Discomfiture

Pontaillac, end of october 1985

I’m upstairs with Diane and night has fallen on this Friday night.
We’re learning to kiss each other in the most languid way in the world while listening to what is happening downstairs.
Of course Colin should have been there for the aperitif. Mom had made a whole bunch of delicious little puff pastry, even after a day of teaching at 50 kilometers, and it’s for her that I’m a little sad.

I caress Diane’s fishnet stockings, losing my fingers between the stitches. Those stockings that dad and mostly Edouard looked with weird eyes as she arrived. As if wearing them, with leather perfecto, was automatically a invitation, even she’s not 16 yet.
Then we ate, in some kind of tension, because nothing happened. No Colin for the roast; no Colin for the epic tarte tatin that mum prepared the day before. Daddy’s anger was palpable, while Edouard tapped his fork with two fingers, and contracted jaw. They barely touched the pie, while Diane and I copiously helped ourselves a second time.
We wanted to laugh, even if we regretted not being with the boys; we wouldn’t  have missed this air of discomfiture for nothing in the world. And it was again poor mum who tried to keep the conversation going, and who berated us when Diane and me started to giggle.

Now it is 2 o’clock in the morning. Edouard and dad are still in the living room, we can hear their nervous footsteps downstairs, and from time to time mum’s tired voice . I think she would like to go to bed.
Time to play Propaganda’s “Duel” recorded on a free radio station from La Rochelle that Alb had advised me and which played the best New Wave stuff in the world continuously.

“ Won’t you stop playing your jangling music at 2 am ? You should be sleeping!
– Nobody sleeps in this house anyway , dad.
– Eponine ! Come downstairs right now!”

The ringtone saves me.
We have both rushed to the landing in T-shirts and underpants, to hear mum answer and everybody is suspended from their conversation. At first, we felt she was dying of worry, but then she started to laugh and even to exchange some words in English with his interlocutor whose identity I strongly suspected. And hanging up the phone, in this moment which should have been serious, she ‘s trying not to have a too happy face.

“ They’re out of order outside La Rochelle, in Dompierre-sur-mer , the boy told me.
– Who “they”?
– Well, Colin, David, and two other guys that we don’t know; Virgile and Alban. It is with him that I spoke.
– What the hell are they doing? I told you that he should have returned directly from Bordeaux, rather than going to party with friends; it had to end like this.”

I’m mad at daddy who seems to care more about this missed meeting than about four young guys lost in the countryside in the middle of the night. Curiously, it is Edouard who ask if they are okay.

“ They seem to be. They have a friend in Dompierre where to spend the night.
– Well, says Edouard by taking his jacket, it’s a shame but I will have to go. In five hours, I have my plane in Mérignac …
– We’ve not finished to deal with your brother …
– But who’s this “Alban”  you talked to, Anne-Marie? He seemed particularly funny.
– I don’t know, but he’s got exquisite manners. And his English is perfect. He kisses you, Epo.”

At that moment they all turn to me and I turn scarlet. Edouard can’t help but leave the room on a comment.

“ Yes, sometimes it’s surprising to find a civilized individual among all these crazy young dogs.”

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