Early retirement

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…final bit of the first draft!!

As the autumn was coming to an end and the winter knocked lightly at the door, Barcelona was a wonderful place to wander around, particularly with the sea breeze lightly whipping up against Emma’s cheeks. It had been a long journey here, though strangely familiar to the Poyais lie that had been sold to her, only on this side of the Atlantic. The Mercorda’s knew Spanish and they were no allies of the French, so even if there was some thought of pursuing the three of them, they would be safe.

It was a thought that kept her warmer. The thoughts of MacGregor and Gustavus and Lehuby were distant even though the it was only a couple of weeks ago they were in Paris. She avoided newspapers in the English language, which was easy to do in Barcelona, so she could verifiably say that she had no idea what became of them all or cared.

Jose and Noemi were going about there own morning business, so she took these moments to be on her own. Her shared experience went so far and yet that last bit of difference separated her completely. Many times it was easy to cast these differences aside and to be a part of the group, to believe she could be part of a family wholly and completely. A part of her will always be stuck in Poyais though, lingering and festering at a faster rate than her body ever would, but remaining a part. She needed these walks to be alone and tend to this part of her.

Sea air and Spanish food did the trick for the most part. Simple pleasures were always the best remedy. For the longer term, it was the money she had kept for herself. Much of her thought it was silly. She was a part of the group. Her love with Jose blossomed slowly and could become more, so why worry about the money? That part of her, the part left in Poyais counselled her not to trust anyone or anything. She could not help but listen. Listen and act.

Later she would meet back up with Jose and play at life in her early retirement. They would have a meal and talk. She would smile and nod, not quite certain at first if that small part of herself would let her enjoy it, this life she now had. It always did because it knew it could come back and nag her at its pleasure.

Time passed between meals with Jose or Noemi was filled with reading and waking and learning along the way. She had gone from having no time to think about anything but survival, to only thinking about MacGregor, to where she was now, thinking more than she did anything else. It made understanding life so much harder, even though it was so much simpler.

One day it was the cusp of winter and then winter had disappeared. She was certain it was a trick of all the time she had. Life began to slip through her fingers. Not her health or sanity, just her whole perception of the thing. One breakfast that they were all having together at their house, Emma brought up this idea in a question, “what is the point to all of this?”

The stares back meant that they had considered the question also. They did not immediately respond. The three continued to eat and left the topic for that day. Conversation switched to the weather and the day’s activities. Mindless words that filled the void while they all went on pondering the question.

Emma walked alone again that afternoon, though on that day the weather was overcast and dreary. Rain threatened to drench her but couldn’t decide if it wanted to be or not. She breathed in the sea air deeply, her favourite aspect of the walk. Those months in rough seas hasn’t dampened her love of that smell. If anything, her clear position on land only heightened it. There was the smell of survival in it.

There was a spot where she felt removed from the city even though it loomed large in the background. A place of contemplation outside the city buzz. Sitting there, it was Noemi who came and joined her unexpectedly.

“May I join you?” Noemi asked, which received a short nod in response.

They sat together, close as they could without touching, observing the swell and retreat of the water, smelling the sea air and contemplating how they got here.

“I always wondered where you went on your walks, I didn’t quite picture it to be here.”

“I’m drawn to the sea, I think. It doesn’t calm me really but it reminds me about the past. Good and bad.”

Noemi nodded.

“What are you going to do next?” Emma continued.

“Dinner at some point. I may look at those new books that Castell’s have brought in. You?”

Emma looked at her with narrow eyes and flat lips.

“Yes, beyond you mean.”

It was the question that plagued them all. They could now live in relative comfort and security for a long time without needing to do anything.

“I want to help people.”

“Like by learning to be a doctor? Scientist? I know Jose said you helped all of those people in Belize Town.”

“It would be hard to do something like that again. There is only so much that a doctor can do. Perhaps a scientist. To try and give doctors the tools they need. I don’t know if I have the patience though. Methodological work and all.”

Emma thought there was more so she allowed Noemi a long pause. Nothing was forthcoming as Noemi just stared off into the sea. Now that there was conversation, that her peaceful walk had been disrupted, Emma needed it to continue flowing.

“Nothing more that you have thought of?”

“Something, yes. First a question for you.”

“By all means.”

“Jose?”

It was all the question that was needed. Each knew exactly what Noemi meant. Was there a future between Emma and Jose? Was there ever anything there?

“It is, as you well know, a complicated question. Love isn’t something to be forced. It happens often. That doesn’t make it right. People yearn for love, so they attach themselves to anything that resembles it. Even when that very thing makes them so unhappy. They return to it. They take any pain and explain it away in the name of love. I have experienced this before and I don’t intend to again. Death, as awful and sad as it is, released me from my bond. It was only then that I saw what love had entangled be in. I won’t do that again.”

Noemi absorbed this nodding. It made sense. With any kind of love, but the chosen love of a partner in particular. You could not build the foundations for a happy life without that love being right.

“So it is better to be alone?”

“In a way, you know that we are all alone. Even twins. There is a strong bond there, yes, but ultimately we are all wandering through life alone.”

This wasn’t exactly right, Noemi thought, but it also wasn’t worth challenging in the context. You had to be a twin to know anyway.

“So you want to be alone?”

“Not what I said. My point is that the question is moot. We’re all alone. The problem with Jose is that I love him, just not in a way that I can dedicate my life to him. He may not see it now, but I don’t think he can do that for me either. We would both be so young still and ensnared by love. All because we shared a random, traumatic set of experiences together. That’s not the love I want until my dying days. I want love to be my blanket, not my chain.”

Noemi nodded again.

“Which brings me back to my question Noemi, what else?”

“I’m not ready to retire.”

“From what? Nursing?”

There was a sigh. Noemi found it hard enough to be honest with herself on this topic. It grated her being to admit what else there really was.

“I want to help people.”

“Yes, you’ve said that. Tell me how.”

“I want to do things they wouldn’t think of. People in power should t get away with doing whatever they want.”

“This, this we can agree on.”

“We won’t eliminate all MacGregors, but we can make a start.”

It was where they were both headed. Jose was apart from this. Too fragile overall to deal with it. He thought this was what life should be like. His ‘what else’ didn’ even extend to having a family, it was just to be. It didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking or learning, he just didn’t need more. Not so for Emma and Noemi.

They sat looking out at the sea. The rain had started to come down with more ferocity, but still light enough and warm enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable to be in. It had been coming down more as they spoke, the conversation seeming to generate the rain.

It was a long way to reach this point, on the beach in Spain, deciding how much further they would go.

They didn’t want to be criminals, yet they were.

Jose would plod along, they wouldn’t.

Without a word they both stood and the rain began to abate. Walking home would be with purpose. It would be better than any walk Emma had taken hone.

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