Missing: Final Part.

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

She led him to a small cottage on the outskirts of the village.

“Are you sure you want to do this? You didn’t seem very happy yesterday,” João asked of his beautiful companion. They crossed the village square, near the entrance to the cemetery. He shivered as they passed the two pillars. Yesterday, he thought, what was that?  The day had been fragmented by events, both past and present. João seemed to have a foot in both worlds, ever since touching the clammy slab of marble.

“I am trusting you. Don’t ask me why. You still haven’t given me answers but I feel it’s because you can’t. Am I right?” She wore a hood against the cold, damp, vaporous air, depriving him of her appearance. The voice would have to be sufficient.

“Yes, I mean no. I can’t,” he replied, cursing the fact that he’d declined her offer of a coat. He was already drenched. She led him to a small cottage on the outskirts of the village. It had obviously been there long before its neighbours. The position would command a premium price now. However, the tiny single-story building stood proud, demoting the detached villas and blocks of duplex apartments to mere bricks and mortar.

Marie tapped on the door and they waited for several moments of physical and mental discomfort. The location was only kind on the eye. Every element of the vicious coastline seemed to focus on the spot on which they were standing. Suddenly the door opened and a tiny doll appeared, dressed in traditional Breton attire, black and white, like the flag, as if the other colours belonged to nature. The old woman took one look at João and her wrinkled face smoothed out like a newly ironed bedspread. In an instant, she lost thirty or forty years. Marie couldn’t believe her eyes.

“Jean. You came back! I knew you would. I kept telling Maman, even before she left us, ‘he’ll come back, he promised me.’’

“Elodie, this is João. He’s from Portugal. He came to visit the plaque.” Marie’s expression showed mixed feelings. Relief that the woman didn’t fall down dead on the spot and puzzlement at the two parties’ apparent empathy.

“Pleased to meet you,” João said simply, even though he was addressing his great aunt and his sister simultaneously. His companion’s countenance dropped the two previous guises and turned to horror.

“What?” João whispered, trying to decipher her reaction.

“You did it again, Breton!” She responded. They were both interrupted by a loud cackle from the old woman.

“Of course. He’s my boy. My big brother. What else would he speak?” Her words were genuine, without edge. “Come in, please. It’s sure to turn nasty soon.” Her understated impression of the already inclement weather surprised both youngsters. “You’re soaked, here take this.” She handed him a grey-looking piece of cloth from the back of the chair.

It was like passing through a timewarp. If the outside was a century out of kilter, the inside was double that. The first thing João noticed was the floor under his feet, or should it be earth, for that was what he encountered.  Even though it was natural, the surface was impeccable, free from the most microscopic imperfection. The absence of utilities, an obscene word, in his opinion, was the next thing to strike him. The old woman seemed in no need of gas, electricity or water except for a natural supply of the latter. He immediately thought of life aboard ship. No cables, no pipes and the only water was what you brought aboard and the massive salty world around you.

“Would you take a drink with me? I have your favourite, Chicory coffee with milk.” Her words, addressed at João, were lost on Marie, her limited Breton having been surpassed.

“That would be perfect Ellie,” the young man replied, evidently sending his companion spinning into greater confusion. Marie was relegated to a spectator in this weird spanning of the eras.

“I have missed you so much Jean.” The old woman’s face momentarily resumed its original guise. “I still have the coin.”

“Me too Ellie,” the young man replied, sliding his hand into his shirt front. He pulled out a tiny silver disc suspended on a leather thong. Elodie copied João’s action and produced the same coin. They hugged like long lost relatives.

“Can you explain to me please? What is happening here? Surely you don’t really know each other.” Marie was stunned at what she was witnessing.

“What is there to explain dear? He’s home,” Elodie replied. She put the kettle on the open fire and took down three cups. “There’s milk outside in the shed. Can you get it please Jean?” The old woman asked João. She took a bottle of brown liquid from the room’s only cupboard.

It was too much for Marie. She turned to the door and ran outside, slamming it behind her. She ran across the square, past the cemetery and into the house. João returned with the milk to the old woman’s solitary presence.

“Where’s Marie?” He asked her.

“I’m afraid she had to go,” Elodie answered. “Come, sit by me. The water is almost boiling.” She patted the chair next to her and smiled.

“What’s wrong my precious? What happened?” Marie’s father held his daughter tightly, the pair of them moving with her sobs.

“It’s Elodie and that boy. I don’t know. Something strange is happening,” she stammered in between heaving breaths of emotion.

“I’ll sort this out. Stay here, I knew he was bad news!” The man responded, holding her at arm’s length. He carefully sat her down in the chair and turned to leave. He banged on the door of the cottage and pushed it open without waiting. The scene before him was tragic yet peaceful. The old woman was sitting in the chair, head bowed. The kettle was erupting on the fire. He took the grey cloth from her lap and removed it.

Turning back to Elodie he checked for signs of life. There were none, she’d gone. On her lap, where the cloth had been,lay two strands of leather. Each held a tiny silver half-Franc piece. The door creaked behind him and he turned. Marie stood in the gap between door and frame.

“He came back,” she said softly.

2 Comments

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Am I missing something did he drown at sea?

    Reply
    • brian

      Ill post the whole thing tomorrow. If you want to read it in your own time. I’ve edited it. Thanks for the comments, as usual, Ken.

      Reply

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