Retribution: Chapter 13

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On Bastille Day, Adèle rose late. When she awoke, she noticed that Charles had already gotten up. The white curtains on the large window had been pushed back and there was a tray of coffee and pastries on the pouffe in front of the large round mirror.

The clock on the bedside table read that it was almost eleven which was when Charlotte and her family were coming over for brunch. While Adèle was waking up, she helped herself to the coffee and pastries.

Quickly, she dressed in a pink print frock and ran a brush through her hair and then went down stairs.

Charles was waiting for her in the livingroom.

“Good morning” he said to her.

“Good morning” she answered

“I think I hear Alexandre’s car pulling into the driveway”

A few minutes later, Charlotte and Alexandre arrived at the door with their three year old daughters Aimée and Desirée who were little versions of their mother.

“Tante Adèle” they cried as they ran inside and over to their aunt to be hugged.

Adèle hugged them both and kissed them on the forehead.

Charles noticed the wistful look in his wife’s eyes when she looked at her nieces. Adèle had always wanted children but had a deformity of the uterus which made it likely that she never would.

Servants brought out trays of pastries, sausages, and omelette aux fines herbes as well as pitchers of citron presse, mimosa, and Bloody Mary.

During the three years they had been married, they had Adèle’s family over for brunch every Bastille Day. Adèle wondered why none of Charles’s relatives, he must have some somewhere, were never invited over on holidays.

Earlier that morning, Marianne had woken up to find that her period had begun.  She rushed to the water closet to put a Kotex sanitary napkin in her underwear.

She remembered the first time she had gotten her period vividly.  It had not been long after she had arrived at the convent and an older girl, Pauline, had helped her out. Pauline had been a rarity among the  older girls who had been more likely to try to tease or scare her.

After the arrival of her first period, she had certain questions to ask. The two most obvious people to ask had been the two nuns, Soeur Baptistine and Soeur Blanche, who looked after the dormitory. Soeur Baptistine had been a tall, slim, waxy complexioned creature with bulging blue eyes, a pinched nose, and an appearance of the utmost sanctity and had seemed more likely to know how to fly than to know the answers to her questions. Soeur Blanche, who though she had seemed the more earthy of the two , would likely have told her that such questions were sinful, and made her say three Ave Marias, four Pater Nosters, and go to confession

In the end it had been Tante Mimi, the only person she could really ask, who had answered her questions.  

After taking care of her issue, Marianne went and put on her new dress and admired herself in front of her mirror. This new dress was a far cry from the ugly and ill fitting uniforms of the convent days. She brushed out her hair and arranged it, adding a red ribbon for a finishing touch. After prettying herself up for Bastille Day, she took Johnny for a long walk to the Pont des Arts.

The sun had risen on Bastille Day to the accompaniment of firecrackers and the strains of La Marseillaise. The weather was perfect, warm but breezy, and sunny but with plenty of shade.

When she passed by one of the vendors stalls along the river, a young man in a grey suit tipped his hat to her.

“Good morning, Mademoiselle” he said, removing the hat.

With his hat removed, she could see the face of Augustin smiling at her.

“Good morning” she answered

He came over to her and kissed her.

“Happy Bastille Day”

A street singer began to sing La Marseillaise “Allons enfants de la Patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé !”

The young couple crossed over the Pont des Arts with Johnny following closely behind his mistress. Halfway across the bridge, Augustin stopped and reached into his pocket.

“I have something” he said

What he took out of his pocket was a padlock and a key.

“Take a look”

He gave the padlock to Marianne and she examined it. Painted on it were the names Augustin and Marianne.

Augustin put the key in the padlock to open it, then fastened it to the side of the bridge, closing it again with the key. The key was then tossed into the river.

Marianne blushed.

They continued their way across the bridge and walked to the Louvre. Inside, they found their way to the Grand Gallery where they passed a few pleasant hours running up and down the length of the gallery or sitting on a bench admiring the art. Neither of them knew much about art but they both had an instinctive appreciation for beauty.

Augustin admired La Belle Jardinière, a painting by Raphael of a beautiful golden haired Madonna dressed in red and blue and gold sitting with two chubby, nude little boys. Turning his head to look back at Marianne, he noticed that she was wearing her hair in a way similar to that of that the Madonna: pulled back by a thin red ribbon and plaited. Noticing that he was looking at her, she gave him one of her radiant smiles. She was not joyful, she was joy itself. Her smile said “it should always be like this”.

The evening as he and his family were sitting down for dinner, Charles stepped aside for a moment saying that he had a surprise for Adèle.

“I wonder what it is” Charlotte whispered to Adèle, who was anxiously awaiting her husband’s return.

Charles went up to his office where two large canvases were placed up against the wall. One was a medieval painting of a maiden asleep in a garden overgrown with ivy and white roses. Her endless golden hair was out all over her cushioned stone bed and she was lying partially on her side with one arm dangling over the side of the bed.

This painting was meant to be a present for Adèle to celebrate her triumph as Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.

The other painting Charles had bought simply because he fancied it. It was Renaissance piece, done by an Italian master influenced by Raphael. The subject was a young woman holding a small unicorn in her arms. She was dressed in a light green gown with a coif decorated with beading and gold braiding pulling back her wavy golden hair. Around her neck was a necklace with a pendant shaped like a seahorse.

For some reason this young woman’s face fascinated him. It was fresh and youthful and though not what one would call classically beautiful, it was definitely a face one would want to look at. The artist had captured a radiance in her fair skin and the grey-hazel eyes that looked boldly at the viewer which made her beautiful. On one of her hands was a silver ring set with a red stone. The artist had caught a wink of light coming from the ring.  

Charles had even given her a name: Lady Lucrèce because her wavy golden hair and deceptively angelic expression reminded him of portraits he had seen of Lucrezia Borgia. He had decided to keep this painting for himself and hang it in his office next to his reproduction of Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière.

After grabbing the painting of the sleeping maiden, he went back out onto the terrace to present it to Adèle.

“oh Charles, I love it” Adèle exclaimed.

“I’m glad. It cost me an arm and a leg” Charles responded.

“Where should we hanging it?”

“I was thinking the bedroom, right above the bed”.

He gave her a kiss on the lips and she put her arms around his neck.

Charlotte lifted her glass for a toast

“To Charles and Adèle. To La France and to la liberté.”

Augustin and Marianne left the Louvre in the late afternoon and moved on the the Jardin du Luxembourg, where a carnival was going on. Another young couple passed them as they approached the park.

“Jules, Clare” Augustin called to them.

“Happy Bastille Day” Jules answered.  

Jules and Clare walked up to them.

“Marianne” Augustin said “this is Jules Martin”

“And this is Mademoiselle Clare Abel” Jules said, introducing his lady friend.

“Pleased to meet you” Clare added

“Likewise” Marianne answered

After introductions, they walked into the carnival together.  They made their way to where a café had been set up and sat down at a table.

In due time, a waiter came and asked them what they would like.

“Whiskey” Augustin answered

“I’ll have whiskey too” Marianne added

“Put some soda in hers”

Augustin could not imagined that she had ever drank anything stronger than communion wine in her life.

He talked politics with Jules over drinks. Jules’s talents with drawing and his interest in politics had earned him the post of cartoonist for a student run socialist newspaper. Like most socialists, Jules was suspicious of the current radical government, believing that that they sided too much with the conservatives and fascists. Especially so since the fascist governments in Germany and Italy came to power. These were tense times and anyone who knows anything about French history will know that tense times in France mean one thing: up go the barricades.

“Let the damn fascists build barricades” was all Augustin could say, somewhat dismissively.

To him the government was an irrelevance, too busy arguing amongst itself to be of any use.

Marianne had been listening in on the men’s conversation. Her Tante Catharine, who along with Tante Mimi had been an active member of the The French Union for Women’s Suffrage for years, would have said that the government would not be in the mess it was in if women could vote. It seemed strange that a modern country like France had not yet granted women the right to vote when women in other modern countries had been voting for a decade.

“What do you do?” Clare asked Marianne.

“I waitress at La Première Étoile, near the Jardin du Luxembourg” Marianne answered “and you?”

“I serve drinks at Le Paradis, near Place St. Michel”

The conservation was interrupted by an announcer coming onto the stage that had been set up near by.

“Mademoiselle Hélène” the announcer said.

The people watching cheered as Hélène, dressed in black, took her place on stage.

Since Hélène’s debut at Le Monstre she had made quite the sensation in Paris. Everyone who was anyone had been to hear her sing; girls were copying the soft finger waves she wore her hair in; men were drinking to her in the cafés and bars.

Hélène began singing a song from Gold Diggers of 1933, the one Marianne had stuck in her head for days afterwards.

“We’re in the money, we’re in the money; We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along! We’re in the money, that sky is sunny. Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong.We never see a headline about breadlines today. And when we see the landlord we can look that guy right in the eye. We’re in the money, come on, my honey,Let’s lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!”

The consensus was that Hélène sang it even better than Ginger Rogers had.

Augustin looked over at Marianne and saw something evil in her eyes when she watched Hélène. It was jealousy. Jealousy of Hélène’s effortless grace while she still had something of the gawky schoolgirl about her. Jealousy of the fact that Hélène had the admiration of all of Paris while she only had the fondness of only a handful of people. At that moment, she would have blindly given up everything she was and everything she had for everything Hélène was and everything Hélène had.

When she was done with her song, Hélène gave the audience the playful smile and wink which had become her trademark.

Two girls, one tall and slim with dishwater blond hair and the other one short with sticky red hair,  dashed in front of the café and disappeared into the trees. They appeared out of the trees whenever men passed by. The men either pushed them aside or disappeared back into the trees with them. Augustin recognized them as the two girls from The Green Goblin, Marie and Cerise.

“Merde!” Cerise whispered. She pulled Marie back into the trees.

A policeman was patrolling the area. He passed by the café, past the table where the four lovers were seated. Augustin turned his face away as to not meet his eye.

After checking out the carnival, Augustin, Jules, Clare and Marianne walked down to the river and sat along the stone banks of the Seine. Jules showed everyone how the pictures they had taken at the paper moon came out. There were four pictures: the first one was of Marianne and Clare sitting on a smiling crescent moon against the backdrop of a starry sky; the second was of Augustin and Marianne sitting on the same crescent moon with Augustin kissing Marianne’s hand; the third was Jules upon the crescent moon swigging from his flask; the fourth was of all four of them seated upon the moon.

Marianne sat slightly away from everyone else with her nose in a used book she a bought at a vendor’s stall along the river and stroking Johnny.  Augustin slid over to sit by her.

“What are reading?” He asked

“A poem” she answered then began to read it “The water caressed the shore so gently! That joyous sweet girl, fearful and wild, among the green rushes she came to me, her hair in her eyes, and through it a smile. It’s Victor Hugo

“It’s nice”

He rested his head on her shoulder and she played with the red ring on her finger.

A large boat sailed a long past them with the name La Licorne written on it’s side. Those on board waved to those sitting on the shone and those sitting on the shore waved back. Another boat called L’Hippocampe passed by.

By the time it grew dark, which was well after nine of the clock, a band had begun to play in another part of the bank and there were the sounds of people dancing, laughing, and enjoying themselves.

“Sounds like there’s a party going on over there” Jules said.

He took Clare by the hand and went to investigate. Augustin and Marianne followed behind them.

The music was coming from a wider crescent shaped stretch of bank which stuck out slightly in river. A set of stone steps lead down to it from the street. People were sitting on the steps and and along the edge of the river sipping from bottles of beer or wine or stronger stuff while others were dancing in the center where a band was playing.

They effortlessly joined the crowd; a party of pleasure is always welcome to new members.

A new song struck up.

“Let’s dance” Jules said to Clare.

“No, it’s too fast for me” Clare answered.

“Come on, please”

“Dance with Marianne, she looks like she wants to dance”

“You don’t mind do you?” he asked Augustin

Augustin shook his head no and Jules lead Marianne out onto the dance floor. They danced the Lindy Hop. During the dance, a man punched another man for dancing with his girl and a fight broke out.

“Good” Jules whispered into Marianne’s ear “it’s not a real party unless there’s a fight”

When the dance was over, Marianne went to join Augustin and Johnny in a spot they had found under a grove of trees while Jules danced a slower dance with Clare.

“How was dancing with Jules?” Augustin asked when she joined him.

“I’m exhausted” she answered.

She sat down beside him under one of the trees and he kissed her while wrapping her blue pashmina shawl around her and pulling her into his arms. They lay down in the grass and he pulled her even closer. He felt her tense up in his arms.

“You still don’t trust me do you?”

“No”

“No, you do trust me,or no, you don’t trust me?”

“No, I don’t trust you”

She shyly kissed him back and settled into his arms. She let out a sigh that said “I think I’m in heaven”. Marianne was happy, Augustin was satisfied

A singer came out and sang along with the band.

“I went out last Tuesday, met a girl named Susie.” The singer sang “I told her I was the swellest man around. We started to spend my money, then she started to call me honey. We took in every cabaret in town. We’re in the jailhouse now, we’re in the jailhouse now. I told the judge right to his face, we didn’t like to see this place. We’re in the jailhouse now”

“What do you think of Marianne?” Augustin overheard Jules asking Clare.

“I think Augustin’s a little fast for her” was Clare’s answer.

“Some girls like men who are a little fast for them. That’s why you like me isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s the reason”

She grabbed him by the chin and kissed him.

Around midnight the party began to break up. The band finished with the inevitable rendition of La Marseillaise.

“Aux armes, citoyens, formez vos bataillons!” the crowd sang aloud “Marchons, marchons ! Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons ! Abreuve nos sillons!”

After La Marseillaise, the band began to pack up and the crowd made it’s way up the stone steps. A cool, refreshing breeze blew over them from the river. It blew at Marianne’s skirt, hair, and shawl and make her look like a type of tropical bird with a white and red tail, blue wings, and a gold crest about to take flight.

The street lights gave everything a warm and rosy glow. The shops were closed but most of the cafés were still open. Though that party had broken up, there was a sense that the evening’s amusements were not yet over. Everyone appeared to be simply moving on to the next thing. One has not lived until one has seen Paris. One has not seen Paris until one has seen Paris by night. Therefore one has not lived until one has seen Paris by night.

Augustin said goodnight to Jules and Clare and then walked onto the Rue Cassette with Marianne where they bid goodnight in front of her building.

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