by Michael E. Lloyd
In the morning I was up early and already dressed by the time Arthur awoke. And now he was angry — but not with me or anybody else.
‘I could have come to Paris months ago, Julia, if I’d worked straight away on deciphering the bible notes with Pureza! And then I’d have found Emilie long before she started showing an interest in all of this ...’
‘Maybe, Arthur. And maybe not. But if you had found her, you might never have gone looking for Thérèse. And then you and I would never have met.’
‘That’s true. And that would have been awful! But ... well, if you and I had come to Paris as soon as we got Pureza’s information at the end of April, or even stuck with our decision to leave Nice on the fifth of May, we would probably have found Emilie within a couple of days, or at least on the Thursday evening when she was talking to Sophie for the last time ...’
‘Or maybe we would have been caught up in that Monday’s riots ourselves! Or simply not have had the lucky breaks that gave us the clues about where to look for her this week. Que sera sera, Arthur. Stop blaming yourself for other people’s decisions and actions — good or bad.’
‘But we sat around enjoying ourselves in Nice all the time she was ...’
‘Yes, we did. And we played no part in her tragic death — whatever the cause. Anyway, what makes you think we could have made any difference, even if we had found her that week? Let’s face it — she didn’t want anything more to do with you. In fact I suspect she actually hated you for what you did in Nice and the effect it had on her life! And as for me: can you imagine what she would have said? “Excuse me?? Who the hell are you, baby Julia? Some sort of reactionary Sister of Mercy come to redeem me? Just piss off, will you!” Hah! No thanks, Arthur.’
He had given up and was just staring at the blankets. I knew there was no point in any more talk, for now.
‘OK, I’m going out on my own for a while. I suggest you have a good think about how you plan to move on from here.’
As I opened the door, Arthur looked up at me with tears in his eyes.
‘Thank you for all you have done to help me find her, Julia.’
I nodded sadly, and went for my walk.
I had planned to be out for quite a while, but I soon began to regret what I had said to my poor grieving man, and after a single turn around Place de la Bastille in the dull morning light I was back in our room only thirty minutes later.
Arthur was sitting on the edge of the bed with our copy of Emilie’s journal hanging loosely in his hand.
‘I’m so sorry, chéri,’ I whispered. I went over to him, knelt down, and gave him a hug and a long, tender kiss.
‘It’s OK, Julia,’ he murmured. ‘You were right in everything you said. You need to take a look at this ...’
And he handed me the first few sheets of paper. They were the entries Emilie had made back in 1958.
‘Are you sure you want me to?’
I sat down beside him on the bed, drew him close, and started to read.
Sunday 12 October 1958
It was Béatrice’s sixteenth birthday today, and something made me want to speak to her again after all these months — no, years. So I phoned her at a time when I guessed mother and father would be out of the house.
But the two of us were still distant, still at odds on every front. Still both angry with each other for our stubbornness. Nothing in common.
She will never change. Why did I bother to call her?
I had to buy a notebook and write this down. Don’t ask me why.
‘That ties up with what Pureza told us, doesn’t it?’
There was a really cute boy at the club this evening. I fell in love with his eyes in an instant, and I sang him a special song on the spot. He could have carried me off to Wonderland if he’d wanted to!
But although he smiled like a Cheshire cat all the way through my song, and the rest of my performance, he completely ignored me when I came back out for a drink with the gang at the end of the show. And then he just walked out.
Why are men so useless? And why do I get so angry, so easily?
2 January 1959
Arthur and I have been seeing each other for two whole months, but my birthday and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day all passed with nothing special to mark them. Maybe he really doesn’t know how to celebrate. He’s very unwilling to talk about himself, even though I’ve told him my whole life story already ...
He walked me home, at last. After more than ten weeks! It was a lovely starry night. Could have been perfect. Then he just left me at my door!
I’m still not going to push him into anything. I want a bit of true romance in my life for once.
But how long do I have to wait?
I finally got tired of waiting. When he walked me home at two in the morning, after more Carnival craziness, I persuaded him to stay the night.
It was OK.
I still love his eyes.
‘And that all matches quite well with what you told me about meeting Emilie.’
He was so reserved and undemanding at the start. But now he expects me to be there whenever it suits him. And he just ... well, he just takes me whenever he wants to. He seems to think I’m happy about all of that.
Maybe I should complain. But I still .......
‘But that doesn’t sound at all like you!’
‘Keep reading, Julia.’
‘I’m not sure I ...’
‘Please keep reading.’
He’s been pestering me to go off on holiday with him. But he doesn’t recognise how hard it would be for me to be away from the club in the high season. I told him to try asking his own boss for time off when the garage was at its busiest, and see what he said. That shut him up.
I finally gave in, and we’ve just spent a week in a tacky corner of the so-called Italian Riviera. The little rabbit couldn’t keep his hands off me the whole time! And he was keen enough to celebrate his own birthday in a “very special” way. No prizes for guessing how.
I still love his eyes. And I still want my first true love to be my last. But it really isn’t working. What shall I do??
‘I’ve never seen you behave like that, Arthur!’
‘Huh! I was twenty-one that week, Julia, but I might as well have been fourteen. Nobody ever gave me any advice on how to live in the real world ...’
We had a row at the club tonight. I’d told him I had a headache after the show and wanted to go straight home. He said he didn’t believe me.
I didn’t have a headache.
I can’t understand why he’s suddenly become so secretive about what he’s been doing recently. And he seems to be really preoccupied with something.
I reckon he’s got another girlfriend.
What shall I do??
He has aggravated me so much this month! So I didn’t bother to show up for our last date, and I’ve stopped visiting him at the garage and his apartment.
And he hasn’t reacted at all! Or rather, he’s stopped coming to the club, and he hasn’t tried to phone me there or leave a message anywhere.
Thank goodness I can’t phone him. And if he thinks I’m going to start leaving messages ...
Oh, it’s over, dammit! I was wrong to think I’d found my ideal mate. Well, good riddance to him. Maybe I’ll agree to a date with one of the smoothies who’ve been showing so much interest in me at the club ...
Copyright © 2012 by Michael E. Lloyd