That morning seemed like any other, until Yaron came upstairs to breakfast in Mrs Malíkovás kitchen. In the kitchen everything turned upside down, because breakfast wasnt ready, even though Mrs Malíková was sitting there, and seemed to have been sitting there for quite some time already. Yaron had no objections whatsoever against the nonexistent breakfast; many times, before he moved in here, had he prepared breakfast for himself and Mrs Malíkovás practice was in fact still embarrassing him after the three years. But there was something about Mrs Malíková which he felt strongly obliged to have objections to. She was sitting on his chair, her chin in her hands, her brows frowned and her eyes watery. And that wasnt normal.
Good morning, Yaron said, with an awkward feeling that it really wasnt the right thing to say.
Good for you, but not for me anymore, Mrs Malíková replied. This was more than usual. There was even more to come and Yaron waited for it.
My son and his wife died this morning. A car crash. They called me from the hospital in Třebíč a while ago.
That was it; but still there was more. Yaron waited for the more.
Ill have to go there, for about a week. To take care of the funeral and such things.
And to look after Janina, in the first place. Shell have to come live with me. To change school. Find new friends. This isnt going to be easy.
This was usual Mrs Malíková talking again, thinking of things to be done. Not fully, though, the watery eyes werent quite the same. But the words told Yaron the way he chose to behave was the right one.
I shall make the breakfast today, Yaron said at last. He poured water into the kettle and turned it on. Then he took out the bread and started slicing it.
You make big slices, Yaron.
Im sorry. I cant do better.
No problem, theres always the same loaf of bread eaten in the end. But, please, try to do better for me.
Youll have to take care of this place while Im gone. You know where the papers are. And where the bureaus are.
Sure, no problem. Yaron turned off the kettle before it would blast. I already know how this place works.
You do, Mrs Malíková said, with a nod and a smile. The first smile of that morning; Yaron could be proud to be the one to bring it to her face, but he was trying to cut thinner slices instead.
Janina was crying.
Before she started crying, though, she made sure there was no one to see or hear her. Well, there was grandma in the neighbouring room. But grandma could hear her all right. Grandma knew.
The others didnt. They thought they did, and some tried hard to do, but they simply couldnt.
The worst part was they didnt know they couldnt.
They were bringing her sweets, candies and candy words. And they were saying how these cant substitute her parents, but deep down inside they obviously thought they could, otherwise they wouldnt be giving them to her.
Grandma knew better. She wasnt giving anything to her, she only was there. There wasnt more she could give.
There were some really nice people actually, for example the minister. He said some wise things in the church, but it all seemed so distant, like talking about somebody else. Nobody could know what they really were like, just Janina and grandma. And nobody could know what was forever lost.
Even the lovely white wood of her room seemed insignificant now, and she had always loved her room more than any other place on the Earth. But what was having lovely white wood in your room for, when the one you had chosen it with was gone? Janina would paint it all black if she had the paint. She had just one black marker and that could make only little black pictures. There was no use in little black pictures, they looked more funny than mournful.
Not even the shiny black slippers and black jacket and black skirt and black velvet ribbon in her blonde hair could suffice. Nothing could. The whole world would have to turn black, and her blonde hair in the first place or maybe that one could turn grey; but the only thing Janina found out was the discovery that night isnt as black as she had always thought it to be.
For the first time in her life she slept without her Teddy, but it didnt help her feel more grown up. In fact, it made her feel even more like a little girl without her parents. And it was worse than the holiday camp this summer, because there was nowhere she could go back. Even in her dreams she knew.
If only they hadnt gone by car that day...
Maybe grandma was right. Grandma never drove. She didnt have driving licence. She always went by train when possible. Janina thought she could never sit in a car again. Cars were dangerous. More dangerous than she had ever thought of. They took from you what you loved at the most unexpected moments. As she had heard, it had happened to grandpa before. She never met him. And she preferred not to think about it in much detail, especially not now.
Without noticing it, she wasnt crying anymore. Grandma stood in the door, looking at her so sadly and with so much love that it almost made her cry again, but somehow she had ran out of tears or what. So they were just looking at each other and not saying anything, until grandma told her to pack the most important things because they would be leaving tomorrow. Of course grandma would help with the packing, but only help.
With rambling and jolting the train left the station in Kolín and started cutting off the last kilometres from the route to Prague. Stations ran past the open windows. The featherlight fluffy flying white thing that resembled a big dandelion seed and which Janina had chased away outdoors was inside again. Maybe it was another one.
There must be a limit of misery somewhere in every human, Janina thought. However hard she tried, she couldnt overlook a certain aspect of adventure in this journey to Prague, in this journey to live in Prague. Maybe it was because they were travelling by train. Travelling by train was always something special for Janina, it was a trip, a dream journey. This dream started as a nightmare, but there was something magical in it now. Janina still wasnt quite sure whether it wasnt dark magic, though.
But she was prepared to get out of the train in Prague and go live there. Yes, definitely she was.
Prague is a big city. Everyone had been telling her so. She was quite surprised they were, because she had already been to Prague several times, so what was there not to know? She knew grandmas house, it was close to the centre in a quiet street, a big old house. It wasnt home, but when she had to be somewhere else, this was definitely the least of evils.
She knew the train station as well. It was huge, but she knew which way to take to get out to the park and through it to the trams. And grandma was there if something went wrong. Nothing did.
The trams were also familiar. Painted red and making those sounds, Janina knew them well. You had to remember to mark your ticket, that was all. And then to remember where to get out of them, but that was no problem either. First, Janina knew that place. Second, even if she didnt remember, grandma was there to tell.
And then they got out of the tram right into a street being repaired, there were holes in it, people in bright vests working with noisy instruments, cars swishing past them and always a tad too close; and Janina got scared like a little bird. The limit of misery wasnt reached yet. This wasnt home.
Grandmas house seemed different.
Of course, Janina had been to it several times before. But she had always visited at weekends when there was only grandma and them. You could see traces of the wild life of everyday here and there, spots of colour on tables, crumbs of clay cracking under your feet, pictures that werent made by grandmas grandchildren, musical instruments lying at unexpected places. The guitar, for example. It had been there for almost three years and Janina always wondered who played it; grandma didnt for sure, grandma only occasionally played the piano. But at the weekends when they were visiting, it was always grandmas house, nothing else. A house that sort of resembled an enchanted castle.
Now the enchantment was gone. Or, to be exact, there was another kind of spell in it now.
There was a bunch of kids in the hall, loud and querulous kids. Grandma seemed to like them, no matter how roguish they were; they were saying things grandma would never stand if Janina said them, and yet here she just slightly frowned and said something like Easy, boys.
And, strange thing, it seemed to work. For a while at least.
And then there was the staff. A bunch of grown up kids, grandma said. She definitely was the oldest one. And the one in charge of them all and this whole place. Janina had known something, but she had never seen grandma really doing what she had heard she was doing. Charity, it was called. But it seemed more like life itself.
The staff. Mrs Malíková wanted them to be nice to Janina and to help her find a new home here. She told it to each of them respectively, and expected them to do what they were told. They usually did, each of them in their own way.
However, this task was very difficult. They had usually undergone some sort of social courses, and some had already undergone some sort of social practice, but this issue resembled a box full of glass too much. You didnt know how to touch it and you were asked to lift it.
The first one to be confronted with this jingling little girl was Petr, and Mrs Malíková wasnt satisfied. Petr said just Hi there, I bet youre the one wholl be living here now. Mrs Malíková was positively convinced this wasnt all he could have said, and indeed it wasnt. There was a lot of things he had thought of saying, but when the moment came, this was all that seemed appropriate. In the end Mrs Malíková thought she really couldnt ask more of him, he had always been as straightforward as that. In fact, hes become much more bearable in the last three years...
Janina observed him very carefully. He was quite obviously the kind of boy she should be afraid of. Boys like this one fight at corners and you have to go around them as far as possible. And if she had met him somewhere else, she would have done it even if he wasnt in fight. But here she stood in front of him, with just about a meter in between them, and she had to decide quickly whether she liked him or not. Quite to her own surprise, she did like him. Underneath the ordinary, common words of welcome there also stood You bet Ill stand up for you if you need it.
Right now he didnt seem like the kind of standing up she needed, but it was nice to know he would be there if necessary.
Then she learned his name and was taken upstairs to meet the rest of the staff who were there that day. They gathered in the great hall; it was a big and almost empty room, Janina knew it was used for exhibitions or concerts sometimes. It was definitely strange to have an exhibition room and concert hall in your house, but grandma didnt seem to be bothered by that. She must have been used to it already.
There were three guys and two young women. Those welcomed her as the first ones. Candy words again, but you could feel they tried hard, and Janina had to reward them with a slight smile. Then the women left, because they had other things to do, and Janina was glad they did, because strange people were still disturbing her, no matter how kindly they treated her.
The guys seemed to be almost as disturbed by her as she was by them. The first one left very quickly, too. Mrs Malíková was starting to feel really bad about the staff. They all seemed afraid of Janina, all except Petr and Petr was quite vulgar; she really didnt want him to be the one to take care of Janina in the moments when she was too busy, and she knew such moments would come soon.
The two guys left for Janinas inspection were both tall, remarkable men. The one standing in the middle of the room was big, muscular, smiling nervously. A blue-eyed, brown-haired sportsman; nice, but embarrassed by the situation to the bone.
The other one sat on a single chair in one corner, long legs in ragged jeans stretched in front of him, long black hair in a ponytail thrown over left shoulder. Greyish eyes fixed on Janina. A disturbing gaze indeed; he was a strong person. If grandma werent in charge of this place, he would be. Janina felt she could very well be afraid of him, even more than of Petr. She didnt know how to decide about this man. This decision had to take longer time.
Grandma introduced the brown-haired one as Jarda, in charge of sports and games.
Hello, little one, Jarda said. Im sure in time youll like it here, theres a lot of fun here.
Janina frowned. She wouldnt like Jarda, she was sure about it.
The tall, black- and longhaired man in the corner frowned back, deep in thought.
I might actually like him, Janina thought. Hes not quite the nicest type, but he doesnt say anything, and thats a good start.
This is Yaron, grandma introduced him. Hes the longest-serving volunteer here, he came here when I started it all over... thats when you moved to Třebíč.
Which makes it almost three years, Yaron added. Thats a big deal and entirely entitles me to the honourable position of the longest-serving worker here.
He dared to use irony. And yet there was something very serious in his words, something noble. Janina felt that even though he was ironic, he knew perfectly well why he was saying what he was saying and stood up for every word of it. She decided she really liked him.
Several days had passed, and in spite of several serious talks with grandma, not much had changed in Janina. She didnt let this place get into her, in her mind she was still in Třebíč. Not even the fact she started going to school here could do anything with it. This wasnt her home, she had made up her mind about it already and didnt want it to be moved. So it stayed.
Above all, the people here were not her family. She lost the major part of it and there was no one who could substitute for the loss.
It was a big city. Big city indeed, and strange, and alien. Plus rowdy and yet secluded people for whom this city was the whole life. She really didnt belong here.
The fact she was sitting on the stairs, instead of enjoying the free time after school another way, didnt help her mood much, and to top it all she actually wanted to be sitting there in that mood.
Why so glum, lady?
Yaron stood above her. No wonder, he lived downstairs, she must have been the first thing he saw when he stepped out of his flat.
I have no reason to be happy.
He sat down on the steps next to her. Janina still wondered how gracious his movements were. When she saw his clothing, the ragged jeans, broken sneakers, loose-fitting long sweaters, she somehow expected him to be clumsy. But he wasnt. His movements were just like his speech.
I think you have many reasons to be sad, but sad is not the same as glum. What makes you glum?
Everyone keeps telling me how Im going to like it here, it really starts to be annoying.
Yaron could have said he had never told her that, but he kept quiet.
Do you like it here? Janina turned to him.
He spoke slowly, clearly, weighing every word.
Yes, I do like it here. It is a beautiful house, with all the domed vaults, these wooden spiral stairs and the thick, worthy walls around. I like living here.
I hate it, Janina stated, convinced of what she was saying. Its old, and theres centuries old dirt all over it. The closets on toilets are loose, at least the girls closet is.
The male one is as well.
Here you go. And there are spiders in the bathrooms.
Do you have phobia?
No, but theyre ugly. And there are the noisy kids everywhere. Theyre total strangers to me and everyone expects me to be friends with them. I dont want to.
Its very reasonable now, Yaron admitted.
But wanting to be enemies with them isnt.
Who told you that?
You, with the way youre talking about them and looking at them.
Yaron, I cant simply make friends with everyone I meet. I cant make friends with anyone. Theres no point in it now.
But maybe you already made friends with me? Yaron suggested.
No! Janina screamed and ran away upstairs.
Yaron sighed. This definitely needed to be discussed with someone wiser than him.
It was a cold, windy and damp day. After he had rung at Čerhans door, Yaron had to turn up his collar, thrust his hands into his pockets and pace around in small circles. Even though he was waiting in the narrow by-way dead end, the wind was getting at him.
Finally the door opened. Anče stood behind it, wrapped in two sweaters.
Oh, hi! Come in quickly, its cold.
You tell me.
He stepped in and Anče slammed the door behind him.
Want to talk to Pavel? she asked.
Dads in the kitchen. Now excuse me, Im hurrying back to the warmth of my royal chambers.
And she really hurried away.
Yaron nodded with a smile. He left his shoes and jacket in the hall and went to the kitchen.
What makes you go outdoors in a day like this? were Vladykas welcoming words.
Despite these words, his red ears and cheeks and slightly running nose spoke clearly of a substantial time spent outdoors as well. He was sitting on a chair at the dining table and curing himself with a cup of hot cocoa.
I need to talk to you.
You could easily phone me.
I need to talk to you face to face.
Vladyka looked up at him with a thoughtful expression.
This is going to take some time. Sit down and help yourself with whatever you like.
Come on, at least a cup of tea. Its deadly weather out there. Its over there in the thermal bottle.
Just hazardous, not deadly, Yaron pointed out and helped himself with a cup of tea from the bottle standing on one of the counters. Then he sat down on the old couch in the corner at the entrance door. The couch belonged to the congregation and Vladyka claimed it was centuries old. As far as Yaron knew, it could easily be true.
Vladyka sat the other way round on his chair, balancing his cup on the back of it. He looked at Yaron patiently, waiting for something to come. And it came soon.
How would you treat a ten-year-old girl whos just lost her parents?
Vladyka looked into his cup, slowly turning it around in his fingers, feeling the warmth getting into them.
I guess Id just treat her like I treat anybody else, hoping it would help.
Thats the only thing I could think of as well, Yaron replied with a nod.
Well, I didnt help you much then.
Yaron shook his head with disagreement.
Just the fact were sitting in front of each other like this helps a lot.
Thats the reason why Im a minister, I guess.
Sipping from their cups, they sat in front of each other as Yaron noted, and appreciated the presence of each other.
You were visiting someone? Yaron asked.
A lot of people. Many people get ill in this weather. The elder ones bear with it badly.
What a lucky person I am to be this age and so healthy! Yaron exclaimed, slightly exaggeratedly.
Vladyka laughed and continued talking:
Seriously, theres a lot you can learn from them. Most of the time it seems just like old people complaining about weather and colds and having lost all people they used to know, but...
Wait. Youve said something important now.
Having lost all the people they used to know, you mean?
Im not sure if it helps. Its a different case.
Maybe it is... But I know what you were aiming at before I interrupted you, and maybe theres someone out there who could help me more than you.
As far as I know, you know enough yourself, Vladyka pointed out carefully. Yaron felt the carefulness, and knew perfectly well what Vladykas words meant, but still they reached a spot that somehow hurt.
Oh... Id love to forget about that.
But why? Vladyka objected. Its gone now, I can tell. However, you have the experience. Enough of it to share.
I was older than her. And I should have known better.
Now you do know better, Vladyka smiled.
I dont want her to end up like me at that time.
Thats why you shouldnt forget about that, Vladyka explained.
Yaron stood up and said:
I guess thats all you can tell me.
More or less, Vladyka agreed.
And now its up to me.
Thank you for the advice, then. Now Im going to live with it.
Youre welcome. And anytime you need another cup of tea, feel free to come.
Yaron put the cup on the counter.
No problem if I leave it here?
Get out, you fool, if youre getting out.
The wind was getting wilder and wilder and a heavy rain started in addition to it. Janina sat in her new room, flipping through the pages of a colourful magazine without really looking at them, and suddenly she realised what Yaron meant by liking this house. The thick, worthy walls... they were very comforting in this kind of weather indeed.
Apologising is never easy.
Janina did it, though.
She hurried downstairs. The kids were coming, greeting her in their rowdy way, and she looked out for Yaron among them, with a more and more desperate feeling. She didnt see him, and she didnt want to ask.
There he was! - at the front door, taking off his jacket, his long hair soaking wet from the rain. She ran to him, before any other kid would usurp him.
Im sorry I was so harsh on you, Yaron. I didnt mean it. I like you. I want to be friends with you. I just feel its so bad to make new friends now.
Now means now that your parents are dead?
Strange thing: he was the first one to say it openly and it hurt much less than she thought it would.
Yes, thats it, she replied with a nod. It just makes life seem so pointless.
Your parents are dead, but you are alive, lady.
I cant get used to it, Janina complained.
Sure, it takes some time.
So you dont mind that it takes me long time?
Not really. I just dont like seeing you making it harder for yourself, thats all.
He seemed to know really well what he was talking about. Janina wondered what it was, but she didnt know how to ask him. And he didnt seem to be willing to talk about it right now. She left him and went to the kitchen to find something tasty for herself, quite content for the moment.
It turned out the reason he hadnt wanted to talk much more must have been the fact he had had to start a music session with the kids. She heard the voices and tones from the great hall. Noisy kids intervening into her life again...
The guitar was Yarons! How could she overlook that fact? For three years the guitar had been here and its the time he had been here. He made music. He had music lessons with the kids, thats why he was here. A volunteering musician, thats what he was.
And he played wonderfully.
He played better than wonderfully. His music lived.
And the kids music lived as well. They werent a noisy bunch anymore, in music their lively personalities clicked into the right places. The song they were singing now had no words she could understand, but there was something else in it that called out to her to be understood.
Janina stepped out of the kitchen.
She learned some more things about everyone, including Yaron; mainly from Petr who obviously felt obliged to guide her through this place and its frequenters if she lets him. That day she did let him and Petr used it fully. There wasnt anyone left in the room he hadnt mentioned, but Janina was particularly interested in Yaron.
He plays great, she noted after she had undergone Petrs usual introduction to a person, including such pieces of information like what the person does for school or job (in Yarons case this information was served in the form of enigmatic words professional volunteer).
Sure he does, he even plays in a band, Petr boasted about Yaron. Seven Ravens.
Thats the name of the band? Ive never heard of it.
Yes. Theyre just starting.
Its after the fairy tale, do you know it? Yaron said, entering the conversation. He didnt want Petr to say everything instead of him, not about this issue in particular.
Oh, sure... but its quite a scary one. Why did you call yourself like that?
Because of the seven brothers.
Whoops, its you and your six brothers?
No, just two. And four friends, who are our brothers.
That makes no sense, Janina claimed, confused.
Good friends are like brothers, Yaron explained.
I never had a sibling. I cant tell.
So believe me, I can.
I was inclined to believe his every word from the very beginning, Janina thought. She wondered why he was telling her.
There were still many things to be done in Třebíč. Mrs Malíková had to bring some of Janinas belongings to Prague, to bring her more clothes, bed sheets, books, her plushies, all sorts of things. And this didnt seem like the kind of problem to be solved by one train journey. Problems like these however never stopped Mrs Malíková for long, finding the best solutions to them was her life.
Ill go with you, granny, Ill go with you!
Janina was jumping about and almost shouting with joy when she learned grandma was going to Třebíč.
But, Janina, Im going by car.
Car?! Who drives?
Jarda will, I already asked him.
Janina didnt seem as overjoyed as she was in the beginning, but she still insisted to go.
I thought you had sworn to never go by car anymore, Mrs Malíková inquired.
When you go by car, I can go by car as well, Janina answered.
That was quite good, another problem had been solved, Mrs Malíková noted to herself as she was preparing dinner. Meanwhile Janina ran downstairs to her newly found almost-friend to break the news. And to ask some questions.
Yaron was playing his guitar, but he laid it aside when she burst into his room.
Welcome, lady. Whats so urgent?
Im going home! Im going home! We need to bring some things here. She was again almost jumping. Then she stopped, thought it over and added, a bit apologetically:
So I came to say a good bye of sorts.
When are you leaving? And how long will you be there? Yaron asked.
Tomorrow, for the weekend. Id love to see some old friends, you know. Do you have old friends?
Some. Sure. It depends on whom you consider an old friend.
I mean, not old people. Though there are some of that sort as well, Janina kept on explaining. But the people Ive known for years. Like Táňa, I already went to the kindergarten with her.
She grew a bit sadder.
Although, when I think about it, I quarrelled with her before I left for here...
Yaron looked at her questioningly and also encouragingly.
Fingers crossed, youll work it out. It would be a pity to lose an old friend like her.
Do you know her? Janina wondered.
No, but you seem to be very keen on her. You have to know best.
That was helpful. Youre really helpful on the whole. Why does Jarda have to drive us home? Janina asked, venting out her unpleasant feelings about Jarda more than she ever wanted to. Why dont you?
I dont drive. I dont have driving licence.
Youre like grandma.
Yaron shook his head.
How long will it take her to call this place home? It hadnt taken long for Yaron, but Yaron knew too well he wasnt the same case at all. It was like the difference between a cat and a dog. Except that he and Janina spoke the same language, which made things easier for them.
A dog whos lost its family has to find a new one at first.
You, a cat? Vladyka raised his eyebrows. There must have been a lot of childlike surprise in that question, because he didnt do that very often. I thought of you as a raven.
Dont let the Seven Ravens mislead you.
Obviously, I did let it mislead me.
He smiled into his cup of cocoa.
But it isnt a bad analogy at all. And I really wonder why do you ask me for advice when youre able to put it such a nice way yourself.
Im able to put it this way, but I need to have it put into normal language.
Theres nothing like normal language and nobody knows that better than you.
Is that all you can tell me?
Oh, youre looking up to me as to... Im short of words, Yaron, Im just an ageing man who enjoys his cup of cocoa and more and more enjoys it warm. I might have seen a lot, but there isnt much you havent seen as well. I might have been through a lot, but there isnt much you havent been through as well. I bet theres more youve been through and I havent.
Ive never been married. I have no children.
You have a bunch of kids who could quite well be yours.
Theyre not. And theyll never be. Theres only one who has to be mine and thats the one Im asking you about.
I suppose in that case the cat has to become a dog, Vladyka stated.
Indeed... Yaron whispered, with his eyes fixed on his cup. The cups were always a good spot to look at, they both did it. The cups were also a good thing to hold onto.
I had to do the same, Vladyka said.
Yaron looked up to him and laid his cup aside.
Here you do it again, Vladyka noted.
Thats the one thing youve been through and I havent. Thats the one thing I can look up to you for.
Oh, wait. I really dont think you havent been through it yet. Its different in this case, because its much more... much more like real family. But dont you have friends?
Long silence. Yaron sat in front of him, fingers intertwined, his brow leaning on his hands. The copper ring on his left hand moved up the little finger and back to its place, as he pulled it with his left thumb and right little finger.
Vladyka shook his head.
Why do you ask me, then?
Because youre my friend.
They looked at each other and started laughing.
Janina arrived back to Prague with slightly better feeling about Jarda and cars than she had had before, which was definitely encouraging. She also arrived back to Prague after she had worked out all issues between her and Táňa, which was much better. She wanted to tell Yaron, because she was sure hed want to know, but he wasnt at home.
He went to the usual, Petr said.
Whats the usual? Janina asked. I thought this was the usual. This is his home, and his work, what else is there?
His pastor, Petr explained.
Ah, sure, pastor is the same as minister, the man in black robe who says those wise things. The man who spoke at parents funeral. A kind man, sure.
This one must be someone else, though.
Vladyka. Hes awesome, Petr kept on explaining. He convinced me to become a minister.
You? Janina asked in surprise.
I want to go to the theological faculty after I finish grammar school.
Oh, wait. That was stupid. Petr definitely isnt the kind who fights at corners, no matter what he looks like.
Many people think the same. No problem.
Maybe not yours, but...
Stop seeing problems everywhere, will you? Petr interrupted her, quite angrily. There wont be so many if you dont look out for them.
But there are many! People are nasty to each other, and... and people die! You see?
Yeah, sure. Ill die one day as well. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe I wont become a minister at all. Maybe Ill die in a car crash. I mean, maybe a car will crash into the tram Ill be sitting in.
Petr! Mrs Malíková shouted, full of fear about Janinas sanity.
Im sorry. I cant help it, thats the way of the world. And, you see, as far as Im concerned, I dont mind. When other people are concerned, well, thats another story, and there isnt much I could add to it.
Petr, thats terribly harsh! Mrs Malíková kept objecting.
I know. I said I was sorry.
You, a minister, with a way of talking like this? Mrs Malíková seemed not to believe her own ears.
Oh, granny, but hes right after all! Janina intervened. There isnt much he can do about it.
Thank you, lady. Petr smiled at her in a way that seemed familiar. It was a strange feeling to see that smile on a different face.
Yaron calls me so, Janina laughed.
He taught me a lot. Actually, he taught me the things Ive just said as well.
I'm sure he was saying them another way, Mrs Malíková said with a frown.
Oh yes, I think his way was much more poetic. I still talk like what I am. I am what you think I am after all, Janina.
What was it he said? Janina inquired.
Something along the lines of you cant change what happens to others, you only can do something with yourself. I bet he was damn right about that.
Yaron definitely knows better than you, Petr, grandma said sternly. You have to do a lot with yourself before I let you become a minister. Come on, Janina, theres a pile of things to take care of in the hall.
Janina agreed with grandma in that Petr wasnt like the ministers she knew. But guessing from the impact his words had on her, he could be a better one than those she knew. The things he said were definitely harsh and hasty, but there were deep thoughts behind them. And she had to admit to herself she loved him when he said the things about dying tomorrow, those things grandma seemed to be most aroused by. It was like taking out a thorn that has been in your finger for days and weeks. Its a nasty operation, and the thorn is even nastier when taken out, but its the only way to get rid of the pain. She knew this, it had already happened to her once with the thorn.
And it was actually Yarons work again.
Yaron had said he wasnt much like grandma. And, indeed, there was something in him that was different.
Janina was quite sure the reason she liked him the first day was that he knew. Just like her and grandma, he knew. Thats why he kept quiet and frowned back and why he didnt say anything special to her; he knew there are no words to help.
And he knew to simply be there. Just like grandma, he simply was there, and thats why she liked him the next few days.
But he knew beyond that. And it was this beyond Janina wanted to know. She wanted to know the beyond ringing in Yarons songs and his laughter, the beyond shining in his eyes, the beyond singing in his words. Only someone who knew beyond could say those things she had heard from Petr. Petr had admitted the thoughts were Yarons.
And so at the next proper occasion she went and laid out all this in front of him.
She went downstairs and met him in the middle of the steps. They stopped under a lamp and said things no other human heard. This unheard conversation concerned shadows of the past and the usefulness of such shadows.
Janina learned things about Yaron that not many other people knew. She learned about the undeserved death of his grandfather and Yarons rage about it that lead to actions he still regretted. She learned about the mostly hidden aspects of his nature, she learned why he didnt have driving licence and why he preferred living with next to no money in the city where thousands of tourists spent large sums for just being there for few days. And, above all, she learned why he cared about her so much.
There Mrs Malíková found them, Janina sitting on one of the steps, looking up to Yaron who stood four steps further down and was creating shadow characters on the wall with his right hand. Janina was watching this little theatre and laughing.
Oh, Im afraid we have to stop, Yaron said when he noticed Mrs Malíková waiting above them.
No, just continue, Mrs Malíková answered.
Granny! Janina jumped up. Were finished. Arent we, Yaron? Yaron only nodded.
Hell have to pick you up from school tomorrow, Mrs Malíková said. No problem with you both?
Absolutely none, Yaron replied with a nod.
Hes my big brother, Janina stated. Ive always wanted to have one. A big brother is the best person to take one home from school.
Ive always thought of him more as of a son... Mrs Malíková replied thoughtfully. But if you think hes your brother, I cant raise any objections.