Lost ones

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Lost ones

  1. 1. LOST ONES Rute Canhoto http://rutecanhoto.blogspot.com Published by Rute Canhoto at Smashwords ISBN 978-989-98352-0-7 Copyright 2013 Rute Canhoto Smashwords Edition, License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
  2. 2. Acknowledgement Who to thank? In first place, my recognition goes to the writer Becca Fitzpatrick, because it was the reading of her series that gave me the final ‘push’ to start writing in the literary genre that attracts me the most. That’s how it goes - sometimes we only need a small incentive to embrace something that we like. Secondly, my gratitude goes to my childhood friend, Vera Letras, for her enlightenments in medical procedures that are mentioned along the story. A special thanks also to Carla Soares, for her support and for always being available. I learned a lot from her and I hope to still learn a lot more. Daniela Nunes, Diana Lourenço, my Twitter pal, Nikki and Jackie Williams – they all helped me, in a way or another, to translate this text to English, so I can’t forget them. At last, but not the least, I want to thank to Patrícia Gatinho for the motivation. Every week she kept asking me how the book was going, and she was the first person to read the first draft and to give me her opinion. Anyway… without the influence and contributions of everyone, this book would not have seen the day light. I hope you like it!
  3. 3. PROLOGUE His touch was extremely hot; so hot, that her skin burned and opened as his finger glided. she felt as if she was being flashed by a branding iron. The scorching heat conflicted with the cold wet night, agitated by a symphony of terror: crashing thunders harmonized with invader lightnings that kept streaking the sky. The cutting rain slashed her. She tried to be strong and not to cry, but the pain was so strong that, eventually, a mortifying scream escaped her, ceasing only when her attacker stopped. She could have sworn that her cry echoed through the whole city, yet no light turned on in any house, no one came to the door to sneak a peek at what was happening, no one came to save her. She couldn’t help but to feel like a fly caught in a spider web, waiting for the inevitable. “Ask me to stop” ordered her the enemy. Trying to look more fearless than she was, she replied, “No! I'm not giving you that pleasure!” Her response only infuriated her opponent even more, who roared in unison with the storm, “Then you’ll suffer more until you change your mind.” A brutal cut opened a tear below her right breast almost to her left hip. The pain was excruciating, however the scream died on her throat; she had no more energy to voice her suffering. She dropped her head forward and watched the water drops falling from her hair. She avoided examining her stomach. She was fully aware that, if she looked down and saw the blood, she would lose the last ounce of strength she had left… and she feared that there was still much to come until the coup de grace finally arrived. In a rare moment of lucidity, she mentally begged for the other person there to help her. She hoped he would hear and attend to her prayers, but he merely swung on the same site, pleased and satisfied with the punishment applied to her. She tried to blame him for not rescuing her, but she couldn’t. She had put him in that situation, so it was only fair that he equated the scale: ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ were trying to restore the balance. The girl dared to stare at the puddle of shades of crimson that was forming at her feet, which were bound to the pole she had been tied to. Red, she thought, the color of love... but also of death. And how one was synonymous with the other at that time… Did she regret what she had done and that had led her there? Maybe she would change one thing or another, but never too much, since she treasured all the good times they had had. A growl of hate made her return to the atrocious present, too painful to bear. Her greatest comfort was that soon everything would end. She couldn’t figure how she could save herself; she could only resign to her fate. Despite the agonizing pain that almost made her beg for the Reaper to be swift, she tried to straighten up, to await the final blow with the dignity she had left. However, her courage fled near the final hour and she shut her eyes. She felt the pole vibrating and her body trembled with the reverberation.
  4. 4. CHAPTER ONE The summer had been great. Marina had worked part of her holidays, but she enjoyed every single moment of freedom to go to the swimming-pool or to the beach. She hadn’t read any book nor studied a single word, which contradicted her status of an applied student or, as they said in school-slang, a geek. ‘Geek’… That was a word with which she didn’t like to be associated, although the alternative didn’t attract her either. It was true that she liked to study and have good grades, so why not do it? To be the best she could be was her goal. As someone devoted to studies, her group of friends was very small, consisting only of Ana. Putting the two of them side by side, there weren’t many resemblances. Marina was tall, had brown hair with a few blond highlights, and wore it straight, a little below her shoulders. Her almond-colored eyes revealed how introverted she was. She wasn’t fat or thin, but medium, although she didn’t worry much about that. As for Ana, she was smaller than Marina, with rich blond hair and large golden curls that tumbled onto her shoulders. Her eyes were green and she had the physique of a top-model. Perhaps that’s why guys would do anything for her but not for Marina. Ana also had a personality that matched her physical beauty: if someone thought that she belonged to the stereotype of ‘dumb blonde’, they would be mistaken. Her weakness was in thinking with her heart before her head. In turn, Marina wasn’t impulsive at all and always thought about the consequences before doing something. Though they were antagonists, the laws of Physics dictated that ‘opposites attracted’ and their solid friendship showed just that. Ana had spent her summer vacations with her parents in the Algarve, located in the south of their country, Portugal. Her father worked as a tourist operator and group animator, which in summer was an asset, because he’d go where the agency sent him and he could take his family with him. Of course Ana’s vacations were always eventful, so when Marina saw her crossing the school gate, she knew the news ahead would be filled with romance and drama, and she would have to listen to her for the next few days. Yes, days! When Ana started to talk nothing would stop her, unlike Marina, who was a lot more reserved and preferred to keep most things to herself. Ana was wearing a green mini-skirt and a cream top with brown and green accessories. Her sandals and coat were brown. Her hair was loose and tamed, which was almost a miracle since during summer it stubbornly resembled steel wool. Marina contrasted with her pal: she wore blue jeans, a half sleeve blouse in red tones, cream All-Star sneakers, and her hair was caught in a pony-tail held at the top of her head. When they saw each other, they ran to hug. The time they were away from each other seemed like an eternity. Mobile phones were part of a teenager’s life, but Marina didn’t have one. Without this useful device, during the vacations they could only speak on the land phone, but it was complicated. After an emotional hug, Ana exclaimed, “How long, babe! You can't imagine the news I have to tell to you.” “Oh, Ana, I already expected that! You, returning from vacation without news? Impossible!” joked Marina. “Hey, you make me sound predictable! And your holidays, how were they?” “The usual. Say, have you eaten? I wasn’t hungry at home, but now I’m starving! Do you want to go with me to the bar to buy something to eat?” proposed Marina. “I had a glass of milk, but I sure fancy one of those warm croissants with ham. I haven’t eaten one of those in ages! Mmm…!” “Yeah! Let’s go then and then you can tell me everything. We have a lot to catch up.”
  5. 5. While heading to the bar, they viewed the school. It had been almost three months since the holidays had started and everything looked the same, as if they had left the previous day to return the next one. The seats and tables were students ‘killed’ time during breaks were in the same places, the lockers were in the exact same corridor that led to the bar, and the sign announcing the location of the Head Master’s office continued to hang over the door. They could have changed a few things during that period of time. For example, they could have taken care of the Headmaster’s sign or have painted the school entry. Still, it felt comforting knowing that, in a changing world with so much uncertainty, the school remained unaffected. Once at the bar, Ana chose a croissant with ham, while Marina chose the one with cheese and a mango juice. Marina hadn’t even taken a bite of the croissant when Ana started to chatter about her adventures during the holidays. As she knew, Ana had gone to the Algarve; since her mother wasn’t able to join them right away, Ana had to babysit her younger brother for a few days, which had been a major bummer. “You can't imagine! That little bugger is a lot of work. I couldn’t even have a good swim at the beach, because I had to keep an eye on him. And you'll never guess what he did to me. I was hit by a wave, lost the top of my bikini and he didn’t return it to me,” complained Ana, her face a mask of frustration. “Geez! I can only imagine…” answered Marina trying to look serious and not to laugh. “I was so embarrassed! There was I, with water up to my neck so that no one realized that my top was missing, and he was in the sand waving it for everyone to see. And he kept yelling ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’ I just wanted to strangle him.” Carlinhos, Ana’s little brother, was eight years old and was considered a genius. However, that led other kids of his age to leave him out of their games and even make fun of him. Angry about that, he subjected childish pranks on others; his favorite target was his big sister. He did everything to her: he took her diary and left it on the couch for her mother to read; he hid her favorite clothes; he gave her favorite shoes to their dog to chew them… Bearing in mind his behavior, Marina believed that Ana had suffered some difficult days taking care of her brother. “What about you Marina, did you meet your younger sister?” questioned Ana before taking another bite in her croissant. “No. She spent the summer with my grandmother in a village in the North. I don’t know what she sees in that village, but if she likes it, let her enjoy it.” In a lower voice, Ana asked, “Does she still live with your father?” Marina’s parents were divorced. 'Irreconcilable differences' was the reason they presented when they told her that they had decided to take a break. The days and the months turned into something more definitive, and the divorce seemed the natural course to follow. Sofia, Marina’s sister, was very attached to her father, so they decided that she would stay with him during school calendar and would spend her vacations with her mother, while the contrary process would apply to Marina. However, things seldom worked that way and the visits were also getting rarer. After sighing, Marina commented, “I’m already used to it, but this is very hard on my mom. She can’t visit her often and Sofia doesn’t want to come here.” “That’s a bad situation,” noted Ana. “Indeed. But much can’t be done to change things if there’s no willingness on both sides.” An awkward silence installed. That was a delicate matter and Marina didn’t like to talk about it. Luckily, the bell sounded. Only then they realized that they hadn’t checked their schedule yet. They knew their first lesson was at 9.30, yet they still hadn’t gone to the board to verify what subject they would have and in what room. Marina thought she
  6. 6. was really rusty. Usually, by this time, she already had the timetable at home and knew it almost by heart. It was better to get into the normal rhythm of school work as soon as possible, after all she wanted to keep her grades up to get into college with no trouble. They walked back to the lobby in a haste to consult the boards and found that they would have Philosophy in room number two. “Yay! Divagations right at the beginning. What a good way of starting the year,” commented Ana with sarcasm while sighing. Philosophy was a subject that Marina enjoyed, but for Ana it was a major torment. Stoics, existentialists, gestalt's… what the hell was that and what did it mean anyway? It all mingled in her head and was worse than a tangled string ball with the end hidden. As they were preparing to head to the room, a boy passed them at full speed and crashed into Ana, making her jump in the direction of a wooden bench by the wall. Without apologizing or even turning to them, he kept running like a speeding bullet towards the classrooms. “Damn, that one is really in a hurry to hit the classes! He has enough enthusiasm for himself and for me. I have no desire to take Philosophy,” commented Ana. “What a rude guy! He didn’t even apologize for pushing you,” criticized Marina. “At least he seemed cute.” “And I suppose it fixes everything else, like his bad manners,” said Marina with a sardonic voice. “No, but it’s half way there,” answered Ana, winking her eye. They marched into the classroom. When they got there, they found the room’s door open and the students sitting down. Nice. The teacher was Manelito, the philosophical terror of the school. Great news for the masochistic. Seeing them, the pedagogue looked over his glasses, coughed slightly to clear his throat and began his moralist speech, “Punctuality, kids, is something that I value very much. Arriving on time can make the difference between a positive and a negative grade.” Ana and Marina looked at each other in a silent dialogue, and prepared to sit together at a table in the back row. “And enjoy today’s opportunity to take a seat randomly, because next class you’ll sit in numerical order. That way, when I call your names according to the list, it’s easier to figure out who’s missing,” announced the teacher. Yep, the year was starting well… As the professor was speaking, a student snorted ironically. Nobody had noticed that he was there, and he would have gone unnoticed the entire lesson if he hadn’t decided to be a smart-ass by challenging the teacher. “Do you have something to say, boy in the back?” asked the teacher abruptly. Only then the friends noticed him: it was the guy that had pushed Ana in the hall earlier without apologizing. Marina thought that Ana was right; he was kind of cute if she looked at him closely, though he might go unnoticed at first glance. His face was long and sharp, he had deep dark eyes that seemed to hide a sea full of secrets, and both his ears were pierced with small ethnic round earrings. He wore his dark hair short and spiky with a smidgen of gel, and his lips outlined a devilish smile, full of indecent promises. He wore dark jeans and a light-blue t-shirt that allowed one to guess that he worked his muscles. Hey, what description was that? Focus on class, Marina ordered herself while shaking her head. Her mind, nonetheless, kept wandering around the topic. Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t even realize that the boy was staring at her, fully aware what he was the center of her attention. Oops! Her face blushed without delay. It couldn’t have been more obvious – how embarrassing. The boy smirked, satisfied. He flicked the pen between his fingers and turned his gaze forward, focusing on the teacher, who was continuing the conversation he had started.
  7. 7. “Let me guess, you’re the transferred student. And you don’t have the best of references. This is your third time in the 11th grade. You should be in college by now. Do you like the 11th grade that much or are you reconsidering your life choices?” The boy continued to draw a derisive grin and just shrugged his shoulders against the assertions of the teacher. “Will you answer me, boy? Tell me your name!” demanded the professor, getting irritated. He ran his tongue over his lips and presented them with his voice for the first time. It was a deep sound, slightly cavernous and cold, but at the same time crisp and appealing. And his pronunciation? Awesome. “Lucas, sir. My name is Lucas. And I take the second choice - I’m rethinking my options in order to choose the best future for me.” “Let’s hope you think fast so that you move on, because you've been in the 11th grade for far too long.” The teacher then turned his eyes to the class book and announced that he would make the call to check who was missing. As that was a presentation lesson, the name he called should confirm the presence and also do a short presentation. Since her name started with the first letter of the alphabet, Ana was the first one to talk. She stood out instantly with her liveliness. “Hello! For those who don’t know me, I’m Ana. I live here, in Alcácer do Sal, and I’m 16. I like to listen to music, hanging out with my friends and shopping. I don’t dismiss a night out and I like to meet nice people. Future ambitions? Predictions only made after the game.” The class erupted with laughter. The teacher stared at her sternly, showing her that there was no room for jokes unless he authorized it. Though this presentation had lightened the heavy air that prevailed, the pedagogue’s reaction meant that the next ones would be more contained. When it was number fifteen’s turn, Lucas was dismissed, because Manelito thought that he already knew enough about him. Moving on, the teacher called, “Marina!” As if it wasn’t enough to have the entire classroom looking at her, Lucas turned in his seat towards her. Why was he staring at her? He didn’t pay attention to what the other students had said, so why would he listen to her? He could just continue with his attitude of one who didn’t care about what was happening. Embarrassed, her cheeks turned pink. With no will to face the crowd of the twenty-two people in the room, Marina chose an empty spot on the concrete wall ahead and began her short speech. “Hi. I’m Marina, I’m 17, and I live here too. I like to read and go to the cinema. As for ambitions, I want to be the best that I can be, and to get as far as I can.” For the first time, the teacher intervened after a presentation. “Wow! Someone with ambitions, although you didn’t present any stone goals. Do you mind explaining yourself better?” Now she glowed as red as a tomato. Silly professor! Wasn’t enough what she’d said? Why did she have to add something more? Stammering, the girl carried on, “Err… what I mean is that I believe that work pays off, so I want to be good at something and achieve the desired reward. For example, if I have good grades, I’ll get into university right away.” “Yes, I’m following your reasoning. Please, continue,” asked the teacher while nodding his head. “In college, if I have good grades, I might have the door half opened for a great job. In my point of view, if I’m good at what I do, I can achieve many positive things.”
  8. 8. The whole class was examining Marina with question marks mirrored on their faces, as if to say 'what the hell is she talking about?' Her eyes automatically scanned her colleagues’ visages and their expressions made her want to disappear. Everyone's attention turned away from her when Manelito continued with the presentation of the rest of the students. “I hope the rest of the day is not equal to this, otherwise, when the last bell rings, I won’t even know who I am,” commented Ana on the sly to Marina. The time went by and soon the professor announced that it may be the first lesson, but there would still be homework. “Your task comes in the sequence of what we did: today we presented ourselves, we said who we are and what we want for our future. But where do we come from, and how does that influence who we are now? Research kids, and write at least a page about the subject. And with beautiful handwriting, because it’s to be given to me,” said the teacher. “Great, we start right away with homework!” grizzled Ana. At long last the bell rang, giving everyone permission to get up from their seats and hurry into the hall, to enjoy a deserved break. With a sigh of relief, Ana and Marina grabbed their handbags. The first one to go out of the door was Lucas, which earned him a comment from Ana that sounded like "The first one to get in must be the first one to get out." Marina didn’t pay attention to it. The breaks used to end very fast in a typical day of school, as students spent their time running around. However, in that first day of classes the short breaks seemed to last long enough to update the talk about the holidays, and between classes that was what the two friends did. When the bell rang at 5.10p.m marking the end of the day, it was with satisfaction they headed to the school gate. They hadn’t done more than presenting themselves, writing summaries or making notes on what were the goals of the teachers for the first period. The talk about the vacations wasn’t over yet, but they would leave the rest for the next day, because Ana saw her mother's Jeep as soon as they crossed the gate. “Well, my love, it’s time to meet mom, to go and get the little devil from school and go home,” announced Ana. “That's fine. Oh, and don’t overbook your agenda, because tomorrow we're going to the mobile phone store to choose my super machine” warned Marina. “Okay. See you tomorrow, babe.” Ana got into the Jeep and waved goodbye to Marina. The autumn was nearing very fast. The days were getting shorter and it cooled faster than before. With an icy chill down her spine, Marina crossed her arms in front of her and rubbed them with her hands to warm up. After breathing a lungful of fresh cold air, she went home. Marina and her mother lived in an old small building, marked by time with austerity, located down-town of Alcácer do Sal, not very far from school. Despite the temperature dropping as the time went by, Marina decided to walk along the wall near the river. The wind there was less serene, but the view made up for that. She crossed the road to the bulwark and walked at a snail's pace, watching the river and admiring the view. Soon the sun would begin to go down, slowly dipping until it disappeared on the horizon. Marina loved watching this show from the pedestrian bridge or sat on the benches across the south shore. Anticipating the sunset, she decided to turn back and cross the bridge. Right at the top, she could sit down and enjoy the orange becoming pink, then purple, until finally darkness arrived. With small steps, she climbed the wooden platform of the pedestrian bridge and touched the green protection grid lightly with her fingers. Skirting the bars with her hands, she
  9. 9. moved towards the center of the bridge. When she arrived there, she supported her elbows on the railing and looked at the horizon. She observed the brown and gold snaking contours of river Sado, the once high and green paddy fields now being harvested, the old railway bridge, and the highway where cars went at full speed. Delighted with the tones that the landscape took on, Marina didn’t notice the voices that rose, nor realized what was going on. Two men had meanwhile begun a discussion in a nearby café. One of them was clearly drunk, confirmed by the way he was walking and speaking. The mood grew to rage and, from the café, they moved over to the street. Wanting to get his way, the drunk man grabbed a stone, threw it with full force against his opponent and hit him right in the head. Being sober, the wounded guy might have had the sanity not to mess with the one who was tipsy, but his insight was clouded by anger and justice had to be served. Noticing that the fight would not end yet, the inebriated man wobbled up to the pedestrian bridge, to the concern of all who were watching. Stumbling, he quickly reached the center of the walkway, where Marina was, but his opponent was right behind him, stretching out his arm in a punch to get him. The drunk guy lost his balance and landed right on top of the girl. Caught by surprise, she tried to hold on. A second thump, given by the man wounded in his head, forced Marina to climb the railing. A new attack projected her outward and she became suspended in the air, holding on only with one hand to the side bars. Distressed, Marina screamed as loud as she could, as she tried to reach the grid with her free hand; however, her body swung and it was very difficult to reach. Incredulous at the scene happening, people began to approach. A woman then ran towards the café where it all started and called up two men to go break up the fight, so that they could help the girl, who had finally managed to grasp with both hands. Still, she wasn’t save. The men ran to the bridge, but the fight was still ravaging and it was pretty heated. The drunk man decided to try to kick the other guy, but instead he stepped on one of the girl’s hands. Faced with excruciating pain, Marina screamed and felt her strength ebbing away. So that was it, that was how she was going to die: young, without having known the true flavor of life, and without having achieved the bright future that so many people had said that she would have. Where was the justice in that? Why did she have to be sacrificed in the middle of a stupid scuffle that had nothing to do with her? There was still so much to do… Sometimes, she thought of doing something and ended up leaving it for another day, because there would be another day. At that second, nothing was certain beyond the fact that nothing was certain. Tomorrow might never come to her and why? Why did she have to pay that high price? She never had much strength in her arms and, to make matters worse, her hands often perspired. Although she tried not to think about it, her palms became more humid and the hand that was still clinging to the railing began to slip away. It was common to hear that life passed in front of one’s eyes when someone was about to die, so Marina thought soon she would see all the important moments of her short life passing through her mind in a photographic record. She tried to calm her spirit, preparing for the terrible tragedy. Contrary to what she intended, tears began to stream along her face. In a last effort, she gave a boost up and launched herself toward the fence to grab it. However, it wasn’t enough: her right hand didn’t reach the handrail and the left slipped off. In those milliseconds she seemed suspended in the air, she looked at the sky and saw him. Was she dreaming? Was he the last vision in her life? Why him and not someone important, like her mother? Lucas extended his body out along the railing, but didn’t arrive in time and his hands just grazed Marina’s fingers. The floating sensation was
  10. 10. rather ephemeral, and soon gave way to shortness of breath combined with the dreadful dive into the icy water. As her body obstinately dropped to the river bottom, not responding to any orders, Marina closed her eyes and decided to let go. That was how she was going to die. That was it. All of a sudden, the water stirred around and she came face to face with him. Him again... Maybe he was a death angel and was there to take her with him. She remembered the concept ‘to cross over’ and never thought it could be so ironic; the death angel was about to help her to make the crossing to the opposite side of life - death. Suddenly, she expected to wake in a barge with a helmsman, who would tell her if she was going to paradise or purgatory, just like in the dramatic play ‘Auto da Barca do Inferno’, of the writer Gil Vicente. However, and to her surprise, the air returned to invade her nostrils. She received it with an urgent gush that made her choke. Her arms waved frantically in the water, in a botched attempt to swim or, at least, to claw at the surface. Soon she found herself surrounded by something stronger that hugged and pushed her towards one of the pillars of the bridge. “Come on, swim now. Kick your feet with strength! We have to reach the pillar,” she heard. Stunned by what was said, she took a few clumsy kicks in the water, trying with despair to get to her destination. “Put your arms and legs around the pillar. Hold on to it, as monkeys do to the back of their mothers.” That sounded like a good joke, except nobody was there to laugh and she felt her lips paralyzed by cold, which kept her from smiling. Although her hands felt numb and trembled, she managed to cling to the column of cement. Then she felt a body behind her, also trying to hold on to the pillar and pushing against her, so that she didn’t slip and remained safe and sound there until help arrived. “Are you okay? Hang on. The fire fighters are already on their way.” That voice... Trying slowly to gain her reasoning ability, Marina realized at last that the one who saved her life was Lucas. It was he who was there with her; he had come to her rescue. Her arms began to lose strength little by little, and her legs insisted on not holding on to the pillar. She began to lose consciousness; she was in shock and into hypothermia. How long had she been in the water? Was the water so cold to the point of dropping her body temperature that much? Marina let herself go with the numbness and felt her body floating in the water. She wasn’t afraid; she knew he was there to save her and wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. Without prior notice, the force that kept her at the surface disappeared. Her body began to sink, but was soon pulled up - the firemen had arrived on a boat. A fireman held on to her jersey to keep her from sinking; another came up, each grabbed her under her arms and hoisted her into the boat. The emergency sirens of an ambulance sounded by the avenue, attracting the girl’s weak attention. Boat and ambulance arrived almost at the same time at the dockside, and a semi-conscious Marina was moved from one to the other. As they lay her on the stretcher, she looked at the waters of Sado seeking the face of the one she knew that had in fact saved her; however, her eyes met only darkness and emptiness. She lost consciousness. During the time she was transferred to the ambulance and driven to the hospital, Marina dreamed, but it wasn’t a clear dream nor did it make sense - it was all weird and confusing. She felt she had died in fact and made the cross over with the death angel, except he wasn’t really an angel. In her fantasy, she turned around and saw Lucas, moving through barren red land with no hurry, and wearing only a pair of jeans held up
  11. 11. with a belt. His naked and muscled chest was breathed upon by a scorching wind that burned his skin. Looking tired, he sat on some dark rocks and stared out at the emptiness. Since she couldn’t quite see Lucas’ face, Marina - that in the dream was wearing a white tunic made of a fabric that danced at the taste of the hot wind - approached him. As soon as the boy looked up from the floor and his gaze met hers, Marina felt a sudden lack of breath and grasped her neck begging for oxygen again. With a growing eagerness, she fell on her knees in the barren land and extended her arm in the direction of Lucas, so that he would help her. With calmness, he lowered his body towards her and whispered to her ear "You have no idea of what they do to you in here!" The red began to gleam in Marina’s eyes and she awoke at the hospital, gasping for breath. “Easy! Calm down, Marina. Everything’s okay,” the doctor tried to assure her. “What’s happening?” she demanded to know, feeling disorientated. “Your mother is on her way here. When she arrives, we’ll take you to Setúbal’s hospital to do some routine tests, just to make sure that everything is fine with you. Relax now.” Marina nodded. She had known the doctor for many years and trusted her. She knew she was safe. In response to a slight tingling, Marina looked at her arm and noticed that she was on intravenous fluids. But this wasn’t the only oddity. The mask itched her face, so it wasn’t hard to realize that she was also receiving oxygen. She tried to clear her mind and remember all that had happened; however, she was too tired. Summarizing everything to the fact that she was safe in hospital, she allowed herself to abandon her body and fell into a deep sleep. This time, she didn’t dream and everything was closed in deep darkness.
  12. 12. CHAPTER TWO When Marina regained consciousness, she found that she was still lying on a stretcher, but in a different hospital. After a mental effort, she recalled that the doctor in Alcácer had told her that she would go to Setúbal for some routine tests, just to make sure that everything was okay with her. A little confused, Marina looked around and realized that she was in a hallway that marked the transition between the waiting room and some doctor’s offices. Only then she noticed that the oxygen mask and serum had disappeared, which would mean that she had already had had the tests and soon would be discharged to return home. She hadn’t noticed a thing; she must have been in a really deep sleep. With some difficulty, she sat on the stretcher and leaned her head against the wall, since she was feeling a little dizzy. Sliding her eyes to the right, she saw her mother moving towards her along with the doctor. Her mom's face showed major concern, typical of all mothers, in contrast with the doctor, who had a look that it had nothing to do with him and that it wasn’t his worry; he had a long night of work ahead and there would be a lot of patients and problems to try to fix - that was just one more. Noticing that Marina was awake, her mother walked faster towards her, forcing the doctor to rush his pace too. When she came near the girl, her eyes were bursting with tears, but she tried to disguise them to prevent Marina from worrying or thinking that something was wrong. The doctor stopped near Marina, coughed a little and said, “Ah, I see you're already awake. That was some sleep! You didn’t even realize we did an X- ray on your head, isn’t it right?” Marina tried to speak for the first time since she woke up and noticed that her throat ached, perhaps because she swallowed some water from the river when she almost drowned. “No, I didn’t realize that, or when you took the serum and the oxygen,” she replied. “The oxygen percentage was good and your body temperature had also normalized, so we took it away as you didn’t need it,” the clinic explained. “That was some fright you gave to your mother, huh?” She had given her mother a fright? She didn’t ask to be thrown from a bridge! She felt that the doctor was claiming that it was her fault. Would he think that she was a suicidal teenager who jumped on purpose? Now, the firemen surely presented him a report outlining the situation, right? He could think whatever he wanted. She knew the truth and no, she didn’t jump into the river on purpose, period. The doctor opened the brown envelope that he was holding, as if checking the documents inside. Then he closed it and handed it to her mother. He addressed Marina next, saying “Okay then. According to the examinations you had, everything’s fine, so you can go home and have some rest. If by chance you have shortness of breath or persistent pain in the neck or back, tell your mom to visit your family doctor. I don’t think any of this will be necessary. It was just a fright.” “And what a fright!” said Marina's mother in the end. Despite having pronounced only a few words, mom’s voice trembled a bit and soon she regretted having spoken. She wanted to be the safe place a mother was to a daughter, nonetheless she felt unstable at the moment; her body shivered involuntarily and the calm she needed was elusive to her. The doctor gave a friendly pat on mom’s shoulder, looked at Marina and smiled, wishing the girl to get better soon. Next he retreated into an office. Mom made a gesture to Marina, for het to get up and go. The girl was about to put her feet on the ground when she noticed that she was barefoot. And what about her clothes? She was wearing pajamas, but didn’t remember having put them on. Perhaps the nurses
  13. 13. had changed her. Her mother grabbed the plastic bag next to the stretcher and handed her a pair of slippers. Marina's body felt really sore, so she took some time putting on them on. With her feet protected, the girl got up and asked how they would get home, to what her mother replied that they would use her car. “Didn't you come with me in the ambulance?” inquired Marina, considering it odd. “No, the fire fighters left two minutes before I arrived. My phone was dead and because I was delivering meals to homes, they couldn’t reach me in time,” explained mom. Luísa, Marina’s mother, worked at a particular institution of social solidarity; to her, it was just a fancy name for a nursing home. The institution was divided into three groups: the day center, the nursing home, and there were also several vans that gave home support. As someone who provided home care, Luísa spent the day driving a van around the county. It was a job the woman considered rewarding, but tiring, so when she would go home, she was too tired to do whatever needed to be done and just throw herself onto the bed and sleep. Of course, with a tired mom, Marina spoke little to her. However, she had promised to her daughter that things would change next week, because she would have a different work schedule. Marina’s mother helped into the car and then walked to the driver's side. The vehicle shook when mom sat down, complaining about carrying another occupier. Moments later the engine growled and the driving back home started. Marina was tired and had no desire to talk about what happened, so she lay back on the car seat, straightened the blanket that her mother had brought, and fell asleep. Was there a best way to avoid a conversation other than sleeping? They would probably talk about what had happened the next morning and only then she would think of what to say. The truth was she wanted to have some time for herself, so she could analyze what had happened. She was in the right, correct? The car slowed down until it stopped. Marina opened her eyes and realized that they were in front of her house. As she walked out of the vehicle, her mother ran to the old entry door to open it. “Get in. I’m just going to park”, she said. As the lived in a very old building with no garage, the car had to stay on the street at the mercy of available places. Half asleep, Marina went straight to her bedroom. She felt a little hungry, but her sore and numb body told her to go to bed at once; the next day, she would settle the account with her stomach. She dragged herself to the room, turned on the light on the bedside table and pulled back the quilt. She lay down, covering herself up. How good it felt to be back to her beloved bed! Her favorite clothes were pajamas and the best place in the entire world was her bed; so she said. She yawned and her eyes closed with an urgent fury, leaving her mother unanswered when she entered the room to ask her if she wanted a cup of tea. Resigned, her mom straightened the bed clothes and retired to her own room, after all she had had an eventful day too, and the next morning she would have to wake up at 7a.m to go to work. If Marina expected to have a quiet night, she couldn’t be more wrong. She spent the whole time having nightmares about the men on the bridge pushing her, no one saved her and she drowned. As she struggled to keep on the surface, she saw Lucas' face and he laughed like crazy, as if happy with her suffering. A black dangerous aura surrounded him, letting her know that he was pure evil and should be avoided at all cost. Her mother's voice woke her up from one of the nightmares in the morning. “Marina. Wake up, Marina!”
  14. 14. The girl yawned, stretched herself on the bed and felt a pain that seemed to envelope her entire body. “So, how are you feeling today? Do you have any pain?” questioned mom. She blinked a little and replied in a confused voice, “I only moved a little and my body hurts all over. It must be due to hitting the water so hard.” “I have to go to work, but if you’re not feeling well, I can stay.” “No. There’s no need for that, I'll be fine,” assured Marina. The pain would go away at some time and she only felt sore. She wasn’t incapable of moving and doing what she had to do. “Okay. I already recharged my cell phone’s battery, so if you need anything, just call me. What about school? Are you going in today or are you staying at home?” queried mom. Going to school or staying at home? Marina still hadn’t thought about that. In fact, she didn’t do anything besides sleeping. For many, staying home would be a tempting proposition, nevertheless she didn’t like to miss lessons. She tried to sit, but all the bones and muscle protested and made her rethink the suggestion of her mother. Finally, she made up her mind. “I think I'll stay home today. My body is killing me! I’ll go back to school tomorrow. As we’re still in the first week, I don't think I’ll miss much. Besides, I’ll catch up easily.” “It’s your choice. Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you?” insisted mom, with doubt weighing on her mind. “No, I’m fine. I can take care of myself,” reassured the girl between a yawn. “Okay then. There are some Tupperware boxes in the fridge filled with food that you can have for lunch. If you prefer to eat a toast instead, there’s bread in the bag that’s on the table. I’ll come back early, today I get out at 4p.m.” “Perfect.” While answering, Marina was already turning back on the bed, preparing for another two or three hours of sleep, after all it was only 7.30; if she wasn’t going to school, she hadn’t to get up right away. She could enjoy a few moments more in the comfort of her bed. It was 10.30 when Marina woke up at last. She had an inside bedroom, typical of a first floor old building, with no windows, thus the sunlight never awoke her. On the other hand, not seeing the sunlight during the day could be somewhat depressing if she stayed in there for too long. Considering that, she decided then that she’d stay warm in bed watching TV until lunch time, but after that she was going to the living room with the laptop to do some research on the Internet. If her mother was getting out at 4 o’clock, half an hour later she would be home and would keep her company. It seemed a good plan. Marina turned the light on, grabbed the remote control and prepared to begin her day’s program. She zapped the TV and found out that was on one of the last episodes of the second season of ‘Fringe’. She had already watched it a few months ago, but took the chance to recall the latest events before the beginning of the new season. Her perception then began to ramble on the ‘fringe event’ she had experienced herself the previous evening. She began by recalling that it was very cold and she was walking along the river’s wall, when she decided to turn back and to enjoy the sunset on top of the pedestrian bridge. She remembered getting there, but the part between that moment and when she fell into the water was a tremendous mess. One second she was looking at the horizon, and the next she was being pushed out of the protection railing. Then she climbed the railing, trying to escape. How stupid! Who, in their right mind, would climb the railing of a bridge to get away from a fight? That’s right... she now remembered that the man who pushed her was fighting another. Where did those two morons came from?
  15. 15. Neither realized they had approached her. Summing up: she was looking at the horizon, was pushed, climbed the railing and, of course, after a punch she lost her balance and fell overboard. However, she knew she hadn’t fallen into the water right away, as proven by the ache in the joints of her fingers and wrists, as a result of the effort to hold on. Then she fell and the firemen came? No. She shut her eyelids fiercely to focus and the fragments in her mind began to link, until they showed a clear image. Lucas - that was it! How could she had forgotten about him? She thought that it was a dream, that she had imagined his face, but things weren’t like that. He had tried to grab her when she fell off the bridge and then threw himself into the water to save her. It had been him who had kept her afloat and clinging to the bridge’s pillar and to her own life. If she was alive, it was because of him. Marina made an extra mental effort, nevertheless she didn’t remember him leaving the water. She also didn’t recall having seen him at the hospital. Would he have left the water on his own feet and didn’t go to the doctor because he was alright? Or worse, what if, in trying to save her, he drowned and no one noticed? A feeling of guilt began to take shape in her heart. She needed to make sure he was all right, but how? Damn cell phone! If she had already bought one, she could send a message to Ana and she would answer if he was in class, and then she could rest. Disturbed, Marina stirred in bed. The smell hit her like an unexpected punch. “That stinks,” she thought. And, to make matters worse, the smell came from her! Really, she didn’t smell good after swimming in a dirty and muddy river, whose water was brown. Most likely the nurses had stripped her wet clothes to dry her body and put on her pajamas, but they hadn’t passed a sponge over her or anything alike. She couldn’t speak with Ana, but the next step was determined: having a long bath. She got up, went to the bathroom, turned on the hot water and covered the bathtub. When it was half full, she closed the tap, grabbed a bottle of bath salts and poured a large portion into the water. She would get out of there glowing and smelling like a spring day, even if they were going into autumn. A sensation of dizziness invaded her as soon as she put a foot in the water, forcing her to cling to the edge of the tub. Still, she didn’t give up. She forced the other leg to join the first one and sat down. The hot liquid covered her lower extremities and reached into her bellybutton. There wasn’t much water in the bathtub, but the sense of unease was constant. She tried to rationalize the situation: it was probable that she was a bit traumatized by what had happened the previous day, and getting into the bath made the scar of the recent trauma burn. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm down and the nervousness disappeared bit by bit. When she could loosen up, she leaned back in the tub and relaxed, enjoying a moment of peace. The process of scrubbing her body took a while, since the smell of the muddy water was too strong and would not come out. Her hair had to be shampooed three times and two more doses of conditioner were needed. The shower gel bottle was full when she began and half was gone. It seemed almost impossible that she had missed the stench. Her nostrils probably became accustomed to it, so she didn’t notice anything. For an hour and ten minutes she was locked in the bathroom till reaching the desired outcome: she had cleaned herself so well, that there was no trace of the rotten smell. Marina returned to the bedroom and put on some gym pants and a t-shirt. This was followed by another time-consuming task – brushing. Her hair was very tangled from the night before and entering with it like that in the bath was a mistake; now, it was full of knots. She had to give it a few tugs to get through it. She sighed, sat down in front of the mirror of the dressing table and spent the next fifteen minutes struggling through the task.
  16. 16. When she was finished, she heard the doorbell. Marina opened the door and found a neighbor, a lady in her 60’s, her long white hair tied in a bun. She always wore black, still mourning her husband's death (which happened so many years ago she had lost count), and she walked with the help of a walking stick. “Hello, Marina. Your mother asked me to check how you’re doing and if you needed anything,” informed the old lady. “Ah, good-morning. I’m fine. I just had a bath to get rid of the stinky smell of the river’s water.” “Oh, that water hasn't been blue for a long time… The sewers flush directly into there and I can only imagine what else it hides. Have you seen what’s on the mud when the tide goes low? There are chairs, umbrellas, and who knows what else! The river needs a good cleaning. I'm glad they are building those things… stations or whatever they are called”, said the neighbor while moving her hand from side to side, showing her lack of knowledge about what was being built to stop the river from being polluted. “It’s treatment stations of residual waters,” corrected the girl. “As for me, you need not worry, I’m fine. I’m going to have lunch next.” “All right. That was some fright, huh? Those bastards pushed you right into the water!” That was her cue. Her time in the bath had led her to put aside the subject of ‘Lucas’, but now that the neighbor was changing the conversation, she could dare to ask her if she was alone in the river. She had to know if Lucas’ appearance was real or if it was only a dream. However, she had to be careful in how she broached the issue or she could be accused of having gone loony. Marina coughed a bit and shrugged as she said, “On one hand, luckily I was the only one to fall into the water, don’t you think so?” “Yes,” agreed the old lady, nodding her head. “Can you imagine if they have fallen too? They could have clung to you and not let you come to the surface. Fortunately, you managed to grab the bridge pillar. I think that, if I fell into the water, I wouldn't know what to do. Who can think in a situation like that? Glad you did, it was what saved you,” the woman completed as she blessed herself, thanking God for Marina’s ability to reason in such distressing situation. The old lady’s answer left no room for doubt - she had fallen into the water alone. Could it be that she had dreamed about Lucas? It was an image so vivid, so real that it seemed impossible that it had just been her imagination. She needed to be absolutely sure, so she decided to insist. “I don’t remember much of what happened. The men fell too, did they?” “No, dear. But they were the ones who should have gone into water,” the woman almost yelled. “Did you see anything?” inquired Marina. “No, I was at home. I just heard people talking, but you know how rumors go: who tells the tale, adds something new. I was told that two men were arguing and one made you fall to the river.” The dialogue was interrupted by the home phone, which forced the girl to say goodbye to the neighbor with a hurried “thank you” for her concern. Marina closed the door and ran into the living room to answer the call. This time, it was her aunt asking her how she was feeling. The conversation with her aunt went on for a good while and she only hang up after lunch time. Her stomach growled, reminding her she had an account to settle with her belly. She took a dish out of the cabinet, filled it with a good amount of food, heated it in the microwave and ate everything in a blink.
  17. 17. After lunch, she sat on the sofa with her personal computer on her lap. She had six emails asking how she was doing and thirty two posts on her Facebook wall. It seemed that her episode had given people much to talk about. If it had gotten that much response, maybe there was a reference to Lucas. Marina read the mails and examined the comments with attention, nevertheless his name wasn’t mentioned anywhere. In a bolder attempt, she joined the Google area dedicated to news. In the research field, she wrote ‘Alcácer do Sal’. Less than a second later, several results emerged, four of which referring to the event of the previous day. She opened the news, but the text was always the same, maybe a copy from some news agency. It said she was on the bridge, had been pushed by a man, fell into the river, held on to the bridge’s pillar and was rescued by fire fighters. Not a single mention of Lucas. The article in the newspaper Correio da Manhã was a little more complete and included a testimony from a woman who was there and it corroborated the theory that the only person in the river had been her. With so many testimonies and news, Marina could only believe that she had dreamed of Lucas. Her heart told her no, he had really been there with her; still, logic required her to remember all the reports, showing that it was impossible. How could he have been there, if no one had seen him? A trick of her mind, that’s what it was. Instinct told her she should come to the same conclusion as other people, but she could make one last attempt. When she returned to school, she could confront Lucas; then she would have the ultimate confirmation. Browsing the Internet, time flew by. Marina only realized she was online for a few hours when she heard the key turning in the door lock and her mother entered. Moments later, her head appeared at the door. “So, how are you feeling?” asked mom nicely. “I’m feeling better, my body doesn’t hurt that much. I can go back to school tomorrow.” “Great, that’s a good sign. I’m just taking my work uniform off, then I have to go out again for a while,” notified mom. “Why?” “I need to go shopping. I was supposed to go yesterday, but after what happened, I had to leave it for today. What shall we have? How about some home-made lasagna for dinner?” “Sounds fine to me,” Marina replied with a smile. “Okay, it’s a deal,” mom said, winking an eye at her. Luísa went to the bedroom, laid the uniform on bed, then left to do the shopping. Not a minute had passed when someone knocked at the door. Could it be her mother, who had forgotten the keys? Perhaps, she was in a hurry. Marina got up from the couch and went to the door. Instead of her mother, she found Ana. “Ana! Why aren’t you in class?” inquired Marina, surprised by her friend’s presence at her doorway. “Duh! Did you hit your head that hard on the river bottom or what? We get out at 4 o’clock today, right?” recalled Ana while rolling her eyes. “I haven't memorized the schedule yet. Besides, I still have to ask my mother where she put my handbag. I have the timetable in there, therefore I have no idea what time we start school tomorrow and what subjects we’ll have.” “Well, I'm not missing classes, babe. I called my mother, asking her to pass by in fifteen minutes, and then we’re going to the supermarket. I just came to see how you are. Yesterday was a real shock,” exclaimed Ana, putting on a stunned face. “Tell me about it. It was surreal! When I noticed, I was already looking for little fish in the muddy water,” said Marina while pretending to swim.
  18. 18. “I think you would find shrimp much faster than fish. That's what the ladies here sell, near your home, remember?” elucidated Ana. The river shrimp was a typical treat that tourists who came to town couldn’t miss. “Yeah, but instead I found a merman,” Marina whispered in a kidding tone, while recalling that she had found a merman called Lucas in mid-Sado, although it was better not to spread it around. “What?” asked Ana, a little bit confused. “Nothing, pay no mind to me. Crazy stuff from drinking a lot of water,” apologized Marina. Another attempt to establish the facts? Should she ask Ana if she had seen Lucas and if everything was okay with him? If she asked, it would look a bit suspicious and, after all's said and done, she would risk sounding foolish. But it was Ana, her best friend, she wouldn’t misunderstand her... or so she thought. Covertly, Marina questioned how were classes that day, to which her friend replied that it had been the same boring old thing. “Many of the classes were still presentation, so they were full of more dull things such as ‘Hello, my name is Ana’. As if we didn’t know each other by now. We only studied for real at History, English and Portuguese, but it was nothing special. As for the schedule, if you don’t find it, just call me.” Knowing how Marina was about school, Ana took a small, half bent notebook out of her bag and handed it to her while she was speaking. She asked Marina to return it to her the following day and not to pay attention to the calligraphy, because everything was written in a hurry. On second thought, she hadn’t written much, since she was distracted. In all classes, what had happened to Marina was the topic of many conversations and, as they were best friends, people kept on asking her questions about her friend, as if she knew better than anyone what had happened. They forgot that they were not Siamese twins. Ana snorted and complained, “You really need to get a phone. I was worried and wanted to call you, but I hadn’t enough credit to ring your home telephone.” “If I hadn’t nearly drowned, I could have one by now. We’ll take care of that tomorrow and then you can call me every ten minutes, if you want.” “Deal! But if you had your phone, today you would have been flooded with texts as I was assaulted by questions. Yet, it was also the only news of the day... Boring! Nothing new happened and, moreover, the boys are the same from the previous years. It would be good if there was some ‘fresh and interesting meat’. It would spice things up,” exclaimed Ana, pouting at the same time. Marina protested over the amount of texts that she would have received if she had a mobile, claiming that she didn’t have as many friends as that. Ana then recalled that often, in these situations, people might want to approach her, just because they believed that others would find it very cool. Marina wasn’t concerned about that. “What if we had gone to buy your phone yesterday? Brand new and soon ruined by water,” Ana thought out loud. “Hey, that was a blessing in disguise. Don’t forget: tell your mother that tomorrow we’re going to do some shopping after classes, and I’ll tell my mom too. Shopping day, baby!” she rejoiced. And voilà, their plans that day had moved to the next. Marina had no choice anyway. She would go and buy the device that same day, but she wasn’t feeling well. And if she had to be absent from school (which was a big deal to her), she would not go to the store. A car horn was heard and Ana recognized it: it was her mother who came to pick her up. Ana said goodbye and Marina was alone again. Frustrated, she sighed. Not a single mention of the name ‘Lucas’. She had to resign to the fact that, most likely, she was
  19. 19. mistaken. Even though it was just the result of her incredible imagination, the question kept haunting her mind: why him? They had only met that day and neither had spoken to each other, just shared an embarrassing moment when he caught her looking at him. Thence to choose him for the colorful figure of her imagination was a huge step, and she couldn’t understand why or when she had given it. Back in the living room, she turned off the TV and the laptop. Then she went to the bedroom to initiate the transcription of her friend’s notes to her new diaries. To her, there was nothing like opening a brand new notebook and finding the immaculate pages, with lines asking to be written on. There, she admitted it: she was a school manic, crazy about studying. Her colleague’s notebook was old and scrawled on several sheets, so she had to pass several pages ahead to find the notes of the day. Ana hadn’t written much indeed, but there were a bunch of scribbles of stars and hearts and something that seemed to resemble a wave, probably an influence of the day’s theme – Marina’s ‘near drowning’. History was the first subject of the day and the notations were essentially the tests’ dates. In Portuguese things were different: they had studied syntactic and morphological analysis, adjective degrees and verbal modes. She had three pages to transcribe, so she engaged in this task. Despite having plenty to copy, she didn’t take long to finish. Although the transcriptions were made, the pen had gained its own life - it travelled now along the last page of her brand new notebook, drawing the unmistakable letters of the name that danced in her spirit: Lucas. While designing the letters, she clearly saw his face in front of her and could swear she almost felt his arms around her again. Marina winced, getting back to reality. After a glance at the notebook, she got alarmed by what she had written: the letters assumed a rounded shape, as if she was a loved up girl who wrote the name of her beloved, making her feel like a fool. She grabbed the sheet with the intention of tearing it, but went back on her decision and let it stay there. In her opinion, he had tried to save her; that could be her secret tribute to her hero. “Marina, can you help me to carry the groceries, please?” her mother shouted out of the blue. Distracted, she didn’t realize that mom had arrived home. She had to be more attentive to what was going on around her. The lack of attention had had a high price to pay the day before and things could have ended much worst. She took a mental note: ‘pay more attention to what surrounds me’. Not that it would help much. “I’m coming”. She stared again at the diary page, closed it right away, and ran to help her mother. Shopping? That was the entire grocery shop and nothing seemed to be missing, from meat and fish to juices and bottled water. Was it that long since the last time they had shopped? It didn’t seem like it to her. It took almost half an hour to put everything in place and the clock showed 6.45p.m when they finished the job. “Will you help me to make the lasagna?” asked her mom then. “Yes. I have nothing else to do.” Marina enjoyed cooking, so she was willing to help with the pots and pans. Lasagna was her favorite food and mom had a secret ingredient that gave it a unique flavor. One day, she would reveal it to her to continue the family secret. It was like a tradition passed from generation to generation. Two hours later, the dinner took place in peace and they only spoke about the notes that Ana had brought to her and the shopping afternoon they would have the next day. “Be careful, do you hear me? Do not go near the river’s wall,” warned mom.
  20. 20. “Mommy, it's not walking along the wall that caused my accident. Moreover, I could walk on the street and be hit by a car. You never know what fate has saved for you. And the phone shop isn’t near the river at all,” reminded Marina. That was the only reservation that her mother mentioned in regard to the subject of the ‘river’ and it seemed fair. After dinner, and before going to her chambers, Marina asked her mother, “Where did you put my handbag? I have my wallet in it and my school schedule. I need those things for tomorrow.” “I think I left it on top of my dresser. Go and check,” answered Luísa. Marina went to her mother's bedroom and searched for the handbag on the dresser. There it was, waiting for her. Marina picked it up, while thinking that it had been a miracle it hadn’t fallen into the water with her. She didn’t even remember taking it off, but it didn’t matter. As she walked into the living room, she opened the handbag, took the timetable out and looked at it. She pulled a long face at discovering what time she would sign in and the amount of classes she would have the following day. She would have preferred to fall from the bridge that day to avoid those classes. She felt lazy thinking that and pinched herself as punishment. Upon seeing her displeased air, her mother asked, “Bad news?” “Kind of. Tomorrow, I get in at 8.30 and I have lots of classes. Wednesday is quite supercharged...” complained Marina. “I suppose you're thinking that tomorrow would be a good day to miss classes instead of today,” guessed mom. Marina blushed. Perhaps she thought that because she wasn’t up to school work pace yet. “Do you want me to wake you up tomorrow? I leave at 7.30,” suggested mom. Marina thought for a moment and nodded her head in agreement. That way, she didn’t have to worry about setting the alarm clock and would even get a personal wake up call. After wishing "good-night" to her mother, Marina went to her room. Hours later, she fell asleep.
  21. 21. CHAPTER THREE Before leaving for work, her mom woke her so that she would get ready to go to school. Marina hated to start school at 8.30a.m - it was too early to get the neurons to function properly. She stretched and sat up in bed. Fiddlesticks! She had fallen asleep without choosing the clothes she would wear, and also without getting her backpack ready. She used to have everything prepared from one day to another to avoid wasting time, but had forgotten about these details. In a hurry, she opened the wardrobe and chose some light blue jeans and a black cardigan. From the drawer chest, she pulled out a green blouse, tight to the body. Dressed and combed, she caught the backpack and threw inside it the manuals and notebooks of the subjects she would study that day. The rucksack was pretty heavy, but it would return lighter in the evening, since she would leave half of the stuff in the locker. Having a locker was great: she could leave there the things of the subjects she had no homework on and she didn’t have to carry them around. The word startled her - ‘homework’! It was Philosophy day and she hadn’t done the assignment; she had totally forgotten about it. No doubt, she would have a bad mark on her evaluation file because of that; Manelito didn’t forgive anything. The only solution would be talking to him at the beginning of class, in hope that he would give her one more day to do it. He couldn’t be that insensible, could he? The journey to school took only fifteen minutes and there were no incidents. However, the same didn’t apply to her arrival at the campus. A few seconds after she crossed the gate, the colleagues recognized her, surrounded her and kept on asking her how she was feeling. It was obvious she was fine, otherwise she wouldn’t be there, but that didn’t stop them: they wanted to approach her, to see the girl who had been pushed into the river by accident. Retreating in slow motion, Marina succeeded in entering the school lobby and running to the bathroom. It was no great hideout, nevertheless she could stay there until class started and then rush into the room. Why wouldn’t those people leave her alone? She didn’t know most of them, not even by sight. It was ridiculous. After ten minutes, the bell announced the beginning of the first class. When Marina left the cubicle of her hideout, she found four girls talking next to the sinks. Upon seeing her, they looked at her, feeling suspicious. However, they didn’t have time to realize who she was, because Marina burst into a run up to the classroom. The Informatics room was near the WC, which prevented her from sprinting; nonetheless, it put her in the main hallway, exposing her to more publicity. Soon a small group of classmates formed around her, wanting to know how she was doing. In fact, she was feeling like a lab rat that just wanted to rest in a quiet place, but couldn’t find such tranquility. She had never been popular, which made this situation even more peculiar and difficult to bare. To make things worse, Ana wasn’t there with her. As the class was too big for the available resources, they were divided in half so that everyone could have a computer. This meant that, while Marina was having Informatics, Ana had French Translation. This happened again in the afternoon: while Marina had English Translation, Ana had Informatics. How she wished her friend was there with her… Moreover, the French Translation lesson took place in the ancient school pavilions they called ‘Bosnia’, due to its degradation state, which reminded them of some kind of war scenario. Without the usual friendly shoulder around, she took a deep breath and replied as kind as possible to all questions. At long last, the teacher arrived and they entered the room. Marina sat in front of a computer at the bottom of the class and waited for her colleagues to begin to ignore her.
  22. 22. Of course she liked a little attention, but that was ridiculous, like some sort of fanaticism - exaggerations were elevated. The call to confirm attendance began then. Before the teacher could finish, a disheveled head appeared at the door and asked permission to come in, just above the tolerance ring. Under the warning that he should worry more about punctuality, the professor authorized his entry. Looking around, the boy saw that there were no more computers available for him, which didn’t go unnoticed by the teacher, who decided he could choose someone to sit with. Marina was totally unaware of what was happening around her, until she saw the chair next to her sliding back for Lucas to sit down. The computer tables were placed in a row and leaning against each other; each one had two chairs for the purpose of someone needing to share a computer. Lucas wouldn’t be her partner, but the colleague's installed at the previous work station, therefore he sat right beside her. Marina felt an impulse to jump to the very next chair, nevertheless she thought that it wouldn’t go unnoticed by the colleagues who were staring at her, so she stayed in the same place. She moved discreetly on the seat and focused her eyes on the computer screen. During class, Marina sometimes turned to the board to see what the teacher was writing and to listen to what she was explaining, then turned to the computer to do what had been said. Once in a while, she took note of some of the explanations, so it would be easier to repeat the taught processes. Although she avoided at all costs looking at the boy, her heart was beating so fast that it seemed like it could shoot out from her chest at any moment. Lucas seemed to be able to hear her fast heart beating somehow, and she could almost swear she saw him smile with a nagging irony over the effect he had one her. It couldn’t be, she should be imagining everything. How could he know how he made her feel and still laugh about it? It was her imagination; that was the only explanation. When the bell rang, the girl felt a huge relief. Lucas picked up his notebook and ran to the door, allowing her to take a deep breath and to calm the anxiety that had invaded her. While packing her stuff into the backpack, Marina thought to herself that she had just checked that Lucas was fine, therefore he couldn’t have been with her in the river: her mind had made it all up. On a second though, he could have left the water alone, without any problems, and so there he was, safe and sound. What a mess! Part of her tried to make her act on impulse and to ask him, directly but in a disguised way, what he did that afternoon. Would she have the guts to do this? Marina took a while to leave the Informatics’ room, as she feared the crowd would be focused on her again. Before leaving, she sneaked a peek through the door. Verifying that almost nobody was in the hallway, she left the room and walked to the school lobby; however, it was overcrowded by people, who didn’t approach her this time, but watched her with intensity, making her feel like digging a hole in the ground where she could hide. With small steps, she began to go back into the corridor and then went through the doors that gave access to the school ‘pseudo-garden’. It was known that way, because of its lack of treatment that made it distant from the ideal concept of a garden. That turned it into a place only visited by students who wanted to smoke without hearing any lectures, and by couples who didn’t want to hear sermons about the proper places for demonstrations of affection. However, that day it seemed that everyone had a sudden and inexplicable desire to smoke or date. Determined not to talk to anyone until next lesson, Marina crossed the garden at great speed, passed by the drawing rooms and climbed the ancient stairs that separated the new high school part from the old ‘Bosnia’. Next, she headed to the area behind the
  23. 23. canteen. She would be safe there, with no one in sight; unless someone wished to do something in secret because it was unlawful or malevolent, nobody went there. Marina sat down, enjoying the warm sun shining in the sky, and listening to the birds’ song. Autumn was near, which meant that the birds’ singing would be less frequent soon, so she decided to enjoy those last melodies. She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the wall and let herself be embraced by good vibrations. Suddenly, the air got heavy and the birds fled from the trees. Intrigued, Marina straightened her head and lifted her eyelids. She looked around and became aware that, at the very bottom of that place, Lucas was sat on the floor too. His arms hugged his knees, and he rested his head on them. When she saw him, her body jumped with shock, as if she had been hit by a bolt of lightning, and a light lit up in her head indicating ‘that’s him’. That was a great opportunity to go and ask what he had done the other afternoon. However, it was as if she was stuck and couldn’t move. What if he thought she was crazy? What a good impression that would make. Leaving her fears aside, she got up very slowly and prepared to meet Lucas. Her plans were soon delayed, since, as she took the first step, a strange man showed up next to Lucas, appearing from nowhere. He had long black hair tied in a pony-tail, and wore a dark t-shirt and pants. Yikes! He could be Gothic. Unable to see the stranger's face, Marina kept walking towards them. Perhaps the visitor would disappear when she was closer to Lucas. Maybe the guy would think she was Lucas’ girlfriend and would decide to leave them alone. ‘Lucas’ girlfriend’... The words made her blush to the hair roots just by thinking them, so she shook her head to move them away from her mind. Marina gave up on approaching them when she was startled by the strange man yelling at Lucas, in an unknown language. With the fright, she released an unexpected little squeak, catching the attention of the mysterious man. His relentless gaze was so sharp that it seemed that he had shot her straight in the heart. The girl pressed her chest in result of the pain she felt, and sank against the wall to hold steady, since her legs were weakening. What’s happening? Marina asked herself. To her relief, as fast as it started, the pain dispersed. The girl then looked at the bottom of the area, and found out that both Lucas and the man had vanished. It was as if they were never there. However, she knew what she had seen, heard and felt. If his presence in the river was a trick of her mind’s eye, that wasn’t a figment of her imagination for sure. Sounding quit distant, the bell rang: it was it time for the second class of the day. Marina composed herself, returned to the garden and headed to room number six. Seeing Ana at the room’s door gave her a great need to hug her and cry. There were so many strange things happening! She had to talk to her, still the fear of being judged as mad seemed to hold her tight by invisible strings. “There you are! I looked for you everywhere,” grouched Ana. “Huh, I was hiding,” apologized Marina. “What? Hiding from whom?” asked Ana, not quite understanding what she meant by that. Whispering, Marina tried to justify herself, recalling what Ana had told her the day before. “You were right. As soon as these people saw me entering the school, they wouldn't leave me alone. I had to hide.” “That was what I expected. Don’t worry; within two breaks, they’ll forget about you. This is happening now, because you’re a novelty. By the afternoon, things will calm down for sure,” said Ana, reassuring her friend. “You’re the genius in this matter,” replied Marina as she forged a smile. “You bet, and you'll see I'm right. Are we sticking to the plans for after school?”
  24. 24. “Yes. I spoke with my mom and it’s alright, as long as I don’t go near the river’s wall. You know… moms…” commented Marina, releasing a sigh. “Your mother has her reasons, given what happened.” Marina snapped, “Hey! As if it was my fault!” “I didn’t say that. I just think she has a point, given the recent events. Try to put yourself in her shoes,” suggested Ana. “I'm sure you’d say the same thing to your own daughter.” Marina laughed a bit and retorted, “Maybe. But look at you, trying to put yourself in a mom’s role.” Ana blushed. If her mother knew she had said something like that, she would be proud. To tell the truth, she had felt like an ‘old lady’ verbalizing that. The role of responsible one was Marina’s, not hers. Before Ana started to criticize her previous comment, Marina looked at her with an awkward and worried look and confessed, “By the way, I must talk to you. I think I'm seeing things. Maybe I’m going nuts or something.” “Okay, but you’ll have to wait for the next break, because the French teacher is already here. Did you bring my notebook?” Marina nodded. As soon as she sat in place, she pulled out the diary and handed it to her friend. The teacher presented herself to class, saying her name was Josefina, and she explained that she would take the first lesson to do a diagnostic test, in order to determine the student’s knowledge point. As if they were twins, Marina and Ana reacted to this news by ogling. If the professor wanted to know how they were in French, she just had to check their last year’s evaluation and would get an idea of how bad they were. Before the test, Josefina called the students’ names and the fact that Lucas was absent didn’t pass unnoticed to Marina. “Lucas is not here,” she said to Ana. “Who? Ah, the new guy. He’ll probably miss a lot of lessons, as he's a tri-repeat student. He must be tired of learning the same stuff.” Ana was right. It was the third time Lucas was in the 11th grade, so he should know the data by heart, which would lead him to skip classes many times. Doing a diagnostic test was annoying. Since didn’t matter for an evaluation score, Marina answered the questions without paying proper attention to them. She just wanted to go outside to tell Ana about the strange things she had seen. The clock seemed to hear her plea and made the bell ring at the right time. As soon as they returned the tests and packed, Marina dragged her friend out of the room. When they reached the corridor, she found out that people continued to look at her, nonetheless Ana seemed to be right and, little by little, they ceased to be so interested in her. With a bit of luck, by the end of the day they wouldn’t stare at her any more, nor whisper about her. Still, the best place to talk to her friend in peace was behind the canteen, where she had been before. Ana protested when she found herself being dragged, since she wanted to go to the bar to eat something before next class. Marina didn’t flinch and Ana thought she would have to starve until lunchtime. They marched at a fast pace to the back of the canteen and found the place deserted, as usual. “It was there! Right there at the bottom,” started Marina as she pointed away. Ana looked at her with a bewildered expression, showing she had no idea what she was talking about, and raised her shoulders in a question mark. She felt like telling her friend she was making no sense, but it wasn’t necessary as Marina hurried to complete her reasoning, “There, at the bottom! Do you remember saying you sought me around the whole school in the previous break?” “Yes, I looked for you and couldn’t find you anywhere,” answered Ana.
  25. 25. “You didn’t find me, because I came here.” “To Bosnia?” Ana enquired, somehow incredulous. “People kept looking at me and asking me questions, so I decided to escape for a while. The important thing is that when I got here, I sat down and thought I was alone, but then something weird happened.” Ana shook a little, feeling that there would be fresh explosive news, and encouraged her friend to continue her narrative. “What? Tell me,” she demanded. “Do you hear the birds singing like crazy?” Ana fell silent to listen better and agreed. Yes, she heard the birds singing as if there was no tomorrow. Noticing her nod, Marina went on. “So, here I was listening to it, when suddenly the birds became silent and fled away, as if they were afraid of something. When I opened my eyes, I saw Lucas sitting right there, at the bottom.” “Uh, sinister figure,” exclaimed Ana, who felt a shiver dancing on her back. Although Lucas was a funny guy in his own way, there was something about him that made her stand aloof around him and to fear him. To summarize: he was an attractive, though dangerous figure. Marina shook her head and hastened to say, “The sinister figure came later! Out of the blue, a man came from nowhere. He was a little older than Lucas, dressed like a Goth, and started yelling at Lucas in a strange language that sounded like gibberish.” Ana put on a poker face, as she reflected on what her friend had said. Where was the explosive news? Marina had seen Lucas with a guy dressed as a Goth. So what? After sighing, she said, “I see nothing abnormal about it. So he hangs out with scum. Big deal. After all…” Marina interrupted then, “You’re not understanding. The Gothic guy realized that I was here, and when he looked at me, he did it with an expression so intense that it caused me an excruciating pain in my heart. Then, when I looked back, there was nobody there, and the pain disappeared as if by magic.” “Wow,” Ana managed said in the end, half stunned. That last part sounded both quite strange and interesting. The fact that Lucas got along with whom he shouldn’t was something to be expected; bad companions were a plausible answer to why he was repeating the same grade for so long. However, someone able to cause pain to another just by looking at them was awesome, at least. Ana moved from one side to another, while thinking, and frowned as a result of the internal reflection she carried out. Moments later, she turned to Marina and said, “OK, let's be rational. Whatever you think you’ve seen, you might not have actually seen it. I mean, just two days ago you suffered a major trauma and you might be presenting late symptoms or something like that.” “Symptoms such as hallucinations?” Marina doubted. “Maybe. As you yourself said, you felt a sharp pain in your heart, and when it passed, you noticed that there wasn’t anyone there. It may have been so strong that it caused you hallucinations.” “So why did I have the hallucinations before the pain?” insisted Marina. “It was a warning, who knows? I’m just trying to find a logical explanation,” replied Ana, somewhat nervous. Ana's theory made sense at some level, but Marina knew what she had seen and felt. It was impossible that her spirit kept playing pranks of such bad taste like that. Not even in dreams was her imagination that fertile. Shaking her head, Marina reiterated, “No. I affirm, reaffirm and confirm what I saw. They were there, I’m sure. And it was after the weird man looked at me I felt sick.”
  26. 26. “Fine, you don’t have to shout. I don’t know! Lucas may hang out with bad people and when they saw you, they ran away. The pain may have been just something resulting from the river’s episode and not even be related to them,” retorted Ana. New plausible theory: the chest pain had nothing to do with them and they ran away when they saw her, because they were having a private heated conversation and didn’t want to be interrupted or that she realized what they were talking about. As if she had any idea of what the strange guy had said. Marina thought better about this possibility and recalled that she had released a little squeak when the Goth began to shout at Lucas, so it was possible that she had scared them away. Still, this scene joined something far more bizarre and that had led her to question herself before. “Do you know what really bothers me?” “What?” said Ana, not knowing what to expect from her friend at that point. “Although everyone contradicts me, I could swear on my soul that Lucas tried to help me when I fell into the river.” Ana opened her mouth in amazement and disbelief. Leaving no detail out, Marina told her all she remembered of that authentic Mexican soap opera that she lived two days ago. When she finished, Ana was sitting on the floor with a straight face. Seeing her so transfixed, Marina crouched beside her and said, “You know, I don’t read minds. Do you think I'm crazy?” Ana shrugged and replied, “The episode you went through was traumatic, nonetheless I didn’t think... I don’t know. You don’t seem insane, just confused. I mean, for example, you may have felt impressed by Lucas that day, therefore you remembered him. There are several explanations and nobody else saw him at the river, just you.” “I know. And don’t you think it makes me even dizzier?” said Marina with a tone of desperation shaking in her voice. “I believe so. If it was me, I’d also think I was nuts. You know that supernatural things are not my thing, but combining the two scenes involving Lucas, everything gains quite abnormal contours that deserve to be investigated.” The intriguing tone of her friend’s voice led Marina to ask, “How come?” “I’m not sure, I have to think about it. Honestly, the best thing to do is what you thought - talk to him. If it doesn’t work and you still have visions about him, we can go to the school counselor or… look, we can do a hypnosis session to get to the bottom of this mystery,” suggested Ana. Despite the fact that they were talking about weird stuff, the suggestion of a hypnosis session made them laugh. They were acting like silly Ghost-busters. It was better to stop. Marina would talk to Lucas and, for the rest, she would decide later. Still hoping to get to the bar before the bell rang, Ana dragged her friend in a mad rush, which proved fruitful: she still managed to eat a ham sandwich and to drink a carton of chocolate milk. Marina decided to go with it and ate the sandwich she had brought from home. “Gosh, we’re having Philosophy next and I haven’t done my homework. Do you believe that I didn’t remember such a thing?” complained Marina when she heard the bell ringing for the following class. “Sure! If I was in your situation, I would have forgotten too. It's normal,” devalued Ana. “Let’s go then. I have to talk to Manelito to see if he’ll let me do the assignment and deliver it later.” “Knowing him as we do, I don’t know… He’s such a strict one, who only looks at things his way. Anyway, he may be in a good mood and give you that opportunity,” answered Ana with some disbelief. “I hope so.”
  27. 27. They rose from the bar table and headed for the classroom. Again, they found half the class already seated, while the teacher whined that they had to be more punctual. "You must be at the door as soon as the bell rings," he shouted while waving his arms in the air, as if showing something that was quite obvious to him, but not for students. Marina protested inside. The ring of the bell indicated it was time to go to class and they didn’t have to be at the room’s door before that, or they wouldn’t even have time to go to the bathroom or to the bar. The friends prepared to sit at a desk side by side, but the professor waved them, reminding that Ana had to sit at the front for being number two, and Marina would be sitting in the back rows for being number sixteen in the class list. Marina counted the places to see where she would sit, although she didn’t even have to: Lucas was number fifteen and he was sat in the corresponding place; she just had to take the seat beside him. A tingling of nerves gnawed all of her being for having to sit right next to him. Marina swallowed hard and walked to her place with faltered steps. She tried to ignore him as she sat down and took her things out of the backpack. Then she turned to the front, as if paying a lot of attention to the lesson. “According to the room’s layout, numbers seven, thirteen, nineteen and twenty-two are missing, correct? Let’s start the lesson with homework. Who didn’t do the assignment? Put your hands up, please,” demanded the teacher. Embarrassed, Marina raised her arm with shyness, along with Lucas and two other colleagues. The professor raised his eyebrows in a criticizing way, especially to the repeater boy, who should show more willingness to step to the 12th grade at last. Walking from one side to another, the teacher asked those who didn’t do the work to explain why they hadn’t done it. Two of them said they couldn’t find anything about their origins. When her turn came, Marina tried to explain what had happened. “I’m really sorry, sir, but I didn’t do the task, because... I forgot,” she admitted. “You forgot? Wasn’t the assignment minimally important or interesting, hmm? Maybe not, since you forgot to do it...” replied the professor with sarcasm. “It’s not like that, sir. It's just that I had an accident and after that I didn’t remember we had homework.” “An accident? And it would have given you amnesia, no?” Could he be the only person in school who didn’t know she had fallen into the river? It seemed incredible. Of two sentences, only one was correct: he really didn't know what had happened to her or he thought that, regardless what had occurred, she had to fulfill the designated task, period. “It’s true, she fell into the river”, a colleague defended. “She even went to the hospital and missed school yesterday,” another one added. After thinking for two seconds, the teacher believed in her story. Still, he grouched, “It doesn’t sound like an accident serious enough to make you forget your duties. And if you missed school yesterday, you had plenty of time to do it.” “Yeah, but the problem is that I forgot about it. If you allow me to, I can do it today and deliver it tomorrow,” proposed Marina in a shy tone. After rubbing his forehead for a while, the professor directed his attentions to her desk classmate, “And you, repeater boy, why didn’t you do your homework?” Lucas didn’t answer. At the insistence of the teacher, who still fenced a ‘Are you deaf?’ the boy replied with an air of loathing, “I didn’t do it, because who I am, only concerns me. To you, the grades I get in tests are all you should be interested in.” Colleagues turned in desks in disbelief to his response. It was incredible that he spoke that way to a teacher, moreover that teacher being Manelito, the student’s terror.
  28. 28. However, if he angered the professor and he discounted his anger on them, he would be everyone’s problem. The teacher pointed his finger at Lucas, while a mocking smile stretched across his face. “You are dodgy, aren’t you? If you want to fail this year, I can grant your wish easily, but that’s what you wanted, to do nothing. Since Marina also didn’t do the homework, you’ll both go to the library to do it and I want it delivered to me by the end of this hour. Pay attention, Miss Marina: if your classmate doesn’t have any work done by the end of the stipulated period, his grade will be yours.” The girl opened her mouth in amazement. Sure she appreciated the opportunity to do the project, nonetheless his condition was ridiculous, so she protested, “That's not fair, sir. He may not want to do anything, but I want to have a good grade.” “So make him work – it’s your duty,” the teacher claimed, ending the conversation Marina snorted. As if it wasn’t enough having to do the assignment in haste, she also had to force a troublemaker to do his and her grade depended on it. It would have been better to have stayed in a coma or something like that. Stony head! She took a deep breath and tried to see the bright side: at least, she was being given the opportunity to do homework, and if he didn’t do his, maybe she could write something and hand it over as being his work. She would not fail. Lucas retreated to the library right away, but Marina took a while to gather her material. Upon entering the library, the girl found Lucas sitting at a computer and decided to occupy the working station behind him. To write a text about her origins was easy: she had grown up hearing stories of her being a descendant of the former slave colony of São Romão do Sado. Her hair, that she uncurled every six months proved it very well. Since she was at the computer, she decided to make a brief survey to find more data on the subject. After a brief consultation of several pages, she managed to write the following text: “My name is Marina and I'm from Alcácer do Sal, as well as my parents. My maternal grandfather was from the northern area of Portugal, but the greatest cultural and genetic heritage comes from my paternal grandfather, who came from the former slave colony of São Romão do Sado. Little is known about the establishment of this colony, but most authors relate it with the need for manpower in agriculture and demographic issues. It was said that the valley of Sado was a rice-growing area, where several outbreaks of malaria caused a high mortality rate, so people avoided living there. In the fifteenth century many men had to embark in ships to embrace the Discovery Era, which further reduced the existing manpower. To solve this question, the owners of these lands have chosen to buy black slaves on the markets to populate and work the land. Over the years, with the disappearance of slavery, miscegenation has intensified. Nowadays, the ‘heirs’ of the colony still have features that bind them to their past, from curly hair to the broad nose and a skin color sometimes darker. I have a skin tone slightly darker than my colleagues and my hair is curly. Although people may tell that to uncurl my hair is to deny my genetic inheritance, it is merely an aesthetic issue that has nothing to do with my origins. I’m very proud to descend from working people, who brought new life to this land." For the time she had, that was the text that was possible to write. It didn’t sound that bad – Marina was happy about the result. She printed the work and went to collect the sheet at the machine. After paying for the print-out to the library employee, she returned to her seat, ready to gather her belongings and return to the classroom. She was then
  29. 29. haunted by the dilemma: Lucas also had to deliver something or she would be penalized the same way. After packing her things, Marina looked at the front computer to check if Lucas had his job almost done. What she saw made her angry: he was playing a computer cards game. How stupid! Irritated, she got up from her seat with fury, went close to his chair and crossed her arms in a defensive posture. Without quite knowing how to start the conversation, she began by saying, “You missed French class.” What? You missed French class? As if she had anything to do with it. He did what he wanted without justifying it to anyone, much less to her. If he asked her the same question, she wouldn’t bother to answer him either. Lucas didn’t look away from the screen, completely ignoring her. Her comment had been as important as the buzz of a mosquito in the middle of the rainforest. Marina insisted again, “You should have studied the matter several times already and it must become annoying to always hear the same thing, right?” He continued not to pay her any attention. It was as if she wasn’t there and that made her even more frustrated. Almost bursting, the girl interrupted one more time, “Besides, you should have more interesting things to do with that Goth friend of yours who screams in Chinese, right?” This time she got a reaction. Lucas turned his head sharply toward her, gnashing his teeth. His eyes darted over her, making her feel petrified. With a cavernous voice, he asked, “And what do you know about that?” He threw back his chair and hurried from the library. Damn it! That way, she would have a bad grade because of him. No way, she thought. Things couldn’t stay like that. She ran after him and caught him near the school lobby. She placed herself in his way and wouldn't let him go. “Not so fast,” she said. “What? What do you want with me?” he questioned. “I want you to work with me.” The boy laughed at her words, which he interpreted in a quite different way from what Marina meant. He approached her unhurriedly, in a super provocative and seductive way that caused her dizziness. Marina stumbled back, hitting the wall with no possible escape. To ensure she didn’t get away, Lucas stuck his palms on the wall to the height of her shoulders, holding her there. Their bodies were dangerously close. Gosh! He would grasp her gasp for sure... Why did she feel like that just by having him around? He didn’t seem to be a good guy and she was sure he was trouble; still, the danger drew her with an irresistible power. “What kind of work do you want exactly?” Lucas sensually whispered in her ear. Marina trembled with that unchaste insinuation. Would he be suggesting by chance that they...? Part of her shouted ‘yes’ and asked her to play along with his game. But she wasn’t like that, neither could he get away from his responsibilities by using his incredible charm. Appealing to all her energies to compose herself, Marina slipped beneath his arm and walked away a few steps, to stop his magnetism from affecting her. In response, Lucas put his hands in his pockets, exhibited a spicy smile that made her think he was mocking her, and prepared to turn his back on her. A spark of anger ran through Marina. Who did he think he was? He didn’t do his assignment, put her grade at risk, threw his charm at her and then walk away? No. Fuming, she put her hand on the boy's shoulder, forcing him to face her, and yelled, “Excuse me?! You may not care about school, but I won’t let you ruin my grade. At least tell me where you come from, so that I can write a few lines that will take me from the gallows.”

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