Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 4

Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 4

Angela was feeling painfully lonely in the ring of bushes where Robert had left her, and the blossoms of rapture withered away fast too. Who screamed? And why now? If it was something stupid, or only some ballyhoo, I swear I’ll kill the person. She shivered in the evening breeze and looked up at the sky. She found the stars cheerlessly shivering at their usual places, their incessant glimmer was only occasionally disturbed by the flashes of the lights of airplanes sweeping by.

Suddenly, she heard another scream, even more terrible than the one before. It made her shake all over. She swiftly put her clothes to rights and slipped through the thinner part of the hedge, where Robert had broken through moments before, and started to run with all her strength. The sobbing became louder, then it was mixed with loud, desperate talk. Clatters, running water, crying. She opened the branches of the thuja before her. A mini-skirted girl was kneeling on the path, wailing. Black mascara had melted from her eyelids and was trickling down her skin, drawing a latticework of lines. In her anguish, she had smudged her lipstick as well. She kept shaking the body sprawled on the ground. Robert stood beside her, soaking wet. He was trying to tug the sobbing girlfriend away from the lifeless boy but she stubbornly stayed in place. Finally, with a strong tug, he managed to wrench her away so that he could begin to resuscitate the boy. The glass French windows to the terrace were flung open and Réka dashed through them like an express train. She gave a brief update, gasping for air.

‘The ambulance will be here soon. But they said it might take ten minutes. Let’s try to revive him in the meantime. I told them we have a lifesaver here.’ She looked at Robert, but her brother was already busy doing chest compressions, rhythmically pushing down on the boy’s breastbone and leaving off now every so often to blow air into the boy’s nose. His efforts were accompanied by astounded silence. He felt the vein on the boy’s neck several times but had to accept, in bitter disappointment, that there was still no sign of life.

‘He hasn’t had a pulse for over five minutes!’ he roared. ‘He won’t survive, for fuck’s sake!’

Even more sobs shook the girl who was now kneeling beside him. Her friend tried to hold her compassionately but she pushed the arms away angrily.

‘How come you didn’t notice? You should’ve paid more attention to each other! He’ll die, or he’s dead already!’ she screamed.

Angela stood there in shock. She appeared to be unnoticed in the mounting panic. She wanted to draw nearer to her love, who, in his panic, was accelerating the rate of his compressions, but she did not dare to step out from among the bushes yet: she did not want to disturb Robert in his apparently futile efforts.

‘What’ll happen now, for fuck’s sake? What’ll happen?’ he shouted in a near trance, while still pushing the boy’s chest.

He looked at the others in desperation. The girlfriend of the dead boy freed herself from the arms of the boy holding her and almost fell on her dead love. She hugged the cooling body tightly. Some of the others jumped in to her to peel her off.

 ‘Let her.’ Robert waved them away. ‘She can’t cause more trouble than there is already.’

Life flew away on her dainty wings, and her inevitable travelling companion Death was already shuffling by. Angela’s eyes grew wet as well, but suddenly she felt divinely inspired and heat flowed over her skin.

‘Listen to me, Angela,’ she heard from somewhere far behind her.

She looked around but saw only darkness. Scared, she took a step forward towards the light.

‘Listen!’ came the voice again. She did not know where it was coming from but it filled her mind.

‘Angela, don’t be afraid. You can save that boy. Just go there and lie on him.’

‘What? Who are you and why should I lie on him?’ she asked, staring into the darkness.

‘It’s me. Do you remember?’

‘No, I don’t, sorry. Are you in my year?’

Angela sighed, and her breath made something flicker with a silver shimmer. She stretched out her arm but grasped only air, so she stepped back among the bushes. She breathed out again, more strongly this time, and the rays of the moon outlined a pale shape among the thujas.

‘Do as you’re told,’ the voice urged her.

Golden smoke was billowing towards the sky.

‘Unbelievable. Is it really you? Impossible! Or am I dreaming?’

‘No, you aren’t, but hurry up. Don’t keep a soul waiting between two worlds.’

An invisible force squeezed her chest, her muscles were tickling as in her childhood, but she thought she was going mad. This … this is crazy. Lie on a dead body? Can’t I simply touch it? How stupid!

‘Act now!’ she heard.

But there’s nothing to lose. She was trying to convince herself. There’s a corpse lying on the pavement. I couldn’t give everyone a bigger shock than that.

‘Angela, start now!’ said the shape swirling in silver smoke.

She stopped wavering, stepped out from behind the thujas and joined the others. She cautiously touched the shoulder of the lad in her way. He looked her up and down, and his mouth was left agape. Angela’s dress was enveloped in a fine, gauzy, turquoise-blue halo. The boy kept staring at her speechlessly, finding her, with her fair hair down, an unearthly smile on her lips, looking as untouched and splendid as a precious stone from a treasure-chest in the wreckage of a ship resting on the seabed. She was looking at him, though not into his eyes, exactly, but beyond them, into the distance.

‘Let me through.’

The lad could not conceal his astonishment but stepped aside. Angela’s glow suddenly expired. She knelt down beside the dead body and grasped the hand of Robert, who was still desperately struggling.

‘You can’t do any more to save him. Let somebody else help.’

Angela held out her fists in front of Robert and loosened them a little. A rainbow-like glow filtered through her fingers.

Robert scrambled to his feet, shook his head, tenderly took the girl’s hands and unfolded her fingers. The phosphorescent light grew stronger. Some people around them leaned over to see this heavenly wonder, and there were murmurs above Angela’s head.

‘Do you still remember what I told you about when my dog was run over?’ she asked Robert with a serious look.

‘I’m trying to believe you, Angie, but I might just be hallucinating. Look, I can’t do anything anyway. It’s your go, he can’t get any worse. He’s dead.’

The dead boy’s girlfriend’s sobbing became even louder.

‘Do you trust me?’ Angela asked Robert.

‘I think I do.’

‘Then please help: don’t let anybody too near.’

Robert nodded in confusion and stared at the girl, but he had to blink. Angela drew a deep breath and pressed herself closely to the motionless, cooling body of the boy, which was as white as a sheet. She pressed her legs to his legs, her arms to his arms and her head to his head.

‘Good God, she wants to make love to him! She’s gone mad. Get her off him right now! Get off him, you drunken bitch!’ shouted a girl in a denim dress stepping out of the crowd jostling behind them. She grabbed Angela’s arm to jerk her off the helpless body. Before Robert could intervene, however, the girl, jerked her own hand away as quickly as she had reached in.

‘Bloody hell, she’s hot. What on earth’s going on?’

‘Get off her, let her be. I know what she’s doing!’ Robert shouted, and pushed the girl roughly back among the others.

‘You stay there, OK? If you try to come here again, the ambulance will take you away too,’ he ordered. There was an almost otherworldly expression on his face.

‘She’s stupid,’ the girl answered disdainfully, and looked at one of the boys. ‘And if you let her stay there, you’re stupid too. Can’t you see what she’s doing?’

No one moved. The faces of those standing at the front were caressed by a mild breeze. Angela’s body was floating in a cloud of steam.

‘You’re all crazy!’ the girl in the denim dress insisted.

‘What’s this, some stupid Voodoo sorcery?’ said another teenager, emboldened by the girl’s invective. This set off a general grumbling.

‘Shut your mouths!’ Robert shouted. ‘She’s just trying to help. Can you come up with anything else right now apart from the number of the ambulance?’ he asked the joking lad. ‘And you lot, are you all doctors?’

The noise subsided and the rebellious girl’s next words stuck in her throat. The air become increasingly hot; some of the crowd quietly backed off, kicking over beer bottles, while others inquisitively pushed themselves forward in their stead.

‘This is simply fantastic. Who is she?’ somebody stammered.

Angela’s whole body was shaking; soft blue and green lights fluttered on her skin. The warmth of one body entered the other and the life force of one raised the other from the dead. There was so much excess energy at this tiny point in space that Angela’s thin cotton top burst into flames on her back and her stylish white trousers began to turn brown. Robert covered her instantly with a blanket to smother the fire. He was afraid to pour water on her in case it affected this hair-raising treatment. A putrid smell began to spread.

‘The blanket’s going to catch fire too!’ the girl in the denim dress hollered resentfully.

Robert carefully removed the blanket as soon as the fire died down. Instead of flames, shafts of light were now sparkling on Angela’s shredded clothes. Robert was taken aback as a sparkling bridge of light shot from her shaking head to the sky and then faded.

‘It’s like a, like a …’

‘Like a rainbow,’ Robert finished the sentence of the girl in the denim dress, who, in her shock, could not say anything else.

The legs of the boy lying on the ground jerked strongly. Angela drew her face away from his: her eyelids were still shut and quivering. The boy’s legs jerked again and his hands clenched into fists too as if he had been given an electric shock. The spasms came faster and faster. His soul reluctantly returned to its earlier living quarters. It was longing to travel towards the great light.

As the boy began to come round, Angela opened her eyes. The boy gave a huge cough, almost hitting the heads of those leaning towards him with the mighty jet of water he spewed out. He opened his bloodshot eyes and yelled. The girl in the denim dress laughed hysterically.

‘Welcome back to the land of the living,’ Angela whispered to the resuscitated boy, who, in his fright, did not even know who was talking to him. His saviour stood and picked up the remains of the blanket. She stumbled to a chair in exhaustion and sat down. The boy sat up; he still did not understand how he had got there. His shirt was coming off his chest in flakes and his trousers were covered in palm-size burnt holes. He looked around, then at the remnants of his clothes, and said in a rasping voice,

‘Did you shoot fireworks at me?’

Everybody laughed.

‘And now you’re laughing at me? So that bright light wasn’t just a dream? Wait a minute, assholes. Gimme a firework: I’ll return the favour. I’ll scorch you, you swine!’ While raging like this, he noticed his girlfriend clasping his legs. ‘Christie, why are you crying? Have they hurt you too? Right, enough!’ He sprang up with eyes flashing bolts of lightning.

‘Johnny, my dear Johnnie, stop!’ His girlfriend grabbed his arm. ‘You’re still alive! You are fucking alive.’ She was still blubbering and had smudged the remains of her make-up over her face. She hugged him idiotically.

‘What do you mean I’m still alive?’ he asked but nobody answered; the only sound was the murmur of the pump that cycled the water in the pool. Robert was also musing, dumbfounded; reality and his imagination had blurred. He stepped to Angela quickly, gently embraced her and kissed her on the forehead.

‘I love you, Angie!’

‘I love you too, my Robert,’ she whispered and clutched her lover’s neck. ‘I’m feeling very cold.’

‘I’ll take you inside to get you warm, until then, here’s another blanket, take it,’ he said and covered her with blanked covered in conspicuous stains.

‘It was a miracle,’ the girl in the denim dress wailed, walking up to Robert. ‘Please forgive me for making a scene, but, you know …’

But Robert did not reply, he just measured her up wearily. The wind brought the sound of an ambulance siren but nobody paid it any heed. They kept caressing and touching the shivering lad, whose skin was so hot that he needed no blanket.

‘I’m thirsty.’ He turned to his girlfriend, but two others ran for mineral water at the same time. ‘What happened to me? Why are you all looking at me like that? What’s happened to my clothes? Is this some sort of joke? Are you screwing with me? Say something, for God’s sake.’

‘To keep it short, you were so drunk you fell into the pool and died. Angela saved you. That’s what’s happened, darling,’ his girlfriend answered him with a reproachful look. It was not obvious whether her tears now were of shock or sudden happiness. ‘Now drink, you little asshole,’ she tapped her lover’s forehead playfully.

The siren of the arriving ambulance sounded from nearby, covering their talk. Doors slammed, paramedics in vests with reflective stripes appeared. Excited conversations ensued; questions flashed in the air like late-summer lightning. Everybody was confused. All the ambulance personnel could make out from the answers shouted above each other was that some girl had revived the boy in the tattered clothes. They asked for no more details, just ushered him onto the stretcher and hurried towards the ambulance with him. His girlfriend followed at the double. They were not to be separated. The ambulance doctor in a flaming red coat scratched the crown of his balding head and turned to Robert.

‘So, was it you who gave CPR to the injured person?’

‘Yes,’ he answered with a smile, ‘but my technique was useless.’

‘I know, I know. The girl laid down on him and the guy came back to life. Have you been taking drugs?’

‘No, we haven’t,’ Robert replied. ‘But that’s what happened. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. And anyway, how else to explain all the burnt clothes?’

‘I think you should drop the questions, son. If someone is drunk, or is using drugs, and then lights up … in a word, he is capable of anything. Shouldn’t we take her in for a check-up too?’ He turned towards Angela.

‘No. Nothing’s wrong with her,’ Robert answered with a long face. ‘And she didn’t use drugs either, she only drank a few glasses of champagne.’

‘I see. So, what did she do with him? I mean with the lad.’

‘Let’s just say she warmed him up. I think it doesn’t really matter what really happened, you wouldn’t believe it,’ Robert said.

The doctor considered the burnt patches marring the trousers of the boy lying on the stretcher and only remarked, ‘He certainly didn’t catch cold.’

They put the stretcher into the ambulance, slammed the door shut and disappeared as fast as they had come.

Robert took his miracle-worker love into the house and they shut themselves in a room. Nobody disturbed them all night. Talking about nothing but the event of the evening, the other teenagers spread around the house and set to cleaning up the mess. Discussions about what had actually happened continued until the morning. They were waiting impatiently for Angela to reappear – some even banged on their door to ask about her ‘miracle-working powers’, but he sent everybody away. The girl was slumbering naked on her lover’s chest and Robert, deeply touched, was guarding the angel of his dreams. Neither of them even suspected that the real actor of the miracle had hidden in the shade of the bushes for a while, then returned to the eternal light.

Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 3

Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 3

Ma-gios awoke to the slight beeping of the ECG machine. The snow-white walls of the Emergency Ward at the Sant’Andrea hospital frightened him. With a broken soul, he looked around the ward but saw no one. A dim, flickering fluorescent lamp above his headrest was the only source of light. He was worried by the man-size machine chirping with green numbers beside him. What could it be counting? What was it there were ninety of, and why did the other row say one hundred and thirty-two? They must know I’m from Tibet because their television draws mountaintops as well. Though those valleys don’t look familiar.

Staring into the half-light, his attention was drawn towards the window: there were no bars on it. He could clearly see the red flickering of the signal lights on a distant chimney. The stars enticed him, so he tried to sit up, but a sharp pain shot into his right shoulder. He reached to touch it, discovered the IV tube hanging beside his head, and, in surprise, touched his wrist where it was attached. Maybe I’ve died and this is the bardo[1] that dad told me about so long ago. There’ll be darkness here and nothing’s going to happen for forty-nine days.

He leaned back on his pillow and, satisfied with his own answer, was staring at the ceiling when the door opened. A square of blue-white light poured in and a nurse entered. The fluorescent light glimmered in waves on her black hair, the edges of her clothes glowed white.

‘An angel! And she’s come for me. This is good. Dad said that—’

‘Son, do you speak Italian?’ the “angel” interrupted him.

Ma-gios, awestruck, nodded.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Ldong Tsomo, but they just call me Ma-gios.’

The nurse stepped up to him and sensually combed stray locks of hair away from her face.

‘Well, Ma-gios, may I sit here, at your bedside?’

The boy said nothing but drew away in alarm when the woman sat down beside him.

‘Don’t be afraid, Ma-gios. You won’t be harmed here. We’ll help you to recover as soon as possible,’ she told him quietly, and smiled at him.

‘So this … is this not the other world?’ he stuttered.

The woman’s pupils dilated; she was touched.

‘Oh, no, not at all, Ma-gios. What are you talking about? I’m Agnese and this is the Sant’Andrea hospital. You were found in the street, bleeding profusely. Your head had been smashed and you’d lost a lot of blood from the wound on your shoulder too. You were brought into the emergency ward in time, fortunately, otherwise you could have bled to death.’

‘I don’t remember anything.’

‘After such a serious head injury, it’s only natural. You look better now than before – your wounds were scary.’

‘Ma-gios touched his head, only then realizing the gauze turban wrapped around it.

‘Wow, has my head swollen up so much?’

‘No, silly, that’s only the bandage,’ she whispered. She leaned closer. ‘Where do you come from, you little oddball? The moon?’

‘No. I do remember that much. I live in Yilhung in Tibet.’

‘In Tibet? And how have you ended up here?’

‘That I don’t remember. I think I remember having gone on a long journey with my dad to a place called Rome. Agnese, do you know where Rome is?’

‘And you, do you know where your dad could be? What’s his name?’

‘He’s called Kunga, but I have no idea where he could be.’

Lots of ideas crossed the nurse’s mind and tears welled into her eyes.

‘Ma-gios, are you hungry? I’m sure you’re thirsty, right?’

‘Well, yes I am. I feel as if I haven’t eaten anything for a hundred years. I’m not sleepy any more, but I am ravenous.’

The nurse stood up, massaged her temples and frowned.

‘I’ll try to get you something to eat. If I can’t find anything, I’ll give you my sandwich. It’s way too early for breakfast. But don’t mess with those wires and tubes, they’ll help you recover as soon as possible. I’ll be back soon.’

Agnese disappeared into the square of brilliant light in the doorway. Ma-gios closed his eyes and thought of Kunga. His mind was weighed down because he could not be with his father. Did he leave me on purpose, or was I taken away from him? What’s happened to me since then? My hands and feet have grown. I’ve become bigger. How did that happen? Hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember growing up so much. A black hole yawned in this memory.

In the meantime Agnese poured the orange juice she found in the fridge into a glass and unwrapped her single sandwich. She was disappointed because, by the time she got back to Ma-gios, he was again sleeping like a log. She sat down on the end of the bed and caressed his forehead.

‘Poor boy. Where could your parents be? What happened to you?’ she wondered. She turned off the light, cast a glance at the ECG screen and was glad to find Ma-gios’s cardiac rhythm was steady. She made a tired round of the ward, winked at her colleague, who was buried in pulp fiction, then took a hot shower. She kept thinking of the boy’s clear eyes. They were like those of her fiancé, who had left her for good at the end of a quiet summer night.

The following morning a stout police inspector with an idiotic expression on his face appeared in the ward. His dark-brown leather coat and shining shoes made him resemble a would-be Don Corleone. Ma-gios noticed the Parabellum pistol stuck in his belt with shock but, when the man removed his dark hat, he looked more like a scarecrow than a criminal. The boy’s fear was also allayed by the fact that the inspector was accompanied by Agnese and an older doctor. The doctor was enthusiastically explaining something to the nurse while the inspector walked beside them with an indifferent expression. When they all sat around his bed, he was overcome by panic.

First the inspector asked a number of questions – or rather, a sea of fastidious, hair-splitting questions – but not a single detail of the mysterious boy’s recent past emerged. The inspector, lost in thought, scratched his forehead and put his notepad back into his suitcase. Ma-gios felt ashamed to have caused disappointment.

‘He either doesn’t remember anything about the last ten years, or he doesn’t want to remember anything about them,’ he muttered to the psychiatrist sitting next to him. ‘But what I find the weirdest, doctor, is that, as you’ve also heard, his memories from before the age of seven or eight are almost completely intact.’

‘You’re right, Signor Vitali,’ the doctor in brown glasses answered while glancing at Agnese. ‘I strongly suspect Ma-gios has amnesia, and we can’t specify either its reason or its exact type beyond saying that, as a consequence of his concussion, he has developed a psychogenic retrograde amnesia.’

On hearing the doctor’s diagnosis, the inspector’s face became, if possible, even more foolish-looking. Nobody suspected this to be a mask to hide his searching mind.

‘So then, what’s your advice, doctor?’ asked Inspector Vitali.

The doctor looked at Ma-gios, scratched white tufts of hair and only replied, ‘He must go back.’

Ma-gios’s stomach contracted and he clenched his fists.

‘Go back? Where to, doctor?’

‘Well, to where you were born, of course. To Tibet. The surroundings there could bring your memory back. Ma-gios, have any memories just clicked in? I can see you’ve become agitated.’

Ma-gios shook his head.

‘You sure?’ The inspector nudged him.

‘I think my hands were in handcuffs, but nothing else.’

‘Oh! You seem to remember something, you little oddball. Now tell us! What else do you remember?’

The boy’s eyes were filled with tears and opened as wide as if he had no eyelids.

‘Let him alone, Signor Vitali, let him alone.’ The doctor waved his hand. ‘The time for remembering hasn’t come yet. When it comes, he’ll tell us everything of his own accord, you won’t have to force him then.’

‘You may be right,’ grumbled the inspector, playing with the corner of the bedspread. He was deliberately avoiding the boy’s eyes, lest he scare him more. The doctor cast a scandalized glance at the inspector.

‘Of course I’m right! This is my profession, Signor Inspector. The boy must rest before you can go on interrogating him.’

‘I’m not interrogating him. Oh, all right. Well, then, there’s nothing else to do.’ He raised his voice and rested his eyes on Agnese’s tanned neckline, ‘Well, except find this mysterious Yilhung. I doubt it’s even on the map.’

The psychiatrist stood up, Vitali put on his worn hat and they took their leave of the boy. They left for the lift chatting.

‘May I have a look at the boy’s medical history?’ the inspector asked the doctor, who nodded.

Agnese stayed behind with Ma-gios, who could now have a better look at her. He admired her hair that, not pinned up that day, fell like a raven-black cataract down her back. With her warm brown eyes and ever-moving slender figure, the boy thought she resembled a princess in disguise. Her working hours were over, but she did not want to leave the boy alone, believing that Ma-gios’s soul was crying for help. However, even as she was talking to him, the boy was looking steadily at her ample breast, he kept staring.

‘Ma-gios, that’s not polite.’

‘What isn’t?’

‘To stare at my breasts so.’

‘Oh, I didn’t know. But you see, they’re so beautiful. May I touch them?’

‘No.’ The nurse chuckled.

‘Not polite either?’

Agnese shook her head. ‘Certainly isn’t.’

‘Then I’m sorry, but I’m overcome by such interesting feelings when I look at them.’

 ‘That’s natural; you’re a man and I’m a woman.’

This sentence moved an unfamiliar, burning desire in the boy’s stomach. His throat was in flames but he did not understand why.

‘Agnese, if angels exist, they must be like you.’

‘Thank you, I haven’t received a more beautiful compliment from any of my patients.’

In the meantime, hidden behind the high ragged stone fence of the building Ma-gios had escaped from, things were being set in motion. Ennio was pacifying the anxious nuns with logical arguments and assured them that Ma-gios would not remember anything.

‘He was undergoing medical treatment,’ he repeated to one of the nuns the following morning. ‘He’ll have complete amnesia.’

He called aside the eldest nun, who appeared to be controlling her tumultuous feelings the best.

‘Sister Bianca, I have a personal request. It’s come to my knowledge that Ma-gios has been taken to Sant’Andrea. I’d like to ask you to …’

The facial muscles of the woman cramped like a rubber spider, and she rolled her eyes.

‘Has that brute survived?’

‘He appears to have. He must have a benefactor above.’ The archbishop broke into an involuntary smile.

‘Oh, don’t say such a thing, Signor Marino. What kind of a benefactor could such … such devil’s spawn have? Only a creature from hell would be able to wreak such destruction. May the Almighty have mercy on him!’ She went on sighing.

‘So, Sister Bianca, I’d like to ask you to go to Sant’Andrea.’

‘Do you want me to visit him, Signor Archbishop?’ she asked, her face petrified with fear.

‘Yes, that’s exactly what I’d like you to do. I want to know whether he’s really there and, if so, for how much longer.’

‘Father, are you sure this is a good idea?’ Sister Bianca looked into the archbishop’s eyes beseechingly, though she suspected what the answer would be. Ennio touched the woman’s shoulder tactfully.

‘Sister, we must stick together. These are difficult times. Our community needs devoted brothers and sisters. There are not many of those, alas.’

Sister Bianca straightened up proudly. Two nuns appeared at the end of the corridor and approached them hastily. The rush of air caught their black veils up into angry cobra heads in the air above them.

Before the nuns could reach them, Ennio asked, ‘Are you going to the hospital, then? As if you were visiting, as someone having witnessed the event.’

The woman nodded.

‘But what if he still remembers me?’

‘He won’t, I guarantee. Bianca, you don’t even have to enter the room, it’s enough if you peep inside.’

‘Well, if you wish it. God forgive me.’

Ennio squeezed the woman’s shoulder encouragingly but already knew that Sister Bianca would do more than simply ‘peep inside’.

The two nuns reached them, their faces overcome with dread, but the archbishop completely ignored them.

‘Sister Bianca, your conscience is clear.’

Fiat cor meum immaculatum, ut non confundar!*’ the woman mumbled. She bowed to Ennio and turned towards the nuns.

‘Peace, sisters. God has bestowed great wisdom on the archbishop and we should follow his advice about what to do in this critical situation.’ She shooed them away like a brood-hen her chicks. ‘I’ll talk to you later. Be in my room in an hour. Until then, look around the garden and in the street for any remaining marks.’

‘But, Sister Bianca, the police may have questions. What shall we say to them?’ the tallest one asked. She nervously adjusted her black veil.

‘Angelica!’ Biance snapped at her. ‘Nothing has happened and you’ve seen nothing. I hope this needs no more explanation. Just make sure you obey me. If, by some chance, the police turn up, I’ll talk to them. But who’d search for the reasons here anyway? In a convent? Just think about it.’

‘Apologies. We’re off,’ Angelica stammered, glancing at the archbishop, whose eyes showed her no mercy either.

Suddenly, the door flew open and they all turned round. A piercing wind sliced along the corridor, ripping dried petals from the roses that had been glorious in the vases and throwing them in their faces. A man in a raincoat was standing in the doorway, his hands in his pockets, his face pinched purple-blue by the wind. He instantly recognized Ennio but, on seeing the nuns, he gave a wry snigger.

‘I’m Tito!’ he yelled at them. ‘I’ve come for the corpses. Or am I to cremate these penguins? My ovens are already glowing!’ He guffawed. One of the nuns almost fainted, while Tito choked with laughter.

‘Enough,’ Ennio bellowed, ‘or I’ll send you to hell too!’

Tito’s blood froze, and the archbishop squashed a rose petal in his palm.

[1] Bardo (Tibetan) is the name of tha state of existence after death and before rebirth, but it could also mean the states of transition of the person’s level of existence, that is, states of consciousness.

* Let my heart remain pure; let me not be confounded

Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 2

Read my novel online – The Good, the Bad and the Beast – Part 2 Section 2

Many years had passed since Angela’s first visions and, with the coming of adolescence, her childish dreams had disappeared. Her experiences with the other world lost their significance. They had simply turned into grey facts. However, the silence of the other world was deliberate – it was the silence before war.

Angela no longer sat on the stone bench in their garden and no longer longed for peace that used to permeate her entire being. Her budding womanhood had burst into flower and she was secretly glad of the interest she awakened in boys. She loved daring clothes, scandalous ideas and the uninhibited people she saw on television. Her parents seldom turned on the telly because, on returning home, Edith cared for the garden and did chores around the house and, as for Joseph, he preferred to read or write poems in his free time. He was not a great poet, but was content that a few of his poems had been published in the local paper.

On many afternoons, friends in Ajka asked Angela to stay there. She created her first Internet account on a community portal. Full of excited interest, she immersed herself in the freedom of the online world. She was captivated by the bustling activity of the city. She wanted to be like the city people, brimful of life, free from prejudice, cool and assertive. Her friends talked to her about Budapest, where, to their amazement, Angela had only been twice. She listened open-mouthed to stories of erotic Friday-night parties, but she dared not go to any of them. ‘How long are you going to carry on playing goody two-shoes, Angie?’ her friends teased her.

One Friday, at the end of the school day, Angela’s mind was ready to explode, so full of girlish jabber was it. Her friends had planned another party but she did not yet know that they wanted to take her along this time.

Edith had finished work earlier that day and was in the parking lot behind the school, waiting for her daughter in their battle-hardened jeep. She was proud of Angela, who had blossomed into a charming, slender young woman. Her eyes followed her child in delight as she walked down the pavement from the school and strolled up to the car. Being only seventeen, Angela’s every movement was watched with yearning by the group of boys loitering on the terrace. The gossamer-like silk trousers emphasized her shapely thighs; the sweep of fair hair falling about her shoulders reminded Edith of Aphrodite.

Angela’s best friend had given her the trousers as a present. They were white as snow and laced around with tiny crystals. The winding lines of little shining stones embraced her legs bewitchingly in the sunshine. Everybody thought the trousers were wonderful – except her father. This hurt her a bit. She loved him very much, but she noticed their relationship had cooled recently. She missed their long conversations and she felt the distance growing between them.

She got into the car.

‘Hi, Mum.’

‘Hi, honey. Had a nice day?’

‘Yes, but it was boring. I was just thinking we should trade this old car in for a new one. It sucks that we’re still using it. The parents of one of my classmates are far worse off than we are but have bought a new car. They sold the old one, added a little money and got credit for the rest. The monthly instalments aren’t even that high. Why don’t we do that?’

’You know, Angela, that we have to have the roof repaired by the end of the summer. Unfortunately, that’s our number-one priority right now.’

‘All right, Mum, but when we get stuck because this rattletrap breaks down, don’t say I didn’t warn you,’ the girl retorted with a surly expression, throwing her bag on the back seat.

‘Well, has something happened to you, dear? Something you might want to share with me?’ asked Edith, trying to make herself as tranquil as a child psychologist. ‘I know nothing interesting usually happens at school, but perhaps today was different.’

Angela’s lips curved into a smile.

‘The girls are going to a great place soon. I thought I could go with them for once.’

‘You know I have no objections. I don’t mind if you go out with reliable people. You’re grown up. You father worries more about you.’

‘Most cool parties take place in Budapest, though. The next one’s coming up there, too.’

‘So far away? Couldn’t you party somewhere near here?’

‘Nothing ever happens in this dusty hole! But my friend’s brother lives there, the girls usually sleep at his place,’ she answered.

‘So there’ll be no adult with you?’

‘There you go again. But Mum, that’s exactly what’s cool about it. No old folks, get it?’

‘I get it, but, you know, travelling to Budapest just for a party, then the entrance fee to the club, food and drinks. If you really want to go along. Well, I don’t know … We’ll discuss this with your dad at home, all right?’


‘Just grumble.’ Her mother trumped her, starting the engine, and the old workhorse roared up.

Edith was hoping Joseph would instantly refuse to let Angela go to the party in Budapest, so she would not have to confront her daughter. Angela calmly watched the scenery gliding by and they said no word to each other. Edith was smiling to herself. At home, her daughter immediately did the vanishing trick, slamming her bedroom door sullenly, then called her friend, Réka, only to find that the party the next week would not be downtown, but at her parents’ cottage.

The Danube flowed by the house outside Budapest, her friend told her, which made the cottage even more romantic. However, Angela was not interested in the holiday cottage, or the wonderful surroundings. Who would be there? Perhaps Robert would come too? Robert was Réka’s elder brother, a member of the national rowing team and a second-year student at the University of Technology. His wide shoulders, confident smile and soft brown eyes pulled Angela’s thoughts towards them like magnets. Thinking of him, her lips grew numb and her nipples stiff. Although she had never made love to anyone, and was also a bit afraid of boys, she thought Robert was different. Her inhibitions fell away in his presence. She craved his touch. When the boy tenderly caressed her shoulders while they were guests at her friend’s house, her veins had burnt with fire and she had blushed. She had never felt like this in the presence of someone of the other gender before. Now she wanted this feeling. She was overcome by wild agitation, but she managed to ask Réka tactfully whether Robert would be present.

‘Robert? But of course. I know it’s him you’re most excited about!’ she shouted.

‘But how do you know?’ Angela inquired suspiciously.

‘Everybody knows.’

‘And you, would you like Robbie if he weren’t your brother?’

Réka laughed out loud.

‘You’re trying to change the subject, you little beast. I know you want him. And I can tell you he’s only coming because of you. My brother isn’t a party type either. You two could be tied together.’

Angela felt her heart thumping in her throat.

‘I see. I’ve got to go – dinner’s ready,’ she lied. She wanted to hang up as soon as possible. ‘Talk to you tomorrow.’

‘Bon appetite, Angie; you’re ditching me really fast.’

‘No, it’s not that. It’s only that Mum, you see … she’s calling me.’

‘All right, all right. Talk to you tomorrow.’

‘Yes, tomorrow.’

Angela put down the receiver with a shaking hand, thinking of Robert. Love spread inside her like molten gold. She stood up with a burning face and opened the window. The first stars were appearing. Was this summer going to be different from the previous ones? I must persuade them to let me go.

She rushed down the stairs and, clinging to the bannister, sprang off the landing with a single jump, at which her mother exclaimed, ‘Angela, the railings! They’ll collapse one day. You’re no longer five.’

Her father stuck his head out of the kitchen window. ‘Yeah, honey, really, stop jumping on it, it’s already loose enough.’

She sneaked up to the dining table and kissed her father. ‘I know, Daddy. It’s loose because of me.’

‘And are you proud of that?’ he asked with a half smile.

‘You should be happy I keep jumping, because it means I’m still a child. When I no longer jump, I’ll be an adult and I won’t be here.’

‘Oh!’ her mother shouted out and Joseph yelled with laughter.

‘I know, honey, but if it’s possible, please take care of the bannister. Perhaps your son or daughter will clamber on it some day. As for the party in Budapest …’

There was a moment’s silence; the father reached for a glass and sniffed at the wine rippling in it, scattering the lamplight and flinging tiny scimitars of raspberry-red light over the tablecloth.

‘I figure I can let you go.’

Edith’s face clouded over, wanting to cut in, but her husband spoke again.

‘I’ll let you go, Angela, because that’s your heart’s desire. I can see, honey, that objecting would cause more harm than good. Of course your mum begs to differ.’

He turned towards Edith and she glanced at Angela. The same victorious glance as the one she gave me at the table that night when she was a child. I wanted to wean her off daydreaming and bring her into reality. I think I was too successful.

‘Mum, Mum! What are you staring at?’ Angela asked, but her mother did not reply. She waved her hand.

‘Thanks, dad. You always surprise me,’ Angela answered, still searching Edith’s face. ‘So, Mummy has no real objections either, then?’

Edith relented.

Angela’s week passed in happy expectancy and she told Réka what a great guy her father was with emotion.

‘But he’d still tear off my white bags and put a chador on me if he could.’

‘Others would be glad to tear your bags off too,’ Réka cooed. ‘I’m sometimes jealous of you. You could have two boys to each of your fingers if you wanted. Oh, if only I could be you!’

‘You’d have been in for an abortion a long time ago, too.’

Réka poked at her and, wagging her index finger, said, ‘Angela, I’m not a bad girl either. What’s wrong about liking boys? Do you like girls perhaps?’

Angela’s face darkened. ‘No, Réka, I’d just like to wait for the right one.’

‘Ah, you’re already talking like my granny.’

‘Oh really? How long has she been married to your granddad?’

‘Perhaps forty years, I don’t know, but they’re really fond of each other.’

‘I’d like to be like that, Réka. I’d like to find the one.’

’You won’t be disappointed in my brother.’

’Who’s talking about your brother?’

‘Don’t start.’ Her friend waved her index finger admonishingly.

Angela giggled. They were passing by the Helios statue near the town hall, where they often strolled after school. Angela loved studying Helios breaking in his winged mares. She admired his broad shoulders, proud posture, his hair waving in the wind, and felt the heat emanating from his eyes. Aphrodite was longing for the sun god; for the flames of his love.

By Friday, Angela’s initial enthusiasm had grown into rapture and her heart was filled with sunshine. On Saturday morning, having received all kinds of useful but boring and incessantly repeated advice, she set out to the station. The sky looked as if grey and blue had been washed together with a giant mop; the disc of the sun was hidden behind clouds.

‘It looks like rain, and I’ve no umbrella. I should’ve thought of that,’ she muttered, looking up at the clouds.

Her friends were already waiting for her in front of the dirty white cube of the station building. She saw from afar the undulating, giggling circle of her friends as it kept closing in whispers, then blowing out in roars of laughter. Everyone was there but one person, only one, she could not see. Not here! He’s not here! Why hasn’t he come? I’ll just go back home! Her steps broke, her face tightened. As she got near the fortress of clattering high heels, Réka stepped up to her and instantly noticed Angela’s sour face.

’Robert’s coming from Budapest, don’t worry,’ she whispered, poking her gently in the ribs.

Angela relaxed. Réka, wearing thick layers of make-up and a blood-red mini dress, looked her friend, who was wearing simple jeans, up and down and burst out laughing.

‘We should exchange clothes. Though that could be dangerous; you’d be raped for sure in this gear.’

‘But you’re beautiful too, Réka, and that dress really suits you.’

‘Oh, no way. I’m just confident. Look at me. I’m metre fifty, with stocky duck legs. And my hair never gets long, it keeps splitting,’ she complained with downcast eyes.

‘Still, you’ve had lots of guys, and I’ve had none. Come on.’ She took Réka’s arm. ‘Let’s go join the gang. By the way, I’ve brought along my white trousers too, but I’m not putting them on for the journey.’

‘Better not! At least that means I won’t be invisible until you do.’

On the way, they exchanged dozens of SMSs with those left at home, ate five bags of crisps and drove a passenger longing for quiet out of the compartment with their chit-chat.

“So, it’s been a busy journey, mum. Don’t sweat it, everything’s awesome,” Angela wrote to Edith. She felt over the moon, elated by the sudden freedom. In Budapest, she devoured ice cream in Váci street with relish and kept up with her friends, cackling with them as they descended on the clothes shops to turn all the assistants into nervous wrecks. When they found purple bras, they asked for pink and ended up buying black ones.

With the evening approaching, they got into a taxi. The driver had protested that they were too many, still, took them for a bit of extra fee. In front of the summer cottage in Horány, the driver turned on the light and Angela’s friends rummaged for money. Angela’s girlfriends took out their purses, paid the driver and, with uproarious laughter, the girls alighted from the car.

Situated on the island of Szentendre, Horány was an ideal hiding place for poor souls tired of the noise of the city. On that night, however, neighbours had to resign themselves to the fact that the milling crowds had caught up with them. Music was booming, and the pale blue light of the swimming pool lit up a splashing competition.

The holiday home was flanked by an impenetrable hedge of shrubs, forming a labyrinth. The shrubs could only be crossed on the stone path through the gate, and the garden was turned into a fortress by the picket fence carved out of rough timber. Somebody clinked keys in the twilight, turned the lock and opened up the gate to the empire of wonders. The girls bounded like gazelles across the garden towards the floodlit house. Their closely fitting clothes revealed desirable womanly curves. Their flight was only hindered by the stumbling caused by their flimsy high-heeled shoes. They were lovely, light-headed and charming, exactly as one would expect five seventeen-year-old girls to be. Pupils dilated, they explored the holiday home like fish released into a deep lake. Music blared out of loudspeakers with the force of guns; bedsprings, struggling with the weight of feet stamping on them, creaked; boxes full of cakes were ripped open; and bottles hissed as they were opened. The party got into full swing. More cars lined up in front of the cottage, bringing new passengers who threw themselves with abandon into the rampage until the following morning.

At first, Angela restrained herself. She did not really intend to get sucked into the wild maelstroms of dancing boys and girls but, in the end she was caught up in the enthusiasm. On discovering that all her friends were already sitting on the laps of older boys, she may have been a bit jealous. She used her smile to cover her embarrassment. Having doubts, she searched among the remaining unaccompanied boys, but the one she was looking for could be found nowhere. She was startled when strangers’ hands passed over her shoulders or bottom. She could sympathize with the ball in the pinball machine, which gets shoved off whatever it touches. Here, however, the shoves came from words instead of little springs or arms. She’d roll from a ‘Come perch in my lap, honey!” right to a ‘Your buns have a magnet inside and my hand is of iron!’ then bounce into a more reasonable ‘Are you coming to dance with me?’ or be pushed off by a romantic ‘I’ve been wishing for an angel like you my whole life.’ She felt she had no place in the playground and became afraid as more and more boozy boys flashed their eyes at her. Her mother’s SMS came right then.

Wonderful party, everything’s OK, she answered while a red-haired guy squeezed her bum. She pushed his hand away roughly. He pretended to be surprised at the unusual treatment and edged away.

‘This is going to help, Angie,’ she heard. ‘Take a few sips and everything will be brighter. Don’t be so stiff, relax!’

It was Réka with a large bottle of champagne and two glasses. Drops of condensation sparkled on the bottle, it had been in the fridge so long. Angela found the ice-cold champagne delicious and they were soon by the fireplace, jabbering at the tops of their voices, vying with the thumping music.

‘Imagine, I have a secret. Even my parents don’t know about it,’ Réka shouted in Angela’s ear and pulled up her miniskirt for a second.

‘A dolphin on your thigh?’ Angela gave a chuckle.

‘Yes. I had it done in secret; I want to impress my boyfriend with it.’

‘You didn’t even tell me you had a fella!’

‘Then I’m telling you now,’ Réka winked at her.

’But how long anyway?’

‘Actually, we’ve just got together; we’d only been hanging around with each other till now.’

Angela was shocked, then tried to squeeze out something that sounded cool. ‘That’s cool. I ought to get my hand on a cute dude too.’

‘Congratulations, that’s the first sensible thing you’ve said all night,’ Réka said with a serious face, but, before Angela had time to get hurt, she started laughing. ‘Robert’s going to be here soon, he’s just dropped me a line. Don’t give in till he gets here, then you can seduce him.’

They kept laughing at this for a long time, and finished the champagne. Somehow, a tipsy guy had joined them on the couch in the meantime. He piled a lot of rubbish on them, like a muddy spring brook. It was amusing to see how he was trying his best. He rested his hand on Angela’s thigh for a second, and, though she routinely pushed the hand away, she felt a strange tingle travel across her brain: it went down the nape of her neck, rippled along her spine and came to a halt between her thighs. Even though she’d been dismissive, she was possessed by maddening desire and was about to explode like an over-heated furnace. That was when Robert turned up.

He’s come, he’s arrived at last! Elated, Angela broke free of her forced company. Robert stood at the door and, combing back his hair, looked into the insanely whirling crowd of teenagers. The golden beam of the club lights settled right on his forehead.

‘Helios,’ she whispered and approached him.

Robert was trying to force his coat onto the jam-packed coat-stand when Angela embraced his waist from behind. She squeezed him slightly and laughed. She would never have dared do it any other time but Réka’s magic potion had worked marvels. The boy spun around, as if wanting to defend himself.

‘Oh, it’s only you, Angie. Hi!’

This cold introduction hit her, but her dizziness from the champagne made her forgiving.

‘Hi, Robbie! I feel fantastic. I’m glad you’re here.’

Robert smelt alcohol and sighed.

‘Have you been here long, Angela?’

‘No, only an hour, but I’ve warmed myself up a bit. I felt terribly rigid and I bet I’m the most sober one around here.’

‘I guess we should go somewhere quieter, right?’ the boy roared through the noise of the music and nodded towards the spiral staircase. ‘Let’s just talk in private, shall we? There’s no music upstairs.’

Angela enjoyed the falling away of her inhibitions. She playfully grabbed the boy’s arm and pulled him. They stormed upstairs laughing. The balcony was in darkness but they could hear noises from outside. A girl in jeans was straddling her partner, kissing him wildly, while the boy’s hand was fidgeting inside the girl’s trousers.

‘Let’s sit outside,’ said Robert quietly.

‘I don’t know, there seem to be people here.’

‘They’ll soon leave,’ answered Robert with shining eyes, and saw the girl out onto the balcony.

They looked up into the sky, the stars were shining remotely. They leaned on the railing and the couple stopped kissing. Robert knew the boy and said, ‘Changeover time. It’s our turn.’

The couple melted into thin air.

‘How did you do that?’ Angela asked.

‘That was my cousin and his girlfriend. They know it wouldn’t be worth arguing with me.’

‘So, are they afraid?’

‘I wouldn’t say that. They respect me.’

‘Nice one,’ Angela laughed. ‘But I think they just shat their pants.’

‘Let’s agree you’re right, Angie.’

Robert stroked away the wisps of hair falling into her face and said, ‘I’ve been looking forward to you very much, you know that?’

‘I guess. But can I let you know that you are the high point of the evening for me too. You see, I’ve been attracted to you since we first met.’

‘It’s more than attraction for me.’

Angela’s face flushed. Robert’s arms entwined around her waist.

‘May I?’ he asked from really close.

Angela’s heart melted as the boy drew her to him. She could feel his stubble.

‘Perfect. Now you could tell me more about yourself. When we talked about your childhood the last time, you told me such interesting things. You didn’t finish because the bell rang and you had to go back to class, you remember?’

‘Yes, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal. It’s not worth telling you any more.’

‘Angie, I insist, please!’

He placed a hot soft kiss on the girl’s cheek, at which she embraced him tightly.

‘I must have drunk a bit too much champagne, Robbie. Are you really so keen on listening to the confessions of a drunken sot?’

‘You aren’t drunk really, you’re just talking more than usual. I guess you needed those couple of glasses. Alcohol gives you confidence.’

The girl lowered her eyes.

‘Oh, yes, that’s exactly what Réka says too. I don’t think it’s a virtue.’

Robert suddenly placed a kiss on Angela’s vanilla-smelling forehead and their eyes met. Their noses touched first, then their lips. Their tongues met in a long, hot kiss. Angela was thrilled through and through by happiness, her limbs were trembling rapturously. So this is it … this is what a kiss is like. Her feet began to go numb and fiery pearls ran down her ribs. Robert hugged her vehemently.

‘It wasn’t your first kiss, was it, honey?’


‘I think it was, but you’re a natural.’

‘But I’ve kissed before,’ she lied, and even her ears went red at that. ‘Kiss me again.’

That was how she received the first ten-minute kiss of her life, and, when it ended, she hardly knew whether she was still on earth or already in heaven.

‘Well, then, are you telling me some more, you little queen of kisses? What do you remember about our meetings?’

Angela snuggled up to Robert’s chest and glimpsed up at the moon, which has listened to millions of confessions of love over the millennia.

‘I remember every detail of each of our meetings, Robbie. How could I forget? When you visited Réka at school and we had a few words, time came to a halt for me.’

Robert narrowed his eyes.

’Are you serious? Do you really dig me so much? I admit I could just stare after you like a fool. I found you very reserved, an impregnable fortress. I never believed you could be seriously interested in me. I thought you’d only consider me a boring engineering student with a flair for rowing. You went up the stairs but your scent stayed there, inside me. I’d already fallen in love with you.’

The night sky began to spin around Angela. Good God, he’s made a confession. He’s confessed he loves me!

‘Oh, Robbie, you’re so kind!’

Then the smiles froze on their faces. Because of a noise they looked towards the balcony door, where the outlines of a body appeared on the drapery. The flashes of the stroboscope that had been dragged upstairs conjured up the silhouette of a hooded girl. Robert recognized the intruder instantly.

‘Réka! Stop lurking and, above all, stop eavesdropping.’

The curtain rippled and opened up.

‘I only wanted to make sure my best friend was all right.’

‘But Réka, I’m your brother.’

‘That’s exactly why, I needed to check – I know what you’re capable of,’ she replied with a theatrical look.

Angela barked at her friend. ‘Réka, everything is all right, cut it out, will you?’

’As you wish.’

She swished the curtain shut and disappeared.

‘Go as far away from here as possible!’ her brother shouted after her.

‘Leave it, Robbie. You can rest assured that she’ll give us a wide berth this evening. Not forever, of course.’

‘All right, you can vilify me on Monday.’

‘You can be sure of that,’ Angela answered him, laughing.

In the distance, a shooting star split the night sky.

‘Quick, make a wish,’ she told Robert. But he kissed her.

A light breeze rolled away the clouds that had concealed the moon. It was a full moon and the neighbour’s dog barked at its pale face with increasing anger.

‘Well, that doggy is very angry about something,’ the boy whispered into the girl’s ear, before giving it a peck. ‘Do you have a dog, Angie?’

‘We used to, but he died for a second time.’

Robert gave a laugh.

‘Don’t drink another glass of champagne, girl. Why, when did he die first?’

‘When a truck ran him over.’

‘And did he survive that?’

‘No, he didn’t, but God revived him.’

The muscles in Robert’s neck tightened and he moved away a bit.

‘A dog?’

‘Sure. But, of course, he died of old age ten years later.’

‘Pull the other one!’ the boy exhaled with irritation.

Angela was overcome with anger as well and she pushed Robert’s shoulder away. Their eyes met, the boy caught her wrist and kissed her violently. She broke from the kiss and went on, ‘Don’t you believe me? But that’s exactly what happened. He dashed into the street, chasing a squirrel. That cheeky squirrel was only baiting him. I heard the squeal of breaks. This truck appeared out of nowhere. There were workmen in blue overalls sitting inside, smelling of tobacco. They were swearing terribly about how they had almost run into the ditch because of a wretched dog. I ran to his small, lifeless body; blood was seeping out of his skull, his fur had been flattened by the enormous tyre. Only the driver had the compassion not to swear; he came to me, stroked my shoulder and apologized, “I’m sorry for your doggy, love, but he came out of nowhere. Shall I take you home?” I continued crying, he shrugged his shoulders. “You should take good care of yourself. It’s dangerous to play by the roadside.” I remember it clearly. He stroked my hair with his huge hands, jumped back into his cabin and they rumbled off, leaving behind putrid, grey smoke that soaked into my soul. Wherever I smell that type of smoke, it reminds me of my dog.’

‘Then what happened? Did the doggy jump to his feet all of a sudden?’

She put her finger on the boy’s mouth.

‘Shush! Don’t be impatient, I’ll tell you the rest. Well, I was just sobbing and caressing the lifeless fur, shaking all over. Then I heard a familiar voice. It rang out strangely, I didn’t know where it was coming from, but I was called by name. First I thought I’d supposed the rustle of the leaves to be speech, but no. The voice clearly said, “Angela, Angela, your dog hasn’t died. Help him. Angela, you’ve been given power, use it.”’

‘Really? That sounds eerie. Argh!’ broke in Robert.

‘Don’t be a punk!’ She rebuked him and hit him over the head.

‘OK, OK, carry on. It’s terribly exciting. Just like when I fell into the icy Danube from a kayak and my muscles refused to respond. That was also eerie.’

‘Wow! And were you rescued? Poor boy!’

‘A guy in my year dragged me out of the water. Luckily, he had been splashing in the water only a few metres from me, so his body had already got used to the water whereas mine had got warm by the sun on the shore. When my muscles got cramped, I thought I’d die there and then. I felt like a stone, I’ve have sunk if that guy hadn’t clung to my neck. I heard someone call my name a couple of times while I was under the water, but he said he hadn’t said it even once. So, either I talked to myself or an voice from the other world called out to me. You can imagine why I invited the guy out for dinner for a whole week afterwards.’ Robert laughed. ‘I was super thankful to him. Well, carry on then.’

Angela began fidgeting with the golden cross hanging from his neck.

‘But only if you don’t laugh at me. Promise?’

Robbie nodded, but a smile still hovered about his lips.

‘So …’ she stared straight into his eyes, ‘… believe it or not, when I was little, this voice called me several times, in my dreams. It called me in this case too. I went behind the trees to find out who it was but, finding nobody, I returned to my dog. I burst out in tears again, and then I saw a rainbow-coloured light gleaming under my right hand, just where my hand was resting on his fur. I snatched my hand away, but I didn’t see anything in its place. A bit reluctantly, I placed my palm back on the fur and the rainbow-coloured light appeared again. The voice whispered again, this time above me; yes, it was coming from the sky, telling me to put my other hand upon him as well. I was burning and felt prickles in my lower arm. I wasn’t able to pull my palms away any more, they were stuck above the dog by an invisible power. I felt my windpipe burning and a huge weight pushing my head down. Then my dog stirred, stood up slowly and shook his head.’

Robert looked shocked.

‘But, of course,’ Angela went on with downcast eyes, ‘you don’t have to believe me.’

‘I’m sorry, Angie, I’d believe you, but these things are inexplicable. You were still a little kid, you may have dreamt it up.’

‘Come on, that’s what my mum kept saying.’

‘Then I’m no better than your mother!’ he exclaimed and laughed into the night.

Full-bodied explosions rent the murmur of the rumbling of the subwoofers. The fireworks almost made them spring up. Cheers came from the pool. The giant jellyfish of sparks dispersed majestically among the stars. Robert hissed.

‘Gosh! Just like in a war. Are we getting the next rocket?’

‘You could tell me about something, too,’ she stroked his chin. ‘I’ve hardly heard anything about your life. But I’m very glad you were rescued from the Danube. How could I be sitting in your lap otherwise?’

Their lips united again.

‘Knowing her, Réka will have already spread the news that we are making love up here and forbidden anyone to disturb us. We should go downstairs for a little, don’t you think?’

Angela nodded with a loving smile. Robert took her hand and led her tenderly inside.

‘I could love you very dearly, Angie. You’re my type. I’ve been dreaming about your kisses, about you, for a long, long time.’

Angela did not reply. With her heart thumping frantically, she clutched the boy’s hand. There was a gigantic commotion downstairs, a maelstrom of couples clinging to each other and lonely guys prowling between them in a stupor. The standard lamp was broken, its spiralling spine torn into two and its darkened shade lying lifelessly on the wine-stained carpet. It was the first victim of the party.

They heard ear-splitting, raucous clamour and bustle coming from the direction of the pool, so they directed their steps there. A host of distillery-smelling boys slid by, laughing loudly in their faces. The music was blaring, but some of them could outblare it.

‘Wow! You look gorgeous, honey, I’d love to take you for a ride!’ somebody shouted behind them.

Angela walked proudly and confidently behind Robert, whose imposing shoulders split the crowd of revelling teenagers as if they were a field of wheat. At last they found a solitary garden chair behind a thuja, a bit further away from the pool. Two audacious classmates of Angela’s were trying to cool their feelings in the pool, still dressed. Robert shook his head.

‘This could be trouble.’

He sat on the chair and pulled Angela onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her. The strength that seized her made her melt.

They started embracing. Long minutes passed and the flames of passionate love flared up again in the two hearts. Bonds were being established that linked two people completely but, at the same time, separated them from others.

Love is the most self-denying and, at the same time, most selfish thing in the world. It’s most self-denying towards the loved person, but, at the same time, most selfish towards others. This contradiction can engender horrors and family feuds, as well as the most violent pleasures. A garden of roses in the flames of hell, a refreshing well in the desert of solitude.

Angela vaguely remembered the words of her recently deceased great-grandmother, who used to be a teacher of literature. She kept talking in metaphors, but she was right this time. But why did she talk about the flames of hell?

‘I think I love you,’ she whispered and nestled her head below Robert’s chin.

‘I share this perception of yours.’

‘My, the things you say!’

She hugged the boy’s head tightly.

‘Shall we walk towards the garden gate?’ Robert asked. ‘I’m curious about that jungle.’

They stood up. Suddenly, screaming mixed with laughter broke out at the pool as someone had found the light switch and, naturally, switched it off. The more inebriated boys jumped into the water like a herd of oxen, dragging a few girls with them too. A splashing competition began, but Robert and Angela did not join in; they took to their heels instead. The giant thuja trees patted their heads on the way as if wanting to know why people fell in love. Angela kept clutching her lover’s hands almost clamping them, thinking she would never want to let them go again.

‘Robert, do you believe in God?’ she asked suddenly.

‘Not really, but I believe the world was created and has been kept in motion by some superior intellect. It’s too complicated to have simply emerged all by itself. Most outstanding scientists have begun to think that way too. Nevertheless, I like to feel that I direct my own life and it’s not up to an outside power or person.’

‘I agree. Wouldn’t you like to be in love forever?’

‘But yes, of course! With you!’

Falling silent, they allowed their kisses to do the talking. They came to a final halt halfway along the stone path and the boy drew Angela behind one of the thujas. To their consternation, they came up against another obstacle. The hedge formed a live ring among the thujas. As the branches had grown together into a dense wall, Robert propped himself against them. Light from the solitary lamp in the garden lit them and seemed awestruck by the pleasure to be found in the exaggerated desires of youth. Lost in their passionate embrace, the couple failed to realize how the bush was being drawn apart, twig by twig, by their weight. Inevitably, they reached a point when the thin branches were no longer able to hold the lovers and the twigs let them slip through like somebody effortlessly unclasping his fingers. Thus they tumbled onto an inner lawn, and the twigs of the bushes rebounded to their original places behind them.

Laughing, they searched the green fortress where they found themselves with their eyes. They realized the magic of the moment. She kissed him on the neck, smelling the odour of his body and feeling his warmth, her blood drumming loudly in her ears.

‘It’s really nice here, with you, Robbie. If only we could stay here forever.’

‘Sure,’ he replied and tenderly laid her down on her back.

Ancient tension vibrated inside them. Angela knew what was to come and did not resist, she wanted it too. Robert kissed her lips with even more fire and passion than he had upstairs, and this had a maddening effect on her.

She was unbuttoning the top button of his shirt when a head-splitting scream from the direction of the pool rent the air. The thumping bass of the music died down. They looked at each other.

‘Angie, there must be trouble. I have to leave; somebody may need help. What on earth did those fools do?’

He jumped up and shot through the hedge like a bullet. Angela resignedly listened to the thump of his retreating steps. Eroticism bit the dust.

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