Marie continued to stare out of the window of the small house. Sir John and the tenants, M and Mme Enrault, stood in the room as she did so.
“Would either of you like some coffee or perhaps some tea,” said M Enrault, looking nervously at Sir John. M. Enrault was still trying to work out why he had invited this strange pair into his house, a question his wife was also considering from the expression on her face.
“No thank you,” said Sir John. “You can leave us, we’ll be fine.”
The couple retreated willingly and Sir John turned to look at his wife’s back.
“You think I’ve gone too far,” she said. “That I should have just asked and not… done what I did.”
“I imagine you thought you only had one chance, and you were so anxious to see your aunt’s old house again, that you panicked a little,” said Sir John gently.
Marie’s shoulders shook a little.
“It has been 28 years,” she said, “to the day.”
Sir John’s face fell.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Perhaps we should have waited.”
“No,” said Marie, “you were right, it is… fitting.”
Just then a woman in her sixties walked past and glanced into the window. She stared for a moment and then screamed. The woman dropped the bag she had been carrying and came up to the window. Her face was pale as she stared in at Marie.
“Mademoiselle La Fleur,” she said in disbelief. “Is that… is it really you?”
Marie’s head nodded and the woman went to the front door of the house. There was a knock at the door then a conversation in the corridor. The woman from the street came into the room and rushed over to Marie. She held Marie’s face with her hand and stared into it.
“Not a hair different,” she said in awe. Marie smiled then.
“You are too kind Mme Duchamp,” Marie said. “My hairs are very different. Some are even grey now.”
The woman then looked over at Sir John and back to Marie.
“Is this… are you?” she said.
“May I present Sir John Jennings,” said Marie, “my husband. Sir John, this is Mme Margot Duchamp.”
“Enchantée,” said Mme Duchamp. “An English knight? How strange, but then you always were different. When I saw you now, when I screamed, I swore I thought you were a ghost. Especially today. What happened? Where did you go?”
“I am sorry to scare you Mme Duchamp.” said Marie. “All I can say is, after they died, my aunt, my uncle, I couldn’t be here anymore. I just had to leave.”
“My word, all these years!” said Mme Duchamp. “I can’t believe it, we thought you were killed with your aunt and uncle. Why did you not come back here? Your things were all here?”
“I did come back,” said Marie, “right after the shell took them. I saw it fall, I saw them die, right in front of me. I came back here and everywhere was their possessions, their life, our life. Now gone. It was too much, after my mother’s death. Too much for me. I took a bag of things I would need and I left. I didn’t have an idea to leave forever, but I never came back. And then. Then other problems. The commune and everything.”
Marie wiped away the tear which had run down her face.
“It was bad then for sure,” said Mme Duchamp. “A terrible time. But then did you find your uncle? He was looking for you.”
Marie looked confused.
“Mme Duchamp, my uncle was killed that day,” she said.
“No, not that one, the other one, the brother of your aunt. What was his name?” said Mme Duchamp. “Thierry? I forget his surname.”
“Oh,” said Marie. “He was not my uncle Mme Duchamp, he was just a family friend, I think. I called him uncle to be polite.”
“I think not, Marie,” said Mme Duchamp. “I’m sure your aunt called him brother. And besides, he came to look for you when he heard your aunt and uncle had died. Poor man looked so sad. So you didn’t see him? He didn’t find you?”
“No,” said Marie, “I… I didn’t know. Do you have an address for him?”
“I don’t,” said Mme Duchamp, “but this has reminded me I do have something you may want.”
“What is it?” said Marie.
“When we all were sure you had all died, your uncle said for us to take what we wanted from the house. I don’t think he cared to take much himself. So I took your books, and I have most of them still.”
“I don’t think I need them anymore,” said Marie, “but thank you.”
“No, you don’t understand,” said Mme Duchamp. “I just grabbed all the books without looking. I didn’t realise that one wasn’t a book at all. Marie, my dear, I have your diary.”