‘Catherine?’ He stood on the patio, as usual neatly dressed in his usual beige suit. I held my breath… God, what was he beautiful. I had to strain myself to keep hiding behind a cherry tree.
‘Catherine… Where are you, Catherine?’ His voice… His voice was low and very… playful. I giggled and sneaked to the next tree. Next time it sounded closer already.
‘Catherine… I’m coming to find you…’ I ran to the next row of trees, seeing a glimpse of his beige suit between the trees. My heart was beating in my throat with excitement. Carefully I tried to move from tree to tree, evading to be seen. The bark of the trees scratched my bare back and my feet were bleeding a bit, but I couldn’t care less.
‘Catherine… Catherine… Where are you hiding, Catherine?’ Now he was close. Very close and the odds of me getting away unseen were practically zero. I ran laughing between the trees and he ran after me; since he had shoes he had the advantage. On the end of a row of trees I felt his arms enclose me.
‘I got you.’ I was out of breath from the simultaneous laughing and running, and I didn’t try to get out of his grip. Neither did he loosen it. I stood in his arms, unclothed and slightly injured, my head resting against his chest, and I don’t think I had ever felt so safe before. Effortlessly he picked me up and carried me back to the cottage. There he took care of my feet and back, and gave me coffee.
‘With feet like this you can’t wear shoes… and without shoes you can’t go anywhere… which means you’ll have to stay here for a while…’ He said in that low and playful voice I loved so much.
‘I don’t mind that…’ He smiled, and it was a genuine smile.
‘Neither do I.’
It was then that I fell in love with him. That exact moment.
From then on, time seemed to fly. I read, wrote and studied his language, and slowly but steadily I became better at it. Every morning he had to interrupt me less, every day I understood more of what he told me. It was like a revelation; with every word I learned the world became more beautiful. Simply knowing another way to describe an object, knowing another word for it… made that same object more special to me. Perhaps it was because knowing how to say things in his language connected those things to him. Perhaps I simply projected my love for him on the world. Either way… I was happy, and when you’re happy every amount of time is too small. After three idyllic weeks in the cherry orchard he announced we would go back. I was sad to leave the orchard, but there was no place I rather was than with him. He gave colour to my world. We packed our bags, closed off the house, returned the rental car and took the TGV back home. A cab drove us to the library. I wondered where he lived; he couldn’t possibly be in the library all the time?
‘Where do you live?’ I bluntly asked him.
‘Does that matter?’ Raised eyebrows.
‘I’m simply curious.’
‘I live wherever I feel like living. I move around a lot.’ The sudden trip to France had proven that indeed…
‘So you just go somewhere else when you want to?’ He nodded.
‘Indeed.’ I sighed.
‘I wish I could be free like that as well…’ He shook his head.
‘No, you don’t.’ I still wonder how he knew.