The first few days of April gave a balmy taste of the summer to come. Marianne opened her bay window to let in some of the cooler evening air. She sat down in the window seat and stroked Johnny's back. The little dog was sleeping and snored and grunted. A box was placed on Marianne's lap, upon which she began to write a note.
An old Louis Vuitton suitcase which she had inherited from Tante Catharine was laid open on the bed. Inside it, she had placed a nightgown and a few changes of underwear. Madame Océane had received her final notice earlier that week. She told Anna and Manon that she wished for a change and took a job as a shop girl in a boutique in Montmartre which sold makeup and perfume.
"Mark my words, she's going to run off with some lover," Madame Océane had said to them when they thought she was not listening.
"My dear aunts," Marianne began to write, "I hope you will understand my reasons for doing this..."
Marianne and her aunts had parted badly on Easter Monday. Mimi would not even look her in the eyes when she bid her goodbye, let alone kiss her cheek as usual. She went inside as if she could not get away from her fast enough. Catharine probably learned of Marianne's transgressions soon afterwards. A flirtation with an unsuitable man was an excusable blunder for a girl to make, but an affair with one was not.
"... my actions have brought you nothing but shame for which I will never be able to sufficiently apologize for. The two of you have done so much for me and what have I given you..."
They had looked after her since her mother died, treated her like a their own daughter and she repaid them by lying, going behind their backs, by throwing away everything they had given her. Now she would break their hearts one more time before they were rid of her.
"...so I bid you goodbye. Please do not be too angry with me," she signed the letter, sealed it, and left it on her nightstand.
When Marianne returned from getting her dinner at the bistrot across the street, she found Louise weeping in front of Papa Verte.
"I told Dominic not to go to Marseilles," she said, "I told him that there must be work for him here in Paris and he didn't have to leave."
Papa Verte put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"He did this because he wants to support you and Jacques," he tried to explain, "He won't be able to feel like a man unless he can earn a living."
"And abandoning his wife and child to do so?"
"He did not abandon you..."
Marianne had overheard an argument between Dominic and Louise which shook the entire house to its very foundations. Somehow, Louise had found out about Dominic being laid off from his job. He explained that he kept all this from her out of shame and had hoped to find new work before she found out. She tried to comfort him with the fact that they still had the rent from the tenants and could get by until something opened up for him. His response was that something had opened up: a shipping company in Marseilles was hiring dock workers. Dominic insisted that he would write often, send them most of his wages, and visit whenever he could, but Louise did not want him to go; she had heard too many stories about men leaving their families to go look for work and never coming back.
Marianne placed the money she owed the Vertes for the month's rent next to the note for her aunts. It was the least she could do for them.
Then she went over to her closet to try to figure out what else to pack. She placed a few dresses into her suitcase, not aware of anything more she could need. Into her handbag, she put a metro time table and a piece of paper containing the address Augustin had given her.
Tired, she plopped down on her bed. It was small and narrow with high head and foot boards, almost like a baby's crib, and fit one comfortably, two if they lay close to one another. In a way, it had been her wedding bed. She rested there for a few hours until it grew dark and her neighbors had fallen asleep. Yawning, she threw on an old tweed rain coat, picked up her suitcase in one hand, held Johnny in her other arm, and stole away into the night.
It was surprisingly quiet at the Saint-Michel metro station. Except for a man, mournfully playing a saxophone, Marianne stood alone on the track to meet the train to Montmartre. The train was supposed to arrive at midnight; Marianne paced back and forth, shivering impatiently. For such a warm night, it was rather chilly underground.
YOU ARE READING
Born the son of a French soldier and an Algerian native, Augustin Lerou has known little but a hard life on the streets of 1930s Paris. When he meets Marianne d'Aubrey, a spirited waitress with a mysterious past, he is set to sweep her off her feet...