Hot Chocolate, Religion and Gypsies.
The ceramic mug fell to the ground with an almighty shatter. Pieces of it darted in every direction and chocolate smeared the floor as if a rebellious young child had gotten carried away with their finger-painting. The crash had startled Anouk who quickly breathed in and stepped backwards, almost out the door.
Anouk looked at her mother, but she did not look back. Instead, Vianne's eyes were firmly fixed on the eyes of another. A man who stood now in the door frame, the sun shining behind him like he was a delicate idol on the stained glass window of the church.
He might have well of been.
The way Vianne stared at him was enough to convey paragraphs of dialogue in a few seconds. The air could have been sliced with a razor it was so thick of emotion. Nothing was said and it seemed as if the seconds were ticking past in the space of hours. Anouk did not make eye contact with anyone, instead she stared straight ahead at the clock on the wall and watched as the hour hand ticked over once more.
Walking to the corner, Anouk grasped a broom and pan and began sweeping up the pieces of ceramic that was now lying on the ground, broken. It was absurd really. This was one of the most memorable times of her life and she was cleaning. The sound the ceramic made against the floor was the loudest thing in the room. Anouk ignored it and continued until all of the pieces were collected. With that she opened the small metal bin next to her and poured the contents of the pan into it.
Upon emptying the pan, she left the room in silence. The only sound left was the soft scuffing of her shoes on the tiles. She walked up the stairs towards her room and left them alone. She could tell that her mother would want to be alone for this. She respected that.
She could not hear the conversation taking place downstairs and did not try to. She could guess the content of it all the same. It would be dramatic. Loving and sad. Something one would read in an old classic novel. Anouk loved the classic stories. She enjoyed the poetic scope of the writing – the way it could transport you from your bedroom to the far reaches of Asia or the royal courts of Britain. Pirate stories. Romances. Tales of war. Horror stories and old legends. They all appealed to her. She loved the characters and felt that if she forgot to read one night she had let them down. Left them in a lurch of emotion. Like suddenly stopping a record in the middle of a song.
Anouk, however, was not much of a writer herself. She sometimes jotted thoughts down in a leather journal her mother had bought her, but did not put her mind to any creative stories. She preferred to sort her own thoughts out on paper as oppose to the thoughts of other made-up characters.
Her ideas were interrupted as she heard the sound of the small bell on the door. It jingled. Someone had arrived. A customer. Quickly, Anouk scurried down the staircase and into the foyer. She heard fragments of the conversation.
"I know. But I can't -"
Trying to ignore it, Anouk smiled at the young man in the door way. He looked nervous. It was fair, Anouk supposed. She recognised him. He was the new minister's son. He had said he would come back for some chocolate. He was true to his word. What had he said his name was? Trent? No. Theodore. That was it.
Anouk noticed that the conversation between her mother and Roux had ceased. She quickly beckoned Theodore out into the adjacent kitchen. He did as instructed, with a short glance at Roux as he walked. Roux returned the glance with a small smile. Once the young man had caught up with her, Anouk walked into the kitchen and closed the door behind them.
"Is this a bad time?" he asked nervously, obviously unsure of what to do with himself.
"Sort-of." Anouk explained. "That man. We haven't seen him in a while. He came back a unannounced."
"Oh. I see." Theodore placed himself awkwardly on a stool across from Anouk. The kitchen bench divided them. "He looked a little...strange."
"He's a gyspy." Anouk replied simply, drawing a pattern in the cocoa dust on the white bench. A star.
"Father says that gypsies are the Devil's work." Theodore said plainly. He sounded like a small child, reciting a poem . Something he had had drilled into him from a young age.
"And do you believe everything your father says?" Anouk inquired, erasing her star with her index finger and looking up at him from behind her dark fringe.
"Mostly." Theodore replied, watching her finger on the marble on the bench. "He's a man of God. He speaks the truth."
"Does he?" Anouk mused, more to herself than to the young man in front of her. "Well, I assure this gypsy is not the Devil's work. My mother loved him once."
Anouk could tell that he was uncomfortable with the subject. He looked awkward in his movements. Anouk wasn't one to shy away from many subjects. She had a wide knowledge of many things. She, like her mother, loved to learn. Loved to meet people and loved to discuss.
"Would you like some chocolate?" Anouk asked, trying to divert the conversation. Religion was an unreliable topic for two people who did not know eachother.
Anouk reached for a box of matches and lit the small gas stove below a bowl of now cool, melted chocolate. Slowly the flame grew and she reached for two ceramic cups, hanging above her. Once the chocolate had sufficiently heated, she spooned it into the white mugs. She handed one to Theodore and kept one for herself. Theodore thanked her with the politeness of a well trained child and sipped the drink cautiously.
"So, how long have you and your mother lived here?" He asked, setting the drink down.
"About seven years." Anouk replied, she too placing down the cup. "We like it here."
"I can see why." He nodded. "It's a beautiful town. The people are very nice, too."
Anouk hated small-talk, but continued all the same. "Yes. They are. You'll probably meet more of them when your father holds Mass on Sunday."
"Will you be attending?" He asked, sipping the drink.
Anouk shook her head. "Mother and I do not attend church. We like the sound of the bells, though. They're lovely."
Anouk had said the wrong thing and she could tell. However, she was not going to shy away from her beliefs just to please someone else. If this young man could not accept her and her mother he had no place in the town. The rest of the villagers had accepted them over time and he would do the same.
Silence fell between the two and Thedore cleared his throat nervously. Anouk took note of this and smiled slightly. Before she could speak, Theodore and had stood up from his stool and was straightening his grey jacket.
"I should go." He said. "Father will be wondering where I've got to. I'll be sure to send him around to pay you for the chocolate."
With that Theodore left the room and closed the door behind him. Anouk heard him mutter a slight farewell to her mother and Roux. The bell sounded and the door closed with a slight squeak.
Vianne rested her chin against her hand. She had been listening to Roux speak. She had slowly drifted in an out of listening. The truth was, she did not want to hear it. Vianne was not a fan of history. She believed that it was best to move on from whatever had happened. History was something that should never be repeated either physically, verbally or even spiritually. It was something one should live after and try not to dwell on. Especially if one's history contained something upsetting. Vianne had learnt her lesson.
Roux had obviously finished speaking. There was no more sound and some quiet conversation could be heard from the kitchen. Vianne looked up at Roux briefly before diverting her eyes. It hurt to look at him. It brought back too many memories.
"Were you listening to me?" he asked, sitting up on the chair.
"Sorry, Roux. I can't do this." Vianne ran a hand through her hair and sighed.
"Do what? Why?"
"I can't do this 'explaining'. I'm not good at it." pause "I can't relive something that happened so long ago. I'm one of those people who likes to deal with things and move on. I don't dwell."
Standing up, Roux walked away from her for a moment and stood at the far wall. Facing it, he leant against it for a moment before turning around.
"You don't dwell? Vianne, I'm sorry but I can't believe that. Were you not the woman who carried her mother's ashes with her? If that's not dwelling, Vianne, I don't know what is. All the time I was away I was thinking about you. It never stopped. I'd wake up and turn over to see you beside me, but instead there was just air – nothing – I'd go to sleep and imagine you'd be somewhere else with Anouk. I even wondered if you'd been with another man. If you'd moved; If you'd forgotten about me..."
His voice trailed off for a moment and he leant further against the wall. He almost felt like falling through it – just breaking it and slipping away from the situation he was in. Before he knew it, Vianne was saying something.There were tears in her eyes.
"My mother?" she asked, her voice shaking. "My mother? My mother or her death has nothing to do with this. Can we let her rest in peace, please?" she saw him trying to apologise, but she went on. "Roux, I did think about you. I thought about you every day. I'd sit here staring at the door and every time it opened, hoped for it to be you who walked through the door. I stayed here for that reason; just in case you remembered usand decided to come back."
A single tear fell down her cheek, but Roux did not move. He was about to speak when a young man walked out of the kitchen and out the door. Roux smiled at him briefly.
"Is that? Does Anouk...?" he stared after the boy.
"No." Vianne shook her head, thankful for a different subject. "He's the son of the new minister.Pere Henri left some time ago."
"I see." Roux nodded softly and walked back over to Vianne and sat down on the stool next to her. He placed a hand on the side of her face and smiled for a moment. "I'm going to leave for a while; I have my boat docked by the river. Come there tomorrow morning – first thing – I have a few things I need to tell you."
Yes, you've probably forgotten about me. I've had a lot of shit going on in my life, but I'm back on track. I know this chapter's short, but it's something, isn't it? Thanks for all the supportive reviews, guys. It means a lot.