“This is what happened” I told my husband, trying to release his eyes glued to the newspaper.
“So?” he answered mechanically not being able to detach himself from his favourite article.
“So?! You don’t think it’s enough that they always take three rooms, and there are two of them?”
“Three rooms for two and so what?”
“They have the money, so they take as many rooms as they want.”
“Three for two?”
“So why not?”
I tried several more times to develop the same dialogue, unsuccessfully of course, and then I gave up on the idea to provoke any interest with my husband, fully plunging into my thoughts as of why two people could possibly take three rooms.
I had realised long ago that nothing in this world is an accident. The dates we were born on, the jewellery that we wear or not wear, where we go for a holiday and how. I mean in how many rooms. Everything is written in the nature according to someone’s precisely taken measure. As a matter of fact, our huge villa that we had built in Lagadin in some agony, not even thinking why we needed it, the two of us alone. A silent voice came from the unknown depths of the lake that there was a secret connection between our villa and the three rooms of our regular guests. I remembered that ten years ago when we decided to make something in Lagadin at the place that was a gift from my parents, and was there unused since our wedding, my husband insisted so much that the villa was huge, exactly like it was today. “Why do you need it”, said both the builders and the engineer who made the design that we constantly changed, always adding, never taking away, and my husband just said “I want it” and full stop. He “wanted” so much that the villa is huge that I start to doubt it was in some connection with the three rooms of the two Dobrići – Ena and Ante from Zagreb.
“Where are they now?” my husband asked me, finally closing the newspaper.
“Ena is probably walking along the beach to Peštani and back, and Ante is over there, smoking and staring at the lake.”
“How long are they staying?’
“As always. From 1 July to 1 August. They’re mid way now.”
“And they don’t even open the third room?” he asked absent-mindedly looking through the window.
“What are you looking at?”
“I want to see Ante… Oh, yes, there he is…”
“No” I answered, and he turned towards me startled and asked me:
“They don’t open the third room.”
“Ohhh, that” he ended the conversation silently, and I started recognising clear traces of recognition of the custom of Dobrići in his silence. I wanted to propose that we go to the beach or to Peštani, but I don’t want to do it with words. I can’t manage to do it in another way, so I run away from my wish to the kitchen and I dive into food, food, food…
When we used to live in Skopje and we only passed the summers in Lagadin, I had a woman who took care of the rooms of the guests. The rooms… It started all of a sudden, and soon got the features of something that had always been done… The woman was so hard working that she even managed to take care of our part, that is, of the rooms we never had rented. I enjoyed the laziness just as I enjoy the thousands of obligations now. I decided to do everything myself not to think of what was hurting me more and more. The first summer when we made more money renting rooms in Lagadin then we made in Skopje for a year we decided to move here for good. So, we became faithful neighbours of a piece of the lake that we shared with many tourists in the summer, but it was mostly ours in fall and in winter. I remember clearly when Ena and Ante came for the first time, it was winter. “Are there any rooms free?” “There are as many as you want. There is no living soul in Lagadin.’ We took them through the villa and they chose the rooms they wanted themselves, the very same ones that they always stayed in. They didn’t even ask how much they were, or how the heating was. There was no heating, of course, and they were not expensive. They never came in winter again. Only then. All the other times they came to Lagadin from 1 July to 1 August. To the same rooms we always kept for them. Even if they did not call in time to reserve them, I was sure we would not give them to anybody else. It felt as if they belonged to them.
“Maybe they keep something secret in the third room” I said, not expecting an answer from my husband. “Or they use it for some rituals.”
My husband left his crossword puzzle at my last word and with his pen in his hand and a mild irony in his voice, he said:
“Such as, such as… I don’t know. They speak with the dead, with the unknown… Maybe they have some strange power.”
“Yeah, sure! If they had any power they would not hang around Lagadin for a month.” His allusion hit me and the pain I always carried in my soul became unbearable. My knees bent.
“You want to say that…”
“No!” he interrupted me diving into his crossword puzzle, while our villa fell on our heads, larger and emptier than ever.
After this, I forbade myself to think about the third room. The shadow of it understanding that my husband threw in front of me mercilessly hurt too much. I removed Dobrići from my everyday life and with somehow lighter eyes I looked at the lake getting out of one season and readily entering another. The terraces of our villa that were almost hanging above its blue colour almost every day gave me tons of joy like an endless water surface: once perfectly smooth as a mirror, another time upset like a woman in love. Very rarely, when a sad or rainy day would come the surface of the lake also swallowed the sky, and the terraces of our villa hung above a double endlessness. I started to understand. Lagadin could not change my relief, but it could always splash it with clear lake water. My husband calmly read the papers and I felt no need for conversation. I had perfected the communication with his silence to a spotless silence that could shortly be disturbed only by some restless lake wave.
“Maria, let’s go to the beach, or to Peštani” he proposes, certain that he would be refused. “When have you ever been on the beach with snow, huh?” he finished his tower joyfully following the fragile snowflakes that dance between the lake and us. “Maybe we’ll find some fish in Peštani…”
“Once the winter is over, we’ll go.” I say. “We’ll go everywhere.” I am saying things that I don’t believe in, and he knows, but he does not confront me with my own deceit.
“As you wish.” He lights a cigarette and gets back to his crossword puzzle.
Lagadin is the unfinished word in our lives that unites the biggest truth and the biggest lie in the beautiful villa with a view to the lake. Horizontally viewed, the sun will shine again fast, very fast, Dobrići will come from Zagreb, from 1 July to 1 August and vertically: the villa that hang above both of our heads will become bigger and bigger.
Everything became different than it was. The lake brought some otherness to the air with the first summer days and I could not have enough of it. I knew that something had happened, but I could not say what. The spring had already rolled towards the summer, and nothing happened according to its regular order. The people from Zagreb did not call to confirm their usual reservation for the three rooms, which, of course we did not give to other people. A day before 1 July, I cleaned them thoroughly, I washed the terraces, I aired the blankets, Ena was a clean woman: I even washed the curtains. I wanted to be ready for them, regardless of the fact that they had not announced their arrival.
I knew they would come and… they did. The same car, the same roof storage, the same registration plate, the boxer glove of beautiful leather at the rear-view mirror. However, Ena and Ante were not the same. They had a carriage with a baby whose eyes were even bluer than the lake. He barely had two months.
“Madam Maria, we made it!” said Ena, and I took them to their three rooms smiling.
“Sorry we didn’t call, but… now we only need two rooms” said Ante happily, and I and my husband who walked behind me found out everything at the same moment: The third room was for the same emptiness inside their lives because of which we built our huge villa in Lagadin.
“You know, Madam Maria, Matej is in a way… from Lagadin.”
I knew, but I didn’t tell her anything, I just gently touched her hand, feeling an unbearable wish to turn the villa into a small shack at the coast filled with children’s voices.
A wave of clear lake water splashed us all.
Translated from Macedonian by: Elizabeta Bakovska