Passage: part two
Before he’d quite got himself turned, he saw her vanish.
He began to fall behind, his way obtruded, not by strollers, but by the wooden hand-grips of delivery carts, projecting along the way at reckless angles. She had got well ahead, and was now a dark figure, her hair’s bright tendrils haloed against the sun, where the lane at its other end opened onto the street. For a moment Honoré’s doubts halted him. He told himself to throw her bag aside; to do it now, rather than wait until she came back with the gendarme, to accuse him of stealing it. But even as he thought this, he hastened to catch her, while trusting her less. He emerged onto an avenue of shops, and breathed, to his great self-pity, the potent smell of hot bread and roast meat. Duck, with a mustard sauce, it might have been.
But Anne had moved already to the opposite side; he saw her standing before a corner window, under a dress-form draped in blue, she in her red jacket, waving to him. In the distance above her head were tall trees that bore a paper brown scattering of leaves; farther away, he saw a belfry flanked by spires.
“What will I do?” he asked himself.
And every few minutes, as Honoré jogged after her, then slowed to rest, Anne would slow her pace as well, throw him a glance, fall into step with him, reach to tap his shoulder and call his attention to some inconsequential thing. She broke Honoré’s concentration, behaving in this way, as though they were two heedless holiday-makers. Stopping to deplore an ill-kept garden, Anne was reminded of a Paris acquaintance.
“…Sylvie, she is a sort of aunt of mine…it’s a bit awkward for her, this new government. What will she boast about now? Her husband, Honoré, before he was made general, was always asked to attend these country affairs. Because if he hadn’t been there, at some point, they would have had to send for him!” She laughed. Her laugh danced up the scale, and Honoré was enchanted; but if she’d told him why her remark was amusing, he had not listened.
Now she crouched before the wrought-iron gate, and held out her hand, palm up, waggling her fingers to attract the attention of a white cat that lolled on the step and rubbed its chin on a broken corner. Outside the fence, a tree grew from a hole in the pavement. It had scattered a circle of leaves that lay on the walk like copper coins.
This, Honoré thought, is the house. He may ask us to come in…and will give us lunch, I hope.
She rose, adjusted her fichu and shrugged her shoulders. She had lost interest in the cat. Frustrated, Honoré asked, “What is the address of this man you know?”
“Why should you care? You don’t know the street or the man.”
(2017, Stephanie Foster)