The pain came back.
The mental wounds were accompanied by bruised knees and torn hands. Several times yesterday Claire fell on the floor. Her dress was lying over the edge of the bed. When her aunt knocked on the door that night, she did not answer. Cowering in her bed, she did not sleep.
As the sun shone through the window, Claire realised what she had done. Her breathing became faster. Claire felt the aggression rising inside her. The dirty bed, the scarred hands, the unwearable dress. In her bitterness, Claire couldn't even cry anymore. She wanted to shed tears. So much so that she struggled to grieve. Sobbing, she welled up her bile against her Father. Seething, burning anger destroyed her body. The more she thought about it, the worse her temper became.
There was no other way. She had to hate him. For everything he had done. For all the letters he had ever written. Even for her dream of moving out of Regenschloss. She hated him for that too.
Claire escaped Waltraud's wise words and stayed in her room. She threw the dress into a corner, made her bed, and during one of her rare moments of apathy remembered Emma. Emma and Léonard. She, the naïve fool and he, the conniving liar.
They were her last hope.
Running down the hill was easier than getting to the top. While her hair dried in the wind, she sprinted down in her new forget-me-blue blouse.
The fresh air gave her new strength. Motivation flooded her head. Several times she knocked on Emma's front door.
"I heard it the first time. What's wrong?" Emma asked. "What do your hands look like!? When did you hurt yourself?"
"Never mind," interjected Claire, hiding her hands, "What about Léonard?"
"I haven't seen him since he took us to the Great Plain."
"Let's go to him! Now!" she ordered.
"Did he move into a room under his name?"
"Off to the post office!" Claire said.
Claire´s intuition was right. His black car was parked in front of the building. Next to the priest and a lady, he waited at the counter. He stood by a young postman who was learning to telegraph. His nervous posture meant he was constantly making mistakes. Léonard shooed the girls outside after he noticed them.
"What's the matter? You look restless." Emma asked when he finally arrived, "You've been gone for days."
"I have to go. The telegram has arrived."
"WHAT?" they both shouted at the same time.
"I'm sorry. It's all a bit rushed. An hour ago, I didn't even know where I was going. I'm about to leave."
"Where are you going? Home?"
"Does it have to do with this book?” Emma asked.
He was already sitting in the car. Léonard realised how hasty he was and stepped in front of the girls.
"We will meet again, don't worry. I thank you for being so kind. I'll be in touch again eventually."
"Eventually?" squeaked Emma, "This could take forever!"
"Don't worry. I won't forget you."
He looked at Claire.
"So, calm? Are you glad to be rid of me?" he joked.
She received a blow in the pit of her stomach. The last hope sank into the sea of melancholy. She said nothing. He laughed at her indifferent expression and offered her a cigarette. She shook her head.
"Where are you going?" Emma asked.
In her desperation, Emma almost jumped on him.
"To some friends."
He hugged her one last time and drove away from the post office.
Claire's mood followed the course of the river.
The moment at the post office appeared in beautiful weather. Summer had officially begun. Tomorrow the novena began. They were alone. Exciting, thrilling holidays turned into a moping disaster of thought and rapid speculation.
His departure was unexpected and unwanted. Emma knew this feeling when Léonard said goodbye to Sehlingen.
At home, Claire immediately retreated to her room. She had not spoken to her aunt since the evening in the restaurant. The fact of being isolated once again made the young creature despair. She viewed her life in shadowy flashbacks.
The end of the holidays was the beginning of a new life. Her father would not take No for an answer. Her belief that she was spiralling deeper into the underworld frightened her. Claire instinctively wished not to receive a phone call. During the arranged appointments, she flinched at the slightest sound.
When Emma knocked on the door one foggy morning, Claire didn't let her in. She stared at her from upstairs. She wanted to stay alone. At the same time, she missed contact with her.
An argument with Auntie was not reciprocated. The violin was silent when Waltraud asked about it. It lasted for two or three nights. Claire had given up trying to run away.
The mentality had changed abruptly. In the darkness, Claire was in her dreams, living solely to immerse herself in a painless world. She woke up to fall asleep in the evening. With eyes cold with emotion, she read the daily newspaper. War. Deaths. Attacks. Father did not call. Housewives' school. Léonard...
At one point her conscience mentioned that she should be happy and proud of what she was. It would be worse if she fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Gratitude to her Father for his care. And Léonard should be forgotten.
It was more important to think about the future. Something she was afraid of. Of this unknown place she never wanted to reach.
In swirling memories, the question arose whether she had not imagined him. She was not crazy, and yet at night she tugged at her hair and bit her arms to feel something.
In this turmoil, Claire indulged in cigarettes more often. Her room stank of burnt tobacco. She was disgusted by it herself, yet she couldn't keep her hands off it. The stench was bypassed with the shower. Then the vicious circle continued.
Auntie had to be thrown out of bed to gain admittance after Emma had knocked with violent blows on the door.
"Where have you been all this time?" she asked anxiously as Claire was forced to step outside the door.
"At home," she murmured with a sombre expression.
"Let's go for a walk."
"Don't feel like it."
"Something's wrong with you!" Emma said quickly and pulled her outside.
Claire took the supporting role in this apathetic walk. They walked down the street. It was strange weather. Children were playing around everywhere; the novena was in progress and the country was paying homage to the Muses and the Goddess. Between the cloudy sky and the brief drops that fell, the sun broke through now and then. It seemed wrong, Claire thought as she looked around. The joy of the residents, the many shades of grey above her and the fishbowl on top of her. She resisted hearing and feeling anything. She crackled inside, like a flame wanting to be lit. The outburst did not morph into a new kind of freedom, it was a new imprisonment, a new chain that she now wore around her neck.
"What have you been doing all this time?"
The main road was abandoned. The choice of paths in Regenschloss was limited. On the way, they met the mayor. He greeted them with great eagerness and eyed them even when they were far away.
"Nothing," Claire replied.
Emma shook her head.
"I helped out at the factory once. I also found out how to get to Petrichor."
She spoke in a whisper that Claire rarely knew from her friend.
"Because Léonard is there."
"How do you know?"
"Where else would he be?" replied Emma. "He might even be from there."
"He specifically said that the residents cannot leave this place."
"This is a legend!"
"Petrichor has also been a legend. It really exists."
"But that doesn't have to be true!" returned Emma optimistically. "I know he's there! He didn't show it to us and tell us about it for nothing."
Claire rolled her eyes. Emma's pure delusion of reality was unacceptable. She couldn't understand how anyone could be stupid and optimistic at the same time. She felt the hateful slime on her Father pass over to Emma. She was weak and naïve. She was poor and cheap Claire´s head said.
"Léonard has no reason to travel there," Claire said coldly.
"EMMA YOU STUPID COW! LÉONARD IS GONE. NOT TO PETRICHOR. SOMEWHERE WE CAN'T GET TO! FORGET HIM! HE'S PROBABLY AN OUTLAW ON THE RUN! YOU'RE GETTING THINGS INTO YOUR HEAD THAT CAN'T BE TRUE! HE'S A LIAR WHO CAN'T DO ANYTHING BETTER WITH HIMSELF IN LIFE! " Claire screamed at her friend, "YOU ARE TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING. I'D BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU!"
Claire stopped. The passers-by stopped. Before Emma could say anything in reply, Claire ran back home. A cold shiver ran down her spine.
But she did not hear. She hated herself. She hated herself because Emma believed in the impossible. Couldn't she see how pointless everything was? Immediately after her scream, the voice in her head no longer spoke. At the same time, there was the shame that ate her.
Claire did not know what was right. Her organs burned in a firepot while her voice praised her. She felt strange.
Yesterday it happened.
Claire had needed a scapegoat.
Emma still tried to catch up with her and could not. Claire couldn't blame Emma if she wanted nothing more to do with her. She had never been so ashamed in her life as she was at that moment. In public in front of all the others.
The shame did not disappear at dawn.
It had deformed. Deformed into a stinking, regurgitated antipathy towards her Father. He was to blame for all this. Claire had written a long letter to him. In the night it was torn as the words became monstrous waves. Ink stuck to the table and her fingers. Pierced paper covered the floor. Thrown out of the window, more sheets became victims of her oppression.
The unexpected breaking of the protective shield gave her a new attack surface. The transfer of anger to her flesh and blood gave her the self-esteem she needed.
She no longer thought about her Father's call.
On the fourth day after the novena began, the phone rang.
Her hatred grew with every second.
She had been waiting. She planned to throw everything she had written down at his head. He was to blame for everything, for destroying her life, for ending a long friendship, for killing her hope.
She picked up the receiver carefully. The closer it came to her ear, the fuzzier her words became. But now her voice was failing in her head.
" Silberlilie," she spoke harshly.
"Good afternoon, Claire."
It was not her Father.
It was Léonard.
An ice-cold shiver made even the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She turned to stone. Excited tingling in her belly, the increased pulse rate and shallow breathing woke her to life. He was grinning, she knew it.
"Léonard? How are you?"
"I'm not complaining. Sorry I had to leave so soon. I had my reasons. That's why I apologise."
"There's nothing wrong with that."
"I've been doing that a lot lately."
"Apologizing," Léonard said.
"I didn't notice. You didn't incriminate us or anything," Claire huffed sternly.
"Thank you for your words. I am calling you because I want to make a gift to both you and Emma. I wanted you to come to Weymouth."
"Weymouth? Where is that? Why?"
"Right near Pfalzburg. It's a kind of gift for the inconvenience on my part," Léonard explained.
"Yes, but... aren't you in Petrichor?"
"Who tells such things?"
"No. I´m in Weymouth. Come and see me, I'll pick you up at Pfalzburg main station if you come by the evening train. Shall we say in two days? Is that all right with you?"
Claire stopped for a moment.
"Can I trust you?"
Léonard was silent for a few seconds.
"What do you mean?"
"You aren´t looking for this Codex Mortuo. That's a lie, isn't it?"
She already thought he had hung up when he answered in his croaky voice.
"No, I'm not looking for it."
Claire felt her legs turn to jelly.
"It doesn't matter, Claire. I won't bother you with it anymore. I just want to make you happy. Will you accept the offer?"
Claire looked at the phone. Her head gave her a different perspective. She cleared her throat to indicate her answer.
"Of course. I will inform Emma. Until then!"
She was just putting the phone back when he shouted something after her.
"Wait! If I am not present, look out for Karoline and Stephan du Murnaux. They are friends of mine with whom we are staying. “
"All right. “
"See you soon."
END OF CHAPTER IV