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On Friday morning, when he went to class, Father Romanones was waiting for him by the gate.Julian, I have to speak to you.''What is it, Father?''I always knew this day would come, and I must confess I'm happy to be the one who will break the news to you.''What news, Father?'Julian Carax was no longer a pupil at San Gabriel's school. His presence in the compound, the classrooms, and even the gardens was strictly forbidden. His school items, textbooks, and all other belongings were now school property.The technical term is "immediate and total expulsion",' Father Romanones summed up.'May I ask the reason?''I can think of a dozen, but I'm sure you'll know how to choose the most appropriate one. Good day, Carex. And good luck in your life. You're going to need it.'Some thirty yards away, in the fountains courtyard, a group of pupils was watching him. Some were laughing, waving goodbye. Others looked at him with pityand bewilderment. Only one smiled sadly: his friend Miquel Moliner, who simply nodded and silently mouthed some words that Julian thought he could read in the air: 'See you on Sunday.'When he got back to the apartment in Ronda de San Antonio, Julian noticed Don Ricardo's Mercedes-Benz parked outside the hat shop. He stopped on the corner and waited. After a while Don Ricardo came out of his father's shop and got intothe car. Julian hid in a doorway until the car set off towards Plaza 159
Universidad. Only then did he rush up the stairs to his home. His mother, Sophie, was waiting there, in floods of tears.'What have you done, Julian?' she murmured without anger.'Forgive me, MotherSophie held her son close. She had lost weight and had aged, as if between them all they had stolen her life and her youth. I more so than anyone, thought Julian.'Listen to me carefully, Julian. Your father and Don Ricardo Aldaya have got everything set up to send you to the army in a few days' time. Aldaya has a great deal of influence . . . You have to go, Julian. You have to go where neither of them can find youJulian thought he saw a shadow in his mother's eyes that seemed to take hold of her.'Is there anything else, Mother? Something you haven't told me?'Sophie gazed at him with trembling lips. 'You must go. We must both go away fromhere forever.'Julian held her tight and whispered in her ear, 'Don't worry about me, Mother. Don't you worry.'Julian spent the Saturday shut up in his room, among his books and his drawing pads. The hatter had gone down to the shop just after dawn and didn't return until the early hours. He doesn't have the courage to tell me to my face, thought Julian. That night, his eyes blurred with tears, Julian said farewell tothe years he had spent in that dark, cold room, lost amid dreams that he now knew would never come true. Sunday, at daybreak, armed with only a bag containing a few clothes and books, he kissed Sophie's forehead, as she lay curled under blankets in the dining room, and left. The streets seemed envelopedin a blue haze. Flashes of copper sparkled on the flat roofs of the old town. He