It’s all about her Chapter 1: Rememberance

There I was. Sitting in my badly lit apartment. Before me lay an old box containing cigars. A relic from the past, I guess. I got one of the cigars tugged between my fingers and lit it. The smell filled the room immediately and my mind wandered. The taste of the tobacco brought me back to a decade ago. To the moment I last smoked a cigar. You were still with me back then. Your blue eyes mesmerised by the clouds of smoke I puffed out. You always asked me if I could do tricks. Blow out a ring or two. I never managed. Even now I am still trying. Even now when I know you are no longer here. I look around me and smile at the mess. Newspaper clips, old photographs, and more junk I call research material nowadays. I did it. I am working as a reporter now. Like I promised you I would ten years ago.

A knock on the door of the apartment pulled me back out of my memories. “It’s open!” I heard myself say and Stephen walked into the room. “I figured as much, so I already let myself in. Just knocked to make sure I wasn’t giving you a heart attack.” I smiled and motioned him to sit down. “Happy remembrance day, Rick.” he said while holding up a bottle of wine. “It was her favorite.”
“It sure was, Stephen.” I closed my eyes and wiped the moisture from my cheeks. “Sorry, I was lost in memories.” Stephen sat down next to me on the sofa and slapped his hand on my knee. “We all are lost on a day like this.” He dropped a few plastic cups on the table in front of us and started to pour the wine. “But Ricky boy. It still is not an excuse to not have any clean wine glasses in your house. But I anticipated that.” I nodded and grabbed one of the cups. “You are a lifesaver.” My friend with the short curly blonde hair laughed out loud. “Tell me something I don’t know. So any news when Jean Genie will be here?”
“Any minute now. You know how he is.”
Stephen raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Oh yes, there is a reason why we call him Jean Genie since we were teens. I know both of us were not surprised when he joined the police force.”
“Haha, true. Johan, our Jean Genie.”
A cloud of smoke escaped my mouth. It was quiet for a while. No words were necessary at the moment. We both thought about her. Like we did every year. Her remembrance day.
“Stephen, I dreamed about her last night.” I said, breaking the silence. My friend looked up and gave me that mocking smile of his.
“Was it a good dream? Please, don’t share it if it was a sexy one.”
I punched his arm and laughed.
“I am serious here. I don’t know if it was a good one.” My mood darkened and I stared into the cup of wine. “Don’t even know why I am telling you this. It is just that…”
“Tell me the dream.” interrupted Stephen suddenly. I nodded and blew out the smoke of the cigar. A weak smile appeared on my face when I saw a ring of smoke floating before me.
“It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. The only thing that I noticed was the soft music of a violin.” I cleared my throat and continued. “So there I was in my dream, trying to find the source of the music. Then in the distance I saw a light. Of course I followed it. I ran towards it. Fell a few times, but that was not important. I needed to see where that music came from.”
Stephen took a sip of the wine and nodded his head. “Don’t eat cheese before you go to bed.”
Surprised I turned my head towards the idiot next to me. “What?”
“That is what my mother always says. It gives you weird dreams.”
“Anyway,” I continued while ignoring the remark. “And there she was, Stephen. Dancing with her bare feet on the wet moss, surrounded by old trees. Dancing to the music of the violin. And I tried to talk to her, but she ignored me. She looked at me with her blue eyes and her dark hair, but she didn’t see me. She just kept on dancing.”
Stephen nodded and rubbed his hands together. “And how did that make you feel?”
“Jesus, Stephen. Cut that crap. I know you are into psychotherapy books lately, but don’t use that shit against me. How do you think it made me feel when I woke up this morning? It fucked me up. Everytime I close my eyes I see her again.“
It went quiet for a few minutes. I closed my eyes, even though I didn’t want to, and inhaled sharply. Just to control the mess of emotions in my head. “It’s this day, Rick. We always end up being on edge on this day. She is gone but not forgotten. That is why we are here, Ricky boy.”

The door opened and a tall man with a scruffy beard walked in.
“You guys started drinking without me?”
Stephen jumped up and exclaimed: ”Jean Genie! Finally. Join us!”
“Sorry i’m late, guys, had a long shift.”
I smile and motion him to sit down in one of the chairs.
“Doesn’t matter now. I am happy you could join us for our annual remembrance drink.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.”
“So let’s toast to Lynn.” said Stephen, while he rose his cup in the air.
“To Lynn, forever yours.” The words came out without any thought, but ripped my heart out at the same moment. Jean genie raised his cup and met ours. “To my little sister.”

Stephen sat down and sighed. “So here we are. Bunch of guys drinking. I can’t believe it has been ten years.”
“Still trying to make sense of it all.” Johan sighed and refilled his cup.
“Don’t we all. Rick here just told me about the dream he had last night about her.”
Johan looked at me and frowned. “So she also haunts your nights. With her dancing.”
Surprised I turned to Johan, but Stephen took over the conversation before I could reply.
“But is there sense to be found in what happened. She was always happy, funny, so full of life. Remember when she switched my shaving cream with whipped cream. God, she was funny.” Johan smiled and his dark eyes wandered back to his cup of wine. Trying to find strength in the alcohol. “And that is why I never understood her suicide. And that note. Damn, what was on that note again?”
“Rick, It is all about her.” I quoted. The content of that note has been burned in my brain. I see it everytime when I close my eyes. Not her eyes, nor her smile. No, that fucking note. “That is the thing I never was able to figure out. Why did she write that?”
Johan nodded and drank his cup in one big gulp. “I am afraid we will never know.”
Stephen stood up with the cup in his hand.
“My friends, Let’s drink one more cup for Lynn, as we do every year. We drink in her name, because now it is all about her.”
I nodded and met his cup with mine. The words in my head drowned in the cozy haze of the wine. Maybe it is all about her.

It was the next morning. My head felt heavy and my thoughts cloudy. Every bump in the road felt like as if we drove through a canyon. My mind felt like central station at rush hour. Thousands little feet ran through my brain, just to make sure they did not miss their train. Stephen was driving. He looked fine. He was always better if it comes to handling alcohol. I suspect he trains more.
“Ready to cover the news of this beautiful city?”
I groaned, which was received with a chuckle from my good friend.
“Look, you report the cats stuck in the tree and I will make stunning pictures of it with my overpriced camera. It is going to be great, Ricky boy.”
A lit cigarette appears between my lips. Looks like my body has fully automated that process. Stephen sniffed and looked next to him.
“Jesus, Rick. You know I hate it when you smoke in my car.”
“I’ll open a window.”
“What if I bring a date home in my car and she smells the nicotine. Sure, she would still want to fuck me, but in her mind I am the liar that said he didn’t smoke. And I don’t want to be seen as a liar, Ricky boy!”
“Haha, I am sure you will find a way out of it.”
Stephen sighs. “I just wished you would stop smoking.”
“You know what I say to that. I will smoke till the day I die.”

Should I tell him? She was still dancing in my mind. The violin music sounded familiar, but I just couldn’t place it. My head was throbbing.
“What’s on your mind, Ricky boy.”
Annoyed I looked up at him, while he focused on the road.
“How did you know I have something on my mind?”
“I know you since kindergarten. You do that thing with your face.”
I rose my eyebrows. “Frowning?”
“That’s the word. So, spit it out.”
“Remember that dream I talked about last night.”
Stephen nodded.
“Well, I had it again, but it felt more lifelike this time. This time she said something.”
Surprised he looked at me and then back at the road. ”What did she say?”
“The streams are merging, but you are not alone. Ridge woods.”
“Did you eat cheese again.”
“Not funny, Stephen.”
“Sorry, Rick. Couldn’t resist. But it was just a dream. Relax.”

I swung the door open of the Livia office. Our small city newspaper. It has been six months since I started here. Stephen recommended me to Saskia, my boss. It wasn’t the most exciting job, because not much happened in this city, but it pays the bills. I held the door open to let Stephen in. A voice greeted us “Ola amigos!”
“Fuck, Angelo is here.” whispered Stephen under his breath. I smiled and gave my loud coworker a nod. He was wearing that white suit again. It made him look like a gigolo. Especially with the greasy combed back hair of his. “You are early, Angelo. Did your girlfriend kick you out again?”
Angelo laughed mockingly.
“Haha, very funny, Stephen. My chica doesn’t do that. She loves my sexy body. No, Saskia asked me to come in early. Looks like she wants the best reporter for a scoop.”
The door of Saskia’s office opened. There she stood. Long blond hair with a stern look on her face. She scouted the room and her eyes fell on me. “Rick, get in. I have something for you.”
Slowly I walked past Angelo and entered her office. He looked a bit hurt, while the door closed. “But, Saskia, what about me?”
Stephen smiled. “Guess you were right. She does want the best reporter for her scoop.”

She motioned me to sit down, while she sat on her desk.
“Let’s get to the point. I have picked up a message. You know the Ridge woods.”
The name felt as a brick in my stomach. I nodded.
“Well,” she continued. “There will be a press conference today at the place to announce a new building project. Apparently they are going to clear parts of the woods to make place for an apartment complex.”
“It sounds like you think there will be trouble.”
She smiled with her bright red lips. Her green eyes twinkled in excitement. “Think it? I know there will be. So go there and report it. Bring Stephen with you for pictures. I want the story on my desk before noon.”
“Yes, mam.”
I turned around but heard my name before I touched the door. “Rick, just watch out there.”
There was concern in her voice, which felt alien to me.
” I will.” I heard myself say, while taken aback by her sudden change of attitude. She smiled at me and motioned with her hand. “Good. Go!”
That was the Saskia I knew.

The car slowed down as we approached the entrance of the woods. Not because of the state of the road, which was questionable. No, apparently Saskia wasn’t the only one who got the tip, because the road was full with people. Protesters. Angry people. Stephen sighed.
“They better not damage my car. This car is my baby.”
“Just take it easy. Turn left here. I think I see Jean Genie standing there.”
Stephen parked the car and Johan’s wry smile greeted us as we got out of the car.
“Well, well, the boys of the Livia are also here.”
He looked a bit annoyed at the crowd.
“Did you bring those idiots here?”
Stephen slapped him on the shoulder. “Yes, especially for you, Jean!”
Johan grinned and motioned us to follow him. We walked over the path, past the security, and onto an open field, filled with important looking people.
“Now you guys stay out of trouble. I am going to see how security is holding with all those environmental idiots at our doorstep.” Stephen adjusted the lens of his camera and smiled. “I am also going to find a good spot to take pictures from, so I will be back after that.” I nodded and my friends left me in the crowd.

The stage was empty but ready for the event. I looked around and saw a lot of people in suits. Important man, at least that is what they want you to think.
“It’s a shame isn’t it.”
Surprised I looked at my right and saw a man standing next to me. He wore a long dark woolen coat and a hat.
“What is?” I asked him, while trying to see the face that was hidden under his hat.
“Well, they want to get rid of these trees. They have been here for centuries, Rick.”
A bit startled I replied. “How do you know my name?”
“I know a lot. That is what I do. But also not important now. The streams are merging.”
The blue eyes of Lynn flashed before my eyes. The words in her dream got thrown back into my consciousness. “How… What!?”
“There is more to these woods than you think, Rick. You are a reporter. Shouldn’t you investigate it?”
“Why should I?”
He smiled and pointed at the stage.
“Because you might want to find some answers.”

The microphone made some high pitched noises and everybody switched their attention to the stage. A woman came up to the microphone. Her long dark hair. Her blue eyes. No, this can’t be. I turned to the man next, but he was gone. The woods were filled with her voice.
“Good morning and thank you all for coming. My name is Lynn Underwood, representing the local government officials. We would like to make an announcement.”
This can’t be happening. I looked around and saw Jean Genie standing there. I walked up to him as fast as I could. My eyes met his.
“What in the fucking blaze is this.” he whispered, while trying to control his anger. His eyes were on fire. “This is not funny. Whoever thought that this was funny will be kicked in the stomach until they are unable to breathe.”
She paused her speech and took a sip of water. Her blue eyes met mine and she gave me that smile I had almost forgotten.
“Jean, this is real.” I grabbed his shoulder as I felt a strange feeling in my head. As if a boulder was dropped on my brain.
“Lynn lives…”