It was still snowing. Frozen crystals falling around covered the garden like a soft, fluffy blanket. A man wearing an old coat and torn hat was crouching behind the wall that separated the garden from the rarely used path. He stood quietly while watching two boys and two girls walking along. They didn`t even notice him, but that was all right. He didn`t need them. He didn`t need anybody.
Four best friends were going to the mountains to ski. Christopher and Ashley were the best skiers. They were all wearing jackets, colourful hats and scarves and thick trousers. They also had gloves and goggles to protect them from the cold wind.
The weather was perfect to spend a few hours on the slope, skiing, laughing and throwing snow balls at each other. They had dreamt about that day for so long. The school term was so hard and exhausting that they really needed those few days to relax and get some strength before the next one.
Christopher and Ashley were first on the slope, while Eric and Emma took a long time climbing the hill. The sun was shining and the snow flakes were sparkling in its rays. They even didn`t remember such a good day full of fun and laughter. Finally, after a few hours, they decided to go to a café and drink some hot chocolate. They were cold and exhausted. Warming up in a nice café with a mug of hot cocoa sounded great.
Although it was late in the afternoon, the place wasn`t very crowded. They found a table with four free places and sat around it. It was warm and pleasant inside. The fire in the fire place was cracking and quiet music was heard from the radio. Other people were drinking and eating hot meals while talking and laughing together. When the teenagers ordered their drinks, Christopher remembered something.
"Hey, did you all hear about little Sarah Kells? My mother heard from her mother that she`s been losing things for the last few days .Mrs Kells seemed to be very worried as it had never happened before".
"Oh, yes!" replied Emma. "She`s missing some gloves and a few toy necklaces. She told me about it when I babysat her last week."
"Really?" asked Ashley. "That is strange. I have noticed today that her picture is missing from the 'Student of the Week' poster."
"Yes!" added Eric." It looks like it was cut off! We need to find out what is happening. I think –"
"Excuse me". The waitress was standing at their table with the hot chocolate, looking confused.
"Oh….thank you!" Eric said, his face red from embarrassment. The lady gave them their drinks and walked away, and they continued their conversation.
"Guess what? Yesterday I found a newspaper talking about the Kells family. It said that six years ago there was a fire in their house. The family lost everything and didn`t have enough money to pay for anything anymore, and Mrs Kells divorced her husband with their one-year-old baby. Mr Kells was in despair. What is even worse he lost his job and couldn`t find anything else to do here so he left the town and was never seen again" said Emma.
"Do you think that this is Sarah`s father causing all this trouble?" asked Christopher. "Maybe he returned and would like to get in contact with his daughter?"
"Yes! I think so! We should find out if he is the one! Let`s meet together tomorrow and investigate" suggested Eric.
They stood up, paid the bill, got dressed warm again and left the cosy café. It was an early evening and they could feel frosty air and see first stars in the sky.
The homeless man was standing in the garden which was covered with snow and ice. There was nobody there. Only the wind was blowing, whistling between the trees. Their shadows looked scary. The man was looking around nervously. He gazed at each item that he had. A pair of pink gloves, some play jewellery, a pair of scissors, and a picture. A picture of his dear daughter, Sarah. He missed her a lot.
"Don`t worry, Sarah" he whispered. "I`ll get you and take you away from this horrible place! I will!".
He put the things in a box, his treasure box, and buried it in the ground.
The dawn of a beautiful morning has broken. It seemed as if the morning was promising a lot. Light snowflakes were falling and swirling, a mild breeze was blowing. The four friends met at a café as they usually did during this holiday. Guess what they have ordered? Yes, you are right - hot chocolate. And after that, of course, on skis. At least, such were the plans.
But, not in vain people have such a saying- you are planning and the Lord is laughing… While they were waiting for the chocolate suddenly it became dark. What’s this? Worried everyone dived to the window. Ashley unexpectedly screamed: “Our plans are collapsing! We won’t ski! Look! What is happening outside! ” Huge dark clouds gathered and it started to snow heavily.
Christopher offered: "Let’s go to the skating - rink instead." Everyone agreed although without a great enthusiasm and left. Splashing through the deep snowdrifts, which were rising in their eyes, the four friends were sharing their holiday impressions and wondering about such an unexpected weather change.
Soon Christopher and Ashley were torn from the rest. Everywhere they were the first: the first on the slope, the first on their way to the skating- rink. While they were speeding ahead, Eric and Emma were browsing the shopwindows, they were quite tired and could’t withstand their friends pace. Suddenly they noticed a note on one building "Library", and immediately a thought came to Emma’s mind: she remembered that yesterday they planned to investigate Sarah’s case. (She already called it "a case" in her mind).
Emma started to shout as loud as she could: "Stop! Christopher, Ashley! Wait!" It wasn’t very easy to persuade them come back. At last they were here and without any explanations Emma pulled them into the library. Eric wasn’t less puzzled and he mumbled: "What are you doing? What about the skating- rink?" Only then Emma explained everything and reminded their yesterday’s plans. In almost no time all friends started to burrow in the pile of old newspapers.
They were trying to find something about the fire in Kells’ house but the story was quite old and they found nothing. The friends were already starting to lose the hope when Ashley’s eye was caught on one article in the title of which they noticed the well known surname- Kells. It was the article about a man who found his happiness in a very unusual way. The title of the article was:
"Unbelievable Kells’ success"
The most famous and influential our town businessman is telling the story of his unexpected success. "One bright morning I woke up and decided to buy a lottery ticket. That was the first time in my life to buy it. I went to a small local shop run by a man of an Indian origin. In the shop I cleared a protective layer of the ticket I bought…. 1,000,000 euros… I found such an inscription on it. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, but when the shopkeeper reassured me that it was true, I tried to believe. The very next day the money appeared in my account but I was not tending to waste it easily. I decided to buy stocks of a well known company, and I chose "Microsoft". In half a year the value of the stocks rised highly and I bought more and more. I kept buying the stocks and in several years I overtook the controlling stock pack. And now I’m running "Microsoft". Poor Bill Gates…To the questions of a personal nature Mr Kells answers really reluctantly. To tell the true, doesn’t answer at all.
Such an intriguing information was found in the article. Christopher asked: "Is it possible that this Mr Kells is the same Kells we are looking for?" Nobody was very fast to answer his question. At last Emma uttered: "I believe that this Mr Kells is somehow connected with the one we are looking for, but I am not sure that he is exactly the one. Maybe he is a relative of the Mr Kells or something like that?”
Ashley’s opinion was strict and without any doubts: "Don’t be so naïve, this is not a novel, this is life. You think if the surname is the same it means something? I am sure that this is only a coincidence. "Eric only shrank his shoulders, he was not brave enough to speak his mind. As many people as many opinions.
The homeless man buried the box and cleaned his hands to his torn trousers. Suddenly in a bright moonlight a massive gold ring with a precious stone glittered on his forefinger. "Damn it! Such a tiny detail can betray me" whispered the man. He torn the ring from the finger and carefully hid it a pocket of his torn trousers.
Mr. Kells was fast asleep but those unforgettable memories kept coming to his mind…
The first fortnight of August went by as a wonderful dream during which he got peace and rest from his hectic daily routine. Mr. Kells had had a promotion at work and wanted to celebrate the event, so he decided to travel abroad with his wife and his one-year-old daughter. After spending some time reading some brochures and discussing where to go they chose the Algarve, as their holiday destination. At the time they were really happy and rejoiced every moment of their lives, they were young and they were in love. One of those days remained vivid in Mr. Kells’ memory. They woke up very early, the daylight was very bright. They thought that even sun rays were different in Portugal. In fact everything seemed to be different here: the air, the smells and the people. The Portuguese were really nice and friendly. The water was different too, it had a really fresh taste. They fell in love with the Algarve at first sight.
Mr. Kells opened the back door of the car and sat his daughter on the seat, his wife sat next to the child and he drove to the nearest beach. It took them 20 minutes to get to the seacoast. What magnificent views they behold on their way – cheerful orchards with orange trees, typical houses with white chimneys, children playing football in their yards and then a shining view of the ocean wrapped in a blue noonday haze.
"George, let’s stop here, do you see that café over there? It seems to be quite cosy."
They entered the café and sat down at a free table. It was high season and the café was quite crowded. The waiter came by and they ordered two sandwiches, two glasses of orange juice and a vegetable soup for their daughter.
Mr. Kells’ wife was really a precious pearl. She had a wonderful name Mary. She was tall and slim and her hair was curly and blond. Her eyes were sky-blue, she had a smiling face and a tender heart and for him she was incomparable.
"Mary, let’s go to the beach, the sea is quite calm."
They lay on the sand, closed their eyes and began to listen to the music of the waves. It was a great sound, like an orchestra. From a distance it seemed to be the keys of a piano, rushed at times by thin sounds of a violin.
The water was warm clear blue and inviting and Mary decided to go for a swim. Sarah was playing with her toys and started to build a sandcastle.
Sarah came out of the water and couldn’t find her daughter.
"George! Wake up! Sarah has disappeared!" cried Mary in despair.
They looked for her throughout the entire beach, asked if someone had seen a small child but nobody had seen her. She was missing.
"Mary! The car! She may be near the car" said Mr. Kells.
They rushed to the car and saw little Sarah playing near it. Mary held her tight in her arms and exclaimed:
"Sarah, we were so worried, never do this again!"
"Mary, I promise I’ll never lose her out of sight again. I’ll always be near my daughter."
Although unwillingly he broke his promise some months later. After the fire he had no choice but to leave his family behind and disappear…
Nevertheless now he was back and determined to diminish the painful suffering he had caused. Mr. Kells only needed to be cautious and think of an intelligent plan.
It was 1 o’ clock after midnight. George Kells was on his way home, drunk, with trembling feet and no balance at all. He slowly reached the front door of his house and pulled the key out of his pocket. His hands were shivering. It took some time until he finally managed to open the door… He entered the house and went from the corridor to the living room, which was covered by complete darkness. While he was trying desperately to reach the light switch, he stumbled on a chair. –"To hell, he shouted."- "Do you need any help?" a voice called and suddenly the lights were switched on. Mary Kells was sitting on a chair at the other side of the room. – "Oh my beloved wife", he whispered and he tried to get close to her.- "Stay away from me, you drunk" Mary shouted…- "where have you been again?" - "it’s none of your business," he answered with a slow and tired voice. - "It concerns me and our daughter! The only thing you do is wondering around and drinking." – "Shut up", George shouted…- "what’s the matter? Does the truth hurt you?" Mary said… - "I said shut up!!!! You are nothing more than useless…, Mary replied. – "Shut up!!"
At that moment, little Sarah Kells appeared at the stairs of the upper floor, handing a toy bear very tightly in her hands. She looked scared and in a while she burst into tears. Mary run to her daughter and hid the tiny body in her armful. - "Disappear and never try to set foot on this house again. Never dare to approach either me or my daughter!!! George Kells walked with inconstant footsteps towards the door. He opened it and got out at the yard. He went ahead making false steps till the outside door. –“We haven’t finished yet, you will pay it off at a very high price," he tried to shout before he went away staggering.
Mary pressed her daughter closely in her arms, trying to make her be calm and stop crying. She embraced her with tenderness she caressed her white skin and her blond hair. - "Calm my baby, calm, all is over, everything is all right. She took her and drove her to the armchair. She tried to lull her to sleep. Finally the little girl fell asleep in her hands. She looked so calm and peaceful…. nothing could awake her. The mother carried the baby carefully in the room, kissed her on the forehead, covered her and put the lights off. She ought to be calm and forget this terrible quarrel. Nevertheless, could she forget, or this would be a nightmare following her in her whole life?
While Mary was walking downstairs, she felt hot air coming from the kitchen. As she was getting closer, the temperature was increasing more and more. She tried to open the door but she sprang back…the handle of the door was awfully burnt… She pushed it strongly with her body. She gazed at the enormous flames, lightening fire tongues, burning everything they found …! She stepped back terrified and went ahead towards her daughter’s room. She hugged her and run to the outside door as soon as possible. She felt the fire hunting after her, destroying everything around. The flames, like a fiery demon coming out of the depths of hell, escaped from the kitchen and over flew Kell’s house.
It was early spring, but this was a really chilly cold afternoon. In the beautiful green park, the shade of the trees seemed huge and threatening and the whisper of the wind passing though the foliage did increase the image of the wilderness. The winter seemed not to be eager to abandon the small town. - "Walk a little faster I froze to death" Eric said to Emma. Christopher and Ashley were already ahead. – "I am tired and I’m freezing", Emma replied. – "Those evenings classes are a real trouble" Emma added. – "I wish I lived in a country like Greece" Eric replied. There, the days are always sunny, so maybe that’s why Greek people are so happy and pleasant". It’s a real magic to live by the sea enjoying the sun," Eric answered. "Eventually the evening classes are not that bored," Emma agreed; I have printed a picture of Santorini’s beautiful sunset. It would be a good idea to prepare a project about Greek Aegean islands and Crete. I wish I lived….
The discussion was interrupted abruptly… Christopher and Ashley who were walking in front of the others, like they always did, had stopped to a bench where a middle-aged man was lying down unconscious. He was wearing a ragged coat and he was disheveled and unshaven. A half-full bottle was lying next to him… He was immovable, his lips were livid… Christopher got closer to him and checked his pulse. - "He is looking so weak, he needs help" he said. - "Let’s call an ambulance" Ashley replied.
The sound of the siren was heard a few minutes later from the corner of the road. Two nurses got off the ambulance carrying the stretcher, where they placed the stranger on. They carried him into the ambulance and the children followed it. While they were carrying him, Emma noticed something very odd: He was wearing a big expensive ring…- "He must have stolen it", she thought.
Later on, the doctors announced them that the man’s health was really very bad. As the children were waiting outside the patient’s room, Emma’s thoughts were running to the ring all the time. How was it possible for a man like him to carry such a valuable thing? Only if he had stolen it!! - "Now he feels better, although you cannot visit him," the voice of the nurse returned Emma to reality.
Christopher was still holding the ragged coat in his hands. As he was standing up from his chair in the corridor, a wallet fell down, at his feet. And what a surprise: The wallet was full of money. From now on, they were sure he had stolen it. It was obvious the man was a thief. – "we should give the wallet to the police" Ashley said. – "what it may contain?" She hadn’t finished her phrase yet, when Christopher pulled a small girl’s photo from a case of the wallet. – "I know this girl, I know her!!...," Emma cried, without believing what she saw… "She is Sarah Kells !!..." The children looked embarrassed. Nobody talked for a while, but the same thought was dancing in everyone’s mind. Is it ever possible, could this man be little Sarah’s father?...
When the man was in the observation room, a nurse called Mary entered. The moment she saw him, she was really surprised because she had already read the man’s medical history. The man was familiar to her, she knew him but … she couldn’t remember who he was.
The following day, they went into the room where the man was. They sat down and started to speak with him.
The man told them that he was Sarah’s uncle, Patrick, and he also explained them that the money they had found in his wallet was his, he had not stolen it, he didn’t need to steal since he was a millionaire because some years ago she won the lottery.
Then the four friends discovered that the man who appeared in the newspaper’s article was him.
They also asked him a lot of questions about his brother, that is, Sarah’s father, and then the man started telling them all the story. He told them that some years ago he and his brother George were living in a wonderful country, in a country where pities turn into happiness, in Spain… Until his brother met Mary, who was spending her holidays there. Then they fell in love and they started living together in Spain … but, when Mary was pregnant, both of them decided to go back to their home country. However George’s brother stayed in Spain… He never again had news about George or Mary… but he thought George might have gone to Spain since he loved that country so much…
Nevertheless, the four friends decided to go on with the investigation and went to Spain, to the address the man had given them, but there was nobody there…
- Don’t worry George, I’ve sent them to a wrong address in Spain.
- Thank you brother! I don’t want them to bother me.
They decided to return to the park where they saw Patrick again, but when noticed them, he ran away. As he was running, he dropped a small piece of paper. Eric took it and found a phone number.
- “What can we do with it?”, asked Ashley.
- “Let’s call”, said Emma.
Later, that evening, they arrived at the restaurant, sat at a table and asked for some typical dish. While they were enjoying a delicious a delicious meal, they saw Patrick going into the restaurant, but he didn’t enter the room where they were, he walked to the kitchen. The four friends were really astonished and they didn’t know what to do; Ashley stood up and went to investigate to the kitchen. When she was approaching, a waiter suddenly appeared and Ashley hid under a close table, from there she saw two men talking, Patrick and the cook … and, she couldn’t believe her eyes, they were twins! The cook was George! Patrick had lied! The girl could hear a conversation between them:
- “Our plans are getting more and more difficult, some kids are looking into this matter, I think this place isn’t safe,” said Patrick
- “OK”, replied George, “let’s arrange another appointment somewhere else, we must know what to do with Sarah.”
- “I think you should call Mary and ask her to meet to talk about Sarah”, added Patrick.
The two brothers agreed and finished their meeting. George phoned Mary and asked her to let him see his daughter, but Mary refused and went alone to the meeting.
When George arrived, Mary realised something different in him, she looked at his neck, but she didn’t see the scar that he got during the fire many years ago…
'What shall I do?' Mary was wondering herself, torn between doubts and fear, while walking through the crowded street toward the Tapas restaurant in Exeter. ‘Can I start all over again? All these years of solitude, whilst I had to face all sort of problems as a single mother, to raise a child as well as possible…And now? He’s back and he implores me to forgive him…Should I?’
Eventually, Mary met George. Or, at least, the man he thought to be George.
The real George rang the bell at Mary’s home door.
- ‘Who is it?’ asked the beloved voice which he longed so much for.
- ‘Your daddy, my dear Sarah!’
- ‘WHO???’ The little girl opened the door in a second.
- ‘My love, the light of my eyes….my dear - dear – dear daughter!’ And the man kneeled on the door step, holding tight the little body in front of him. Hot tears flowed on his lined cheeks, knotting in his beard… ‘How long have I been waiting for this…I thought I’d never hold you like this again…never in this life!’
Little Sarah felt dizzy, puzzled, a bit embarrassed. Who was this stranger? Her mother had told her that daddy was dead. And still…beyond his strange ragged appearance, something familiar broke through it…the warmth of his arms holding her desperately, as a promise that he’ll be there forever, like a real father, like all her friends’ fathers she knew. Is this possible?
George was weeping and smiling at the same time. His voice was hurried, whispering persuasive, convincing. He was telling her…what? What was he telling incessantly?
To forgive him, to ask her mother to forgive him too, to convince Mary to start their life together, all three of them, as a happy family, from the beginning.
Yes, he has changed. He had wandered all over the world, even in Romania.
Yes, Romania…good memories! He told Sarah that he had been working on an archeological site, as a simple digger, somewhere in the middle of Transylvania, at some ruins of an old castle. Transylvania! Strange, charming, half - wild, half – modern and civilized…its main cities, Timisoara, Oradea, Cluj-Napoca, Alba-Iulia have been known since the Romans’ occupation, when Traian, the emperor, had conquered these wonderful, blessed land. “Transylvania” literarily means “The land beyond the forests” in Latin. And people there still speak a Romanic language in the middle of a Slavonic language speaking world. That’s the reason why they call themselves “Romani”.
Nowadays, the local people were telling strange stories about Count Dracula, whom they thought the castle had belonged to…Well, the chief- archeologist said that all those words were a load of rubbish, that the remains were all that had left from Vlad the Impaler’s prison. But no Romanian folk would have believed this silly story!
‘Sarah, if you want me to, I’ll take you and your mother there, to see yourselves, with your own eyes! It’s true! And, more important than that’ – he followed in a lower voice – ‘I’ve found a treasure there, buried in a wall…I kept the secret. I must go back there to take it with me…It’s yours, you deserve it! What’s the gold, what are all the diamonds in the world without you? I want my family back! Please, please my dear Sarah, will you forgive me???...’
- ‘Is it there? Is it there?' asked Sarah excitedly, jumping up and down. Mr. Kells repeatedly struck at a loosened brick in the old wall.
- ‘I’ve almost got it… Yes, here it is!' he exclaimed. He pulled out a miniature chest and opened it carefully. It was filled to the top with medieval coins of gold, each one worth at least 5000 pounds!
- ‘Yay!' yelled Sarah!
- ‘Oh, you did it, dear,' said Mary Kells happily, hugging him tightly. Mr. Kells blinked back tears as he clutched the most important thing in the world to his heart – not the treasure, but his precious family.
- ‘Look, look!' Emma rushed into the classroom a few minutes before the bell rang to start a weekly class meeting. Her three friends were waiting for her. She slapped a newspaper down onto a desk.
“Mr. George Kells, along with his wife, Mary, and a daughter, Sarah, found a valuable treasure on Tuesday in an ancient medieval castle in Romania. This family of three was on holiday at Transylvania, the legendary home of Count Dracula, when they stumbled upon a small chest filled with hundreds of very old medieval coins, some even dating back to the 8th century! All of them are made of pure gold, and the finding, as a whole, quite possibly carries a value of over a million pounds.
- ‘Wow!' said Christopher. 'So cool!'
- ‘You will be travelling through Romania, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, and, of course, the beautiful, as well as historic, country of Poland,' the teacher added.
- ‘Greece!' murmured a very happy Emma. 'Now we can do a project about Crete and the Aegean islands…'
- ‘And my grandmother is from Portugal!' exclaimed Ashley.
- ‘Oh, I can’t wait!' said Eric, and the other three agreed with him.