Saturday, 15 September 2012

St James´Rooster: Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Felix and Laura

Anyone who thought that Laura was quiet and submissive had never taken a good look at her chin. So thought Felix as he watched his bride of six weeks move her way around the apartment, and stand, as she did now, in front of the window with its view of the old city and a glimpse of the cathedral. The old town of Santiago lay beneath and around and for once, it wasn’t raining.

“Do say yes,” she said.

It wasn’t the first they had seen that day. In Felix’s opinion, not the best either. To his mind it was poorly furnished, dark, pokey, and expensive. But it was slap in the middle of the historic centre, and he knew better than argue too much.

“What about the one close to the new university? It was almost half the price and twice the size.”
Laura’s response told him he might as well forget it.

“Yes, but it lacked atmosphere!”

She had him there. This one had “atmósfera” in plenty despite its dark precincts, and ridiculous price tag. Santiago with its pilgrims passing daily, with its strange accents and ancient, poignant charm lay under the window she was leaning out of.

Felix knew he was beaten. Her smile told him that.

And that smile . . . that angelic, quiet determination, that often hidden intelligence had seduced him in its many quiet ways less than a year ago.

On “The Camino de Santiago”. Felix was so taken aback by its unexpected depth and charm that he had proposed almost as soon as they reached Santiago. He had walked 750 kilometres, well almost—there were a few still excused bus rides to be accounted for. She had walked less than 200 but none of that mattered. Once he had thought that love would pass him by forever, especially after Jessie his fiancée had been killed in a car accident. But now he knew it was time to live again, and Laura had taught him how. By being Laura. By being ultimately lovable.

“OK,” he said.

The real estate agent knew his stuff. He had taken them to this place earlier in the day. Even criticised it in some ways: small, expensive, no parking, but just look at that view!

Felix still thought of himself as a bit of a freeloader. After all, they were there because Laura was pursuing her doctorate at the University of Santiago in Medieval History and Felix, though a psychology grad, had only teaching English to offer. But Laura had somehow (was it those long lashes, those big brown eyes?) secured a very desirable scholarship, and, well, after six weeks of marriage, here they were. Back once more in Santiago de Compostela in the wettest part of Spain.

It wasn’t raining today which was a rare condition in itself. As they left the centuries-old building on the Rua do Vilar, the agent said: “Well?”

“When can we move in?” Felix said, accepting defeat with good grace and receiving his wife’s radiant grin as a reward.

“As soon as you wish,” the agent said. “As I told you, the owners live overseas, and it has been, well, somewhat unoccupied for quite a while.

If you want to come over to my office this afternoon, I will draw up the lease. You will be able to give me a month’s deposit today, yes? We keep that until the time you move out as a security against anything being . . .

um . . . missing?”

As if anyone would want it, thought Felix, but he said nothing.

Laura brushed her long brown hair out of her eyes. She was animated.
Ready for action.

“Right, I’ll go back to the Hostal Alameda and tell Antonio that we will be leaving this weekend. Will that be alright?” It was the agent she spoke to, not Felix.

“Perfect,” he said, “and if there is anything else I can do for you . . . .”

Felix was thinking towels, bedding, pots, pans, plates, but decided to leave that for Laura.

* * *
In fact, Felix wouldn’t have cared where they lived just so long as they were together. He was standing outside the real estate agent’s office. It was just five o’clock and a sudden downpour had just swept through and passed on, as rain always seemed to do in Santiago. Felix liked rain. 

He especially liked the smell of the streets after a storm and he was inhaling deeply and thinking deep delighted thoughts. When Laura appeared with their cases—few enough: the Camino had taught them to travel light—he couldn’t quite suppress a smile of complete besottedness just at the sight of her.

“What?” Laura said, seeing his face.

“Nothing,” said Felix knowing that his giddiness in love gave him away.

The paperwork was easy, the fees were handed over, and Felix suddenly found a key in his hand, a big key, an old-fashioned key. He expressed his concerns.

“Oh don’t worry about that. We are an old city. We have old values. Crime is minimal. You two will be safe inside your four walls.

Had he said “lovenest” Felix wouldn’t have been surprised. Romanticism was imbedded in the fabric of Compostela.
The simply beautiful and atmospheric painting is by Paco Quirri. I looked for a web address to ask for permission to use it but couldn´t find any reference, so Paco, I hope you don´t have any objection...

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