24th of July
It was Robert’s birthday. Julia had already bought him heaps of presents, claiming that each of those things would last until the end of his life. On the preceding day, we came up with the scheme for celebrating his birthday. At night, when Robert was already asleep, we took him on his bed to another house at the vineyard, where we met the boy who had taken us to Baptiste ten days earlier. He introduced himself as Henry but to us he would always be Alain Delon. He came out of the house with us, leaving his friends inside to wait until morning.
The décor of the house had been changed so that Robert would feel as if he suddenly switched identities with someone else. He was woken up by the trumpet blown by one of Henry’s friends, who claimed to be Robert’s cousin and then, since Robert seemed to be quite confused about his whereabouts and the entire situation, he told him the fake story of his life. He wasn’t wide-awake yet so he easily believed in the colorful, almost mythological story and was just about to get up when there was a loud knock on the door. Before his cousin reached the door, it was forced open. A bunch of Henry’s friends wearing ski-masks broke into the room and, shouting at the top of their voices, accused Robert of breaking out of prison, arrested him, and promised him he would be back where he belonged and that he would probably never see the daylight again. The cousin was brutally pushed back; Robert, who was petrified, was blindfolded, arrested, and escorted out – straight to our house where we waited for him with a birthday cake, loudly singing “Happy Birthday”. At first, he wanted to jump us but instead he hugged everyone in laughter.
“You, guys, are fruitcakes!” he said. “I just love you!”
In the evening, Baptiste presented him with two bottles of http://kudlaczewpodrozy.pl/wp-admin/post-new.phpwine, a rosé one and a red one.
“These are the vintages I don’t normally sell,” he confessed. “They’re reserved for friends only.” He smiled from the bottom of his heart, wishing Robert all the best, and when Robert said that drinking Baptiste’s wine made him feel like he was in heaven, Baptiste gave him another two bottles and squeezed his hand as if they had known each other since childhood.
“I’m getting older…” Robert shook his head. “Another year behind…”
“Another year with us, think about it this way,” said Julia with a smile.
We returned to the house, and I suggested watching a movie. I hadn’t seen anything for a long time; I didn’t need it, but I thought it would be fun to watch something together. Robert approached the cupboard with the TV set and began to browse through the DVDs lying around in a complete disorder, muttering to himself and putting boxes aside whenever he found a movie with French being the only language available.
“Titanic!” he finally shouted with joy and at the exact same moment, Julia lowered her shoulders, making a disappointed face. “I’ve seen it a thousand times but who cares. I just love the story of the Titanic. Not only the one depicted in the movie,” he explained after a moment of embarrassing silence, inserting the disc into the player. “There was a writer who was inspired by the fever he suffered from and wrote a short novel. He told a story of the biggest passenger ship ever built; it was supposed to be invincible but it sank on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg. It was known as the Titan.” Robert spoke with keenness, making short pauses only for the purpose of taking breath. “Moreover, it sank in the same area as the Titanic did, resulting in a similar death toll due to the insufficient number of lifeboats. Can you imagine? Even the date of the tragedy matched and the Titanic’s captain had the same name as the captain from the novel, which was written fourteen years earlier! It seems the disaster had been predicted…”
“Maybe it was all supposed to be like that,” I finished with a smile, helping Robert out with it. It was a great story. I had never heard it before, and I didn’t know whether it was true or he made it up, but I liked it anyway. Although I wanted to tell him that, I added nothing more than: “So, are we watching the movie or what?”
It turned out the disc was broken and there was no sound. We had some fun imitating the characters’ voices for a while but then, we decided to watch “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” with English subtitles.
Meanwhile, the rosé wine had already been chilled in the refrigerator so we took it out, uncorked it, and poured the wine into glasses, once again wishing all the best to Robert. In the middle of the movie, we heard a thunder, and a moment later the lightning tore the night sky apart. Rain started lashing down.
“You’re lucky,” Julia said to Robert. “There’s rain wherever you show up. Your birthday can’t be peaceful.”
“It must be a sign,” Robert was just getting his hands on the bottle of red wine.
We had great time, and if my eternity could be formed with the days of my own selection, I would definitely pick that day as one of them. Once the movie was over, Julia snatched us both for a dance, laughing in golden colors. For a short while, the world whirled inside my head, and when I landed again on the couch, I felt as if I left my body, circled the room around as someone else, and eventually returned to my own body. I had the impression that the air was thickening and that I was a fish in an aquarium, which kept changing its shape.
“Let me tell you a secret, Charles.” Robert sat down next to me. His voice was coming from a very distant place, and at the same moment, I recalled the secret that Florence hadn’t told us in the end. “Let me tell you… one day, we’re all going to be rich and famous. All three of us deserve to be the characters of a novel…”
“Let it rest, Robert.” I didn’t like to talk about the distant future because all we had at the moment were the images pictured in our minds. I was fully aware of the imagination’s power, and I didn’t want to let it replace reality.
“But I wanted to tell you…”
“Let it rest, I’ve already told you. We’ll see what life brings.” I patted him on the shoulder.
“I’ve just been thinking about my classmates from high school,” said Julia. “Everyone came to the school, then left it… that kind of connections is always made of thin paper…”
“I’d like to keep in close contact with you for the rest of my life,” declared Robert, and as a confirmation of his words, we had a toast to our friendship.
It’s hard to believe how much the trip had changed him. When I had met him, he would rather remain silent until there had been something really important to say; now, he was the life of the party. I wanted to compose a short poem about him but I couldn’t find any words that would rhyme with his name, so I told him it would be way better if his given name had been Matthew. Then, I started to walk around the room, humming like a mantra, “Matt, Matt… what’cha lookin’ at?”
“You’re quite a character, Charles. You’ll grow into a good person.” Robert shook his head in laughter.
Julia and I kept wishing him all the best for his birthday as if we had completely forgotten that we had already done so at least a few times. We didn’t go to our beds until midnight was long gone. The storm didn’t stop, the wind was still hitting the windows, and the rain was even heavier. I had a dream, and I was pretty certain that I had already had a similar one, but I kept waking up now and then, being unable to focus and distinguish the real lightning ripping up the sky from the fruits of my imagination.
To be continued
If you want to purchase the entire novel uou can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Twist-Fate-Mikolaj-Wyrzykowski-ebook/dp/B00W63AV26?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0