Small white Card 79

L’expression du jour : work out = résoudre, comprendre. Ici :

 You will be able to work that out for yourself = tu comprendras tout seul.

 

79

 

 

Luc wondered what the reason was for Kyu’s deadpan expression. Was it because he’d made one final bid for freedom at the airport? Bruce Lee had of course caught him straight away. Maybe he’d had enough of him trying to escape? No, that didn’t seem to fit the bill, the Nip was too patient by half. Or did it have something to do with the visit to his Dear Mother to tell her they were leaving? And why was he wearing sunglasses? It wasn’t sunny in the plane. Was he trying to hide the fact that he’d been crying? This idea made Luc chuckle to himself. Bruce Lee crying? Hardly likely.

“Why are you taking me to Japan?”

“Because where I am taking you, you will have to learn to behave.”

“And why’s that?”

“You will be able to work that out for yourself.”

Luc was beginning to wonder what he was getting himself into. Of course he had noticed, at the airport, that they were getting on the plane for Tokyo, he wasn’t that stupid. But why was Bruce Lee taking him to Tokyo? And what the fuck was that supposed to mean ‘work it out for yourself’? More and more apprehensive about what to expect once they got to Japan, he went on with his questions.

“So we’re going to Tokyo, are we? Got some relatives there have you, a samurai who will smash my face in if I step out of line?”

Kyu could not help but smile at this. He had never met anyone as direct as Luc, as impulsive, speaking and acting without thinking, which was doubtless at the root of all his run-ins with the police.

“We are changing planes in Tokyo. We are flying to Yonago and from there we get a boat to where we are going. And as for the samurai waiting to smash your face in, you could be right.”

He smiled as he pronounced these last words.

“Why are we getting a boat?”

“Because we are going to an island.”

“An island?”

“Yes. A little island untouched by civilization. A tiny island without a name which is thought to be uninhabited, and which in fact only exists for a handful of skippers who drop by now and then to do trade.”

“What do you mean it only exists for these skippers? Doesn’t anybody else go there?”

“They would have no reason to – it is so small, hardly two square miles, there is nothing there.”

“And nobody either?”

“Just my master.”

“Are you telling me you’ve got a master, man? Are the Nips still into slavery then?”

This time Kyu laughed out loud. Luc’s ignorance had a certain naïvety to it which amused him. He pulled himself together and gave Luc the explanation he required.

“No, I am not a slave. There are no slaves in Japan. Hanshi is my martial arts master. It is he who taught me everything I know.”

“Hanshi? Is that his name?”

“Let’s say that is what his disciples call him. In actual fact it is a title. It is the highest rank in martial arts.”

“Bloody hell. And what about you? Are you ranked or something too?”

“Yes. Menkyo kaiden.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It is a document which certifies that the holder has learned from his master all there is to learn, including initiation into all the mysteries and secrets of the art.”

“Bloody hell. And you know all that, do you?”

“Yes.”

“And it is hard to learn?”

“Yes.”

Luc was beginning to get the feeling that his stay on the island was not going to be a picnic. This new and strange world nevertheless intrigued him. And, dammit, it could hardly be worse than prison, could it?

“Harder than being in prison?”

“Yes.”

Bloody hell. Well, that was that, he wouldn’t be staying there for long. No fucking way. He’d be getting out and damn quick. He’d lie low in one of those trading boats and get the hell out.

“Just in case you might think of trying to run away, I prefer telling you now that that will not be possible.”

Dammit, could he read minds, this guy, or what?

Small white Card 78

L’expression du jour : are you kidding ? = tu plaisantes ? C’est une blague ?

 

78

 

“Fuck you! Get this thing off me now!”

Kyu smiled to himself and made his way over to the corner of the barge where he had chained Luc up, allowing him a bit of slack, while he had left him on his own.

“You’re driving me fucking mad! Why did you chain me up before leaving?”

Luc’s black eyes seemed to be spitting out daggers of rage. On the end of a chain, his thick curls unkempt, he looked like a wild animal, a wolf in captivity ready to sink his teeth into anyone who came within leaping distance. Kyu walked up to him and undid his chains.

“So how long are you going to bloody well go on locking me up?”

“I will not need to any more: we are leaving tomorrow.”

“I’m not going with you!”

He suddenly threw himself at Kyu. In one smooth bound, Kyu had performed a forward somersault and landed in time to see his fugitive crash into the other side of the barge.

“You cannot get away, Luc. I thought you had understood that.”

Luc, dumbfounded, was staring at Kyu, his anger suddenly evaporated.

“Shi-it, how did you do that? I didn’t even see you move…”

“Would you like to learn how to move like that?”

“You bet!”

“Where I am taking you, you will learn.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No.”

“So you’re not taking me to some other prison then?”

“No, I already told you.”

“I won’t be tied up?”

“No.”

 

Kyu had been to see Amélie. He had explained to her that Luc was out of prison and that he intended to look after him but that this would not be possible in France. He had given the reason why: if he stayed, and went on working for the police, who would be very happy to keep him on, he would not be able to keep an eye on Luc, who would run off as soon as he could, back to his street-life which would only result in one thing: prison again. He was taking him to Japan where he could be with him. Kyu did not add: where he would be able to give him the education he had missed out on. And the love, too, but to say that would make Amélie feel even more guilty than she already did. Nor did he say that he was leaving because Luc did not want to see her, and that if he were to find out that they were together, then the chink which had appeared in the wasteland of his heart would flicker and vanish. Somewhere, in amongst his violent outbursts, there had been a cry for help which Kyu had heard. Luc or Amélie, his own happiness or this kid’s, he had chosen. The reasons for our choices are not always obvious. We just make them. And Kyu had made his.

When would he return from Japan? Would he return? He could not be sure. It would not do to have Amélie caught up in his doubts. Perhaps, if he told her that this necessary distancing between them was short-term, she would wait for him, but he could not promise to come back. He therefore chose to tell her that he had in any case been planning to go back to Japan and was simply taking Luc with him. He had had to draw on his master’s teachings to find, deep within himself, the strength necessary to keep his face expressionless. Amélie understood abruptly that the only string which tied her to this man was Luc. Whatever else she had thought existed she had surely imagined. This man was prepared to look after Luc, to take on the son she had abandoned. What more could she ask for? When he had bowed his goodbyes and informed her that where he was going there was neither telephone nor internet she had bravely swallowed back her tears. Once he had gone, Amélie watched as the invisible bridge disintegrated into thin air before her eyes. There would be no emails, no phone calls, nothing.

Kyu left without looking back, taking with him the image of Amélie which he carefully placed deep down inside himself where it now belonged.

Small white Card 77

Le mot du jour : slip. Non, ce n’est pas une petite culotte, ça veut dire glisser.

 

77

 

Kyu saw Luc bend over too, near Madame Duchâtel, and his senses went on red alert. He saw him surreptitiously slip his hand into the fur coat pocket. The car keys, of course. Luc had not given up the idea of escape. Kyu did not move. Madame Duchâtel and Alphonsine’s conversation ran on.

“I would love to be able to embroider like that,” Madame Duchâtel was saying.

She turned her attention back to Alphonsine, whom she knew now lived alone in a hovel presumably no better than this one. Antoinette had told her that her neighbour had no family left. Just the memories of her time as a Parisian maid to wrap around her icy feet in winter like an eiderdown.

“Antoinette told me you worked in Paris.”

“Yes, madam, in one of the smarter areas. A very well-to-do family.”

“I can tell, Alphonsine, you haven’t lost your good manners.”

Alphonsine drew herself up still taller, forgetting her pinny and her clogs. Her face was tinged a pretty pink.

“Thank you, madam.”

“For a while now I have been looking for a lady’s companion but you have no idea how difficult it is to find someone suitable. Would you be willing to fill the vacancy? You could even teach me the secrets of embroidery.”

Madame Duchâtel had quite rightly understood that offering charity would offend this woman’s dignity. Offering her employment, however, was the best way of trying to ensure that Alphonsine did not spend the rest of her days alone. And it was not as if her own house did not have room for the old lady.

“Work for you? I would love that! I’ll accept the position if you don’t find anybody else of course.”

Alphonsine had surely grown two inches since the beginning of the conversation while she was answering, Luc was edging towards the door.

“Thank you, Alphonsine, I am so relieved to hear that. If you like, you can get your things ready now and begin straight away.”

“Yes, madam,” replied Alphonsine with a small curtsey, before turning and rushing out through the back door.

Did you hear that, Antoinette? I’ve got a job as a lady’s companion! Don’t you worry now, Antoinette, I’m used to these kinds of people. I know what to do. I’ll tell you all about it.

Luc had hardly made it through the door before he found himself pinned against the front of the little house. Kyu held him there firmly, being careful not to hurt him even if the temptation to give him a good thrashing was almost overpowering, and had been for a while now.

“Next time I will tie you up. Now go and put those keys back in Madame Duchâtel’s pocket with the same sleight of hand as when you took them out.”

 

Antoinette’s funeral took place that afternoon. Gaston’s son had organized everything. Antoinette went on her final trip to the cemetery, accompanied by Luc, who held Alphonsine’s arm, and by Madame Duchâtel, Kyu and Gaston’s son.

Antoinette did not go alone.

Alphonsine had put her scanty belongings into a bag. One single bag had sufficed. She had told Madame Duchâtel she would come back and pick the rest up later, a rest in which the elegant lady had graciously pretended to believe. Alphonsine shut the shutters and locked the front door of her house and then, going out into the back yard, picked up her clogs and set them down by Antoinette’s door.

 

“I’ll leave them here, Antoinette.”

Small white Card 76

Le mot du jour : hover = rester sans bouger

 

76

 

Kyu tilted his head towards the door. He had heard a car stop outside.

“It’s Madame Duchâtel,” said Luc, going to look through the room’s only window.

Alphonsine jumped. Madame Duchâtel? But she was wearing her pinny and clogs! Dearie me! Madame Duchâtel!

Luc went to open the door. Tall and elegant in her fur coat, Madame Duchâtel stood there on the doorstep.

“Hello, Luc,” she said. “I was so terribly upset to hear about Antoinette. It was unthinkable that I should not accompany her to her final resting place.”

Kyu registered the fact that Luc’s eyes were following the visitor’s hand when she put her car keys into the pocket of her fur coat.

Every time she set foot in this hovel Madame Duchâtel could not help feeling sorry for anyone who had to live here: the cold wind barged in uninvited through all the cracks in the warped doors, and the windows, which seemed to be suffering from an acute form of arthritis, could not offer any more effective protection from the elements. This old woman in an apron must be the neighbour Antoinette had mentioned. What was her name again? Ah yes, Alphonsine. Having greeted Kyu she walked over to Alphonsine who was hovering uncertainly in a corner.

“And you must be Alphonsine,” she said, holding out her hand and smiling warmly.

“Yes, madam.”

Alphonsine was standing very straight, holding her head very high like she had been taught when she had started out as a housekeeper.

Madame Duchâtel had caught sight of the embroidery work sitting on the window-sill. She went to look at it.

“Just as beautifully done as ever. Superb work. So you’re the one finishing off the napkins, are you, Alphonsine?”

“Yes, madam, I’m finishing them… we worked on them together, Antoinette and me, every afternoon.”

At the mention of Antoinette, the old woman’s eyes filled with tears which she tried to swallow back.

“I know, Antoinette told me,” replied the elegant lady, bending over the embroidery.

Small white Card 75

Le mot argotique du jour : chink = chintok

 

75

 

 

The drive to Ouané’s funeral took place in silence. Luc sat there thinking while Kyu drove. They were going towards Ouané. Towards a turned page, towards a tiny grey bun, gone forever. Luc saw nothing of the countryside flying past: the flashes in his mind’s eye, on, off, on, off, were like the final frames of a film before the screen goes white. And what a film: what a bloody, shitty, awful film.

The car stopped in the narrow, deserted road in front of Antoinette’s house. Sitting at the window, Alphonsine was doing embroidery for Madame Duchâtel. Lost in her silent conversation with Antoinette, she did not hear the door open.

“Phonsine…”

The old woman turned her head and a broad smile lit up her face.

“Luc!”

She put down her embroidery, stood up and threw herself into Luc’s wide open arms. He held her to him, stroking her hair and swaying from side to side as if to rock her. Standing in the doorway, Kyu watched Luc, a Luc he did not know, one who was capable of tenderness, capable, at least, of giving it. When several long seconds had passed Alphonsine stood back a little and looked up at Luc.

“Come on, we’ll ’ave a coffee, that’s what Antoinette would have said.”

Her eyes were blurred with tears. She went to get the green enamel coffee pot from its corner of the stove. When she turned round to bring it to the table she saw Kyu. He bowed and introduced himself. She remained rooted to the spot, looking at him as if a monster from outer space had just landed in Antoinette’s kitchen.

“So where’s our coffee then, Phonsine?” teased Luc. His eyes, which had turned to black velvet upon entering the room, were brimming with fondness.

This softening had not gone unnoticed by Kyu. He took the sugar bowl, helped himself to the half sugar lump sitting on top, and broke another lump in two for the others. Alphonsine watched, astonished. Dearie me, it wasn’t that she was a Nosey Parker, heavens no, but she simply had to ask…

“Do the Chinks… I mean… the wherever it is you come from… drink their coffee through a sugar lump too?”

It was an indisputable fact that Alphonsine had not met many Asian people.

Luc was having fun.

“No,” replied Kyu, managing to keep a straight face, “where I come from people do not drink their coffee through a sugar lump.”

“Ah! And… where do you come from?”

Well I mean really, with a face like that and eyes like that there was no knowing where he might come from! It was maybe true she’d lived in Paris but really! She’d never seen anything like it!

“From a small island in Japan.”

“Oh I see! You’re Japanese!”

“Yes.”

Luc cast a sidelong glance at him. Was that right, Japanese? He hadn’t attended school enough to really be able to differentiate between China and Japan or tell their inhabitants apart, but one thing was for sure: this guy was strong. Just imagine the six-pack abs he must have under his shirt. Forget trying to run away, too bloody quick by half, that guy.

Small white Card 74

Fuck me != putain ! Eh oui, je vous avais dit qu’il y avait beaucoup de façons de dire ce vilain mot.

 

74


Holding Luc firmly by the arm, Kyu marched him onto his barge.

“Will you let go of me?”

Kyu let go of him.

“What the fuck is this?”

“It is my home.”

“Are you telling me you live on a barge?”

“Yes. Let’s go inside.”

“It’s bloody amazing here!”

The living space was decorated oriental style: mats, a low table, statuettes and hanging tapestries, and the whole of the right-hand side of the room was devoted to a tatami. On the left you could see a stairway descending.

“Come with me.”

They went down and found themselves in a second room as big as the first with a series of alcoves around the edge. Kyu showed Luc one of them.

“You will sleep here.”

“Aren’t there any beds?”

Kyu pointed to a woven mat which was lying on the floor.

“Fuck me, it’s worse than prison here!”

Kyu smiled without replying.

“Yeah but I bet you’ve got a bed.”

Kyu gestured to the cubicle across the room. It contained a similar woven mat. Nothing else.

“There isn’t even a chair!”

“You do not sleep on a chair.”

“There isn’t even a lamp.”

“I do not need one.”

Luc looked at the intriguing colour of Kyu’s eyes again.

“Can you see in the dark?”

“You ask too many questions. Make yourself at home, I am going to prepare something to eat.”

Since he had been in prison Luc had rarely got a good night’s sleep because of the continual noise. He lay down on his mat and was rocked to sleep by the movement of the boat on the water. He slept solidly for sixteen hours. When he awoke he could not at first work out where he was. He had opened his eyes to find it pitch black and quickly closed them again. In prison. No, not in prison. Ouané. What was it he’d said, Bruce Lee? That he’d take him to Ouané’s funeral but that then he’d take him somewhere else. Not bloody likely! He was getting out. Now.

He got up without a sound. There was no chance of him bumping into anything because there was nothing to bump into. He had memorized the layout of the barge; he moved silently to the door which lead out onto the deck, and opened it. Thought he was a clever bastard, that Bruce Lee. Well, he’d show him! It wouldn’t be the first time he’d tricked someone. A slight grin hovered about his lips.

“Did you sleep well?”

Luc jumped. Shi-it…

He looked in the direction the voice was coming from and saw Kyu with his back to him, silhouetted against a slowly setting immense orange moon. Fuck! What was this guy?

Small white Card 73

Le mot du jour : vouch for = se porter garant

 73

 

“Hang on, that’s not all. You needn’t think I haven’t worked out that you’d like to be the someone who sorts that kid out. I asked the judge if it would be possible to grant him parole, given that he has already done half his sentence. The judge agreed, on condition that he is not free to come and go as he pleases, that you keep an eye on him. I vouched for you. I know the judge well so it wasn’t a problem. Up to you to decide whether or not you accept the condition.”

Look after Luc? Take Luc with him? This was the last thing he had been expecting. He had now made the decision to stay in France in order to be close to Amélie, at least until Luc came out of prison, at which point he would review the situation. If Luc were to come out now that would change everything. He would do his utmost to sneak away and go back to hanging about in the gutters he had come from.

“Right. I accept. Do not worry. He will not be back, I promise.”

Desnaud’s laugh boomed through the telephone again.

“I don’t doubt that either! So you’re not going back to Japan?”

“Oh yes I am. And I am taking him with me.”

 

Kyu returned to the visiting room, where he found Luc still standing there waiting for him.

“You are on parole for the rest of your sentence.”

“Are you serious?”

Luc’s face had suddenly lit up.

“Yes, on condition that you come with me.”

“But I want to be free! I want to get the hell out of here, I want to be able to do what I bloody well like! What are you going to do with me?”

The light in his eyes was once more tinged with flames from hell.

“I’m going to take you to a place where you will learn certain things.”

“Like what?” asked Luc aggressively.

“Not to steal motorbikes, for example. Not to grab money off people and punch them in the face when they have done nothing to deserve it.”

“I want to go to Ouané’s funeral!”

“I will take you there.”

“And afterwards?”

“Afterwards you will come with me.”

“Will there be guards where you’re taking me?”

“No.”

“Prison bars?”

“No.”

“I’ll be able to run off then!”

“I would be surprised,” replied Kyu with a slight smile.

“Why? Are you going to tie me up?”

“No, at least not once we have got to where we are going. Up until then it depends on your behaviour.”

“Well what I’d like to know is why you’re taking me with you in the first place? What’s all this ‘on parole’ stuff if I’m not even free to go where I want?”

What an arsehole! Tells him he’s on parole and it turns out he’s got himself a personal bodyguard! Shi-it!

“I am taking you with me because it is not in prison that you will learn the things you must know. You have already done time before and it has not done you any good.”

“How the fuck d’you know all that? Are you a cop?”

“No, but I work for them.”

“I’m not bloody well going anywhere with a cop!”

“I just told you: I’m not in the police, I work for them. Now choose.”

“I don’t want to stay here!”

“Is that you choosing?”

“Yeah,” growled Luc, neither convinced nor convincing.

Not ‘yeah’, thought Kyu, ‘yes’. You will have to learn that too. Maybe that is where we will begin.

Small white Card 72

“Bloody fucking shit!” : les façons de dire “putain” sont intarissables… surtout dans la bouche de Luc.

 

72

 

“Shit! Bloody fucking shit!”

Luc punched his already bleeding fist against the wall of his cell. No, Ouané… no… why did you have to go? You were all I had…

He slid down the wall: his body seemed to collapse in on itself like a deflated balloon. He remained in this position for some time, and did not hear the door open.

“You’ve got a visit, Didier.”

Luc stood up.

“Hands behind your back.”

“When are you bloody well going to stop handcuffing me?” shouted Luc.

“It’s orders. You’re violent,” replied the guard without animosity. “Handcuffs or no visit, you choose.”

It was Bruce Lee coming to see him, it couldn’t be anyone else. Luc put his hands behind his back and let himself be handcuffed. Kyu saw his stony expression, even stonier than usual, and asked nothing.

“Ouané’s dead.”

Kyu was deeply moved by the look in Luc’s eyes, and by the news of the death of the lovely old lady who had taught him to drink coffee through a sugar lump.

“No… how can that be?”

“Yeah, man, she’s dead. They told me just now.”

“I’m sorry, Luc, really sorry… do you know when the funeral is?”

“Saturday.”

“I’ll be right back,” said Kyu, leaving the room.

He went out to phone Chief Constable Desnaud, the man who was in charge of the elite group of professionals he worked for and who had been one of his students for almost five years now. He explained the situation and asked him to trust him: he would like to take Luc to the old lady’s funeral and then bring him back to prison. It would take two days.

“He won’t get away, I give you my word.”

“I don’t doubt that!” laughed Desnaud, “With you as a guard dog nobody could get away! I’ll see what I can do. I’ll ring you back. It’s that kid you got arrested… Luc Didier, is that his name?”

“Yes. I admit I feel sorry for him. That old lady was all he had: now he has got no one. And prison is going to do him no good. What he really needs is someone who will take care of him, sort him out. Locking him up just means that the second he is out he will be at it again.”

“I’ll ring you straight back.”

He did not have long to wait. His phone rang.

“I’ve spoken to the judge. You can take him.”

“Thank you.”

 

 

Small white Card 71

Le mot dujour : ensconced = confortablement installé

 

71

 

 

One morning Antoinette did not get up. She was found in her bed, peacefully ensconced in an eternal dream. She had been to see Raymond at the cemetery that day, to talk to him about Luc. She had tidied up the grave, washed the plastic flowers and straightened the piece of the tombstone that always fell over.

“Now don’t you worry, my Raymond, there’s a lovely gentleman looking after him. He’ll come and see you when he gets out of prison, that he will.”

The old woman had set the piece of broken stone right one more time, swept the grave clean one more time, and wiped her eyes. She always seemed to have runny eyes at the cemetery.

“I miss you, my Raymond. There, I just thought you should know. Yes, I know I say that every time I come and see you but today I miss you even more than usual. So I just wanted to let you know I’ll be coming soon.”

Then the old woman had gone back home, stoked up her fire and sat at her table drinking coffee. Afterwards she had washed and carefully dried the coffee-pot and put it back in its corner.

“There we are, all spick and span.”

And she had gone to bed.

 

It was Alphonsine who found her. She went and got Gaston’s son, the local policeman. What a lovely man. He dealt with everything except laying her out because that was Alphonsine’s job. When Antoinette was nice and clean, her hair done up nicely with the tiny little grey bun right on top of her head, Alphonsine put in her brand new false teeth.

“There you go, Antoinette, you’re squeakly clean and looking lovely with your new teeth. You can go and join Raymond, I’ll finish off the embroidery for Madame Duchâtel.”

Her words suddenly brought it all home to her. Alphonsine burst into tears. With all those years of working together, side by side, chatting together in front of the window, it felt like they had become two halves of the same person.

“Now then, Antoinette,” said the old woman, swallowing back her sorrow and standing up, “I’ve got work to do. I’m going down to do some embroidering. I’ll say goodbye now. I won’t be back up, you know, there’s too much work to be getting on with. Right, I’ll be off…”

When Alphonsine got downstairs she found Gaston’s son waiting for her.

“Are you going to be alright, Alphonsine?”

“She’s with her Raymond now, we’ve got nothing to cry about,” replied Alphonsine, unable to hide the tail-end of her sobs.

“No, no, you’re quite right.”

“Of course I’m right. And in any case we haven’t got time for crying, there’s work to be done,” she said, sitting herself at the window and getting her thimble out of her apron pocket.

“Yes, there’s work to be done. I’ll go and see about having Luc informed.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“It will be hard for him.”

Alphonsine did not answer; she had not heard. She was chatting to Antoinette. She was saying ‘Tell us again’ and hearing Antoinette replying ‘Starting where?’ – ‘Well you could begin with when you went out to feed the rabbits’ – ‘Yes. So it was getting dark and I went out to feed the rabbits… ’

Gaston’s son watched Alphonsine for a moment. Her lips were barely moving, shaping words, forming sentences as her fingers managed the tiny stitches. He left without a sound, not wishing to disturb the little conversation between the elderly lady and her neighbour.

Small white Card 70

Le mot du jour : scowl = prendre un air renfrogné

 

70

 

Luc laughed. But it was not a real laugh, it was a forced laugh. Kyu had never heard a real laugh pass his lips and was far from sure he even knew how to really laugh.

“Feller, take a look at my face. Can’t you see this tanned skin, these black eyes, this black hair? Haven’t you noticed how ugly I am? My mother would have a heart attack if I added a beard to all that. She finds me hideous enough as it is!”

Kyu briefly examined Luc’s face. It was a distinguished face, with fine lines which were however not improved by his stormy expression. Lucifer’s son.

“Talking of my razor, I suppose I left it at my mother’s place. Unless I’ve lost it. Shi-it, that would be fuckin’ annoying if I’d lost it.”

“Would you like me to ring your mother to ask her if it’s there?”

Luc scowled.

“Yeah, why don’t you do that, I don’t want that moron messing around it.”

“There’s little risk of that.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“Yes. Your mother and he separated.”

Luc gave a small laugh. Kyu got out his phone.

“Hello, Amélie?” he said, his Asian accent making it unnecessary to introduce himself. “Do you think you could look and see if Luc left his razor at your place?”

Luc had turned pale.

“Yes, it is there,” said Kyu hanging up.

“You seem on very close terms with her.”

“Yes.”

Luc clenched his jaw.

“Do you see each other often?”

His tone was becoming more and more aggressive.

“I pop in and see her from time to time.”

“Why’s that?”

Kyu suddenly understood something: Luc was not only rejecting his mother, he would reject anything which came into close contact with her. Which meant him. Amélie and he had been seeing more and more of each other. It was no longer necessary to hide the fact that he had fallen in love the first time he had seen her. He was even contemplating staying longer in France, much longer perhaps. He could tell that she had strong feelings for him too. It had begun with them meeting to discuss Luc, then the meetings had got longer. Sometimes they ate together. Amélie wore pretty dresses, took care with her make-up. Most of all, she laughed. It felt good to be together, even if not one word had been spoken about how they felt. Might he have to choose between Amélie and Luc? He dismissed the question.

“I call in with news of you, and I take Gabriel to the swimming pool.”

Luc shot him the bleakest of looks. He called the guard and was taken away to his cell.

 

Kyu went straight back to the river. He would not go and see Amélie this evening, he needed to think. So he gave her news of Luc by phone. When he got to his barge he sat on deck and let the wind ruffle his straight, black hair. He closed his eyes and concentrated until he left his body. Had a tiny chink opened in Luc’s heart? Why had discovering he was seeing his mother made him so angry? Aren’t you going to ask why they junked my visit last week? Don’t you want to know? You don’t give a toss, do you? Luc wanted people to care about him. Like a child who pulls at an adult’s shirt to get attention, to be noticed. Luc had never before shown the tiniest jot of feeling. It was the first time. It was extremely confused emotion, but genuine emotion even so. And his own feelings, his feelings for this young man? There was no doubt about it, he had grown very fond of him. He arrived back in his body holding a two-sided card; which way up was he to play it?

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