Pink, Blue and Gold

Monday, August 31, 1981 8:28 PM

The girls played well, but it was not an obsession with them. They were French, beautiful, childlike and sophisticated, lived in the countryside, and had their own tennis court in their backyard and plenty of free time in which to play.

In the afternoons during that summer, Jêrome would ride his bicycle over to their chateau, on the banks of the Saône, and they would play tennis. Afterwards they would follow a shady footpath which led to the river, and they would go for a swim. It was murky close to shore and cool. If the girls did not feel like a swim, then he would untie the old rowboat and row them out to a medieval stone bridge not far away, where they could observe the fish under the arcs, resting in the shade.

There were in all six girls and they were bright blondes. The eldest was nineteen and the youngest, five months. The château they lived in was on the outskirts of a small village near Mâcon. This was a region of vineyards and wine cellars which was formerly part of the Duchy of Burgundy.

Architecturally, the chateau was undistinguished. It was scarred and weather-beaten. It was perhaps two hundred years old. But it was a thing of beauty and made you daydream about the past.

One day while waiting for the girls to come out to play one afternoon, Jêrome sat down under a tree in the backyard. He closed his eyes and listened to the leaves against the wind and to the sounds of an occasional car passing through the village.

Gabriel was standing in front of him a few minutes later when he opened his eyes. She was smiling. She put her hands on her knees and said, "Bonjour, Jêrome!"

He had been wine-drunk when he stepped off the train from Paris at the beginning of the summer, spoke just a little French, and on a whim he had introduced himself as Jêrome. It was crazy. He liked the sound, but it was not his name. It sounded especially good in French.

He lifted himself from the ground and shook Gabriel's hand and then gave her a kiss on the cheek, which was the custom. Gabriel pouted her lips in a playful fashion. She told him to follow her.

He followed Gabriel to the house, then through the kitchen, across the pantry with all those large dishes in all those cabinets, and between antique furniture to the staircase. They climbed two flights of stairs, and arrived at a hallway on the uppermost floor, a kind of attic. The ceiling was low and slanted up there. Jêrome walked quietly behind Gabriel as she went down this hall and through a door which led into yet another passageway. She had not spoken a word since first greeting him.

Then she stopped in front of an unusually wide door and said "Regarde" softly. She placed a finger across her lips. She opened the door. They walked inside.

Across a small and irregularly shaped room, Jêrome observed a round window, wide open. It framed the summer countryside below. A gentle breeze came from the window, and he could see the stone bridge downstream, a dark blue sky, and the Saône. The rolling countryside, interspersed with poplars and vineyards, led to the horizon. An old fisherman sat on the opposite bank of the river. Overhead, shafts of sunlight cut through the sky, turning the clouds pink in anticipation of sunset.

In the center of the room was a very small antique bed. An empty space of wooden floor separated it from the five walls. Down within the cozy interior of this bed rested the youngest member of the family, who was wide awake. She was staring out the window at the clouds.

When Jêrome placed his two hands on the rim of her crib, the child reached up at once to grasp a hand. Cheerful and excited, she held onto it as tightly as she could. Then her sister took his free hand and held it for a much longer time.


Copyright 1981 Patrick Foy