This is, perhaps, a suitable time to expand a little on my views on men. There is often quite a contrast between mine and those of Sofia. She wants daily routine, whilst I want a party. My mode is that of excess. Fruit in my mouth, sap dripping, flesh without words, or words become flesh. I want banquets, thundering music, charged conversations, the spell of desire. There was a time when I wanted something superhuman, I dreamt of extraterrestrials, love, you understand, was something so rare for me that I believed it only existed on other planets. You could say that I just didn't believe that love was human. This meant that if I discovered a man who seemed to be filled with love, I would believe that he had come from another planet, the same one as I come from. Let us call it the Planet of Dreams for simplicity's sake. But the trouble with imaginary extraterrestrials like us is that we don't all come from the same planets, but from vastly different and widely scattered celestial bodies, all with their special and almost unchangeable customs.
If I didn't have Sofia, I don't know how I'd cope. It's her who does the shopping and drops in on our aunts. As for me, I paint pictures, listen to music, read books, philosophise and pine.
I've heard that it's not at all unusual for sisters to be very different. They divide up their characteristics, so to speak, just like a married couple: one is jealous, the other longs for freedom. One is silent, the other talkative. One flirtatious, the other aloof.
Back to the outdoor café. By the way, did I mention that they were eating waffles? How did I know? Sofia has that charming habit of getting a drop of cream at the corner of her mouth, just like a kitten.
Now he at last popped the question he had hardly dared utter, since he was already so deeply under the spell of Sofia that he could not the bear the thought of any pitfalls. You could see from the expression on his face how this encounter had pierced him to the core. He was the sort of person who could, without even knowing it, go around longing for something absolute. And for such people, an unexpected crush can feel like the sudden presence of God exists at last and is looking down on them with his gleaming eye. The only eye which emits light instead of absorbing it.
Seen and approved by God, a vessel for His power and determination, that is how people in love can feel.
In short: he asked her, full of fear and trembling, whether she would be spending her holidays alone.
And Sofia, that chunk of hypocrisy, says nothing and simply mutters something about that she has come here to get over a painful separation. And says it so mysteriously, so full of suffering, that he does not ask anything more.
But Sofia, you must have noticed that I am awake? Or were you so absorbed by him that you'd forgotten to check?
The little monkey! She's now gone and made a new date with him. Same time, same place, tomorrow morning!
And so she came home, cheeks aglow.
I had already got up and, despite my pounding headache, I had begun to paint one of my glowing portraits. Of him.
"Carmilla," she said, "can you manage to keep your distance just this once. Please! He means so much to me!"
"You know it won't work," is all I can say.
Just now, this morning, Sofia tried to sneak off while I was still asleep. But I woke up and saw her standing there, full of anticipation in her childish blue summer frock, a straw hat on her head.
"Does he actually know how old we are?" I asked her.
"Carmilla" she said again, admonishment in her voice, "just you keep out of it, at least for a while."
"Perhaps he'd like me," I say. "He seemed different to all the rest."
"Dare we take the risk?" she said. "You know how it always turns out."
"Yes," I reply. "But I don't know whether that depends on me or you."
"Anyway, you can hardly manage to speak nowadays," she ended. "You should lie down and rest."
True enough; my voice which used to be so beautiful is hardly more than a desperate whisper. Perhaps I have a lump in my throat.
[to be continued]
Translated from Swedish by Eric Dickens