He sent Kugarr and ten of his men to the right and waved Servan to the left. The hunter crept away with ten more men. When Djarret was sure that they had taken position, he nodded at Jagumet who had stayed with him as a messenger. The hunter lifted his horn and sounded the appropriate signal. Djarret and his warriors attacked. One heartbeat later, the first blood dripped on the battle-field.
Melissa ran along the dusty path between the beds and through the mossy grass under the fruit-trees. What a pity that the trees look so sad. A cherry that looked more dead than alive drew her gaze. Lysande should cut it and plant a new cherry.
“Anything but that!” The voice sounded like the rustle of leaves in the wind.
Melissa stumbled over her own feet. She fell flat on her belly into the grass, but didn’t notice the impact. She lost consciousness. When her hand hit the ground, Korosadja flew out and sank in a tuft of moss.
Melissa startled. She sat in the worn passenger seat of the old VW beetle, her naked feet on the panel. Beside her, she saw the freckled profile of her mother. The sun shone through the side window and set her red hair on fire. Melissa looked to the back seat. Little brother had fallen asleep in his child safety seat.
“Mom?” Melissa extended a shaking hand and touched the arm of her mother. It felt warm and real. Had she only dreamt the accident and life with Aunt Freya and Uncle Herbert? The adventures with the magic stone suddenly seemed unreal.
“What is it, darling?” The well-known smile calmed Melissa’s beating heart, but a lump in her throat prevented her from talking. Finally, she croaked, “Drive carefully, please.”
“I always do that,” her mother answered. Singing and laughing they drove up the mountain road. They had several cars in front of them that couldn’t overtake a truck because of the many curves. The longer the journey lasted, the more Melissa relaxed. It must have been a dream. She looked at her mother.
When they had passed the mountain top, her mother said, “Let’s listen to some music.” She reached for the car radio and braked so hard that Melissa was flung forward? The seat belt pressed the air from her lungs, and her feet hit the wind shield that burst with a loud crack. The hood of the beetle dug into the rear of the car in front of them. Metal crunched and screamed.
Deathly silence for the fraction of a second.
Please don’t, Melissa thought. Not again.
The impact had flung her mother against the steering wheel. Gasping, she freed herself from the seat belt and unfastened Melissa. “Get out, Melissa! Hurry!” The voice of her mother sounded pressed as if she knew what was coming. At the same time, little brother screamed at the top of his lungs.
I have to do something. Melissa fought with the door that was out of shape due to the impact. When she stumbled into the open, she wanted to walk around the car to help her mother, but her body didn’t obey. On hands and knees, she crawled away from the car up the embankment beside the road. Everything was like last time. As much as Melissa tried to change something, she couldn’t stop her body creeping through the grass. She clearly felt the tickling of the blades of grass on the naked soles of her foot. Behind, she heard her mother curse the seat belt of the child safety seat that hadn’t worked properly for months. Another noise split the silence: the squeal of rubber on asphalt. Melissa swirled around and saw the truck. Unstoppable, it slipped toward the small car where her mother still tried to free the child from his seat.
Suddenly, it was quiet. She felt confused. The walls surrounding her were turquoise and white, many gadgets ticked and blipped, and the air stank of cleanness and medicine. A plump nurse in a white smock sat beside the bed of a patient and snored. A gray strand of her hair had escaped from her bonnet and hung into her face. Every breath moved it.
It was unusual to see a nurse at the bed of a patient, and Melissa knew that it meant a battle of life and death. Petrified, she stood next to the nurse, but she refused to look at the person in the bed. She couldn’t face her mother dying. Why do I have to see these things?