Retribution: Chapter 11

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One evening as it was growing dark, Marianne came home and knelt on the floor by the bed. Under her bed were old hat boxes with paisley patterns, floral patterns, and geometric patterns. She pulled out one of the smaller boxes and put in on the bed.

Opening up the box, she found things that she had been able to salvage from her old home in Cannes including photographs. The first photograph she looked at was of her mother at about her own age at her coming out party. Written on the back in pencil was “1907”. Marianne looked a lot like her mother, a fact she was glad of because she thought her mother was very beautiful, though she had never been considered the beauty of the family.

By the time the second picture had been taken, Marianne had come into the picture, literally. An infant Marianne was being held in her mother’s arms above a bassinet in a spring garden. On the back was written “Marianne, Mai 1915, sept mois”

The next picture was dated 1917 and featured her her mother and Tante Catherine and Tante Mimi all in evening dresses. Her mother was standing with her arm on the back of a chair where Tante Catherine was seated. Tante Mimi stood on the other side but turned away. What struck Marianne was that the dress her mother was wearing had flowing harem pants which tapered at her ankles underneath it.

Marianne had been told that her mother had volunteered to help work on farm during The Great War and there was a picture of her standing near a barn. In her arms was Marianne as toddler, and penciled on the back was “Marianne, Octobre 1916, deux ans”

The last picture was the most precious to her. In it her mother was standing in a wedding dress next to a seated man Marianne felt safe to assume was her father. He was a fair young man in a dark suit and a boutonnière which matched his bride’s bouquet and looked handsome and dashing but had a rather stiff expression on his face.

She turned the photograph over and read what was written on the back “James and Madeleine. 28 Juin 1913”

This picture was precious to her because gave a face and a name to an idea of a man. Marianne had a vague memory from when she was very little, perhaps a year or two old, of a handsome man with a rich voice holding her in his arms and calling her his little pearl, not the French phrase “petit perle”, but the English phrase “little pearl”. Sometimes he would sing to her; he had had the most beautiful baritone voice.

But the image and the memories told her nothing about the man he had been.

Her head was full of questions about her father and longed to know the answers to them.

Her aunts were kind and gentle, and good but they still saw her as a child and she felt that they were keeping the answers from her because they felt that she was not ready to know them.

“Weren’t my parents a good looking couple” she said to Johnny who was curled up in a little black ball, asleep and snoring, on the bed.

“Marianne” a voice called up to her.

She got on her knees to look out the window and saw Augustin.

“You look trapped up there” he said

“And have you come to rescue me?” She asked with equal parts flirtatiousness and sarcasm.

“That depends”

“On what?”

“On whether or not you want to be rescued”

“If I let you rescue me, will there be any more danger?”

“What do you mean?”

“No escrocs or sweet old men will be in any trouble?”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“Not really”

“So, is Rapunzel going to let down her hair?”

Marianne pondered the choice for a moment.

“I’ll be down in a minute”

She quickly put on a pair of shoes and went downstairs to join him.

They ran away to a cinema because Marianne wanted to see Gold Diggers of 1933 and came in as the newsreel was beginning. The weather was hot for late June but it was cool inside the theater.

“Do you think anyone saw us?” Marianne whispered as they took their seats.

“I don’t think so” Augustin answered

They had snuck into the theater by hiding among a large group of people going in.

The newsreel was about a shootout that had taken place  in a train station in Kansas City Missouri which was the result of a gang lead by Pretty Boy Floyd trying to free a federal prisoner who was being brought back to prison. An FBI agent, three local police, and the federal prisoner, Frank Nash were killed.

Augustin’s green eyes lit up with interest. He was interested in anything to do with Pretty Boy Floyd and his contemporaries: Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly, and especially John Dillinger.

He had seen men follow the rules; breaking their backs all day for a few sous and never get anywhere, and those were the ones lucky enough to have work. But Floyd, Nelson, Kelly, and Dillinger were types who played by their own rules and always got ahead.

Marianne came out of the movie singing one of the songs.

“We’re in the money; we’re in the money. We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along” she sang.

Again they ran away, this time to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Sitting in the grass in a secluded little spot, they began an easy conversation about their respective lives which seemed the thing to do. They looked at each other in the darkness.   Their knees touched from time to time and it excited them.

“They were kind enough to me at the convent” Marianne began ” the nuns were strict but not overbearingly so, and the girls were friendly enough. But life there wasn’t for me. I missed Cannes, I guess you could say I was homesick. What did you miss about Algiers?”

“The sun, the heat. That’s why I’m enjoying this weather so much,” Augustin answered

“I don’t mind warm weather but I don’t like the sun that much because I burn easily.

Augustin laughed at her. His own complexion was neither fair nor dark but rather both at the same time with the best parts of each. He had never had to worry much about sunburns, not that getting sunburnt was much of a problem in Paris.

“Tell me more about the convent.”

“My Tante Catharine suggested that I stay at the convent and become a nun but that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to hide myself under a veil like I’d done something wrong when I hadn’t. And besides,God didn’t give me a calling”  

“I’m glad he didn’t. It would of been a shame to hide all that prettiness under a veil”

He brushed back the golden veil of Marianne’s hair which had fallen out of her kerchief and in front of her face. He then lay back in the grass and looked up at the sky.

“It’s a shame you can’t see the stars here. There are too many lights.”

He lit a cigarette, took a dag, and then offered it Marianne, who took a dag.

“That’s what Paris is known for” she said between loud coughs.

“Shhh”

“What is it?”

“I heard footsteps.” He peaked through the bushes “just as I thought, it’s a flic patrolling the area.”

She peaked through the bushes to see what he saw.

“I’ve seen that flic before. He came into the café on the day we met looking for you”

“Well, what can I say, Chérie: I’ve had a flic on my ass since I was a kid”

They stayed down and quiet until the footsteps went by them.

“That’s the problem” Augustin continued “there’s nothing for me here but hiding in bushes and alleys and startling little waitresses. As soon as I can get enough money, I’m going to get out of here and then I’ll be a free man. And you’re gonna come with me.”

“Come with you?”

“Why not?”

To  Augustin, it seemed that they had been destined for that their entire lives.

Augustin got on his knees and moved closer to her. He put his hand on her cheek and leaned in to kiss her.

“What are you doing?” She asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Waiting for you to tell me to stop” He leaned in and kissed her again.

Marianne had thought she knew about love. It had been what most of the movies she had seen, songs she had heard, and books she had read had been about. But it felt nothing like she had expected; she felt on edge, like her life was in danger. Despite this feeling of danger, or perhaps because of it, she did not tell him to stop.

He went back to laying in the grass. She lay down at his side and moved herself closer so that her chin rested on his shoulder.

Anyone in Augustin’s situation would have taken this as “yes”. He wanted to, about as much as he had ever wanted to do anything. But at that moment it would seem rushed and clumsy. She looked content with just laying there beside him.

“Marianne,” he asked her out of the blue.

“Yes,” she answered.

“You aren’t seeing anyone else, are you?”

“No. why?”

“That type you danced with at the wedding, who was he?”

“You mean Edmond? He’s my Cousin Mathilde’s new husband.”

“What is he to you?”

“Nothing now.”

“Was he your lover?”

“No, of course not!”

The name of Edmond Danton was now distasteful to her and if he were to ever look upon her again, she would be happy to throw something at his head.

When it grew very late, Augustin walked Marianne back to her building.

“Meet me on St. Denis at eleven next Sunday” he said.

“I will” she answered

“Knock three times on the side door of the creamery and you’ll be let in. Go up the flight of stairs and three doors down”

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