30th of July
We drove to the medieval festival in La Garde, which is located about thirty kilometers from St Cyr. We arrived when the sun was setting behind a beastly-looking rock, towering over the houses, with a chapel blended into it.
We hurled ourselves into having fun, and the event was getting even more interesting with the night falling. In one of the squares, a group of funny-looking musicians dressed in colorful clothing played the medieval music. I found the drummer particularly crazy since he kept rolling his eyes and seemed to have been invaded by the music, which made him scream to the rhythm of the drum. In front of the band, there was a court jester dancing and showing a variety of tricks to the spectators.
That night, the entire La Garde traveled back in time, and in the light spread by the torches, I really had the impression of walking around a movie set or being a character of a novel.
“Maybe you are a character of some novel but you don’t know it yet,” said Julia, making me become even more charmed by her in moments like that.
Streets were full of well-bred ladies, knights, and ordinary townsmen. I kept asking myself whether they traveled in time or I did, but any dubieties withered away the moment some of them took smartphones out of their historical garb’s pockets, and one of the knights set out into the darkness on his whirring scooter.
There was a market being just opened in front of the church, where the loud-mouthed vendors offered daggers, medieval clothes, and cookies; consecutive stands were occupied by craftsmen: a potter throwing pots and a blacksmith forging old swords into new ones amongst the jumping sparks. We bought ourselves pomme d’amours covered in a thick layer of frosting and took a walk around La Garde, getting immersed in the medieval feel of the place.
There was a house next to which one could learn how to perform a traditional Irish dance; further down the road, a group of Scots was traversing the town, carrying banners and playing their bagpipes. In the house at the top of a silent street controlled by a bunch of cats, on old man with a grey beard and small funny-looking glasses taught the art of calligraphy. I told Robert he could take advantage of the opportunity but he only laughed, declaring that his handwriting was incurable. He would rather gaze with relish at the German feast by the long table laden with food.
Julia dragged us to the medieval ball, where we swirled to the music played by a chamber orchestra and occasional rounds of applause launched by the people passing by. Then, we returned to the market, where we began our journey through the night.
We entered the church. Inside, it was dark and silent – neither sounds of the festival nor orange glow of the streetlamps were allowed in the temple. Candle flames shimmered on the altar, leaving serpents of light along the walls. The air was saturated with their scent, which merged with the angelic singing of a small choir standing in front of the altar. The church carried us to a different world, to the times before our birth, when the words hadn’t been given their shape and hadn’t taken their current form, yet. We set our senses at ease, becoming one of the shadows sunk in the darkness.
I shuddered suddenly. I felt like being lifted up by something. My unconsciousness took possession of me and commanded me to raise from the bench.
“I have to get out for a moment,” I whispered to Julia and Robert. “I’ll be back.”
I came out of the church. The festivities hadn’t stopped yet but the medieval music seemed to be fading away until all I could hear were the distant sounds of a guitar playing a sad melody. I felt that the guitar summoned me, like a lighthouse calls the ship being tussled by the storm to look for shelter in the port. Following the voice of my heart, I started to climb the hill, trying to find my way among the dark streets, in order to reach the small garden located in front of the chapel, which towered above the town.
The sounds of the festival came to me from a very distant place, and the light of the streetlamps resembled the candles I’d seen earlier on the altar. As I approached the terrace, a blonde girl emerged from the shadow, smiling charmingly. She had an olive branch behind her ear. Her feline eyes glittered brightly like two jewels thrown into a dark chasm, and I told to myself that the glare of those eyes could fully replace the sunlight. She propped her guitar against a tree and came closer to me. She was one of those people who are ephemeral like roses – one touch and they disappear, vanish into thin air.
“Sweet dreams!” she said, but it wasn’t just a simple goodnight, rather a promise, a gentle invitation to the land of dreams, which she had conjured up on her own like a fairy.
I wanted to answer her but eventually I arrived at the conclusion that no words could express my feelings. She took me to the guardrail, and we looked down on the town immersed in the festivities.
“You’re a writer, aren’t you?” she asked with a degree of timidity. I shook my head. I had my eyes riveted on her. “Please, immortalize me then.” I wanted to touch her hand but she moved away slightly. “Not now. I’m far away from here, too far.”
We continued our conversation, losing count of time. Each word she uttered was a seed that enabled flowers to grow in my imagination. I connected that image with other images that exist beyond the limits of time like dreams being handed down from one generation to another, and so we drifted between the land of fable and reality, while the stars of eternal love kept shining above our heads.
A scene from life
Grand festivities were being held in La Garde. The streets were filled with ladies from affluent aristocratic families, ordinary townsmen, knights and their squires. A group of colorful troubadours entertained the people who pretended to pass them accidentally; in the other part of the town, there was a great feast; further down the street, the vendors set up their stands, trying to outshout the noise and commotion in order to sell their products to the crammed human mass, which flowed along the market stands, resembling an endless river.
In a small garden by the chapel, high above the streets of the town – where the racket of the boisterous festivities was muted as if it came from the other side of a thick wall and meant nothing in the presence of the silent vastness of the sky and the stars scattered on its countenance like freckles – two people were leaning against the guardrail. Above the sparkling streets of La Garde and all that transient fiesta, confined in the world of their own feelings like two balloons flying away of each other and then getting closer again, dependent on the goodwill of the wind, connected with reality by means of thin cords being held by a frightened child. A solitary lamppost chased away the obtrusive particles of darkness that attempted to swarm their light bodies. Lisa and Christophe kept stealing glances at each other, being afraid of revealing secrets they had carefully concealed even from themselves.
“Why have we come to this particular place?” Lisa batted her eyelashes. “We have never met like that before… you know… like only the two of us.”
He found courage to make the first move.
“Lisa, please understand… that I like to spend time with you.”
She seemed as though she didn’t catch his words.
“I feel a bit insecure here, like a stranger… and the rustle, these steps of invisible people growing quiet, as if somebody was watching us. Why don’t we go somewhere else?” She tucked her hair behind her ear.
“Oh, but it’s so beautiful. Let’s stay here.” Christophe tried to embrace her with a smile. Lisa sighed and straightened up. “Sometimes I think that life is like a washing machine and people are the socks. I guess it makes some sense, doesn’t it? Or not. It’s absurd. It’s that… how do you call it… balderdash? Yes, balderdash. That’s a suitable word.”
“You’re funny.” Lisa had just concluded an internal scuffle with sadness, or just the false appearance of it, which had dragged her into the depths of the past, so now her face was illuminated with an honest smile. Christophe looked into her eyes, the two emeralds lost at the bottom of the shiny ocean. He was aware that he would lose himself in those eyes forever if he didn’t look away.
“You say funny in a funny way,” he blinked at her.
Lisa started to tap a twisted unobservant rhythm on the guardrail with her long, slender fingers. She dangerously leaned over the rail.
“Today, you’re so… different. I haven’t seen you being so serious.”
“Maybe that’s what I am. When I make a fool of myself, I do it to make you smile. That’s the only reason. For a smile.”
They both liked such games although there was something more to it hidden inside their hearts, something unnamed and the most ephemeral, manifesting itself in the quick glances and brief meetings of their eyes. Christophe would often dream about Lisa, imagining her face amongst the colorful crowds at a ball. Lisa would dream about an accident of the bus they rode together, coming out of the wreck as half-ghosts and then walking along the paved road into the abandoned city, speaking: “If you have to die, let’s do it together.”
The wind brought a breeze of warm air. “Rain wouldn’t do us any harm,” thought Christophe. “How pleasant it is today,” thought Lisa.
“You’re a fairy. Do you know that?” Christophe approached her. “You’ve got magic powers, just like the one in the Peter Pan.”
“Yeees… and I give all my powers away. After a long moment of silence, I come out for a second to sing, and then I disappear right away. Like a cicada. Cicada, cicada… Everyone hears it but hardly anybody ever… well, forget it. At the moment, I’m nobody. Believe me.” She sat down, propping her back against the guardrail. She closed her tired eyes. “I would have to become somebody else, which isn’t possible.”
“Become somebody else? It can’t be easier. Just take a look at me.” Christophe made a couple of dance moves, then sat down and sighed heavily as if he breathed out all his internal quandaries and deeply-hidden pains. He wanted to say something more but he didn’t feel certain enough.
Lisa remained silent for a while, gathering her thoughts. She didn’t know what powers had brought her here and what they wanted from her. Christophe held his breath. The heat of festivities in La Garde didn’t fade, not even for a second. Night was falling, spreading its dark wings. The pale moon emerged from behind the clouds.
“They shouldn’t be doing this. They shouldn’t, they shouldn’t…” whispered Lisa, looking ahead. She though she caught a glimpse of something moving in the darkness but she decided to ignore it.
Christophe retreated into his thought. He kept changing the roles he played, just like she did. She did it all the time. However, maybe that was their destiny – he was a poet, and she was an actress. Or the other way around.
When somebody asked them what they thought about themselves, Christophe insisted that nobody would believe if they heard the truth. Then, Lisa would burst into the chaotic, indescribable laughter. They were like magnets that didn’t stop changing positions, repelling and attracting themselves; they didn’t want to acknowledge the strong interaction between them.
“You’re right. People say one thing, then forget about it and say something else. They talk to you but they actually don’t think about you. They don’t know what to think about. There’s nothing you can be certain of.”
“Those wise sayings of yours…”
Christophe pretended he hadn’t heard anything.
“You can’t do anything about it. One day you’ve got something, and the next day it’s gone.”
“Everything’s fine until it’s not.”
“Those wise sayings of yours…” They started to banter with each other once again.
“Stop, you’re snuffing me out. Like a child… like a small child snuffing out a candle on a birthday cake. You’re exploiting me.” She pouted.
“No, I’m not. It’s me who’s getting exploited.”
“Oh! Now I’m miffed. I won’t talk to you anymore.” Lisa turned away, and so did Christophe. They sat like that for a while and then laid down their arms.
“What about Simon and Julie? What about them?”
“I’ve always detested Julie. And Simon… I don’t like him either. But don’t tell him that.” Christophe recalled that Lisa had lots of laughs every day with them. “I don’t like you as well.”
Her words echoed inside his head. It must have been a game. Just a game. Only God knows whether it’s a game. It can’t be anything else.
“No, I’m not. You are.”
“I don’t believe you.”
They both looked at each other with anxiety, and then they burst into laughter. They stood up and leant over the guardrail, observing the streets below and trying to guess the thoughts of all those unique individuals – the “magicians”, as Lisa called them – who kept coming out of the darkness, only to disappear in that darkness again. A few minutes later, Christophe had already been in the middle of one of his flagship stories.
“Next to the beach, there was a hill with a palm tree growing on top of it. Below that tree, there was a fisherman swinging his legs above the clear table of water and fishing. I was coming down the hill when I was stopped by a man. He said in English that he wanted me to take a photograph of him; I agreed. For a short moment, I waited for him to hand me his camera but then he asked me to take the picture with my own camera. Can you believe it? I took the picture, and he walked away, being clearly contended. One of many who wanted to leave their trace… And I deleted the picture afterwards. It was natural that I deleted it. Some things are just inconceivable!”
Lisa laughed, shaking her head.
“You’re insane,” she said.
“Look who’s talking!” Christophe started to laugh.
They were both a bit insane. He would describe himself as a wearied traveler who traversed various lands and finally discovered the hill that he had been looking for; he was so close that he could admire its beauty but he still didn’t know how to climb it. He hoped that Lisa felt something similar. And that he would learn that one day.
Lisa had a soul of an adventurer. She didn’t think about the things she did; life was like a piano to her but she didn’t push individual keys – she simply played the instrument. She kept fighting with Christophe’s past, and he fought hers. She had everything: freshness of the spring, endlessness of the summer, colors of the autumn, and the mystery of the winter. She sensed that they had to remain together, that they couldn’t leave each other.
Sometimes, it seemed to them as if they had already experienced all of that or that their fates had been already written down; that they only kept discovering consecutive scraps of the lost beginning, no matter what they did.
“I think I should go now. Good night.” Christophe wanted to move away but she held him back. He looked at her in surprise.
“Wait a moment. I want to tell you something. Can I?”
Christophe nodded. They were facing each other, resembling two tiny figures surrounded by the darkness against a background of the enormity of the starry sky.
Lisa was about to open her mouth when somebody screamed from between the nearby trees.
“Cut! Cut! It’s a wrap! You did great, I’ve never seen anything more authentic… Keep it like that!”
They were blinded by the spotlights, and the small garden adjacent to the chapel suddenly became the oasis of light in the desert of night. People started to emerge from nowhere, circling Lisa and Christophe like the scavenging vultures, screaming, making gestures, and throwing the glowing cigarette stubs away just anywhere.
Lisa wasn’t looking at Christophe. He lowered his eyes as well. He shrugged.
“Don’t worry. It’s just another scene, and we’re acting…”
They leant against the guardrail; their shoulders touched. They shifted their gaze onto the streets in the town below. It was already past midnight, and the festivities in La Garde were just about to end.
To be continued
The whole novel can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Twist-Fate-Mikolaj-Wyrzykowski-ebook/dp/B00W63AV26?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0