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SHIFTING SANDS


 

Shifting Sands is an emotionally charged story, set at the time which started with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

It is essentially a love story that proves love can survive against all odds – even against a tide of adversity which would cause normal humans to give up.  

Adriana never gives up on finding her first and true love, even though she is forced to marry another man during her journey through life.  

There is a happy ending to the story. 

Luminiţa Aldea is an excellent storyteller, describing with great detail the life in a village in the North East of Romania, a place that seems that the time has stood still for centuries.

In Store Price: $30.00 
Online Price:   $29.00

ISBN: 978-1-921574-85-6     Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 284
Genre:  Fiction/
Romanian fiction

Author: Luminiţa Aldea - translated by Peter Mamara
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2010
Language: English


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Chapter 1 (Part Sample)

She was always lucky in the month when the Linden trees were in bloom. Or maybe this was what she believed, that this particular month was her preferred month. But this time, it wasn’t so... She felt pain because she had lost, even with such ‘good cards’ that she had. She was hurt because she had hoped that something might change quicker after the 1989 revolution. And her hopes were wishful thinking. But it hurt her, mainly because she desperately needed a job, so she could help her family, her mum and her younger brothers, so they could survive. She had just finished a high school with an economic profile. But at the specialized subjects she had performed poorly. The only subject she liked, and she had studied with pleasure, was the Romanian language. At heart she felt she had a tie with the poet Eminescu. And she wrote uninspired verses in his sweet style.

The first two years of high school were before the 1989 revolution. For the political science subject, she had to buy newspapers from her last pennies. And this wasn’t everything. Because her form master, a teacher excessively zealous, was giving them a test paper on that awful topic. After December 1989 the same teacher had apologized, saying that he was forced to do what he did. And they went ahead, like the entire nation, fumbling about, looking for ways and new roads toward democracy, as the leaders were saying. The good for nothing, and the sons of the ones who lead us until the revolution, were such shocking politicians. Adriana had just finished high school. She found out that in her village, there was going to be held a contest for the job of librarian. So she put her name down for the exam. And she started to learn. It wasn’t that hard. Two weeks, it was enough time to get ready with the topic for the contest. Now, her mother’s words sounded in her head, like someone would’ve shouted those words through a loudspeaker. Now it was all over. And she lost the contest, after she had so much hope.

“Adriana, don’t hold too much hope. Because you can’t stand a chance to succeed, while the son of the former director of the Community Centre, also sits for that job. My dear daughter, you can learn how much you want, but this will count for nothing.”

“Mum, please, don’t discourage me. You know better than anyone, that the subject I liked the best at school, was the Romanian language. If you discourage me, I cannot learn any longer. And I want to sit for the exam and win, if I am the best. Mum, I believe in a world, where the best person has to win. Now, we build a world, where the right triumphs.”

Her mum looked at her amazed. And she whispered, just to herself, while she left the room.

“You dream, Adriana. And, when you’ll wake up...”

Adriana was the first to draw the lots for the contest. And when she had read on the card:  ‘The nature, described in Eminescu’s works,’ she felt how her heart fills with joy. She wrote page after page. It seemed she was scared that she wouldn’t have enough time to write everything. She didn’t look around. She wasn’t interested what the other contestants were doing. And she handed in her essay smiling, to the woman-president of the commission. She had been her teacher of the Romanian language as well, at the primary school. Her dream and her hope lasted until the evening, when she went to the Town Hall, and she saw the results. Her mum was right. First on the list was the son of the former manager of the Community Centre. The former manager was the candidate at the elections for the position of mayor. She felt that she wanted to grasp for air. She had ringing in her ear. Somebody called her by her name, and then grabbed her by her arm. When she became composed enough, she was already at the Town Hall, on a chair in the office of the Town’s Hall receptionist, who placed some papers in a dossier.

“Young lady, why have you become disoriented in this way? How many things, a person doesn’t lose in his or her life? And you are losing your cool, because you didn’t come first in a contest,” she said to Adriana.

Watching how the receptionist placed the papers in the folder, something about those papers looked familiar and known to Adriana. The words didn’t reach to Adriana’s ear, but were lost somewhere in the air. Well, a phrase hit her even harder than a fist might’ve hit her in the face.

“And at last, why can’t you believe you weren’t the best.”

She jumped, from the chair, like a spring. She pulled the dossier off the receptionist’ hand, when the receptionist had closed the dossier. She knew what was in the dossier. She also knew, what exactly seemed familiar to her. It was her own-handwriting. In the dossier were the essays from the contest. She turned the pages with emotion. She wanted to see, why she wasn’t the best. She wanted to be sure, so she could relax. A hysterical laugh had filled the room. It was a laugh mixed with crying, which frightened the receptionist and made her to lean on the wall. Adriana was sitting on a chair. She was dizzy, smiling and crying with strange sounds. The essay, which had won, it was one piece of paper. It was written only on three quarters of it. The guy who won, had written only that much on it about the great poet. She looked at her many written pages, filled with a small handwriting, and without a red dot on them. Yet the mark was 8.45 out of ten. It had the signature of the woman teacher who had guided her first steps to the love for poetry and the Romanian language. The guy, who had won the contest, had a mark of 8.50 out of 10. She laughed and cried... Tears rolled down her face. She was no longer the young woman who had told her mum only few days earlier:

“Mum, I believe in a world, where the best person shall win. Now, we build a world, where the right triumphs.”

But now she was a young woman of 18, who had just met Judas. And at her age, this thing hurts badly.

The receptionist took the dossier from Adriana’s hand.

“Adriana, calm down and go home. Please, don’t tell anyone that you had seen the papers. I don’t intend to get in trouble. Come on, calm down.”

Days on end, she had languished in bed. She didn’t need food. She didn’t want to come out of the house. But most importantly, she didn’t want to see anyone.

As the days went by, Adriana’s mother began to worry. Something in the young woman’s attitude seemed worrying. Even though her mum had swayed her to work in the fields, or work in the garden at home, or cook for the entire family.  Days and days went by. And she didn’t say a word.

Her mum saw her looking sometimes at the horizon, while in the fields. And suddenly it seemed to her that Adriana smiled. Only immediately after that, Adriana put her head on her own lap and stayed coiled for minutes at a time. She hardly touched the food. Her face became void of feelings and nearly plain. And it seemed that she had lost a bit of weight. Any attempt to speak to her, came to nothing. Her mum felt she was speaking to a stone. One day, her mum had an idea. She remembered how much Adriana begged her since she was 16 years old, to let her go to a disco at the neighbouring Ponds Village. Her father was extremely firm, even if her mum wanted to let her go out.

“I don’t need whores in my house!” said her father firmly, after another day spent at the pub. And he fell asleep straight away.

So this subject was left closed. But now, she risked another row with her husband, Vasile, when she could see her daughter so lost. He didn’t miss any occasion to remind her that he was the man of the house, and that he was in charge there. He matched his words, which included the most despicable of all curses, with a slap or two as a warning. It’s true, that the man of the house had not brought home any money for years. And he never came with a chocolate or with some sweets in his pocket, for his children. He spent all his earning as a tractor driver at the pub, where he wasted his time. And there were times when he’d earned good money. The guys at the pub kept away from him. He had only one subject of talk about: his family. And how well he keeps them in check. One could see him always at a table.

“I’m the man, in my home. My wife doesn’t even say a word against me, because I trample her under my feet. I have married off one of my daughters. I have one left. I’ll get rid of her, too. Then I am left with my sons. When my boys grow up, if they will be like me, then I force all my neighbours out. And I’ll be left alone,” he said.

He didn’t care what his wife did every day, so she could put food on the table. He had to eat, and then sleep, when he came home ‘tired’.

Her mother Coca had to talk to him. She had to convince him that their daughter has to get out of the house, now and then. She’ll come out of her hibernating state. Her father’s answer was as her mum had predicted.

“It’s enough for me to have an old whore in my house. I don’t need another whore.”

Coca put up with all his affronts. And she had got an answer before St. Mary’s day, after talks with him were going on throughout the fasting days. He was fed up.

“Well, I let her go. But you are responsible. If I get in trouble, I’ll kill you both. Do you understand?”  

  

On the 15th of August on St Mary’s day, all the neighbours’ daughters came to Adriana to take her to the disco. The sun was about to set. She had refused to go at first, but not strongly enough. She was fed up with the work in the fields and in the garden. She was exhausted psychologically by the heavy rains, which poured nearly everyday in the last month. It seemed that the last two warm days had brought her back to life, despite all that. That’s way she had not protested too firmly.

“I’m coming, girls. This is a new experience for me, after a summer of heavy work and without any satisfaction,” she said in the end.

She had thought for a moment. She didn’t wish to dress in the same way, even though her neighbours were wearing pants, which was standard dressing code at the disco. She put on her straight dress, cut to measure for her. It had no sleeve, and it was high above her knees. She wore it at the end of the high school’s party. In fact it was the only fancy dress that she had. And she said that it was the most beautiful dress. It was blue-green like the sky in summer. She had her hair, which was a bit red, in a ponytail with a ribbon of the same colour as her dress. She didn’t put make up. She didn’t know how to do it. And she came out of the house dressed in this way, at the same time with the other girl’s comments.

“This is not a dress for the disco. Why can’t you dress at least in some blue jeans and an outfit? And where have you found this green? It isn’t green. It’s blue,” said another girl.

“Shut up! It’s my first time at the disco. I get dressed the way I think it suits me. As for the colour of my dress, it is light blue-green. You should be sure about it.”

Coca looked at the gate and she smiled. She followed her daughter with her eye.

“I believe she comes to life, judging by the way she’d dressed. It’s good that I told my women neighbours to send their daughters to take my daughter too.”

 

She didn’t like the disco. When she entered, there were whistling and yells — some of admiration, and some taunting. It was crowded. It was noisy. It was dark and light. The music was wild and amplified to the maximum. Was it music? Well, it was a kind of rhymed cries. At these rap music tunes, the youth inside the hall, hit the floorboards with their feet, shook their hands, and got frantic.

Was it dance?  No! More likely it was a sort of African ritual. On the young guys’ faces, which were lit for an instant by the rotating light, one could read freedom, a kind of unshackling freedom. On their knee-jerk moves one could read a kind of independence. Adriana looked at this show, while she was alone in a corner of the dancing hall. She deemed that she couldn’t feel so free, by letting herself uninhibited in such a dance. She was waiting for other kind of music. She thought that those devilish steps couldn’t last the whole night. But if it does go on, she might as well get a gulp of fresh air. When she had reached the door, the lights were turned off, at the same time with the noisy music. After few moments there appeared warm lights, and the sounds of a song, which she had listened to, for thousands of times, it touched her hearing sense. The warm voice and the gentle sounds were surrounding her. She understood this. She liked this. Her preferred song, which was ‘Fresh water, salty water’ was streaming in the hall. The warm Latino song of Julio Iglesias had filled the hall. A hand had grabbed her arm. When she turned around, a shape with dark eyes was looking keenly at her. It was a shape she’d seen before.

“Don’t leave now. Dance with me. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you.”

They both turned through the hall in each other’s arm. Her hand was in his hand. It was hot and full of perspiration. The arm that he hugged her with, it seemed it burned her. She quivered a bit, with passion. She didn’t know how to dance well, but with him it wasn’t hard. She could dance without thinking. His head leaning on hers, gave her strange feelings. Without drinking, she was overwhelmed by a sweet drunkenness. The song had ended. They both sat quietly in the park, which surrounded the hall, where the disco was held. They sat on a bench, still wrapped in the enchantment of their dancing. She broke the silence.

“It seemed that you said you’ve waited for me.”

“My name is Ovidiu, Ovidiu Irimia. For years I’ve seen you at the bus stop. I think you have travelled to school. I waited eagerly at every disco event. Although I have to tell you, I don’t like that much, this kicking up of my heels, or better said, this ‘oinko’, how my maths-teacher at high school used to call it, just for the purpose of meeting a young woman with red hair.

“I don’t have red hair,” she suddenly had interrupted him, “I have brown hair.”

He placed a finger on her lips so he could make her shut up. Then he continued.

“Don’t interrupt me before I say everything I have to say. OK? So I have waited for a young woman with her hair black... which seems to me a bit red... with her green eyes, with few freckles, lithe, a bit tall... and I say, pretty.

But I’m afraid you might not agree, and you might jump and interrupt me...

For weeks in a row I’ve hoped to meet you. But you’ve never turned up. My friends, whom I’ve asked, said they know nothing about such a pretty young woman.”

“Am I pretty?”

“You see how quickly you start to contradict me? Look in the mirror more often, until you’ll convince yourself how you look. But until then, trust my word. You are as pretty as an angel, red haired you! And now, let’s go and see if we could still find a song, so on its rhythm we could dance.”

While dancing, she gazed at his face with tanned skin, with black wavy hair combed over his head. She looked at his dark eyes, which hypnotised her. Then she looked at his mouth. It seemed so nice, with the lower lip a bit larger than the upper lip. She raised her hand and she touched his lips. Then scared of her inadvertent gesture, she pulled her hand back. But he caught it in his hand. And he kissed Adriana’s every finger. And then he kissed her palm. Sweet feelings spread out through her body. Her heart has struggled in her chest, like a scared bird. It seemed to her that while dancing, her entire life becomes a dance. She heard his whispers in her ear.

“Do you know that your fingers taste like cherry jam, like bitter cherry jam? And I ask myself, how does your mouth taste, my pretty Adriana?”

She pulled back like a bow. And she slowly moved away from him. She was frightened. She had too many feelings. She had too many new things in her life, and she was frightened. He pressed her toward him, and leaned her head on his chest. He felt she was fearful and shy. He’d waited for her so long. So he realized that he could scare her off. And she might never come to see him again. He stroked her head, which leaned on his chest. And trying to calm her down, and rid her of her fears, he’d realized that he too, was swamped by strange and vague feelings.

“I think I might die of happiness, dancing with her in my arm,” he said to himself. “Then, what do I fear? When one grows new shoots, it hurts as when these shoots die,” the love goddess said.

“You know, Ovidiu, my younger brothers call me Adri. This is how they pronounced the first time. And since then, they called me Adri,” she whispered at his chest.

“Adri... Adri... I like how it sounds. I think that I’ll call you like that always. My Adri, with fingers which taste like bitter cherries jam, with whom I could dance my entire life. Would you let me take you home?

“No, it’s not possible,” she answered impulsively thinking of her father. “God, what a scandal he would make, if he’d found out that I came all the way from Ponds to Meadow’s Point, accompanied by a young man.” Her older sister never got outside the home. She has finished year 10 and then she got married.  Then, she was 16. Her husband, Costel is from Vaslui County. He came two or three times to visit some relatives who lived closed to Maria’s home. Maybe on a Sunday, outside the gate, they had exchanged two or three words. In the autumn, he came with his parents, and he married her. Now at her age of 22, she is pregnant with her third child. And Adriana had guessed, without talking to her, that she wasn’t that happy. She suspected that her sister wasn’t happy, because she rarely visited them, and she didn’t write to them at all. Sometimes she could hear her mum pleading with her father.

“Vasile let me go to Maria. She had just given birth. I want to help her with something. I want to see how she lives.”

“Coca, keep your mouth shut and don’t go anywhere. You helped her so much when she was at home. Now she has a husband and she lives at her home. I have nothing more to say.”

“No, I cannot let him take me home. When my father finds out, and in the village these things are easily found out, I think that at first he would beat up my mum, then... How do I know?”

“Ovidiu, you can’t possibly take me home. So we’ll be off on separate ways from here.”

“Promise me that you’ll come next Saturday, too.”

“I can’t give you my word. It doesn’t depend on me. But believe me, I want with all my heart for you to come.”

“I’ll wait for you until you come.”

A dream summer and autumn had followed. Her work in the fields wasn’t so tiring, no matter how hard it was. She was counting the days. She’d prayed to God, that her father shouldn’t be in a bad mood, and he would let her go. At night she dreamt that she danced with Ovidiu. In her dream, both his arms became lianas, and wrapped around her. His words, which were whispered while they’ve danced, were repeated in her mind. “You are pretty... You are pretty...” 

Even in her dreams she danced accompanied by Julio Iglesias’ voice, with her preferred song ‘Fresh water, salty water.’ She recited the verse of Nikita Stănescu: ‘Happiness, lift me up and hit my head on the stars’.

And she said laughing, that she doesn’t like any more Eminescu’s verse, which she preferred up until then: “I have never believed that I could ever learn to die.”

Eminescu’s verse was subliminal. Anyone, even without knowing that verse, he or she, lives it while going through life. But now, there was a place for the verse of N. Stănescu in her life. She was just living the happiness, which lifts one to heaven, and hits one’s head on the stars. The time when one learns to die will come later. Any mortal learns this. Coca saw how her daughter ‘blossoms’. And she saw the sparkling in her eye. She guessed that something in her daughter’s life becomes wonderful. She knew that her daughter forgot about that exam, which had shattered her. And she was happy for her daughter, who was able to live a time called ‘blossoming’. She looked back with sadness, to the time when she was young, and when she went through her life without ‘blossoming.’ In fact, how many women, are indeed ‘blossoming’ under their life’s burden? How many of them, go through life, other than change from a flower bud phase, straight to wilting stage? How many of them have the power to fight, and to tackle the problems, let alone to live the time of blossoming?  At a time, when it was meant for her to blossom, when she lived the sweet thrills, similar to these, which got hold of her daughter, Coca had been crushed...  Her kids were the only sun rays, which shone on her life. She lived for them. She fought for them. She hoped for them. She prayed alone, kneeled in front of the icon of Jesus Christ’s Mother.

“Holy Mother, please grant joy to my kids. Holy Mother, shine at least a bit of light into their life, since for myself, I don’t want a thing.”

There is a cruel fate, for the ones who reach the point when they don’t wish for anything. It’s also called Buddha’s wisdom.

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