He kneels down, his face close to her grass-stained knees and peers through her legs, through the gap in the thicket watching his own band of vagabonds revel in their tunes.
"Ah good spot," he agrees. He's relaxed on haunches and gently places the violin and bow on the ground, clearly intent on hanging around.
"What's it like, being a gypsy?" She sits cross-legged on the grass, naive and quizzical. His eyes first drawn to the shadow made between her thighs by her skirt, before snapping to attention and focusing on her childish face.
"My mother says you steal coal . . and children."
He laughs, flashing white, "We might. I might steal you," he chides.
At first she's greeted with caution, animosity and jealous gazes. She's called 'gadji' an outsider. But time wears them down. His mother, once frosty and unforgiving, hands her warm and spicy soup, even gives her a scarf to flaunt and flay while his arms wrap around her waist in the flurry of the dance.
Tonight there is no music as man, woman and child busy themselves with preparations for departure. The women securing caravans, men hitching them to clapped out cars and pickups and tinkering with ancient motors that have become too cantankerous to start.
She smiles and holds the loose bag high, "Yep, all packed and ready."
Inside she's hesitant but willing. She wants to, she's always wanted to, but not until he laced those arms around her waist and pressed warm lips and tongue into hers, does she swoon and all sensibility is lost; all thought of consequence abandoned. It's the kiss of fantasy and addles any common sense she's ever possessed.
"Put these on," his mother thrusts discordant colours into Emilie's chest. A hand made skirt and embroidered blouse, pink cardigan and Spanish shawl. His mother admires her handiwork as Emilie dons the gypsy garb, "There, you're one of us now. What did you bring?"
He'd told her to bring valuables. A bride price would be required even if her father was unaware of their elopement. Shit she was 13, what did she know of such things? She wants him, and if her mother's necklace and the money saved in the biscuit tin on the kitchen shelf is what it takes, then so be it. She empties the carpet bag in the back of the van. Most of the booty is junk - mother of pearl and costume jewellery. His mother sifts emeried hands through every piece. There's money of course, rolled tight and bound with a thick red rubber band - and the necklace. Twenty beautiful stones. She bites the chain to which they're tied. It's gold, as gold as the filling in her front incisor, but the stones are fake. It'll make an heirloom, 'something borrowed,' but there's little value in it on the street. She examines the blue/white stones with care and precision. "They'll do," is all she says.
Her bed was empty that morning, never slept in. The note short, "I've gone for good this time, I'm free. Sorry about the money and the necklace." The alarm raised good and early, but past habits are hard to break and local Gendarmes show little enthusiasm for the chase.
"August, she's done this before and more than once. We'll keep an eye out but she'll be home as usual."
Her father knows it's likely, but prepares newspaper advertisements to notify her as missing. Her mother just sits on her bed stroking the sheets and sobbing, blaming herself for being too strict, not understanding. By the time the authorities show any real concern, she's long gone. A covered passenger in a gypsy van, headed for one of the largest cities in the world. No better way to lose yourself than in a crowd, even at her tender age.
Guaril opens the van door and takes her hand, "This'll be home for a while," he reassures. "We can earn some money here but we have to get our circulation records first." She's confused and has no idea that those with no trade or regular income need to report to the authorities each month, be granted the right to set up camp or risk being moved on.
His mother bustles between them, "Never mind that . . help me set up. You have things to learn and work to do, a wedding to plan. Gueril, you have business . . go to it!"
She's hastened away and fussed over by people she's never met as he disappears with half a dozen other men, slapping backs and shaking hands like old friends.
To her it's paradise, eyes blinded by adventure. Even in the early morning musicians gather with accordions and violins, fires burn in 44 gallon drums, women bustle in preparation of the day oblivious to the chilly dawn. Children barefoot and grubby, chase between the caravans their contagious laughter music to her once heavy heart. It's a shanty town, poor and shambled. To her it's palace grounds and he her Gypsy prince.
Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory " Two Glass Houses and Twenty Stones"