Read The Watcher in the Shadows Online

Authors: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Watcher in the Shadows (23 page)

What can I tell you about my mother? I envy her strength and the composure that got us through so many difficult situations. The war years were tough for her, perhaps more so than for us. She never talks about it, but sometimes, when I see her standing quietly by the window, watching people go by, I wonder what is going through her mind. These days, she doesn’t leave the house much and spends hours with only a book for company. It’s as if she’s crossed a bridge and I don’t know how to get to the other side . . . Sometimes I catch her looking at old photographs of Dad and hiding her tears.

As for me, I’m well. A month ago I left Saint Bernard’s Hospital, where I’ve been working all these years. It’s going to be demolished. I hope the memories of all the suffering and horror I witnessed during the war will vanish along with the building. I don’t think I’m the same person either, Ismael. Something has happened inside me.

I witnessed a great many things I’d never imagined could happen . . . There are shadows in this world, Ismael. Shadows far worse than the one against which you and I fought that night in Cravenmoore. Shadows next to which Daniel Hoffmann is almost child’s play. Shadows that exist inside each one of us.

Sometimes I’m pleased that my father isn’t here to see all this. But you must be thinking I’ve become someone who lives solely in the past. Not at all. As soon as I read your last letter, my heart skipped a beat. It was as if the sun had come out after ten long years of rain. I returned to the Englishman’s Beach, to the island, and once again I sailed across the bay on board the
I’ll always remember those days as the happiest of my life.

I have to confess a secret. Often, during the winter nights of the war, while shots and screams echoed through the dark, I would let my thoughts wander back there again, to your side, to the day we spent on the lighthouse island. I wish we had never left that place. I wish that day had never ended.

I suppose you’ll wonder whether I ever married. The answer is no. Not for lack of suitors, I might add! Modesty aside, I’m still quite successful in that respect. There have been a few boyfriends, here and there. The war years were too difficult to spend them alone, and I’m not as strong as my mother. But that was it. I’ve learnt that solitude is sometimes a path that leads to peace. And, for months, that’s the only thing I’ve wanted, peace.

And that is all. Or nothing. How can I begin to explain the feelings, the memories of these past few years? I’d rather wipe them out with a single stroke of the pen. I’d like my most recent memory to be that dawn on the beach and discover that all the rest has just been a bad dream. I’d like to be fourteen again, and not understand the world around me, but that’s impossible.

I don’t want to go on writing. I want us to speak face to face.

In a week’s time, my mother is going off to spend a couple of months with her sister in Aix-en-Provence. That same day, I’ll return to the Gare du Nord station and take a train to Normandy, just as I did ten years ago. I know you’ll be waiting for me and that I’ll recognise you among the crowd, as I would even if a thousand years had passed. I’ve known that for a long time now.

An eternity ago, during the worst days of the war, I had a dream. In the dream I was walking along the Englishman’s Beach with you. The sun was setting and the island was just visible through the haze. Everything was as it had been: Seaview, the bay . . . Even the ruins of Cravenmoore peeping over the forest. Everything except us. We were an elderly couple. You could no longer go out sailing and my hair was as white as ash. But we were together.

Ever since that dream I’ve known that one day, no matter when, our moment would come. That in some distant place the September lights would shine again for us and this time there would be no more shadows crossing our path.

This time it would be for ever.

Also By Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind
The Angel’s Game
The Prisoner of Heaven

The Prince of Mist
The Midnight Palace

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A Weidenfeld & Nicolson ebook

First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

This ebook first published in 2013 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

© Dragonworks, S.L. 1995

English translation © Lucia Graves 2012

First published in Spain as
Las Luces de Septiembre

The rights of Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Lucia Graves, to be identified as the author and translator of this work respectively, have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

978 0 297 85742 6

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