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Juliana felt the caress of the breeze on her skin. By interval, she opened her eyes to contemplate the skyline which unveiled fields of miniscule crystals reflecting the sunbeams on the surface of the ocean.
The white sand danced within the turquoise waves. Ellis reached her hand and delicately put it in his palm. They savoured the view from the veranda of the presidential villa, comfortably installed under the parasols next to the swimming pool. It was a splendid afternoon in Fregate Island, one of the pearls of the Seychelles.
Neither of them thought that one day they would spend holidays together as husband and wife. When Ellis kissed Juliana, the sweetness of her tongue was a leaf floating in the air. They were in harmony with the elements.
While still relaxing, Juliana replayed in her mind the events that sealed the love they shared. The images kept coming like a train running at full speed.
It was almost exactly two years ago, they were trapped inside the helicopter which was sinking in the lake next to Alexandra palace in London. The suffocating smell of the kerosene mixed with the burning plastics, the terrible smoke, the chaos, and finally the coma began to remove the last bits of hope. She was lost in the haze of her torment. Suddenly, from the core of her being, a sequence of light opened a way in the shadow of the mystery.
In her descent, the first vision which arose was Ellis’ face shouting to come back among us. When she thought she was about to die, it was strange what her soul chose to remember. A delicious cupcake with pink cream on the top was what came second after Ellis’ voice.
She was with Susan her best friend in her favorite New York café near the metropolitan museum observing from time to time people walking on Fifth Avenue. ‘Maybe I don’t need a man in my life; I’m good for nobody’ said Juliana sighing.
‘You are just a great romantic’ replied Susan smiling.
The sound of the groups of people around them comforted her. They were drinking teas and coffees from all around the world in a ballet of scents.
Now, she was fighting to survive in a fuselage of a chopper. A total darkness expanded along her horizon.
Suddenly, she heard Maya her grandmother saying to come to the table because the feijoda was ready. She was six years old with Nelson her father, Cathy her mother and Tom her brother visiting Maya in Rio de Janeiro for the summer holidays. The first time she arrived in Brazil, she felt at home, like if she knew the place in a previous existence. The different greens of the lush vegetation particularly impressed her.
The pictures of her Grandfather Roberto, we looked so kind and charming, and Uncle Ignacio, handsome and passionate, was a source of curiosity while she was enjoying her meal. She learned later that Ignacio died when he was student after being arrested for having protested against the military regime in power at that time in the country.
He wanted to be a physician like Nelson who also started to study medicine, but after the death of his brother immigrated to London, and finally became an investment banker. The family didn’t totally recover from this tragedy. Until his last breath, Grandfather Roberto mourned the loss of his son.
Inside the helicopter, an infinite silence followed. Juliana saw a golden stairway. Million of birds flew around it like mirrors in rotation. Was it the paradise?
From this transitional state, the memory of Ellis’ mother journey from Bulgaria to London emerged. She was from the city of Kardzhali. Belonging to the Turkish minority, life was not easy for her. She had a free spirit which was in contradiction with her family values, especially with her mother. The only person she got along was her aunt Sophia who lived in London; but it was during the communist era and the communications were difficult with the west. When she turned twenty years old, like a fury, taking all the risks, she fled to London to join her aunt who was utterly shocked when she arrived.
‘What have you done?! What have you done!’ said Sophia
‘I couldn’t take it anymore, like you did, I wanted something different’ responded Hagia.
She lived with her aunt who tried to help her most she could. Two years after her arrival in 1977, she met Johnny a street musician. She liked his independence and his desire to make something of himself. He had known the orphanage and had had several bad experiences with foster families. When they debuted to date, they thought that they had found their soul mates, but rapidly the bubble exploded.
They had a tumultuous relationship. They broke up and came back together many times. One day, she discovered she was pregnant. They were very happy. Unfortunately, Johnny had serious issues with heroine. He died from an overdose just before Ellis’ birth. Like destiny was not cruel enough, fourth month after, Hagia succumbed to rare form of leukaemia. Her aunt Sophia tried to contact her family in Bulgaria to discuss the matter of Ellis future but they declined her plea because they considered that her mother had disgraced the family. In the meantime, Jim and Martha, who employed Sophia as a housekeeper, inquired about Ellis situation, and got very fond of him.
Sophia fell ill too, unexpectedly. She had liver cancer. She made Jim and Martha promised that if something happened to her they would take care of Ellis. Upon her death they kept their words. After a long and difficult process, they officially adopted Ellis who became their only child and the joy of their lives.
In the wreckage of the helicopter, Juliana had moment of consciousness. She could see Ellis with blood on his face trying to pull her, but the chaos plunged her again into the depth of the abyss.
Where were more than one year ago in New York, Juliana was having a fight with Dimitri her boyfriend at this period.
‘Really, I don’t understand what you want to prove. I’m repeating myself but you can get killed if you go to Afghanistan. I love you, and I want the best for you’ said angrily Dimitri
‘I love you too but I was honest with you when we first met. I told you that my work as a photographer can require that I have to face some dangers to access what I’m looking for’ said Juliana.
‘And what are you looking for?’ asked Dimitri
‘To report what’s going on in this world’ replied Juliana
‘You think you will influence something by doing this’ said Dimitri rolling his eyes.
‘Never mind, let’s change subject. Are you coming over at my parents’ house for the barbecue for Independence Day?’ Asked Dimitri
‘I don’t know, I’ll phone you to let you know. Right now I need to walk to think things over.’ said Juliana.
‘Ok, I’m going now. You are so stubborn my little mermaid’ said Dimitri kissing her on the forehead.
Dimitri’s family had made his fortune in the oil and gas industry in Russia, and moved to New York eight years ago. They were conservative in their values; when he introduced Juliana, it was almost a shock, but little by little they had learned to appreciate her qualities.
Juliana went to Battery Park to feel the fresh air on her face and to look at the statue of liberty. That day she decided that her story with Dimitri was over. Susan her best friend who was also a photographer invited her to stay at her apartment the time to sort things out.
The mission in Afghanistan had been cancelled, and she had no current project to work on when a strange proposition came to her: to make a cookbook with Ellis, the man she most hated on this planet, and who broke her heart so many times.