Friday, November 21, 2014

Episode 36 | Partners

previous episode

I brought the gallons of paint upstairs, and the effort eased both my sexual arousal and the anger. The girl downstairs retreated to a time before her tempestuous arrival, and it again felt as if I was alone on the Île. I concentrated on painting the walls -- having chosen the one most visible upon arrival on the island to start, as I wanted Armand to see it right away --, and delighted simply in getting the job done. 

After some time, though, I heard the girl noisily climbing the stairs, a little too hasty. I confess that I had expected her to leave the breakfast tray behind by the pool. Despite my request for collaboration -- and I had intended to politely remind her about that. When she glanced in my direction, realizing my presence there on the porch, it seemed like she had something to tell me, too... but instead, she ran into the bathroom.

Herr Weissmann's house construction was full of strange details -- that the first passage, the one right at the top of the stairs, lead into the bathroom (built disproportionately large to contain the rain water collecting and treating equipment), which in turn gave way to the master bedroom.

It was her luck, and the girl made ​​it to the toilet just in time to throw up again... There goes breakfast, I could not help thinking, for it seemed like a waste of precious food to me. I continued painting the wall while the girl vomited, crying and flushing the toilet over and over again, despite my kindest requests... Should I scream at her?

Hearing her using the sink to clean up, I thought I would have to take fewer baths if I did not want us to run out of water... Then there was silence, and I guessed the girl had gone to rest, maybe lie down or sit on the veranda by her room, which at that time of the day would still be cool.

I noticed how my mind whirled like a radar, trying to figure out where in the house the girl was -- and that left me feeling distracted and somewhat astounded at my improbable interest on the well being of that disturbing creature.

Next, I was recalling my own episodes of food poisoning in the old factory in Paris. Feeling compassionate towards the suffering girl, I decided to drop my work and check whether she needed anything.

I did not find her resting on Armand's large bed, however, nor occupying any of the comfortable armchairs on the veranda next to his room. I then followed along the corridor until I found her... in my room, kneeling before the bookcase, amid a maze of books lying around her.

"What are you doing?!?" I yelled, losing control. "Are you looking for something?"

Armand used to be generous with many things, most things. But he was jealous of his books, and was keen to keep them in an strict order -- I had been very careful about that in Paris, since we shared a library where all books were his --, and in that only bookshelf on the island, he had been keeping his books separate from Herr Weissmann's.

"I'm feeling fine, thank you..." She answered the question I meant to ask her, but which I had forgotten upon seeing the bookshelf turned upside down.

"Good, I'm glad." I found it amazing that she talked to me without even glancing at me. So typical of Catherine, as we know well, Laurent. Something I've never grown accustomed to, and at that time it seemed really unbearable to me. "This is my room..." Though it seemed inappropriate to say that anything in that house belonged to me.

"I figured that out." she said, with a gesture full of indifference towards the little bed where I slept. "Please don't think I'm here for anything in your room..." she was inspecting a book, still not facing me. "I'm here as if I were attending mass..."

I gasped. "What?" I was curious and stared at the girl intently. However, she did not look back at me.

"Don't think I'm in your room. Pretend I'm... in the church." I saw her smiling, not at me but upon recognizing the title of a book. "Since I do not believe in God, this is where I come to pray." The girl pointed the bookcase. And at once I realized she was using the same expression Armand and I had employed to designate our small library in Paris, 'The Church'. I was perplexed.

As I remained silent, suddenly confronted with old, cherished memories, and to Catherine it seemed that I had not understood her, she went on.

"What for you is simply a bookshelf, to me... it's an altar. And I'm a believer!" She smirked, picking up one more book, just to tease me. "Don't worry. You can rest assured that I know how take care of them, better than you do."

"Excuse me, but you do not have the right to mess with that shelf. These books belong to Armand." I replied, and as I recall it, very softly.

I don't think I said anything to enrage her. I certainly did not intend it, but whatever it was, she exploded again.

"You have made ​​it clear that I am not welcome here! Could you at least pretend otherwise!?!" she screamed.

"I have never said that..." I mumbled.

"No. Until now you just said Bienvenue..." She mocked my Italian accent. "Please make yourself at home... a thousand times! Haven't you?"

I realized that, in fact, I had never properly welcomed her. "Excuse me. I'm sorry." I really meant it, once I understood how she felt. "You are welcome to the island. I only want to ask you... to request me... before handling things that are not yours." Since I was being defensive, I think it sounded insincere and even a bit harsh.

"Merci, monsieur!" she replied, calming herself. "S'il vous plait... Can I borrow a book?" She exaggerated the courtesy in her request, as if asking me for a huge favor.

I noticed her irony, and tried not to react to it. It was so unpleasant and tiring to be at odds with that girl at all times, and I could not stop thinking about the hell it would be to spend a week with her, until the return of the boat.

"Of course." I answered. "That is not the problem... but taking the books out of the order set by Armand. May I ask you to refrain from..."

She interrupted me. "The books are in no order at all!" she retorted, categorically. "They were a mess!" In fact she was right, as I would later find it out from Armand himself. He had never had the time to properly place the books in an order. But I did not know it then, that I was being unfair to her. "I'm actually doing your boss a favor!"

"Armand is not my boss." I replied immediately.

 Even though I had put myself in a subaltern position before him several times, and in my usual humility submitting to Armand would not have bothered me at all... The disdain and indifference with which that girl treated me, however, seemed so inconsiderate. I was hurt.

"He isn't?" That was the first time she glanced at me, still haughtily. And by her next question I then realized she really had not deigned to even look in my direction. "You're not a native, are you?" She was still doubtful, observing my tanned skin and my ragged clothes in opposition to my facial features that did not bear any resemblance to the local people. "You are..." She seemed to hesitate, oscillating between my peasant ways I could not disguise, especially when I felt embarrassed, and my almost fluent French and its accent, made so particularly better when I tried mimicking Armand. "...his partner, perhaps?"

"Exactly!" I replied, after thinking that maybe that word could well indicate the nature of the close relationship I had had with Armand for all those years. And that had became even more intimate in our final week. I was always thinking of it as 'brotherhood', but I could not introduce myself as Armand's brother. "Yes, we are partners" I smiled. That word seemed good enough, though I could not have know then that Catherine, who had been preparing her Master in Literature, on her way to teach at the Université Paris-Sorbonne, took words so literally. And she had meant commercial partners, of course -- in the guesthouse, or owning the island. Perhaps that misunderstanding could have been cleared had I given her time to ask more questions, but I was eager to introduce myself. "My name is Carlo D'Allegro."

"Enchanté!" She finally looked at me for the first time, right into my eyes. And with an interest which greatly differed from the disdain with which hitherto she had treated me, she introduced herself. "Catherine Mortinné."

Author's note: having been imported from a former version of the story, some of the comments below are dated previous to this post. Once the plot has not been altered, just the pagination, I am keeping them since they are very dear and precious to me.


  1. Great chapter. Is she pregnant I wonder. I sort of think maybe so.... dunno.... that would certainly put a twist on the tale. :)

    1. andante zenSeptember 28, 2013 at 10:50 AM
      thank you for reading and commenting, Zhippidy!

      Laurent has a heavy heart at the moment, but his concern is different from yours about his mother's health, and Carlo offers him an insight answer -- that's coming in the second part of chapter eight.

      PS* quoting my reply that was not imported by Blogger to this revised version of 'the last canvas'

  2. How annoying Catherine is! LOL. She does complain about everything and notices nothing Carlo tried to do for her. It was nice of him to cook dinner, yet all she did was complain about the salt. I wonder if Catherine has an eating disorder because she seems to always vomit after eating. Finally she realizes that this is not a hostel. I thoroughly enjoyed Carlo putting her in her place when he was mentioning all the things they would have to do on the island such as conserving water and food. His revelation at the end... I felt bad for him.

    1. Catherine is accustomed to only the best -- food, ambience, service -- in her everyday life in Paris, and that's why on the rather simple and rough routine of the Île du Blanchomme she is not in her element. Carlo might try, but he hasn't got the faintest idea what Catherine standards are. Complaining about the salt was the polite way that she found to say his cooking was lame ;)

      You're on track with Laurent, who has the same concern that you mention about Catherine having an eating disorder, and he'll name it in the next episode of this chapter.

      Carlo gravitates between putting Catherine in her place and being put in his place by her, and in this power equation one shall have to lose and accept the other's rule -- can you guess who is it?

      And thank you for empathizing with Carlo. Experiencing love is very new to him, and his sexuality is puzzling him too, at the moment. Let´s keep in mind Carlo is a virgin, and lust is a new feeling to him.

      Catherine and Carlo are so young -- this 1974, and they are both 24 years old, still struggling to find their ways in this world.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, LKSimmer! And hopefully reading the replies to your comments, too :)


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