Just when I stopped thinking about it and wondering what she was up to ,and when that meeting I had had with Jules kind of lost its charm,having thought about it so much that I had exhausted the subject, I found her in a place where I should have expected her to be,but which I hadn't visited in some time. The park.
The coldness of autumn had halted, just for one day, so I considered it to be the perfect moment for a walk through the alleys sprinkled with colourful leaves. Or, you know, for sitting on the bench, as usual. Some time had passed since I had last been out in nature,just me and a long stretch of green and the stillness of the small lake.
When I got to my spot , I realised, to my great surprise, that Jules was there, sitting with her legs crossed and her head slightly tilted. I went up to the bench from behind, quietly. She was wearing a fluffy hat ,from which a few stray curls were popping out,along the back of her neck.
"You've beaten me to it,this time." I said,trying to sound light-hearted, although I was ecstatic to finally see her again and felt a little awkward.
She turned her head toward me and I saw that she was just as surprised to see me. Her lips stretched in a quiet smile.
"You haven't been here so much,lately." she remarked.
"And you haven't been at the house."
Her eyes dropped to the ground ,but she quickly composed herself and chuckled.
"So you've been on other days too,not just that once."
I felt my cheeks burning. So she saw me standing on my tip-toes and looking over the fence,in a very creepy way and basically invading her privacy. That was now no longer my house. I had to get the idea inside my head.
She saw my uneasiness and waved her hand,in a dismissive manner.
"It's fine,don't worry about it. I'm the one who did the same thing with your house,after all."
"Yeah,but you asked for permission..."
I cleared my throat and she patted the place next to her on the bench,so I sat down,being careful not to step on the folds of her skirt,which were cascading down,close to her ankles. It was much longer today and I could barely see the traces of thick yellow socks peaking out of her polished black shoes.
"I tried calling you on your phone ,too. I hope you don't think I'm desperate or weird. My flatmate wanted very much to meet you."
"I've got admirers. I don't know what you told her about me, then, but thank you." Her eyes were genuinely happy. "I'm sorry for not picking up, it's quite a long story."
I turned the palms of my hands upwards. "We've got time."
She took a deep breath.
"I've had a very busy month and so much on my plate that I've been a complete airhead most of the time. Not that I'm usually very neat or anything, but..." She laughed. She was speaking very fast, so she paused for another breath. "So I came back here in the park one day to clear my head and I was- "- she looked at me intently, with a knowing glance and one of the corners of her lips slightly raised, in a smirk -" - I was feeding the ducks. I bent over, 'cause some of them had come really close to the bank again and I could almost feed them out of my hand."
"They do that sometimes. They're very friendly and kind of used to people." I said with a smile.
"They're used to being fed. Such aristocratic ducks,I can't believe it... And so many rebels around here in your town."
I nodded,with good humour. "Are you from someplace else, then?" I couldn't refrain myself from asking. I wanted to know at least one thing about her, for certain.
"Yeah, I came here just some weeks before I met you and rented the house." She shook her head and a crease formed between her eyebrows. "But where was I with my explanation? Ah, right, the ducks. So, I was bending over, and guess what? Of course the phone had to fall into the lake and the ducks flocked after it and it was very hard for me to get it back, because they were pushing it further from the bank."
"Don't tell me you got in!" I said,with a short laugh.
She nodded,pursing her lips. "I got back home soaked! I don't know which one of us had more of a shower,me or the phone. At least I survived,though..."
"Did you try putting it in rice?"
"I tried everything. And the worst part was that I lost all the new contacts that I got from the town. I had to get another phone and I only had the numbers of people from my old city." She hit the bench with her fist,jockingly,to emphasize her point. "And man, I had met the nicest girl in a cafe once and I don't know anything else about her or how to find her now."
"Let's not forget that you've also lost the number of the nicest guy you've met while staying here."
She laughed and got a card out of her purse. It was not her usual, small one, but in this one I saw the edge of her notebook peaking out,too. She was carrying it with her everywhere, it seemed.
"This is my new number." She quickly closed her purse and set it back,next to her side. " The day when I had to pay the rent, I was very sure that you might not find me at home and I had no way to contact you, so I had the good idea to leave the money in the post. Thank God you thought of looking there for them,too."
"So this is the explanation for your mysterious disappearance,then. Me and Martha-my flatmate- were already making theories about you."
"Oh my,I hope they weren't all that bad!" she exclaimed,amused.
I caughed,conspicuously. "Ah,well... we thought that maybe you were off severing frogs' toes and the sort...Nothing too bad,don't worry."
She clicked her fingers . " That day when I saw you coming at my house. You were checking to see if the squirrels and the garden were alright."
I laughed louder than she was,putting my hands over my eyes. "I can't believe it. Yes,partly I was doing that."
"I know you so well."
"I thought I knew you, too, but it seems like our theory was a little wrong."
She was silent for a while,smiling contently and looking back towards the lake, closing her eyes the moment a soft wind started to blow. Her short curls were bouncing almost like waves rolling back across her cheeks. The leaves from the trees looked like tiny bells,clinking one after the other. A multitude of green,silent bells. It was peaceful and I didn't feel like I needed to make small talk anymore.
"Why don't you come back at... my place? Your old house?" she paused,shrugging her shoulders. "Whatever you want to call it. I want to return your invitation for tea and maybe then you'll know me a little better."
I felt bad for firstly looking down at my watch. Lately, it had become a habit,because I felt so unproductive with my time. But I knew I would regret it afterwards if I refused ,so it was no longer a question of time.
"Sure. Thank you."
All the while on the way back to the house,which I always loved because of the quiet neighbourhood we had to pass through, I thought about the way me and Jules connected. As I said before,there rarely is someone who doesn't end up disappointing me. Whether it's because I find out that they had been using me for something (because I'm naive like that,with my occasional ,uncontrolled optimism) ,or because I realise that they're ignorant about matters of the utmost importance to me...
Jules didn't seem like one of those people. She seemed genuine,in love with nature and things that made me happy, too. I could understand her feelings,quite well. I should mention that I'm not usually the kind of person who can read someone else and their intentions from the first few meetings. There's a proof of that even in the fact that I know almost nothing else about Jules, besides the type of person she seems to be.
Sure,she behaves pretty oddly at times. But that's one of those things that's made me appreciate her even more.
When we finally got in the house, there was a moment when I just wavered in the hall,not sure of what I was supposed to be doing then. Jules was taking off her beige coat and scarf. She smiled when she saw me standing in expectation.
"Oh, come on, it used to be your house! I think it won't be necessary to tell you now that you can go in and make yourself feel at home."
While she was off in the kitchen, preparing the tea, I sat down at the writing table. It felt nice, for once. I had been away from it long enough so that I wouldn't feel stress or dread when I found myself near it, but a sort of longing. I missed writing, even just something stupid, for practice. I guess that's why I go on writing so much, with so many details ,right now. That, and because I feel again that this is my adventure. Maybe I'll never show anyone else what I'm writing now. But it doesn't matter. At the moment, for me, just the fact that I'm writing and I feel the need to do it is enough.
She came back,balancing the cups and teapot quite clumsily, so I got up quickly to help her.
"You weren't joking about being an airhead."
"I'm the clumsiest person you know, trust me on that."
I sat down in the chair next to the writing desk and she took a sit on a fluffy armchair, with a nice, floral model.
"I like how you've decorated the house," I observed out loud.
"I thought this kind of furniture would fit with its atmosphere." she replied,sipping her tea.
"Right, its atmosphere. What's your opinion about it now?"
She must have realised that I was genuinely interested in it and hearing her thoughts, because she smiled.
"I think this house is really good for me now. Just what I needed. There's a certain freedom you feel when you get out in the garden and you find yourself surrounded by trees and flowers,you know? "
I knew, so I nodded.
"So you like the point of view and possibility you're exploring just now? Would you like to live like this for a longer time?"
She paused,taking my questions seriously. I liked that she did that .
"You know, it's different from the way I used to live. It's refreshing. Now, I don't know for how much longer I'll keep my life this way, but we'll see." She let a soft breath escape her, which she muffled by taking another sip of her tea.
I set my cup down and leaned slightly on the wooden desk. A sudden thought flashed through my mind.
"Would you mind terribly if I took the writing desk back with me at the flat? " I stammered a little. "Not- not now,at this very moment ,obviously,but... sometime this week?"
She wasn't expecting the question, I realised.
"It's a nice place to write at, but I can get another desk for myself anytime...It's the spot next to the window that matters to me more, anyway. So I wouldn't mind at all."
I felt like I was making too much of a fuss about my writing and my problems,so I had to give her an explanation.
"I feel like writing again. I had my block,but now it's time to get back into it."
"That's great to 've already started writing something?"
I shrugged. "I'm kinda writing something at the moment,but it's just for myself."
She nodded. She didn't want to press the subject, either.
"So you've got used to your new life,too?" she asked,curiously, after a brief pause, from behind her cup.
"I wouldn't say I have a new life,really. I'm still doing the same things. Maybe there's a new feeling to it,because I live in a different place and I met someone new." I looked at her meaningfully, which drew a smile from her lips.
"And it's a nice feeling?"
I didn't need much time to think about it,but still, I paused a little. "Yes."
"You have an idea for a new story?"
"...not really." I cleared my throat and pursed my lips. "But I'll just write,anyway."
"That's how I do it" she remarked in a serious tone. "I never plan ahead anything, I just write."
We both fell silent. I almost chuckled,feeling persistently that there was this elephant in the room, our writings, and whenever we stumbled about it in our conversation,we had to stop and wait a little, see how things would go. One day one of us would break the silence about it,I was sure. One day, maybe when I had some story to show her...
There was the sound of the cuckoo clock coming from the porch and its sing-song reached us ,too. You could always hear it in the house,wherever you were,but it wasn't a loud, unpleasant noise.
Jules let out a startled 'oh' and then she sighed.
"I'm so sorry, Reece, I'm a terrible host. I have to go now- an appointment I can't cancel,you see. But I'll make it up to you one day."
"Sure,it's no problem." I was sort of expecting it,after she had told me that she had a busy month. I knew what that meant, from Martha.
"But you'll come around one of these days to pick up the writing desk, anyway, right?"
I nodded. "When are you at home,usually?"
She scratched her head. "Ah, I can't say for certain, but now you've got my phone number and hopefully, this phone will be alright."
"With a bit of distance between you and the ducks, I'm sure it will."
We both got dressed and got out of the house together. The sun was beginning to set already,it being a a pretty late autumn afternoon. The air got chillier, too.
"I'll see you very soon,then." I said,waving my hand.
"See you." she smiled and,without me knowing anything more about her than I did before,she turned towards the narrow street that lead in the direction opposite the park,holding on just as tightly to her purse.
She wasn't trying to be mysterious,but hell,was she good at it.