The Lady of the Lake
Let’s say it was October, my shoulders were wrapped in a delicate woolen shawl and my mind – well, it was quite dizzy as I walked slowly to the bus. There were they, still waiting: Mrs. V , whom I’d have gladly killed if there weren’t so many psychological and social barriers in this world , five mummies I guess and students. Mrs. V. was pregnant and I envied her belly now, just as much as I hated her, I suppose; she smiled to me from behind the glasses; that’s what she was – a blonde mouse with thick lips and athletic constitution, though a bit shorter than I was; she never matched my softness and my angelic features; what could they possibly find attractive about her?
I greeted them; the mummies looked at me protectively, as if I were one more student, a special one, of course. I simply asked myself if I was ever going to rejoice in anything, let’s say in this trip. I was sorry I had descended from my tower to live among rats and to get scratched along the rough stones of the way; I thought – there could be only two beautiful memorable endings to this: either me drowned into the lake and covered in white veils or pulling her guts out !
And there was the house near the lake, waiting with a hot meal inside. At least this is what we all imagined. I must say I was quite eager to find out about the toilets – and for God’s sake, why are journeys always so closely related to the unpleasant need of taking a leak?
Anyway, we decided to stay in a room, me and Mrs. V., since this was the only option available. So we went downstairs into the large dining room where everybody was and sat together at table. The mummies were very close to us.
“ Such a long trip ! God, I’m starved ! What about you? Still breathing?”
“ Still breathing, yes. Here they come.”
The sound of forks and knives quickly replaced the tired words. The dessert brought me a stain on the dress, the pancakes were delicious.
“ I’d like some wine, you know…”
“ Wine with pancakes? Are you nuts?”
“ Just to end up the whole dinner, you know.”
“ Nope ! No wine ! We’ve got to take care of our students here.”
“ Right ! Unfortunately.”
We spent the next day visiting the whereabouts of the place. As much as I wished to see Mrs. V. stumbling and rolling down in front of me, her small face smashed and bleeding, well, it didn’t happen. If only I could have dragged her behind some bushes and pull her guts out ! “ No, no, come on, don’t get obsessed ! She’s just a tiny mouse. You know that two different persons at two different times compared you to Boticelli’s Venus; she doesn’t match you. Then how come they like her so much? Well, you mean, how come he likes her so much? Because she isn’t interested in him, while you are. Come on, just a tiny pregnant mouse !”
I put the shawl on my shoulders and sat down on the bank, looking over the huge lake. “ Well, my dear princess, it would’ve been so much better here in a room of your own. Right ! Instead, I have to share it with two monsters. Don’t talk like that of an innocent child ! And besides, this woman only wanted what’s best for you. She helped you a lot, she gave you presents… she understands you like him so much. Yes, you’re right, still I wish she didn’t exist. “ I approached the water slowly and threw a peeble in it, trying to grasp the depth of the lake. I wondered what it was like, to sleep on the bottom of it.
I entered the house and waited for dinner with the others.
“ They asked me to stay a little bit more with them after dinner in the living room… I hope I won’t be too tired by then… will you stay too?”
“ Of course I will. Why not? Doing what?”
“ Talking, I suppose… playing cards… stuff like that.”
They tried to engage us in “ Truth or Dare” and we refused at first. But they insisted, claiming that the questions were not out of place and that nobody knew to make the difference between lies and true statements.
“ Are you particularly interested in one of your students?”
“ No, not at all. “
“ Will you have a girl or a boy?”
“ It’s a girl.”
I was glad I wasn’t tired, because I intended to keep an eye on her all the time. I knew that some of them wanted to have sex with me and I didn’t care. No one matters more than the one u couldn’t conquer. If I had had a huge rubber ! Just to rub her face and his face out ! It was a tiresome job to be constantly attentive to evey word or gesture without leaving the slightest clue of my doing so !
Finally we went to bed. And as we crossed the hall I stopped and thought a second.
“ Are you coming?”
“ Do you mind if I enter the bathroom first? I’d like to have a shower.”
“ No problem, go.”
I had the nightgown on and was ready to unfold the bed when suddenly I had my mouth covered.
My eyes were quickly bound, not too tight. I felt two firm hands on my body and I immediately surrendered to their soft command. I was being kissed and caressed and didn’t give a damn on anything. And so much more… in about a quarter of an hour it was all over. I couldn’t catch a glimpse of the one who ran out of the room before I could unfold the scarf off my eyes.
“ What happened? Did you see a ghost or what?”
“ No, it’s just… nothing.”
“Relax, come on, let’s sleep.”
Breakfast had never been as problematic as then; I didn’t want to go downstairs to the dining room and still I was hungry; at last, tormented by one thousand thoughts, I entered the large room and took my seat near her. The plate was waiting for me. “ Why not look around?” I lifted my eyes and watched them in a very relaxed manner; yes, their faces were all on me and I didn’t give a damn ! I was trying to guess the guilty one by the way they looked; surprisingly, it was in vain. And then, one minute after, they all seemed just like yesterday; nothing had happened.
We talked the same while visiting the whereabouts; it puzzled me to think that they were actually able to hide it on their faces. I felt a sudden wish to drown, I wanted to be found all wrapped in silky veils on the bottom of the lake, my mouth full of water. I suddenly didn’t know what to make out of it; we were between the cold, wet walls of a no name monastery and I remained behind, feeling at ease with my new grief, though instantly remembering that doing so would most certainly betray me and make me vulnerable. So I walked again among them, moving my hips like I always did, not giving a damn. “ Exhibitionist ! He was right, the old man who knew me.”
Lunch was peaceful; I might’ve felt it joyful, it might just have been like a ripe pear fallen on the ground, spreading its nice smell all over… but it wasn’t. Not any longer, not to me. Dark shapes surrounded me, a promise of shudder; I wanted to shake it all off me.
All activities continued like that until evening; I feigned getting involved in them, laughing, smiling, even giving advice when needed; I was torn between hiding it deep inside of me and letting everything out. She noticed it, of course; she always noticed. I felt like talking to a close friend, but my best friend was home. “ It would be horrible to let it out, right? Why should I, if everybody knows it? It’s as clear as daylight. Why make a fool of myself and tell everybody? No, wait ! This is the best thing to do ! If you remain silent, they will think you feel ashamed. But you don’t, actually. You are angry, you are ravished, but you aren’t ashamed. Why should you be?”
We all gathered again at dinner and I tried to discover the guilty one again; it all seemed so useless as I knew there were at least ten of them who were attracted to me. “ Wait ! You’re right, but not all of them would have the courage to do it ! God ! What if… no, it can’t be ! It can’t be ! She was in the shower, for God’s sake ! I know we once talked about having fantasies with women but it was just talk ! And I would’ve certainly had other clues too.”
So there was again an assembly in the living room and they started “ Truth or Dare” just like the evening before. And there came my turn to ask.
“ Was it you who raped me yesterday night?”
There was a sound silence; I would have expected nothing less. I got up and walked to the center, in the middle of them. All of them were there, even the mummies, even the driver.
“ One of you raped me yesterday night in my room ! I don’t know who did it, he bound my eyes and told me to keep quiet, or else… I felt the blade of a knife at my neck.”
“ For God’s sake, miss !”
“ Oh my, it can’t be !”
“ What did you say? Oh , God !”
The entire room was now full of rumour; they all exchanged looks and words and gave me horrified faces. She looked at me as if I had exploded or so.
“Oh, poor you ! Why didn’t you tell me you were raped? Yesterday night? You mean… when? When I was in the shower? That is why you looked so scared? Why didn’t you tell? Who could do this to you?”
“Right, miss; who could do this and why?”
“Oh, no! You are lying! These are your students, miss! These are our children! Why would they do this?”
“ Yes, why? They are all good kids. No, you must be lying. You wanted to spoil our trip, right? You, young and lonely women, always in search of affairs, even with your own students! What kind of model are you for them?”
“ You’ve got no right to talk to me like this!”
“ And who gives you the right to talk like this of our children? Of your students?”
“ I wonder what the headmaster will think of it!”
“ She will think the way she has to think!”
As we all sat again in the bus, I sank into my grief afresh. I saw myself on the bottom of the lake, in a white satin dress, all wrapped in ethereal veils. I refused to think of what was going to come, I just couldn’t pull myself together. She tried to consolate me, the pregnant mouse. To think that she had problems too! Like everyone.
Then there were two big council sessions at school. I was declared a whore, a stain to their honour; I remembered the pancake stain on my dress. They all had miserable grey lives and I had brought a bit of colour; worried or merely amused, they all waited for the scaffold; at first only bits and wood, it rose higher each day in the schoolyard.
“ The whore will die on it! I can’t wait to see!”
“Yes, the whore will end on it!”
And then there was a third council session in the teacher’s room, and the headmaster, a most disgusting spinster, announced the day of my punishment. I stood up and looked into her insect-like eyes.
“ It won’t be me that day! It will be you! You will be beheaded, not me! I swear to God that this will be my revenge! I shall have your little funny name scratched onto that scaffold! You will haunt this place, not me!”
I looked out of the window and saw the scaffold bigger each day; I imagined they took turns the three of them – Mrs. V., the headmaster and him. And yet they all looked at me as if I was already an irremediable ghost.They opened the attic which had stayed locked for years; they intended to keep me there two days before everything happened, so I wouldn’t be able to escape. If he had been my knight he would’ve gladly taken all of it on him. To him I was probably a little girl who didn’t know what she wanted and was frightened; and I was determined to haunt all of them and each of the ones I hated. I still felt the waters wrapping my shoulders; no one would walk like me on the halls; they suffered, I knew they did, because none had my walk.
But there was this woman and her face shone in the evening. She was a warrior, had a lovely daughter and such a determined wish to save me and teach me how to fetch the other half of me from there. And a handsome man stood behind her.
“ He’s your lawyer. He’ll help you out of it. Together we will drag that idiot into mud and have her drowned.” And that was enough, since making life miserable for the three of them was too much to come true. But I wanted and I had sworn revenge and since this was what I had yearned for, then even one of them, the most hideous of them, would do.I was looking at me.
“ What are you doing here? We’ve been looking for you for days. Come!”
“ Leave me alone! It’s not me the one you’re looking for.”
“ Yes, it’s you. Please, give me your hand and come with us! Don’t you know us any more? Come, let’s go and leave this swamp!”
“ No, go away! I don’t know who you are!”
The strangers looked puzzled and had tears in their eyes. The sound of their resigned steps grew fainter and fainter.
The little child ran away frightened. “ Mum! Mum! I saw a woman…yes, dressed in white, sitting in the reed. She stretched her arm to me.”
“ You must be tired. There are no such things, my darling” , came his mother’s distant answer.
a young teacher goes on a school trip to a lake and has an unexpected affair with… and things get complicated in a would-be modern society