The first light had barely brightened the window of their bedroom. It seemed to Saranda that she had
only just fallen asleep when the noise outside her window woke her. She waved Jack through the window and sleepily put her long gown on.
"Come on, you lazy bones, times for a trip..." he shouted and threw another stone on the glass.
"Jack, shut your mouth," she nervously peeped outside through the curtains: "I'll be there in a sec."
She quickly pulled on her jeans and long jumper, leaving the scarf behind. After a second thought she tied her long hair in a bun.
"Kathy forgot to wash my favourite shirt," Jack mumbled, when she met him outside.
"It's all right," she reassured him: "It's too dark to notice it anyway." He jerked and when she looked up at him, his eyes glowed strangely.
"Kathy said, no point to dress up," he smiled to himself: "She is right, you know, my Dad can see the piece of shit I am." Jack suddenly lost his balance and she steadied him in a last minute.
"I am perfectly fine," he noticed her quizzical look: "It's only little bit of dope to help me go."
They could hear some noise from inside the house.
"Hurry up," she grabbed his hand and hurried through the front gate: "Better meet him on the road."
"So 'cuuute' these little houses and perfectly cut lawns and perfectly happy families inside..." Jack grimaced when they slowly walked through her street.
Everything was dark, sleepy and cold. She shivered in the frosty morning. She couldn't use to this funny weather pattern, freezing nights and hot middays. She secretly peeped at Jack, he seemed to be warm enough in his surf shorts and sleeveless shirt. At first she could not see anything clearly in the gloom. It was not until the very last minute that they noticed approaching car. Jack had turned pale and was nervously looking around.
"It will be all right," Saranda said reassuringly and both stopped in the middle of the road.
The car suddenly stopped using brakes heavily. "What's going on here?" George pushed his door open and stepped out.
Saranda pulled Jack's shirt and they approached the car. "Hi, Dad."
Saranda looked up at Jack surprised at the gloomy tone in his voice. But George was impressed, a tear trembled on his eyelid: "JACK." He put his arms around his son.
There was a silence for a while.
"I thought, I never see you again, fearing every night..." George gulped: "Every time I have been asked to identify a body of a junkie, I was relieved it was not you..."
"I didn't come for that," Jack freed from George's tight embrace: "I just want see the oldies at York.." He stood woodenly, gazing at the path.
"Of course," George laughed wholeheartedly: "No worries!" Saranda stole a glance at her swimming instructor, trying to judge his mood. She liked him more and more. George opened the back door and gestured at them to come in: "You're bound to survive this weekend with me, I should say."
In the car Saranda glanced at Jack. Sometimes he seemed to be both sad and funny at the same time. Strange as it seemed, she imagined that Jack would grow up to be the same kind of man as his Dad. Approaching the house they saw Dardon to meet them.
"Saranda," he shouted noticing her inside. Suddenly he tore along the path, skidded and went flat.
George stopped the car and stepped outside laughing. Dardon forced himself to laugh as well as he trudged over to join him.
"Never mind, mate, it can happen to anyone," George stopped laughing and patted him on the back.
"It can happen only to HIM," Saranda laughed winding her window down.
Dardon sighed peeping inside the car: "What are you doing there, sister?"
Saranda stepped outside to reply, when she noticed Dad standing at the front porch. She felt naked under his icy look and she quickly touched her uncovered hair.
"Saranda, back in house!" His voice hammered over her and she ran as fast as she could, passing him in a sudden fright. She nearly felt over Victor near the front door. Victor screamed and grabbed her hand pointing on the car: "Car, 'brrm', trip."
"Yes, Victor, let's go inside."
"No, " he suddenly let go her hand shooting to Dad skidding next to his feet. He pulled himself up again holding onto Dad's pants and peeped curiously behind his back on the car.
Closing the door she looked back at Jack. He looked out at her through the open window with a mix of shock and curiousity. She quickly closed the door and ran to her room. She gasped meeting Mum in the dark corridor. She looked like stone statue, cold and so lifeless.
"Where have you been again?"
Saranda turned around to answer but the noise outside made her curious and she quickly reached her window to look out.
Dardon joined Jack at her spot on the back. George was talking to Dad in front of the car. Suddenly she felt Mum's hands on her head. It felt so good. Saranda tried to feel them and touched the scarf.
"No," she screamed and threw it on the floor without looking at Mum.
She couldn't hear but felt that Mum left the room. Suddenly she saw Dad entering the car with George and they took off. Passing her window George blowed her kiss from the front seat and Jack looked at her...somehow differently.
Victor was left on the porch crying loudly until Mum reached him. They both stood there waving in the car's direction until it disappeared behind the gate. Mum's grey long dress contrasted with the shiny green vegetation outside. Saranda joined them and dried out Victor's tears from his face.
"I go trip," he wiped his nose.
"Few more years and you will join them." Mum smiled at him and took his hand to take him inside.
"Not, now," he freed his hand and stomped his little foot.
"Come on, don't be baby, Victor," Saranda picked him and twirled him around: "If you would be a girl, you will go nowhere, you see, you are lucky Victor."
"They are places you bound to go," Mum said watching them. When Saranda stopped with question in her eyes she continued firmly: "Mrs Hysa's daughter is sick so she couldn't go with George, but she will be at Mosque this morning and I expect you to join us."
"Why?" Saranda asked but Mum's icy look stopped her prepared objection.
Saranda touched gently the faded carpet under her legs. Suddenly, there was silence after long periods of prayers. She breathed deeply edging closer to the fat Mrs Hysa's body next to her. For a second she dreamed that it was Granny praying there. Saranda looked desperately around. One of the covered girls in front row turned quickly back to smile at her encouragingly. It was Doha. Saranda lifted her chin and tried to grin back. The prayers started again. The strangeness descended all over her again hearing these words, which have not meaning for her.