Sandra had had a very strange dream that night, but the sun said hello to her when she opened the curtains of her bedroom the morning after. In her dream, she had seen a person she had not met in years. He was a boy with dark curly hair and big blue eyes. She greeted him swiftly and touched his wet hair.
“Why it’s always raining on you, in my dreams?”
“Because you don’t love me, Sandra – had said the boy in a gloomy voice, while she was caressing his forehead – and this breaks my heart.”
“Oh silly boy, sure I love you! – she had smiled on the tips of her lips – You’re my little prince, remember David?”
“I am not little and I am not a prince – he had gently grabbed her fingers in his hand – I am a man, a dark knight, an obscure sorcerer. I am here to take you away under my dark cape, to take you and never leave you…”
His voice had broken. She had shushed him with a finger on his lips, which were trembling.
“Sandra, would you grant me a kiss? Only one.”
She had removed her finger from his mouth and he had come closer to her. She had smiled, welcoming the boy in her open arms and when their faces had been real close, she had kissed him on his forehead. The boy had sighted and melted away in rain drops which smelled like white lilies. Sandra had bathed herself in the rain that had been her friend.
“Your rain is so fresh, David.”
She had said towards the sky, realising in that moment that she was naked. Then she had walked away from the rainy forest, which was her old friend, along a lush green path. One step after the other the vegetation had become less and less luxuriant until it had completely disappeared and the path was arid and spare. A harsh hot wind was lashing on her bare skin, burning her eyes, when Sandra had awakened.
Her husband was not there. Probably, he had awakened hours before, right at dawn, and had gone out on his morning running along the river. Probably, he had come to bed while she was deep asleep. He used to tell Sandra that she had the sleep of a lethargic bear and the same snoring.
Without a worry in her heart, Sandra left the window to start her daily routine. First, a cold shower, after that a quick choice of clothes, then a good breakfast and, last but not least, a bicycle ride to town to do the daily groceries. Sandra had always loved cold water in the shower and fresh food on the table. She took her cotton nightgown off with a rapid graceful gesture and jumped in the shower singing under her breath. Cold water on her broad back, a spurt of scented bath foam on a sponge and Sandra was back again in her dream. The same feeling of shadowed glee cooled down her high spirits. On autopilot, she stopped brushing her golden skin, closed the shower tap and stretched out one arm to search for the towel. She rubbed herself in the towel like she used to every morning but she couldn’t find the same simple pleasure as always in the rough touch of the dry cotton towel on her cold skin. Instead, she smelt the scent of lilies of the shower gel on her skin and felt even gloomier than before. It was a strange sweet pain she had never felt in her life.
She left the bathroom to change herself, wondering what was happening to her. Roberto, her husband, would not have been home until noon. Her son, Marco, was probably deep asleep in his bed. She didn’t want to wake him up for such a stupid thing. She didn’t even know herself what was going on. She reached the bed, still to be done, to sit down and caught a glance of herself in the wardrobe mirror.
Her sad eyes made her think about David’s gloomy look in her dream and she reached the mirror. Lightly, she touched the cool surface with her fingertips, caressing the reflection of her own face.
“Why are you so sad?”
Said Sandra looking at the mirror, unsure if she was talking to herself or to David. On the other side of the river, in the last house on the road, her niece Nadia was talking about David with her grandma.
“It might be difficult to stay away from him if he truly is the new doctor like you are suggesting, nana.”
“Oh, you are big and strong. You’ll do just fine.”
“I don’t know, nana. I feel like if a big, spirited army of streptococcus little fellas was trying to invade me. I can clearly feel their war tambourins hitting me here and there. They go like this.”
She started to smash the ship biscuits in her bowl in tempo, throwing crumbles and drops of milk everywhere.
“Stop! Stop! Do not play with food in my kitchen! – Said her granny, not really angry – You make a joke of everything. Ah!”
She used her immaculate apron to dry the milk spilt on the table.
“Why? Why don’t you listen to me and why do you joke about everything?”
She kept on cleaning the table with her apron.
“Because tears ruin my beautiful eyes.”
Answered Nadia with her mouth full of smashed biscuits and milk.
Her little granny shook her white head.
“Let me hear, what should you cry about?”
“First of all, I am seriously ill and you don’t let me see the doctor.”
“You are as ill as a female cat in spring.”
“Nonetheless, I am in pain and he is my only hope to regain happiness.”
“I was not born from love.”
“What are you blabbering about?”
“My parents never loved each other, therefore, they don’t love me. No one truly loves me.”
She suddenly brought her hand to her forehead in a melodramatic gesture that sent other crumbs and milk around the kitchen.
“Stop this nonsense. You are very much loved. Even if your parents didn’t love you, wich is not the case, here you have me and I love you for three.”
That said she grabbed her granddaughter’s head and she planted a loud kiss on her forehead.
“Oh nanny, you are so sweet – she caressed her nanny’s hands – so do I have your blessing?”
“Only if you leave the doctor alone!”
The granny ruffled Nadia’s hair before releasing her head.
“My hair! I have only my hair, don’t ruin it!”
“He’s too old for you!”
“He doesn’t look old – she finished her bowl of milk and biscuits and stood up to carry it to the sink – he’s… perfect.”
“He is! – Said the girl, opening the tap to fill the dirty bowl with hot water – I mean, to me. I have a crush on him since I was nine! He’s pale, he has dark hair and those eyes! So blue and so… big! And he’s so cool, always at ease and kinda moody.”
“Like a cat.”
The cat has shown his majestic person at the kitchen door at that precise moment, only to look up at the two women with supreme disdain and leave.
“Close the faucet.”
Nadia did as told and reached for her school satchel. She wore it across her body and then brushed her straight hair with her fingers. Her granny came closer to her.
“How it was that you met the doctor’ son the first time?”
“I told you, I was little. I was doing grocery with aunty Sandra. At that time, mother used to leave me with her rather often. He hasn’t changed at all from that day. I had a sudden crush on him. I remember that he seemed to be happy and sad at the same time, that day.”
“Of course, you were with Sandra.”
“What does it mean? It’s not like they could be former lovers or something.”
Her granny shushed her abruptly and pointed at her with a nubby finger.
“Ok! I promise not to chase the doctor – her granny nodded – but what if it’s the doctor who chases me?”
“I’m afraid this could hardly happen.”
“Mm, I won’t be so sure if I were you. I read his cards, the guy was rather impressed by your beaut…”
The nubby finger of the old woman rose even closer to the girl’s face.
“You stop immediately.”
Her voice was scarily steady. The girl gulped.
“I only did a round of cards, like you taught me. It’s not that I am a witch or something – she giggled uneasily – I am not doing anything, now. I swear.”
“Don’t swear. Never.”
Then the old lady smiled and her scaring fixity was gone. The girl smiled back and the two went to the main door.
“Should I await you for lunch?”
“Nana, you packed me a bag. Don’t you remember? For me and Denise? To eat together in the woods? We have traced another place that could have been the den of the Roaming Witch.”
“It’s always in the Northern Woods?”
“You are not going to explore the Red House, are you?”
“What? No, no. That shitty place is Marco’s business.”
“Don’t say that. I told you, never say bad things about your family. It’s the only one you have.”
“I know, I know. Sorry, nana.”
She kissed her granny on cheeks thin as paper and left. The cat scratched himself against the legs of the old lady.
“She’s gone. Do you think she’s gonna end up in deep trouble?”
“Who cares. I can’t stand your children. Never have.”
Said the cat.