I have managed to salvage this notebook I bought yesterday from my bag before they took everything else away. Hopefully it will keep me sane. I am writing these lines in what is certainly going to be my last room, and I hope that time will be granted to me to write everything I have to. To you who will read these words, I wish you well and hope you will be able to bring it to those who will know what to do with this. It may well be that you will find them a long time from now and in a world that will look nothing like the one I lived in. But I do hope that what has come to pass in your time will be happier than what I had to see during mine. Maybe you’ll find meaning in what seems meaningless to me right now.
My name is Estelle, I was born on September 11 2001 in New York almost a month and a half early while more than two thousands people were dying in the Twin Towers. Whether I was born under the wrong stars seems an interesting question considering my situation, but I never wondered until now. It had always seemed to me that I was born on that day for a specific reason since I was not expected before early November. It seems to me that I was destined to feel pain in ways that other people could not understand.
I had my first fore dream at the age of three; I did not know obviously. And at the time it seemed horrible to me. When events happened that were the same as in my dream, I tried to prevent it from happening but that day my sister went to her riding lesson anyway and she came back with a broken leg. The horse reared after jumping and she was unsaddled: she said that she should have expected the mare to do that because she did not put her gravity centre where it should have been and she was weighing on the front legs. It was nothing terrifying mind you; I fell quite a number of times myself and I am not such a bad rider although nothing compared to my sister. But then she was part of the national team for the Olympics before she got pregnant. Yet, to the little girl I was it was like dying.
The second one arrived a few weeks after my sister broke her leg.
I was three years old but I understood that day what horror really was and I experienced what it meant to be caught in a dream that you could not escape although that I did not understand. My sister said that I had moaned and cried for about ten minutes before she could wake me up, or rather before I sat bolt upright screaming, eyes wide-opened looking on some horror that I could not get rid of.
My mother was supposed to take the plane to Thailand; she was not going to spend Christmas with us because they were signing a huge client who was there on vacation. I dreamed of her at a restaurant with a grey bearded man whose skin was so dark it felt there was snow on his face. They were looking at what I now know were charts on a computer when people around started screaming. As both turned a gigantic wave appeared in front of their eyes; for a moment it seemed I was my mum and I was running away from the wave. But it was in vain and soon the water caught me at the ankles and I fell; but not on the dirty ground, rather the water caught me in its embrace and for a second it was reassuring. But then it was scary, I was shaken that way and the other trying to swim but fighting against a force that I did not understand and I could not breathe. When I tried I knew I had to stop. I could not breathe water or it would kill me. I wanted to scream but no sound escaped my mouth; there was light but I could not tell whether it was over me under me sideways. There was no way out. And suddenly I just stopped moving, stopped breathing; that was when I finally woke up.
My mother took me in their bed that night since my dad was on call at the hospital. He would only be coming back the next afternoon to spend Christmas with us. She called her boss the next day and said they’d have to send someone else because I was really sick and she could not leave. Not sure what else she told them but they agreed to send one of her colleagues who had worked closely with her on the project. A couple of days later a tsunami ravaged Thailand and Sri Lanka killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving even more in a dire situation. I remember my dad’s eyes tearing up and my mum taking me in her arms again. I don’t think she ever told my dad about my dream though even to this day. At the time I did not realize but she was different after that; she would always burn candles in my room to soothe me. I learned after that it was some sort of incense that was meant to render dreams less violent. Also if I ever mentioned I dreamt something, she would always take it into account, in a way that I could not always see but still.
And since then, the dreams have always been here, and I learnt to understand them better as time went on. Sometimes they were telling events of the day, sometimes stories, or people of a far ahead future. I dreamt the attacks on Madrid and London years before they happened; so many dead that were crawling in my dreams like zombies do in horror movies. I dreamt about things of importance and about events that were only crucial to the people they concerned. And I learnt that seeing the future is not as much a blessing as one could believe especially when one cannot change it.
But I dreamt them for as long as I can remember precisely any dream. I dreamt him first, his tanned skin, almost black and his emerald eyes. And the first time I dreamt the two of them, I was lying on a bed, I think, and they were both looking at me with sadness in their eyes. I dreamt them in the guise I would come to know so well many times before I could actually recognise them in any kind of dreams, even when they did not look anything like what they did in this life. And so, he would come before she would and he would show me the path to grow.
I remember the day I met him as if it were yesterday. I recall every single detail like a movie.
I had seen what he explained to me was his aura so many times before I actually met him, that I felt it before I turned and saw him sitting on the fence watching an obstacle course. I had accompanied Laure to a riding competition; he was his twin-brother’s driver for the same event. God knows that your legs ache at the end of lesson, all the more when you ride a complete day. He looked into my eyes at the same time I was and in that precise moment I knew my whole life would change. When our eyes met, I had the sudden feeling I was living an eternity, as if I had known him during all my previous lives. That was a curious thought for me, who had been raised as a Christian. To me, there was only one life and the beyond that depended on your actions on earth. And yet, this thought struck me hard and never left afterwards. I guess I had a fit because Laure was calling me, screaming hysterically that she would be late; she needed her saddle now! I felt like it was taking hours to reach the stall where she was with Antares. She had always been an astronomy fan and so she had named her horse after the most brilliant star of the Scorpio constellation, her astrological sign. As we were grooming and preparing the horse she felt chatty, as ever before a competition.
“He is here again… it is going to be a difficult competition.”
Whoever she was talking about… But she did not even stop to answer my silent interrogation.
“Most riders here can make the national championship. They’re all really good you know. But only the first three will.”
I don’t think that I ever saw her that concerned about her results, but then it was an important event, and sadly the parents could not be there, as mum had not managed to get a day off. It was a changing moment in our mother’s career and we both knew that some of our important moments she would miss. And dad had to be at the hospital for a transplant procedure. He had intended to come with us but had received the call about thirty minutes before we left. He had been very upset but there was nothing he could do; he was in charge of the organisation and after telling my sister the M word he had left for the hospital. So it was only the two of us and at the worst time because that competition would decide whether she was going to continue riding on the same routine as she had for the past ten years or if she was to reach a higher level… she was a little more stressed than usual.
“Don’t worry, you are going to perform just as well as usual and you are going to be just as fantastic as ever.”
“I can’t perform just as well as usual today. I have to be on top of everything. Oh well.”
“You are going to show them what it is like to ride.”
“Really? So Cassandra – she would always call me that way when she talked about what she called my visionary dreams – does this mean I win today?”
“Laure… you would not believe me you woman of little faith” I answered smirking, as I always did and we would finish laughing. This time was no different. She put her hat before she took Antares bridle and led him out of the stables. As she reached the door she turned and winked at me.
“Wish me luck.”
“Never!” It was another of our rituals… ever since she started competing. The only time I ever wished her luck, she finished fourth of the tournament, the place she hated most. She often said that she would rather finish last than fourth. I could understand that although I never really liked competition anyway.
After she left to meet her trainer on the other side of the compound, I went to sit on the fence. I had almost forgotten that so well known stranger, but not quite. And while I was pretending not to really take notice of him, I was attentive to his every move, where he looked, what he would let his eyes say about his feelings. It quickly was obvious that we were doing the same thing and so…
“Hi,” we said at the same time before laughing. I held out my hand.
“My name is Estelle”
“I am Maxim, nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you.” It seemed that we were both saying “pleased to finally meet you.” But none of us actually said so. “So Maxim, I take it you are not here to compete.
“Indeed, how do you know? Are you a Seer?”
“No… but I don’t see the boots, the hat nor the straw that should be stuck in your hair if you were riding today. Come to think of it you are wearing jeans. No one in their right mind would ever dare to come to a competition wearing jeans.
“Yes indeed. You have a keen eye.” He smiled. “And I guess the person who was with you just a moment ago is your sister.
“Yes she is.
“She’ll be tough competition for my brother, especially since he looks up to her as a model.
“What?” That one took me by surprise. He seemed to know more about me – well no about my sister – than I did about him or his brother.
“Well, look up may not be the exact word as he is taller than her but she is a year younger and has beaten him twice already, something he was not used to when we were in England. And I believe he likes her too although he will not tell me.
And then, it clicked; the he of moments before and the many comments that she had made over the past year about this new guy who had arrived on the circuit after winning so many trophies in UK and apparently some place else.
“You don’t happen to be Benjamin Calan’s brother by any chance?
“As a matter of fact, I am.
“Well, Laure keeps talking about your brother. She is all about how he won so many ribbons back in UK and I don’t know where else, and how he is such an artist when it comes to dressage. It looks like we have a match.
“No pun intended of course.
“You’re stealing the words from me… Anyway, Laure has always had issues with dressage and she tends to be wilder than the horse she is riding and that’s saying something considering Antares’ temper. She always finishes third and I don’t think she’s ever done better than this.
“It may still change. You never know, people tend to calm down when they grow older.
“Yes, sure… Not if she takes after my dad. And she does take after my dad. She has improved over the past years but it has taken hard work and long hours of her trainer yelling at her. I don’t even know how she still stands her.
“And you Estelle, do you ride yourself? You seem to know a lot, but the same could be said about me and I could not ride a horse if my life depended on it.
“Well I do, but not anything like my sister. This is not my talent; she is the athlete in the family and may well have a fantastic career but I am not fond of competition. I like sport mind you but… I like riding for leisure only. Laure’s trainer said that I could do something if I were working more but I really don’t like her. Anyway, it might be weird that your brother is so good and you can’t ride at all.
“Well, truth is that I am allergic. So any time I approach a horse too closely my eyes get swollen and well… it is nasty. You don’t want to know. I am only here because our parents could not be here today; an important meeting.” He rolled his eyes.
He told me some weeks later that his father was a diplomat and that he was constantly travelling or invited to some kind of parties. He had met his wife while he was posted in the United States twenty-five years before. She was from Britain and sent to the USA by her company to create a new branch in Washington DC. He and his brother were born in France but had spent most of their lives in different places; Benjamin’s trophies were indeed coming from UK but also Bahrain, Argentina, South Africa and even India. I can still remember how exotic these places sounded and how I wished I could spend some time there. I guess that meeting Maxim was crucial in deciding what path I would take for my studies. I had always liked travelling and my parents would always give us opportunities to travel; Laure and I had been to Britain, Germany, Ireland – where we spent three weeks horse riding and practicing English – even Tunisia where we had spent twelve days visiting some old Roman sites. But India, Argentina, it sounded like another world, one that was at once dangerous and fascinating to the 14-year-old girl I was.
Right then, we stopped talking for the speaker announced the beginning of the contest. We were both focusing on the riders; we knew enough of horse riding, having followed our siblings in their “adventures” to foresee falls or failures or when a horse would cause a bar to fall off the obstacles. And yet, was it only knowledge? At this time, I did not know. But we did have a great time and nothing really mattered. The only thing that ended being of some importance despite our long foreseen meeting was the look Laure and Benjamin exchanged when she received her bouquet with the first place award of the competition and he the second. She had finished second in the dressage part of the contest and he had finished third in the jumping for he had messed up with his time. More than love of horse and riding was bringing this two together and so was it for Maxim and me although I knew from the first second that however much he and our meeting fascinated me, he would and could never be for me what Benjamin would be for my sister. And then, as I look at it today he probably has been more to me than Ben was for Laure although I am not so sure it is comparable.