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by Katerina Charisi
2016-10-02 09:45:33
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“I don’t believe you let them get our car for tonight”, I said as I hit the bent door of Jacob’s old truck, when we stopped in Jacksonsville’s square. The truck inside was so cold that I had to stomp my feet a few times to make the blood flowing again. I blew and rubbed my fingers and put them in my pockets. Michael came quickly and put his arms around me and we started walking to old Manon’s place. “Marianne doesn’t like the truck”, he said. “Let her be. After all this drama I just wanted to help Bradford with this. Marianne can get a real pain in the ass when things don’t get as she wants them. There won’t be another time, don’t worry”.

em0001_400He opened the door and the warmth burned my cheek and made my ears hurt. The cafe was almost empty. Only a man was sitting at the bar, head down, focused on his drink. Old Manon probably was at the back, for I didn’t see her anywhere. “Bar or table?” Michael asked. “Bar”. In this isolated life of mine, I enjoyed so much talking to someone that wouldn’t talk about the same things all the time, weather, farming, chores, hunting or chopping wood. Manon was an oasis in my loneliness’ desert. “Hold on, I want to say hi to Homer”, he said and went to the man sitting at the bar’s end.

The door opened and she came in, her sleeves up to her elbows, carrying a carton box, full of bottles that rattled together. She slammed the door with her foot. “Chilly, isn’t it?” she smiled as she dropped the carton box on the bar, showing her bright white teeth. The bottles rattled again. She went around the bar and got behind, then grabbed the box again and disappeared in the back. I laughed. “Chilly? Manon, it’s freezing!” She came back holding a thick bottle with a long neck, without a label. “What are you up to this time?” I asked her as she put the bottle in front of me.

“The solution for cold. The best cognac you’ll ever taste!” and she kissed her thick black fingers. I nodded. “Ok, make them two”. “Wi”, Manon replied and grabbed three old fashioned glasses. “Kouman ou ye?” She asked me  and filled the glasses to the middle, then took the one and pushed it to Michael at the other side. “N’ ap boule!” I replied, as Manon had told me to reply in creole. “Good, that’s good.” She said. Then she leaned and her large breasts squeezed at the bar. “But is it true?” She winked and showed Michael with her chin. “Let him stay a little with Homer”. She crossed her hands on the bar and looked at me with her wet deep brown eyes.

“So, the truth, kouman ou ye?”

I lowered my head. “I try.” She nodded. “It’s ...lonely”.

“Ahh. Loneliness. Bad friend for a winter out there.” She brought her glass before her lips, and took a large sip. “How are the Myers treating you?” I tried the cognac and I shivered as it ran down my throat. It was too strong. “My goodness!” Manon laughed. “Wi. Now drink”. I took another sip and shook my head. “Slowly Manon, or you’ll get me drunk. I’m not used to such drinks”.

“How is the family treating you?”, she insisted. I didn’t know what to say about that. They didn’t actually do anything, but I felt miserable, spied and alone, most of the times. “Fine, I guess... It’s... It’s hard to explain.”

“You don’t have to. I know. You are a stranger. That’s all. People and families can get really weird around here. If you are not one of them, you probably won’t ever be. And as I can see it, you are not the little girl who managed to escape her father’s domination to get under her husband’s and mother in law. So they fight you, with every way they can. And most of the times, you can’t even tell what hit you.”

She was right. I could just feel the wall they raised against me, even when they were being all friendly and caring. And Marianne? I couldn’t understand what she wanted from me. What she expected from everyone in the family. Still, there was nothing specific to explain.

“She managed to get your car, didn’t she?”

How did she know? “How did you know?”

“It’s a small town, and Jacob’s truck’s out there and Jacob is not here”, she said and smiled widely again. “Marianne is a good girl, but foxy. You must be careful.” She emptied her glass with another large sip. “You know, there was a girl like you, once. A stranger, a girl who showed up from nowhere and never fit anywhere. A free bird.”


“Wi. She came and went, just like that. She was lonely and independent... free. You remind me of her some times, as I look at you. We had some really good talking just right here, her sitting at the very same stool you now sit, drinking  cognac shots, always having a glass of cold water next to her”.

“Where is she?”

Manon shrugged her shoulders. “No one knows. She just left on her motorbike, as she always did, and never came back. She had no family, no attached to anyone, and as she kept coming and going away, everyone thought she just decide to leave. No one looked for her, no one ever asked.”

I saw her eyes darken for a moment.

“But you don’t believe that, do you?”

“Non. She was a tough person to get along with, but she would never leave without telling me.”

I didn’t know what to say about that.

“I have a friend with a motorbike”, I said. “She visited me the other day. She... kind of has the habit to show up and disappear, as you say about that woman”. I laughed. “Maybe it’s the bike. It makes you want to go away”, I added, feeling the sting of jealousy inside me. Free. How I missed this feeling.

“Oh, Emily was something else. She rode that bike of hers on a long, white dress. Her black leather boots were always deep in mud.”

“Emily you said? My friend’s name is Emily. Emily Winter. She wears a long white dress and a black leather jacket, torn on the elbows. You must talk about the same Emily I know.”

“That can’t be possible, little bird. The Emily Winter I know, disappeared 27 years ago.”

“So, what are you two talking about?”, Michael asked and pulled a stool to sit next to me.

I held my breath.


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