Beginning of Summer

It is true that after she was taking her pills her hands would shake less. But the world seemed to her huge, frightening, and her old body would abandon itself to lying down without any chance of putting on a fight. Even the courtyard seemed foreign, not to speak of the large world, so Petra stayed in bed, waiting for Florinel to come back from school. At ten o'clock, she would switch on the radio box and listen to the folk music program.

If she was awake, for these pills would throw her into a mixture of sensations from which confusion and sleep could not be distinguished. Around one o'clock, at the latest, Florinel would come home and both of them would eat lunch.
She had seen him a little silent, lately, he was still telling her stories, but not as much as before, apparently. It was her fault too, she would forget a lot and sometimes, when she was speaking, her tongue would tangle in her mouth. She would realize and laugh herself, and the boy would try to laugh too, to please her.

She stretched her hand and turned the knob on the radio, but she didn't like the music. A female voice was singing a mourning folk song and the song was too much like a lament, so she made it stop. The light of a warm day, of beginning of summer, was coming in through the window. In the small room were cramped the bed, the old wardrobe that she had brought as dowry when she had married Marin, the trunk with needlework, pillow cases, hand-decorated shirts, quality stuff, as things were done beforehand. There was also the table, round, and another small table next to the bed on which there was a black-and-white TV, now broken. Outside a rooster was singing with much pathos, then a hen cockled for a long time to let the world know that she had laid an egg, and Petra felt suddenly regretful that she would leave, soon, from this world full of the wonder of simple things. She started to cry with pity and old-woman helplessness, with the pain and suffering she was living. "Why don't you take me, Lord?", she said, but without wanting this to happen, for even now, she was enjoying life and clung to it. She fell asleep. Outside, in the big courtyard, full of green plants, the sparrows and doves were singing. The old woman was sleeping with her face towards the ceiling. Her mouth had opened unwillingly and a thin stream of saliva had found its way from the right corner of her lips to her wrinkled cheek. She was snoring, Petra, and she was dreaming. At one end of her sleep, in her last dream before awakening, she was bathing in a dirty, unclear water. She saw suddenly how something like a black bull, who was watching her with hatred from the shore, walked into the water and headed towards her. She woke abruptly, afraid that she couldn't run. It took her a long time to come to her senses. She looked at the clock. It was half past two. He should be home, Florin. "Perhaps he's in the yard", she told herself. "Perhaps he saw me sleeping and let me get on with my sleep, the boy"

"Why are you sad, boy?" the Romanian teacher had asked him. She had approached his desk, without him having seen her, in the break before the last class.

"I'm not sad, Madam", he had smiled to her.

She had touched his head and had returned to her table without saying anything more.

He was not sad. How could he be sad, when he was crumbling in his hand the note from Camelia? "After the classes, at the sweet shop". Only four words, scribbled hurriedly in pencil, on a corner of Maths paper, but what a happy warmth in his heart!

The notebook with his Romanian essay was with her, after it had been passed on among almost all girls in the class, and a few boys. The teacher had given him full marks for his essay, the only full marks in the class, and she had asked him to read his work in front of the other children. They were allowed to write about whatever they wanted, and he had chosen as a topic the time when Liviu, his colleague and friend, had broken his leg during a football game.

He had written about it in a single breath, starting only around half an hour after the class had begun, however it seemed that he had done it well, because in the following break his classmates had gathered around him and, under a deluge of praise that he had found exaggerated, he had felt embarrassed. He had tried to make a joke of it, but his classmates were meaning their praises, and he had read in their eyes that admiration mingled with envy, lacking in meanness, with which they were watching him when the discussion would reach the topic of his town. Because, although he had been born, like them, in a small town, near his name in the class list there could be found his parents' address, from a large, faraway town, where he would sometimes go too, during holidays. For this reason he had always enjoyed a good reputation that he did not feel he deserved.

In fact, from the reputation point of view, he was doing better than ever. After the essay story, the girls were paying him much more attention. During a handball game, Elena had hugged him in an obvious way a few times. The game was a wonderful opportunity, and she had taken advantage of it, hitting him every time when he raised at the semicircle. The touch of her breasts had confused and stirred him up, they had forgotten the others, it was their game, only theirs, the were staring at each other intently, wildly, their faces almost as red as her T-shirt, crimson red. The PE teacher, who was refereeing, had eliminated her eventually. During the break, while he was waiting for his turn at the drinking fountain, she had come and given him a chocolate bar. She had left instantly and Emilia, who was just passing, had told him: "She has fallen in love with you, Elena", and she had laughed, like only her knew how to laugh. "She made passes at you during the whole game", she had said.

The classes had begun and the school courtyard was getting empty. Emilia was living in the same district as he. They used to walk to the school together.

"The boyfriend and the girlfriend!" had shouted once after them two young girls and Florin had smiled, not without pride.

"What idiots!", Emilia had said, and he had become serious again.

"The boyfriend and the girlfriend!", had giggled once more the girls, amused probably because Emilia was taller than him, although the gap between them was small at the time. In the last year, Emilia had become almost the tallest girl in the class, while he was still the shortest.

"I'm telling you a secret", Emilia had whispered to him, while they were heading towards the school entrance, eating together, but mostly her, the chocolate bar that he got from Elena. "Don't tell the other boys", she had continued, and had moved her mouth so close to his ear that he had not longer known whether there were her lips touching him, or her breath.

"Elena got it, for the first time, last week."

"What did she get?" he wanted to ask, thinking of a parcel covered in white cloth, sewn closed and with the address written in blue pencil, like the parcels that his parents were sending to him, but Emilia had said eventually: "Do you understand?" and he had felt that it was not a parcel Elena had got.

He had nodded, yes, he understood, and Emilia, hell knows why, had given him a conspiratorial smile.

(Excerpt from A Blue Butterfly, Ramuri Publishing House, 2003)