A European Story

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The first nineteen chapters of The Awakening, the first part of A European Story, a reality vs fiction struggle:

Prologue

Chapter 1                Chapter 2              Chapter 3             Chapter 4

Chapter 5               Chapter 6              Chapter 7             Chapter 8

Chapter 9              Chapter 10             Chapter 11            Chapter 12

Chapter 13             Chapter 14             Chapter 15            Chapter 16

Chapter 17             Chapter 18             Chapter 19

I’m trying to learn, to develop a style…so not everything’s as I’d want it. But it’s a start, I think. Be gentle, have patience.

 

The Awakening Chapter 19: Of order and chaos

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 19: Of order and chaos

Nobody — and I really mean nobody — should ever dare call Alice a lazy woman. A chaotic one. A I’ve-better-to-do-other-than-being-tidy one. She was, in fact, the definition of order. Watching her move out of her house and re-settling in the south proved to be an adventure in and by itself. So much care was channeled toward each aspect of properly emptying a house that it almost resembled art. The art of moving out. The art of moving on.

Alice had a full house, one filled to the brim with a lot of stuff, both useful and not so much so. Sorting all that she had took time and dedication; in effect, sorting everything was a job composed of two co-dependent parts: time and dedication. The fact that Alice lacked time spoke novels about her dedication. She had little time but managed to arrange everything in the most orderly fashion. Oh, ‘fashionable’ Alice!

Not everything in Alice’s house was meant to be taken, either by her or by Mark. Some things had to go, either be sold, given to friends or, customary to the UK, left on the street, for anybody to take. I never before had seen such a practice, of people leaving lots and lots of stuff in front of their houses for anyone to take. It’s meant to avoid the waste of buying new stuff when one might be finding exactly what one needs on their way back from work. Generally speaking, what the Brits leave outside is in a decent enough state, but there are of course exceptions to this ‘rule’. What Alice did not regard as garbage and instead left in front of her house was, no wonder, in excellent shape. She was not the type to joke around leaving damaged stuff around so that nobody would take it…like…ever.

When I first entered Alice’s house, I noticed one antique-looking bookcase facing a similarly looking sofa. The sofa was to be left outside in the hope of someone taking it, but the bookcase was to be sold. It was stylish enough for someone interested in antiquities to want to pay for it quite a sum, so Alice did just that, she posted an add on the Internet a couple of weeks back. Even before my arrival in Liverpool she had already found a prospect buyer, a gentleman in his 50s or so who wanted to replace some of his ‘too antique’ furniture. She had told him that the bookcase would only become available when she moved out and that time had come. So she invited him over, to see the piece of furniture and assess whether or not his offer was still standing upon actually having the item in front of him.

“Good morning, madam,” the gentleman greeted Alice, smiling and taking off his hat. “My name is George, … ,George Harrison; we’ve spoken a couple of weeks back about a bookcase, an antique-looking one…” His gentleman-like way of presenting himself, which could be seen both in his speaking and in his gestures, made an impression. Alice seemed to blush upon having such a good-natured man standing on her porch.

“Hi there, mornin’ to you as well! I’m Alice” Alice said, somehow dropping the standard, not because she was inconsiderate or rude in any way, but because she wanted to signal to him that there was no need to act chivalrous around her. He certainly did understood her unspoken intention and dropped the whole complaisant thingie. “Let me show you the bookcase. It’s in the living room, follow me and don’t mind anything around, we’re moving out so it’s a little messy around here,” Alice added. The whole ‘messy’ environment was a complete exaggeration, of course. In fact, her way of moving out was the cleanest ever, one could barely notice the fact that she was moving out…

The buyer analyzed the bookcase for a minute or so and then he said just a short: “I’m buying it!” The transaction was soon made, both parties being more than happy, George because of the excellent state in which the old bookcase found itself and Alice for receiving quite a sum for it.

“Have a most wonderful day, Alice, and thank you for selling me such a nice piece of furniture,” George said, not before we helped him load the bookcase in the rented van he came with. I was accustomed with complains above complaints about anything imaginable when somebody would come and want to buy something from one’s house. That was not the case in Alice’s sale and I was content about it. It was nothing of importance, really, just a sale of a piece of furniture, but I sure did enjoy the whole civil-spoken way both the buyer and the seller went about the whole transaction. ⇒⇓

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All the while, James was playing with his train set in my room, upstairs. He sure did play a lot with it and there seemed to be little chance for him to become bored of it anytime soon… to our joy, actually.

The whole house, by being emptied, looked as if it grew. The narrow halls provided us, all of a sudden, with a lot of space. The typical British house, not all that wide by design, proved to be quite the ‘mansion’, in comparison to when it was stuffed full of furniture and things. Even James had much more space for his train network to expand well beyond its usual dimensions. The thing is, that exactly the fact that he found himself in a huge expanse wherein to play with his trains made him never want to leave it. There was no real agitation in the house, Alice was moving out in a most orderly way for anyone to feel nervous in any way, but somehow, James got nervous. In fact, he acted as if moving out was the worse thing that could’ve happened to him. Nobody expected that of him and that was the very reason which made the whole issue even more problematic.

We weren’t prepared for such a wonderful child to become this uncontrollable force of negativity and negation. Starting the day when the bookcase was sold and continuing during the last two days we spent in Liverpool, James must’ve said no like a thousand times. Coping with his changing attitude proved quite a challenge for us, not that we didn’t embrace it brave-fully… but it was so damn difficult to act towards him like we’d act toward a spoiled, no-embracing, no manners child. An entire convincing-game followed any request made to him, especially the one which referred to getting into bed around midday or in the evening.

“I don’t wanna go to sleep! I wanna play some more!” James kept yelling. “But you’ve played enough and you can do so again and again the following days,” we kept saying to him. To no avail. He’d only calm himself down after we’d left the house for good. And for us, that moment felt like too far away. But it eventually did come.

After finishing packing everything and giving the last scrubs to the more dirtier parts of the house, we got to bed, only for actually leaving next day morning sharp. Alice rented a big van in which we put everything we intended to take with us and before we could realize, we were out of town, on the motorway, heading south.

A small reunion of a couple of friends of Alice’s took place during that last evening, mostly in an emptied out kitchen but accompanied by some tasty pie Alice backed. I think it was a blackberry-currant pie, if memory serves. Alice’s guests, most of who were females, were entertaining enough, but I had little time to chat with any of them, since Mark wanted to spend some time with his wife and her friends. In order for the two of them to have some time alone with their guests, I had to keep watch over little James. He didn’t seem to be able to snap out of his current state of being. Instead, he kept being a paint in the ass, forgive my bluntness! I tried the best I could to soothe him and the best I could come up with was to prepare a bath for him.

Fortunately, my idea worked wonderfully and James was more than ok during his bath. He always did enjoy taking baths with lots and lots of toys around him, so the fact that that evening he spent much more time than usual in the bath tub made him forget about his ‘sorrows’. Sorrows, as if we were moving to the worst place in the world! But of course, little did he know and could possibly realize about the place we were going to and frankly, his nervous state was understandable. He was used to his quiet, familiar home and now that seemed to him like falling apart. So we were not mad at him, not in the least, despite his unusual crankiness. After the guests had left the three of us kissed him good night and hoped for a smooth transition to a new home.

The Awakening Chapter 18: Preparations

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We (Alice and I) needed some things in order to move out, so more useless stuff was to join the usual stuff most people keep around in their houses at all times. Alice already possessed more than enough of those things without much purpose, so the need of buying more just on the eve of moving out didn’t come to us as a good idea. Not per se, at least. Not that we had any choice on the matter, stuff won’t sort and pack itself, you know…

All that packing had to be done, so we got ready and discussed how best to tackle the whole affair. We drove around town for a while. Alice wanted to sell her hatchback as well, so we stopped by a car repair shop in order to get some things refurbished and replaced. As it turned out, selling a second-hand-bought car proved to be not quite a pleasant activity: the man in charge of the repair shop kept insisting on a too low a selling price, as if the car was completely worthless, which was not the case. Alice thought of letting her husband do the transaction like… ‘men’, because as it seemed, men would just try and cheat her. A woman selling a car just wouldn’t do, at least not for some men who thought it their divine right to drive cars.

“Stereotypes or not, some men are complete jerks!” Alice yelled while leaving the repair shop furiously. “Did you just see that? They think I’m one of those idiotic women who know nothing about cars and that I’d surely be fooled in underestimating the price of my car. They must try the same tactics with everyone, just to see if it works out for them, but us ‘poor women’ are their primary target…the jerks!”

“Calm down, Alice. They’re jerks, yes, but why don’t you try another such shop or go online?” I asked, trying to diffuse the situation and keep her calm… you know… ‘keep calm & carry on…”

“This very shop was supposed to be the best around, or so I’m told. They might be good at repairing, but they probably overcharged me for that as well. Overcharge, underpay…their motto! I ain’t going to another. I’ll either post an ad on the net or more likely, I’ll leave the matter to Mark,” she replied.

“Ok then,” even though it was not ok. Not at all. She seemed a little too brittle compared to her usual self, though pointing that out to her would not have been the best idea. At least that’s what I thought. So I left her to her own devices. She’d calm down, eventually.

Leaving the matter hanging, we next went to a huge, like really huge supermarket. It was probably not all that immense as far as British shops go, but for me, an ‘outsider’, it seemed pretty much endless. Packed mostly with house, garden and self-care items, it was precisely why Alice chose it: she had to leave the house in the best condition possible, so the best care was required. We spent almost an hour in there, running around like some kind of lost kitties on the lookout for food. In the end all went well, except for one fact. When we — as stand-up customers as we were — decided we had all we needed and went to pay it turned out that Alice and the woman at the counter could barely understand each other. It was as if they we were speaking different languages, as if at least one of them was an immigrant who possessed only the faintest language skills.

“Dear mdam, please (something came out of her month)… our machine is broken,” said the woman who, by the way, spoke a perfect English… just that it was perfect for Liverpudlians and only for them. A weird accent and a peculiar stressing of the words accompanied every word. It was as if she was hunted by some wild, starving animal, her running for her life and hardly being able to properly speak. More like grumble.

“I don’t get it, what is broken? What are you saying?” Really embarrassing stuff, not understanding a fellow Brit. Not that I’d never heard of that problem. The fact that Alice, her husband, her aunt and uncle and Maria spoke more than intelligibly did not mean that every single Brit did they same thing. Does the same thing. A friend of my mother once told me that the British can be like that, with such immense difficulties in understanding one another, but I never quite believed it to be such a… colorful oddity. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the famous comedians, they probably understood each other better than some British do, as I was to find out times and again… And that’s saying something!

“Dear Mdm, we are experimenting” (God, she must’ve said experiencing but it somehow came out as experimenting, imagine that!) “some technical difficulties and we’d like you to pay with cash” (the word sounded more like clash…clash of titans, clash of nations…idk). “How the hell are they supposed to understand one another if they speak like this? I don’t get it,” I said to myself and then to Alice…I certainly did not get it…at all.

“I can’t very well pay with cash since I don’t have any on me!” Alice mumbled, pretty much resembling the woman at the counter. “We’ve spent like an hour pickin’ stuff out, what the heck are we supposed to do now, put everything back?” Alice asked, actually getting ready to put everything back.

“Mdm, I’m so very sorry, but it ain’t my fault, you know…” At least I think she said that. Anyhow, the staff returned the items to their ‘rightful’ places on the shelves. And we drove to another shop. To do the same thing all over over again! What joy! Especially since we barely understood the shop assistant over there as well. But at least we managed to pay…

“I just don’t get it, how can you all not understand what the other Brits are saying? We Romanians certainly do, even if in some regions the speech is well… rather odd, to say the least. Odd, but funny, usually. And intelligible at that.”

“It seems we’re odder!” Alice said, grinning like she was proud of that very fact. “I certainly understand most Brits, but yeah, not all of ’em… Never you mind, we’re ok like this,” she added, even though I did not believe a word of it. It couldn’t possibly be ok not to understand your fellow citizens like that…

“Yeah, it seems you are… good for ya’,” I said, pretending I was content with her answer, but secretly LOLing over the whole affair. The day continued the same way, us assaulting the shops, sometimes not understanding the people working there… and generally speaking, when I did not understand, Alice did not as well… so much of her being a Brit and me not being one…

The Brits are an odd sort. The more one gets accustomed to them, the more one grows to admire them. One can’t help stumbling over some strangeness, but I grew to love them, despite their oddities. There’s tons of stuff written about them, books, pamflets, sites and what not. It certainly is funny to observe them in their ‘environment’, but reading a well written book might prove to be paramount and best used as a sort of starting point. One has to read a bit about Britain before even beginning to claim to understand the Brits living in it. But they sure can be understood. Or so I though, until the whole affair with Alice’s ‘maternal instinct’ and a couple of other oddities lying in wait, waiting to pop up at some point or another…

Chapter 19