The North Face of the Heart - Dolores Redondo
Amaia Salazar was twelve years old when she went missing in the forest for sixteen hours. They found her in the early morning, eighteen miles north of the place she’d wandered off the path. She lay unconscious in the pouring rain, and her clothes were scorched and smeared with mud like those of a medieval witch pulled from a bonfire. In stark contrast, her skin shimmered white, pure and icy, as if she’d just emerged from a glacier.
Amaia always insisted that she remembered almost nothing of her ordeal. She recalled losing her way, but after that, her memory flashed the same image over and over. The effect was the exact opposite of Reynaud’s nineteenth-century praxinoscope, the spinning device that displayed a sequence of still images to create the illusion of movement. Her own blurred mental pictures froze everything into a single scene. Sometimes she wondered if she had really wandered all that way through the forest or had only stood there hypnotized by the sight of a single tree, staring at it and burning its primitive maternal form into her mind forever.
She’d gone out with her dog, Ipar, on a Sunday morning like any other with a group from the Aranza hiking club she’d joined that spring. She liked the woods, but she’d signed up mostly to please her aunt Engrasi, who’d been insisting for months that she should get out more.
They both knew she couldn’t just go play in the village. For a year she’d gone nowhere outside their home except back and forth to school and to church on Sundays with her aunt. The rest of the time, she stayed inside, reading by the fire, doing her homework, or helping with the cleaning and cooking. Anything to prevent being seen outside. Any pretext to avoid what she would face in the village.
She told her rescuers that all she could remember was staring at that tree. But that wasn’t entirely true. The tree remained etched in her memory, but so did the storm . . . and the hut in the forest.
She awoke in the hospital to her father looming over her, his wet hair plastered to his forehead. His eyes were red and raw from weeping. When he saw her lids flutter, he leaned over, his face anguished, hoping she would recognize him. She choked on a surge of immense tenderness. She loved her father, her protector, more than ever, but before she could tell him so, his warm lips brushed her ear and he whispered, “Amaia, don’t tell anybody. If you love me, do that for me. Don’t tell.”
All her love, everything she’d ever felt for him, squeezed her heart till it ached. But the words to express her feelings withered and became painful memories congealed around her vocal cords. At last she nodded, incapable of speech, promising silence, promising to keep the deep, dark secret that ended her love for him forever.
A composer is always thinking about his unfinished work.
The dead do the best they can.
ALBERT AND MARTIN
Albert was only eleven. He wasn’t a bad boy, but he disobeyed his parents the day of the murders. Not to defy them, but because he really thought nothing was going to happen, like the last time and the time before that. For hours, the forecasters had warned that an enormous storm was brewing. Warm masses of moist air were colliding with cool dry winds from the north, which could generate tornados. It was the same old hysteria they’d heard all spring. His mother kept the TV in the kitchen turned way up, even though the weatherman kept saying the same things over and over. She didn’t let him lower the volume or change the channel. His parents took this stuff about tornados very seriously, and for the life of him, Albert couldn’t see why. They’d never been hit by a tornado; their house had never been damaged. He told them that Tim, the younger Jones boy, wanted him to come over and play that morning, but they refused. He would have to stay inside. The Joneses’ barn had been flattened by a tornado three years before, and the same thing could happen again. They all had to stay close to the storm shelter in case the alarm was given.
Albert didn’t protest. After breakfast, he left his cup in the sink and slipped out the back door. He was about halfway to the Jones farm when the atmosphere changed. That morning’s cloud cover broke, churned, and went