The drivers had just finished charging the luggage on the two black cars, too luxurious to avoid catching the curious glances of the whole village.
“This is the moment to say goodbye”, Emily’s mother claimed, her eyes still swollen with tears after those last days spent quarreling and then giving up sadly to the decision of letting her daughter leave to go towards her destiny and make her dream come true.
Emily run up to her with tears flowing like rivers of happiness and suffering for that imminent and quite unexpected departure.
“I really wish you could come with me”, she whispered in her ear holding her tight.
“So do I, darling”, her mother sighed painfully, thinking about her duties which forced her to stay anchored to that little village and to its inhabitants. She had a job and her employer had refused to grant her a three months’ leave, menacing to sack her. She couldn’t leave her job, be left without money. She was alone now and she had responsibilities. Besides, if things didn’t turn right for her daughter, she would have to take care economically of both of them. Finally she couldn’t leave her sister alone, since her husband had vanished into thin air and stopped contributing to the family’s maintenance.
“You’ll see, Christmas will soon arrive. You won’t have time to notice you miss me and I’ll be back”, Emily reassured her, parting from her mother with one of her usual gorgeous smiles which could infect with happiness even the sulkiest and saddest person in the world.
“Please, be careful”.
“I’m sixteen now. I have grown up and Mrs. Martens is going to take care of me all the time”.
After she was able to part from her mother, who looked unable to let her go, she run to hug her cousin who stood stiff and trembling on the edge of the street.
“Oh, Leny! I will miss you a lot!”
“So will I”, her cousin could just whisper trying to control her tears with an almost superhuman effort. Plunging her face into Emily’s silky and blonde hair, she tried to smell her perfume for the last time, knowing she would never forget it.
Emily had been like a sister to her during all those years spent in the two families’ house they had shared since Emily’s father had died, when she was just two years old.
Unluckily loneliness had concerned her aunt too, when she was abandoned by her treacherous and false husband, who left her alone with a little daughter and a sea of debts.
However, the two sisters had plucked up courage together and had gone to live in the country in a little detached house they had divided into two flats.
Emily lived with her mother on the upper floor, her aunt and Leny lived downstairs.
The two girls were born in the same year and had had to share everything because of their mothers’ financial straits, so they had become very close and loved each other a lot.
But now fate had wanted to part them and, even if Leny would have liked to shout to her cousin not to leave, she couldn’t. She knew how much that opportunity meant for her cousin’s future and she realized in the bottom of her heart that decision would take Emily high, just as she wished: she wanted to became a movie star!
Even if that imminent separation would make her suffer, she would never play the card of emotional blackmail. She knew she had to let her go. For her sake.
Just with that understanding, Leny kept her tears back and showed one of her typical shy smiles.
“Promise me you won’t forget me”, Emily said opening her blue eyes wide with that sulky and lovely look which one day would make her gain the approval of the public.
“That’s impossible! You will always be with me. In my heart”, Leny answered in her shy and sweet voice.
“You know it will be difficult to communicate with you, but I swear you that every evening, before going to bed, I will look at the sky and wish you good night”.
“Oh, Emily!”, her cousin whispered moved, coming back to hug her for the last time before the arrival of Mrs. Martens, worried about missing the flight.
“Emily, we must go. It’s late”, she claimed in her usual brisk tone.
The two cousins looked at each other for the last time promising silently never to forget each other.
Leny would have wished to follow Emily to the car, but the pain for her departure didn’t let her move a muscle and the girl was soon joined by her mother and her aunt for the last advice.
After a long time, Leny could move and approach the other car that was waiting still parked along the narrow and dirt road just a bit behind the other.
Suddenly the pain for what would happen in a short time became so sharp as to leave her breathless.
That day not only the one who was more than a sister to her was going out of her life for the next months or years, but also her best friend.
She couldn’t even imagine how going to school would be without Emily and her aura of beauty which she often used to catch the attention of all the nicest boys in the school and which sometimes protected her from bad mates who made fun of her because she had slightly sticking-out ears.
As if that wasn’t enough, she would find herself without him.
Her best friend, the one she and her cousin spent all the afternoons with, the one she often peeped at from her bedroom’s window, which opened directly in front of his.
She had spent all her childhood with her group of friends, but because of her exaggerated shyness only her cousin and Chris had been able to gain her trust.
He was the only one who made her laugh and let free the talkativeness she hid from all the others.
Maybe it was because he was two years older than the others or perhaps because he had been put into his grandfather’s care after he had lost his parents.
Nevertheless Chris was the only one who could overcome her fear for the external world and…who could make her heart beat fast.
When she heard the metallic and crackling noise of the old door of Chris’s grandfather’s house, Leny felt a jump in her heart.
She turned and saw the boy approach striding with his only surviving relative, who was giving him the last advice.
“…it’s important. That world is unsafe”.
“You’ve already told me, grandpa”.
“Always remember what is the real compass of life”.
“I will, grandpa”.
“Your heart, boy. Your heart. Neither money nor fame, as they will try to make you believe”, the old man moralized coming near Mrs. Martens to get the last explanations about the journey.
He was nervous and his face was tired and marked. He had spent the last days sleepless trying to understand whether what he was doing was the right choice: leaving his grandfather, his friends, his home to go overseas and became an actor.
He had finally taken a decision, but now, in front of Leny’s frightened and puzzled look caused by the mess and the change, he felt a thrill of indecision in his heart.
He saw her come near him scared and trembling, tight in her jeans jacket.
“Emily is already in the car”, she advised him in a low voice, trying not to look into his eyes because she feared she couldn’t hold back her tears. That was the last time she could talk with him for a long time.
How could she sleep without being lulled by the lamp lighted till late at night in his room or go out with the rest of the company without his presence to protect and reassure her?
But above all, how could she live without having him close to her every day of her life?
Suddenly overwhelmed with thrills, she closes herself still more tight in her jacket.
“You are trembling! You should go and put something warmer on, if you don’t want to catch a cold”, he immediately worried, massaging vigorously her arms and then her back to warm her.
In a few seconds she was overwhelmed in one of Chris’s warmest and sweetest hugs.
How could she let him go?
Shaken by her own emotions, she found herself crying silently against the boy’s chest.
She instinctively hugged him with all the force she had.
“I will miss you, Leny”, he confessed kissing her light brown hair.
She wished she could tell him she would miss him a lot too, but she remained silent fearing she couldn’t control herself and she would pray him not to leave.
“But I have to do it. Do you understand?”, he went on in a decided and serious voice. “I promise I will become a very famous and rich actor, so I will buy a house for you and your mother. I will make you happy”.
But what could happiness mean to her if he wasn’t close to her?
She slowly parted from him and looked into his eyes, in spite of the blurring coming from tears.
She got lost into those fantastic green eyes which always looked at her with fondness and sweetness.
She knew how many difficulties he had had to face in his young life and now fate was giving him the opportunity of changing his future as he had often wished.
“I don’t care whether you become a rich and famous actor. I only wish you to be happy”. Even if that will be without me.
She saw him hesitate and hold his jaw tight nervously, while his eyes were blurred with sadness.
In spite of the tears streaking her heart-shaped face again, she smiled shy and she just skimmed his shaved face with her fingertips.
Surprised by that unexpected touch, he caught her hand into his and brought it to his heart.
They went on staring at each other till the weight of the moment became unbearable.
“Will you miss me, Leny?”, he asked in a hoarse voice, taking her face in his hands.
That question had the overwhelming power of a tsunami on Leny’s already weak psyche and she burst in an uncontrolled cry which made her almost fall down.
Luckily Chris was still holding her tight and that prevented her from falling to the ground.
As soon as Leny recovered a bit of self-control, Chris relaxed his hold and the two of them found themselves lost in each other’s eyes.
Even if they had known each other since she was only three years old, in the last two years things had changed. Leny had started looking at him in a different way and wishing a closer physical contact from him.
Like all girls, she too had started looking at boys under a different light from a short time and she had peeped at Chris from the window when he undressed, leaving her always confused and troubled, but she had never wanted to investigate deeply into the reason of her curiosity, since she cared too much about their friendship and the balance existing between Chris, Emily and herself.
What’s more, she had been seldom alone with him, without Emily’s overwhelming and enthralling presence, with whom Chris shared a lot of passions, like the one for acting. Or without the crowd of girls who often followed Chris to catch his attention, taking a fancy to hid good looks.
But now they were alone.
Nobody was looking at them.
Suddenly Chris’s eyes were lighted by a strange glare unknown to Leny.
“Chris…”, she sighed troubled.
She saw him move his glance from her eyes to her mouth and before she could realize what was happening, Chris’s warm and soft lips were on hers trembling.
A kiss. That kiss was enough and finally the lock in Leny’s heart opened and she discovered love for the first time. Real love. The one with a capital A.
She felt his mouth moving on hers, while that new feeling flooded her heart till she was left breathless.
When Chris parted from her, she found herself panting.
She passed her tongue on her burning lips. They tasted of tears and of him.
She would never forget such a sweet and at the same time masculine taste.
Her heart was still hammering furiously in her bosom, when they heard Mrs. Marten’s voice calling him to get into the car.
That magic moment of tenderness vanished in a moment making room for the darkest despair.
Leny wished to shout to him not to leave at the top of her voice because she loved him. Now she knew it. She was really sure about that, but her mind prevented her from putting an end to Chris’s dreams just for sheer selfishness.
“Leny, will you miss me?”, he asked her in a broken voice.
“I…”, I don’t know how I will be able to go on without you, especially since I have understood I love you”.
“Leny, one word from you will be enough…Just one and I will stay here. With you”.
How could he give her such a responsibility?
How could she be the one to choose between making her love dream or his dream of getting success in the show business come true?
Even if she really wished to declare her feelings for him and to stay in his arms forever, she realized how it would be unfair to clip his wings.
A promising film director had seen some natural talent in him and a future career as an actor. How could she forbid all that to him?
She unwillingly parted from him, but with the certainty of doing so just for the infinite love she felt for him, and left him dismayed.
“You must go or you’ll miss the flight”, she could just say trying to keep her voice firm.
“I’ll get off very well. Don’t worry”.
Lenny nodded vigorously, since she felt she had lost control of her pain.
“I’ll be back soon”, he whispered almost as shocked as she was.
She managed to smile a last time before she turned and ran home, while her heart was breaking in her bosom.
“Take care of my grandpa”, those were Chris’s last words she heard before getting to her house door and closing herself inside.
She didn’t even hear the cars leaving and the last goodbyes shouted from her mother and aunt, because as soon as the door closed behind her, she fell to the ground struck with pain.
A dull and deep pain which broke her soul till it bled.
And this time there was nobody to comfort her. Not even Emily.