Summer solstice marked the very beginning. It seemed fitting to leave on such a significant day, all of us taking it as a good omen that added to the giddy excitement churning in our guts, as if the most extreme tilt on the earth on this day was having an effect on our balance. Bel brought it up; we would be there in three days time, Midsummer’s Day. How she knew this I didn’t know, it just added to the whole odd picture that Bel was to me then.
With the wind in our hair and smiles on our faces Bel had said this is the closest we will ever be to the sun, Mat and I we’re stuffing around re-enacting Titanic scenes, we stopped to look at her and she grabbed our hands, mine tingled at her touch. All I could think about was Midsummer’s Day, it was going to be special, a pinnacle in our lives, in mine and Bel’s. I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew I loved her deeply and our relationship would change on that day.
On the eve we went out for beer, I was withdrawn, the ancient stonework, the unfamiliar colour of the sky, the people with common yet different features and talk I didn’t understand, looking everywhere at once there was so much going on in my head that it crowded in on me. You with us she asked gently and pulled my cheek towards her lips.
That night I couldn’t sleep, anticipation, excitement, fear? I went out for a cigarette and looked down over the sleeping town from our balcony, the town of my great-great grandfather. Would he recognise it now, renamed and modernised? Not even his country existed now, except in books. Why did I feel such a connection to him? It was minutes before I realised the dark shape below me was a person, two in fact but melded into one. The flare of a cigarette lighter alerting me to their presence, Bel and Mat.
Midsummer’s Day and I stood in a sunny little lane. Before me the tiny house I had searched for looked just as I imagined it, shingled and whitewashed, delicate red frames around the curtained windows. 150 years ago Johann Eckert, my great-great grandfather was born here to a pacing father and panting mother. 100 years ago he packed up his own family and left the tiny house bound for the northern wine districts of Australia, the title of Johann already bestowed upon him would reach like a hand from the past to rest on the shoulders of all his male descendants. Something I felt keenly.
Bel asked if I was OK, gently taking my hand in hers. I turned to her even though I knew I had tears on my cheeks.
Yes with a smile.
I didn’t leave with them that night. We didn’t get to say our goodbyes. Instead I spent it in the little lane, back to a wall and knees up, outside the shingled cottage.
I may never leave.