Cartagena de Indias, 21 February 1990
The aeroplane cruises slowly down the runway, tail-lights catching the fading glow of the Caribbean sun as it dips below the horizon. Then, at some invisible signal from the control tower, it begins to gather momentum. A violent shudder ripples through its dusty undercarriage as aluminium wheels vibrate at speed on scorching tarmac. Just above the passenger windows the words – Avianca, Colombia – are just visible in the fading light.
As the plane tilts its nose skyward and the ground drops away from beneath her feet, the girl shifts uneasily in her seat and lifts a protective hand to the soft swell of her belly. She is barely twenty years old but something in her eyes, a sort of guarded watchfulness, belies her youthful appearance. This impression is heightened by the way she sits, like a tightly coiled spring turned protectively inwards on itself.
The tawny-haired man across the aisle has been observing her since they boarded. He abruptly discards his newspaper and raises a quizzical eyebrow in her direction, but before he can pose the question forming in his mind she has already turned away – clamping her eyes tight shut as if to erase her surroundings. As she folds herself away inside the private world of her thoughts, her features assume a closed ‘do not disturb’ expression.
As the aircraft gains altitude, distancing itself from the shrinking landmass below, the man reluctantly returns to his newspaper and the girl begins to daydream. In her mind’s-eye she sees herself floating over the earth – an incorporeal being suspended in time and space.
Suddenly she flinches and covers her face – as if to shield herself from an invisible blow. But the noise inside her head is growing louder and she can no longer ignore its persistent drone. The voices are relentless now, forcing her to take note - to acknowledge what she doesn't want to hear. She knows that it is useless to resist. These spiteful harpies always gain the upper hand, feeding on her anxiety like a wake of ravenous vultures. Soon they will become as familiar as her own skin and she will think of them collectively as, The Furies. She braces herself for the sting of their final verdict:
‘This is it, Lara. It’s time to face the music. There is nowhere left to run. You are alone.’