This is a story I wrote to the song "Padam, Padam", by Edith Piaf. It originally started as a one shot, then a one shot with a sequel, then a one shot with a sequel with another follow up, and then after that I had an idea for ANOTHER follow up so my friend convinced me to just turn it into a god damn chapter story. So I apologize to all the people who have read and decided the other story is one of their favorites, and would like to request them to favorite/comment on this one instead (I'll make a note on the other story too, promise). So I'll stop talking now, and here is the original story "Padam" with the follow up "Rien de rien" as well as the rest of it. Enjoy.
And special thanks to Emily and Alyssa for helping me brainstorm and being all around awesome folks.
Disclaimer: I do not own GW or those characters. This story however is all mine. Nor do I own the song "Padam Padam" which is a song by Édith Piaf.
"This melody you will hear
follows me everywhere I go.
I hear it when I am sad
and especially when I am glad.
It seems to mock me from my past sins.
It taunts me.
And it is driving me crazy.
- Édith Piaf
My sisters and I had grown up speaking Arabic, and although they had gone straight to the English language for practicality's sake, my father had given me a small detour in between the two. French. It made perfect sense, the Arabic world had always had close ties to the French and although English was more sensible my father had argued French was more philosophical, closer to government, plus intelligent. It could be, however, he just wanted me to know my name. Quatre.
Any beginner student of French knows quatre is the word for the number four. Most people assume it was my father's ignorance which brought him to my name, possibly that he had no idea of French - a business man obsessed only with the factors of money and not with matters of culture. This assumption would be wrong.
I had always rationed that since French was so much more philosophical, closer to government, and plus intelligent, there had been another reason - a deeper meaning to my name, perhaps I cried four times when I was born; perhaps my father had been visited by four spirits when roaming the deserts of his father's father in his youth; perhaps my mother had taken four deep breathes before her death. Or perhaps, I should enjoy the mystery of it all - keep in good faith my father gave me a stupid name for a reason. After all, that alone is the reason I remember her.
The little girl.
The little girl who disappeared.
I hear nowadays they call her Padam.
Her father had always been elated that I'd known French. It would be much easier - that way - to marry me to his daughter. He would have talked my father into it too, had she not disappeared, and I wouldn't have looked at her twice had she not inquired about my name. These were the days before my realization - as I like to call it. Before I realized I should have been proud of my existence, whether or not my father had used me as a puppet, when I still carried the anger of being primped and paraded around - showed off and polished as the heir of Winner Enterprise. The life of a rich child is so difficult, I had then rationalized.
So when she asked me why my name was quatre, I don't believe I even bothered to answer. I don't remember answering, at least. What I do remember though, is her father speaking with my father in English, with a very good British accent and only a hint of French coming out when he pronounced the letter 'r'.
"Isn't it lovely," he said to my father, "that our children can get along? Isn't it grand? You know my daughter has a lovely singing voice and she's in ballet. I hear Quatre plays the piano, perhaps they could do a duet?"
But his words were different, and I could hear what he was saying under the up and down of his British accent and hacked French 'r'. Please take my daughter, his words meant, marry her to your son. Give her to your son, our money is dwindling and she needs to be provided for, the French are contre-rich, times are changing - I'm worried.
"Yes, yes," were my father's words, "a duet would be lovely. And it would be good for Quatre to use his French. Did you know he also speaks Spanish and Italian? I'm advising him to learn latin too, its a dead language of course but necessary none the less"
The translation of that being: Your old name has my interest peaked, but my son isn't going that easy. What else do you have to offer?
"Oh ma petite is speaking English like she's a native speaker, now she's moving onto Japanese. You know, Spanish and Italian are just far to similar to French. I'd like for her to have a good foundation in Eastern languages too. Lets not forget the Greek lessons of course."
My daughter has so much to offer. She's well educated but not more so then your son, just to make sure he doesn't feel over-shadowed and decide he doesn't like her. And look at her mother, her beautiful mother, my daughter will look like that too someday, more so I believe.
"Oh Quatre studied Greek a while ago, perhaps three or four years. But to be fair your daughter is a bit younger."
So many people want their daughters for my son. I'm not sold yet.
"Young, but very smart I'd like to believe."
I'll throw in two goats and a hen if they marry.
Who ever thought the rich were civilized never ran into the match-making problem that comes along with the money, a practice that will never go out of style. I dissected their conversation, the man selling his child as if she were a car - with all the features and technology of a human person. I wondered then, if the little girl next to me even realized her father was gambling for her future. Thats when she asked me, after tugging on my shirt-sleeve to catch my attention, and the words came out of her pouted lips.
"Quatre c'est un nombre. Pourquoi tes parents t'ont donné un nombre pour un nom?"
As I've said, I don't remember my response - if I even had one. Perhaps I explained to her there was a much deeper meaning to my name, the four spirits which visited my father in the deserts or the four deep breathes before my mother's death.
But, knowing how much of a brat I was, I probably didn't acknowledge her.
"Ma mère va chanter dans une minute. Tu veux écouter?"
This time, I do remember my answer. Yes, I would like to listen to your mother sing.
She'd grabbed my hand at that point, and I could hear the heightened excitement in her father's voice - urging my father to follow to the stage, where his wife was about to sing. No doubt the man was imagining the friendship - future love - that was blossoming between his daughter and I. He was imagining things, I was just a child who wanted to hear her mother sing. I wanted to hear the voice that had granted the girl holding my hand the talent her father had boasted about, I wanted to know if - after seeing the man's wife - my father would rethink his position of my marriage to the girl holding my hand, perhaps afterwards he'd say that the girl holding my hand would be my new wife when we'd come of age, perhaps the girl holding my hand would be the mother of my children. Maybe my father would say if the girl holding my hand could sing like her mother, then she'd be the entertaining hostess her father promised. Son, he'd tell me, the girl holding your hand is beautiful and can entertain - in that lies a status boost.
If I'd heard an angel sing, I would have told it to work harder. To say I'd been impressed would have been humble, and if I had been a less spoiled child I would have cried from the beauty. The words padam padam padam echoed in my head as they were sung and I'd realized the girl holding my hand had been taken back to her father, who was now twirling her around the room as if to let her replace then woman singing upon the stage. Did she know if her mother had been sold to her father like he was selling her to me, or would she forever remember only those moments of being sa petite, sa petite poupee? Perhaps I should have asked before the song had finished - how she would think back on these moments - perhaps I should have asked her before the lights went out, perhaps I should have asked her during the commotion that followed. I should have asked, because when the commotion ended, there was one child gone.
When the power had been cut, a voice had come from whoever had cut the power had announced the estate had been broken-into over the ballroom speakers, for everyone to remain calm and no one would be hurt. Of course when the man speaking happened to drop the word 'kidnapping', my father grabbed onto me like I held his next breath. Of course, everyone had thought that the child they were after was the most famous child in the room, of course the Winner child was the target. Of course when a scuffle was heard, they all assumed it was young Winner fighting for his freedom. Of course because the CEO of Winner Enterprise had money, power, and only one son - and he would pay more for his child then any parent in the room.
Because of course, when the lights came back on, not one person expected the little girl to be gone. No one expected the woman who sang like an angel to be screaming bloody-murder for her missing child, or the man yelling in French that his daughter had been wretch from his arms, after fighting to keep a hold on her. No one had heard the little girl crying. No one had heard her at all.
I secretly wished they'd grabbed me.
I don't remember how we left, but as my father pulled I could see her mother clutching her heart, I could hear her father screaming. I could feel the shadow of her palm still pressed against my hand.
It was a long time before I ever thought of her again.
I found myself in a French bar a few years after the war. I'd been there before, a bar with and entrance that led underground - a place for the rebellion contre-Oz, contre la guerre, contre-rich - a shadow of past resistances. La Révolution Française, La Résistance contre les Nazis. The owner had like us then, well enough to hid us from Oz for a night, Oz, he said, ne comprend pas l'importance de résistance. And he was right, they didn't. He'd also told us if we'd happen to survive we'd always be welcome back. I took him up on the offer, alone.
I'd arrived and took a drink, the owner recognized me immediately and inquired about the others. We didn't speak long before he'd given me a second drink and directed me to a table. He joined me after a moment. We talked.
The bar was full within the hour, and as I went to take my leave the owner called me to stay.
"Il y a une belle!" he told me "Une belle qui chante avec la plus jolie voix du monde."
I sat back down, wanting to hear the beautiful woman who sang with the prettiest voice in the world, perhaps because I'd been drinking, or perhaps because it had been a long time since I'd heard a song with feeling.
The beautiful woman was, in fact, a girl in her late teens. She was skinny, like she was in need of a good meal, but her beauty shown through her features. Her pouted lips voiced the words she sang.
If I'd heard an angel sing, I would have told it to work harder. If I had been a less hardened man, I would have cried from the beauty. Or the memory: the four spirits that met my father; my mothers last breathes; the sound of a woman on stage; the twirling of a child in the arms of a father; the shadow of a palm against my hand; the words padam padam padam echoing in my head.
Should I have known it was her?
If her mother had been sitting next to me, I would have told her to be proud.
If her father was there, I would have told him he was right about her talent.
But instead, I asked the owner about her name.
They'd always just called her Padam for the only song she could sing.