Retribution: Chapter 12

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Augustin lived about a nine minute walk away from Notre Dame. In the morning, the bells of the cathedral could be heard ringing as people were waking up and shops were opening. He would set out from his building and head out and walk towards the cathedral and cross to the other side of the river to look for something to do.

One morning he noticed that some gypsy dancers and musicians had congregated in the shadow of Notre Dame. There was even a Guignol puppet show surrounded by a throng of giggling children.

A man was playing a guitar and a girl was dancing to the music. Augustin recognized the song being played and began to sing along. He was standing close enough to the gypsies that a lady ushered her child away when they passed him.

“They’re gypsies” she said “they’ll rob us blind”

Augustin, with his dark curling hair and angular features, could easily be mistaken for a gypsy.

In a trash can, he found a discarded newspaper and began to look through it and found an article about the Kansas City Massacre. He tore out the article, folded it up, and put it in his pocket.

Walking away from the trash can, he bumped into a man. After making his excuses, he walked away holding a thick wallet in his hand.

The next afternoon, Augustin noticed a lady in the courtyard of his building who was leaning against a doorway smoking a cigarette.

She was a still a young woman at only about thirty and fairly good looking. In her poor, dirty, and shabby environment, she tried to be clean, well groomed, and well dressed.

The weather was hot but breezy and a hazy, pale blue sky hung over Paris, at once both cloudy and clear, and ever changing throngs of people had gathered to stand in the courtyard and enjoy the nice weather. But this woman seemed to have something heavy on her mind which she was contemplating.

“Nice weather we’re having, Madame Friquet” Augustin said to the lady.

“Oh, yes, it is” she answered, startled and somewhat annoyed

“Poor woman” Augustin thought. “She looks like something is worrying her”

Madame Friquet was soon joined by Eulalie who was standing in the doorway and holding a pink rose.

“I brought you back a present, Maman” Eulalie said to her “a lady was selling them and I had a few sous in my pocket…”

“thank you” Madame Friquet cut in, touched by the gesture but annoyed to be shaken out of her contemplation .

She tucked the rose behind her ear.

“oh Maman, it goes perfectly with your dress”

Madame Friquet bid goodbye to her daughter. Augustin came and leaned by the doorway where Eulalie stood.

“Why’s your Maman in a dog’s humor?” he asked

“She’s always in a dog’s humor?” she answered

“I mean even more so”

“Papa’s in jail. He was taken in for hijacking a taxi and Maman went to see him and told him to not bother coming back when he gets out. She’s been saying she has no room for a man like him in her life. I’m surprised it took her this long to figure that out”

“She must of really loved him”

“I would never be that stupid, that’s why I’m never going to fall in love”

“Be careful little sister, one of these days, one not too far away, someone’s going to catch your eye and you’ll have to watch that sharp little tongue of yours”

Sunday Morning, Marianne stood by the stove heating up a bottle of milk for Baby Jacques whom she had been looking after for the Vertes. She had offered to watch him so the Vertes could go and have a night out by themselves which they had not been able to do since his birth. Marianne imagined that in the contradictory way of parents that though they had complained about needing a break from their duties, they had spent their entire night out worrying about their son.

Poor Jacques had a rough night, not being used to being away from his parents, and Marianne had done her best to soothed him when he cried and fussed. Neither of them got much sleep.

Marianne brought the bottle over to where Jacques was tucked up in his basket which was placed on the table and under the watchful eye of Johnny, who was playing guard dog.

“Here, mon petit” she said.

Jacques took the nipple of the bottle into his tiny rosebud mouth and began feeding.  After he had fed, Jacques fell into a sort of drunken stupor and as Marianne gently rocked him in her arms, he fell asleep with a bubble of milk on his pretty lips.

Dominic Verte showed up a little while later to pick up his son.

“How was he?” He asked

“Alright” Marianne answered “He had a bit of a rough night but he’s sleeping now”

She handed over the basket to the baby’s father.

“Tell Louise I said hello. Sleep tight mon petit”

Now alone, Marianne began to get ready to make her usual Sunday visit to Tante Mimi but that was not the meeting she was thinking of as she dressed.

That night at eleven she would meet Augustin.

She was on edge the entire day, wishing it would be eleven o’clock. She wanted to tell Tante Mimi everything but felt like she could not.

Mathilde and Agnés found Tante Mimi a bit too prim and proper, and even Marianne herself agreed with this a little. Because of this, the girls felt as though they needed to keep certain things from their aunt, things she might disapprove of.  Marianne’s feelings for Augustin were one of things she assumed she would not understand and probably disapprove of. It had been Tante Mimi who had first encouraged her to go with him but she had not known him but if she had, Marianne was sure she would not have let her go.

As usual, Mimi and her niece had tea and went to mass in the afternoon. After mass, Mimi surprised her by making her favorite dinner thus obliging her to stay longer than she had intended. Marianne had hoped to be able to wash and get herself properly ready for eleven o’clock but by the time she returned home, she barely had enough time to change her dress and freshen up her makeup.

Among her dresses she found one that she hardly ever wore because she had never had reason or inclination to wear. It was a castoff of Mathilde’s; a red wrap dress with a more plunging neckline than she used to wearing. But putting in on she realized that it suited her to advantage. It clung better her than it had on Mathilde, who was slimmer hipped and smaller breasted and the dress had looked somewhat sac like on her. The dress was a little immodest but in that was it’s charm.

Before leaving, she paired the red dress with her black cloche and black shoes.

 

Behind the side door of a building that housed a crémerie and several apartments was a stairwell which lead up to a hallway.

There Augustin was waiting. While he was waiting, he was singing to himself “One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fires were burning, down the track came a hobo hiking, and he said, “Boys, I’m not turning. I’m headed for a land that’s far away besides the crystal fountains,

So come with me, we’ll go and see The Big Rock Candy Mountains”

Lèon came out to join him and ask him what he was doing out there. Just as Augustin was about to answer, there were three knocks on the door.

“She’s here” he said

“She?” Lèon asked

Augustin ran down the stairwell to open the door. Marianne shyly stepped inside holding Johnny in her arms. He noticed her red dress and how well it showed off her figure which was one of her selling points. Taking her hand, he lead her upstairs.

“So this is where you live” she said “I imagined that you you lived in an Algerian casbah”

“Marianne, this is my cousin Lèon” he said when they reached the top of the stairs “Lèon, this is Marianne”

“It’s a pleasure, Mademoiselle” Lèon said

“Likewise” Marianne answered.

The weather was very hot and they decided that it would be cooler up on the roof.

Upon on the roof, Augustin lined up a series of cans and bottles and began shooting at them with Oncle Gérard’s old pistol.

“Jésus, Augustin” Lèon said when the first shot was fired.

Augustin shoot several cans off of the roof in rapid succession. He was a good shot and it scared Lèon to think of where he picked up his marksmanship skills.

“Do you want to give it a try?” Augustin asked Marianne, who had been watching with interest.

“I’ve never fired a pistol before” she responded

“It’s easy. Here, I’ll show you”

He put the pistol in her hand and showed her how to hold it and how to aim it.

“Keep your hand steady and pull the trigger”

Marianne tried to keep her hands steady but it was hard because she was nervous. The pistol felt clumsy in her hand and when it went off, it made her jump.

“Jésus” she said.

A bottle had been shattered. She had the makings of a good shot, if she could learn to keep her hands steady.

“Very good. But you’ll have to use a smaller gun, it’ll fit in your hand better.”

A window of a nearby building opened and an angry neighbor shouted at them because of the noise causing Augustin, Marianne, and Lèon to laugh. But to avoid further conflict, Augustin stashed Oncle Gérard’s pistol in his pocket.

Now that evening was quiet, Lèon began to nod off with Johnny curled up at his side.

Marianne rested her head on Augustin’s shoulder. It was getting very late and her eyes were growing heavy with sleep. He was happy just to look at her. The moment seemed like a beautiful dream and he was afraid that tomorrow would come and end it.

“Past your bedtime?” Augustin asked with a laugh

“I’m going to have to get up early” she said between yawns.

“I’ll walk you home”

He shook Lèon awake. She picked up Johnny.

“Come, we’re going back downstairs”

After being returned to the Rue Cassette, Marianne bid goodnight to her sweetheart and then watched him walk away. A part of her wondered if she should have invited him in.

Augustin knew that he should have left her alone. Girls like her did not belong with boys like him.

When he had first seen her smile, he had wanted her to smile always and never have a reason not to. She was meant to be happy and needed someone who was not going to give her a reason to be sad. Yes. He should have left her alone.

A few days later, Augustin found himself passing the windows of a clothing store. In one window were racks and mannequins displaying men’s suits. The other displayed mannequins wearing the light summer dresses, scarves, and sun hats which made up a Parisienne’s summer wardrobe.

Business had been going good at Père Beranger’s and he had some extra money in his pocket that was begging to be spent.

Walking inside, he began to look around. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror and realized that some new clothes were needed. His eye was drawn to some beautiful silk shirts which he began to look through. He would never be able to afford them, even in good times, but it was nice to dream.

An uppity sales girl came over to him with a disdainful look on her face. Augustin quickly put the shirt he was looking at, a white one with cream colored pinstripes, down.

The sales girl looked him over, wondering why such a rough looking young man was doing in her store, and then began to refold the shirts Augustin had been looking at. She held them with disgust, as if Augustin’s touching them made them dirty.

“How much are they?” He asked her.

“Why do you want to know?” she answered, not feeling obligated to be helpful or even polite to someone who did not look able to buy anything.

“I was just asking a question”

“You wouldn’t be able to afford them”

Augustin took another shirt to read the price tag. The tag read five francs; a bit steep for a shirt.

“See” the girl said haughtily “if you can’t afford them, I suggest you get your dirty hands off these shirts I just folded and get out of here.”

He went over to another part of the display of shirts where there were piles of less expensive linen and cotton shirts and began looking through them.

The salesgirl was furious that he was still there. He smirked at her. What was she going to do, call the flics? Last time he checked it was not against the law for a man to look at shirts.

Augustin refolded the shirt he was looking at as neatly as possible and put it back. Then he tipped his cap to the sales girl and left the store.

That night, he returned with a large rock with which he smashed the display window. He climbed through the large hole he had made as quietly as a mouse.

Inside, he grabbed the white shirt with the cream colored pinstripes he had admired earlier, along with a red paisley tie, a grey suit, and a grey hat.

In the ladies section of the store, he spotted a mannequin wearing a beautiful white chiffon dress with a red pattern.

The next evening, Marianne returned home to find a white box prettily tied with a red ribbon. Curious, she untied the ribbon, removed the lid, and pushed back the tissue paper to find a dress in just her size made of ethereal white chiffon with a red pattern. At the bottom was a notecard on which was written “I can’t wait to see you in this”

She brought the dress up to her room and tried it on. It fit her perfectly. She thought it was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen and had no idea where it had come from.

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