Chapter Eleven: Prelude for Time Feelers
“Come with me.”
“What’s that?” Eric looked up from the newspaper he was reading. They were sitting in a café in Cologne two hours before his transfer to the line bound towards St. Petersburg.
“Come with me to Romania.” It was a little crazy to request, but Ginny wasn’t ready to say good-bye to him yet.
He folded his paper, and put it down thoughtfully, though truth was, his mind was made the minute she asked.
She saw the smile in his eyes though. “Yeah?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he grinned.
Switching his ticket was a simple matter and within hours they were on their way to Romania.
He looked at her then. Sunlight filtered through the side window, and lit the edges of her hair golden red, a bright warm contrast against her pale skin and cool green eyes. He noticed she had started wearing her hair down loose and shiny these days. It softened her a bit. With the flowing white skirt and sea-green cowl-necked blouse she wore, she somehow seemed even more feminine and relaxed. She carried a delicate floral scent with a hint of cinnamon. He found he liked the change.
When they crossed the Romanian border without incident, Ginny laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“I’ve been all prepared to go with the flow with whatever next incident hit. Just figures once I calm down about the whole thing, it all goes smoothly.”
The Romanian countryside was like a fairytale. Ginny had thought Germany was impressive with all its castles and history. But Romania, with its impossibly lush and dark green landscape and towering, intricate spires, had to be the real-life inspiration for the myths and legends that had captured her imagination as a child. She couldn’t resist pressing her face to the window, and when she saw the signs for Sibiu, she became more excited than she had been at any point prior on the trip. Her heart pattered inside her; she had a good feeling about this place.
Ginny was enraptured the moment she stepped foot in Sibiu, with its tiny streets and centuries-old architecture, all set against a mountainous backdrop. This time, it was she who led Eric around, so excited was she to discover the hidden delights of Sibiu’s nooks and crannies.
She pulled up short in front of a tiny shop. “Oh, baklava! Let’s get some!” They entered the charming shop, and Ginny devoured everything with her eyes. As she bit into her second honeyed-buttery nut-filled baklava, the large man behind the counter grinned at her.
“You are visiting?” he asked in broken English.
When they nodded, mouths full of treats, he asked, “You have time, a little?”
They looked at each other and shrugged. “Yeah we have time.”
The man beamed. “Then you go to Sibiel. Come, I show.”
They assumed he meant he would point the direction to some shop or another, but to their surprise he shut off the lights, locked up his shop, flipped the closed sign and brought them around to an old beige Trabant that looked like it had died seven years ago.
Ginny laughed. She was game for anything. They squeezed into the tiny car, prayed and cajoled together until the engine turned and cheered when it did. The shopkeeper drove them through the town, talking to them the whole while, but in a mixture of Romanian and something that might have been English but that neither could understand. Ginny was in too good a mood to care. She smiled and nodded in all the right places and the shopkeeper drove on.
They took the highway a few kilometers out of town and when Ginny saw Sibiel, it took her breath away. It was a tiny traditional town. With hill bound streams and horses, it looked untouched by time.
“That’s Sibiel?” she pointed and the shopkeeper nodded excitedly.
He pulled up beside a tavern and showed them inside. He spoke a few words with the bartender, who promptly sat them down and began plying them with beer, minced meat rolls, stewed cabbage, baked eggplant with garlic, and an assortment of sausages and cheese.
Eric laughed, “I guess we’re eating, then.” The shopkeeper turned to go back to his shop and he smiled and waved as they thanked him profusely.
But soon there was a commotion in the bar. A large group of chattering people entered the tavern, some in plain clothes, some in brightly colored traditional costumes. The women in traditional wear were bedecked with long flowing multi-colored skirts and shirts with long flowing sleeves. Coins and beads adorned their heads and belts. Several men carried musical instruments.
“I think they’re Roma gypsies,” said Eric.
“Gypsies? Really? Wow,” breathed Ginny.
“Looks like a party.”
Indeed, there was a sense of festivity in the air. The gypsies filled up on food and beer, then they encouraged everyone to follow them outside.
The musicians set up in a semi-circle, tuning their bagpipes, horns, lutes, flutes, and violins, and within minutes, the air was filled with a fast-paced, sprightly song and men and women alike began dancing.
Ginny and Eric watched from a ways off, but slowly inched their way closer and closer, through all the different songs. When an older man stood up and began to sing a bluesy ballad to a woman who appeared to be his wife, Ginny was drawn in until she found herself standing amongst the gypsies, with tears in her eyes. The ballad was so moving, everyone stood totally silent until the song ended. There was a moment of complete silence, then everyone broke into a cheer. A lively tune picked up and soon everyone started to join in, linking arms in a circle, with hands on each other’s shoulder.
Ginny gasped when a lady beside her grabbed her arm and pulled her in. Bewildered and totally wrong-footed, Ginny had no idea how to join the dance, but she followed as best as she could. When she gained enough courage to look up from her feet, she found a circle of warm, welcoming faces smiling at her. She looked around for Eric, and when they caught each other’s eye, she beamed.
After the song ended, she popped down beside Eric, flushed and grinning. “I just danced with gypsies.”
He laughed a deep-throated laugh, “You sure did, Red.”
She shoulder bumped him, but was nothing but delighted watching the rest of the festivities before they turned to walk back to Sibiu. The walk took about three-quarters of an hour, and Ginny felt wonderfully refreshed when they got back to town.
“Let’s stay here forever,” she said, as they wandered back into Sibiu.
Eric laughed. “I can’t stay forever, but I can stay a week before I really do need to get over to St. Petersburg.”
“All right, a week then.” Ginny laughed, but she felt a twinge of sadness at the thought of leaving Romania. “Hey, wait a minute. Look at this place.”
She stopped in front of a short wrought-iron gate covered in vines of something that had withered. She pushed at the gate. It squeaked a little, then gave way. A small path lead up through a tiny, dilapidated garden with a little, empty bird bath, to a tall, two-storied cottage with a thatch-like roof. The walls were white, with ivy leaves painted along the side. The front door was rose colored over a mint-green stoop. A stained glass window marked the top of the entryway.
Ginny tried the door. “It’s locked,” she said, disappointed.
“Empty too,” said Eric, peering in through a side window.
She felt an unbearable sadness, though she couldn’t place why. Something drew her to this place. Seeing it so empty was tragic, like stumbling across an abandoned child. She felt helpless, and felt stupid for feeling so.
Then a voice startled them both. They turned around, completely unprepared for the sight before them.
The oldest woman Ginny had ever seen in her life stood four-foot-ten inches high with a rusty hoe raised above her head and gave a mighty, toothless yell.(to be continued…)