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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Abelin Linazisoro Azkue > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

1995 | Susa

"That summer I first met Axun seemed just like any other to me. The little girl was a member of the family who had come from Bilbo; she was a year younger than me and seemed rather silly, especially because she had made friends with a group of girls who were utterly shameless. The flightiest and the silliest in town! And to crown it all, members of pro-Franco families! When that summer ended, the husband and wife holidaymakers were so happy that they asked our mother whether we would reserve the house for them the following summer as well. After talking the matter over with my father, my mother agreed. She was delighted, too, because they had given her a generous tip in addition to the amount that had been promised each month!

The next two summers I got on with my ordinary way of life: get out of the factory and go to the beach when the weather was fine, stay at home reading on dull days, occasionally go to the cinema in the afternoon or evening, go out with friends to play cards in the bar on Thursdays having coffee, drinks and cigars to give the impression we were grown upà Nearly every Saturday we would paint the town red and regularly get home stoned; on Sundays we would dance to the music on the square, to get off with someone, or be given the brush-off, in other words be rejected, and as far as our story is concerned, if I had not noticed certain differences, that first summer would have been just as ordinary for me.

The difference? What I saw in Axun. I noticed, for example, that she knew lots of old Basque songs and sang them very well. Gabriel from Txistu Txiki House, Axun's father, spent all the week in Bilbo working and used to come to our house for the weekend. He and my father decided that we should all have lunch together, even if it was only once a week, because that way it was going to be better for all of us. During the week, of course, mealtimes for the holidaymakers and for us were different. So a kind of relationship grew up between the two families through having lunch together on Sundays, especially when we celebrated one of our birthdays. And after lunch on those days we would start singing once we had had our dessert, coffee and liqueurs. The two oldies, mine and Axun's, were mad about singing, in fact, both our families were singers, so we had quite a good time on those occasions. And I was especially amazed by the way Axun used to sing. That girl who could sing Basque songs so well and with such great feeling could not be that silly! I began to look at her in a different light. Spurred on by my curiosity I went through the contents of her bedside table one day."

-By then you were jealous, Pedro -said young Axun, her eyes dancing.

-No, no. I still thought she was silly and...

- Unconsciously you were jealous, but you didn't realise it.

-Well, maybe I was. But it was still something that wasn't very significant.

"Axun's fiancé was studying engineering. He was three or four years older and apparently went with his family to spend the summer in a small village near Santander every year. That boy might have been destined for engineering, but his letters revealed little maturity: No puedo vivir sin ti. Me aburro hasta en los guateques que organizan mis amigos. Te quiero demasiado para estar tan lejos de ti. And so on. In a word: a pain. Gradually I began to understand Axun's behaviour towards the village boys. Because she would dance with all the boys as if she did not have a fiancée. Of course it was normal to behave like that. And... What if she was not in love with that boy? Could it have been some arrangement between families? Those were the kind of questions I was starting asking myself.

But I had an opportunity to meet that fiancé of hers. In August one summer and the following one I saw them together occasionally when he would come to spend a week with his fiancée. They appeared to get on well. The boy looked a bit of a rich kid and a creep, at least from his appearance. Jose Antonio Larrauri was his name. His family was from Bilbo. Approximately halfway through September during those two summers, when Axun and her family were about to return to Bilbo, the boy would come and collect her and the two of them would leave together... That brings us to the fourth summer... The one in which my love story only just begins."

-You didn't have to say that, Pedro -said young Axun in honeyed tones-. If your love story had ended happily, you would not be here telling me the story of you and your wife, would you? Anyway, the stories that don't end happily seem more romantic.

-Irrespective of whether it has a good or a bad ending, I wouldn't be standing here in front of you soà, how should I put it, so open or so overcome by emotionàI don't know how to describe it, if I did not feel so moved and if your face, smile and perhaps your character did not awaken the old love in me.

On saying that Pedro fell silent once again, as if he wanted to become immersed in the eyes of the beautiful woman he had before him. For an instant a warm, affectionate strength also took hold of young Axun.

"That summer turned into a very significant one for me. In the factory we started to work a three-month intensive timetable for the first time. From seven in the morning until two thirty in the afternoon. So I was free every afternoon. But it was in Axun that I noticed more clearly how special that summer was. She seemed more womanly, more mature, more helpful at home; she seemed to have abandoned the winds of folly for ever and become more concerned. For the first few days each of us carried on with our usual routines. Except for one big difference: Axun had stopped going out with her usual friends and would stay in practically every afternoon reading.

So one day as I was about to go down to the beach I asked her if she had fallen out with her friends. Her response took me by surprise: she found them too foolish and had got bored going around with them. They were sillier than geese. But while Axun was giving me that answer, I noticed from the way she was looking at me that she was asking me for something, she seemed to be appealing to me for help.

As the weather was also good the next day, too, I began to get ready to go down to the beach after reading until half past four. I put on my swimming trunks under my trousers, threw a towel over my shoulder and slipped my glasses case into the left pocket of my trousers and when I was about to pick up the book I had been reading, I was met by the face of Axun, who was sitting there. "You off to the beach?" She asked me. "Yes," I told her. I noticed the look of the previous day, but it was even more serious.

-I'm alone -she blurted out.

-What?

-I feel very lonely.

Silent, disconcerted, I did not know what to answer, because it was just as if I'd been caught doing something naughty as a child. After a short pause that seemed like an eternity and still at a loss as to what to say, I began:

-Do you want...?

-Yes! Take me to the beach with you.

I had a clear picture of myself with that pretty, young girl. I could not believe it! Unable to put on my sweetest smile, I replied, "Yeah, let's go", and Axun's face lit up. At that very moment I realised what a wonderful, pretty face she had! Rewarding me with a broad smile, she said, "Wait a minute, I'll be right back", as she went to her room to change.

As I stood waiting for her in the sitting room, I could hear the sounds from outside the open balcony: kids playing in the street, "One, two, three four five, once I caught a fish alive..." The crane down on the quay loading the ships, the barking of a lost dog in the distance, the chirping from the nest under the eavesà All of a sudden Axun appeared at the door of the room like a vision making a sensual, yet at the same time comic gesture. I can still see that picture before me: she was dressed in a green skirt that came down to her knees and a red polo shirt. With her left hand on her hip in the style of film noir vamp, she put her right hand on her head and greeted me, in English, with the words, "Hello, my darling"2 . I laughed. "Goazen, my darling Clementine!"3 I replied, recalling the old John Ford film I had recently seen.

As we made our way down to the beach, mixed feelings got into knots and began to mill around in my head. On the one hand, embarrassment, something unique in someone who had never gone out alone with a young girl, and pride, on the other, as my fishing friend Dionixio would say, because I had a real smasher at my side. That's right. I felt prouder that a full-blown sail. Apart from that, something very special happened to us. Both of us suddenly had a tremendous desire to talk and we did not let each other get a word in edgeways as we made our way down to the beach and lay on the sand beside each other.

I was so pleased about the way communication had opened up between us and I knew that Axun was feeling the same way. That first day could not have passed more delightfully. That was how I forgot about my circle of friends completely and we started going out together every day.


1.In Spanish in the original: I can't live without you. I even get bored at the parties my friends organise. I love you too much to be so far away from you.

2. In English in the original.

3. These are the exact words of the original. Goazen in Basque means Let's go!





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