Oud Land Cottage
Zeeland, The Netherlands
1 May 2000
“Prior to you, father, prior to this, there was silence and to silence we now return.”
Jenna said it out loud. Her words echoed in the empty room. It was real, it was done, really done, all of it. Both of them were dead and buried - father and son - in graves alongside each other with only the wind whispering ‘agony’.
But she was alive, strange and wrong as it may seem. Her pain buried for good in this godforsaken place on the Belgian border. Jenna’s eyes took in the familiar view from the window. The cattle grazing lazily, the meadow laced with a budding corn field, and the May sun reflected on the red rooftops at the end of her estate. It was a matter of hours now before she would hand the keys to the new owners. A sigh escaped her flat bosom.
From his basket in the corner, Mauritius replied with an even bigger dog’s sigh. A smile stole over the young woman’s delicate features. They were such a team.
Suddenly the silhouette of her grandfather loomed up, a wide-legged weather-beaten farmer scanning his lands. He turned to face her and waved, cap in hand, his grey hair ruffled by the soft breeze. An index finger crooked from arthritis pointed to the V-tailed swallow that skimmed deftly over his head.
She nodded, showing she understood. A swallow flying low meant rain tomorrow. She had farmer’s blood too. But when she blinked, Grandpa was gone. What a dreamer she was, born with the gift! It had brought her so much but in the end left her without blood ties.
“Grandpa Onno.” She had to pronounce his name one last time, now he had come to take leave of her. She had expected him. After all, he was the reason for her downfall and her resurrection. She, Jenna Kroon de Coligny and he, Onno Brenner, were the string to which all the others were attached.
He had shown her how to prevent history from repeating itself. No more killings, no more suicides. All the family stones turned upside down. And she alone emerged from the rubble of six decades of troubled family history, a lone phoenix.
The black Bakelite phone started to ring its old-fashioned staccato bell in the hallway: pring, pring. It shook Jenna from her musings. Startled, she ran to it, her bare feet dancing over the cool black-and-white tiles.
Must be Vincent, telling me what time he’s picking me up.
“She said yes!” Vincent’s elated voice sang in her ears. “Couldn’t wait to tell you. Margot and I are getting married in the autumn, as soon as I’ve got my PhD.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful news, Vince. Congratulations.” A warm rush of happiness spread through Jenna’s body.
“And I want my little sister to be my witness.” He sounded resolute.
“Well of course, I’d be vexed if you hadn’t asked.”
So everything was going to be alright?
“Can’t wait to see you again, Jen. All done in the cottage?” he asked.
“Yes, almost. I’ll be so glad to leave it behind. Can’t wait to return to Amsterdam and start a new phase in my life!”
“So proud of you, sissy. You’re such a survivor, but, um … you know what I want to ask, don’t you?”
Ha, the shrink’s head was popping up again.
“I have been eating, doctor, don’t you worry.” She made it sound light-hearted. Through the open door Jenna's gaze darted to the apple on the windowsill; her ten o’clock snack. It was still a battle, always would be, but she was getting there. “I was almost fifty kilos this morning.”
“Hallelujah!” her foster brother cheered. “That’s my girl. Listen, I’m leaving the hospital after lunch. Marge is sorry she can’t come along, but we’ll lock the cottage together, okay? It’s been a rough ride since we arrived.”
“Indeed it has. By the way, Will’s coming to say goodbye to us as well,” said Jenna.
“Good, it’ll be great to see our little saviour again. So about the future, I checked your apartment on the Brouwersgracht, Jen. It’s all furnished and ready for you. Mozzi sent a huge bunch of flowers. The card reads, For Jenna KdC, my star dancer. Welcome back to the show, Mr Mozzi.”
Jenna’s breath caught. Would she be able to dance again and fulfil the Mozzi’s high expectations of her? She would certainly have to train long hours to get back to the top. As always, her brother sensed her hesitation.
“After all you’ve been through you’ll do perfectly fine, Jen. Not a single doubt about that. Now give Mauritius a pat on the head from me and I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
“Okay, I will. Drive carefully bro,” she said.
Jenna replaced the receiver in the cradle. Slowly she made her way back to the small living room and took up her position at the window. Her mood dropped like a pool around her feet. Immobilised, she stood on the worn carpet, feeling empty and drained. It was strange, she was suddenly depressed when the news was all positive. Everything was going to be okay.
Simply dismiss Vincent’s call for now and concentrate on cleaning this place, she told herself. The new owners would arrive at three o’ clock. Five hours left. There was still so much to do. Despite her resolution, Jenna sank down on the one remaining chair, the apple in her lap, letting the waves roll in one more time.