Chapter 1: Freedom (Emma)
Love is a mysterious concept to me. It is always birthed at the best and worst of times in one’s life. Usually seen as a blessing from up above, one forgets it is rather a burden we have to bear through endless storms that constantly evolve. And just like humans do, love eventually dies, in many different ways, taking a part of one’s self down with it.
Although time gives one enough space to be reborn in this endless cycle of life and death, the soul forever carries the weight and memory of many lost loves. What could possibly be the purpose of Love if we are bound to be unfulfilled?
I’d walked out of that shit hole, at last. And since, I’d only breathed fresh air, even in that flying tin can for twelve hours. Yvan had arranged for my discharge and transportation to Canada. Not because he wanted me to start anew elsewhere, but because he needed to keep an eye on me. He’d even forced me to accept a bodyguard who went by the name of Séverine. I didn’t give a damn, really. She could follow me around like a puppy dog if she wanted to. I, on the other hand, had prayed for one of the planes to explode, like in the middle of the Atlantic. But obviously, my prayers hadn’t been heard.
“Dammit,” I muttered as the air attendant’s voice startled me awake, announcing the end of my torture.
“Get ready, we’ll get out first. We don’t want to spend too much time here,” she said with a distinct French accent.
“What, you’re scared I might lash out on some random passenger? Don’t worry, I’ve had enough anxiolytics for the next two days at least. I’ll probably just pass out in the car. By the way, you could have used French with me.”
“I know,” she answered, leaping from her seat at the stop of the plane.
“Then why didn’t you?” I asked, confused.
“It makes us stand out in the crowd. Come on, let’s go.”
I chuckled, amused. Of course, Yvan didn’t want me to be noticed or recognized in Victoria, otherwise he would lose his reputation as Tofino’s best surfing school and shop manager. Like that was a lot in jeopardy.
I barely managed to follow Séverine, brisk walking through the airport’s labyrinth. She glanced at me sternly but let a stupid grin loom on her face when she realized I was out of breath.
“Maybe you should stop smoking that illegal shit,” she proudly advised.
I’d been so used to people meddling in my affairs and telling me what to do lately that I’d learnt to protect myself from blowing a fuse. Wait, that had already happened.
“I don’t need your counseling services. Fuck off.” She just shrugged and moved on without a care.
We walked through customs without much trouble, which surprised me. Even I could smell the pot off my hair and bra. At least I would have enough of it to smoke my brains out into oblivion and endure my stay in Tofino.
When we finally reached the exit, it took me a couple minutes to adjust my sight to the blinding white light of the foggy weather. We roamed around, looking for a long-time-no-see blond mane in the crowd, which popped out of the line of heads, yelling “over here!”
Yvan jogged up to us and warmly wrapped me in his arms, followed by Sam, holding their one-year-old baby, Liam.
Although I was still mad at him for letting me rot in hell for six months, I completely gave in to the whirlwind of emotions in my heart and burst into sobs. He pushed my head further into his chest, swaying me from side to side in an attempt to calm me down.
“You’re home, Em’. Everything is going to be alright, now. Je suis là,” he whispered. Above the hubbub of the airport, his words soothed my panting and gave me a temporary feeling of being home. Yvan had this much power over me. He’d practically raised me, along with our grandmother, and his protecting instincts had helped me keep it together, once.
As I pulled away from him, I realized that my vision had blurred. I dried my tears off and sputtered “Man, these eyes have so much water to spill I almost drowned you.” I giggled, a sign of my emotional and physical exhaustion. Or surely the pills starting to knock me out.
I then pulled my sister-in-law and nephew in a long embrace, thinking that being with my family was what I would have needed all along. Instead, I’d chosen to walk a much darker path.
As Yvan drove us to Tofino, I could tell there was tension in the air. My brother was a meek and quiet man, keeping his cool at all times. But since we’d left, his blue eyes had been wandering around all three mirrors, always coming back to me. His frowning, which disrupted his coolness, told me he was worried about something — me. I leant against the window and closed my eyes, unwilling to challenge him into a game of glances, still undecided as to whether I should vent my spleen at some point or not at all.
About ten miles later, Yvan broke the heavy silence in the car, solely addressing Séverine in French, sitting right next to him.
“Comment s’est passé le voyage ?” He asked.
“Smoothly. For now, at least.”
“I’ll have to be careful and organized. She’s still unstable, and...” he murmured.
“I know. We’ll figure it out. Tomorrow night’s a full moon, though. We’ll have to keep an eye on her, just in case.”
I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but I didn’t give a shit. I’d stopped listening at the word “unstable”, which aroused all the bitterness and anger I’d kept in. I abruptly sat back up in my seat and turned to the mesmerizing nature, hoping we’d arrive soon.
“Hey Emma, I was thinking about something. Remember your last mail, when you said the doctor wanted you to get back to having a… normal life?” He asked, checking me out again in the mirror.
“I do, unfortunately” I answered harshly, ready to go wild.
“Well, I’m looking for somebody to take care of the front desk back at the school. Would you be interested?” He sounded hesitant for a second, but I blamed it on his daddy exhaustion.
“Of course, I would be, if I didn’t know my brother to be a controlling freak who doesn’t trust me with living my own life.” I raised my voice and glanced at him, ready for whatever was coming my way.
“I’m just trying to help, Emma.” He mumbled. The “help” word sent me over the edge.
“Oh, really? So where were you the past six months when I needed you, huh?” My heart pounded against my chest as I remembered every single day of my wretched life. I knew him too damn well to predict that he would stick his head into the sand and wait for me to pass out and move on. But I couldn’t let him have the final word on this, nor could I accept silence as a statement.
“When I almost died in Portugal? When I got through multiple surgery to repair my torn-out womb? When I lost my mind? When I went to a fucking mental institution?” I cried out, pathetically failing at keeping my emotions in check. My hands were trembling on my lap, and the heat of my boiling blood streamed right up to my face.
“Answer me!” I shouted, frenetically hitting the leather headrest of his seat in front of me. By then, Liam was hollering on repeat and Séverine was huddled into her own seat, hiding away from me. Sam helplessly tried to shush her son back to sleep while we all kept quiet for a moment. I could tell I’d touched a soft spot when I saw Yvan’s eyes fill up with tears.
“Look, Emma, I’m sorry I didn’t visit you in Bordeaux. I will blame myself for the rest of my goddamn life. I was a selfish bastard, and I have no excuse. But I will make it up to you, that I promise.” His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he gulped his tears back in. It pained me to see him that way, but the doctors had told me any form of communication was a good way of mending internal wounds. That I agreed with.
“Well, I won’t believe it until I see it.” I muttered.
Sam dropped a gentle hand on mine across Liam’s tiny body and gave me an apologetic look which I felt sincere. Her touch appeased me, and slowly brought me back to my senses.
“My sister, Binesi, is coming for dinner tonight with her husband and a friend of ours, would it be okay?” Sam asked, holding her breath.
“Yes, I guess.” I almost whispered, before gazing down at the ring I had been playing with on my left hand.
The truth was, I didn’t give a shit about dinner, or any other meal, for that matter. I wanted to be left alone and wait for Death to come and take me away. I’d just been freed from the four white walls of a French mental institution, and here I was, on Vancouver Island, juggling with painful memories and the images of a life I could have had.
All that was left for me to do was suffer until my sorrow evaporated into thin air, just like the fog was dissipating before our eyes, paving the road to a sunny- and blue-skied Tofino.
It was time to take my meds again.