ONE – The Spy Next Door
My mother is a stern woman. She has shoulder-length, fiery red, bristly hair that sticks out at places of her scalp that you wouldn't know she had. She is rather small in height, but slightly well-built in size, but you wouldn't know it, because she has a very large personality. My mother is a very strong-willed person, she will get what she wants, and fight until the bitter end for the things that she finds important. But she is a big softie! Often found wearing cardigans, long skirts and veils, she does look the part. I will hand it to her, she's seen a lot of things in her time, what with an academically acclaimed eldest son Bernard, two mischievous but lovable fraternal twin boys Alban and Armand, and then there's me, the youngest child and first daughter of the Gaillard genealogical line for generations. My name is Angelica. And don't even get me started on Father!
"Breakfast, and then paper-rounds…" She said, handing me a bowl of oats and yoghurt. As she said it, her face drooped even further than it had beforehand. Something bad had happened, considering that she was usually a very happy person in the morning. "Come on! Eat up, those papers won't deliver themselves!" My mother snapped, before taking a deep breath and majestically returning to the worktops.
"Mother, where's Father?" Alban asked, before standing up and taking his plate to the worktop.
"He's still at work." Replied Armand, smugly smiling to himself, proud to have outsmarted his younger twin-brother. "In fact, I think he said that yesterday…" He said.
"No, he did not!" My mother retorted. "Now just stop this silliness at once!" She shouted, "Go!" She shouted. The boys left the room, but immediately after, Mother burst into tears. I walked across the stone kitchen floor of our large, midtown Paris apartment, and put my arms around her. I expected her to flinch and reject me, but instead, she embraced my act of kindness.
"What's the matter?" I asked her, in what was attempted to be a soothing tone, but probably just sounded like the tone in which you would use to comfort a crying baby.
"I… I, I… I can't tell you, perle…" Mother told me. 'Perle' is the name that my mother calls me and my brothers when either of us are upset. My grandmother, Mamie, also calls us it when any of us are upset with her, and I assume that her mother called her that as well.
"Now, just go and eat your breakfast." She said, hugging me. "I need to talk to your Father." A short but sweet encounter, I suppose. Ever since the war began almost a year ago, all the food has gone. All the meats are all being rationed and sent off to the soldiers over in Belgium. Meaning the people back at home are left with all the leftovers, everybody is starving. And to make everything worse, the Nazis have turned their attentions to France and indeed, Paris. The rats have already started to invade, and everyone's on edge. Schools have closed, because everyone's moving away. But, that doesn't affect me, because I'm tutored by a private governess. My father is the Counsel to the French Prime Minister, and as far as I know, he makes a lot of money. Father says that the government is 'deformed', and that they are in a 'right state'.
As soon as I left the kitchen, I was told to shut the kitchen door, and so I did, but I wasn't going to give up that easily. Immediately, I crouched beside the door and looked through the keyhole, so I could both hear, and see what was going on. I saw my mother pacing around the kitchen area, before walking over to the telephone and starting to delicately dial a number that I have never seen her dial before. Carefully, she picked it up, and began to talk to the receiver. It took me no more than two seconds to realise it was my father on the other line, as she looked suddenly in a zone of comfort, just with a face of dread and doom.
"Ah," She said, like she was focused on something serious. "Gracious!" I heard her say once. But then, her face turned. She went from nervous and shocked, to pure sadness and sorrow. "Mon Dieu! I can't believe that!" My mother began to sob. "Well, I've also got some, very, bad news…" I began to feel a little regret as I prepared to hear this, 'Very Bad News', after a few seconds of thinking this, I realised that I wasn't hearing anything. I looked through the tiny little crack in the door of a keyhole. Great!
She had turned around and was now facing the windows, opposite the door and facing the Eiffel Tower. Then, I got bored and decided that it wasn't worth losing time on my paper-rounds, and I looked down the corridor, parallel to the kitchen wall. Due to there being two doors into the kitchen-living room, there was also a corridor, and down that corridor I looked and realised that my brothers have had the same idea. There were Alban and Armand doing exactly the same thing as me. They may be my older brothers, but there's only two-years between us, I', twelve, they are fourteen, and my other brother, Bernard, is Eighteen and in military training.
Me and my brothers nodded at one another, before I walked out of the front door to do my paper-rounds, while they returned to do house work.
My paper-rounds always took me on a detour of the best and most beautiful areas of Paris. I walk around the streets right next to the Eiffel Tower, through the Champ de Mars, and in amongst many other beautiful streets of Gay Pairee! It was while I was walking down Avenue Silvestre de Sacy, with the Eiffel Tower. She was somehow even more beautiful that usual, smiling down on everyone with a glowing smile that can only be matched by that of the sun's. I was walking past 'Le Sun Café', when I looked in and there I saw my friends, Avril and Paulette. They began to wave at me and beckoning for me to come in. I reached into the pocket of my woollen coat, and found 11 Franc, I could spend that, right?
"Angelica!" They shouted, before running over to me and hugging me. They were my only friends. Avril's father was President Lebrun's Chief of Staff, and Paulette's mother was Prime Minister Reynaud's sister.
"It's been so long!" Avril said to me. Avril was a beautiful type. She had long, chestnut brown hair with these squinted eyes and pale skin. "I haven't seen you in ages! Not since, well, the election party!" She said.
"Where have you been?" Paulette asked me. Paulette had bright blonde hair, brighter than mines as much as I hate to say it, and deep blue eyes. Her hair was very wavy. Paulette was very spiritual and quirky, and she can come out with the strangest of things, but we loved her for it. "Well, now we can have a proper goodbye service!" The girl said.
"Good… bye service?" I said. Who were we saying goodbye to? "What's going on?" I asked.
"Well, we all know the elephant in the room…" Avril solemnly started. "The Nazis are coming. We are running out of time. My family have decided that we need to get out of here as soon as possible. We're leaving for… Switzerland." She said, bowing her head sadly as if it was her fault.
"That's great!" I said merrily, even though I felt awful. "I'm glad! You'll be safe, and I want you to be happy." I exclaimed, probably louder than I wanted to, considering that everyone in the café was talking very quietly.
"Well, I'm leaving too." Paulette said. This time it was her turn to bow her head. "In a week, we're leaving for my Grandmother's house in Perpignan, down south." She said. Even though I was destroyed inside, I kept on smiling and hugged them both tighter than I had ever hugged them before.
"We promise we'll come and visit you every Summer, Angelica!" Paulette exclaimed, making us all jump.
"Yeah." Avril chimed in.
"I don't think that that is the best idea…" I told them, they looked at me confused. "With the Nazis and all."
"Besides, I'll probably have been evacuated, anyway. But I'll send you letters, promise!" I reassured them before being handed to crumpled pieces of paper with addresses. "I'll give you mines as soon as possible." I smiled. What followed was an awkward silence. I started listening to the radio, the sitcom "Until Next Time!" was playing. "Remember, we used to always play that!" I remarked on the radio, suddenly all of the memories of Avril, Paulette and I dressing up as 'Marina' from the sitcom as five-year olds coming back to me.
"I remember that!" Avril said. "Oh, I miss the good old days… When everyone was talking about those 'Nazis', but we had no idea who they were." The girl chuckled, but then sighed.
"How things have changed." I remarked. There was another, longer and even more awkward silence, only interrupted by…
"Oh! Look at the time! I need to take my Grandma to the vet!" Paulette jumped up and exclaimed. I looked at Avril, but she just shrugged her shoulders. We all left the café, I knew that this was going to be the last time I saw the girls, but none of us could bare to say it aloud. As I walked past the Eiffel Tower, I began to cry. I thought of all the memories I had with them, all since I was two years old. I ran home with my tears and walked into my family's large apartment. I wasn't through the door five seconds, and I was greeted by the frowning face of my cross-armed, eye-squinted mother. I looked up, and on the staircase above were Alban and Armand above, sniggering.
"I just got a call from Mr. Fournier!" She bluntly snapped. "You only delivered FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS!" She shouted.
"You were supposed to deliver SEVENTY!" She went on, "He has decided, that because of your slacking, he is suspending your pay for a week! A WEEK! What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I got distracted. I met Avril and Paulette!" I Said. My mother's frown dropped and turned into a smile. She unfolded her arms, releasing what must have been miles of a silk shawl. She turned from grouchy troll, to warm, kind baker.
"And, well, how are they?" Mother asked.
"They seemed fine. They're… moving away." I said, my voice breaking into tears. My brothers had slowly been moving down the stairs as we spoke.
"Avril… is, she's moving away?" Armand asked, suddenly strangely concerned about my personal life.
"Erm… Yes…" I replied, giggling because it was obvious that he had always had a crush on Avril.
Our conversation was interrupted by the sudden entrance of my Father. He had left for work at 2 PM the day before, and it was now 10PM.
"Morning, all…" He said. My father is a tall, average sized man. He has dark grey hair, once blonde, but stained from many years of dark and grim stories.
"Clément." My mother said. "Here," and she led him into the kitchen before shooing us away and shutting the door. Immediately myself, Armand and Alban rushed to the door, silently squabbling about who got to see. In the end, it was me, much thanks to Armand.
"I can't believe it…" My mother said.
"We had a tough time believing at work, ourselves." Father replied. "This can't be good."
"So, what exactly happened?" She asked.
"Well, Lois was talking with an official, and she blundered or something like that." He started. Lois was a family friend, she was like an aunt to us, in fact, I think she was Bernard's godmother. She was also a spy for the government.
"She gave away the secret location, I think, the Bosch found her and all of the others. To be publicly executed in Hanover tomorrow…" He said, shaking his head. We all gasped and looked at each other. My eyes filled with tears.
"Well…" My mother began. "You know Professor Faucheux from downstairs?" My father nodded, my mother started to cry.
"They killed her!" She said. "She found out too much about them, so a Kraut spy just went and killed her!"
"Good God!" He said. "Just like that!" Father remarked, while putting his arm around Mother.
"I don't know how that man can live with himself!" Mother went on to my Father. "It was just a little too close for comfort, you know?" She said. "And the scary thing is, no-one suspected anything… until it was too late." Mother warned, like a witch creating a prophecy, but she was just terrifying herself. This was all just so much to take in, so much so that I accidentally kicked the door, and like lightning my Mother paced over to the door… and opened it. We had been caught.