Paul Cezanne, “House of Pere Lacroix” 1873 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
August peered over the pond. What is she doing now? I can’t see her through the trees anymore. Autumn needs to come fast so the leaves fall. I need to see my beloved again.
Every day August strolled the walking path that tread from the center of the village, to the outskirts of town and then across the d’Arezzo estate. The d’Arezzo family had allowed villagers to walk the path into the forest for almost a hundred years, but August had recently heard they may soon revoke the privilege. Destruction of the estate’s large gardens had occurred on several occasions and even with complaints lodged to the village council, the desecration had continued.
August walked the path to try to see the d’Arezzo’s daughter, Pila; but he also wanted to keep an eye out and perhaps even capture the criminals. If he did, Pila might think him a hero and take notice of him. He walked the path every day, yet she had only waved to him once. I wonder if she knows I walk to see her. I walk to protect her.
As he stared across the pond, he saw a rustling in the small scraggly trees on the opposite side of the pond. His heart leapt. Might she be walking to the pond? How should I stand? Should I lean against this tree? Should I pretend I don’t see her?
A red plaid covered elbow came through the tall grass. August ducked behind a bush. The rest of the man soon followed the elbow through the scraggly trees. He carried one lone flower, roots and all. He walked along the edge of the pond to where a wheelbarrow rested, constantly scanning the area. The man put the pink flower in a tan mesh sack, laid it gently in the wheelbarrow and covered it with some other foliage. Then he picked up the wheelbarrow and whistled as he pushed it back through the scrub.
What was that about? August hurried deeper into the trees further along the path, to where he could look down the estate’s long driveway. He kept himself hidden in the trees and waited. Within a few minutes an old rusty truck with a bunch of gardening tools in the bed drove out from the main house. As the truck passed, August saw the driver – Eduardo! What is he doing?
August headed back toward town on the path, thoughts roiling around in his head. He was thirsty from the walk, so when he was back in the center of the village, instead of going up to his flat he stopped at the pub for a beer. When he walked in, he felt eyes on him.
“Hallo, August!” Jackson, the barkeeper, called. August nodded and took a seat at the bar. “You wanna pint?” Again August nodded.
Jackson watched him take a long pull from the mug. “You alright, hefe?”
August surveyed his surroundings. The few patrons paid him no attention, but his head paused mid-swing at the two men in the corner. “What’s Eduardo doin’ over there?”
“Dunno.” Jackson shrugged, drying a glass. “Why? Why don’t you go ask him? You’ve known him since primary school.”
“Who’s the guy with him?”
“Dunno.” Jackson shrugged again and put the glass up on a shelf. “You want me to go ask him?” Jackson laughed and shook his head. “It’s no my business. I keep to myself.”
August stared at Jackson. Maybe I will go ask him. For Pila. He stood up, nodded at Jackson, picked up his mug and walked toward the table.
“Hey, Eduardo! How’s it goin’ man?” August clapped a hand on Eduardo’s back and slid into the booth next to him. He held his hand out to the man across the table, dressed in fine clothes. “Hallo, what’s your name, amigo? You no from around here, eh?”
The man looked at August’s hand but did not take it, so he let it drop. The man glared at Eduardo.
“Hey, August. I’m kinda busy,” said Eduardo, his smile not quite reaching his eyes.
“Yeah,” August said, nodding and smiling. “I see you made a new friend here.” August saw the mesh sack sitting next to Eduardo on the booth bench. “What you got there?” He pointed at the sack.
“Oh, that’s nothin’. Just something I picked up at work today.”
“Oh yeah? Where you workin’ now?”
“Uh, I work up at the big house. Doin’ a bit of gardening.”
“That right? I didn’t know that. How long you been workin’ up there, man?” August turned to Jackson. “Hey Jackson, bring us a round, will you?”
Eduardo raised his hand and waved at Jackson. “No man, I got to go.” The other man glared at Eduardo, got up and left the pub.
“Hey, August, you gotta let me out, man.”
“Eduardo, we been friends a long time, no?”
Eduardo nodded and shrugged. “So?”
“Did you take something that does no belong to you?”
Eduardo’s eyebrows shot up before guilt covered his face. He squinted, quickly recovering. “What you talkin’ about?”
August glared at him. “I saw you take something up there and put it in your barrow, man.”
Eduardo’s eyes closed and he let out a long sigh. “Aw, man. You did? You saw me?” At August’s nod, he continued. “That guy out there,” he threw a thumb toward the front door, “he paid me fifty bucks to get him this flower. I figured, hey, what the heck. It’s only one flower, right?”
“Eduardo, if that guy is paying you fifty bucks, it’s probably worth a lot more than that, right? I mean, he looks like he’s from the city. He’s got those expensive clothes and not a nice face.”
The bell above the door jingled. August watched Eduardo’s face pale as he saw who entered the pub. August turned.
To be continued…