Consolation

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Book: Consolation by Anna Gavalda Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anna Gavalda
monstrous dam, but you’re utterly incapable of stopping three little tears: soon you’ll be carried away on the current, drowned by a ridiculous sorrow.
    Go to bed.

5
    SHE HAD FOLLOWED him into the bathroom.
    ‘Air France left a message. They found your suitcase.’
    He mumbled three words, rinsing his mouth. She added, ‘Did you know?’
    ‘Sorry?’
    ‘That you left your case at the airport?’
    He nodded and their reflection deterred him. She turned away and started to unbutton her shirt.
    She continued, ‘Any reason why?’
    ‘It was too heavy.’
    Silence.
    ‘So you left it.’
    ‘That’s a new bra, isn’t it?’
    ‘Any chance I can find out what is going on?’
    The scene was taking place in the mirror. Two half-length portraits. A second-rate Punch and Judy. They went on staring at each other for a long time, very close but never really looking.
    ‘Any chance I can find out what’s going on?’ she repeated.
    ‘I’m tired.’
    ‘And it’s because you’re tired that you humiliated me in front of everyone?’
    No answer.
    ‘Why did you say that, Charles?’
    No answer.
    ‘About Mathilde, that is.’
    ‘What is this? Is it silk?’
    She was on the verge of – then thought better of it. Left the room, switching off the light.
    *
    She sat up when he leaned against the armchair to take his shoes off, and it was a relief. If she had actually fallen asleep without removing her eye make-up, that would have been a sign that the situation was really quite serious. But no, she hadn’t reached that point yet.
    She would never reach that point. It might flood, but only after she’d done her eyeliner. The earth might tremble, but you go on moisturizing.
    You go on moisturizing.
    He sat on the edge of the bed and felt fat.
    Or heavy. Yes, heavy.
    Anouk . . . he stretched out with a sigh. Anouk.
    What would she have thought of him nowadays? What would she have recognized? And the postmark . . . Where was that place, exactly? What was Alexis doing living so far away? And why hadn’t he sent a proper announcement? An envelope with a black border. A more precise date. A place. Names of people. Why? What was this? Punishment? Cruelty? A simple piece of information, my mother has died, or an ultimate spit in the face, and you’d never have known a thing if I hadn’t had the immense kindness to spend a few cents to announce it to you.
    Who was he nowadays? And how long ago did she die? Charles hadn’t had the presence of mind to look at the date on the postmark. How long had the letter been waiting for him at his parents’? How far had the maggots got? What was left of her? Had Alexis donated her organs the way she had so often made him promise he would?
    Swear you will, she said. Swear on my heart that you will.
    And he swore.
    Anouk . . . Forgive me. I . . . Who was it that got you, in the end? And why didn’t you wait for me? Why did I never go back there? Yes. I know why. Anouk, you . . . Laurence’s sighs put an abrupt end to his ravings. Farewell.
    ‘What did you say?’
    ‘Nothing, sorry. I . . .’
    He reached over, found her hip, placed his hand there. She’d stopped breathing.
    ‘Sorry.’
    ‘You’re so hard on me,’ she murmured.
    He didn’t know what to say.
    ‘You and Mathilde . . . You are . . . It feels like I’m living with two teenagers . . . You make me tired. You wear me out, Charles . . . Who am I now, for the two of you? The woman who opens her wallet? Her life? Her sheets? What? I just can’t take it any more, I – do you understand?’
    Silence.
    ‘Did you hear what I said?’
    He said nothing.
    ‘Are you asleep?’
    ‘No. Please forgive me . . . I’d had too much to drink and –’
    ‘And what?’
    What could he say? How much would she understand? Why had he never talked to her about all that? What was there to tell, anyway? How much was left of all those years? Nothing. A letter.
    An anonymous letter ripped to shreds, at the bottom of a rubbish bin at his parents’

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