by Monica Trif (Romania)
Translation from Romanian by Irina Savin
Edited by Robert Fenhagen
Adrian rushed from the house, made his way as best he could through the fierce blizzard, took his horse and carriage and set off for the village.
It was blizzard weather, and he could barely see on that Christmas Eve. The single mountain road was hidden between snow-banks.
Adrian Lupescu lived with his wife in the middle of the mountains, far away from the village, far away from the living world.
They knew every cliff, every sound of the trees, and had a small, but beautiful house that seemed welcoming, but with no one to welcome, as their neighbors were the lofty trees and the steep cliffs. Animals were their friends.
The mountains reflected the raw reality of their life.
Sunset was the time to rest the animals, and sunrise was the tough time when they had to wake up, and restart the household chores.
The crests of the mountains, covered by forests, were the curtains isolating them from the world. And the mountain flowers were basically just weeds– food for the animals.
Now, during this winter, the fierce cold was hardening their lives more, and Liliana, his wife, was ill.
‘Who knows if I’m going to find the doctor? It’s Christmas Eve, feasting time, and no one is working tonight.’
While moving slowly through the snow, Adrian’s thoughts were like a broken canvas, with only fragments of images: trees, snow, and his darling Lilianna lying sick.
At other times, he would find lost memories; winding memories that would surface and his soul would fill with sadness: how he wished with every bone in his body to someday have the money to buy a grand house for Lilliana.
‘How quickly time flies! So many years!… We had so many plans, so many dreams… Nothing accomplished. We didn’t even have time to have a baby. We built a house, we bought land, animals… How quickly time flies!’
He stroke the horse now and then, without realizing what he was doing.
‘She was so beautiful when we got married! Light brown hair, green eyes, slender and tall, she was like a may flower. And now… I don’t even know how she became ill.
How quickly time flies!’
Night was falling and the air was still. The horse wasn’t protesting anymore, but moving as fast as it could.
It was six o’clock already, and they were still so far away from the village.
‘After, she’ll get better, we’re going to go for that honey moon I promised, but never had time or money for. And we’re going to visit our relatives.
Maybe we’ll even go to see some cities. We could buy an apartment in the city… and we could stay there in the winters, closer to the world.
Lost in thought, he wasn’t even feeling the frost that was freezing his feet.
Late in the evening, when they arrived at the village hospital, he found only the nurse.
“I don’t think that Doc’ will come in for you at this late hour, on Christmas Eve; I don’t even know why you came all this way,” said the nurse harshly. Anyhow, this is the doctor’s address. He lives near by.
The nurse handed him a piece of paper with the doctor’s address written on it, and Adrian rushed out heading for the doctor’s.
An imposing house, the frosted roof and neighboring trees were covered with snow; it was beautiful.
As he got closer to the door, the scent of sponge cake invaded his frozen nostrils; the feast had begun.
He knocked at the door a few times but nobody answered. The clatter was too loud for anybody to hear the knock, and open the door to him. So he opened the door, entered and still nobody noticed him.
From the big entrance hall, he could see a massive opened door, a large saloon with all sorts of people, young and older. They were playing jolly songs, laughing and cheerfully chatting. The table was full with cookies and sponge cakes, wine and other drinks, all looking appetizing. For a moment there, Adrian’s thoughts flew to Liliana who was left all alone, couldn’t even get herself a glass of water.
‘I wonder what is she doing now, all alone?’
After a few moments, somebody saw him and slowly the music stopped, people started whispering and all gazes were aiming him. A 50 years old tall man, with aristocratic looks, came towards him at the door.
– Who are you looking for?
– Doctor Alexandru Pop.
– It’s me, how can I help you?
– My wife is sick, and I don’t know what to do, I apologize for disturbing you at this hour and on such a day, but my wife is very sick.
– And where is she? Did you take her to the hospital?
– No, she’s home. I would like you to come with me to see her.
– To your home?! the doctor asked miffed. You should have taken her to the hospital, he added.
– But we live far away, on the mountain, it’s too cold, and she can’t even stand on her feet. She would have died freezing on the way!
– Don’t worry, maybe it’s nothing serious, I can’t abandon my guests now, but tomorrow morning you can bring her to the hospital.
The doctor disappeared. Adrian stayed at the door. He couldn’t believe he had come all this way for nothing. Long moments passed and Adrian couldn’t move.
Eventually, annoyed, the doctor came back and asked him:
– How did you get here?
– By carriage.
– Wait a moment, I’ll go get my coat.
In a few minutes, they were on, the way to Adrian’s home.
The doctor was impatient and was giving Adrian posing superior looks that forbade a single word.
From time to time, the doctor complained about the fierce cold.
It made for a heavy silence and a gloomy feeling all around, as they traveled.
The moon looked like a small white dot, and the road back seemed so much longer.
Finally, it stopped snowing, but it was still bitterly cold.
The house looked empty at that hour, and everything around was painfully silent.
They entered the house with no one saying a thing, and Adrian led the doctor into the room where he had left Liliana.
She was lying in bed with her eyes closed.
„Maybe she fell asleep”, said the doctor, as an answer to Adrian’s worried looks.
Adrian got closer and touched her with fear. As he did, his heart seemed to stop, because she was cold; cold as the frozen mountain outside.
She didn’t wait for him. Adrian looked at the doctor but now there truly was no need for words.
‘Ohh… if she could have waited for an hour only… if I could have had time to look her in the eyes one more time… if I could have told her that I loved her…’