Thursday, November 27, 2014

Episode 46 | Sophie

Our return trip to the Île du Blanchomme was just as painful and fatiguing for Catherine. And this time, my concern was much higher. But there was no medicine that she could take without harming the baby, so she had no other remedy than to endure nine hours of being seasick.

Fortunately, my fears proved unjustified. Armand had not yet returned to the island, and everything had remained untouched -- no pirates, no storm, no rats.

"What do you want to do now, Catherine?" I asked her, not really knowing what else to say.

"I do not know... My life seems to be over." She stated it very matter of fact, without any trace of drama in her voice. "I've never wanted a child. My career, that's all I care about... How will it be, with a child?!" Shaking her head repeatedly, she seemed as lost as I. But while I oscillated between desperation and pride, she was just full of sorrow. Even her appetite had diminished -- her sexual appetite included.

"Have you spoken to your family about it?" I didn't know what had happened during the days when Catherine remained out of my reach at the hospital. And I myself had no family we could rely on. Yet, we were certainly going to need all the help we could get. I felt so powerless.

"Of course not! They cannot know, not yet..." Catherine seemed to panic, just at the thought of it. "I must first return to France... Then maybe I can tell them... Oh, just to think I'll have to go on those boats again... they shall kill me!" After a day or two on the island, she was still feeling seasick. "But maybe they would also kill this embryo... Maybe I should take more boats! Is it possible to throw up a baby?" She grimaced in disgust at her own idea.

"Catherine, for heaven's sake!" I was scared that she insisted with the abortion. And I was glad we were on those tropical, faraway islands... if it had been France, Catherine would have already gotten rid of the baby. I shivered at that thought. If getting pregnant on her holidays in the Indian Ocean had been Catherine's bad luck, it had been Laurent's good fortune, enabling him to survive.

"What is it?" she replied, wryly, "What's the problem? It would be a natural abortion, wouldn't it?" She averted her eyes. "I've said it already. I'm keeping the baby!" Changing subjects, her expression turned from sadness into alertness. "Do you have money? I'll need it! I need to return to France!"

Just then, did I realize Catherine's plans did not include me -- nor the baby, actually. Maybe she wanted to get rid of me in order to get rid of the baby? But I had no money, and the only way to get it would be asking it from Armand... I would have to lie to him, at best, or demand payment for my work on the island. For a moment I felt so desperate that I considered taking all the money he had left in a safe at the office, but I suspected it was not enough to buy two international tickets. There must be more, hidden somewhere.

For several days, Catherine remained silent, lost in her own thoughts, immersed in her misery.

She did not refuse my company, and never again pushed me away. But she would not look me in the eye, and her own eyes looked hollow, as if she was dwelling elsewhere.

I took advantage of her silence to do some reflection myself -- to arrive at the conclusion that I did not know how to proceed. I just knew I had to wait for Armand, and lie to him about Catherine, and make up a good story about having to return to Europe with her... I knew how my sudden departure would hurt him, but a little less if I could hide my relationship with Catherine... and the baby... I would leave, he would miss me -- but at least he wouldn't hate me. 

Catherine spent her days at Armand's office, with her books and notebooks. It was as if clinging to the activities she loved most, she did not have to think about the baby, nor how she would have to give them up with his birth... To not think of the baby, nor of the future she dreaded, she engaged in writing, as she had been doing daily in her recent past at the Université. But instead of extense, intellectual essays, she started writing her first short stories, that would later turn into her acclaimed, best-selling novels. Trying to avert her own desolation was the seed to her future success, as she tried to engage in the lives of beings she created with her pen to forget her own.

When she retreated to the office, I worked in the garden, which had returned to a wild condition. I had abandoned it since Catherine's heatstroke, and didn't have much time or will to work on it after we started having sex. The storm had destroyed my previous, careful and dedicated work, and the brambles and weeds had won their battle against me. Looking at Armand's beautiful watercolors for the gardening detailed plans was disheartening and made me tired, feeling they were excessive for that tiny, deserted island no one really cared to visit. At that moment, they seemed unachievable, and a waste of my time, when I already sensed I would no longer live on the island. In fact, how longer could we wait for Armand before Catherine became too pregnant?

I resumed painting the external walls of the house. I was sure though, that if Armand was already on his way back to the Île, they would still be unfinished when he got home.  Considering the period of time he had been away, I could have painted two houses of that size, hadn't Catherine arrived with the paint gallons. And I sincerely hoped he was already on his way, not really caring if the painting was finished or not -- I needed money, and I would charge him for my work, however incomplete.

My mental confusion was the greatest I have ever experienced in my life. I ruined a painting, trying to work on it without concentration nor inspiration -- and since I hadn't bought more canvas, I suddenly lost interest in that activity, too.

I took up meditation, however, and in my sessions the luminous boy reappeared, and that was the moment when I changed my perception about him... That boy did not represent my future only, he himself had a future -- as my son. He was announcing himself to me! It was a marvelous discovery, and for a while it brought consolation and joy to my troubled heart.

Once, to my great surprise, Catherine joined me at the beach. She set herself in the meditation position beside me, sitting on the sand -- something she hated to do, so that I was even more astounded. I rejoiced, thinking that maybe the boy would announce himself to her too, so that she could catch a glimpse of our wonderful son before he was born -- hoping she would not be too frightened. 

But she sat for no more than five minutes, and I could never convince her of the benefits for herself and for the baby of cultivating peace and awareness, compassion and equanimity during the pregnancy.

As she would justify later, no matter how boring the yoga sessions had been, she had at least learned how to take control of some parts of her body -- most notoriously, her pelvic muscles -- but meditation... to be sitting in silence for so long without doing anything... 

"It's stupid and useless", she said, "when I can sit still and be silent... reading a book, though! It's a waste of time." It was her final statement on that matter. Forever.

"What name do you think giving our son?" I asked all of a sudden, one day when our silence was becoming uncomfortable. Catherine had been dozing on the hammock I had found inside a trunk -- I might have been searching for money instead, and it's hard to confess it -- and that I had placed close to the edge of the water. Although it was in the shade of the palm trees, and even if the sun was already going down, I was afraid of another heatstroke that would affect the baby, and I walked up to her.

The breeze was blowing, and for a moment I thought it had carried my words in the wrong direction, and away from her ears. Catherine had remained silent, eyes closed, for a whole minute at least. "Is it that what you've been thinking about?" She replied, staring at me, not hiding her frustration that those were the first words breaking the long silence into which we had retreated. "Shall we live forever on this lost island? Shall we raise the child here? How will she attend school?" She poured her questionnaire mercilessly on me.

I felt almost breathless, while Catherine asked those questions without waiting for my answers. Nor giving me time to reflect on them, as if she didn't expect me to have the ability to answer them satisfactorily. Or maybe she was afraid to hear more foolishness from me. 

I realized how much she did not trust me -- and how, in fact, I showed to be untrustworthy, totally naive and unprepared for such a complex situation that was taking us over.

"Will this guesthouse ever be profitable? Shouldn't you be concerned with how to sustain your family?" She inquired, introducing me to the practical problems. Not angrily, just expressing her disappointment. "What other income do you have? Does your family have many properties? Could we live on one of them in Italy?"

I shivered at the thought of Catherine living with my grandfather in a sober and dark stone building lost in the Apennines. Our simple house had evolved around a fireplace, that in the past had been a simple open fire, lit by my shepherd ancestors, who had first erected a hut on the spot. As the family had been able to cultivate and through the ages buy more land, the house had also grown to be a solid, two storey construction -- yet without any modern comforts other than piped water and electricity, and many hours away from the closest village where one would find a telephone. And I realized that as Armand's 'business partner', Catherine had imagined my life to be very different from what it actually was, giving the same princely status of my wealthy friend to me. To her inquiries about my 'family properties' in Italy, I had instead concentrated on my chest, picking the hairs that had recently started turning white.

"And it won't be a boy. I do not want a boy." Catherine answered my first question, and I then realized that she had actually thought about it, despite having criticized me. "It will be a girl." she stated, with so much confidence that I thought she knew a secret I did not. "And I want to name her Sophie."

"What if it's a boy?" I insisted. The apparition made me so sure that yes, we would have a son.

"If it's a boy..." She shrugged. "You can choose his name. I do not care. Since it's a French name, I'm pleased with whatever." And even as a subject for conversation, Catherine aborted our son, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This novel currently being published online gives us, reader and writer, the chance to connect -- you can hear my voice at each update, and I would love to hear it back from you!

It is a privilege to get to know your thoughts and feelings about the story, so please do share your comments, questions and suggestions, and I will reply.

Thank you for commenting.