What has happened so far: Emma Malven tells her friend Claire about her experiences during the summer holidays when she travelled to her grandfather in Sehlingen. She met a young man named Léonard de Waarfay who claims to want to solve a murder that happened over 50 years ago. But Emma doesn't realise that Léonard has many secrets, and that the clear-up is just an excuse to be found by someone...?
In this chapter we take a look at Claire and what her life is like until Léonard shows up.
Emma had reached the end of the story. Early evening greeted Regenschloss, the sun said goodbye behind the slender mountains on the horizon.
Two young women were sitting on a bench. The city lay before them. With their eyes turned towards the valley, they could not see the entire town. The people were no longer tiny as ants, they grew to chicks. Smoke rose from a factory chimney and drifted through the blue sky like a painter's watery brushstroke. Everything in Regenschloss ran in an orderly fashion. As long as people went about their business, nothing could go wrong.
Emma had managed to say what she had wanted to say since her arrival in Regenschloss. Now she wanted to see Claire's expression. After all that had happened, this mysterious Léonard de Waarfay was coming to Regenschloss. Claire was by no means superstitious. However, the words of her aunt came to her mind, who claimed that there were people who always brought problems with them.
Is Léonard one of those?
Since the listener did not lose a word, the narrator felt compelled to breathe new life into the conversation.
"What would you have done in my place?" Emma wanted to know.
Claire continued to be silent. She was in the centre of her mind. She felt how she had been there, facing Léonard and witnessing being arrested with him in the mill. She planted the adventure in her memory too much.
"You've been through a lot," she replied coldly.
"I can understand that. If I were you, I'd be speechless too. “
"It's not that. I'm surprised how quickly you were able to make friends with this stranger. He´s wanted for murder. “
Emma said nothing.
"How does he want to come? And why? It's not just because of you, is it?"
"I don't know. It must have something to do with his search."
"With your great-grandfather's murderer?"
"There is more to it than this murder. It has more to do with himself than anyone else. And these nameless people," Emma concluded.
"You got yourself into something nice there."
"What do you mean?"
"What do you do when he shows up on your doorstep? Let him spend the night at your place? What will your mother say?"
Emma laughed. She imagined her mother raving about Léonard.
"I'm sure he'll find a place for himself. In the attic if need be, or in a corner in the textile factory. “
Claire suppressed a chuckle.
"Who knows. I can't wait to see if you get in trouble. “
"Don't pretend! I can see the gloating up to your ears."
"It's not gloating. It's anticipation," she objected, "What's in store for you?"
"Nothing at all, " Emma pouted, "Everything will be fine."
She did not believe her own words.
"Shall we go? I'm cold," Emma said.
"I´ve been for a while..." Claire murmured.
Claire Silberlilie was a lonely person.
It was probably because she did not dare to go forward but clung to the past. Lost in a forest, she preferred to get lost forever rather than march to the campfire with the others.
Claire lived with her aunt. Waltraud Silberlilie was the older sister of Benedikt, her father. Of three children, Claire was the youngest. Her sister Giselle, three years older, and her brother Bolderich, two years older, no longer lived with her. Giselle moved to Berschlandt after her marriage and Bolderich to a big city to find work. There had not been in Regenschloss for a long time.
Claire had always had a good relationship with her sister, she was the only one who understood and helped her in her seclusion. Her brother was just there. He did what he liked, forgetting everything around him. Since they both no longer lived in Regenschloss, Claire felt as if she had been alone since birth. Her memories were clouded, the beautiful moments faded. Her brain revealed to her the lonely moments, the bad and sad experiences that tormented Claire.
Aunt Waltraud was not a mother. Nor was she ever going to be one. It was like a hotel, a cold old hotel, where Claire existed. Waltraud took care of the food and that was it. The two siblings once took care of the laundry and made sure that everything in the house was clean. Waltraud had spent little time with her nieces and nephew. She was rarely at the table, she had enough to do with her restaurant, which she ran in the town centre.
Their father lived and worked abroad. His methods of getting his children on the right path were one-page letters with words that Claire saw as orders and carried out. He had left Regenschloss when she was a toddler. Since then, it was these letters that reminded her of her father. He rarely visited them, the last time three years ago.
Claire didn't know whether she should be happy. To her, her father was a stranger. They did not resemble each other at all, he was the strong, big man she was afraid of and did everything he commanded. He was the hand she wanted to grasp and which he did not show.
Now, for her eighteenth birthday, he was to come to Regenschloss for a few days. Giselle also wanted to be there. He had announced himself in his last letter. When she had read the lines, she was stunned. Claire had no idea what to expect.
In order to have at least a little contact with the outside world, Claire helped her aunt out in the restaurant by working in the kitchen. Claire had already resigned herself to starting her future as a cook. Too afraid of everything she didn't know, she clung to her aunt now, in these weeks and months before the upheaval from childhood.
Claire thought she was drowning, sinking, and suffocating in her moods. She was afraid of these moments, these nights when she thought she was alone. Her only friend, Emma, did not know the many hours where she lay there racking her brain for what to do. Claire was a very broken person inside. She had not managed to build a fatherly love; she had not managed to meet the first person in her life.
After the death of her mother, who died as a result of giving birth, Benedikt fell into a depression. He was placed on compulsory leave and had to undergo treatment. He was in a sanatorium for several months before spending a year in Regenschloss with his children before going back to work.
After this time, the house fell into a deep sleep, this big, dark house where Claire grew up. Life was hard, she tried to emulate her sister, who had quite different strengths from her. A lot had changed in that house. Loneliness was neither good nor bad for her. It was omnipresent.
That smell of cherry wood was everywhere as soon as Claire closed the front door behind her. She was too rarely worried about others. Emma's story had made her jump onto another branch. Léonard was actually coming. Was it anticipation she felt, or worry? She almost wished she could get into trouble. Immediately she killed that thought. Why did she want that?
It wasn't right to react like that. He was a strange man. Emma could also have been lying, Claire thought, maybe she just wanted to show off that she had experienced more than her?
She knew very well that Emma was not like that. Too rarely did she invent a lie. Unlike her, Emma didn't have to imagine any friends.
Claire stayed behind the door and closed her eyes. She immediately went to the bathroom after she realised what just had happened. Claire knew, that she was alone and started to mix every kind of soap they had into the hot water of the tube.
Auntie isn´t at home.
She slept during the morning to check on her restaurant and taste the sauces for the rest of the day. This explained her chubby appearance.
Claire was by no means chubby. She saw it whenever she put her clothes off and looks at the mirror. She detested her body.
She was too slender. An imperceptible chest, long limbs, young hands, and feet that she was convinced were too big complemented her almost hunched posture. She had the impression of being too small most of the time, almost like a bug, although in a straight posture she could even see over Emma by a few inches. She felt too big, like a giant, when standing next to her or Waltraud. She didn't want that.
The downy hairs on her arms shone in the sunshine like spider webs in the morning dew. There was a silvery sheen that wrapped around them like a cocoon. A white, untouched purity shone all over her skin. Secretly, aunt Waltraud envied her for it.
Claire pulled her hair to feel something. She had dark, platinum blonde hair. Sometimes it looked to her like a dirty metal that started to rust.
It reached her chest and was gently wavy. Her perfect face corresponded to an inexistent ideal of beauty. One could have done a lot with her if she had not been so shy of people. The fine, almost deathly pale skin transformed her into a drowned being. The narrow eyebrows and short eyelashes complemented the dark, sea-blue irises. Emma often had to be wary of their cold stares. She often used them to show her indifference and disinterest in front of other people, which was why Auntie didn't like her helping out customers in the restaurant.
The bright, pale pink lips and small mouth gave the tiny nose a beautiful if bizarre, doll-like undertone.
Claire was a puppet, or rather a marionette, controlled by everyone but herself. She felt strange in her body; if she touched her legs with her hands, she felt nothing. She pulled herself into a corner like a cat as soon as someone touched her and wanted to retreat into a cave. It was an emotion she could not describe as such. And yet she believed that those around her felt the same way. Secretly, she wished it.
Just before she got cold, she went into the water.
To the next part: Chapter III.2.