Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope.
For Romanian click here.
A novel first published in Romanian (Eikon 2017), available in English (translated by Mihaela Alecu) on Amazon (click on the image).
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Ana didn’t even have to insist for the girls to have their separate room, and the boys theirs. Neither one of them protested, it couldn’t have been otherwise, knowing that she was unwavering in this respect. The rooms were facing each other, so they didn’t have to do anything else but pass the hallway to visit each other. The cloud was now covering the entire area, which was now darker.
The four gathered in the girls’ room. Ana was preparing tea.
“Tomorrow we’ll definitely have a beautiful day,” said Ioan optimistic.
“It’s a must,” added Mircea.
“Let’s play cards, it’s too early to go to bed,” said Amanda.
“A very good idea,” agreed Ioan.
“Who has cards?” asked Ana from where she was.
“I do,” answered Ioan and Mircea in one voice.
“They do,” laughed Amanda.
Ioan, faster, pulled out his pack of cards, before Mircea and he began to mix the cars.
“What should we play?” he asked.
Ana finished preparing tea,
“Come and take your cups,” she told them.
She came carrying two cups, one for her, the other for Amanda.
“I say,” said Mircea as he stood up to go take the other two cups, “that we play Whist.”
“Better Rentz,” said Ioan, “it’s more fun, and long enough not to end quickly.”
“Agreed,” said Mircea.
The girls also nodded yes.
“There is something missing from this tea,” said Ioan.
He rummaged in his backpack and pulled out a bottle of Rum.
“It’s original,” he said. “A few drops will do wonders for this tea, he said.” Then towards the girls, “yes?”
“Alright,” they answered.
Ioan purred a little rum in each cup, then he checked the cups and added a similar quantity.
“That is it,” he said content. “Now I think it is better. Have a taste and tell me if it’s alright or if you want more rum…”
“What, do you want to get us drunk?” Amanda laughed.
“No,” Ioan blushed.
“I’m joking, dear,” she said.
She tasted the tea, which was still steaming, after she smelled it.
“Ah, it smells so good,” said Amanda.
“It is very good,” added Ana, who took a small sip.
“Perfect,” Mircea said as well.
“It doesn’t need anything else,” added Amanda.
Ioan then put the rum bottle aside, then he mixed the cards again.
“Who’s counting?” he asked.
They all looked at Mircea.
“Okay,” he said.
He took a piece of paper and a pencil; he drew the table for the score, a few straight lines as if they were drawn with a ruler. Then he wrote everyone’s name legible, and beneath these he drew some symbols asking:
“Will we play all?” he said and he drew: “the King of Hearts, yes, Queens, yes, Diamonds, yes, Whist, yes, and Rentz. What else is there?”
“Total,” answered Ioan.
“How is that?” asked Ana, “I forgot, I haven’t played in a while.”
“Everything you take is subtracted,” answered Mircea. “Even kings, queens and diamonds.”
“The hand doesn’t count, right?” asked Ioan.
“Yes, that is how we’ve always played lately,” said Mircea.
“That is not fair,” said Ana, “you’ve been training, whereas I haven’t played since… since forever.”
“Never mind, you will remember it,” said Ioan.
“You’ll knock the teeth out of our mouths,” said Mircea, kissing her. “For you it will be like beginner’s luck.”
“Luck! It is science! I’ll show you!” said Ana feisty.
“That’s the spirit,” Amanda backed her up.
“Yay, power to the girls,” she continued in the same rhythm.
“Hip, hip, hurray,” shouted Amanda.
“So then it’s war,” said Mircea serious.
“If war is what you want, war is what you will get,” Ioan supported him.
“We,” added Ana smiling, “do and we will win. On the other hand you, who sow wind, will reap the whirlwind!”
“Oh,” said Mircea, “my girlfriend came to proverbs, watch out!”
“You will see,” Ana answered in the same voice, “who laughs last, laughs best.”
“What did I tell you?” Mircea asked them.
The other two laughed a bit, but only until Ioan dealt the cards. All four of them were sitting on the rug, on pillows, on blankets, on everything they could to make it more comfortable. All four were wearing the shorts and T-shirts they came in.
Ana who was sitting cross-legged, sipped some tea and then gravely chose the first game.
“King of hearts.”
“God damn it,” Mircea let it slip.
“Let’s begin,” said Ioan, signaling Ana to start.
After a few hands played, Amanda took the king.
“Look what you’ve done to me,” she said, pretending to be upset with Ana. “I thought you were my best friend.”
“I am sorry,” said Ana, “you shouldn’t have taken it.”
“Yes,” said Ioan as well. “You should have left it for us. Ha, ha, but you couldn’t.”
“Minus fifty points,” Mircea said and wrote cheerfully.
“Never mind, revenge is coming,” said Amanda. “I choose Queens, blindly.”
“Wow, the game doubles,” explained Ioan, “make no mistake.”
“Come on, never mind the applause,” Mircea scolded her, “you are dealing.”
“Ups, I forgot,” she laughed.
“You are a little distracted girl,” Amanda told her. “Focus, alright? Don’t forget: power to the girls!”
“Power to the girls,” Ana repeated with her mouth stretching from one ear to the other.
She had never felt like this before, so free, despite the fact that she was never stopped, so cheerful, although she was not moody by nature. She knew she had no reasons to censure herself; she was in the middle of the mountains, together with her dearest friends.
Each one of them lost a few games and each one of them won a few games. The score was pretty tight before the last match, when each had one last game to play. Ana had left Whist for last, Amanda the King of hearts, Mircea Rentz, and Ioan Diamonds.
“Now it’s the moment of truth,” said Ana.
“Do I still have a chance to win?” Amanda asked Mircea.
“To be honest, we all have a chance.”
“Do you want to make it more interesting?” started Ioan. “To introduce a punishment or something for the ones who lose?”
“When I was younger,” said Mircea, “the punishments were glasses of water. For every ten points a glass of water. Woe to the last one, sometimes there were 200 points between him and the first place. I once drank six glasses of water, believe me, there is no bigger torture.”
“That is for children,” said Ioan. “It works, but for them. I was thinking about something more serious, like for us.”
“Come on, say it, what were you thinking of? Don’t keep us on tenterhooks,” Amanda hurried him.
“I was thinking about…” he paused for suspense, “about tickling. And not to have problems, the winner in each couple will tickle his or her partner. Let’s say, for every ten points, one tickling.”
“I can already feel prickles,” said Amanda. “In these fingers!” she added, “that I will be using to tickle you,” she threatened him, moving her fingers towards him.
“Oh my God,” Ioan dodged.
“But,” Ana intervened, “it’s too simple. We’ll do it like this: each couple goes to a room, and, if it’s a boy, he will be tickled shirtless, and if it’s a girl, we get to keep our tank tops on!”
“It’s not fair,” said Mircea. “You either take the chance, or… What, are you afraid you will lose?”
“No!” cried Ana.
“Come on, don’t be a coward,” Ioan added.
“Me, a coward? Never! Alright, then we will do it like this: for each point, one tickling shirtless!”
“Hurray!” cried Amanda.
“Great!” exclaimed the boys as well, enthusiastic.
Ioan dealt the cards. All four of them were now tense, as the stake was so high. Ana had the Whist and she was starting, which could constitute an advantage. If she would play it well, she thought, “I could be the first”. But the cards weren’t really on her side. She has no Aces, just a King and, other than that, quite small cards. So she decided to go for zero. The others made their predictions as well, and the match started.
Ana held her fingers crossed at each round. Until the sixth she hadn’t taken anything, she had managed to dodge well. It was the same for the seventh round. During the eight rounds she could breathe peacefully knowing that she was holding the smallest card. Mircea took the cards.
“Can I let a swear slip?” he asked.
“Don’t even think about it,” Ana answered. “We are civilized until the end. Even if we are to lose!” she said to his spike.
“Alright, then I will say it in my head.”
He closed his eyes, as if he were concentrating on something important.
Then followed Amanda’s King of hearts. As if faith had decided to be on the girls’ side, the king was taken by Ioan.
“Yes!” cried Amanda.
The girls applauded frenetically.
“Just a little bit more, come on, we can do it,” the two friends encouraged each other.
Mircea had the Rentz, a game for collecting points. Maybe it was the fact that he started, and that faith was on his side, or maybe because he had cards that allowed him to save a starting card until the end, one can never know for sure, but Mircea finished first. Then Amanda, followed by Ioan. Ana, with two ends, had to wait until the end to lay them down, and she finished last with zero points. Mircea became the first in top, then Amanda. Ana followed them and Ioan was last.
“Last chance,” he said.
The game of Diamonds was next. Ana managed to play a good game, but despite this she collected one of the diamond cards. Mircea, however, didn’t take any, finishing first. The final fight was between Amanda and Ioan. The countdown proved that Amanda managed to defeat Ioan for only fifteen points difference. Ana was second last, with eighty points less than Mircea.
Mircea stood up and started dancing, quite chaotic and silly, singing tone deaf:
“A-ha, a-ha, I am the cham-pi-on!”
Ana threw a pillow towards him, they all laughed.
“My place or your place?” Amanda asked Ioan, happy that she won and that she didn’t have to put up with the tickling that made her laugh so hard every time.
“Since we are, in fact, a pair of losers, we’ll go to the other room, and we’ll leave this room for the champion,” he said pointing to Mircea, “and the young lady standing right here, who managed to occupy the second place,” and pointed towards Ana. “And you, young lady,” he continued, with his hand stretched towards Amanda, like a chevalier, inviting a lady to dance, “you deserve the highest praise, for finishing third, despite the fact that you have no clue about how to play.”
He said the last words bursting to laughter. Amanda was ready to offer her hand, but when she heard him, she took a pillow with her and started hitting him with it.
“Go on, go there,” she told him. “You are in deep trouble!” she added.
“Bye, love birds,” Ioan told the two who were going to stay in that room, while dodging a hit from Amanda’s pillow.
The latter stopped, put the pillow on the bed, she came and hugged Ana by force.
“Hang in there, dear! Don’t forget that the force is with us!”
Ana smiled and then she said:
Amanda promised her and went out, followed by Ioan. Mircea was rubbing his hands with joy. It was the joy of the winner as well as that of the lover.
Ana locked the door, then she turned off the light.
“Het, what are you doing?” said Mircea.
The moon hardly shone through the windows, although the cloud had left the mountain for a while now, leaving behind and incredibly starry sky.
“I am turning it off,” she said. “There are no rules concerning the light.”
“Is that so? Alright, I was planning to be kind to you,” said Mircea menacing, although his voice was not serious. “But now, no mercy.”
“As you wish,” Ana giggled.
Mircea was able to hear more than to see how Ana took off her T/shirt and her tank top. With his senses to the fullest he was searching for her silhouette in the half-lighted room. Ana made a rustle as she sat on the bed.
“A promise, is a promise,” she said standing there, “and the word given must be respected, no matter what. Therefore, eighty tickles,” she told him. “Don’t think I won’t be counting!”
“You are free to count,” he said, “that spares me the effort,” he tried to joke about it, but it wasn’t very successful, it was as if he had a lump in his throat.
The thought that Ana was naked from the waist up, and that she was waiting for him on the bed, although only for receiving her ‘punishment’ made his blood boil. His heart was beating so fast, that he had to put his hand on his chest to mitigate the chime.
“One moment,” said Ana, feeling him close.
She covered her small breasts, unseen and untouched by anyone else but herself until then, with her palms, as if to protect them.
“I’m ready! You can start.”
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