Inspired by the first dinner scene in season 2's "Rebel without a Pause." Maura knows her mother all too well, and she's learned that her own thoughts are often her best escape. Except when she starts to analyze too much and comes to realizations that everything, even languages, can be complicated. Summaries are not my strong point. Reviews are lovely.
Maura wasn't sure how she felt about the French language these days. When she was a small child, she never remembered her parents intentionally teaching her how to speak the language. It was their private language for a while, the one they used when they were discussing among themselves but with their daughter present. She had absorbed the language like a sponge.
Of course, they traveled extensively, and Maura had been surrounded with French during her elementary years. Private schooling had provided multiple opportunities to learn foreign languages, and it was always assumed that she would choose French. She loved the smoothness of the words, the flow of one word into another that sounded like soft silk of her mother's favorite scarf that she had loaned Maura on that windy afternoon as they strolled through Paris, the scarf tied neatly in 50's fashion to keep her hair from whipping in her face with the stout wind.
Although Maura was sure they weren't her first French words, she clearly remembered at the age of four pushing up on her toes, the patent leather stiff. She had tried to peer over the edge of the counter to look at a piece of jewelry her mother was admiring. One small hand had rested delicately on her mother's arm, and she had said, "Je voudrais voir, s'il vous plait."
It was one of those delightful moments when her mother had looked down at her, meeting her eyes, and given that distinctly pleased smile before calling for a step stool, which turned out to be an apple crate. That apple crate had been a golden throne as far as little Maura was concerned.
At her father's insistence they maintained a mix of (largely British) English and French at home, and it had ceased to be so … special. It was simply French. Another language. Being around her mother meant a smattering of foreign language in daily, but it had become a regular part of conversations.
And then it became the language her mother used when she meant to give an excuse or speak privately to Maura in the presence of others. To correct her. To remind her to speak up a bit and not hide behind a book or try to fade into the corner. Even when around others who spoke it, a hushed whisper in blurred French was much harder for others to overhear than English. It became rushed, apologetic, and corrective from her mother and had quickly become a lesson from her nanny and tutors.
In Africa, she had fallen in love with the language again, pleasantly surprised by the unique variations of African French. It had been a lifeline, literally allowing her to communicate directly with patients and not need to rely on a translator when circumstances were urgent. When she had returned from her time away, all of her conversations for the first weeks were in French. It had come from her mouth as though it were her first language, though a few times her mother had questions the pronunciations. She had quickly corrected the African dialect she had assumed.
These days, she rarely used the language. She still enjoyed the occasional French films, the memory of the last French film she had seen almost brought a smile to her face as she rose from the table to serve dessert. In an attempt to keep her mother at dinner just a little longer.
The moment she realized her mother was responding in French, Maura's heart had sank. Without the words she had known the night was ending far sooner than she had expected. With a nascent hope that they might spend a little together the next day, she reverted to the role she assumed through much of her childhood and teen years when her mother that tone with its finality. "She says she's sorry, but she's—"
"Tired. I know."
Hazel eyes snap over to her best friend, head tilting in surprise. Maura can't help but comment that she didn't realize Jane spoke French, and it's not that she thinks her dearest friend is uncultured. It's only that she really didn't think Jane knew the language.
Of course, it was the body language that gave everything away. Already the medical examiner can see how this night is going to quickly end. Her mother will excuse herself gracefully, slipping out with all the elegance of her class. And then Angela will insist on cleaning up, even though Jane's mother already did nearly everything to prepare. Followed by Jane attempting to cheer her up.
And Maura is torn between wanting so much to have a little more time with her mother and wanting to skip to the cheering up. Blunt and sometimes gangly she may be, Jane is always sincere when she is in full best friend mode. She knows the detective can read the longing and the pain that she's trying to carefully to mask. Stiff upper lip, she remembers a nanny saying to her once when she cried because her mother had excused herself at the last minute from the ballet with Maura to attend an elite dinner party with friends only in town for the night. Maura had been all of nine.
The mask settles over her face at the realization her mother is not staying. And the blithe offer of dinner the following night flutters past her. She nods automatically, thankful it's not followed by mon petite, or worse yet mon petite chou. Despite her years studying the French language, she could never grasp how calling another person 'my little cabbage' could be a term of endearment. Even if she might have secretly called Bass that name for a few years—back when he fit in her cupped hands and feasted on bok choy and cabbage. Queen of the Dead suddenly didn't seem like such a bad nickname.
She hates the way her mother has reverted to French tonight, purposely choosing it to exclude the Rizzolis from her presence. Sometimes Maura has wondered if Angela and Jane know Italian, but she is sure they would never use it to keep her out of the conversation.
Ever polite, she falls into the routine of kisses to the cheeks in farewell. She would have followed her mother to the door, seen her out, but she wasn't given the chance. Before she could set down the platter she tried to offer, her mother was to the door. The final words are "Bonsoir," and it aches. The two syllables are tossed airly over Constance Isles's shoulders.
Maura echoes the word hollowly, and tires to hold it together as Jane begins to speak. It hurts a little to hear her best friend's assessment of her mother. What hurts the most is how accurate it is, how much Jane sees straight to who really people are. And who they are not. But she accepts the empathy her friend is offering, talking about hovering mothers and the grass being greener, but Maura's not sure how much more gentleness she can take.
Much as it frightens her to hear there is another murder, it's a relief to be called back into work. She won't even wait long enough to change her clothes. At least she has a place at the crime scene.