If I Fall


Three weeks later, she was presented a letter addressed to her in Sanson's coarse, direct handwriting. Marie cried when she opened it and saw the accompanying photograph. Nadia ran to her side, asking if she was hurt or if the letter said something bad. Marie had never cried when she was happy before. Maybe because she never felt such a pang of sadness along with it. She was married already! Why did Sanson have to go and be so nice to her?

Later on that day, when she finally stopped crying, Miss Electra read the letter to her. Marie rested her head on her lap and listened quietly. He was in Spain. It was hot, and no one knew a thing about good French food. They saw bulls running and he told of how he joined in all the fun. Marie looked down at the picture as Electra read about the bull run. Sanson had grabbed one by the horns and flipped it over. He was leaning against it, smoothing his hair and grinning at the camera.

"'Grandis and Hanson sent their regards to you all back in France. Hope to hear from you soon. Sanson,'" Electra finished.

Marie sighed deeply and lowered her head after Electra finished reading.

"Oh Marie, you look so miserable," Electra said, as she smoothed Marie's hair. "I know you miss Sanson, but—"

"Miss Electra, am I a bad person?" Marie said.

"What ever would give you the idea that you were bad?" she said.

"I…I'm in love with another man. Does that make me a bad wife?"

Electra smiled and raised an eyebrow, "Who is your husband?"

"King, of course."

"Did you two have a wedding?"


"Did you sign any papers?"

Marie sniffed, "No."

"Then my good lady," she continued, wiping away Marie's tears. "You are not married. You're free to love whoever you wish."

Marie's face brightened, "Then, I need to get some paper, because I'm writing to Sanson right now!"

Sanson couldn't help but laugh as he read Electra's faithful transcription of Marie's letter. How could anyone keep a straight face at the idea of a five year old beginning a letter with, "I regret to inform you that my first marriage has dissolved." Grandis wouldn't believe him until she read it herself. She bit her lip in a vain attempt to stifle her giggles.

"Marie's grown up much before her time," Hanson said when he perused the letter. "At least you waited a while until your first marriage."

Grandis only shook her head as she looked at the picture that Marie drew for them. She and Marie were on top of what she assumed was the Graton. Hanson and Sanson were in front of it pulling the machine on ropes.

"I think I taught her well," she said.

"Too well," Sanson said. "I think I should write her when we get to Russia."

"Well, well Sanson. I didn't take you for the sentimental type," Hanson said.

"What do you mean by that?"

Grandis took a drag of her cigarette, "Writing letters to children doesn't suit you."

"Look, I promised her I'd write and I'm writing," he said.

"You were always serious about promises you made to friends," Hanson said.

"Damn straight."

"I still don't know what this means Sanson," Grandis said, leaning out the window to blow a graceful smoke ring. "Are you trying to send me signals that you want to settle down and have children?"

"Never, Miss Grandva!" Sanson said waving his hands. Grandis gripped her cigarette holder so tight it bent.

"Why not Sanson? Am I not pretty enough?" she shouted. He took a step back cowering. Why was it that with all his strength he was so deathly afraid of her?

"Oh, I know. It's because I'm not Electra is that it!"

"Hanson was the one who liked Electra! Ikolina was my girl."

She smacked him firmly on the back of the head, picked up her bent cigarette holder and marched out the room puffing smoke. He watched her leave and smoothed his hair. That certainly was close. Over reactions aside, Grandis had bought up a point: it was quite out of his character to write to children. He'd written scores of letters to faceless women, but never to little girls. It wasn't truly because he wanted to settle, far from it. He was in the prime of his life and the women were still flocking. No, he just promised Marie that he would write and he was keeping his promise. Marie should have one adult in her life that kept even the small promises.

Every three weeks a letter arrived in the mail from far off places. Jean gave Marie a small wooden box to put them in so she wouldn't lose them. Months passed; Electra read the letters at first, then Marie began to read them on her own with her coaching, and finally Marie was reading them haltingly out loud to herself. Usually Electra would write for her, sometimes Jean might write if he wasn't busy. Marie would sign the letters after reading them over. A year later, in careful, large letters, she wrote back to Sanson on her own, drawing pictures in the margins to convey everything her words could not.

Marie was convinced that there was no way that Sanson could be so bad as Nadia sometimes said he was. After all, he kept more promises to her than Nadia ever did. People who kept promises weren't bad. All the more reason Marie believed he should get married. She would marry him herself, but Miss Electra explained that big people shouldn't get married to children. She didn't understand why Electra said that when she was in love with Captain Nemo and he was an old man.

Marie thought it was silly that adults had rules that they ignored but expected her to follow. Jean's auntie had a lot of those kinds of rules. Nadia sent her to go get a cup of salt and Auntie nearly bit her head off when she arrived, saying children should not go anywhere alone. Auntie always walked to town by herself. Marie didn't see how it was fair, plus she wasn't really alone, she had King. She reasoned that there was no use in trying to understand the adult world. She held the cup steady as she walked up the runway.

She didn't see the car sitting beside the door, but she did drop the cup when she went in the house and saw who was in the kitchen. She didn't see Grandis and Hanson, she knew they were there. She also heard Nadia saying something about the salt but she couldn't remember what it was. She kept her eyes fixed on Sanson as he fixed his sunglasses as she arrived.

"You came…" she said.

"I told you we would," Sanson said running a finger across the brim of his hat. She leapt into his arms and squeezed him. She took the sunglasses off his eyes and put them on. He smiled at her and lowered his chin as she rubbed her nose and looked off at the ceiling. Her Sanson impression was a bit rusty, but she knew how he hated mushy scenes like this.

"I'm kinda glad you're back," she said. He ruffled her hair a bit.

"It's good to see you too, kid," he said.

That was a long time coming. I'm sorry...