Unexpectedly, or perhaps not, Darky laughed at that. ‘It isn’t just the mountain air. I got some special herbs that I put in some of the snacks. They help me to chill out, not to stress out about stuff.’

‘Are you trying to drug me?’ Laura sat up straight. She was awake like a lightning bolt.

‘Not drug. Calm down’, Darky said in his soothing voice. ‘Just some natural herbs that can only be good for you. I have been taking them every night since I have been here.’

‘What herbs are they?’ Laura demanded to know. ‘And what do you have to stress out about? You seem so relaxed all the time.’

Darky snorted at that. ‘That’s because I ‘m taking these herbs. It is only lavender and some other plants that they sell down the market. Oh what do you know, I have all kinds of secrets that you would probably rather not know about.’

Now Laura was intrigued. ‘We all have something in our past that we would rather not talk about. Right?’

Darky shrugged. ‘Well, mine is pretty hard to beat. When I was growing up, I had very absent parents. My farther suffered from depression and was emotionally unavailable, and my mother was too busy with work and with dealing with her own issues. I guess people are never fully ready for parenthood but my parents certainly were not even half way there. I found my own way through life. That involved criminal activity, but what else was I to do? Then a modelling agency spotted me and you can imagine how such a life change is for a teenager.  A lot money, drugs and partying followed. I thought that getting into the music industry would have helped me to get back on track, but once the media paints you as the bad boy, you will always be the bad boy.’

Darky sighed and looked thoughtfully at the passing clouds. ‘This retreat was going to be a starting point for my new life. No more rock and roll and parties. No more drugs and criminal activity. No more dodgy crowds. I am trying to recharge and then make a comeback as a solo singer who has a clean image.’

‘That sounds wonderful to me’, Laura said genuinely. Perhaps she had misjudged Darky after all. She realised that she was doing exactly what she hated other people doing to her. She was forming an opinion on Darky with limited knowledge of him and based on fleeting encounters, on scattered knowledge. ‘I think that a lot of us are here for that purpose. We all want to better our lives and move onto the next phase. I need a break from my draining career and to rethink priorities in life.’

‘Let us hope that this retreat will give us a chance to that’, Darky looked wistful.‘The rain is subsiding now. Shall we slide down the slope and catch the bus to the retreat centre? I know how to get there.’

Laura started following him down the mountain. This wasn’t just a charm act to win her over, was it? There must be at least some truth behind Darky’s words.


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