A n excerpt from DUBROVNIK. A novel detailed with conflict, romance, castles and dreams. Chapter 15, pages 160-161. The sequel to DUBROVNIK is VITRUVIAN MAN, a powerful look at a mercenary turned philanthropist.
Chapter 15 Bogorodicin ManastirThe castle wasn’t tall and it was spread out in all directions. From what I could see under dim lighting conditions, it was two, maybe three stories, with small arched windows and vaulted and arched main entrance. The ten foot tall double doors were medieval and only the right side opened.Celestine escorted us to small rooms in the Dalmatian stone castle. The monastery was less formal than any church I had attended. It was simple and light with an aura of mortality. The lighting inside was obscure and the air musty from centuries of dampness. It reminded me of my brooding during our arrival at the harbor in Gruž. Celestine’s home felt ominous and less strange to live in...When Alex and Dylan were settled in their rooms, Celestine shepherded me into my chamber. We sat down on the hard cotton futon mattress and faced each other with knees touching. If I were a monk, I would have to meditate my erection to go away. Her shadowed face lit by a small metal table lamp expressed concern; like a tired warrior home from battle. My eyes traveled to her pink lips while she spoke. “Americans are completely different animals from Croatians. You have everything you want. We have nothing compared to that. It is difficult to keep what we have. Our land and family are the most important things to us.”“You’re right,” I said. “In the US we can have anything we want if we strive and not give up. You have to understand that family and land are important to us, too.” “I do,” she said. “We are so different from each other. Our cultures are grossly different, but understand.”Her English was clean and crisp. I could listen to her voice all night. I spoke slowly so she could understand better, but I didn’t think she had a problem understanding what she wanted to. She presented herself as an anomaly, which was a constant in her unsettled life. “Your government,” I said, “was governed by the Serbs. They told you what they expected from you, but you were reluctant to give them anything in return. Many Americans think that life is too difficult, so they give up on it. Some Americans give up on their families to gather material items; like fancy cars, speedboats and vehicles that resemble houses. They give up on family morality and values. They even lash out at their own parents, siblings, spouses and children. They don’t know what difficult really is.”She took my hands in hers and the warmth created goodwill, but had I gained her trust yet? Her eyes were filled with skepticism. My body was filled with apprehension. She was a feral cat ready to scratch my eyes out, and I couldn’t help but think she would either slap, or punch me in the face any second.“We trust few people outside of the Broz family,” she said. “Because you helped today Nikola Broz trusts you. I have to tell you I don’t fully trust you, not to my liking.”Whatever ideas were behind her darkened eyes, I couldn’t penetrate. I looked beyond formalities and conditions. She shivered in the cooler temperature of the old stone structure. Her hands were freezing and she pulled away from me.“Even though you don’t trust me I still want to help,” I said.Celestine looked at the walls and ceiling that confined us. “You can help us. Tomorrow I’ll show you Bogorodicin Manastir. Tonight you should get some sleep.” She got up and rested a hand on my shoulder.I looked up into her shadowed face. I smiled but her expression revealed serious concern. I wondered how she wanted me to help. She protected me at the war zone today by shoving the riffle overhead while I tried to kill their enemy. She said she wanted to kiss me. What was I to think about her? I could only think she was cunning and evasive. Before she closed the door she looked back. Sadness covered her face and her lips quivered. She came to me with a soft kiss upon my cheek and whisked her hand through my hair, like I was one of her childhood play dolls. At that moment, I realized I’d never be able to trust her, that she would always be shrewd and elusive.