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Curiosity almost Killed me

 

The parking lot was empty and I found a place to park my brand new Audi 5, a birthday present from my uncle, under a tree. The shadow that its provided was very welcome on that hot day.

I took my backpack, my camera, a bottle of water and put on my cap. Before stepping out of the car I surveyed the area, nobody around. It was very quiet, except for the sound of the wind rushing the trees. Personally I find it very strange.

I like the sun, the summer days, and enjoy being outside. But it seemed to me that the people around there, preferred to be inside.

I step out of the car and a blast of hot air hit me. Ok, was very hot, I understood why there was nobody around. I considered getting back in the comfort of the air conditioning and drive to the next village. But it was enough to look around, and I was immediately caught by the view.

I like to travel on my own, stopping where I feel like and explore the place. I don’t know why that village had appealed to me. Some inexplicable force drove me there. Fate, maybe, you name it.

Nevertheless, the view of the fortified church perched on the top of the hill surrounded by the vineyards, worth it. Oh yes, they were known for producing the best white wine of the region. I made a mental note to stop by one of the caves and buy some wine.

I downed half of my water preparing myself for the long walk. I caught a small movement on the window in a house on the other side of the parking lot. I felt as I was being observed. People are naturally curious, including me. I didn’t give it any thought, which now I know, I should have.

I made my way through the narrow streets up to the hill., stopping to take pictures of the half-timbered houses in Renaissance style.

When I got to the church I was very glad for having ignored the heat. The view from up there was breathtaking. I took more pictures of the vineyards, the village and the church. I could not resist and made a selfie with my mobile and sent it to my uncles.

I didn’t introduce myself, how rude of me. I’m Rick, Rick York, twenty four years old. My parents died in a car accident when I was seven years old. I was raised by my father’s brother and his wife. They could not have children, so they raised me as their own son. I’m very grateful to them both. They gave me everything I asked for and more. I have a loving family. I have enough money. Even so, I felt lost, as I had no purpose in life. Maybe it has something to do with losing my parents, I don’t know. These two weeks holidays, was my uncle’s idea, before I would start working at his company. Enough about me, let me continue to tell you my story.

I took my cap off and entered the church. The cold air welcomed me. I sat on the wooden bench and dried the sweat off my forehead with my stained handkerchief. Thirsty, I sipped my water, but it was lukewarm, I put it back in my backpack. I took my time appreciating the frescoes and the organ case. Fifteen minutes later I put my sunglasses back on and walked out in the scalding sun.

I don’t like graveyards, bad memories, but out of curiosity,  I entered the 18th cemetery and distracted myself reading the inscriptions on the stones. I didn’t expect to see anyone there, but there she was, wearing a long sleeveless white dress and a dark blue hat with a large brim, covering part of her face. She was crying. Not resisting, I walk toward her and she turned and looked at me.

Embarrassed, I offered her an apologetic smile. She didn’t smile back, instead she pursed her lips in disapproval. I felt as I was intruding. Well, yes, I was. She turned her back to me, but she had picked my curiosity. I moved to the other side, so I could see her face better.

Her lips moved as in a prayer and silence tears continued to trickle down . Spellbound by her simple beauty and by the sad and at the same time angry look on her face, I could not take my eyes off her. She seemed oblivious to my presence. She didn’t stop praying or talking to the dead.

I jumped, surprised by her sudden fury. She cursed aloud and fall to her knees sobbing. I could no longer watch her misery without doing anything. I approached her and without thinking I touched her shoulder.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

If a lightening had hit her she would not be so startled as she was. Her face was pale as a sheet of white as her dress, but her eyes were alive with rage. She shouted at me, leaped to her feet and run.

Once again she took me by surprise, and for some inexplicable reason I run after her. I caught her at the cemetery entrance.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Angry, hurt eyes glared at me.

“Go away! Stay away from me.” She yelled. “Isn’t enough what you did to me?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. You were crying, I just want to help.”  That’s what you get for being a gentleman.’ I scold myself.

She eventually came to her senses. Big brown eyes blinked at me, as she was seeing me for the first time. She scrutinized my face and shook her head, dismissing some unpleased memory. She inhaled deeply and exhaled, ten times, I counted.

“Sorry it is just you… you remind me of someone. Sorry!” she repeated and walked away. Her eyes still flashed with anger, surprise and fear.

“Wait, wait, please! I’m Ricky. What’s your name?”

“Don’t you dare to follow me.” She warned me and run away.

I didn’t follow her, although her warning was an invitation for me to do just that. I had no rights to ask her for an explanation and I already had made a fool of myself. I watched her getting in her car and with tires squealing drive away.

Determinate to find who she was and why all that rage, I went back to the cemetery and tracked down the grave. I pulled out of my backpack a notebook and wrote down the name and the dates. Using my mobile I searched for a library nearby.

I pulled my car in front of the library and before I could stop myself, I was inside asking to see the newspapers from 2014. I had no idea why I was so interested in finding out who Jean Marcel was and what had happened to him. Not him, but who was the mysterious lady and which was the connection between them.

I put the date and the name and waited for the computer works its magic. It didn’t take long for the front page of the local newspaper fill the screen. A picture of a young man, looking lovingly at a woman in front of the church. The same church I had visited an hour ago. My mysterious lady looked happy and in love. I took a close look at the man and I stunned found out why she was so surprised, I looked like him. The same short sandy hair, the same straight nose, pale gray eyes and pointed face. He was two years older than me.

If I wasn’t sure that I was an only child, I would think that that man was my brother. The similarity was big.

Jean Marcel had died three years ago saving his pregnant wife from their house on fire.

“Uh! That explains a lot.” I whispered.

I printed a copy of the article.

“In a city of this size won’t be difficult to find her.”

But why in heaven’s name I wanted to find her? She didn’t want me going after her. What was I supposed to say to her?

Despite the uncalled rage toward me that  beautiful woman had awoken something in me.  I run my fingers through my hair to dismiss the urge of going after her. I ripped the copy and threw it in a trash can.

Hungry and thirsty I looked for a place to eat. The two restaurants were closed and the pub wasn’t inviting. I crossed the square and turned the street on my right, at the end there was a Cafe.

I glimpsed at the menu hanging outside and entered. I chose a table near the window and waited for the waitress.

For the second time that day I met those big brown eyes burning with rage and something else. Something bad that made the hair on the back of my neck stand. I simply ignored it.

She recomposed herself. “What I can I get for you?” she asked.

“Sparkling water and number three.” I pointed at the menu I was holding.

She didn’t write my order down; she stood beside me, holding her pen and notepad, sizing me up. Then she looked around nervously to see if anyone was paying attention to us. “Sorry.” She whispered and hurried to place my order.

She puzzled me, one minute rage, then surprise and sadness, then as if nothing had happened, she takes a good look at me and says sorry.  I was glad that I met her again by accident and not wasted my time looking for her.

If there was another waitress I was sure she would not come back with my order.

I thought about telling her that I knew why I had scared her. Well, who would not be? Picture that, you’re in cemetery praying or talking to someone you know is dead, when you turn around you face a man that looks pretty much like the dead. That was scaring. I had no rights to confront her or to snoopy into her life.

Ten minutes later she was back, without a word; she put the plate with the sandwich and the bottle of water on the table and hurried to see the old couple that had just arrived.

Although her beauty and attitude appealed to me, I knew when it was a lost case. I didn’t want to get myself in trouble.

I finished and left the money on the table and walked back to my car.

I drove to the next village and checked into a hotel for the night. That night I dreamed of her scrutinizing my soul with her big brown eyes.

Three days passed and I could not stop thinking of her. Despite my guts telling me to stay away from her, I went to see her.

I went to the Café and there she was, beautiful as ever. This time she didn’t avoid me. She was shy, but amicable. It was a progress. On an impulse, I asked her what time she would finish her shift and invited her out. She said yes.

I found a hotel for me. I shaved, showered and at seven o’clock I was waiting for her in front of the Café.

We had dinner and without me asking she told me what had happened to Jean Marcel and the baby she was expecting.

Very sad story. Their house caught on fire and she was locked in their bedroom on the second floor. Jean Marcel saved her, but he didn’t get out in time. She lost the baby shortly after.

I drove her home and we arranged to meet the next day.  I could not resist her full lips and kissed her. She didn’t protest. And for a fraction of a second I saw a glint in her eyes that made shiver.

Next day, ignoring my guts telling me to stay away from her, I drove to her place. She had promised to take me to a wonderful castle nearby.

We walked hand in hand, exploring the beautiful castle and its gardens. She wanted to know everything about me, about my family.

I told her about my parents, my uncles and about his company. The company I would run when my uncle retired. Once again, I saw that glint in her eyes. It gave me the creeps. I ignored it.

She insisted that I should stay at her place not in a hotel. I didn’t think twice, I wanted her badly. She had bewitched me. Everything was happening too fast.

She lived in a big house. The house had been recently refurbished. I wondered how she got the money. She told that they had lost everything in the fire, and I doubted that she made much money waiting tables.

We spent the night together and I woke up with her in my arms. I thought she would have to go to work, but she said she had the whole week free.

She prepared breakfast for us and refused help. After breakfast she took me on a tour.

We came back to her place at the end of the day. She insisted on cooking me dinner. I offered help but she refused it. We drank good wine. I was tired, maybe from the day or I had drunk more than I should. I felt dizzy. Funny, I had only two glasses.

That night I slept well, very well, which wasn’t normal for me. I wake up at the slightest sound. I slept until late the next morning and was light- headed when I got up.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know if it was the next morning. I have a vague recollection of the events of those days. There are gaps in my memory.

Her name was Rovena. She talked about papers that I had to sign for her. She needed money. Or it was something with the house. It doesn’t matter. I must have had signed or done whatsoever she wanted me to do. I remembered her laughing out loud and telling me that it was time. “Time for what?”

Days later I opened my eyes and saw two worried faces hovering over me and a terrible headache.

Rovena tried to kill me. She drugged me and made me sign a document giving her all my possessions. Then she put me in my car and made me drive.

I was really lucky. I had been in a car accident, had serious injuries but I survived. I survived to tell you this story.

Rovena is making time in a state prison.  She had killed her husband for his money and tried to kill me for mine. The police are still investigating, perhaps she had killed others.

Our meeting in the graveyard was staged. She saw me parking the car and act out. I should have had listened to my guts, but I was curious and she was a beautiful woman.

My uncle asked me what I have learned from all this. Well, first, trust my instincts and not be so curious.

Curiosity almost killed me

 

©Marcia Weber Martins

 

 

 

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