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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The morning found them hugging. The first rays of sun entered the room between the curtain and the wall, shy, but friendly, caressing Ana’s cheeks. She opened her eyes. She looked around, she looked at the body she had grabbed on to with her arms, she looked at her arms that were holding it close. She was happy.
Amanda stretched like a cat who was barely waking up. Ioan opened his eyes, and saw her. She was still only wearing her lingerie, and she stood up to go to the bathroom.
“You are so beautiful,” he said to Amanda.
“You are handsome,” Ana said to Mircea, kissing his chest, which woke the boy up.
Mircea smiled at her, put his hand behind her neck and kissed her. Ana answered his kiss with more passion.
“You have opened the tap for passion,” she told him, as she stopped kissing, “and now it’s overflowing, it pours without stopping.”
“I can only be happy,” Mircea answered her. “I couldn’t have imagined, not even in my wildest dreams that you–”
“And yet,” Ana interrupted him, “you brought condoms.”
She smiled at him.
“I don’t know if I should feel offended or honored,” she joked.
“A man should always carry–”
“Aaa,” Ana interrupted him again, still joking, “now you are a man?”
Then, in a more serious voice:
“Now you are a man! But yesterday you weren’t…”
In order to avoid the subject, Mircea turned things around:
“You know, it is not very nice for you to keep interrupting me. This way I will never get the chance to tell you how beautiful you are and how–”
“I will interrupt you one more time,” said Ana, “this time for this.”
And she gave him a long kiss, until the boy had nothing to protest.
Amanda was taking a shower. Ioan was listening to the water pouring and he was imagining how it was caressing his lover’s body. He was jealous at that water. He would have liked himself to be the same as the water, as the soap, as the shampoo, as the sponge. He got out of bed and slowly opened the bathroom door.
Amanda saw him through the glass door of the shower cabin, steamy up to her face. She made a sign letting him know that he could come. Ioan dropped his boxers, and entered the shower cabin, with his heart beating as if it were to burst from his chest. This was, after all, the first time he would see Amanda completely naked, while he was going to be the same.
Ana curled around Mircea. She didn’t want to let him go anywhere. She needed to make love one more time, before getting out of bed. And youth is an age when a boy has no reason to turn down a girl he is in love with. Therefore Mircea was happy to use the last condom he had.
Amanda was watching Ioan and she liked doing it. At first she was ashamed, but only for a moment. They already knew each other’s body, they had explored one another with the entire epidermis, with their olfactory sense, with their taste buds, so intensely that they even knew the temperature of each other’s soul.
“We are just taking a shower,” Amanda told him contrary to her desire and no doubt about it, contrary to his desire as well. “Because I don’t want to ruin the present for your birthday.”
“But you can give me my present now, why not? It’s a good moment.”
“I know, it is, but it is not your birthday. I want it to be special, for a special day. You won’t be turning eighteen again…”
“You are right,” he said humble, “but you are so beautiful. I want you so much!”
“Then it is going to be even better, believe me,” she said.
“I believe you! It’s just that I can’t wait…”
“You will have to,” Amanda smiled at him.
She got out of the shower, letting him to continue by himself.
Ana surrendered to the pleasure Mircea brought on her. She hold him tight, for a long time, then she relaxed. She leaned over him, pressing his chest with her breasts, exhausted, in the seventh heaven. She felt her entire body pulsating in the rhythm of her heart. She was breathing difficultly, like after a sports competition. Ana felt she was a winner.
“I’m not going to let you go,” she said to Mircea, who did not dared move.
“Neither will I,” he said and squeezed her strongly in his arms. “I think I am in love with you,” he continued whispering.
“I believe you,” Ana laughed. “I believe me too,” she whispered.
Mircea kissed her. Ana closed her eyes.
The sun was up on the sky, in full strength. The dew let itself be shrouded in heat, to make room for it. There was no cloud covering the mountains today. The lake’s water was glittering cold under the sun’s gaze. The mountains’ peaks rose to the sky. Some crevasses were hiding small patches of snow. The rocks shook off their moisture. The cars started to run. Tourists to sip their coffees.
Everything was perfect at Bâlea Lake.
The four friends came out of their rooms almost simultaneously, on the terrace in front of the cabin, as if they had planned it.
“Good morning,” they greeted each other.
Amanda kissed Ana on both cheeks. The boys shook hands, patting each other on the back. Then, Ioan kissed Ana, and Mircea kissed Amanda, also on both cheeks. As if they were seeing each other after a long time.
“This is how we are going to meet ten years after our graduation!” said Ioan.
“Hold on a second dear, let us first finish high school,” Amanda told him. “Can you believe it, he is already thinking about how it is going to be ten years from now…”
“It was too nice, that is what came to mind. An image of us four, as we are now, just ten years older, and yet unchanged.”
“You do realize that what you are saying is an oxymoron, but indeed, it does sound nice,” Mircea answered.
“Who knows what will be of us, ten years from now,” Amanda started thinking.
“No matter what,” said Ana firmly, “let’s promise this much: no matter what, no matter where life is going to take us, we will remain good friends, and we will keep this day alive in our memory, in fact this entire weekend, the most beautiful weekend in our life!”
“So be it,” Amanda agreed.
“Yes,” Mircea agreed as well.
“I also agree,” said Ioan. “This should be the most beautiful weekend, and my birthday when I will be eighteen, I hope is going to be the most beautiful birthday in my life!”
“So be it,” said Mircea.
“I will make sure it will be!” Amanda winked at him.
Ioan smiled blushing. Ana noticed them and she was happy for them, and her sister like love for Amanda doubled.
“What do you want to do today?” asked Ana.
“Let’s climb the mountain,” said Mircea.
“We could take a ride to Capra Lake, on the other side of the edge,” suggested Ioan.
“Yes, I’ve heard it is very beautiful on that side too.”
“Oh, yes!” cried Ioan. “I went on the other side by car with my parents, it is a dream!”
“Well, then, let’s do it,” Ana supported the idea enthusiastically.
“Let me bring the map,” said Mircea walking towards the room.
He returned a few moments later, and he spread the map on the table.
“We are here, at Bâlea Lake,” he said.
“And Capra Lake is here,” indicated Ioan.
“It is nearby,” said Amanda.
“It seems close, but we have to go over the edge. Look, through here, through Șaua Caprei.” He turn around the map, where the routes were detailed.
“It is a short route, indeed,” said Mircea. “Around forty five minutes.”
“As long as a walk in the park,” said Amanda laughing.
“But spectacular,” Mircea continued.
“Do you think we are appropriately equipped?” asked Ana, who knew from theory how important is the equipment when you climb the mountain.
“Well,” Ioan started counting, “trekking shoes? Checked! Raincoats, in case of rain? Checked! Another set of clothes? You girls maybe even two,” he laughed, “but we will only take one.”
“What more do we need? We are not going to say in a tent, so besides the things Ioan mentioned we will take only what is necessary: a sandwich for each and a bottle of water.”
“And chocolate,” shouted Amanda.
“Absolutely,” said Ana. “We need energy!”
“Somebody is tired,” laughed Amanda.
“And somebody isn’t?” Ana laughed as well.
“No one is hurrying us,” said Ioan maturely. “It is a gorgeous day, so we will go slowly, to enjoy the landscape. Even if it takes us fifteen minutes more and if we consider the time we will spend at Capra, we will still be back in three or four hours tops.”
“Yes, we can stay even longer, if we like it. Better if we take two sandwiches, we will eat them there for lunch, and we will come back in the afternoon. Maybe we get to see something else as well.”
“I agree. Let’s eat a good breakfast now, and then we will prepare our backpacks, to leave before tee o’clock.”
Said and done. At ten o’clock sharp, the four friends were equipped and ready to go. Ioan notified his friend from the cabin about their plans, following the unwritten law of the mountain.
“It is going to be a wonderful day,” said the cabanier, “there aren’t going to be any clouds today!”
“We couldn’t have caught a better weather,” said Ioan.
“You are very lucky; the weather here is very capricious, sometimes it changes from one hour to the other. Yes, but the forecast for today is: bright and warm. And if in the south it’s a roaster, here we have the best possible temperature.”
“Free air conditioner,” said Mircea.
“An air conditioned by the mountain, therefore the purest air in the world,” said the cabanier proudly.
“I envy you,” Ioan told him. “To be able to live here, what could be better?”
“Well, he said,” looking at Amanda, “to live here with the one you love!”
Ioan smiled at him, he thanked him again, and then the four started walking, the followed the path marked with a blue triangle. On the indicator it said: “Capra Lake, 40 minutes. Dangerous route during winter!”
“Thank God it’s not winter,” cried Ana.
“Yes, during winter, you can stay at the famous Ice Hotel at Bâlea Lake, you cannot go across the edge.”
“Maybe we will come back when it’s winter, I would spend one night in the Ice Hotel,” said Amanda.
“I wouldn’t,” said Ana. “Brr,” she parched. “I get cold only thinking about it.”
“Eh, you won’t die for one night. I think it’s an interesting experience, something unique.”
“Maybe, but I will pass!” continued Ana.
They stopped talking because the climbing became more and more difficult. After they passed over the debris of Văiuga Mountains and exited Iezerul Caprei, the route to Șaua Caprei, situated at 2315 meters altitude, was the most difficult. Short, but intense. Then, a slight descent leads to the beautiful and little glacial lake Capra. Its blue water welcomes you with its open shores, because here is a good camping place, preferred by many tourists. Next to it there is a monument erected in 1963 in the memory of four climbers surprised by an avalanche.
“That is so sad,” said Ana.
“It is sad, indeed,” said Ioan, but it seemed that something stopped him from continuing.
“What is it?” she asked him, bluntly.
“Oh, I don’t want to ruin our day,” he said, sitting on the green grass.
“We cannot ruin it, so say it!” she insisted.
They all sat around him.
“Alright. In the spring of 1977, my uncle was a soldier, at a military base in Sibiu. It snowed a lot, for days the snow didn’t stop. At Bâlea the snow was as high as the cabin. It was the last day of vacation, so they all wanted to take advantage of it and to sky one last time before going back home. A group of students from the German High School in Sibiu was here on camp, I mean there, Bâlea. Twenty students went out with their teacher and with the camp’s sly instructor. They made their own slope, as they used to do back then, pounding the snow with their skis. One student had forgotten his ski glasses in the room and went back to take them. When he went back outside of the cabin, the smile disappeared off his face, and I don’t think he recovered it for a long time.”
Ioan gulped, then took a drink of water from his bottle.
“The slope had started an avalanche which buried everyone on the ski track. There was no one there, and the ski track that was previously so animated, had been swollen by the snow monster. The mountain rescuers from Bâlea were overwhelmed. They requested help from Sibiu, they resorted to the army, because the road was blocked by snow. It wasn’t until the next day that they got to Bâlea, but no one was found alive. My uncle, who participated in the search, told me that what he experienced then is indescribable. To find and pull out one by one twisted bodies, from the trap nature had prepared, and none of them survived, not even one. It was horror.”
Ioan stopped, his eyes were glistening.
“They were student our age,” he said.
The girls looked sadly and silent into the distance. Mircea was holding his head in his hands. No one was saying anything. Only a slight breeze passed over their faces, producing dim waves on the lake’s surface that had been motionless up to that point, like a greeting coming from far away, from another world.
The boys tried to be the ones encouraging the girls, and they embraced them with love. They sighed.
“How come nothing was known of this?” Ana finally asked. “My parents never told me about it, I think they never knew. Otherwise, I would have noticed it even now when there is no snow…”
“Communist authorities covered the story, as they did with everything that was bad for their image.”
“That is bullshit,” Ana revolted, and the revolt helped her cool herself.
She stood up, almost shouting:
“I am so sick of these worms that have destroyed an entire country!”
“And I,” Mircea supported her, “when I hear some say ‘it was better before’ I could almost hit them in the head!”
“It was definitely better for some, stupid secret militia,” said Ioan even more upset.
“And stupid nomenclaturists!” added Amanda.
Here they felt a little better, unloading their fury and anger against the system that had stolen their parents and grandparents the right to live a normal life, and they could feel the consequences of those cruel years on their own skin, now, so long ago after the Revolution.
Ioan knelt down and plunged both hands into the lake’s cold water, and washed his face. The others, like in a sacred ritual, joined him, and did the same. The water was cold like ice, although the sun was burning now, melting the last vestiges of sorrow from the four children’ souls.
“When we are going back to Bâlea, I will take you at the place of the tragedy. A commemorative plaque is all that is left… We should pay tribute to those who died there, innocent martyrs, that didn’t get a chance to enjoy life…”
“But, now,” he continued after a moment of silence, “do you want to go back on a different track, just as spectacular?”
“Where?” asked Mircea.
He pulled out the map. Ioan showed them.
“From Șaua Caprei, where we encountered that indicator, we will go up to Vînătoarea lui Buteanu Summit. Is one of the highest summits here, look, it has over 2500 meters, 2507 to be precise, and it’s a stone’s throw. Then we return to Bâlea through Văiuga’s cauldron.”
“It would be a pity not to go,” said Mircea. “But, girls, it’s up to you.”
“I’m in,” said Ana.
“So am I,” added Amanda.
“Then, let’s go. We can eat lunch there, for me it is going to be the highest served lunch ever.”
“Great,” cried Amanda.
“For me too,” said Ana.
“Let’s go,” said Mircea and finally a smile was lighting his face again.
As they started walking, the four let their sorrow be replaced by the wild beauty of the landscape. Soon, they could watch the entire valley from above, until far in the distance. Capra Lake looked smaller and smaller. Other landscapes replaced it, competing against each other in beauty. The route wasn’t very difficult, but it wasn’t very easy either, so the four friends reached the summit famished. They put down their backpacks; they sit down and distributed the sandwiches. They ate admiring the deep valleys, the peaks poking the blue sky, the nauseating abysses and the blue sky that allowed them to take this wonderful trip.
They stayed there for about half an hour, to finish eating and to get some rest, afterwards they went towards Bâlea. The entire cauldron, the lake on whose shore was the cabin bearing the same name, the cabin where they were staying and so on, the valley far up, were all revealed nude, like in the day of the creation to the eager eyes of the four friends.
When they got back to Bâlea, they didn’t go to the cabin; they walked straight to that place that made their hearts feel squeezed like in a vice. A commemorative plaque was attached to the rock. ‘In Memoriam’ it said and the names of the victims, twenty three in total. And their ages, the youngest was 13 years old. The four friends were silent and sad again.
“If the avalanche wouldn’t have pushed them into the lake,” Ioan broke the silence, pointing to Bâlea lake, “braking the ice – it was that heavy! – and if the bad weather wouldn’t have delayed the search, maybe some would have survived… at least a few…”
“Oh my God,” Amanda shook as if she were cold, poor people. “It must have been such a terrible death!”
“Alone, with no one by their side… to help them…” Ana got to say before the words stopped in her throat.
Ana grabbed Amanda’s shoulders and hugged her warmly. The girls stayed like that for a while, dropping some tears, while the boys were looking at them sad. They didn’t bother either to hide or to wipe off a tear that ran down on their cheeks.
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