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THE SPELL OF THE DWARFS

“Who are you talking with and why are you sitting in the rain?”, Richard asked as he was crossing the lawn. Big, green, wonderful. A typical family, perfect one. 

“With no one!”, Carol answered absently,but with a big smile by default.  
“I understand everything.”he was still walking while talking to her, who was sitting in the wet grass,”But dwarfs!?” 
 
“Excuse me, but what is wrong with them? They are cute!” Carol was defending them, like she felt obliged, as they were not capable to defend themselves! 
She loves the delusion. 
“Only four of them? Where are the others, still sleeping? Hangover?”
 Richard was chuckling.  
“No!”, Carol rolled her eyes and the absent look left her for the moment. 
“They went shopping”, she smiled.  
“Aha, I am sorry. So,you call ‘went shopping’, when somebody is totally wasted and sleeping under some bar stool! Please honey, send me to that shopping also, please.” Now, he was so close to her, he hugged her and 
they fell together into the wet grass. 
“Stop, stop! My dwarfs are not some scums.”  
“And what about the Snow White?” 
“What about the Snow White?”, Carol repeats and the absent look is back on her face. 
They were together since forever, how their friends usually were saying. When they first met, they were nine. When they drank first milkshake together, ten, the first kiss, thirteen, the beer and a little more than kiss, fifteen. The rest of the story brings them to a wonderful garden, a typical family. A perfect one.  
When they were twenty-six, they both finished the university at the same time and they decided to get married. The families wished that to be the wedding with big “W”, a glamorous wedding dress, two hundred guests, the chair covers wrapped with a powder pink ribbon and the first dance with the tune of Sinatra. But, in the end, they followed Frank’s style and they did it their way. In the City Hall, on a quiet ordinary Friday afternoon, at 2 pm. The same day, they flew to Prague, for the weekend, with a small hand luggage and huge smile on their faces. 
Richard likes Eastern Europe more than the West. There were no political beliefs, or anything similar. There was only a principle he was following so loyal since the time he was eighteen, when his father divorced from his mother, left the family and got married with some Claire from a village in south France. Then, Richard decided to protest. Since he could not protest his father as he needed to see him from time to time, he decided to protest the West. And, as Prague was not in the West and it was one of the rare places in Europe, which Carol hadn’t visited, it seemed like a perfect location. 
Sometimes, Richard brings back the memory of the moment, when he asked Carol an unreasonable question. Were those three splendid days of honeymoon, with high percentage of Czech beer in their blood, enough to be prepared for everything that was waiting for them in the future?,and naively,“Yes,of course!” was the loudest answer they could shout simultaneously, followed by a giggling. 
When they were twenty-seven, they started to work on their careers and plans for the future. Traveling, exploring the world, retirement, even though nobody thought about that at that moment, their family and its expansion. Richard worked as a software developer and Carol had a position in a big company. She was responsible of public relations and advertisement. Both had strong beliefs, both were hard working and self disciplined, and until they were thirty, they managed to make their names in the respective sectors.
  
They were successful, they were young and they were happy. They were inspirations for each other, as for other people as well. 
When they were thirty-four, the family expanded. His name was Laki. A Yugoslavian Shepherd dog, he was eight months old, when they had him. Even he was a baby, he already could jump very high and he could bark very loud. He could have protected not one, not two, but plenty of kids. Exactly as many as Carol wanted to have. The same year, with the recommendation of their doctor, they decided to visit an expert in artificial insemination. 
When they were thirty-seven, Carol decided to quit her job and focus on the house, the garden, doing sports and herself. On the other hand, Richard was in awe of rafting, a hobby which became more frequent as the days passed, and therefore Carol had to occupy herself as much as possible.
  
They were not a kind of a couple who were constantly and necessarily together. The proper metaphor for them would not be the invisible marine knot tied around their arms, their moves, their thoughts . If someone called one of them , it wouldn’t inevitably mean either Richard or Carol, and an automatic plus one. Plus one was between them, in their world, but it didn’t mean for the outer world. They had their separate lives with separate friends, the activities in their own time. But they always were there for each other when they needed, or it used to be like that. 
Somewhere between decorating the house, the garden, ordering things from the TV Shop and Richard’s paddling through the wild waves of a cold emerald river, Carol started to lose weight. So fast, that the clothes of her started to become so big, even though they were fitting her just couple of weeks ago. With a freshly renovated house and as Laki already grew up enough to be a boy, she was most of the time in the garden among the flowers and the dwarfs. 
When she was thirty-eight, in their bedroom, between the intimacy, the memories and two lost souls, there was a brown envelope with the results of different kinds of tests, getting bigger day by day. According to the doctors, they only needed time and to be patient. Only that. 
Carol always loved cartoons. Until she was thirteen, she was watching them all the time. And after she stopped working, she started to watch them again. She decorated one room to look like from a fairy tale, so authentic. It could be for a boy, or for a girl. It was fully equipped with furniture and it seemed completely ready. Laki usually spent time there, except at nights when he was in the garden. Wonderful, a typical family, perfect one. Yet, apart from the breathe of Laki and the ticktocks of the clock, there were no other sounds in the room. 
Even though Laki came and the family expanded for one member, the fairy tale room had still no sound. So, they decided to find someone, or to be found by someone. In the bar called Ellipsis, they occasionally visited, they met him, Mr. Lilovic. He was a funny, charismatic guy in mid fifties. He was a therapist and after the nights they spent together at Ellipsis, he became Richard and Carol’s therapist. Dr. Lilovic. He got to know Richard and Carol very well as a couple and each of them as individuals, as well. While their friends and their families were commenting that it is not good for them and not professional for Dr. Li, Richard and Carol again did it their way. During the sessions, Dr. Li was their therapist and after that, they were his. For the three years of their regular therapeutic and friendly meetings, they found out lots of things. For example, Dr. Li had two failed marriages and three kids. They never learned the real reasons behind Dr Li’s divorces, but they knew, he was not allowed to see his kids. And mostly he’s single. A fashion lover and as he wanted, in a way, to be in touch with the whole world, he passionately followed the news around the globe. He liked various kinds of cuisines, animals, fado, tennis and rafting also. He liked rafting very much and very soon after they met, he was already part of Richard’s rafting crew.  
“I see how much is he helping you,” Carol’s brother was ironic about Dr. Lilovic, while they were having the family dinner.  
One more time Richard called at the last moment to apologize for not being able to join for dinner and eat moussaka and green salad which Carol’s mother Ereni was preparing. So spontaneous, or maybe not, that Sunday evening, who knows for which time, Carol was eating dinner with her mother and brother. Only three of them. 
“And Richard?” Philip kept talking, ”Respect to his university, his master degree and PhD, and all Shanghai, Geneva, New Delhi and whichever conferences he attends. But as you see more often that therapist, I see you guys more like a fake couple who just get together for the front page of some ‘happy family’ magazine, if I can see you together at all.”  
“What are you talking about? It is not true.” Carol found herself insulted. 
Philip is an older brother of Carol, his beliefs and ideology are totally different not only from Carol, but the whole family. Mostly in the house all day, in his underwear, without a proper job and a relationship, only missing a spear which would fit him perfectly, he always uses opportunity to say that he is “the man”. The strong one. And he trusts only to himself. So, logically he will never support the therapy, or any other such type of money traps, as he would call. Drinking, the sports and the hot girls would cost ten times less than Dr. Li and his bullshit.
“He is robbing you guys and making the things worse.” 
“And I will not exaggerate if I say that I start to believe that Richard is …”
“Enough!”, Ereni overrode her son, the god of masculinity. 
Philip didn’t say a word until they finished the dinner. And after that also.  
Ereni was a fantastic cook, with plenty of books with old recipes from her Greek grandmother. She is an experienced journalist, who traveled the world which helped her to develop some skills which nobody else had in the family. She was not too much talkative, but she was a very good listener and even better observer. She was sensitive, intuitive and after all, she was a mother who knows her kids. She was a widow who means enough when she says “Enough!”. 
Ereni could not get rid of the fact that she was seeing Carol from Philip’s angle. She was not quiet sure about which part of her thoughts were nodding to his words, but all of them made her worried. And picture of Carol getting thinner and thinner made her more helpless. The helplessness and the fear had intercepted when Carol was talking about the dwarfs.Then, Ereni’s fear becomes invisible as her feelings become overwhelming. And her instincts tell her that everything is just a small companion of something big. Like a herald waiting for his trumpet. 
      
“And Richard?”, Ereni with a question interrupts her own thoughts as she tries to hide from them. 
“What about Richard?”, Carol repeats it with an uninterested tone still struggling with the potato in her plate. 
Richard sees everything. No matter how often he was not at home, or how many times he skipped Sunday dinner with Carol’s family, it was in front of his eyes. Just, he was simply busy. He was busy with his work, with his colleagues and rafting. Mostly with rafting. He was hosting selfish part of himself between him and his wife. Life generally. With his other, real one. The life where he can be who he is, where he can love the way he can and not to say, or to show to his wife. He liked Dr. Li from the very first moment. Rafting was his curtain. Not only for him, but for the most of the guys he was seeing for the last couple of years. There were so many things which would fill his diary, that he wanted to start writing so many times. 
Since his early years, he knew he was gay, of course. He started to think about that after the first milkshake he and Carol had, when they were ten and he was sure after their first kiss when they were thirteen and absolutely sure after beer and a little more when they were fifteen. But he chose to live like that. There is nobody including himself to explain why it was like that. That is not something he owes to the Dr. Li, or to Zahar, the team leader in his company and later to the cute guy named Tom from the coffee store, or even to himself. He owes that to Carol, his very best friend. His truly, for better or worse, or richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, other half. The question was when he will stop.   
What was happening before Carol, he couldn’t remember. What he was remembering was that he loved during the time with Carol. And after? Is there a time after Carol? Is it possible that to exist? The cramp inside Richard’s stomach reminded him that was one of the questions he should have asked himself. 
But he was not ready for that.
  
“Not now!” Richard said it loudly taking a glance at his face, for a moment, in the rear-view mirror while he was driving back home to finish a rafting weekend, who knows for how many times in the last couple of months. 
As he was approaching the house, the beautiful view took him away from his secret reality for one second, and showed him another reality. The garden, his lovely wife who was talking with garden dwarfs in the rain, losing her mind and health, in front of his eyes.  
When they were forty-two, the brown envelope full of the results stopped growing. The fairy tale room was only filled with the breathe of Laki and the ticktocks of the clock. No speech, or music, no laugh, or cry. No life. Just the sound of the silence. 
Dressed in the long yellow skirt and the over sized blue shirt, Carol was standing at the window and looking through it. How will they survive, she was asking herself. The fear for them and their future was taking her breath away. The wind was bringing the smell of chestnut and it started to rain. She got out from the house and sit on the grass. She loves to talk with them and to laugh with them. She loves herself when she is with them. She loves when she is the Snow White. The fears disappear with them.  
 
And also, she loves the delusion.
  
Did I mention you that?

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