“Lying down again. I thought we came on holidays to do something different?”
Leila opened one eye and tried to focus on him.
“I don’t know why we pay a fortune to come to a luxurious campsite with all these activities, if all you can to do is lie down all day in the sun. It might be different if it did you any good. But just look at you… Mother, do you think Leila looks any better for her so called bronzing.”
Silence was the only reply.
“Good job Marlie’s away all day with the other kids, wouldn’t want her to realise what a good for nothing mother she’s got. I’m going diving.”
Leila watched him pick up his kit and wander off towards the changing rooms. Nearly a thousand euros that lot had cost. And he already had two sets at home. Leila couldn’t understand why he moaned about money whenever they were on holidays. They had more than enough. A smile flickered across her face. Money, security, possessions. That was she’d been after and that was what she had. That was what made life with Pienar worth living. She’d known what he was like and she’d taken the risk.
She pulled herself up onto her knees. A voice floated across from the picnic benches.
“You know he’s wrong. I think you’ve got a wonderful complexion.”
She raised a hand to her forehead shielding her eyes from the sun and peered. He must have been about thirty, shoulder length blond hair and eyes that were both piercing and calm. A pure white cat sat purring on his lap. His hand went back and for over its back. She turned away from him without replying. She glanced at her watch. She stood up and started walking towards the bridge. If she was quick, she could get around the lake and be back in time for the daily session at the rifle range. Not that it would cut any ice with Pienar, mind. He knew what she did and he was just as likely to accuse her of doing too much as too little.
* * * * *
“So, a glass of white wine for my damsel in distress.” Sojan placed his own beer on the table before he sat down opposite her. The moment his backside touched the chair the white cat jumped up onto his lap.
“Damsel in distress, now why that?” She almost coloured saying it. She fixed her eyes on the Pienar’s ring, still feeling a little uneasy about accepting this stranger’s invitation.
“Experience and ideology. Experience because that conversation I heard certainly didn’t sound much like pleasant banter. And ideology because I, and my friends like me, believe in the essential dignity of every human being.”
Her blank face was encouragement enough to press home his advantage. He took a small book out of his shirt pocket and began.
* * * * *
Your letter puzzles me. What on earth are you worried about? Sojan is such a fantastic man. He’s opened my eyes to so many things. And wasn’t it you who first suggested I needed to leave Pienar. I was deaf and blind. Deaf to what you and others were saying and blind to what Pienar was stealing from me. Sojan has changed all that. He has shown me how my own self-value is the most important treasure I have. He has restored it to me. And that is of far greater value than any of the riches Pienar used to shower upon me. But they are no longer there to blind me. Those that I didn’t leave behind when I left Pienar, I’ve given to the church. Sojan didn’t ask for them. He’d never do that because he’s completely oblivious to all worldly possessions. All that concerns him are church matters. As one of our three priests he spends his mornings in private study. The rest of the day he is either missioneering or teaching us, illuminati. I spend most of my time here in meditation upon the sacred books. Once a week Sojan himself takes me down to the treasury where he reads to me from the Pnomasta, the sacred book God himself wrote, using his own finger. Only the priests are allowed to read this book. To do so they have to use a tainted magnifying glass so as not to blinded by its glory. After this he accompanies me back to my room. And we achieve a sense of spiritual unity I’ve never before known. Unfortunately, his duties in the church do not allow him to spend the night with me, but my consolation is knowing he will be back in a week.
So you see, there’s really no reason to worry. I’m fine and I’ve never been happier. I hope you get the chance to come and see for yourself. I’d love to see you again and I’m sure you’d love it here.