On the edge of darkness they slow - to allow twin outriders to manoeuvre to position. As both pass, and they begin again, the early morning light seeks to blind her through broad vertical slats along the Elysée's smaller lower-ground level car park. The outriders drop gear to take a lead up the rounded ascent, where the gatekeeper stands to refold a newspaper, to salute or shade his eyes with it. She was never sure.
"I think I'm scared this time." She hadn't even said good morning to him.
"You overestimate people. They want to know what you're wearing. What's it like? Fear. You have to tell yourself it's not important.."
"When it is." Her companion falls silent. She looks at him a little sadly. "You've got that look again. We'll find it. He's alive." Anne Renaud unfolds Liberation.
She saw her own face as a paradox. Up close, one-on-one, her eyes could 'release the frostbitten' with benevolence. Further than a few metres, her full face often 'cast those hazel orbs unfairly.' They liked what she was wearing.
"I'm convinced, mother." A right turn, sharper than usual. The rounded ascent. The touch of a tiltswitch like the sound of the finishing kiss. And then -
If Anne Renaud had a philosophy it would be this - we are born, we learn that no one thanks us for honesty, we look at other options - sun-blessed valleys of fraudulence we can or cannot stroll. Unstoppable in essence, we inevitably choose those paths up to the hill with the best view of the truth we've left behind. Along the way we shouldn't feel shame in picking flowers for ourselves, so long as we sow a seed for those who follow. The End.
"Madame President?" He keeps asking. Please keep asking - till your visor drops and you slump listlessly against the damaged brickwork. Till you bore. How did she get here? Here where smoke black windows leaves us limbless and dumb, reduced to the same foetal slouch we threw as teenagers, screenagers, headphones bleeding 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' , 'Closer' or something bleak and smooth. When we need to feel in control - of the End To End process. The truth.
The other thing Anne would say about our chosen path is that the world we hope to see tends to unravel through the clouds even as we search for it. Did we actually believe it was something real for us to hold, rehold, be? At an important milestone, we accept the possibility that the climb is all there is. The truth becomes the clouds around us - breaking and repairing, unfolding and enshrouding us. In our bones and exposing us. Weekly, daily.. "President Renaud?".. and now, like an echo in advance, like the shock of finding ourselves back here after all these years.
Up, up the finest hill and.. milestones, simple frames for memories, filling quickly with those we love and whom we left and whom we miss. Boxed, forgotten, believed in faces. Eventually truth becomes nothing but our daily cautiousness, the wet rock. Marching on, we cut and recut a pack of unspeakable feelings and curse our repetitious feet, our eat, our sleep, our weep, our rise, our haves not and cannot bes, and shouts of 'fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck' at the repetition of it all. We laugh and dance and, finally, when there is no climb, no view, no summit - we stop, look down and find ourselves the orphans we always suspected we might have been. We trust the path we took and know what we had to escape from and, possibly, finally, we can be born again. Anne's new family, like her first, became politics.
Because the third thing about the paths we can or cannot follow, which you only discover when there is no climb, is that we can step straight to the top of any other ascent we choose. And there was no wrong path.
A president people liked. A president people trusted and a president who had people's interests at heart. A woman who did what she could. "Madame Pres-" No longer worth saying. Outside a kind of teenage darkness, as the flames begin to appear, he turns as if to run.
"Please." She'll consider lifting her unbelted body to whisper at the busted glass of the upturned, armour-plated Audi. She'll be glad she didn't speak. He'll stop to radio in and she'll find out - at a point which won't be the end - she'll find out who did it to her.
"Is.. she..?" Liberation scattered on her lap. That headline again - CE N'EST RIEN ANNE, NOUS MOURANT SEULEMENT. They're only dying. It's alright, Anne, they're normally bleeding. 'A shrewd move by a master manipulator of public affection' the papers described her last assassination attempt. "Believe it. Here comes the groom." She tries to sit up to see, and sees. A figure leaning on the rounded ascent and, quickly, a face.
Anne's mother rarely gave advice but once gripped Anne to offer something quietly serious, potent and unexpected for such a modest woman, tying Anne's shoes, squeezed between two heavy veils of wet K-Ways, beneath coat pegs, before a school play. "The stage is the loneliest place. But play to back of the hall and the lights. The lights, Anne. They believe."
Unprompted, she continued, with the air of someone in the process of telling much more than her words could cope with. "I won't be around forever, bebe. If your heart says something, put it on the line. Men think you want to take something from them. Everyone does. Keep something back for you."
How does she know this kind of darkness can't be the end? Anne Renaud can reach inside the driver's jacket, in the first of a new fleet of bombproof A8s. And the face on the ascent? Well, they were his idea. He'd been the one she dealt with. The dealer. So what was he doing here? She unfastens the pistol from its clips and twists the catch.
Back then, as they had walked along the corridor towards the music room beside the stage door, her mother had reacted oddly again. Like she wasn't meant to be there, which she wasn't. She looked around. "For God's sake do it. Do everything. How it quickens up and disappears is pitiful. Keep your eyes wide and hold on to all that curious, bushy trust. The alternative is deadening. But don't for a second forget the kind of people you're dealing with. Go out there and remember the lights."
The flashlight beam suddenly crosses those benevolent eyes. "Believe it."
A draining bath comes to mind. The picture of a girl who spends too much of her time staring through windows. A steady countdown through the skies.
Instead of remembering, Anne feels like she is running something past this woman. Or she'll help Anne work it out.
5. 4. 3. 2..
"Please, PeeJay. Don't call Sheriff."
"Get yer goddamn hands away from me, Carlotta." He spins around and squares up. "You were never there. When that bubba needed you. When I needed you."
A vertical line of Miracle from her chestbone to her navel, then absent-mindedly crossed from one breast to the other.
"Ma bubba also." Carlotta pulls the receiver from his hand and wraps her arms about his waist to rest on his chaps. She runs a hand up his shirt. "Please. Things could be like.. th'old times."
"Old times? Can you even remember them old times, Carlotta? Nights spent sleeplessly wonderin' which motel I'll get a call from. Weekends spent at the Sinai, bubba missing kindergym bronco academy an'all. Daddy, daddy, why are they filterin' momma's blood through charcoal? Mrs Paxil is the worse for two grammes, Reverend, to whom do I make the cheque payable? Please bring momma thu tha coma for Christmas, Santie. Promises were lies waiting to happen and I can't build Chuck's nest on vodka jello. Read yer bible."
In the garden below, Leopold is leaning over the handles of a lawn mower, conversing through the fence to the neighbour's girl.
She shakes her head. "If it wasn't tha goddamn rodeo championships it was tha goddamn bible. Surprised ya ever had thirty seconds for me. Ya musta had'r that there bubba couldn't be." Her eyes flick against his. "I'm round rehab and out agin. Who is she? The truth na."
He looks away. "Somebody fine with a cool head and a sweet chimichanga. Somebody'll be there fer me an' bubba. This time I'm doin' it right."
For the briefest moment, in the clouded skies above the garden, Anne Renaud was in the basement of an apartment block in Baghdad, where tired children fight, where the old complain of cold floors and choose instead to stand up and rock. 'Hush.' Kisses on an eighteen month old forehead, she lets the lips stay locked against surprising warmth, lets her breath dust a soft twist of hair. Cometh the pain birds.
"Ma bubba also."
"Was, Carlotta. Was."
Who's to say if they're lying? When they say 'Hush. Everything's going to be alright.' Mommas.
The front door unlocks, Carlotta turns. A lady crosses under the proto-Spanish arch and pauses to place her keys and cellphone on the table. "Well. Lil miss perfect ten. Can ya count ten yet, girlie?"
"Carlotta." Laur nods cautiously. She removes a stetson, attempting a smile. "Heard a lot abo-"
Carlotta spins around. "Peejay, please. I gotta bottle o'whiskey older than her."
"I doubt that, Carlotta." He hands her the keys to her 4x4. "It's gone midday."
Carlotta pauses at the door. "Oh. Here's a tip on countin' ten, chile. Lie on yer back, start at one and when he stops whimperin', yer half ways there." She slams the door.
Some years ago, Anne had taught briefly. If anything, what she remembered noticing was a marked destinction between working and middle class children. She even heard a difference in their silence. The latter were used to being listened to and talked to as adults. They were, in the main, cockier and were often quite confused when asked to keep quiet. Their silence sounded like turning cogs, an intrigue at participating in the concept of silence, intuitive smiles to themselves, the grip of a pause. Against Anne's preconception, the former silenced very quickly, and though each classroom contained the occasional robust challenge to authority, their silence soon filled with the sniffs of belittlement, picked nails, the wait.
Peejay watches through the window. Laur snuggles against him, he crosses his forearms around her delicately embroidered yellow rose shirt. "Bad penny back in yer pocket, hon?"
"Good an' gone." Laur admires his exquisite jawline as the 4x4 eases away. "Never be back. Never." Then her eyes flicker out to the drive, still a little unsure. ~
A black screen. 'Rodeo del Paxil continues Monday. Next up, Captain Betamix spouts 'People let themselves get hurt and should be hurt more until they learn'.
She rereads her birthday cards, checks the clock and finds that there is enough time to settle at her desk - to examine the notebook she was always returning to of late.
"Coming!" The headwind is nudging a low plateau of emptied cloud over the mountains and the plaid bag was still waiting under the sink.
Ani Banhof turns a skewered olive around in a glass as she finishes her surveillance of the airstrip. She turns to the counter in the kitchette, places the martini onto a bevelled, silver drinks tray beside several others and folds a capsule back across her tongue with a sip of water.
"Swiss efficiency?" The curtain to the kitchenette has been lifted back - Dr Karl's inspecting gaze imitates her fixation with the runway. She tenses, wondering how well she fastened the plaid bag. She picks up the tray but is forced to pause against the curtain.
"You're a strange one. I'm sure you can't be neutral on.. all matters." He moves inside, blocking a fraction of the mid-afternoon light reflecting off the concrete beneath them and casting diamond shapes across the cream of the kitchette. "We're so close, Ani. So close. I demand a smile. You've heard their jokes a thousand times. Air hostess. Legs in the air. The modernness must be exciting in itself. But soon.."
Anne leans away to cough. She didn't know.
As a girl she was always felt at stages of becoming. Adult, fulfilled. States which never seemed to arrive with the definition they deserved. Perhaps the becoming was all there was. Becoming never seemed to conclude, it's energy fell diverted into a multitude of places.
He slips behind her, leaning his head on her shoulder. "Things are speeding up, Ani. Production, communiqué, travel. The work of a hundred will soon be done by one. Far away is closer. It is not inconceivable that we will see utopia in our own lifetime. Time and freedom for all, a leisure age. A pastoral new dawn where no-one wants. Think of it. No wants. How perfect. Where the only law will be.." His voice falters and drops to a whisper. "Do what you wish." Reaching for her behind, he finds its underside and gives it a squeeze.
Ani remains fixed, her eyes on the skewered olive at the base of the martini.
He removes his head to laugh, slips into the toilet.
"Foul mesdames, lime juice, plenty of cumin. Olive oil and garlic. Normally spring onion but I roast a red onion. Coriander. That's it."
"Nice though." The first guest raises another tagine to examine it's contents.
Anne stares at her empty wine glass and opens tubs of home made lemon sorbet and pistachio ice cream she should have removed from the freezer much earlier.
"Can I help or anything?"
"God no." Through the kitchen window she searches for Leopold, wishing someone could take the early arrival through to the dining room.
Poising the tray on one hand, she draws the curtain neatly over and begins a dignified walk along the carpet in the light-filled axis of the aircraft towards a square of four occupied sofas surrounding the discussion table. The conversation is robust.
She pauses behind two pairs of uniformed shoulders, unknown. Von Below raises his head. She passes a drink into his outstretched hand. Jeschonnek notices the added linger in the dutiful look he aims at her, and a pause overstressing his thank you. He notices how Ani concentrates on the job at hand.
Wünsche takes a beer, she serves clockwise - eventually pausing over the Fuhrer's shoulder. Von Below nudges him, he accepts his tisane and places it on the table to the right of some contracts. He reconsiders and tastes it, smacking his lips quickly, before finding a safe place for the glass on the carpet. Suddenly he turns to examine her, covering any view she might have of the contracts. A concerned narrowing of the eyes. Still there?
"Is this any good?" The early arrival slips a video cassette from the shelf.
Anne lowers her glasses from her head to her nose and examines the cover across the dining room.
From the kitchenette, when the volume of talk has risen to compete with the engines, when no-one remembers she is there, she overhears them. She had overheard them discussing her. Swiss. Swiss-ish. Father Moravian, mother Irish. North? Eamonn confirmed no. As west as it's possible to get.
Waiting in the main lounge at Munich airport, she once had occasion to find herself seated alone beside the Fuhrer. He had looked at her. "You are a peculiarly mute and servile person. It's almost uncomfortable to watch at times. There must be another side to Ani, surely?"
Ani had lowered her eyes. "Fuhrer."
He smiled in a weak way. "I'm interested."
She paused to consider his question. "I.." Feeling the outset of a blush, she searched the mixture of Douglas DC2s and 3s parked below the window, wavering out towards the field. "Sometimes I.."
"Not really, sir." But she had taken too long to conclude and he had already settled himself back, behind a design and build timescale, to read.
Moments later on that occasion, with temerity and aforethought, after folding her hands across her lap - she turned to ask him a question. "Perhaps.. sir? Perhaps you would prefer a different hostess? In future. On the Munich flights."
Coughing once, he scanned the hall for von Below or Karl, then quickly shifted in his seat, with what might have been a look of distress on his face. Ani wished she hadn't asked. "No." He coughed again to underline this. "You are very good."
"Will that be all?" Now, fully trained, on her first international flight, she feels compelled to reconsider her words. A glance back at a returning Dr Karl - and she hesitates before completing the question. The Fuhrer, however, is too engrossed to show the usual look of concern. Asked to examine broad pencil annotation across the latest aerial photography, his voice is disinterested but frank.
"Shut up about your house, Anne. Your big fuck-off pussy extension. Worse than men and motors. Houses are for hiding in. Big fuck-off pussy extension jewellery boxes we spend all our waking hours revolving around inside. Fuck houses."
Everyone is staring at Sandrine. She removes the knuckle she is knocking on the table, moves to rub her face, reconsiders and brings her fist down hard - sweeping her lamb couscous an inch from its bowl.
Anne didn't take it personally because Sandrine had a toilet seat-high stack of Hot Property in her bathroom. Thumbed like a man would thumb pornography. Hunger in the little rips. Gusto in the bent or broken spine. Studied. Desired. Therefore studied hard. So Anne didn't feel too bad, just shocked at the viciousness.
Dr Felix lifts his head to speak but she hasn't finished. "..and any asshole can be a life coach or a counsellor. It's the job du jour for assholes. People blowing precious funds to lay their hearts on the line for assholes."
She throws her head back. Her boyfriend Pepe laughs nervously.
She hasn't finished, and levels her gaze at a kindly Canadian seated to Anne's right, who had brought a tub of Anzac biscuits and once wrote a book called 'Everything You Really Need To Know You Learned In Kindergarten'. "..little lady who pill pops in a block as close to the Metro as she could get ..bet she still runs home with her key prepared and a finger on her mobile. Boogie man's gonna bite your flapjacks, sister. Hide! Fear. This whole table is defined by deadening, middle class fears."
Anne keeps her eyes fixed on the poster for 'BlowUp' behind Sandrine's head, on the dining room wall of her pussy extension. It had been a long time since she heard 'middle class' used as reproach. Perhaps that was retro.
She hasn't finished. "And he keeps looking at my tits." She hasn't finished and points to a cheery font designer. "And you're gay."
Gradually then, as some Finnish folk-songs come to a dark and bitter finish, the dining room falls infinitely silent.
Anne was little shocked because Sandrine's outbursts normally implored the diners to talk less about men and women, simultaneously pointing out that only the sexually desperate lowered themselves into this maze. Welcome to the Vampire Circus. Where we aren't talking about what we're actually talking about. Where charges aimed at an absent party are so blatantly aimed at someone else present around the table. And where this individual now has the challenge of transferring charge, with the risen stake of implying awareness of the repost, or an imaginative sub-anecdote demonstrating their understanding and acceptance of the rules, whilst, at the same time, calmly denying a direct hit ever occurred. Well, this was what normally happened. Tonight, she was bringing out the big guns. Sandrine had gone broadsword.
Anne often wondered about Pepe and Sandrine's sex life. These days the young seemed to live on a deft mix of formerly radical ideas set in an oddly old-fashioned framework. Sex, drugs and getting-on-with-things. Sandrine once said she hated sensitive men - but Pepe appeared sensitive enough, passing her a napkin to mop up the spill. Sandrine cleared the air. Always did. Anne liked her. She once thought that if she were a man, she would go for Sandrine. Despite a monotone and sometimes indignant insistance on sex as one their main drivers, men so often seemed to be the first to need to control or escape it, hide it, purchase it. And so often sought demure partners. Women who wouldn't wander, which Anne conceded was a factor that had to be considered. Women, she always thought, closed loops. Certainly for men, they fulfilled a narrow function, and narrow functions were closing loops. And of the young singletons she knew, the women simply talked too much, the men not enough - prefering to wrestle quietly with something not far from prudishness. One or two had a humour borne from a fear held by a certain type of internally conservative male - the conviction, or wish, that women didn't like sex at all. The humour of goad, at their own distance more than anything. Externally, however, everyone voted on the left. Lower middle, you might say. Lower middles, creatives, borderline cranks.
Anne didn't feel the full slam of the broadsword because, under the aforementioned rules, Sandrine wasn't being directly critical of Anne. If not the hostess, and the woman who match-made this pair - then who, or what, had been at right-angles to the wrath? Anne looked around the table.
Leopold had seemed bored and, before being silenced by Sandrine's outburst, had been whispering and laughing into the ear of Kerstyn, the neighbour's girl. "What are you doing, Anne?" No-one said. No-one said it. She even wished that someone would.
"You're not in love. Can it last?" No-one pointed out. And she never replied. "What does?" On this matter, Anne would have opened her mouth and heard herself passing the kind of magazine speak she used to balk at off as opinion. Another person passing a multitude of consolation prizes off as everything they always wanted. But the more Anne actually lived with notions of transience and temporariness, the more they embraced one another.
"What were you laughing about with Kerstyn?" She might question later. Some things were too critical to be transient. She might question and she might merely mention the girl, ask that the lights be turned out, be busy tomorrow, the rest of the week.
"Stuff." Or something like that, would be his response these days - kissing under her chin and around her neck.
"Talk to me. Tell me." Anne might say. "It makes me feel shut out when you don't talk to me." It made her feel old.
But his hand would move across her belly to her furthest hip and hold it - Leopold speak for 'turn over'. Anne would turn and suddenly sense the focused and infectious enthusiasm as he commenced his thing. Men with things. Things they need to do. Things which seemed to rejig their emotional landscape. Afterwards you brushed the hair off their maddened little heads safe in the knowledge that some private, peculiar storm had been successfully navigated for them. Leopold's wasn't an unpleasant thing. Anne didn't mind it. In fact, she could relax and think, head flat, pillow stolen to raise her hips, eyes observing own reflection in an unclosed wardrobe door.
Anne looks at Kerstyn, examining her fringe in the usual seat of a man who wasn't there any more. She never called him husband, nor ex husband, just Alain. Their oldest friends had grown mutual. She knew most would come for dinner when she invited them - but was also aware that many were, in origin, Alain's people, colleagues, employees. So many, given this situation, would alternate invitations to Anne, then to him. One or two would prefer to invite neither. When the coast was clear, the majority would default their invitation to Alain. Except the ten currently assembled, the building blocks of her new social world, strictly Anne's people.
Pepe de Sade laughs again and breaks the silence. "I hate that. My masseur forgets I'm straight. Asks me where I club and - "
Sandrine lights a cigarette. "No-one believes him."
"It's not vanity. I am results driven." He winks.
"I'm at counselling for my Gay Envy." "They do seem to have a wilder time." "Oh, don't get me started."
Pepe ("I don't need a girlfriend. I've been there. I want a wife. A wife is different.") lights a cigarette. "Women's magazines are full of women and men are always complaining about passivity, yet they're never closet lesbian. I've got a pretty obvious measuring device."
Anne considers the table rules, watching a silenced Leopold and Kerstyn. Sandrine had been breaking those two up.
Dr Felix nods once solemnly, tapping his beard with the back of a spoon, painting a drip of ice cream to the ends of its trim. "A barbaric and binary logic. From tribe to tower block. Dark fuel rushing our deepest structures. Woman is territory. Men - despot or refugee for their favours. Or they play a different game altogether."
As Leopold leans back to choose some music, Anne proposes a toast. It's her birthday. The diners gradually follow suit. "Farewell the conquest."
Eva shrieks and begins shaking one of Gretl's awful Scottish terriers. "Grumpy ears will never pop. Oh Ani, he's dreadfully unhappy. Would you please take his silly schnitzel ears outside?"
"Miss." Ani collects the softly howling dog and carries it through the door and down the steps in the crook of one arm, shielding her eyes against the sun with the other.
"Shall we run? Let's run." She leaves her shoes in the shadow of the aircraft and begins to step quickly along the airstrip. As the dog fixes on her and follows, she breaks into a sprint.
Breathing deep and hard, running towards the mountains. Fixing on the sky above them, picturing heaven. The sky wasn't heaven, but heaven could be behind it, or it was like a window with heaven mapped on the back for only God to see.
Some way along the airstrip she stops, hops and turns around to meet the terrier's excited eyes. What did he know? Whatever could he know?
"Listen to me, cunt. Anne's a nice woman - which you might not be able to see through that mile of arab kohl. You probably don't even like him. He's a dolly to march around while the sorbet thaws. She deserves somebody. Leave his knees alone and leave her some hope. I'm two phone calls away from fucknuts short on beer money, so sit on your hands or so help me God I'll have so much acid thrown in your face you'll spend the rest of your life learning to chew through your left eye."
Sandrine Saxe has pressed Kerstyn against the corridor wall outside the upstairs bathroom. The girl makes a noise.
"Don't open your mouth. Don't speak, or I'll have you crucified on the fucking moon."
Below, Anne has paused with a bottle and is listening. The girl descends the first stair cautiously, the rest at speed, and Anne watches her sweep a black suede belted coat from the rack and leave. She returns to the kitchen to change a Chablis that has proved a little dry, couches to examine a box of reds beneath the sink.
Some hangars to her right held a look of neglect. Behind them, the full majesty of the Himalayas could be guessed by the giant ridges that were only its beginning, gatekeepers. Watching a single streak of cloud filter off across the pale blue light right around the top, Ani sees them. There was so many - you couldn't see them all. Of course. But you could think of some, crushing into heaven with their eyes closed.
She slows, walking along some badly lain concrete serving as airstrip limits, into a run-down and rust-edged barn. Picking across the ground in her stockinged feet, she scans the neglect and tests a deep, knee-high wall of dusty rice sacks as a seat. Where the shade provided by a peeling, corrugated roof cools one half of the interior, she angles her head to examine a wide triangle of sunshine. The terrier settles onto her lap and she begins to test a scratch beneath his chin.
Once there, you might know everything there is to know. There's no room to move but that doesn't feel like suffocation. It feels freer, lighter than anything on earth. "It must be big enough, I expect." She whispers. "It was planned big. An impossible thing to measure."
She looks left down the open entry, along the strip to the rear of the parked aircraft and it's shadow. "For Issac and Amos and Rachel. Chaim.. and.." A laugh, scuffle. She turns.
"Happy Birthday, Anne." Pepe de Sade and Sandrine Saxe and are walking up the drive as Leopold jumps upstairs to brush his teeth. The couple were both working the following day and he didn't care for the remaining guests.
Fifty four and Anne was a nice person. Someone had brought her a flea market mackintosh. Anne was a dirty old woman. Ha. It had a bottle of absinthe in one of the inside pockets. Aha. She notices Cassiopeia as she closes the door. Hope for a nice person and a dirty old woman. But women weren't territory, so men didn't play despot or refugee. Not these days. Farewell the conquest. "Good night."
"Good night." She shivers and returns to the heat in the dining room.
"..set against the centre of the heart of power." ".. cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus?" "Wait. Wall Street." "Contemporary." "Don't be bitchy." "Try someone like Charles Taylor in charge. You'd know what power is." "Please don't bring the polemic of threat to the dinner table, darling." ".. but spends half his time trying to screw journalists." "I want to go on record.." "No I want to go on record." "How come Chirac's one sleazy cowboy and now some sort of peace figure." "Go figure." "It's for the long term good and you know it." "It's not about numbers. Who made you God? It's about human beings." "Exactly." ".. and the other half trawling bars looking for.." "A fight?" "War is always about numbers." "A muse?" "Wall Street." "Broadband removes the need for political representatives." "Somebody represents?" ".. don't care what they say, just how they say it." "Screw politics."
Screw Book People. Anne sits again and drinks. The day of her birth should make something swing. The world should have a glow moving through it and she should occasionally catch the sweet tail-sting of a suspicion that she might be.. special. Gradually, as the years passed, she went through the waking part of those twenty four hours unconcious of that date's status on the calendar, even through dinner. Most recently, she felt absent, the least involved. And like she owed something to her guests for their presence.
"What's up, Anne?" A soft, keen voice to her left.
She didn't know.
"Where I come from.. we do this." Ani Banhof crosses her index finger over her middle and shows this to the local boy.
He stares at her blankly. "It. is?" He walks in a box, sighs and tries to enunciate.
Ani smiles and settles closer on the rice sacks. "It means good luck."
The boy continues to stare, asks the question. "What. is.. luck?"
Ani feels a gentle tightening in her throat. She closes her eyes and stands, places her hand on his shoulder and searches for the aircraft. She settles back. "I pray that one day your people will know what that is."
The local girl is silent and speaks nothing but what must be rural Tibetan. They had been watching Ani converse with the terrier and the girl had suddenly failed to conceal a laugh. Both looked a little frightened watching her stand and, suddenly unsmiling, the pair revealed a lonely expanse across their faces - unlike anything Ani had ever seen and quite beautiful.
She gestures to the dog, names him. Katuschka. They were on their way to climb the mountains, the boy boasted in an equally poor mix of English and German.
"My language skills are also full of holes." Dr Karl has found her. He removes his hands from his pockets, comes forward to plant on boot along the rice sacks. He laughs. The local children echo his laugh and run quickly from the barn.