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The Silent Tree
by Katerina Charisi
2016-04-17 12:38:32
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“Where have you been? I was looking everywhere for you!”

I got all the way back to the manor, trying to kill time, picking yellow and pink wild flowers, standing to listen to the sounds of nature, watching the insects and enjoying the sense of freedom that was all around me. I forgot already about the woman in the dress. It was just a silly, instant foul of my eyes. I found the Myers on the porch, watching closely every one of my steps till I got there. When he saw I was alive and well, Jacob nodded at me and stood up to get back to his work with Sam in the sheds. I felt embarrassed as they stared at me, but most of all I felt left an outsider. I felt like a stranger and I couldn’t help thee feeling. It was too early to get this feeling twice. In those few seconds I had before I say something, I recalled the days of planning our life here. I mentally tried to find a fraud to Michaels’ promises for a happily ever after.

meli01_400“I went to the lake”, I said and only then I noticed that grandma Cornelia was out there with them too. My God, I thought, was that bad that I got out of the manor that it made even Cornelia show up?

“Come, my dear, sit. It’s grandma here too. You will love to meet her”, said Frances like nothing was going on, smiling and with that chirping way of her to sound always delighted. I sat next to her and looked at Michael sideways, celebrating my little victory for the hearing was over. Michael looked elsewhere. Frances poked me in my sides. “You won’t have very often the opportunity to see her”, she giggled.

“I’m happy to meet you grandma”, I said. “I’ve been here for a couple of days and I was wondering when I would have the chance to see you”. Frances looked so pleased from my reply. Grandma’s face was old and carved and her eyes blank. She had her fingers crossed on her lap. Her long, black dress was touching the wooden floor. She nodded and whispered something. “Silent tree”, I thought it was, but it couldn’t be. “Excuse me, I...”-

“How did you get down there?” Michael asked.

“I walked, how else?”

He dropped his arms on his sides. Bradford stood up and Marianne did the same. “We have to go, mother”, he said. “Everything is okay here. I need to get this car back. I think we will be back for lunch. But if we don’t, you eat, don’t wait for us. I think I’ll go and check at the house too. The roof has a leak somewhere. I will probably have to get Simon back there and fix it”.

“Don’t you need your brother, for help?” Frances asked and for a second I felt my face flashing red. It is our Sunday, damn it, we have our own plans. “No, I’m fine”. They walked to the cars, Sam opened the gate and I they drove the way down, until they turned to get to the main road and couldn’t see them anymore.

“You walked? Are you nuts? It’s over a mile to get there! Jenny, why didn’t you ask me to give you a ride? This place is unfamiliar to you, you can’t just start walking and wander around like that.”

“Michael! I am not a child. I wanted to walk, I didn’t want a ride. And so, I walked. It’s not that far. You hate walking, I understand that, but I love it. How am I supposed to get to know the place better, if I can’t just start walking and wander around, anyway?”

meli02“No, you can’t just do that. You have plenty of time to get familiar with the area. You live here, now. But you can’t leave without telling anyone. It’s dangerous out there. And it is not a lake, it’s a damn swamp!”

I felt anger overwhelming me. What was wrong with him? Since when I was supposed to report my moves? And most important, since when this place was dangerous? I mean, wasn’t he the one who convinced me that living in the city was dangerous, while here was all quiet and peaceful, the perfect place to start a family and have kids? I asked all these questions in a single breath. Cornelia murmured something again and stood up with some effort, Frances helped her and held her arm, but she prodded her. “I can walk”, she said with her broken voice. “Of course you can walk”, said Frances. But she didn’t let grandma’s arm. They went back inside, and again I thought I heard Cornelia murmuring something like “silent tree”.

“Jenny”, he said calmer this time, “I didn’t mean it this way. You know it. Just look at where you are. This is the only house here. There are no close neighbors. You are here for a few days, without knowing anything and no one, and you already open the gate and just go, telling no one. There’s a swamp down there, tricky and yes, dangerous at times, the woods in the back and a large field around here, with all kinds of plants and insects, rotten sheds and even a couple of old wells. Do you know where those wells are? Of course you don’t. You can’t just wander around yet like that”.

I sighed. “Okay, next time I will tell you where I go, I promise. Or someone else, anyway”.

He put his arm round my shoulders and pulled me close to him. “Come on city girl, I am going to take you to my town, now. Old Manon makes the best coffee and hot chocolate in the world”.

“Even better than mine?” I lifted my eyebrows in disbelief.

“Oh, I’m sorry, but no one can do her magic. In winter, she adds a pinch of cayenne pepper and cognac and you feel the heat and the blood flowing hot in your veins. I can’t compare it with any other thing, it’s just so different from everything”.

 The tense was all gone. There were so many things waiting for me to discover them. I admitted to myself that at least about something he was right. I should let someone know where I go, I could do that. I wouldn’t want to get lost or bitten or anything, and be left out there, while the house is so close. Although, I didn’t think I would ever get so far that I wouldn’t see the house. Sam stopped pruning the roses and opened the gate for us. He touched his hat and nodded goodbye.

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