Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
Chapter 3. The Hot-Air Balloon
The little child dragged her mother through the short path from the station to the small courtyard. The large sized and bright colored hot-air balloon was fascinating to the five year old, unquestionably far more than waiting at the cramped station. She preferred running freely outdoors, although her mother always kept her under close surveillance.
“Kelly, don’t get in the balloon. You’re going to get dirty,” her mother ordered, regretting it the second she uttered the remark when she saw her child run to the middle of the yard. “Kelly!”
“Mom, look” – she was pointing at a maypole with colorful ribbons hanging from it. “What’s this?”
“Don’t touch it. It’s not ours.”
“I like the ribbons,” said Kelly. As usual, she did the exact opposite of what her mother told her to do and she touched them carefully.
“Yes, they are nice. That is a maypole. People dance around it.”
“Oh, they do?”
Kelly was a beautiful child, blonde with blue eyes, perhaps a bit smaller than she should for her age; that made her look even more like a doll.
She was very aware of the impact she had on people. When they addressed her with that baby-talk adults used, she would blink her eyes a few times and smile. That usually earned her some wanted treats but also a load of unwanted hugs and, in the worst possible scenario, kisses. She hated kisses. They were, more often than not, slobby and disgusting, especially those coming from anyone who would call herself aunt-something. She never understood why these self-proclaimed aunts had the uncontrollable urge to squeeze her out of her breath and give her noisy kisses, over and over again. She always managed to wiggle herself out of harm’s way, much to the disappointment of the kissing seniors.
“Yes. The ribbons get tangled together in a sort of braid and then people dance in the opposite direction to untangle them.”
Kelly’s big blue eyes contemplated the ribbons in awe. Then, as unexpectedly as she usually took off running, she sat down, gazing at the maypole, and disappeared in her secret world of thoughts and contemplations.
The mother sat on the stone wall and checked her purse. The envelope was addressed to Isabella. She opened it. She unfolded the paper inside and read it for the tenth time; then folded the piece of paper neatly into a smaller rectangle, placed it inside the envelope and back in the small pocket of her purse.
This trip had not been Isabella’s choice, but losing her husband forced her to reorganize her life. She wasn’t that young anymore and she had Kelly to think of. Isabella hated the rain and the cold. She hated trains. She hated everything and everyone, except her daughter for whom she had an unconditional love, possibly too large, and for whom she’d do anything, including crossing half the country and getting stranded in a soaked godforsaken village.
For many years, a childless marriage of love had been more than enough for her to live happily; not to her husband though. They had tried for years to have a baby, but it never happened. To make matters worse, her husband started spending months at a time away on business. The gap separating them became more and more evident.
Then her life collapsed. Invited for dinner at the house of friends, she met a man who shall remain unnamed, a public figure with a shady background who moved in dangerous circles among dodgy people. She found him fascinating. The innocent invitation for lunch the next day turned into a steamy few hours in the penthouse of a five star hotel with a private elevator leading directly to the garage and right into the limousine, no curious eyes allowed. This led to an affair that lasted two months, left her pregnant and in the middle of a family mess.
Someone from the hotel leaked the affair to the media and the man’s wife wasn’t pleased. A few days later, her husband’s body turned up dead in the alley behind the hotel with a note saying “Gotcha”. It was never proven that the man’s wife had called a hit on Isabella’s husband, but who else had any reason to do such a terrible thing?Chapter 4: The Mill >