Human

Once upon a time,
A human rose to walk the Earth,
But didn’t know what it was.

Answers came without an invite:
Human was told it was a She,
And there were others who were He.

So human learned to be a She.
And She was told how to play,
What to enjoy and what to desire.

Then they spoke of the colour of the skin,
Power and money, jobs, borders, sex.
Humans are just animals, people are categories.

She was told what to do,
Because that was the way to learn,
And She acted accordingly.

Then, one day, lightning struck,
Through Her body which now felt strange
Made Her conscious of Her skin.

The spark of wisdom, of being aware,
Played tricks on Her memory.
She remembered her life as a human vividly.

Between the instinct and the learned
She didn’t know what was the truth.
Between it all, who was She?

Lies, lies, all they said!
We are rules, but we are freedom,
We are both but we are neither.

Looking into Her Eyes (Gideon’s perspective)

I look into her soft amber eyes and I know my revenge is near.

She smiles at me and I feel sorry for her. None of it is her fault. I don’t understand why she married a man so horrible as Maximillan Reming, but I guess she had no choice. She doesn’t seem to belong in the Reming family. Even her children have their father’s icy blue eyes, the cold eyes of a murderous predator whose only purpose in life is to slaughter his victims.

My wife was one of them. Prey which escaped Maximillian’s bony fingers. He couldn’t accept that she chose me. She was promised to him, and he even bought her an expensive diamond ring. She couldn’t say no to him. No one ever said no to a Reming. Except maybe for a Thorne.

When we met, we new right away that we were meant to be. And I was never a romantic type. My dear Alessia, if only I never asked you for that dance, never begged you to escape with me, leave the ballroom and enjoy the night. If only you said no. Then, you would still be alive. Maximillan’s wife, but alive.

I would give anything to bring you back, but I know that’s impossible. Maximillan caused that cursed fire, and you were gone, forever. I see you in our daughter, our lovely Celestine. She looks a lot like you and I love her with all my heart. But I still cannot escape this anger that’s boiling inside of me. I still seek revenge.

I hope you can forgive the woman in my bed. Eliana Reming took the role you never wanted, by Maximillian’s side. She is innocent and fragile. You know how terrifying he is even better than I do. You understand that Eliana, too, wants to escape. She looks at me like I’m her saviour. She knows about my sorrow, but can’t see that I’m bitter and vengeful.

Maximillian took my wife away from me, and now I’m taking his. Eliana is mine.

She smiles at me and I smile back.

I look into her soft amber eyes and I know I’m falling in love.


Gideon Thorne is Celestine Thorne’s father. If you are interested in other characters, here are the links to their stories:

Alexandra Reming

Theo Reming

Celestine Thorne

Quote for Thought: Life goes on

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“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Robert Frost

Life can’t really be explained and it has no rules, even when certain magazines claim there are. It is as diverse as the people living it. But we all know one thing for sure – life can be hard. It doesn’t ask for our opinion, it just goes on, whether you had the time and strength to keep up or not. You will get sad, disappointed, let down, insecure, anxious, stressed, and hurt. But there will be times you’ll simply feel good about yourself. You will look back on your past sorrow and feel no pain at all.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not even trying to be inspirational. If you’re sad, be sad. Cry. Hit your pillow. And I admit that sometimes there will be things in your life that you will never be able to remember without evoking some old feelings. Time doesn’t always heal all of our wounds, but it teaches us to live with them. Then, you will remember something, or someone, and still feel a little bit of that past hurt. But you will also know that you have survived it. You will say to yourself: “I feel much better now.” You will know: “My life is better today.” And it will give you strength to go on.

Mother and Daughter (Celestine’s perspective)

“This is your new room”, he said, but it doesn’t feel like it. To me, the bed I’ve slept in is strange and undoubtedly his.

I don’t know what made me fall for that man. He kidnapped me. But somehow, he persuaded me it was for my own good.

“I loved your mother”, he said. “You look just like her.”

I saw my mother’s pictures, but I never thought we looked similar. We both had green eyes, but my skin is darker, more like father’s. Her hair was brown, like melted milk chocolate, while mine is almost black. My nose is a bit too wide. Her nose was perfect and her lips full. Still, Eric claims we look almost the same.

As I grew up, the figure of my mother was an omnipresence, almost a deity. She died in an unfortunate accident in a toy factory when I was only two. Sadly, I can’t say that I remember her. I don’t know what her voice sounded like or how she moved. I don’t know how it felt when she held me. All I know is what my father told me. And to him, she was perfect.

I wanted to be like her, but I doubted I ever could. My father described my mother as a graceful lady. I, on the other hand, had his temper and his rash nature. I always made decisions too quickly, which meant I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t the best student and I didn’t have many friends. Sometimes, I was proud of it. Proud of my strong opinions, proud that I never took anybody’s shit, even if it meant acting not-so-lady-like. Still, any comparison with my mother flattered me more than it should have.

Was it the reason I fell so quickly for Eric Leigh? Maybe it was part of it. I felt such a strong attraction towards him, an attraction so illogical that I was willing to accept any possible explanation and at the same time I believed none of them.

“You hate injustice just as I do, and you hate the elite”, Eric said and he was right. “Your mother felt the same way, but they convinced her that she was wrong. They dragged her into the world she never wanted to be a part of!”

Since Eric Leigh appeared in our lives, or better to say re-appeared, I’ve learned new things about my mother. I realized she was human after all. She had a friend who wanted to change the world, two years younger Eric who loved her with all his heart. My father told me the story because he wanted me to be prepared for what was coming. He also said that my mother never loved Eric back. He was like a younger brother to her. My mother was supposed to marry Maximillian Reming, my father’s opponent in many things, even in love. Eric said she never wanted to marry Maximillian, but she couldn’t refuse. Nobody could refuse a Reming. And then, just before the wedding, she fell in love with my father. Maximillan never forgave them. In the end, he caused the fire in the factory, the fire that killed my mother. He had his horrible revenge.

Eric, however, had a different story to tell. He said that my mother and him were the closest two people that ever existed.

“Of course your father thinks she never loved me. He doesn’t know what true love is! They all played tricks on her, they trapped her into their elitist, corrupt world!”

In the end, I told him he was right. I told him I hated elitism as much as he did.

“We will change the world! I will be the king of the new city of Cyron, and I wish for you to be my queen!”

I didn’t notice how ironic it was for someone to claim he hated elitism and then to call himself a king. My thoughts were fleeting, my mind dizzy from all that was said. He kissed me and I kissed him back. Now, I know it was a bad idea. I know the one he wants is my mother and I’m quite certain he’s crazy. But what if he can really change the world?

I decide to go for a walk around the house. Eric even has a swimming pool. I still don’t know how he managed to get such a wonderful house.

I get dressed clumsily and leave the room. I close the door behind me and as I turn around, two blue eyes greet me coldly.

“Theo?! What are you doing here?”

I’m almost certain I’m hallucinating.

“Well, I know what you are doing. Sleeping with Eric Leigh.”

“I don’t understand… Why are you here?” I ignored the deprecatory tone of his voice.

“It’s none of your business. But I thought I should warn you, for old times’ sake.”

Old times. A horrible expression to describe what we had. Even now, I tremble as I try to look at him. I thought it was all behind me, but now I just want him to hold me and to tell me everything’s going to be fine. I made a horrible mistake, Theo, another horrible mistake! Once, you told me you loved my quirky, irrational behaviour. You told me it was great that we were opposites and that you wouldn’t want me to change. And now? Have you changed your mind? Were my flaws too much for you after all?

“Eric Leigh is dangerous”, he said instead. “And do you really want him to kill your father in the end?”

I felt like crying. No, not now. I almost never cry and this is a horrible moment to start. I had so many questions, and so many apologies, but Theo turned and left.

What have I done?


P.S. Here are the links if you want to read the previous stories about the characters from the same world, the city of Cyron:

  1. Alexandra
  2. Theo

Blue and Red

Her days were blue
A colour not of sadness
But of naivety and calm.

His nature was red
The shade of passion
And hidden rage
Born from burning pain.

Together they were purple
A colour of magic
Illusion and trickery.

But blue can’t give to red
The peace of mind it needs
And red can never love blue.
Purple is inconsistent.

What they needed
Was a peaceful valley of green
Tranquil and warm.

But red kept the yellow to himself
All its golden glory
And the light it possessed
Because he had so little.

When red left
Her blue turned grey
Changed, colourless, but free.

Blue couldn’t find green
But grey did
And even with a touch of greyness
The green was green still.


*My little play on colour-mixing and colour symbolism. 

A Path of Roses and Snake Hisses

From everything dark and crude
I wanted to escape
From every hurt and suffering
But running was a sour grape.

Life is not a path of roses
Its roads wind and scream
To find a shortcut through this trip
Would be a truly wicked dream.

So I walk the frigthful road
And in it take my pride
Human is what I need to be
Even on a dreadful ride.

I wanted to be myself
To possess a proud zeal
And I wanted to be strong
Never in need to heal.

I gave my very best
Powerful, bold and free
When a rose bush came to obstruct my way
Growing firm in front of me.

All the power, bold and free
Melted hopelessly and fast
The stone heart where used to be
Broken crumbles turned to dust.

Why now curse the new-found sorrow
When the fault lies all in me
I went down the charming way
I forgot how to be free.

Hear the snakes hiss:
Happiness lives here no more!
Love can only gleeful be
If you’re true to your being’s core.

Quote for Thought: Life as Compromise

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George’s son had done his work so thoroughy that he was considered too good a workman to live, and was, in fact, taken and tragically shot at twelve o’clock that same day – another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning  to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely on compromise.

I started reading “Far from the Madding Crowd” yesterday. George’s son is a young dog who does not know when to stop when chasing sheep and he is sure that the more he runs the better job he’s doing. He therefore tragically leads all the sheep to death. I knew this was going to happen and that the dog is going to be shot so I prepared for it. I can’t cope with animals dying even in fiction, it’s something that really makes me sad. (I actually ignore the books with animals sometimes, if I don’t want to be drowned in sorrow XD) And then, it was described like this. It wasn’t even an extremely important event for the story, but Thomas Hardy wrote this wonderful sentence about it.

What can I add? People who try to do something different really are seen as crazy and even dangerous for the society. And sometimes the truth that only a few can see can be dangerous but does it mean that it should be ignored? I was impressed how Hardy introduced this theme in only one sentence and then continued with the story, leaving the reader to think about it more by him/herself. I don’t want too talk too much and now I’ll just leave the quote as it is.

Quote for Thought: Just Kids by Patti Smith

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…you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up.

I’ve recently finished Just Kids by Patti Smith, a memoir about her youth and life with Robert Mapplethorpe. This book made me smile, but it mostly made me cry. I usually experience my emotions inwardly, but this time I actually cried. It’s a book about two people about my age, even younger, and what they have gone through in their search for artistic life is both sad and admirable. I can’t imagine experiencing everything that they did, and compared to theirs my life’s been quite easy. Still, I could understand them and sympathise with their story and emotional turmoils. Certain aspects of the story reflected some of the things I’ve been through, however far-fetched that might sound. Some doubts and questions they had are the same as those that I’ve often asked myself. It’s interesting to enter the mind of someone so different from you and still find traces of yourself. The experiences may be world apart, but emotions are always similar.

Obviously, it’s a book about art and artists. But even more so, it’s a book about life itself, about growing up, being happy and being hurt, about personal growth and maturing which never stops and can never be completed. It’s about finding yourself. It’s also about the ever-changing concepts of love and friendship which escape any definition. Life is complex and erratic, and this books portrays it beautifully. Life can get scary, and growing-up may seem unachievable or even unwelcome. At this point in my life, I realize that being an adult just means pretending to be one (and I admit I’m not good at it). No one truly grows up. It’ a process without end.

Everything distracted me, but most of all myself.

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The First Flight

Ringing. Loud, piercing ringing.

Nicholas held tight to his pillow, as if he wanted to hinder the reality from breaching into his dreams. But it kept ringing, painfully and without mercy. He had to wake up.

He opened the door still half asleep, without checking who it was who had so callously awakened him.

“Nicholas, I have to talk to you…” said a rugged, somewhat sad voice.

Nicholas rubbed his eyes and was then able to see his landlord, Phillip Horsten, looking at him with an expressionless, blank stare.

“I’m really sorry, I’ve just woken up…” it was hard for Nicholas to set his vocal chords in motion. “Tell me, what do you need?”

He then remembered. Yes, that must be the issue… Nicholas was late with his rent. But it wasn’t his mistake! He should’ve already gotten his salary, but for some reason his bank account was still completely dry. How could Nicholas explain that his salary simply didn’t come? Will the landlord believe him?

“Nicholas, I’m afraid you’ll have to find another flat”, was the cold, bitter answer.

“But, sir!” Nicholas cried out. “I know I’m late now but I’ve always paid my rent in time. When I get my…”

“No, that’s not it”, the landlord stopped him. “My son is coming back to town and I need the flat back. I won’t be renting it anymore.”

Nicholas stood motionless, trying to process the information his brain refused to accept.

“I’m sorry, Nicholas, but it is what it is. It all happened too fast and I wasn’t able to inform you in time, but I would like you to move out by the end of next week.”

Nicholas wanted to say something, to complain, but the words remained stuck in his throat. He almost felt sorry for himself – always a lowly loser who can’t stand up for himself.

“I’m sure you’ll find something”, said Horsten and sympathetically patted Nicholas on the shoulder.

It felt false, and very hypocritical. Nicholas felt the rage simmer inside of him. But he still did nothing. He nodded in agreement and locked the door. He never really liked this flat. Maybe it would be better for him to move away from it, to forget about this bitter part of his life and, most importantly, to forget about her…

The alarm clock rang. Another set of maddening high-pitched sounds. Nicholas just couldn’t move and turn off the ringing. He couldn’t stop the deafening pain.

***

And that’s why he had to run… He was late for work, and that was something he couldn’t afford. On the way, a pigeon almost hit him, but it just grazed him with its wing. Nicholas suddenly felt as if someone was aiming at him, and shooting him with invisible missiles of sadness which dispersed once they hit his weakened body. And then, the pain would stick to him, and like some foul liquid soak his clothes, and absorb through every pore of his body, leaving him cold and covered with stains which can never be cleaned.

He stood in front of the door of the fast food restaurant he was working in and desperately reached for the key to open them as soon as possible. But they did it on their own, and Nicholas faced the boss’s red face.

“You’re late again!” he screamed.

Again? Nicholas couldn’t remember the time he was late. He always tried to come on time. Ashamed, he looked down, at his old, torn sneakers. And then he remembered the morning he was late. It was the day she left…

“I’m sorry” he said quietly.

“I’m not interested! I told you last time I won’t tolerate it! You can easily be replaced, you know!” the boss was very intimidating when he was angry.

“It won’t happen again…” Nicholas was still staring at his sneakers and was a bit ashamed of the way they looked.

“It doesn’t matter anymore! You’re fired!”

The door slammed before his eyes, and Nicholas finally had the courage look up. The place sickened him, stuffy and hot. He could feel it, no air inside, just the smell of food and human breath. The dreadful kitchen, repulsive pieces of red meat fried in deep oil which spattered around, greasy and nauseating. If the people who so voraciously devoured their hamburgers knew how horrible it was to spend hours and hours in that little oily room, they would surely never even think about eating the food that was made there.

But, unfortunately for Nicholas, it was his only source of income, and he would give anything to be let in again into that world of fat and blood. He wanted to go to college and make something of himself, earn his place in the social hierarchy, but the lack of money averted him from his plan. For the same reason, he was now wearing those dirty, torn sneakers. Maybe that was the reason she’d left. Because his clothes smelled like hamburgers and he wore disgusting sneakers.

“Nicholas!” a familiar voice called him.

Nicholas looked at the man who called his name in such a friendly, warm voice. But he couldn’t place his face into a story which would connect them. This man was dressed elegantly, in a smart suit and patent leather shoes. He carried a briefcase and a silk tie hugged his neck.

„Don’t you remember me? It’s me, Miles Richards! We went to school together.”

After hearing his name after a long time, Nicholas remembered his former colleague. The same man who was now looking down on him used to copy his homework and sometimes even exam questions. Miles wasn’t particularly smart or persistent, but his test results were always good.

Nicholas felt shame in front of this clearly successful man and he looked down. Across from his shabby sneakers, Miles’s shoes shined.

“Well, what happened to you? You don’t look so good”, Miles’s words seemed harsh, but his voice sounded sympathetic, almost worried.

“A lot’s happened… I’m being kicked out of my flat, and now from my job…” Nicholas wasn’t completely aware of his words. Why was he telling all this to a man he hadn’t seen for years and had never been particularly close to?

“Really?! O, don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. Come on, I’m taking you to lunch and we’ll talk.”

Even though Miles was just a barely known character from the past long forgotten, Micholas felt an inexplicable need to talk to him. He had no true friends; he lost contact with most of them after high school. Most of them went to college and then scattered all around the country and the world. And if he talked to his family, everyone would get worried and cause him even more headache.

In the end, it somehow happened that Nicholas moved in with Miles. Miles lived in a huge flat, but all by himself, so he offered Nicholas to stay one of the rooms for a few days, until he decides what to do.

Nicholas couldn’t sleep that night. He found himself sitting at the designer glass table which could’ve been his, in a living room filled with wonderful things which could’ve been his, in a flat which also could’ve been his, if only he’d had more luck.

Nicholas felt as if something was suffocating him. The air in the luxurious flat suddenly became too heavy for him to bear. His heartbeat accelerated and panic rushed through his body. It was so hard to stand up, but Nicholas couldn’t stand the stagnant atmosphere so he ran out into the street.

He was looking at the concrete, feeling too humiliated to look up. It was there, on the chilly street, where he realized that he forgot to put on his shoes. Maybe it was better this way. Better not to look at their shabbiness. His bare feet looked like the feet of a homeless beggar. Was that this destiny?

Nicholas couldn’t stand the thought so he finally raised his head to avoid looking at his feet. He then saw a flock of pigeons on the roof of the building. They stood there, almost completely still, like statues. They, which were given wings, just stand in resignation. They, which could easily fly away. Someone once said: “I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.” And it was true. Aren’t we free? Don’t we have the right to go wherever we wish? Why do we so cruelly put ourselves in boxes and impose rules on ourselves? Why did we even create a society which suits only a minority of lucky individuals?

Nicholas once again found it hard to breathe. He felt claustrophobic, and he felt watched. As if his own anger and panic became a separate being which was now lurking, hidden in the darkness around him, invisible but strongly present. He was afraid to look around, certain that some kind of creature might appear, so he kept looking at the top of the building. Yes, he would go there, up there where everything has to be better, where the pigeons are, pigeons which have wings and can fly!

The elevator ride was almost too much. Nicholas felt so feeble and unsafe in that tight little compartment. And then he was finally able to run out onto the roof.

The pigeons remained still.

Have you dozed off? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you flying away? Fly!

Nicholas stormed towards the pigeons; they got scared and flew away. It’s what they always do. If they feel some kind of danger, all they have to do is spread they wings and go somewhere safe. Nicholas sensed danger as well. Life was wrapping around him like a snake and threatening to suffocate him. Could he fly away, too? Leave to a different place, take a new path in life?

Why not?

Nicholas approached the edge carefully. What if he really tried to fly away? He would fall and become a lifeless, bloody stain. And maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would go to a better, fairer place. Or maybe to a place where he would be stronger, where he could look at others with arrogance and laugh at their poor life choices.

Steadily, he crossed the edge. He felt no more rage, no more sadness. Around him just cold air. And her face, a pair of green, almost yellow, cat shaped eyes. For a moment he remembered her eyes were actually blue. But it didn’t matter anymore, he would never see her again. But why were the feline eyes still staring at him? And why was he certain that the creature which followed him was closer than ever?

 ***

The next day, entire country was shocked by three murders which happened the same night. Phillip Horsten, a pensioner, Arnold Andrews, the owner of a fast food restaurant, and Miles Richards, a businessman, were all found dead in their homes. The police still don’t know if the murders were committed by the same person. The three men had never met.

The Map

Nadina waited impatiently for the passengers of the recently landed plane to pass through the glass door with a bright sign which spelled “arrivals”.

After a few years of separation, her best friend is coming to visit.

Nadina thought that she would never get used to a life without Eva. They were inseparable and shared everything. Well, almost everything. What Eva didn’t know about Nadina was that she had always been in love with her. Eva knew that Nadina dated women, but she never saw herself as one of those women. She was Nadina’s friend, and that put her in a completely separated category. And Nadina, despite always being honest to Eva, never had the courage to admit the truth. She didn’t think it would make any sense to do it. Eva was always a friend, and that was something she was not willing to lose. It was perfectly fine the way it always was. All right, maybe not perfectly, but still fine.

For a moment, Nadina got lost in her thoughts, so she didn’t notice Eva until she got quite close to her. From the moment Eva sent her an e-mail explaining that she was coming home for a while Nadina imagined this moment. And she almost missed it.

“Have you turned blind?” joked Eva and hugged her confused friend.

Touch meant reality.

“You haven’t changed at all”, smiled Nadina.

What a stupid thing to say, she thought. She needed time to gather her feelings, but she didn’t want to sound weird. She couldn’t believe Eva’s return shook her this much.

“I haven’t changed? So why didn’t you recognize me?” Eva continued in a joking tone. She always talked like that, remembered Nadina.

“Of course I recognized you. You haven’t even changed your hairstyle since I last saw you. I would recognize you from a mile away”, replied Nadina.

“Oh, well, that wasn’t so long ago”, said Eva.

“It depends how you perceive it… Five years is not that short”, noticed Nadina.

“Five years!” Eva seemed stunned. “That much? It seems less… Well, that must be my vanity, bursting out at the surface. I don’t want to admit that I’m slowly getting old.”

“To be completely honest, it is a bit less than five years. It was summer when you left, wasn’t it? I remember we went to the beach the day before. You knew you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sea that much once you leave.”

Nadina remembered it perfectly, but was afraid to admit. She had never been so sad. And Eva smiled, enjoyed the bright sun, sparkling sea and warm sand under her feet. A part of Nadina wanted Eva to be sad too. The other part was happy to remember her as she always was – irredeemably optimistic.

Nadina insisted that Eva lived with her for those few months she planned to spend in the town. There was no need for Eva to pay for an expensive hotel room. Nadine had a large apartment with two bedrooms which were mostly bare and lifeless. Nadina often slept on the couch, in front of the TV. The sense of loneliness eased in the presence of sound and moving images. Ever since Sofia left, Nadina felt surrounded by unpleasant emptiness.

“So, you never told me what happened with you and your girlfriend… Sofia, right?” asked Eva as she sunk into the bright yellow sofa, the only colourful thing in Nadina’s pale living room, and took a careful sip of hot tea.

“Not much to tell”, replied Nadine, looking thoughtfully at her cup. “It just didn’t work out.”

“Really? Just like that? After, how much, it must be at least seven years?”

“A little less than six, actually. Well, things like that happen sometimes”, Nadine looked at her fingers which grasped the teacup almost defensively. Her fingernails were short; she used to bite them. Somebody told her it is a sign of anxiety, or even depression, but she never believed it.

Her fingernails got uglier after Sofia left, it is true, but Nadina never really loved her. For Nadina, Sofia was a habit, and never excitement. They somehow ended up in each other’s lives, at that was all. At least in the beginning. It became complicated later on. Suddenly, Sofia cared too much, and the inability to respond to that pained Nadina. Eventually, it had to end. And now, sometimes, Nadine could feel that she truly missed Sofia. Everything was different. Sad and hollow.

Eva’s e-mail was a wake-up call for Nadina. An awakening from a long period of hopelessness. It seemed that nothing could be better than seeing Eva again. The unexpected visit soon became the only meaningful aspect of her existence. It was all she could think about, all she hoped for.

And now, Eva was finally here and it seemed there was so much to catch up with. But Nadine just didn’t know how…

“You know, Nadina, I didn’t come here just for a visit. To be honest, there’s a very specific reason for me coming here”, Eva said it all in one breath.

“So, why are you here for?” asked Nadina.

“You are probably going to think I’m crazy” snorted Eva.

“Well, I already think that”, laughed Nadina. “Come on! I have known you for centuries! You cannot surprise me anymore.”

That wasn’t true. Eva could always surprise Nadina.

“I know. That’s why I wanted to share this with you. But, please, listen to me until the end and don’t make fun of me!”

Nadine found Eva’s behaviour curious. Eva was never this careful and she always did whatever she wanted, no questions asked.

“Come on, already! You’re killing me!” Nadine hurried her.

“OK. But first there’s something you must see.”

Eva searched her travel bag and carefully drew out a large, yellow envelope, and presented Nadina with a weighty, brownish paper which looked like some sort of a parchment.

“I found this in an old book, completely by accident, while I was, bored as I often get, browsing through the oldest books I could find in the library. I don’t even know why I did that…” explained Eva.

A large map was opened before Nadina’s eyes. It was obviously drawn by hand, but it still looked very detailed and precise.

“See this?” Eva pointed at a little red cross.

“Like in a pirate film!” Nadina laughed out loud.

“Yes, with a slight difference that this is not a film. Who knows what lies there?!” Eva gently touched the little red cross.

“You can’t be serious?!”

“I might be…”

“But…”

“I found the place that the map represents. And guess what! It’s here! Just a short ride from the city. Can’t you see? The river is there, so the city should be below… It matches completely! Don’t you think it’s weird that I found a map of this place in a country so far away?”

Nadina didn’t know what to say. She wouldn’t like to hurt her friend who smiled so enthusiastically. Eva really believed in this insane fantasy. She had always been quite childish, and Nadina used to like it. Now, it seemed quite ridiculous.

“So, what are you planning to do?” asked Nadina warily.

“Find it, whatever it is, marked by the little cross.”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit silly to believe you’ll actually find something there?”

“Maybe, but don’t you think it’s worth a risk?”

Nadina wasn’t sure, and Eva realized that immediately.

“It’ll be fun. Just you and me, a real little adventure. So what if we find nothing! We never needed a reason to do something crazy.”

Nadina remembered the time when Eva persuaded her to sneak into their school at night. Nadina was very afraid. Eva wasn’t. There was no plan, and no point to that adventure. They did nothing, but they did have fun in the end. And that was the point. Fun.

Nadina didn’t have fun for years. She was always tense, a now Eva seemed to be her cure.

„You are right! We need to find the buried treasure!“

***

Lunch break. Nadina normally had no trouble concentrating on her work, nor did she find it tiresome. However, today was different. She couldn’t bare sitting at her desk, and she felt as if she was losing her precious time with Eva. Her friend came back after so many years, and she felt she should be with her. Strange how Eva’s arrival completely changed the pace of her life… And in just one day, Nadine stopped thinking of her office as a sanctuary. Today, she thought of things she should say to Eva, details of her life she could share, small things she has to show. She was scared they won’t be able to talk like they used to, and that they might run out of topics. She feared she might realize that something between them simply and irretrievably changed. That just mustn’t happen! Eva was always the most important person in Nadina’s life, and that cannot change.

“What’s with the frowning face?” chuckled the cheerful voice which belonged to Nadina’s colleague and friend, Lee.

Lee was an interesting girl, seemingly quiet and serious, but actually quite goofy. She always wore simple black dresses which got along perfectly with her completely black hair and eyes, and contrasted her pale complexion. Nadine imagined Lee’s closet was just a never-ending line of black dresses. Nothing ever distorted Lee’s black and white image, she even painted her nails in one of the two non-colours.

“Am I frowning?” Nadina was surprised. “I’m actually very happy. My best friend lived abroad for five years and now she’s back. She’s staying with me for a while.”

“Really? That’s nice”, replied Lee and put her lunchbox on the table.

Lee never ate the food they offered in the canteen. She was extremely picky with her food and she preferred to torture herself with cooking early in the morning, than with eating in the afternoon.

“Have you got any plans for the weekend? I assume you plan to hang out until you get tired of each other”, smiled Lee.

“Well, yes, actually, I think we are going on some sort of a field trip”, Nadina remembered the old map and realized how the whole idea still seemed absurd. And she feared Eva would be very disappointed when they find nothing. If they find nothing… But Nadina doubted it.

“A field trip? Sounds interesting. Where are you going?”

Nadina didn’t know where the map would lead them. She was ashamed to admit what the whole insane trip is really about. She bit her lip nervously.

“Well. You know, Eva is the one who organizes everything, so…”

Lee looked vigilantly at Nadina, who wanted to hide her face but couldn’t.

“Spill it out. Why don’t you seem thrilled by this whole field trip idea?” Lee asked starkly.

“I’m not sure myself…” admitted Nadina. She felt the need to share her feelings, and Lee was the only person she could call a friend for the last few years. “I’m acting like a boring, old woman. This trip should be fun, right? Eva stayed her same fun self, ready for action. And I… I want to be fun, but I am afraid I’m not anymore. And I don’t want Eva to see that.”

“You don’t have to do things you don’t want to just to prove you’re fun”, frowned Lee. “I don’t see you as old and boring.”

“I don’t know… Eva was my protector when we were in school. She was loved by everyone, and I was mocked for my ugly, round glasses. Once she started hanging out with me, everything got better. Nobody is as important for me as she is. And now, I’m afraid that changed. And she is not the one to blame for it, she stayed the same, I am the one who changed. When have I stopped being a little geek impressed by little things in life?”

“You never have. You are still that person”, smiled Lee. “You keep forgetting I know all about your collection of dragon toys. I even gave you one.”

Nadina cheered up.

“I still feel guilty because of that. You’ve had that dragon since you were a child.”

„I think he’s happier with others of his kind.“

***

Eva checked the map once again while she fastened her seatbelt. She insisted that she would drive, since it was all her idea in the first place. There is no need for Nadina to bother driving, she explained, especially if her directions are wrong and they end up driving for a very long time. She pushed the seat forward and put and old CD in the CD-player.

Nadina finally felt that this could be fun. The music was loud and they sang along the long forgotten tunes from their childhood. They couldn’t believe they still remembered the lyrics. They talked about nothing else. Nadina feared that this was all that bonded them. Memories of some really bad songs.

Then Eva stopped the car.

„We have to walk from here“, she said..

Nadina followed her without a word. The silence made her uneasy.

„You haven’t really said much about your life there“, she muttered.

„There’s not much to say. It’s fine“, Eva was focused on the track ahead of her.

„Have you met any interesting people“ tried Nadina.

„Yes, many. But none of them interesting enough to… Stay. You know?“

„You made no friends?“

„I did, actually. Just not any close ones.“

„I understand. I don’t really have friends either. Maybe just Lee…” Nadine started, but Eva stopped her.

„That sounds boring. Who do you go out with?”

„Well, since Sofia left I haven’t really been going out…“ admitted Nadina.

She did’t feel like sharing this with Eva who surely had a lot of fun. She was always surrounded by a bunch of people, and Nadine was her complete opposite. Eva never quite understood Nadine’s need for peace and quiet, but she respected it. And now, somehow all of their differences seemed greater. Insurmountable. It was so much easier once…

Nadina and Eva were silent for a long time. They weren’t on a path anymore, they walked on grass. And then, Eva cheered:

„It’s here!“

Tired, Nadina dropped her backpack on the ground and pulled out a bottle of water. Eva was still full of energy. She started digging.

„C’mon!“ she called Nadina. „Help me! It’s here, it must be here!”

Nadina sighed, but joined Eva. As the time passed, she stopped believing they would find anything. The hole in the ground was getting deeper and deeper, and then she finally gave up.

„I can’t do this anymore. There’s nothing here…“

„No! We must dig some more.“

„For crying out loud, let’s at least eat something!“

It was past 5 p.m. and they hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. For some reason, Nadina remembered Lee and her carefully prepared meals. The sandwiches they brought were quite dry, but they ate them quickly anyway.

“When you’re done we can start digging again”, said Eva.

“Already?!” mumbled Nadina and almost choked on a bite of her sandwich.

„Ok, we’ll rest a bit. Just don’t die on me“, Eva smiled.

„Maybe I made a mistake. I don’t understand…“ Eva looked at the map and started measuring distances again. They dug until they reached a giant stone. They couldn’t proceed.

“I think I took a wrong turn… We should have driven a little more… That must be it.”

„Eva! The sun is almost down! This is insane, we should go back! We won’t be able to reach the car at night.” Nadine was starting to panic.

“Well, we have sleeping bags. We can proceed in the morning”, shrugged Eva.

“Sleeping bags?! No, we should get back on the road and find a motel. I saw several…”

“I don’t see a problem with us staying here.”

„I’ve got only one sandwich left!” cried Nadine.

„I think you should leave it for breakfast“, was all that Eva had to say.

Nadina didn’t sleep at all that night. The sleeping bag wasn’t comfortable and she kept having a feeling of something slithering across her body. Each time she heard a strange sound, she would turn and desperately look at Eva who breathed slowly, safe in her dreams. Nadina felt like she was in a horror movie. And besides all that, she was agonizingly hungry.

Nadina regretted going to this crazy trip. She did it for Eva, but her friend showed no consideration. She barely spoke to her. Nadina felt like crying, but was too scared that something would hear her sobs.

In the morning, Nadina ravenously ate her old sandwich. Eva ate peacefully and looked rested. Then she went to check the map.

„It’s not here!“ Eva was distraught.

„Where did you put it last night?“ asked Nadina.

„Here, in this pocket! And now it’s gone!!“

Nadina pretended to look for the map, but was actually really happy that it was gone. Soon, she suggested they should go home.

Eva went mad.

“I thought you wanted this!” she yelled. “You don’t even care!”

Nadina drove home, and Eva stayed quiet.

When they came home, she moved to a hotel.

***

“I didn’t want it to be like that. I’m really sorry, Nadina. When I find the map I will call you and I promise it’s going to be great this time.”

A text from Eva came the next day. Nadina didn’t text back.

She called Lee instead.