsas on ka udu?” küsisin niisama, muuseas.

„Mhmh.”

„Kas see ei tundu sulle imelik?

„Mille poolest?”

„Ma ei tea… mäletad kui me olime kümnesed ja mustikaid otsisime? Ma ei mäleta, et siis oleks udu metsa jõudnud, kuigi org oli kõik uduga kaetud.”

Ta ei vastanud, vaid tundus nüüd murelikum kui enne.

„Anna andeks, Aaron” vabandasin kiiresti, „ma ei tahtnud sind muretsema panna.”

„Mh? Ei, ära muretse” Ta naeratas sunnitult, kuid sõbralikult, nagu üritades selgitada, et see murelik ilme ei olnud minu süü. Jäin teda uskuma.

Jõudsime meie majani ja ta ulatas mulle korvi. Mosh oli veidi maad meist eespool sörkinud ja lebas meie saabudes juba terrassil, silmad kinni ja norises vaikselt omaette.

„Oled sa kindel, et sa nägid kitsi?” küsis ta äkki, enne kui korvi lahti laskis.

„Jah, täiesti kindel – sõid põllu peal porgandipealseid. Oma viis-kuus tükki, ma ei näinud nii täpselt. Tahate jahti minna?”

„Ei tea veel.” Kehitas ta õlgu, kuid ta silmist oli näha, et mingi mõte tal pealuu sees juba küpses, tal tuli siis alati selline kerge tuluke silmadesse. „Õhtul näeme.”

Noogutasin ja vaatasin veel, kuidas ta jooksusammul uttu kadus.

„Kas ma kuulsin Aaroni häält?” küsis ema ust lahti lükates. „Ma kuulsin sind kellegagi rääkimas.”

Ta ehmatas mind.

„Jah, see oli Aaron.”

„Tõesti? Mis teda välja tõi?

Vaatasin tema salakavalatesse silmadesse. Ta oli küll hea ema, kuid minu meelest reageeris ta liiga üle, seepärast olin õppinud juba varakult asju pehmendama. „Ta nägi mind põllule minemas.”

„Aa, vaat kui tore poiss!”

Noogutasin rõõmsalt, seest piinlikkustundest põledes.

„Kas sa rohelist ka tõid?”

Rohelist? Nagu et sellerit ja tilli, küüslauku ja peterselli?

„Ma unustasin!” pahvatasin ehmunult. Ulatasin talle korvi juurikatega ja pöördusin kiirustasin minekule. „Kas lähen toon?”

„Ei!” karjatas ta hirmunult ja haaras mul varrukast. „Mis sul, hull tüdruk veel arus ei ole! Aita Abbyl parem patsi punuda kuni ma tainast sõtkun!

„Jah, ema.”

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Llyr 3

Pakkisin viimased pehmed suhkruvette kastetud kringlid korvi valge räti alla ja asutasin end minema. Silusin kortsud oma heledast siniste kellukatega sidrunikollasest kleidist välja ja sidusin läbipaistva valge räti kaela.

„Jälle sa lähed – kas sa kodus ka kunagi püsid?” küsis ema veidi nukralt, kääksutades oma suurt kiiktooli.

„Las ta läheb,” turtsatas isa, ilma et oleks raamatust pilkugi tõstnud.

„Olen varsti tagasi, viin vanaemale paar kringlit.

„Neid, mida sa ennist küpsetasid?”

„Jah.”

Nüüd laskis isa raamatu lauale vajuda ja vaatas üle prillide laual lebavat korvi ning küsis siis hästi salapäraselt.

„Kas sa koju ka mõne jätsid?”

„Nad on ülemises kapis, seal, kuhu Abigale ei ulatu.” Sosistasin talle vastu, varjates õe eest suu.

„Ma tahan ka kaasa tulla, June!” hüüdis tüdrukutirts äkki ja laskis oma portselanist nuku kolksuga, mis mu südame õõnsaks tegi, pöögist põrandale. See oli kena pruunide juustega pilgutavate silmadega nukk, mille isa oli talle tema viiendaks sünnipäevaks toonud ja kaks aastat hiljem koheldi teda siis nii.

Täna kahjuks ei saa – ma tahan vanaema Celestine’ga omavahel rääkida, see ei ole laste jutt.” Ütlesin tõsiselt ja taipasin liiga hilja, et see tekitas kohe uusi küsimusi, kuid seekord vanemate poolt.

„Tõesti?” muutus ema teravaks. „Ja mis jutt see selline on, mis ei ole laste jutt?” Ta oli oma kudumise käest pannud ja kiigutas nüüd ennast, sügades samal ajal koera, kes valvsalt mulle otsa vaatas.

Isa kalpsas püsti ja läks kapist kringlikaussi tooma.

„Jah,” võttis ta samuti emaga kampa, „mis see nii tähtis jutt on?”

„Ma tahan talt selle udu kohta küsida.”

„Udu kohta?” isa asetas kausi lauale.

„Kui ma kaasa ei või tulla, siis tahan ma praegu üht kringlit!” teatas Abby võimukalt vahele.

Pidin talle au andma – kõigest seitsmene ja juba selline poliitik, et anna vaid asu.

„Palun – siin on sinu kringel, võta nüüd oma nukk põrandalt ära.” Ulatasin talle kollase keerusaia.

„Ma ei usu, et sa tema käest mingit vastust saad.” Rääkis isa samal ajal endale kringlit põske toppides. Sel hetkel nägi ta väga hamstri moodi välja.

„Miks?” küsisin üllatunult ja veidi pettunult, sest ma tõsiselt lootsin tema vastuse peale.

„Jah, miks, kallis?”

Siin peres ei saanud kunagi kindel olla, kes kelle poolel oli või kes kelle poolele vastavalt vajadusele üle ei kolinud. Nii ka seekord kui ema jõudude vahetuses vastasvõistkonda punkte hakkas tooma.

„Ta on ju seniilne! Sada neli aastat on päris pikk eluiga! Naine ikkagi…”

„Tahad öelda, et naine muutub vananedes seniilseks ja mehed mitte!?”

Lasin pahinal õhku välja – väga õige hetk kadumiseks.

„Ma ei mõelnud seda päris nii…” üritas isa tekkinud probleemi kiiresti ja rahumeelselt taganedes parandada, kuid ei jõudnud. „Uuringud näitavad, et…”

„Mine, June Celestinel on sulle kindlasti palju huvitavat rääkida!” lükkas ema mu uksest välja.

Uks mu taga lükati kinni ja ma seisin seal hetke, rõõmus, et ma sain olla siin, väljas, ja mitte sees, kus võis hetkega üle kuumeneda. Seda oli kuulda.

Ma ei muretsenud muidu Abigale’i pärast, nad leppisid enamasti väga kiiresti ja Abby polnud veel selles eas, et selliseid tormilisi momente veel märgata. Sellest hoolimata ei tahtnud ma neile vahele jääda.

Mul seisis ees ligi veerandtunnine tee läbi küla. Celestine oli Emily vanaema ja ta elas nendega koos külast veidikene eemal teeäärses kahekordses puust majas. Vanaemaks hüüdsid teda vaid noorem põlvkond, aga ka vanemad hakkasid teda nii hüüdma pärast Newelsite perekonna poisi kadumist. Hiljem leiti ta küll üles ja pandi küla väljakule, kus siis kõik soovijad said temaga hüvasti jätta. Ema rääkis, et vanaemal oli sellega kõige raskem toime tulla., sest ta armastas poissi kui oma poega. Pärast seda olevat nad aru saanud, mida vanale naisele lapsed tähendasid ja nad leppisid kokku, et edaspidi hüütakse teda ühiselt vanaemaks. See oli oma pool sajandit tagasi.

Ta jättis puhta poolearuse mulje, kuid ta oli tegelikult väga tark naine. Vähemalt nendel hetkedel, mil ta mõistusel oli.  Mis mulle tema juures aga kõige rohkem meeldis, oli see, et ta ei rääkinud kunagi surmast, ei enda ega teiste omadest ja see oli hea. Mitte et ta ei oleks aeg-ajalt maininud, et keegi on taevasse läinud või midagi taolist, vaid et ta ei muretsenud oma surma pärast.  

Olin nende majale juba päris lähedal kui Emily mu äärepealt ümber pidi jooksma.

„Issand hoia, Emily! Mis juhtus?” Seal võis olla sada asja, mis juhtuda võis arvestades, et ta ema ootas kaheksandat kuud last ja et ta elas koos põdura naise, lehma ja kuue kanaga.

Ta paistis väga hirmul olevat.

„Tule ruttu! Memm on vist hulluks läinud!

Kortsutasin pahaselt kulmu. „Mida sa ajad – ta on üle tüki aja keegi, kes täie mõistuse juures on!”

„Ma ei tea, aga kiirusta! Ma ei taha tema juures olla kui ta…

„..sureb?” lõpetasin tema eest. „Ei usu!”

Emily oli tegelikult tugev noor naisterahvas, kes oskas alati teised enda pilli järgi tantsima panna kui vaja oli. Oli hirmutav teda nüüd nii endast väljas näha.

Ta tõmbas mu endaga kaasa ja ma pidin lausa ümber kukkuma, kuid ta hoidis mind püsti. Jõudsime uksest sisse, enne kui sain lõpuks uuesti midagi öelda.

„Pea nüüd hoogu! Sa tirid mu pooleks!” pahandasin lõbusalt. „Muide, ma nägin just Devenit, kas ta tuleb ka siia?”

„Deven?” Ühtäkki oli vanaema tal peast läinud.

„June – ole hea, kui sa üles lähed, vii talle ka paar küttepuud kaminasse.” See mahe hääl kuulus Emily emale, kes nurgas voodil lamas. Ta ei paistnud varjus kuigi haige välja. „Küsiksin Emilylt, aga sa näed teda praegu ise.

„Jah, mam. Emily!” toksasin teda külge. Ta ärkas oma ilmselgelt roosadest unistustest.

Siin oli midagi sügavamat teoksil, see oli üle ta kogu näo kirjutatud. Kui vaid Reed sellest kuuleks ta ei oleks eales selle peale tulnud, et Emily ja Deven on midagi rohkemat kui vaid sõbrad. Mis minu meelest oli ülimalt tore, kui ma nüüd vaid saaks selle tüdruku liikuma, et ta minuga vanaema juurde kaasa tuleks. Vanurite puhul sai mulle ruttu selgeks, et on hea kui sul on kaasas kedagi, keda ta iga päev tunneb ja teab.

„Ma tõin suhkrukringleid. Lükkasin teda sahvri poole. „Sa too piima.

Aga Deven?” tuli kiire ehmunud välgusähvatus.

Tõmbasin ta varrukatpidi tagasi. „Emily, sa oled kõige targem noor naine siinpool orgu, olen täiesti kringel, et ta jõuab nii kaua oodata küll, et sa sahvrist kannutäie piima tooks. Pealegi,” avaldasin talle poolsosinal oma teise poole plaanist, miks ma siia tulin.

Nüüd oli Deven tal peast läinud. Kuidas see on võimalik, et üks naine suudab korraga vaid ühele tegevusele keskenduda – ta on ju ometigi naine.

„Memm on viimasel ajal väga kummaline.” Mure ta hääles oli tagasi.

 

„Mis te seal sosistate?” küsis missis Gladney.

„Õhtusest koosolekust!” vastas Emily kiiresti ja jätkas sosinal: „Ma ütlen sulle, ta on peast ära keeranud, kujutad ette – ta hakkas eile rääkima…”

Panin talle sõrme suu ette.

„Ma tahan seda tema enda käest kuulda!”

„Olgu, aga tee ruttu, enne kui ta jälle magama jääb.”

„Ärge vanaema väga ära väsitage,” hüüdis Emily ema voodist laulval häälel, süvenedes juba raamatusse, mida ta lugema oli hakanud.

„Me läheme vaid korraks.” Teatas Emily ja äsas mind, et ma puid kaasa võtaks.

Ma ei vaimustunud sellest tööst eriti, olin oma põlle koju jätnud ja vaigune puu parimate pühapäeva riietega just kokku panna ei tahaks.

Võisin teda ausalt nimetada oma vanaemaks, sest ta tundis mind ära, erinevalt paljudest teistest külalistest, kellest tal kunagi puudust ei tulnud. Olin siin ka üsna tihe külaline. Vanaema tuba asus ärklikorrusel, mis oli küll ronimise mõttes vanale naisele sobimatu, kuid mis võimaldas tal tervet küla vaadata kui tal mahti oli. Seepärast leidsin ta tihti aknast välja vaatamas ning tasakesi heietamas, kust see või teine perekond siia oli tulnud. Nüüd aga oli ta oma raske tooli ilmselt Emily ja Deveni abil aknast võimalikult kaugele vedanud, istus ise seal pimedas nurgas ja sonis millestki, mida ma ei mõistnud.

Söötsin halud tulele ja kallistasin teda pehmelt.

„Tere, vanaema, kuidas täna läheb?”

Ta vaatas mulle suuril silmil otsa ja sosistas siis hirmunult nagu väike laps, läbi oma suurte kollaste hammaste: „Hoia silmad lahti! Varsti on kandjad platsis!” Vaatasin teda jahmunult, üllatunud ta haarde võimsusest, kuid ta lasi mu uuesti lahti ja hakkas oma tooliga uuesti kääksutama.

„Mis kandjad?” küsisin pärast kuuldu seedimist.

Ta kehitas õlgu. „Ma ei tea – ta ei taha öelda. Ma kardan, et ta on ära keeranud.

Uurisin ta kõhetut mõistatuslikku keha. „Ma proovin ise,” pakkusin välja ja kükitasin tema ette, püüdes ta käed oma pihkude vahele. „Vanaema?”

Ta otsis silmadega, kust mu hääl tuli, kuni lukustas oma pilgu minule. Ta silmadesse ilmus äratundmisrõõm ja ta tõmbas ootamatult oma käe vabaks ja paitas sellega mu põske.

„Oo, cherie! Mu kallis nukuke on tagasi! Celestine, kas sa tulid tõesti tagasi?  Vaatasime Emilyga keeletult üksteisele otsa.

 „Ma ei teadnud, et ta prantsuse keelt räägib?” sosistas Emily rabatuna. Susistasin ta vaikseks.

Vana naine jätkas: „Ja kui kena siniselillelise kleidi sa oled endale saanud – see läheb kenasti kokku selle sinise prossiga, mille sa mulle eelmine aasta kinkisid.

„Jah vanaema?”

Bernardine sai äkki pahaseks.

„Miks sa mind vanaemaks kutsud? Ma ei ole ju veel nii vana!”

Nüüd hakkas mulle midagi koitma – Celestine oli tema õde?

Hetke pärast oli ta taas tõsine ja kummardus mulle võimalikult kõrva lähedale, enne kui jätkas: „Saada teenija toast välja ma tahan sulle midagi rääkida, aga tema ei tohi teada.

Süda hakkas sees kõvemini põksuma kui taipasin, et see võib tähtis olla ja ma andsin Emilyle märku ukse juurde minna. Ta ei tahtnud algul minna, kuid ma kinnitasin, et kõik saab korda, et tal on lihtsalt vaja veidi veel kaasa mängida. Vana naine jälgis igat ta sammu kõrgilt ja pahakspanevalt ja mul hakkas Emilyst lausa kahju, et ta oma vanaema ta sellisesse olukorda pani.

Bernardine!” kutsusin teda vaikselt laulval häälel, et ta tähelepanu Emilylt eemale tõmmata. Võtsin uuesti ta soojast käest. „Bernardine, sa tahtsid mulle midagi rääkida?

Naise pilk jõudis lõpuks minuni ja ta silmad muutusid taas lahkeks ja avatuks, kogu kuiv kalkus oli kadunud.

Ta tegi mulle vaikimist nõudva žesti ja kummardus siis kõrvale hästi lähedale, enne kui mulle oma kummalise saladuse avaldas.

Kuulasin aplalt ta kiiruga öeldud sõnu, ahmides endasse seda sõnumit, mida ma siia saama olin tulnud. Järsku tundsin, kuidas mu süda raskeks muutus ja kogu keha täitis rõske hirm. Ahmisin tahtmatult õhku ja peitsin suu käe varju, et mitte karjuma hakata. Tahtsin käe vabaks tõmmata, kuid mul ei õnnestunud, ta oli vastuvaidlematult selle vangistanud. Mul hakkas sees keerama ja ma olin juba valmis teda näpistama, et ta mu vabastaks, kui tal äkki jutt otsa sai ja ta mu lahti laskis, silmis taas see üleolev tibakese naeruga vürtsitatud pilk. Viskusin tast hetkega võimalikult kaugele üle põranda ja kaltsuvaiba.

„Sa oled hull!” voolas mul üle huulte. „Sa valetad!”

Ta raputas pead.

„Aga Celestine, sa peaksid seda ju ise teadma…” Ta vakatas äkki ja pisarad voolasid ta kortsuliste laugude vahelt veel kortsulisematele põskedele. Ta nuuksus paar korda ja põrutas siis kogu oma rusika jõuga käetoele ja röökis mulle näkku: „Sest sa olid selle ära teeninud, närune kalts!

See oli signaaliks sealt kaduda ja seda ma ka tegin, Emily truult kannul, kohkunud ja näost sama lumivalge kui mina.

All ootas meid juba missis Gladney ja me pidime ta peaaegu pikali jooksma.

Mis juhtus?” küsis ta ehmunult. Ülevalt tuli veel räuskamist ja me tõmbusime trepist võimalikult kaugele kööki.

„Mm – ma ei tea!” sosistas Emily kui suutis juba midagi öelda.

„Midagi te pidite ju ikka tegema, et ta nii vihaseks sai!” pahandas ema, „Ta ei vihasta just iga asja peale!

Tundsin, kuidas Emily sõrmed tugevalt mu kleidiriidesse klammerdusid, tõmmates seda veelgi rohkem pingule kui mu korsett võimaldas. Mu hingeldamisele see kaasa ei aidanud, seepärast kangutasin ta sõrmed uuesti lahti ja andsin talle oma käsivarre kägistamiseks – nii sain vähemalt hingata.

„Kes on Celestine?” küsisin noolelt. Tundsin, et ka Emily sai sellest jõudu ja ta astus mu selja tagant välja.

„Celestine?”

„Jah! Vanaema tundis minus Celestine ära,” põrutasin otse, „Ja… ja…” edasi ei osanud ma seda kohe sõnadesse panna. Mu pea huugas ja kogu ta jutt tundus väga segane ja arusaamatu. Ohkasin südamest. „Ja paistis nagu ei meeldiks ma talle eriti.” Lõpetasin kurvalt.

„Ja mind pidas ta mingiks teenijaks!” hüüdis Emily vahele.

Sedasi hüüda polnud üldse tema moodi – ta oli tavaliselt malbe ja rahulik ja ma polnud siiani kordagi kuulnud, et ta häält tõstaks.

„Emily, tasem!” rahustas ema teda murelikult. „Rahune.” See kõlas nii rahulikult nagu oleks ta unes kõndinud.

„Ja” ta jätkas juba poole rahulikumalt ja laskis mu käe lahti. „Ta räägib prantsuse keeles? Ma ei teadnud, et ta prantsuse keeles räägib?

Lootsime, et ta emal on mõningaid vastuseid kui ta paistis sama segaduses kui meie.

„Ta ei oska eriti kirjutadagi, kuidas ta veel prantsuse keelt oskab? Ehk tal kodus räägiti, nende ajal oli see ju populaarne. Ooh, ma pean maha istuma.” Ta sättis end laua taha mugavamalt istuma ja andis märku, et me sama teeksime.

„Aga Celestine?” küsis Emily.

Ma arvan, et see oli tema õde?

„Õde? Sa ei ole rääkinud, et tal on õde.

„Oli, kullake, oli. Ma ei tea temast rohkem midagi ta ei räägi temast eriti ja Trevor ütles, et nende perekonnas sellest ka eriti ei räägitud, ilmselt juhtus midagi.

Emily pilk langes minu peale.

Vanaema jutt tuli uuesti meelde ja ma aimasin, mis temaga juhtus, kuid ma ei uskunud, et ma seda neile praegu öelda tahtsin. Hakkasin lauast tõusma, et hüvasti jätta.

„Mida vanaema sulle rääkis?”

Ma ei tea…” vastasin ausalt.

„Ta pidas sind Celestiniks, mida ta sulle rääkis?” uuris Emily.

Ainuüksi sellele mõtlemine ajas südame sees keerama.

„Jäta,” sosistasin ning taarusin uksest välja, kus mind tervitas jahe õhk ja Deven.

„Ma nägin sind juba mõnda aega tagasi siiapoole tulemas.” Naeratasin talle hädiselt ja astusin ukse eest kõrvale. „Jõudsidki kohale.”

Ta laskis sellel kinni vajuda.

„Käisin Voyeritele juustu viimas. Mis sinuga juhtus?”

„Vanaema oli kummaline.

„Vanaema? Ta on praktiliselt terve nädala selline olnud.” Ta uuris mind veidi. „Saadan su koju?

„Pole vaja.”

Emily lükkas ukse uuesti lahti.

Tere. Näe, sa unustasid oma korvi.” Ulatas ta selle mulle. Noogutasin tänutäheks ja tahtsin minema hakata, kuid ta pidas mu kinni. „Oled sa kindel, et sinuga on kõik korras?”

„Ma pean selle üle veidi mõtlema.” Naeratasin talle kurvalt.

„Et mida ta sulle ütles?”

„Mhmh.”

„Õhtul tuled?”

„Ikka,” patsutasin ta kätt, mis mu küünarnukist kinni hoidis ja ta laskis lahti.

Noorte koosolekud pea igal õhtul olid norm. Kui sa just kodus haige ei olnud või laste järgi ei vaadanud või mõne muu tööga hõivatud ei olnud, siis oli kohale ilmumine pea sama kohustuslik kui pühapäeval kirikusse minna.

Täna oli kiriku päev. Kuid õpetajat polnud. Ilmselt nägi udu ja jättis ka seekord tulemata, ikka tuli ette.

„Udu…” sonisin endamisi ja vaatasin murelikult roheka massi poole, mis mu ees hõljus. „Ehk rääkis ta seda mulle vaid hirmutamiseks?” küsisin endalt, kuid paigalt enam liikuda ei suutnud.

„Rääkis mida?” küsis äkki Corey, näpu otsas Sidney väike õde. Kiljatasin, sest ei märganud, millal nad mu selja taha jõudsid.

„Vahi! Tõepoolest, see udu hakkab juba kõigil närve sööma.” Naeratas ta lõbusalt ja masseeris oma suuri kõrvu.

„Vabandust!”

„Ei ole midagi.”

Mu pilk voolas väikesele tüdrukutirtsule, kes ennast kiivalt minu eest poisi pruunide pükste taha peitis.

„Tere!” tegin algust.

„Ahjaa…” Corey naeratas ujedalt ja tõmbas tüdrukutirtsu tagasi päevavalgele. „Näe, kelle mu koer täna välja peilis.” Ta käis ilmselt ka püüniseid kontrollimas. Ta vilistas ja kaugelt oli kuulda, kuidas põlvekõrgune punaselaiguline peni läbi mahalangenud lehtede teed rajas.

„Ta jookseb sul päris omaette ringi.Muigasin. „Minu oma ei tahtnud eriti kuhugi minna.”

„Sinu omal on juba iga ka, eks see olegi nooremate viga omapäi hulkuma minna.” Ta hääl muutus teravamaks ja pilk liikus  tagasi tumedapäisele tüdrukutirtsule.

„Hea koer sul kui nii väikese saagi kätte saab. Aga kuule, me peame nüüd minema hakkama, enne kui missis Abston avastab, et ta välja on pugenud.

Nad keerasid ringi ja hakkasid minema, kaks tükki mööda teed ja kolmas kadudes põõsastesse.

„Hei!” pöördus ta äkki. „Aga sa õhtul tuled?”

„Ikka.”

Mida siin kolkas muidu ikka küsida oli? Linnas uuriti üksteise tervise järgi, siin oli kõigile teada, kes kui haige oli.

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