I lean over to comb that unruly strand of hair away from her eye.
At first, Natasha seems startled. Then she lets me tuck it, ever so gently, around her ear.
I say, “There’s so much I want to ask you, sweetheart.”
“Really?” she asks, with a reluctant tone. She stares blankly at the corner of the kitchen floor, evading my eyes as if in anticipation of some trick question. “Like what?”
“Remember that night, in Vernon?”
She replies, “Yes,” but does so with a shaky tone, which means no, I don’t really remember but I’ll give you the answer you want. Just let me be.
I wipe a bit of syrup from her chin. She must have licked it when I wasn’t looking. “You told me,” I say, “that come what may, you would never forget that night.”
“That night?” she says. “Which one?”
“In Vernon, when we woke up in each other’s embrace, to the sound of shots.”
I pause for a second, so she may reply. And as I wait for her, the memory comes back to me. It seems so fresh, so vivid, as if it happened just yesterday.
Following the failed attempt to blow the bridge, fights erupted between French Resistance fighters and German soldiers. Rochelle and I ran frantically through the narrow streets to join Monsieur Antoine and about forty other fighters.
Upon arriving at city hall, he handed us some home-made explosives, which we started hurling, along with the other fighters, at German tanks and trucks. I remember the shine in her eyes. “This,” she cried out to me, “is a life worth living!”
Just then, one of the tanks caught fire. The blast pushed her back, accidentally, into my arms. Oh, what a fiery woman she used to be!
And still, there is fire in her.
I dread the day when she will stop playing altogether. As long as her music—such as it is—is full of rage, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps there is still hope.
Lenny in Marriage before Death