”I know,” was all Nicolae could say.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 8 (UNEDITED)
If you are just catching up, see the CHAPTERS section to read the Prologue-Chapter 7 before proceeding to reading Chapter 8.
Night fell once again on the path that Nicolae and Teresa walked. They had gone the entire day barely saying a word to one another. The extent of the conversation between them had been Nicolae letting Teresa know if or when they were stopping and then asking her if she needed something to eat. At dusk, they settled at the edge of another field near the woods where Nicolae built a fire for Teresa in silence. Teresa had her back turned to him when Nicolae was finished building the fire.
“I’m going down to the river for a few minutes,” she heard him say, “Do you need anything?”
Teresa remained seated with her back to Nicolae and shook her head. There was more silence between them before Nicolae spoke again.
“Do you still have the dagger I gave you?”
Teresa nodded, feeling Nicolae’s eyes on her. She heard his footsteps walking away from her and down toward the river. Teresa turned her head slightly, peering back over her shoulder. She knew Nicolae was going to bathe. He had worked out a system with Teresa that would avoid any accidental encounters. Teresa was surprised at how resenting of that system she was. Even with him being as cross with her as he was, it was difficult for her to push away the desire that filled her whenever she looked at him and it had been that way from that first day she saw him when she was with Alea. Nicola was one frustrating young man and Teresa wasn’t sure if it was possible to fall in love so quickly. But she was feeling things for Nicolae that she hadn’t felt for anyone. Teresa sighed as she wondered if there could be a way she could convince Nicolae to change his mind about taking her back to the village.
The desire she had for Nicolae caused Teresa to stand and moved descreetly toward the river where Nicolae was. She hid behind a tree and watched him stooping down to his bag and taking his box out, holding it close to him as she had seen him do the first night he was in the village. Teresa felt the heat crawling to her face as the memory of Nicolae standing naked in the moonlight filled her mind. She chewed her bottom lip as he placed the box back in his bag.
What do you have in that box? Teresa thought, what are you hiding?
Nicolae removed his shirt, uncovering his scars. Teresa swallowed back a sob that threatened to escape and give her away. She was angry with him; but with that anger was the passion she felt for him and her decision to be with him. Teresa stared at the scars on Nicolae’s upper body wanting to embrace him and heal any pain that still lingered. Teresa walked back to the fire as Nicolae began slipping off his trousers. She needed to think and there wasn’t any way she would be able to think clearly staring at a completely naked Nicolae. She sat back down at the fire, watching the flames flicker and the smoke curling up and disintegrating in the air. As she continued staring at the wavering smoke, a shape seemed to form in the cloudy substance. Teresa smiled. It was a familiar shape, one that she had seen since she was a little girl. She could feel the fire coursing through her body as the shape whispered to her. The voices were comforting and assuring to Teresa. She had never told anyone about the shape and the voices. She had been seeing and hearing them since she was seven years old, about two years after her parents disappeared. It began to strengthen when she was eleven and that was when she had gone to Gabriella in hopes of something that would give her a clue to what was happening to her and if it had any connection to what happened to her parents. Teresa never received any answers but the visions and sounds kept coming. They were sporadic and sometimes she would go for almost a year without hearing or seeing anything. But when she would hear and see them, the message was urgent and important. They had given her the ounce of courage she needed to follow Nicolae and now they were reminding her of something that may allow her to stay with him. Teresa began to feel a small pang of guilt as she didn’t want to manipulate Nicolae and his feelings. She had hoped that maybe with some time together, she would be able to win him over. But that was not what was happening and maybe just a little manipulation would give the push needed to change Nicolae’s mind on returning Teresa to her village. Teresa did have a fear of it backfiring and possibly making things worse and the voices scolded her for doubting them.
Have we ever let you down? They asked. Trust us…there’s nothing to lose…
Teresa turned her head back to glance toward Nicolae, lingering as their last words to her echoed in her mind.
Trust us…there’s nothing to lose…
Teresa turned back to the fire, feeling reassured and even a little joyful. She just had to bide her time, they told her before fading away with the dissipating smoke. The flames continued to dance hypnotically in front of Teresa who barely noticed the small giggle that escaped from her mouth.
Nicolae returned to the campsite to find Teresa sitting eerily still as she stared into the flames of the campfire. He frowned at her as he placed his bag on the ground. There was an unrest about the area that made Nicolae rather uneasy and he found Teresa’s behavior rather peculiar, even for her.
“Are you alright?” he finally asked her.
Teresa turned her head toward him, gazing up at him for a moment before turning back toward the fire. Nicolae watched Teresa, taking in her blank stare.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hard on her. She’s just a girl…a young, curious girl. I suppose I can’t fault her for that.
“Teresa,” Nicolae said, “Listen…I apologize for raising my voice to you earlier.”
“I’ve gotten used to it,” Teresa said shrugging, “If you’re not yelling at me you’re barely speaking to me at all.”
“Is that how you see it being?” Nicolae asked.
“Well why shouldn’t I?!” Teresa yelled, startling Nicolae, “I’m the one who has done most of the conversation ever since we left the village. All you’ve done is criticize me and treat me like mud when all I wanted to do was be there for you.”
Nicolae stood at a loss for words as Teresa continued. “No matter how it may seem I know what it’s like to be alone, just like you.”
“Teresa…” Nicolae finally said, “it’s just…I’ve been used to living a solitary life for two years now. I don’t think I would make a good companion for anyone. Including you. Especially you.”
“I may understand better than you think, Nicolae! Why won’t you give me a chance?”
“Because you are a child, Teresa!”
Teresa stood, mouth gaped at him. “A child?”
“Yes,” Nicolae said.
“Age has nothing to do with it,” Nicolae said, “it’s the way you were brought up. The way you view the world. In that, you and I are completely different.”
Nicolae watched Teresa’s face fell.
I love you, Nicolae! she wanted to scream and it took every ounce of strength she had to hold it back.
Nicolae turned his eyes away from the girl. It actually hurt him a little to see her so dejected. But it was true. In some ways, even Sebastian had been more streetwise at age eleven than Teresa was at sixteen. Nicolae still wondered how he had agreed to let Teresa come with him. But he couldn’t deny his admiration for Teresa’s precocious nature even if it did come across as childish and reckless.
“The way I was brought up is not my fault,” Teresa said, “just like the way you were brought up isn’t yours.”
”I know,” was all Nicolae could say.
”I know,” was all Nicolae could say.
Nicolae kneeled to tend to the fire, keeping his gaze away from Teresa. The heat radiated from the flames drying the damp strands of his hair. He felt a small hand on his shoulder and was instantly reminded of sitting in the 1950s bedroom and finding Sebastian sitting beside him.
His muscles tensed at the sound of Teresa’s voice and he could hear his heart loud in his ears as she stooped next to him.
“I care about you, Nicolae. I really do.”
Nicolae dared to turn his eyes to Teresa. Her dark eyes were intense (intense as Eloisa’s always were during their nights together) as she made eye contact with him. She brought her hands up to stroke his face with her fingers. Every muscle in Nicolae’s body began to go soft at her touch. For a minute, Teresa began to resemble Eloisa.
“Eloisa…?” Nicolae stammered.
“No…” the woman in front of him said, “Teresa.”
Teresa was moving her face close to Nicolae when he flinched and moved away from her.
“Nicolae!” Teresa protested.
“We should get to sleep,” Nicolae said, “we have a good way to go before we reach your village.”
Before Teresa could reply, Nicolae was lying with his back to her and his bag in front of him.
“Goodnight,” Teresa said. As usual, there was no reply from Nicolae.
Normally, Teresa would have taken a place to sleep on the other side of the fire across from Nicolae. But this night, she moved closer to him, sleeping at the side of the fire where her head would be near his feet. She was told to be patient and they still had a fairly long way to go until they reached her village.
A lot can happen between now and then.
Teresa closed her eyes, remembering what they had reminded her of. As she drifted to sleep, the name Eloisa echoed through her mind. And it wouldn’t be last time she would hear it.
Teresa and Nicolae continued their travels for another week and a half. Teresa also noticed a change in the way Nicolae behaved toward her. He hadn’t changed his mind about returning Teresa to her village, but he was more amicable with her than he had been since they ran into one another at the old house. Teresa had been hoping for more; she had been hoping Nicolae would open his eyes and see how she honestly cared for him and his well-being. But she did see this as a possible start and it was much better than him being short with her or just not speaking to her all together. As for Nicolae, he did, in a way, feel it owed it to Teresa to at least make an effort in treating her with more kindness than he had been, though there was still part of him that was disturbed over Teresa’s behavior at the campfire a week and a half ago. Nicolae didn’t know why seeing her sitting and facing the campfire made him so uneasy. People did that all the time. But there was something about Teresa’s expression, the way her eyes glistened. It was almost as though it wasn’t even her “in there.” Even the way she had stood up to him. There was part of Nicolae that had been impressed as it was a different side of Teresa than the meek, quiet young girl he had grown accustomed to. It was so eerily familiar, so like Eloisa. Despite everything that had occurred, Nicolae was still trying to find a reasonable explanation for Teresa’s behavior.
She was pretty upset when I told her I was taking her back to her village. Maybe that was the trigger that finally put it in her to stand up for herself. And perhaps I just miss Eloisa so much that I’m allowing myself to see her in everything.
It made sense as Nicolae had heard of people who grieved for a loved one so much that they would begin to see that loved one everywhere, including on the faces of other people. His seeing Eloisa on Teresa’s face could have been just that. His intense longing for Eloisa combined with the shadows produced from the light of the fire. Nicolae knew that the odds of him ever being able to move on from Eloisa’s death were almost none even if he tried. And he almost didn’t want to find any logic in anything that occurred. Not the cloaked man, the two little boys in the field, Sebastian, 1956, or his nights with Eloisa. Especially his nights with Eloisa. He feared those were over as they had been more few and far between since he had met Teresa with her sister outside of their village.
Nicolae also struggled with the idea that his nights with Eloisa over the passed two years had been nothing but the insanity of his grieving mind.
But they have to be real…they feel too real to be nothing more than a dream or hallucination…
Nicolae had come to recognize the night for being his and Eloisa’s time ever since they were sixteen and fifteen years old and still slaves for the Domn Alexanderescu and he felt that had been violated in some way when he saw Eloisa on Teresa’s face. Nicolae didn’t want Teresa or anyone to take the place of Eloisa. In his mind and heart, no one ever could. But Nicolae still made an effort to be kinder to Teresa and he found that doing so actually helped the trip run a little more smoothly. It would only be a couple more days before they would be back at her village. Nicolae anticipated dropping her off and setting out alone again to the seaport. He knew he would never completely escape as there would always be a ghost from his life in Europe lingering around him. Everything from the deaths of his parents, losing his siblings and Eloisa, to the disappearance of Sebastian. None of it would ever completely leave him, but he hoped that somehow, moving to America would allow him a new start of sorts. He had been self sufficient for most of his life and would be able to survive until he was settled somewhere. And Eloisa would be with him. Always.
The thought of Sebastian still being out there somewhere still bothered Nicolae and he would be keeping a watch for his little brother until he boarded the ship. There was still some hope left in him that they would be reunited before Nicolae would make it to a seaport, but that hope had been waning. He had mentally prepared himself for the possible reality that Sebastian might never be found and that he may even have to accept that Sebastian may not even be alive. The possibilities of what can occur in the open wilderness was neverending. Nicolae pushed any horrible possibilities in his mind and tried to allow himself to believe that maybe, somehow, Sebastian found somewhere to settle and was alive, well, and happy. While Nicolae felt a little foolish for thinking of something that sounded so trite, it was better than thinking of any alternatives. Nicolae had hope the night he followed Sebastian into the world that was 1956 that Sebastian really had found his way back to him. But Sebastian had almost appeared to be in a sleep state, despite the boy having his eyes open and speaking to Nicolae rather clearly. The chilling thought returned to Nicolae.
Is it possible for one to enter a state of sleep and wander but never wake up? And if so, for how long was that possible?
Sebastian had begun walking in his sleep shortly after they had left the Domn’s property and there were a couple times Nicolae had found Sebastian wandering quite a ways away from their campsite. It had been a fear of Nicolae’s that one day, despite his being a light sleeper and swift runner, he would not wake up in time to catch Sebastian in a sleepwalking spell.
And maybe that’s the simple explanation for Sebastian…he walked away and never woke up…
It was dusk on the fifth night of the second week. Nicolae picked out an area for him and Teresa to settle at for the night. Nicolae had tried to maintain the boundaries he had set for the two of them, but Teresa seemed to be getting more brazen and while she hadn’t really crossed any lines, she seemed less respectful of those boundaries than before. There were even a couple times when Nicolae would wake to find Teresa sleeping dangerously close to him. She would always apologize with an explanation of maybe having rolled over in her sleep, but Nicolae found that hard to believe as it was almost impossible to do that with the way the campfires had been set up. But he didn’t question it further in order to avoid confrontation.
It’s alright. We’ll be back at her village in a matter of days, Nicolae would keep telling himself.
But there was still something sitting in the back of his mind that bothered him. Something that caused him to question the finality of their journey back to Teresa’s village. Nicolae had considered that there may be consequences for Teresa when she was returned to her village and Nicolae did feel for her and he figured the doubtful thoughts he was having was a result of just that. But he couldn’t trouble himself with any of that. In order for him to have any sort of hope and having any kind of life, he had to leave and leave alone. Having Teresa travel with him was also putting her in far more danger than any reprimanding she might face back at her village. It had been two years since Dimitri had been killed by Nicolae’s hand and he was far away enough from Romania where the country’s officials would have a difficult time catching him. But one could never be too certain and Teresa was slowing down his travels much more than Eloisa and Sebastian would have.
But her could austrocize her with nowhere else to go…then what would you do? What would she do?
Nicolae knew that was possible, but unlikely. Romani families and communities normally remained close knit even if one member of the family did something less than favorable.
As Nicolae set up the fire, he could feel Teresa’s eyes burning into his back.
Just a couple more nights, Nicolae reminded himself.
The fire began to blaze and Nicolae asked Teresa if she needed anything to eat. She said she did. He did his best to avoid eye contact with her as he got them situated and surprisingly, Teresa didn’t bother him about his lack of contact with her. Though there was something in her tone that made Nicolae’s insides jump when she made the announcement that she was going to head down to the nearby lake to bathe. Nicolae reached into his bag, still avoid her gaze, and gave her a cloth to dry herself with.
“Thank you,” she simply said.
Nicolae caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye. She was regarding him rather strangely before she turned and headed down to the lake. He sat with back to the direction she was in as he always did when she would go to bathe.
“Take the dagger with you,” he told her, “just in case.”
Teresa turned to see his back to her before she headed down to to the lake.
Teresa loved feeling the cool water pouring it’s way down her skin. Sometimes, she would imagine the droplets of water being Nicolae’s fingers, feeling their way down the curves of her body. At sixteen, Teresa had never even kissed a boy and it even surprised her at how vivid her fantasies of Nicolae had been since the night she followed him to the lake by her village. But in the last week or two since they had come to her, she felt her confidence growing and she felt bolder than before. She still wasn’t sure how she could approach Nicolae, but she was at least beginning to feel as though she actually could approach him and that was a giant leap from where she had been when she first met him. It was even a great leap from the time he had discovered her at the old house the first night she followed him out of her village.
When he wrestled you to the ground…
Teresa looked back in the direction Nicolae was in. She could see the glow of the fire and knew Nicolae would be sitting with his back to her. Teresa sighed. The thought of Nicolae not wanting to look at her hurt her a little. If Nicolae would be her first, last, and always, she would be content for the rest of her life.
A rather cool breeze rustled the trees causing Teresa to shiver and her skin to prickle as she stepped out of the lake to dry herself. She had gotten her undergarments on when she heard them.
He really could be everything for you, they told her, your first, last, and always. But you need to act soon. Tonight.
“Tonight?” Teresa asked, “but he hardly looks at me. And when he did he called me Eloisa. Who is Eloisa? Do you know? He won’t tell me.”
Don’t you worry about that now, one of them said, she is no threat to you. Do you see anyone named Eloisa with him right now?
“No,” Teresa said.
Then you have nothing to worry over.
Teresa stood silent, looking back toward the campfire before speaking again. “What should I do?”
We’ll take care of that when it is time and that time is soon.
Teresa’s eyebrows raised when they told her they would need a payment.
“A payment?” Teresa said, “but I don’t have anything!”
But they didn’t want money or spoils of any kind. What they wanted was blood.
“Blood?” Teresa choked out. The idea made her terribly uneasy
You have the dagger he gave you, one of them whispered.
Teresa swallowed. “Yes…but whose blood do you need? Not Nicolae’s. I would never do anything to hurt him!”
Not to worry. We don’t need his. Not if we have yours, one of them said, yours in an oath.
Teresa drew in a jagged breath and looked down at the dagger on the ground. She picked it up, turning it over in her hands in her shakey hands. The sight of blood was not something Teresa was fond of. Even when Nicolae had given her the dagger for protection she wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to use it even if she was in a situation where she might have to. She didn’t think she had it in her to cut into another living creature and she always wondered how the butchers of her village where able to do that to the animals they killed for food. And the thought of cutting into herself was enough for a queasiness to erupt in her stomach.
We only need a little, it assured Teresa in response to her hesitance.
“How?” Teresa asked, her voice still shaking a little.
See that patch of ground where the moon casts in beams? You will slice a little of your palm til the blood flows and let it fall onto the soil. That’s all you need to do.
“I don’t know…” Teresa said.
Not only will you have the man you desire, but the bloodline of you and Nicolae will possess many gifts, just as your mother and father did. Only the gifts of your descendents will be threefold of what your parents had.
“What kind of gifts?” Teresa asked, unable to help her curiosity. Maybe they would tell her more about her parents.
It chuckled. Anything you can think of. But you will have to make the oath before you can even begin to know. Before you would be able to have the man you desire.
Teresa turned her gaze again toward Nicolae. They were right. She did want him. But was this really necessary to win him over? He did seem to warm up to her and maybe with a little more time…
There is no more time! they said rather sharply, forcing Teresa out from her thoughts. You’ll be at your village in a matter of two days! Three at the very most!
Teresa gasped, noting the difference in the voices at that moment. What had been so sweet and comforting to her as a child, especially after she had lost her parents, seemed almost…menacing? They were still beautiful and angelic, but there was something about them that chilled Teresa down to the marrow of her bones. She turned her gaze to the moonlit area and then back at Nicolae. She looked again down at the dagger he had given her to ensure her safety.
“Isn’t there another way?” she asked after thinking for a moment. “I think he does care for me even if he may not know it.”
Foolish girl! Do you not even realize how close you are to Aragon? How close you are to the elders and Gabriella? How do you think they will react to a girl who dishonored them and herself? Do you even know all that Gabriella went through when she had to tell the family of your betrothed that you had ran away? Do you honestly think they will be welcoming you back in with open arms?
“You don’t think they’ll take me back into the village? I mean, I’m sure Gabriella will be angry, but I don’t think…” Teresa asked, her eyes beginning to well up with tears.
Even if they did take you back in, how would you face everyone? They will all know what you have done and you will be a disgrace. You will end up dying alone. Alone and a disgrace to your kin.
The tears that stung Teresa’s eyes began to flow down her face. She knew they were right. Even if they did take her back in, life for her would never return to the way it was before she had left with Nicolae. She had followed her heart’s desire and it was about to get her nothing but a lifetime of heartache. Teresa knew what she wanted and that was Nicolae. She had hoped she would be able to win him over on her own, but her visitors were forcing her to accept that that was not going to happen. Teresa sobbed at the thought and the desperation she felt grew to where her entire body was shaking so violently she felt as though every fiber of her would shatter into a million pieces. For a moment, Teresa welcomed that idea, wishing for it to happen. Wishing that death would just take her and she would be a burden to anyone ever again.
Teresa, they said, their tone much more gentle, almost comforting as they had been all of her life.
Teresa wiped her tears away as she calmed down, the voices soothing her as a mother would comfort a child. She could almost feel arms around her, embracing her.
You trust us, don’t you? one of them asked.
“Of…course,” Teresa stammered, fighting back the fear she was actually feeling.
You know, it continued, there is another method of payment we can take…
Teresa perked up a little. “Really? What?”
Unfortunatly, we cannot let you know until it is time to collect, they said.
“Why can’t you tell me?” Teresa asked.
And the only answer to Teresa’s question was, Do you not trust us?
Nicolae looked up from his map to see a slightly damp Teresa returning. He watched her intently as she sat back down in front of the fire and spread out the cloth she had dried herself with.
“You were gone for quite sometime,” Nicolae said, “I was actually going to come and look for you if you hadn’t returned within the next few minutes.”
“Sorry…I got distracted…” Teresa said lamely.
Nicolae frowned but didn’t inquire any further. He noticed Teresa’s right hand was wrapped with material she tore from the cloth he had given her to dry off with. A small amount of blood had seeped through the cloth.
“What happened to your hand?” Nicolae asked.
Teresa hid her hand in her skirt. “Oh, it’s nothing. I accidentally picked the dagger up by the blade instead of the handle.”
“Well, you need to be careful when dealing with a weapon,” Nicolae said, “here, let me look at it.”
Teresa walked over and sat down next to Nicolae who unwrapped her hand and inspected the cut.
“Looks like you sliced it pretty deep,” he said, “does it still hurt?”
“Only a little,” Teresa said, trying to hide her enjoyment of her hand in his.
Nicolae took his flask of water out, wetting her cut before taking out a small bottle of vodka.
“This may sting a little,” he warned.
Teresa cringed as the alcohol stung her open wound. Nicolae then re-wrapped her hand telling her to keep light pressure on it for a little while until the bleeding stopped. Teresa was surprised at how easy it had been for her to lie to him about how she had cut her hand. She had never the greatest liar but somehow, everything suddenly seemed easier.
The fire had died down to ash and embers as Nicolae slept, unaware that Teresa sat wide awake watching him. She took in every stir, every breath he took in and exhaled out. It was one of the most peaceful sleeps she had seen him in. She stood up and taking in a deep breath, she walked to where he lay.
Don’t be afraid, she heard a familiar voice in the back of her mind tell her.
When she got to Nicolae, she sat down, taking in his handsome features. With a sudden surge of courage, she leaned in and kissed him softly on his lips. It was only a small kiss, but it was enough to send the blood rushing down to between her legs. As her breath quickened, she slowly lay down beside him and brought her hand to his chest, softly stroking with her fingertips. Teresa’s arousal heightened when she felt Nicolae’s defined chest muscles through the material of his shirt. Nicolae began to stir and open his eyes. Teresa froze, her heart pounding as she anticipated Nicolae reacting negatively when he saw her beside him. But when he opened his eyes and looked up at her, the corner of his lips turned upward. It was one of the few times she had ever seen him smile and this time, he was smiling at her. Teresa searched for words to explain her actions, but Nicolae stopped her by bringing his hand to her cheek, stroking it before bringing himself up to her and pulling her into a passionate kiss.
It would be a night Teresa would never forget for as long as she would be alive. The night of passion she had with Nicolae that would result in her continuing his bloodline. They would never return to her village and Teresa would never know of the sleepless nights her adopted mother, Gabriella, spent agonizing over the loss of her adopted daughter. She would never know the tears Alea shed over the idea of her older sister she loved and looked up to just leaving her. Having to inform the family of Teresa’s betrothed wasn’t nearly as painful for Gabriella and even the elders as not knowing where Teresa was or what had happened to her. Gabriella had the feeling that Teresa had followed the young man she knew as Luiz when he had left their village. Gabriella had seen the way Teresa had regarded that young man and it frightened her. She thought that by finalizing Teresa’s suitor would allow the young girl to take any thought she may have had about the young drifter. But Gabriella had severely misjudged Teresa and she now recognized that doing so might have pushed Teresa’s rebellion even further. It was the same carefree nature Gabriella had seen in Teresa’s mother, Dominique, whom Gabriella had grown up with.
“Too much like your mother,” Gabriella lamented as she sat at the small table in her hut.
Alea had gone to bed and Gabriella sat, looking into the small, flickering flames of the candle she had lit while Teresa made love with Nicolae not too far from the village and, as a result, became his wife.
But the pleasure and joy Teresa felt would be short lived. She would have Nicolae and, yes, continue his bloodline, but it would never be as she imagined and hoped it would be. She would come to find out what was inside of Nicolae’s precious box and come to know Eloisa and would never be the same. Teresa would still always be alone and, at times late at night while alone with her thoughts, would wonder if she really would have been better off staying in her village back in Aragon, only having known Nicolae Ganoush as a young man named Luiz who had simply come passing through.
And that concludes PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE (though his story is far from over). Read on to the next part in the first book, THE TIME IN BETWEEN, 1846-1931: Section 1 .