The Moura's Cave. Chapter I The Moura's Cave.
CHAPTER I “THE MOURA’S CAVE”
I suddenly woke up soaked in sweat, it is not strange considering that summer becomes suffocating in the city. The asphalt retains the heat during the day and releases it at night making the night temperature quite like the daytime temperature. However, this morning the sweat is not due to the heat, but to a dream, more precisely a nightmare, which has been repeating itself over and over for the last month. Yellow eyes, that’s all I can remember from the dream, yellow eyes that terrify me.
I stand up and look around. My bags are ready next to the door and my clothes are on the desk chair. Today is my birthday, I turn seventeen and, my beloved mother, has decided that I must spend the whole summer at Grandma Emma’s house, so that she can have ours to be with her new boyfriend Pablo.
I don’t like him very much, he’s much younger than her, he looks at me too much and I am not comfortable with that.
I haven’t been to Grandma’s house in three years, even though I’ve seen her every Christmas. I haven’t been able to go back to her house since... since Grandpa died. Grandpa, I miss him a lot. He was my best friend and we used to share hobbies, including books. When he died, Grandma sent me a box with some of them. I have them here, on the shelf above my bed. I’ve read and reread them a million times over these years. Grandma also sent me a small notebook full of his annotations but I haven’t been able to read it yet. Every time I try, I see his handwriting on the cover and I crumble. I burst into tears, end up closing it and leaving it in its place: my backpack. Since I always carry it with me, even though I am not able to read it. I know there is a piece of my grandpa in it and I am comforted feeling him next to me.
Well, it’s time to get up, the train is leaving in a couple of hours.
After a shower which is more than comforting, I get dressed. Then I pick up my bags and take a last look at my room, my sanctuary.
I hear the voices and laughs of my mother and Pablo, they remain silent when they notice that I’m getting closer. Then when I enter in the kitchen, a chocolate muffin appears in front of my face with a candle lit on top.
― Happy birthday, honey –. My mother doesn’t stop smiling.
―Thank you, mum –. She gives me a kiss on my cheek.
—Come on, what are you waiting for? Blow out the candle. – She places the muffin in front of my face, again –. But, remember to make your wish.
A wish? What am I supposed to ask for? Hum…I know. I hope this summer is not as bad as it seems. I blow, the candle goes out and my mother nods satisfied.
—Here, this is from both of us. Happy birthday, Eva –. Pablo brings me a huge box, while he gives me a kiss on the cheek. My mum couldn’t smile more, and I do it too, even though I feel uncomfortable.
—Oh...thanks a lot, let’s see… - I tear the paper, the truth is that I’m excited, the package is very big and mum usually doesn’t give me presents. – Ah...a bathrobe, some towels and some sheets, how…how useful…Thank you both –. I give each one a little hug and I scold myself for hoping that they would give me something I like for once.
― We'll leave everything in your room, by the time you come back, do you have everything already?
― Yes, mum. The taxi should be here any minute.
― Sure, sorry again for not being able to take you - she looks at her watch - in fact, we should go right now, they’re waiting for us...
― It’s okay, go. – I’ll manage on my own, as usual. I smile. – Have a good time.
― See you back, sweetie. – Sweetie? Who are you? Both give me a kiss, quick and fleeting the door closes. Bye mum.
I take out my smartphone, there are still 15 minutes until the taxi arrives or that’s what the girl from the customer service told me. Luckily, I have been foresighted and I will arrive to the station with plenty of spare time. I decide to call Marta, my best and only friend, I feel like listening her voice. Her phone is off, it’s true, she must be on the plane to Paris. I could had been on that plane right now but, my mother couldn’t stand the idea of me having a better summer than her.
I’ll send her a message through an app, telling her about the cool presents that my mom and Pablo gave me. From this day on, my smartphone will be the only thing I will have to be in touch with the outside world. I make a mental list of what I should have packed in my suitcase, I have everything. I look at myself in the mirror of the hall, with the heat, my hair is already dry, I decide to do some braids in it so when I arrive to grandma's house, I'll have it perfect, neither sweaty nor tangled. I wear a black and white striped strapless dress with my Converse, also black. I decide to retouch up the eyeliner, I started using it this year, and I like the gothic look that gives me.
My taxi has arrived, I go down in the elevator and the driver is waiting for me outside to put my bags in. As it’s early and Saturday, we don’t find much traffic and in half an hour, I’m already at the station, ticket in hand, looking for the train.
I have a window seat, so I won't get dizzy. Luckily, they’ve invented these fast trains, that take you to the north of the country in just a couple of hours, I don’t want to imagine what it was like in my mother’s or my grandparents’ time. I take out my smartphone and put on my headphones, since the movies they are playing are very old. I look out through the window, and with the movement and Rita Ora singing How we do, I fall asleep.
I open my eyes and, to my surprise, they announce my stop in ten minutes. I have already arrived in Galicia, in the blink of an eye, never better said.
I go out to the street, I don’t see my grandmother’s Citroën Saxo anywhere, has she forgotten about me? Impossible, I’m her favourite granddaughter, her only granddaughter. A SUV approaches, beeping and flashing the lights. I wouldn’t like to be the poor asshole they’re looking for. It parks in front of me and... I can’t believe it! What a guy: blond, tall, brown eyes... In addition, for some strange reason, he comes up to me, my heart beats at full speed, he looks familiar... What if he talks to me? I don’t think I’ll be able to articulate a word. No, Eva, you must grow up, don’t let him see that you like him. Calm down, breath deep, okay, I got it.
― Hi, Eva – says the hot guy, he
knows my name -. Don’t you remember me?
– He sounds a little disappointed.
― Uh...hi. No, sorry, I think we’ve met before but... I can’t seem to place you, I’m sorry.
― It’s okay, it’s normal, it’s been about... six years since we last saw each other. I’m Brais. The grandson of…
― Antonio. Yes, I remember you, you’re… - you’re hot, imponent, tremendous… Don’t be vulgar–. Different, older, I guess.
― Yes, you’re... older too – he looks at me from top to bottom, I must be red-faced -. Well, we can leave whenever you want, we still have a half an hour’s drive to the village.
― All right, let’s go then - he loads my bags in the luggage compartment, I take advantage and take off my braids quickly, my hair blowing in the wind, he looks at me and smiles.
― That’s it, we’re leaving. –. We got into the car and leave the town through the highway.
― Hey… why hasn’t my grandmother come? – He looks at me glance–. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that you came, it’s just... I was hoping she would - I sound disappointed and in a way it’s like that.
― Actually, I offered to come and pick you up. Your grandmother is a little older now and she shouldn’t be driving long distances. She usually, only uses the car to go to the grocery store in the next village. Cheer up, in that way, she has prepared the food and not my grandfather. Believe me, you’ll thank it –. He laughs and I join him.
― What about you? Do you live here now? Did you come here on holiday too? – Suddenly he stops laughing. Oops, I’m afraid there’s going to be an awkward answer now.
― Yeah, well, I’ve been living with my Grandpa for two years, my parents…died and, he’s the only family I have left now –. Damn it, Eva, you’re an idiot.
― I’m... I’m so sorry, I had no idea, I haven’t talked much to Grandma in the last three years, I…
― Calm down, don’t worry, I’m fine, Grandpa is great. Well, and your grandmother too, they’ve spoiled me a lot through these years.
― I’m glad, Grandma has someone else to be with.
― Oh…by the way… Happy Birthday! – He looks into my eyes for a few seconds.
― Thank you.
― How old are you? Sixteen?
― No, I’m seventeen - he laughs, I think he’s pulling my leg.
― It's true, I get two years off you, you're a youngster. -. Youngster? Old people say that, does he think I’m a child or what?
― Oh, yeah, sorry, you’re maturity personified, I hadn’t noticed when you entered in the station parking beeping and flashing the car lights. – Yes sir, there you go, pure and simple sarcasm. He looks at me perplexed and laughs.
― Touché…. Sarcasm, huh? I like it, we’ll get along –. He winks at me.
It’s been a very short ride, Brais is fun and handsome. Nice and handsome. Smart and handsome. Oh my god, he's so handsome! I touch my mouth sneakily; I’ve been so excited that I’m even drooling. Luckily, he hasn’t seen me, thank goodness.
We enter the village and I realise that nothing has changed. Neither the trees, nor the mountain, nor the little stone cottages. We climb the hillside towards grandmother’s house and I hold my breath. After the next bend I see it and for a moment I thought that I’ve seen my grandfather at the door greeting me with his hand. But he’s not there, tears come to my eyes, I gulp. Don’t cry now, don’t cry now. Brais squeezes my hand.
― Are you okay? – He looks at me worried, I nod but a tear slips and falls rolling down my cheek. The car has stopped, Brais catches the tear at the corner of my mouth, I look at him and he looks me with gentleness –. It’s hard, I know, but it will be better the sooner you face it, you‘ll see.
― Yeah, sorry, what a show, I don’t want her to see me this way – I point out to the house, the door has opened, Grandma and Antonio greet us smiling.
We get out of the car, Grandma comes to us and gives me a strong hug, she smells like lavender, she smells like Grandma. So, I close my eyes and I give her a strong hug too. We separated a bit; she looks me in the eyes and covers my face with kisses.
― Hello, my child, I’ve missed you so much.…
― Hi, Grandma, I’ve missed you too, but… I’m here now.
― Come on, Emma, release Eva already, you have all summer to cuddle her. I also want to say hello to this little woman –. Antonio holds my hand -. Hi, lovely, glad to see you again.
― Hello, Antonio, how are you?
― Good. Well, with the ailments of age, but luckily, I have Brais now with me to help me - he nods to his grandson, who has taken my bags and is putting them inside the house-. Did you remember him?
― I didn’t really recognize him at first; I suppose time changes us all…
― Yes…time changes everything and everyone…
― Well, you’re starving for sure, so let’s eat –. Grandma guides me inside the house, it smells very good.
Brais comes down the hall, he's left my stuff in my room. Grandma has cooked her famous casserole chicken, which is my favourite. It’s delicious. Then, I prepare a coffee pot while she takes out from the pantry a fresh cheesecake with jam with burning candles on it: a one and a seven. She starts singing the Happy Birthday song, Brais and Antonio join her. I make my second wish of the day: I wish to have a fantastic summer. Then, I blow the candles. Everyone smiles at me. Afterwards, I help Grandma to wash the dishes, although, she doesn’t let me help her too much and finally, she makes me sit at the table. To my surprise, Brais gives me a present.
― Wow, thank you so much, you didn’t have to – I smile at him, he rolls his eyes.
― It’s not a big deal, in fact it’s a guff but open it and you’ll see.
I remove the tape slowly; I don’t want to tear the starry paper that wraps my present. Inside, there is a small carved wooden box. It seems to be handmade; it is very beautiful and it has my name engraved with the relief of a waning moon and some stars.
― Did you do that? – Brais nods his head with a triumphant smile seeing that I liked it –. It’s beautiful – I give him a couple of kisses so effusively that make us equally blush.
― I have a present for you too –. Antonio puts a package much smaller than Brais’ on the table –. I hope you like it.
― Thank you, Antonio –. It takes me very short time to open the package –. An old key, great.
― Do you really like it? It’s just that I remembered that you used to collect them. I found this one to be very pretty and I thought of you.
― I really love it, and it’s a detail that you remember my personal tastes. I still collect them – I go around the table and give him a hug.
― Well, if you’re done…Brais, why don't you go for a walk with Eva? You could show her your horses?
― Horses?! – I ask excitedly.
― Yes, horses, do you know how to ride?
― Of course.
― Then, we will take a horse ride.
― All right, Brais. But be careful, huh?
― Don’t worry, Emma, you know I’m always careful – he turns and looks at me -. So let’s go, Eva?
― I think I should put on something more comfortable, don’t you? – Brais looks at me up and down, raises an eyebrow.
― For me, you look fine. Although, you may show more than you intend when riding on the horse – he tells me in a low voice, approaching so that Grandma doesn't hear him. Oh my god, I think my jaw has just fallen…
― Eva, your suitcase is in the back bedroom or rather in yours – Grandma makes me come back to reality.
― I'll wait for you outside –. Brais says winking at me.
I run like a crazy to my room, what do I wear? What do I wear? I pick up some jeans, with a lot of lycra, so they are slim. And a red top for the upper part, it is also made of lycra so looks like it was painted over my skin. I can’t wait to see how Brais reacts when I come out, but why do I care about this? I won’t spend more time thinking about it and I will go out. Grandma is waiting for me.
― Did you take a jacket?
― No but, its hot outside, grandma, I won’t need it.
― I don’t think so. As soon as the sun goes down it will be cold, and even more in the forest.
― Okay, I’ll go for a sweatshirt – So, I run for the second time to my room where I choose my blue sweatshirt which I tie around my hips and go out again.
Now Grandma isn’t waiting for me; she has sat with Antonio at the garden table under the sunshade. Brais is with them, but when he hears me coming, he turns, looks at me and nods to himself. I’ve blushed. We say goodbye to Grandma and Antonio and walk towards his house. It is close, so it takes us less than ten minutes. The horse stables are at the back of the house. I look around and nothing has changed in this place. Except for the motorbike parked next to the haystack. I get closer and I see that it’s black but on the sides it has some orange flames painted on it, it’s very cool.
― Do you like it? – Brais says behind me –. The next ride will be on it. If you want to, of course.
― Yeah, that would be great but…
― Don’t worry, we won’t tell your grandmother or my grandfather.
― You’ve read my mind.
― Although, we will have to go through some secluded place, because here people like to gossip and if they see us, they will tell our grandparents and we couldn’t have fun any longer –. We smile to each other.
I start thinking about it, both of us alone on his motorbike, with no one around and no one knowing what we are doing. But then Brais starts talking to me and make me stop dreaming.
― Are you still there?
― Yeah, I’m sorry.
― Were you imagining our next walk? - What?! How the hell does he know?
― No, no, it’s just that I remembered a friend of mine who has a motorbike too –. Well disguised, yes sir, I feel proud.
― Yes, a friend… wouldn’t it be your boyfriend?
― I have not boyfriend.
― Ah... - He stares at me and smiles mockingly.
― And you? Do you have a girlfriend? – An eye for an eye.
― I used to, but no any longer – I hold in a sigh of relief when I hear it.
― Oh, I’m sorry –. I’m not sorry at all.
― I’m not sorry, I was tired of her, there aren’t many girls here…It was Ruth, do you remember her?
― Ruth? Oh yes, the daughter of Juan, the baker, isn’t she?
―Yes. I dated her because she kept insisting, but we only shared a few kisses and we weren’t together even a month luckily –. Yes, luckily.
― And you don’t have a boyfriend now, but you must have had it -. What do I do? Do I lie or do I tell the truth? What would Marta do? Lie.
― Of course, a few – great, now he’ll think you’re a slut, I give myself a mental slap –. Actually, just two. – It’s better to tell a small lie –. So… When do you take me for a ride on your motorbike?
― Tomorrow, but we must come up with something. Come on, I’ll show you your horse.
Once in the stables Brais brings my horse first, well, my mare. Furia, which is beautiful, jet black with brown manes. I put her the blanket and the chair, while Brais does the same with Trueno, which is dark brown horse, with a white spot on the chest. Then he checks that the straps on my chair are securely attached and he helps me up.
We go into the forest along a path that goes up to the old Celtic settlement; you can only hear the birds singing and the horses’ hooves. When we arrive at the old Celtic settlement, Brais holds me by my waist and brings me down of Furia quickly. Wow, he’s really strong. He leaves his hands on my waist for a few more seconds and looks at me; I hesitate but smile at him. We tie the horses to a pine tree branch and, we walk over the walls of the settlement that used to be houses. In the upper part there is a clear from where all the cottages and all the forest are seen. I keep watching the landscape until it suddenly changes.
Everything has gone dark, a torch has appeared in my hand and I am in a narrow and damp corridor. I walk slowly, feeling the wall with my free hand, it’s wet and at the end of the corridor I see some stone stairs coming down. So I go down them and a new corridor appears before me which it’s narrower and wetter. At the end of the corridor there is a shining door, it seems made of copper or something like that, in it there are some symbols engraved and the drawing of two snakes. It has no knob, so I push it and the door opens a little bit. I push it again, harder this time, the door opens and what is inside looks like an endless room. I see mountains and mountains of gold; the shine is blinding. I take a step, I want to touch that wealth, but although I try, I cannot move forward. The gold has disappeared from my sight and the torch of my hand, in front of my eyes there is the forest again and at my feet… the edge of the cliff! Frightened, I go back and start listening in my ear, Brais’s breathy voice that holds me.
― Eva… God, Eva… What are you doing? – He looks very scared. -. Do you want to kill yourself?
― No… I’m sorry…I… - I turn around and look at him, he doubts if he should let me go –. Brais, something very rare has happened to me… - His face changes, he smiles.
— What have you seen?
— How do you know…?
— Your grandmother felt that you had inherited that gift from your grandfather…
— Gift? Which gift? What are you talking about?
— Come on, let’s sit, further down, away from this cliff – he takes me by the hand and we sit in the middle of one of the cottages we’ve been through before –. Tell me, do you remember any stories about this Celtic settlement? Anything your grandfather would have told you?
— Yes, well… The legend of the Moura’s Cave…The one everyone tells…
— Everyone tells it but no one as your grandfather told it. Think back and tell me about it – I look at him surprised, he nods and I…try to remember.
— I think…I already have it…
— Well then, start.
— Once upon a time, in an old Celtic settlement, a young Moura
coming from the East, had been sent by her people with a mission, to guard the
Golden Cave. She could not leave until her people arrived, so, she learned to
live in peace with the Celts. Every morning, she sat in front of the mine and, with
a golden comb, combed her long golden hair. She wore a headband adorned with
two snakes on her forehead. One day, from the top of the settlement, she saw an
enemy tribe approaching; the Celts began to flee leaving their homes and
possessions behind. She also had to leave if she wanted to live, however, the
promise she made to her people, did not allow her to leave the Cave
unprotected, so she had no choice but to enchant it.
She went into the forest and never returned but neither could no one enter the cave again, even less, steal the gold –. Brais aims at me in amazement.
— You tell it very well.
— Thank you but I still don’t understand… What does the legend have to do with what happened to me?
— Well…everything. Tell me, what have you seen?
— I was in a dark, damp corridor. I went down a few stairs to another corridor and at the end, there was a door, I opened it…
— Wait, could you see the door well? Did it have any engravings?
— Yes, it had some symbols and two snakes.
— Snakes, of course, do you think you’d be able to draw the symbols?
— No, sorry, I didn’t look that hard.
— Well, don’t worry, you will,
next time… Now, continue, what was behind the door?
— What do you mean, next time?
— Yes, if you’re like your grandfather and it seems to me that way, you’ll see it more times – I try to protest but he raises a finger and puts it on my lips –. I’ll tell you everything but let’s take it gradually, what was behind the door?
— Well, there was gold, mountains of gold.
— I knew it – says Brais triumphantly –. You’re great, Eva.
— Because you have entered the Cave.
 Moura: a type of kind sorceress in Galician language.