She was born, let’s say, by mistake as the result of an encounter on a full-moon night with the help of the little bubbles of a generous and vibrant red wine.
Her early life experiences had been rather normal, but how could she understand if a quick kiss on her forehead and a light caress as a goodbye from her mom, always-in-a-rush, elegant, scented and careful-not-to spoil-her-makeup, were to be deemed as normal?
You'll probably ask yourself: “What about her father?”
Well, he was really nowhere to be found, just a perfect stranger smiling from a framed photograph half-hidden by pictures of, her mom at her eighteenth birthday party, mom at the sea side in Sharm-El-Sheik, mom standing in front of the refuge at the Pordoi Pass in the Dolomites Mountains, mom at her latest (vernissage) reception in her art gallery.
At home her father was seldom mentioned other than to remark that he lived far away because of his job, out of pure necessity to make ends meet.
In any case, she never understood this situation and all of her questions, even the most direct and specific were left unanswered until eventually she either forgot to ask again or gave up asking entirely.
Things had to be accepted the way they were so nothing else was to be discussed.
In spite of all of this, she lived her life intensely: first there was school, then her language class, gym activities, homework, little or no TV and many free hours to spend alone with her thoughts.
Nevertheless she was not sad; in fact she was quite the opposite. She would often smile while looking at herself in the mirror. At first she did that by chance but then she started doing it with growing curiosity until finally she began to view it as a game.
Standing by that mirror she would review her day; she would dramatize her own fantasies, perhaps unknowingly looking into her deep dark eyes in the reflection of the mirror, and waiting for the answers to her unspoken questions to appear.
Almost all the time, Minuses was there, close to her, or on her shoulder, or in her arms. Minuses was a sweet, reserved and mischievous Soriano cat that would turn prickly and miffed if she didn't cuddle him whenever she made her way back home from school.
By the way, her name was, well, actually is…
Because sometimes she would indeed call herself, address herself, looking at her own reflection in the large glass mirror of her mother's immense AD designer living room.
“… Hey… you! Hello…? Hey, you… hello! Hey, you!” “You,… Hey!
She would greet her image and in this way her mirror name became her true name.
Her given name for the moment is not that important since everybody, or almost everybody knew her as Heyou.
It had been her nanny – one of the many nannies who had followed one another in the first years of her life – to call her by this name. Back then, among the wealthiest families it was in fashion to hire domestic help from the Far East. This one in particular was Japanese indeed, the younger daughter of a housemaid employed by one of the many VIP friends populating the social afternoons and evenings of Heyou's mother.
This young nanny named her Heyou for the first time when she saw her playing in front of the giant mirror in the sitting room.
I just forgot to say that our main character has somewhat slanted eyes, a dark complexion and a kind of enigmatic look about her that can be possibly perceived as oriental.
That's roughly the background of the story, the prologue, so to say, which makes Heyou the young woman I'd like to tell you about.
That March morning Heyou woke up knowing that something was different, but she could not understand what. It was a weird new feeling that she could not place, she was unable to grasp the very essence of it.
She looked around: the room was the same old room, only the light filtering through the shutters was brighter than usual, the light beam was shining on the furniture displaying billions of floating dust particles.
The bedroom was rather sober for a young girl, and not very spacious; she had chosen that room despite the poorly hidden disapproval of her mother, mixed with her usual subtle indifference.
Her mother, in her late years had been gifted with multiple thin face wrinkles. She had been fighting them in an endless war, at time helped by the most renowned plastic surgeons available around the city. She had tried them all! She had started calling her wrinkles: Laughter Lines, however they did not soften at all her facial expression.
But getting back to Heyou’s bedroom, in order to break the unusual seriousness of its environment, Heyou was keeping on her bed a pink rabbit with a white and black nose, its fur so worn out by her many repeated hugs, that it was almost unrecognizable, and also she had hung on the wall a mega poster of Brad Pitt.
On her little desk there was a pile of books, almost ready to fall dawn and also some worn out notebooks and a bunch of very colorful and differently shaped earings, small rings and bracelets, all hanging off two vertical jewel support sticks.
Then, like she had been shaken by a sudden thought, Heyou who was still lying down, got up suddenly and set at the edge of her bed, then she stood up, went to open a side of her window and then pushed the shutters open to let the very bright light of the day invade her bedroom and reflect on the top of her desk.
The strong beam of light was like a magnet, she followed it and set at her desk, got a pen, opened one of the note books, already full with her writing – verses, little tales, annotations – and she started writing down her thoughts while the emotions of the previous day were resurfacing, that something that had grown inside her now was upsetting her; still she could not put it into focus.
Between metallic music and open laughter’s, tinkling of glasses and some high pitch voices, sometime you can find a spring time moment, even during an evening storm. You can discover lights within the lights, outside of them, and when you perceive them, it is a little like watering the garden and seeing Hydrangeas and Azaleas, that were dying under the strong sun, getting back to life almost by magic. They say that to wake up every morning it is like to be born again, but not always if ever we take any notice of it.
It was not like that for Heyou, that exactly at that moment felt the breath of her life, strong, precise and vibrant, she was moved by relentless energy. She left her desk and went running to the dining room, and placed herself in front of the giant mirror that had survived all the revisions that the decor of the room had been going through in time, and she started dancing spinning around on her tiptoes, nimble, inspired and dreamy. She ended her dance by bowing to the imaginary audience and then she smiled, pleased with herself. She was feeling something very important was born inside her, she had to be the protagonist of this event.
But now, to understand the situation, we have to step back in time. At this point she had been attending a school of dancing for three months, one of the most prestigious schools of her city; it was something that she always wanted to do, but somehow her mother had given priority to other things, without ever giving any particular reason for her denial.
So the enrollment in the dance school had been her achievement, or may be to better define it, the first victory of her determination combined with a good amount of shrewdness. To pull a yes from her mother’s teeth, she had taken advantage of one of her mother’s euphoric moments, following her success at a social event.
The day the opportunity came up she used to her advantage her excellent school reports, that she was getting with no effort at all, and the complicity of one of her girl friends, that instead “had to” take the dancing class.
By chance their mothers were friends, and they were copying each other in the daily life routines, dictating the parameters, at least at the surface, for all their families and households, walls included. Everything fell into place in a blink of an eye when the phone rang. It was her friend’s mother calling: - What would you think if Heyou would also attend the Dance Class with my daughter? – she said - They would keep each other company, and perhaps Elena (this was the name of her daughter), would regain the enthusiasm she has lost.
Heyou pretended she did not know her friend’s mother was on the phone and said: - Mummy, may I? I need to show you my Report Card, you need to sign at the bottom, you know… So she had her way, and she also had the nerve to look surprised and also a little bit hesitant before agreeing to take the dance class. In this way she knew she was reinforcing her mother decision by making it definitive.
Her dance class was attended by about 30 girls, there were also three boys: Alberto, tall, slim and shy; Luigi, of medium height, with big muscles and a lot of determination, and finally Roberto, nice face, wavy hair and a dreamy expression.
During the first couple of lessons Roberto seemed less comfortable than the others. This however did not prevent him from standing out thanks to the natural elegance of his movements. Something was special about him, even if not quite understandable at a first glance.
When Roberto’s and Heyou’s eyes met for the first time, their magnetism attracted them to each other, by deeping penetrating in each other soul and by establishing a new mysterious and intense intimacy that would trouble them.
In fact for a long time they both avoided approaching each other, but when necessary they did so formally or through short sentences describing the art they were learning. They were touching each other only while dancing and when forced to cross their movements and their hands over and over again, but each time they were looking at each other without acknowledging or saying anything. Their lips were sealed in a rigid composure that was in complete contrast with the light in their eyes, and this went on for several months.
And so the day of the rehearsal for the mid-term dance recital arrived. It was going to take place on the stage of the most beautiful theater in the city, if not of the entire region. It was a place full of charm for its past history and for the warm elegance of its architecture. They got there via a mini-bus that they had rented for the occasion; but before arriving they made a stop for breakfast at the Café close to the theatre at the entrance of the park.
At the Café the spring was beginning to show between the leafless trees lighted by a pale and tepid sun. The fresh air was for the first time warm after months of a particularly cold winter where the snow had whitened with silence the city several times.
With a hot toast in one hand and a steaming cappuccino in the other, Heyou turned with the intention of going to sit on the veranda where the empty chairs dimly lit by the pale morning sun where all aligned.
And that's how she clumsily bumped into Roberto, much like the gag of a slapstick movie. He was rewarded with a cappuccino-flavored sweatshirt, while the big dog resting beside the bar's counter gained an unexpected and much welcomed breakfast.
Roberto opened his mouth as to talk but didn't say a word, his wide eyes showing a mixture of surprise and bafflement. She looked at him, embarrassed, and tried to apologize, but then her gaze fell on the stained sweatshirt, and she couldn't help but start laughing, yes a crazy laughter that was quickly interrupted by her hand covering her mouth.
He tightened his lips feeling hopeless and stared at her, while his initial annoyance turned quickly, maybe for the first time, into a clear and sharp perception of what she really meant to him: light, emotion, life.
He tried to shake out his sweatshirt then took it off like he was trying to save what he could, now with only his black undershirt on, he turned his head and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the counter- he looked funny indeed – he smiled. And as he felt the muscles of his face relaxing his smile widened, becoming more and more open and liberating. He swirled his sweatshirt around with his right hand and started to dance, being at the same time picador, bullfighter and bull, and then he crashed into a chair simulating exhaustion, while the regulars of the Café, amused were clapping.
Heyou stared at him for a long time; she couldn't unlock her gaze from his, while her heart felt like it was pounding directly in her throat. She turned away, trying to hide somehow her emotion and by doing so she too caught her reflection in the mirror and saw a different Heyou: she was not the same any longer and she knew it, this moved and troubled her at the same time.