Chapter 8: Sun on the street and a painful truth
I don’t go back to the train station, but I head to the park and I catch the sunrise on the shore of the lake. I’m thinking again of Dalia. Something wants me alive to find the truth, even if everyone is against me and tried to kill me, to wipe me from this earth or to knock me down. I needed a hit to bring me back on my feet, and this young lady with her “Guess” purse was like fresh air to me.
I find myself smiling. I go to another gas station, where I wash my clothes and dry them. I clean the blood from my skin and I check my wound. It’s healing. I need something clean to cover it. I get out from the bathroom and I start looking for something useful on the shelves. I don’t have money, so I put inside my blouse a pack of rag for cleaning cars and I get out of there. I walk two more steps, then I start running. I believe that I’m going to get beaten for these things one day. I sit on a curb and I bandage my wound. I feel clean and it’s a pleasant feeling. A new beginning. I look up and I notice that I’m standing in front of Dalia’s block.
I make a face because I’m not sure how I got there, but my feet brought me there, without noticing. I feel courageous and I enter the block. The next second I’m standing in front of her door, ringing the bell.
“Again?” I hear her hoarse voice from the other side of the door.
When she opens the door she sees me with my hand at my forehead. I feel a strong headache and I think it’s because of the whiskey I had last night. I deserve it. Dalia’s wearing pajamas with a lot of ducks, so I try not to laugh.
“I told you not to come back.”
“I don’t do what people tell me.”
“I can’t help you.”
“Dalia, please. I wanted to give up, but I can’t. If you know something, I want you to tell me. Why the only name that has a connection with me or my parents is yours?”
Dalia steps out, looks around, and she pulls me inside by my arm.
“I don’t usually welcome strangers into my apartment”, she excuses.
“I see”, I continue.
“I would offer you something to drink, but I won’t keep you that long. I will tell you only one thing, but the condition is that you won’t tell anyone about me and you won’t come back. You won’t tell even if your life depends on it.”
“I’m telling you this because you look like him…”
I google my eyes and wait for the rest of the story. She remains quiet for a second like she was a deep and sad thinking as if she remembered something painful for her.
“I know you”, she finally says.
“Oh, God. I will tell you a lot more, but you have to promise me that you won’t try to unbury the dead.”
“I can’t promise you this.”
“Then here’s the door.”
Dalia goes to the window, pulls the curtains, then she tells me to sit down. She offers me a glass of water, and I grab the three cookies from the table, which are lying there for a couple of days, by the way they’re looking.
“Yeah, you can try the cookies”, she says.
I blush and I mumble some excuses with my mouth full of cookies.
“I first saw you when you were a month old. I’m the one who took you to the orphanage.”
I feel a piece of cookie into my throat. The blood is pumping through my veins, but I try to remain calm.
“I was your father’s mistress.”
“Do you want to hear the story?”
She sighs as I was pulling the words out of her mouth.
“Cassandra. Your mother was a beautiful woman. I started my relationship with your father one year before her death. When she got pregnant with you, your father decided to end our relationship. I didn’t hold grudges, even though I loved him with all my heart. I remained his assistant until things got messy. Paul discovered by accident some files. Files that ended him.”
“I don’t understand.”
I feel a lump in my throat. The name sounds familiar to me.
“Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice.”
I feel the room spinning with me.
“But I heard he died in a car accident a long time ago!”
“Yes, this is what they told the press. He bumped into some files that incriminated the Prime-Minister’s counselor. A young man brought into the Government by interventions. He was selling weapons and guns behind the Government’s back. He was caught up in a mess with some terrorists. Have you heard about the accident with the two trains that collided twenty-something years ago?”
“Yeah. I’ve read about it. I wasn’t born yet.”
“Yes. Stan Bernard was implicated into that catastrophe. No one knew that until Stan found a file that Stan forgot to delete. A big mistake. I was on his right when he opened it and he found there some threatening emails. Someone was threatening to expose his involvement and his career would have been over. He had sold the weapons and slipped some secret information, then some codes, and they continued the rest of the job easily from there. They did some damage to the rails, got on their frequency, gave them false information and the trains collapsed.”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”
“Paul went to face him, and he did that with another colleague around, without knowing that he was as involved as Stan. He went there thinking he could record the conversation, but they ended up fighting and the two men threatened they would kill Cassandra. Your father came and told me everything, but he warned me not to tell anyone else until he finds a solution. He had no idea who else from the Government was involved, so he tried to find out information on his own. Stan was so angry when Paul found another two people involved, and the night she went into labor he sent people after her to the hospital. They probably bribed the doctors to let them in her room because they put something inside her perfusion. At least this was Paul’s explanation.”
I was staring at her and crying without control. There were a few wrinkles on her face, but only when she frowned.
“The doctors called in the death. Theoretically, you were both dead. But something happened when they changed shifts. Something they couldn’t possible imagined. Another doctor discovered that you were still alive, so he delivered you. Your father called me desperately because he didn’t know who to trust. He was there when you were brought into this world. That was the moment when he told me to adopt you. I looked after you for a month. I falsified some documents, and besides the name your mother wanted for you, Cara, I came up with another name, one which wasn’t related to me or to your parents. Vandis. You weren’t baptized. Paul became more and more paranoiac, he felt watched at every step, so he decided not to visit me anymore, leaving me alone with you for a week. We weren’t using our phones for some time, and I started feeling watched too.”
With every word she said, I was trembling harder and harder. I was always under the impression that my life was something much bigger, but I never expected this.
“He showed up at my door one day. He took you in his arms and he held you tight. He said to you that he was sorry, and that was the moment when my heart broke. It was the first time when I saw him crying. He was a big man. Tall, brown-haired, and green eyes. Those eyes…When I first saw you at my door, I instantly knew who you were. Your eyes… his…”
“He loved me. They loved me…” I whisper among hiccups.
“Yes. He left after that. I haven’t heard anything from him since the next day when I saw on the news that he had died in a car accident. Of course that I couldn’t believe it. But what was I supposed to do? I figured they might have controlled his vehicle from a distance. They couldn’t find break tracks, and I knew he couldn’t have left you alone in this world. Even though they said it was a suicide, I knew it wasn’t.”
“What have you done after that?”
“I gathered my strengths and I took you to the orphanage. Then I made some fake IDs and I tried to leave the country. I was afraid. Even if I knew that no one had a clue that I was aware of what was happening, I was afraid for my life.”
“Yeah, I get it…”
“Do you? What would you have done? You know what? Just don’t answer. I don’t want you to be in my skin. They wouldn’t let me cross the border because they caught me with false documents. I’ve received a huge fine. I left town and I abandoned you at the orphanage, without going back to see you. I never visited you. But after two months, everything came out. By ‘everything’ I mean that they found out that you survived. They killed the doctor who saved you, then they found out that I took you to the orphanage. They came after me, two hundred kilometers away and they caught me. They tortured me for three days, hoping that I would have said something about your father.”
She lifts up her blouse and she shows me the scars on her back. There were traces of whipping, but also other scars, whose story I didn’t want to know. I turned goosebumps. Her body was mutilated, and I was wondering how she was still alive.
“I was just a young girl who had graduated when I first got a job in Paul’s office. First time I wanted to go to the acting school, but I changed my mind. That was my luck. For three days, when all they asked was: ‘What do you know about Paul?’, I resisted. I convinced them that I didn’t know anything, just that he brought you to my door and he left. They believed me, so they let me live, and they gave me a huge amount of money to keep me quiet for the torture. They said they thought I was an ally of Paul’s, and if I would have said anything no one would believe me. This was the reason they let me live.”
“And you didn’t say anything?”
“What was is supposed to do? I was afraid for my life! This is why I told you not to unbury the dead! They will kill you!”
We were looking at each other and crying loud. I was crying for some people who I hadn’t actually met.
“Then I moved here, away from that place, and I remained in peace until you knocked at my door. How did you get here? From all the places on this planet, country, whatever?”
“From orphanage to orphanage. I didn’t have a good life either.”
“You should be lucky that you’re alive!”
“Why haven’t they killed me?”
“They probably thought that you couldn’t find the truth, so they didn’t bother to get their hands dirty… Just like they did with me.”
“Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do? I don’t want to be dragged into this mess.”
“I will think about it. I won’t drag you into trouble.”
I get up and wipe my tears.
“Thank you for your honesty, Dalia.”
She nods her head and I turn around to leave.
“Wait”, she says handing me some money. “Here you go. It’s not much, but it’s something.”
“You can’t buy me.”
“I don’t want to buy you. I want to help you. Wait a second.”
She goes into the other room and she returns with a backpack filled with clothes.
“Here. I hope you can get through this.”
“Thanks, but how did you know that…”
“I just figured.”
I get out of the apartment where my life had changed, and I hear a sigh. I get out from the block and I don’t look back. I didn’t even ask if she had a picture, something to make me know how the people I was mourning looked like. I felt a huge pain, that kind of pain that you feel when your heart is broken again, in a lot more brutal than before.
I stop in front of a store. I enter wiping my tears and I take a look on the shelves. I have Dalia’s money, but I grab a chocolate and I prepare to put in the back of my pants. Old habits die hard.
“Can I help you?” I hear a feminine voice.
I turn around and I see a familiar face. I feel my cheeks on fire and I let the chocolate slip back on the shelf.
“Oh, God! How small the world is! You helped me last night with the thief!”
“Yeah…” I smile.
“Are you ok? You don’t look ok.”
“I’m fine. I was looking for some coffee.”
“Oh, here it is.”
“Do you work here?” I ask rummaging for the money to pay my coffee.
She pushes my bill back.
“This is on me. You saved my wallet”, she laughs.
I smile and taste the coffee.
“Raisa”, she says.
“Cara”, I say and I shake her hand.
I see a warm smile on her face and I realize it’s time for me to start giving people a chance. Normally, I would have thought about an elaborate plan, where someone framed the purse’s theft, and she was the main character, but I can see things different now. Why would they bother to frame that if I was about to kill myself? And this is how I realize that Raisa was sent by the Universe to save me somehow.
“You asked me if I work here. I don’t. I own this place, and I owe you. Tell me if there’s anything I can do for you.”
“In fact, you can”, I say. “Only there’s a tiny problem.”
“Tell me. We will work it out.”
“I see that you need a seller here.”
“Yes. The other girl left, and Mia can’t deal with this alone.”
“I need a job too. I’m just starting here and I need it.”
“Consider yourself hired here.”
“Now about the problem… I don’t have any documents. My wallet with my acts was stolen too, and when I asked at the institution they said they can’t make me another identity card because they can’t find me in the database. Bullshit.”
“Well, one point for me, and one for you. I pay your salary and I don’t pay taxes anymore. It’s that simple.”
“Are you sure you won’t have problems because of it?”
“You will get an identity card soon”, she laughs. “Indefinite period of time”, she continues.
I smile and I thank her again.
“When can I start?”
“Today would be perfect. This is why I’m here. Mia can’t come today.”
“I can start today.”
“Perfect. Let me give you the tour”, says Raisa touching my shoulder.