There was a crowd of people. He was in the middle, not far away from Joan. Everybody rushed in the same direction, not looking anywhere. Joan was not aware of him. He viewed her all the time. How beautiful she was. Long blond hair, straight, no fringe. Some streaks, not to much. Dark brown eyes. Looking through everything, sparking all up. Drilling deep into his soul, everytime eyes met. High cheeks but soft. Perfectly formed lips that expressed fear, intimacity and passion. And, killing every resistance to her immediately, single pearl earrings. Every woman he ever met had to have single pearl earrings. Otherwise, nothing happened.
He could remember his first real love, having exactly this type of earrings on their first date. How could he forget.
Joan moved like all the others. They moved from town to countryside, watching more an more people disappearing. Soon, only two were left – Bill and Joan. They surely walked some minutes, even hours without speaking. Eventually they grabbed their hands, still not talking. Holding their hands they walked and walked. Though it was cold outside, their hands warmed up. It was a firm grip, both did not want to loose the other one. In front of them, a small town appeared and they straightly walked in, now walking very close to each other. They started to talk to each other, but their lips didn’t move. They talked so much, about how close they felt, how truly happy they were. They both totally agreed, that this must be a dream. They could read each others mind, could feel the other inside.
They entered a small boutique. It was very contorted. You could not see a single wall, only clothes. Any colour, any shape. Small rooms, large rooms, rooms not high enough to walk in, rooms small like a box. A small door lead to a small inner courtyard. Covered with green gras and many flowers. Though it was a courtyard, only the door they used to enter could be seen – nothing else of the building. A couple of tables and chairs rested in the middle. An old man with strange clothing sat nearby. They took a seat just besides him.
The old man was angry. He waved about like crazy with his hands. Talked in images and threw words on Bill like a water pouring from a waterfall. Got more an more angry. Bill was getting smaller and smaller. He opened his mouth, tried to speak but couldn’t. Which was not surprising. The water still poured. The old man was so angry, Bill feared he could explode. Joan was calm, absurdly calm. The louder the old man got, the calmer Joan was. It nearly felt like she was enjoying this. Bill still could not say anything. Instead, he felt like the old man started to open his head – to drill into it with his eyes. Next was his heart, his breast was torn open and his inner feelings were revealed.
The old man still shouted and gestured, but it slowed somehow. Now Joan took Bills hands. His chest closed, but only to explode again. This feeling of her, looking into his eyes, holding his hands, it was overwhelming. He could but stare at her, feeling like being completely naked. And, it felt good. She pressed her body towards him. He was close to getting unconscious, but she held him here with her deep, large and mysterious brown eyes. Eyes, that burned the bad, even if that meant burning all. He was home again. Home, everything he ever wished for.
She stood up, took him for a short walk. Showed him the flowers, explained their colours. Told him, why they grew here. Told him, why this place was so important to her. Why he was the first to come here with her. Why the old man was there. Told him, that she was ill. Madhja Purna. Rare, strange, unexplored. It was a disease, that took peoples resistance. Not physically, but mentally. He didn’t understand. Resistance? Joan was bold, powerful, stood straight. Yes, she was. But not on her feelings‘ side. She had to resist to people everywhere. She could not make friends. The risk of being disappointed was too high. Being disappointed meant that her physical defenses dropped. Opening all doors to all kinds of physical threats. A simple cold would sweep her away from life instantly. Bill only slowly understood. They walked to a small plot of red roses. She cut one off and pushed a thorn into her thumb.
„This won’t harm me. But, if someone lies to me, it could kill me.“
Bills imagination tried hard, but still couldn’t cope. Joan took a step towards him, folded her arms around him. Again, he was near falling uncounscious. She again hold him with here with her eyes.
„It’s the truth. Madhja Purna is ruthless. I’ve made no friend for twenty years now. It started being a child with ten years. My parents had to save me from passing away more than once. It took so much time for me to understand.“
Bill still did not understand. She still held him, burying her head on his chest. He felt confused. Surely felt the warmth, the intimacity. His armes moved, without having him told them so. They folded around Joan. If ever a moment was worth to remember for a lifetime, this was he thought. If ever he had to chose a last moment for his life, this was it. If he had one wish for free, it was to never let this moment end.
Again, she took his hand to move on. A tree, larger than he could see. A trunk stronger than concrete.
„This is you. At least, how I need you. It won’t work else. Old Man does not agree. Totally not agree. Me, I want to. What is this life for if I can not taste love? Tell me!“
He couldn’t. Well, he couldn’t speak. He just looked at her. So beautiful. He wanted to dive into her eyes, get beyond them. Get rid of this ridiculous shell called body, get into her soul and, yes, fly away. Sure. Her eyes looked somehow angry, he immediately felt guilty.
The old man moved towards them. He had a field glass on his left eye. He came close to Bill and inspected him thoroughly. His appearance changed from an old man to something else. It looked like a very angry animal, hungry, relentless, gutted. Bill trembled with fear. He felt again naked, felt like a pupil with a cheat sheet. Joan just stood aside and watched. After a couple of minutes the old man left for the tables in the centre. Joan again took his hand, walked towards a white blanket. She also took the other hand and slowly moved Bill so he laid on his back. She coverd both of them with a very large cover. Bill felt her weight in him, felt how she once more buried her head on his chest.
„I can hear your heart beating. It tells me something. You know?“
„Only one thing remains in my heart. You.“
„I know. It has to be.“
„Joan, what’s this all about?“
„You are dreaming. With me. Could that be?“
„I don’t believe you. This is real, isn’t it?“
„You tell me. But more important, tell me something else.“
„Joan, you know already. I love you. Always and forever. You, Joan.“
Of course Joan knew. Never before she took a man to her place. Never before she introduced someone to the Old Man. Never before, she took the risk of letting Madhja Purna win. But with Bill it was different.
The old man again came around. He again faced Bill. Again, he drilled his eyes into his. Again, Bill had no defenses. The Old Man shouted questions at him, not waiting for Bill to answer. The Old Man got more an more angry. Bill felt on his knees. He could see a teardrop in Joan’s eyes. The Old Man did not stop. Bill broke down, he couldn’t stand anything the Old Man shouted. Eventually, Joan tried to calm the Old Man. Bill was lying on the gras. He couldn’t move anymore. Pain started to raise through his head, his chest. He felt guilty like never before in his life. Joan talked to the Old Man, who walked away after some words from Joan.
Joan helped Bill to stand up. He had red eyes full of tears. Joan took him into her arms. Held him tight. He couldn’t but hold her too.
With a voice, so soft, so quiet and fragile, a kind of tone he never heard before, she whispered into his ear:
„Bill, I love you.“
With a firm look into his eyes, she gently pressed her lips on his and kissed him. Bill could only observe what was happening, he had no power to decide, think, nor do anything. He just stood there and felt endless.