earth 11 pp

Sir John reflected that it was the second time he had found himself inside a Parisien house with his wife looking disturbed and confused. Like before, a stranger had let them in, this time the neighbour, without quite knowing why they had done it.

“I am sorry madame,” said the neighbour, an elderly lady with a face mapped with wrinkles, “we found him a few days ago. He must have died shortly before.”

“But I just found him…” whispered Marie, staring into middle distance.

The neighbour looked on awkwardly for a moment, hovering in the door.

“I’ll… I’ll  leave you,” she said and hurried out. Sir John held his wife’s hand. She barely registered his touch, but looked up at his face.

“Did I do this?” she said.

“Do you mean…” said Sir John, lowering his voice, “…magically?”

“No, no.” she said. “I mean, the shock of seeing me, of finding out I was alive. Did it kill him? Did I kill him?”

Sir John squeezed his wife’s hand.

“Marie, he was a very old man, you said yourself,” said Sir John. “More likely, he felt happy he knew you were alive than shocked.”

Marie frowned.

“You mean, he felt that he could die because he knew there was someone left behind,” she said.

“I mean…” said Sir John. “I mean I don’t think you killed him. It’s just a coincidence.”

Marie walked away from her husband and her hand slipped from his. She wandered around the room looking at the furniture, the decrepit armchair, the table next to it. Her shoulders shook a little and she absently brought a handkerchief to her face.

“Excuse me, madame,” said a woman at the door. She was young and her face was set firm. “But who are you? We don’t know you, or what you want.”

Marie turned round to look at the woman, tears rolling down her face. The other woman looked surprised and went to speak.

Aller,” said Marie quietly and the woman withdrew.

“Marie,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we should go. We can do nothing more here.”

Marie nodded silently and walked toward the door. She glanced down at the cupboard beside her then froze.

“Marie?” said Sir John.

Marie picked up a pendant from the cupboard and held it to the light, its green jewel sparkling. She looked confused at it then turned to Sir John.

“This was my mother’s,” said Marie.

“Are you sure?” said Sir John.

“She wore it when we were in the village. Mon cher, this is what my uncle wanted to give to me. Not the broken sundial.”

Marie put the chain over her head.

“Um… perhaps we should leave it?” said Sir John. “That could look a bit like stealing.”

Marie frowned at her husband.

“It is my mother’s pendant in my uncle’s house” she said. “It is not stealing.”

There was some noise outside and Sir John glanced outside.

“Ah” he said, “there seems to be rather a crowd there. I really think we should take our leave.”

Marie sighed and walked to the door. She opened it wide and the group murmured louder.

Madame…” one of them started.

Arrêter!” said Marie and they all froze.

Marie glanced at her husband.

“First trick I ever learned,” she said and left the house.

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