(Common Man … Continued)
Stella heard more and more of him; his likes and dislikes, his football mania, the flavours of music he listens to; the food he relishes and so on. Being mesmerized with his words, suddenly she felt snowflakes on her skin. Snowflakes took over her and she saw them everywhere. She imagined herself to be in a dream land which had the perfect set up; the love of her life in front of her, the magical date on a lake, the perfect ambience and snow! Just then she snapped out blinking multiple times when Raphael snapped his fingers in front of her face. She had a sheepish blush she tried to hide but Raphael didn’t let her do so. “Thinking about me yeah?” “You wish mister!”
“Wait a minute! Is it really snowing?” Stella marked her question loud enough for people on the other boats to hear as well. “Yes ma’am” was the answer in echoes. Raphael roared in laughter while Stella seemed a little panicked. “Any problem?” he asked. “Yes. It’s the storm. We need to head back before we land up stuck somewhere.” “Alright. Let’s go.” He instructed the person to row the boat to bank and he helped her get off tipping the guy with a content smile and handshake.
While driving back to Berlin, Stella felt different. Was it the lake? Or was it the date? Was it the candle light or was it the snow? She didn’t have any answer to that. She had a flash back of her imagination! Her mind screeched to halt when she recollected the words “love of her life”. Really? Is that what she thought? And if yes, then did she really imagine Raphael? Oh my God! She was perplexed. Multiple thoughts raging through, she calmed herself with a nudge on her head, “It’s just the beginning. Take it easy Stel.”
Raphael drove slow to avoid skidding with the car and he also wanted to spend some more time with Stella. Just then, he found himself stuck in traffic. Roads were blocked and the cars were being diverted to an alternate route. Stella seemed worried but her face showed content maybe because Raphael was with her.
They took the detour at the next right ahead. Snow Mountains on both sides of the road were spellbinding but not inviting at this moment with a storm around the corner and adding to this were the cars that moved at a turtle’s pace. Somewhere within Stella had a strong feeling they wouldn’t make it back to the hotel that night. Her idea was that of being stuck in traffic till the roads clear which would be possible only by next morning. Raphael smiled at her. His gesture was comforting. He looked at her with assuring eyes. Their strong gaze at one another was abruptly interrupted with a big blow of snow on their car bonnet and then with some more big and small blows of snow around the car covering the bonnet completely. The engine went shut and wouldn’t start then. Stella and Raphael laughed loudly engulfing the silence with joy. The joy that appeared on their faces was because they had each other thus compressing a fear within that their stuck in snow. “Okay so now what are we supposed to do? You see this is the first time I’ve ever been trapped in snow!” Stella blurted out innocently. “I figured that out the moment you laughed” Raphael answered. “It’s a nice to laugh your own life you know, because it shows you’ve enjoyed it the most”. Stella looked at him in amazement yet she hurried with ideas on what should they do next.
“If we could get out of the car and walk about 4 miles, we could spend the night at the cathedral. Schwerin Cathedral is another point of interest for a lot of tourists and you could lay your hands on those pictures as well. What say?” “Great idea! Let’s roll”. Stella jumped out of the car in glee. The cold breeze pierced every inch of her body to shivers. She jumped right back inside with a broad smile. “My jacket” she giggled reaching towards it. Raphael nodded his head in surprise. Every bit of her was unfolding before him in ways he’s never seen with any other girl that he’s been with. She stood outside the car zipping her jacket, shrugging her hair, gripping her bag, rubbing her palms and turning to him with a nod directing him to move. His smile, the more baby like because the cold was biting in, brought Stella to be more in awe about him.
Raphael took Stella via the mountains and the trees that were breath-taking. She clicked pictures of the trees that were so organized. It seemed like the trees knew how to embark, where to stand, and how to bring serenity to anyone who walked by. They were identical to the brim. Raphael photo-bombed some of Stella’s photographs but nevertheless she captured the right pictures with her superb timing along with some photographs that Raphael posed in too. They walked towards a cliff from where Stella could see the Cathedral clearly. She clicked pictures of the Cathedral from various angles and as she approached closer, she discovered the Cathedral as a mighty building with numerous prayers murmured at each nook and corner.
Walking around the houses towards the Cathedral, Stella asked Raphael “how ancient are these homes?” “Well, maybe a few thousands of years?” Raphael’s puzzled answer made Stella anxious. She needed answers to her questions so she walked towards a man ideally standing at the sidewalk in front of his home. Raphael tried to stop her but a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do! “Hallo Herr, Mein Name ist Stella (Hello Sir, My name is Stella)” she spoke with her right pointing at him for a handshake. “Hallo Schone Frau. Ich bin Gerald. Was kann ich fur dich tun? (Hello beautiful lady, I am Gerald. What can I do for you?)” Now that was the least German Stella could speak. Fumbling for words she asked him, “Do you Sie English? (Do you speak English)” He laughed out loud in a nod and a clap saying, “Yes young lady, I do speak English!” “Great! Could you tell me how old are these houses here?” Stella asked pointing at the variety she saw around. “Well its thousands of years old. My home was built by my great grandfather and we’ve followed the tradition of residing in it.” Gerald spoke pointing to his house and glancing over Stella’s shoulder with questioned eyes looking at Raphael standing right behind her. “How strong are these? Are they made with old teak wood and bricks?” “Yes they are. They keep us warm in the snow. Sometimes we don’t need to light the fire as well. Would you like to come in?” he asked. “Well, sir not today. Maybe tomorrow morning I can come visit you. I’m heading to the Cathedral now.” Stella spoke in a convincing voice. “Alright missy! My family would be happy to have you over for breakfast tomorrow morning.” “The pleasure is mine Herr.” Stella was about to take off when Gerald stopped her asking in a whisper, “Do you know this man?” “Oh yes! This is Raphael, my friend. We’re here together to see the Cathedral.” Raphael and Gerald had a firm hand shake with a half smile. Turning to Stella, Gerald said “Ok Liebling. Wir sehen uns morgen fruh”. Stella’s brows rose trying to figure out his words. Gerald noticing it laughs with a wave saying, “Ok dear. See you tomorrow morning!” Stella waved back and walked ahead towards the Cathedral. “Very jolly man eh?!” Raphael commented. “Indeed!”
Stella admired the cathedral walls by the inch. They were moulded and crafted into a perfect fit. Bricks that she never saw before were carved marvellously. She photographed each carving in detail. The huge doors of the cathedral opened up to a graceful dressed altar in front of her. She couldn’t help but photograph it. She had to keep this in her memory forever. As she entered the cathedral and gazed around, Stella imagined her wedding with a magnificent bridal dressed altar covered in orchids, and a jovial choir singing as she entered the church, all the benches occupied with guests, and then this was swished away by Raphael snapping his fingers in front of her face. She blinked with nods multiple times and walked away to capture the rest of the church in her camera. Raphael walked beside her in silence. He knew she was dreaming of a fairy tale. He knew she was a girl with the same dreams and hopes that any other girl would have. He only admired her.
Raphael saw how gracefully she took each step inside not wanting to make noise as some people were praying. He noticed her plunged jacket and her hair falling on her face as she kept shrugging it off. Stella sat down on a bench beside the candle place to feel the warmth of the lit candles. Raphael sat a bench behind her. He noticed observed her pray. It was unique because her eyes were closed, hands were joined and she nodded her head in agreement and/or disagreement without any movement of her lips. She was in deep discussion with God, he thought. He had a smile when he saw Stella’s hands joined like a child. And in whispers’ she prayed, maybe even she wouldn’t be able to hear herself. Raphael knelt in prayer. “Lord, I’m not a frequent visitor to your door but I have faith in your doings. I have only one thing to ask for, Stella’s happiness. She’s prettier when she smiles and I’d like to see it that way. Grant her all that she wishes for. Bless her in abundant ways. In your mercy, Amen”. Raphael honestly wished for her good and as they say, wishes do some true in miraculous ways. A hint was when Raphael and Stella stood up, they church bells rang. The sounds of the bells were soothing and a peaceful remark swayed within both. They knew it meant something but chose to keep silence as the answer. Stella looked back at Raphael with a composed smile.
“I need to show you something, only in the early hours of morning when the sun is rising, will you realise the beauty of it. So be prepared” Raphael said. Stella seemed anxious and wanted to go right away. But Raphael refused. She had to wait. And she did because she knew it would be something startling just like the dinner date. Raphael and Stella sat at the last bench inside the cathedral. “So how do you know so much about Schwerin? Have you been here before?” “Not really, I grew up here but shifted to Berlin later”. “This place is heaven with old cottage homes made of bricks and sidewalks covered in snow, with pathways dressed in green”. “Yes it has always been this way”. “I love it here. It was not what I planned for but this is surely a day better than the museums I’ve wanted to see”. “I can see that Missy!” Raphael smirked trying to vocalise Gerald. “Hey watch it. Gerald is a nice man. You don’t seem to like him yeah? The look you had when you shook hands with him!” “You should have seen the look he had when he shook hands with me. He didn’t like me I guess”. “I doubt it. He’s just being protective. After all, a lonesome night, a girl all alone, someone standing behind her in utmost silence; he’s bound to be hard on you.” Stella smirked at him. “Oh right! Miss Defender like I would have kidnapped you. Do I look like a kidnapper to him?!” Raphael had sarcasm filled in his voice. “Shush. You’re being too loud. C’mon, Gerald is nice. You have to agree. Besides, you need to make peace with it. He’s invited us for breakfast with his family. We have to go. It’ll be so exciting to see his house from inside. I wonder what the kitchen will look like. And the hall, the dining room, the fire place, the bedroom, the bathroom, the terrace and his mighty family.” Stella spoke in one breath rubbing her palms together in excitement. “I don’t know if I’ll sleep well tonight.” Riiiiiggght!” Raphael spoke pressing his lips with one brow raised. “It’s just the excitement you see.” Stella answered. “Does this mean, you didn’t sleep well last night because you were excited for the date?” Raphael shot this question at the right time. Stella couldn’t even shy away to escape. “I saw you smile when I asked you on a date. And I noticed your eyes when I picked you up today evening. You can’t lie.” “Yes” Stella answered. The shortest, easiest and most convincing answer she had. “Gotcha!” Raphael’s voice sounded like he won a prize. Stella placed her head on his shoulder and gazed in direction of the candle stand. She gazed at people placing their candles in hope that their prayers be answered. We usually never pay attention to these things on a regaular basis. But somewhere in life, we get engrossed the way Stella did and it makes us realise our strengths within which make us light a candle in hope each day despite our dismays. Just like each one of them, Stella borrowed a candle from a fellow companion on the bench and placed it at the stand in hope for her prayers to be answered, while Raphael looked up and winked like he had some treaty signed with God. She returned to her bench and sat beside Raphael placing her head on his shoulder. “It’s getting cold. You can hold my hand to keep you warm” Raphael offered his hands. Stella held his hands and snuggled a little beside him, closing her eyes to that snowy night. Raphael’s gaze continued with a smile and a yearning look at the cross.