Chapter 04

In the course of the following days she began to realise that this time it was him who was avoiding her. It didn’t take much genius to realise the reason as well: he was probably worried that he might give in to the desire and do something she wouldn’t like. How sweet of him, she thought, and was immensely grateful. But she wanted his company, she’d grown to love it, and being on her own again was too much to bear. She thought the matter over carefully, and came to a conclusion she decided to share with him in the evening.

“I was thinking that maybe it’s not the best idea not to have sex,” she told him.

“That’s an interesting turn.”

“I mean, if we don’t, you’ll just keep avoiding me and I hate that.”

“I just don’t want you to do what you don’t want to.”

“But I do… I mean… I’m scared. I’m really scared, but…”

“It’s going to be fine. I promise.”

It wasn’t. It was so bad she couldn’t help but scream with pain, and the ensuing feeling of hopelessness made her cry. He stopped and gave her a look of deep concern.

“Shhh, don’t cry, sweetheart, please, don’t cry,” he begged her, and then collapsed into her arms and she held him and sobbed at the same time.

 

After that, they didn’t try. In fact, they barely talked to each other from that moment on, and a few days later, Zoran came to the attic room, and announced:

“I’m going back toOlomouc.”

Her face went pale, although she had been expecting an outcome like this. “What?” she whispered.

“Look, this thing you have with sex, I just can’t cope with it. And let’s face it, it’s a very basic thing, and if it’s not working, then maybe we’ll be better off as we were before. I just don’t see the point in this anymore…”

“But it would get better!” she protested feebly.

“No, it wouldn’t,” he shook his head mercilessly.

All the words died in her mouth, all screams of indignation such as “how do you know?” – and more importantly, “how can you do this to me? How can you pose as a victim? Don’t you think it’s far worse for me than for you?” And then “do you really have a heart? Do you feel anything, anything at all for me? Cause right now you don’t seem to feel anything”. But she never voiced those accusations. She stood in front of him with tears and sobs forcing their way to the surface, and he stood there cold as a statue, as if waiting for her to say what she wanted so that he could go. She cried, wishing for him to take her in his arms again and comfort her, but at the same time not sure whether it would work, him being the person who caused these tears.

“I wanted you to be happy, I really did. I would have done anything… but I can’t force you to do what you don’t want to.”

“And neither can I,” he replied.

So unfair!

More silence followed. Eventually she stepped towards him, took his face in her hands, gently kissed him on the lips and ran down the stairs, the only thought that was driving her being “out, out and as far away from this humiliating scene as possible”.

“I never wanted to hurt you!” he called after her, awakening just bitterness in her in response. Then why did he?

She could have argued with him, but in the end it wouldn’t have changed anything. He would have still left, and she would have felt more of an idiot than she already was.

She ran out into the forest, climbed her favourite tree and sat there, crying as if there was no tomorrow.

 

He was gone when she came back, and the emptiness of the chateau reflected the emptiness she felt inside. She felt dead, and wondered how her body could have missed this fact. She didn’t know what to do; everything seemed pointless. She had quietly come to the point when the world ended, and it turned out that it wouldn’t go up in flames, rather than disassemble very, very slowly. But in essence everything important was already over. All that would happen now would be just post-mortem tremors of a dead beast.

She wondered whether she should bother to eat, or go to the other extreme and go look for pleasure at least in food, and lots of it. In the end she did both in turns. She tended to the animals, but apart from that she barely left the house.

Zoran had texted her, not long after his departure, again emphasizing that he hadn’t meant to hurt her. She asked him whether he could live with rejecting her for something that wasn’t her fault, and he said he didn’t know. That was it, really. Nothing to be done.

There was heavy snowfall for some time, followed by a period of extremely low temperatures, and then the deep layer of frozen precipitations melted away in a matter of three days. Opava and thevalleyofMoravicewere largely under water and the two ponds below the chateau merged into one great lake, flooding the lower parts of the park as well as several houses in the village. Still, she was all right in her perched home, the water couldn’t get that high. She imagined it would be somewhat worse inOlomouc.

The thought made her find her phone and charge it. When she switched it on, there were messages from Zoran, mostly asking her to stay in touch, as if the circle came to its completion.

“You rejected me, my love. You have no right to me anymore,” she thought, but called him anyway. She was greeted with a surprised: “Hey!”

“Hi, I was just wondering, you know, with all the water… if you were ok,” she explained.

“What water?” he sounded genuinely bemused.

“Oh Christ, don’t you ever go out?” she wondered.

“Not if I can help it, I do hate the cold,” he reminded her.

“Of course you do. Well, for your information, there are floods everywhere. It’s crazy, the whole valley’s under water, and my garden’s under water, so I wouldn’t even get to Opava if I tried,” she chatted away, and at the same time was scared that she was aiming at the impossible: having a normal conversation with him again. But she missed it so much she at least had to try.

“I haven’t seen anything like that here. But you know, I’m pretty much up the slope and I rarely venture out anyway.”

“Do you ever miss me?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.

“Of course I do. I did want to stay in touch, remember?”

She sighed. He made it sound like it was all her fault again, the collapse of the relationship. But it wasn’t! She couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening, save perhaps asking her doctor about the troubles she had. But there had been no reason to do that. Not before… Anyway, how could she have stayed in touch when he had given her up so easily?

“I’m in touch now,” she shrugged.

“Why?”

“Because I was worried about you, withOlomoucbeing so low and everything.”

“Why don’t you come and see for yourself then?”

“Is that an invitation or something?”

“Of course.”

“Ok, I’ll get my boat out of the garage.”

“You have a boat?”

“No, silly. It’s just a joke. It originated after the last floods in 97. I’ll tell it to you when I get there.”

“Ok. Looking forward to it.”

“Yeah, me too,” she smiled. “See you later then!”

 

She suddenly felt so elevated she decided it wouldn’t be a problem for her to walk up along the forest path to the nearest village to steal someone’s car, since she couldn’t drive through the waterfront below her chateau. It took her a better part of an hour, but in the end she secured a land rover and, taking extra caution to avoid low altitude areas, she eventually arrived in Olomouc safely, parking the car in front of the second block of the Neředín dormitory. It felt like years since she had been there for the last time, and under such different circumstances, too.

He came out almost immediately, apparently having heard her come, and invited her inside. She had been picturing this scene a hundred times over on her way here, and always imagined herself flying into his arms immediately, but in the end she never did.

The room was tidier and somewhat better vented than how she remembered it, and she soon found herself sitting in his old armchair, smiling and talking to him. It felt really good, and for now, there was nothing that could penetrate the walls of safety she had built around this room in her mind.

He was lying on the bed, and after a while finally offered her the much-desired hug. She gladly got up and folded herself into his arms. His proximity made her feel too warm; she took off her sweater and lay back down just in her under vest. He took her face in his hand, made her face him and kissed her. She let go completely for a moment, enjoying the sensation of passion taking hold of her. They kissed some more, feeling each other up.

“I don’t want to hurt you again,” he said when, for some reason, they stopped and the thrill subsided again.

“It’s got to get better. Maybe not now, maybe not the next time. But it’s bound to get better. We’ve got to try,” she countered aloud, and in her mind she was telling herself: “It won’t hurt anymore. It just can’t. I won’t let it.”

She bit her lip when he entered her. It did hurt. But she had made up her mind. It would stop. She’s got to get out of this vicious circle. She won’t lose him over this again. Then pain went away, and her lips formed a broad smile. He asked her several times whether she was all right, and she nodded happily. In the end he fell into her arms, covered in cold sweat.

They decided it would be a good idea to have a shower, and as they were standing under the refreshing stream of hot water, she hugged him and said, beaming: “See? I told you it would get better.”

They lay down to sleep that night on the floor, since they each preferred their space when sleeping, while they only had one blanket.

Jane woke up in the morning to see him lying on his side, propped up on his elbow, watching her intently.

“Good morning,” she smiled.

“Morning,” he replied, as if there was something more urgent than morning greetings on his mind.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Listen,” he told her simply. She did, and for a moment didn’t understand what was going on. There was noise in the background, signs of people in the building moving about, getting up, having shower, preparing meals and such like. And outside, there was noise from traffic.

“You have got to be kidding me,” she said slowly.

“Just what I thought,” he concurred.

“So what we just went through, that was some kind of a mysterious shortcut to get where we are now in the relationship or something?”

“It would seem so,” he shrugged.

“But how?” she demanded.

“I have absolutely no idea. And I gave up trying to figure it out. We’re back in the living world. That’s good news, isn’t it?”

“I suppose. What day is it, though?”

“Thursday. We came back all the way.”

“Couldn’t spare me one more day, could it,” she complained. She hated the Thursday lecture. Unless she overslept and there was no point in going there…?

“Why?” he wondered.

“Socioeconomic geography this morning. What a waste of time. What time is it anyway?”

“Oh, yeah, that one. It’s eight. When’s the lecture?”

“Quarter to ten,” she announced, crestfallen. The last bit of hope had gone. Still, everything else was the way it was supposed to be. She was normal, after all, and people were back, they were back, and had moved miles in the relationship meanwhile. They might have wasted the whole time she had left inOlomoucby hating each other, and now it was on the other side of the emotion scale. Still, now that everything was back to what it used to be, she would go to theNetherlandsin February, and come back at the end of June at the earliest. And he could be anywhere at that time. They might not prolong his residence permit, he might get a fancy job somewhere, and they’ll lose each other in the course of life. She recalled the feeling of being dead without her body noticing, and for a second she was paralyzed with fear.

They got dressed, and she got ready to go to school. As she was leaving and he kissed her goodbye, she hugged him tightly, the fear of losing him once again rooted deep inside her, soaking out of her skin in the single question:

“We’re doomed, aren’t we?”

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