by Jose Recio
After Pierre and I got married, we moved from Pau to Cerbère, where he had taken a job as a park ranger. Located between the sea and the extreme east of the French Pyrenees, we fell in love with the village, and we enjoyed our walks on the beach. One evening, just before sunset, we discovered a cove, hidden between two large, dark rocks. It captivated us. Adults and children played in the water. When I looked about, I was startled by the presence of a strange-looking female figure dressed from head to toe in a black robe. With her back to the water, she sat on the sand. I pointed her out to Pierre.
“Oh! She’s the Vieux Cécile. I´ve read about her. Nobody knows how old she is. The locals speculate that she dwells with the Eagle somewhere in the mountains. A legend—you know.”
“Well, when something goes wrong in town, everybody blames the Vieux Cécile for it. This cove is her favorite spot. She sits in the sun for hours on end and speaks to nobody. ”
The hidden cove became our favorite spot on the beach. One evening, three years later, while lying on the sand beside Pierre, I wondered whether we would ever have a child. The Old Woman sat not far from us, and I got the impression that she spoke ‘you will have a gifted baby girl.’
“Have you said anything?” I asked Pierre.
“I’ve said nothing. Is it your imagination?”
Two mornings later, after Pierre had left for work, I came out of our little house to water the plants in the front yard when I saw a wicker basket beside the door. Hesitant, I looked inside. I went breathless: a babbling baby in diapers! My eyes couldn’t believe it. Then, I heard a flapping: a black eagle flying away over the house. I didn’t know what to think. My heart pounded in my chest. I grabbed the basket and carried it inside. I immediately phoned Pierre.
“She is a baby girl! Pierre, she may be a week old.” Carefully, I lifted the baby and held her. She is fine.”
“Call the doctor. I’m heading home.”
The physician said the baby was healthy. Everybody in town expressed their amazement at the occurrence. The authorities launched a search to find the baby’s parents. The parish priest baptized her—Marie. Meanwhile, a regional judge agreed for us to become her foster parents. After a year of an unsuccessful search, I convinced Pierre we should adopt Marie.
With abundant curly, black hair and vivacious hazel eyes, our daughter was growing into a fabulous little girl. Every time we three went to our favorite cove to play on the sand, and then swim, anxiety shot up as I witnessed the Vieux Cécile, sitting there. What if—I would think, but said nothing.
In time, I noticed Marie exhibited extraordinary vision. Once, I watched her while she sat in the middle of her room, facing the window, coloring a daisy on which she had drawn a bee.
“That’s quite a realistic bee,” I said.
“It’s still there.” She pointed to the window.
I went to the window. Outside, quite far away, a bee rested on a flower. I was amazed at Marie’s visual acuity. Was she visually gifted? My memory of the Vieux Cécile popped up.
Marie started primary school in Argeles-sur-mer, a town a few miles north. On a morning of dense fog at ground level, some of us, parents, got on the school bus with the kids. About a mile from the school, the fog thickened even more. Unexpectedly, Marie yelled, ‘A deer is on the road!’ Wheels screeched, and the bus slowed down and stopped some twenty feet from a fawn, which stood in the middle of the road, dazzled by the vehicle's lights.
“Who yelled, ‘a deer’?” the driver asked.
“She did!” a boy shouted, pointing to Marie.
“Phew! Girl, you’ve got an eagle eye!” the driver said.
The deer ran into the wooded area beyond the side of the road. The bus continued on its way. Marie sank in her seat for the rest of the trip and said not a word. Afterwards, each morning, I had to drag her to get on the school bus. ‘What’s wrong, eagle eye?’ the driver would ask, but she remained downcast. Her teacher reported that Marie often got lost in thought. She recommended that she stay at home until we found out what her problem was. She looked distracted. One night, she woke up screaming. Pierre and I ran to her room.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” She was sitting on the bed, wringing her hands, eyes wide open. I hugged her.
“My eyes—I'm turning into an eagle!”
I froze (later, Pierre said I turned pallid). Still embracing Marie, I managed to grab Pierre’s hand.
“The Vieux Cécile!” I said and squeezed his hand with all my strength.
“Antoinette, honey, stop! That’s just a legend. I think Marie is still in shock after the fawn incident and the words the bus driver said to her. She takes them literaly.”
Abruptly, Pierre left the room. A minute later, he came back holding a mirror. “Look, Marie, dear!” She moved away from me and looked in the mirror. “Your eyes are yours, not the eagle’s,” he said. “Honey, you have beautiful eyes, and they are only yours.”
Jose L Recio is a physician turning into a writer. He is particularly interested in short fiction and poetic prose. His work appears published in The Acentos Review, Cecile’s Writers Magazine, The Literary Nest, Aether and Ichor, and Adelaide magazine among others. He is originally from Spain but lives in California with his wife for many years.
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