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Victor Chapter Twelve

Victor Chapter Twelve

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Published by Pierre Delerive

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Published by: Pierre Delerive on Feb 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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I don't have much memory of the weeks leading to the year-end exams. My heartwas in a coma. The rage-induced anesthesia had subsided, quickly replaced by cruel andmerciless pain, and I was in a state of deep mourning. I cannot possibly imagine what Iwould have done without Madame Laquaire. Maybe I wouldn't have thrown myself under a train, as I first contemplated, but I would certainly have returned to the abyss of ignorance from which she had worked so hard to rescue me.My old tutor always welcomed me with a smile. Almond cookies were waiting ina plate with a gold rim."These are calissons, from Aix-en-Provence, my hometown," she'd say, forcingthe accent she had once struggled to get rid of, for effect."When my husband was transferred here, I had to learn how to speak Parisian,"she recalled. "You can't be a half-decent teacher if the kids burst out laughing every timeyou open your mouth."She would tell me stories about her first classes and her too brief marriage to aman who could only see the sunny side of life until the very last days of his fight withcancer."His real illness was optimism," she'd say whenever we visited her photo albumsand their faded pictures. She would then heave a long, deep sigh and pour herself a littleglass of sweet liquor. It was good for her "condition," she would then say without ever  bothering to elaborate.
The old lady also knew how to listen. She never wasted her time assuring me thatI had my whole life ahead of me or that I would meet other girls and fall in love again. No, she used all her talent to channel my emotions and reorient them. Moments later, Iwould find myself, pencil in hand, trying to solve an equation, totally unaware of thetransition she had engineered. I could feel how eager she was then to congratulate me.Only when the neighbor played his trumpet records did she lose her patience. She would bang the wall with the broom handle and call him names that she later begged me toforget.Jacky no longer shared my lessons."Books aren't for me," he had declared one day, to Madame Laquaire's dismay,"Me, I only care about engines."I still saw Nora three times a week, though. She prepared my bowl of Ovaltine assoon as she saw me through her window. She kept repeating that a little bit of sun woulddo me good."I'm not saying that you must be as tanned as Nora," she'd say with her deepthroaty laugh, "but you're as white as a ghost. Such a pretty boy, what a shame!"I let her cuddle me and purred when she stroked my hair with her long red-nailedfingers.And so I traveled from one universe to the other, from my parent's - I no longer called it my home - to St. Jean-Baptiste, where I kept my nose to the ground; to Nora'soasis of sensuality, and to Madame Laquaire's little apartment.Finally, the first day of the dreaded exams arrived. Up long before the alarm rang,I jumped out of bed. My mother and Lucie were arguing in the kitchen when I ran out of 
my room, ignoring the cup of cocoa that Janine had prepared. They raised surprisedeyebrows, and returned to their discussion. I slammed the door behind me and ran downthe stairs without waiting for the elevator.Out on the street, I walked quickly up the Avenue Mozart to the Vrai Saumur café, near the subway station. There, seated at a table by the window, Madame Laquaireand Jacky were waving at me. Suddenly, I felt strong.³The croissants are just out of the oven," Jacky said, pushing a basket toward mewhile, on a signal from Madame Laquaire, a waiter hurried over with a cup of hot andfoamy chocolate."So?" the old woman asked, "were you able to sleep a little?""Not much.""Nothing to worry about," said Jacky. "What can they do to you? They can't beworse than your bitch of a mother.""Jacky, please!" Madame Laquaire protested, and I laughed at my friend's lameattempt to look contrite. "I know, I know," he said, "There are things you shouldn't say «even if they're true."When we arrived at St. Jean-Baptiste, Madame Laquaire planted kisses on mycheeks and Jacky punched me in the ribs."Show them what you can do, champ," he said.Around us, my schoolmates were all saying farewell to their parents. I wasn't jealous of them, because their families couldn't have been better than my new one.***

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