L’Esprit d’Escalier: Part Eight. Anna.

by | Nov 30, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

The familiar appearance, of days written on the rear of the empty packaging, stunned the woman.

Jean Louis de Marisy married his childhood sweetheart Anna Beauchamp, in the year of the new millennium.

Amongst the joy and optimism of a fresh era, the couple set up home in Pontoise district, northwest of Paris, in the Val d’ Oise. The sterile modern environment, far from their upbringing in the centre of Paris, was ideal for raising a new family.

One year later, the couple welcomed Alain to their world, followed in a further 12 months by Emily. For five years, la famille nucléaire française, existed in the epitome of perfection, becoming an integral part of the thriving suburban community.

Alas, following the still birth of her third child, Anna’s world began to implode. Her ability to carry out the most basic of tasks, became impossible. She failed to return to the position of deputy head at the town’s Middle School, following a diagnosis of postnatal depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every aspect of their previously idyllic life collapsed one by one, like a row of dominos. The absence of the glue that  Anna represented, caused the family to dissolve and disperse into a random collection of individuals.

Jean Louis focused on his job as a train driver, by excluding every aspect of his new chaotic existence. He ate in the staff canteen, and slept in the vacant annex of their smart, suburban home.

Alain locked himself away, only surfacing to attend school. He began to dress strangely and steal makeup from his mother and sibling.

Emily’s torment was exacerbated by the onset of puberty and her clothing began to get more scant. Boys started hanging around the house like stray dogs.

The annex was listed under Gîtes de France, as a holiday let and, as such, the income dried up with Jean Louis’s occupation. In addition to this, Anna’s salary disappeared and soon financial problems added to their woes.

Another catastrophe brought the situation to a head, when Jean Louis was hit by a speeding food delivery driver on an electric cycle, on the Quai Voltaire. He died of his injuries three days later. Effectively, the family’s income disappeared overnight.

Anna and the children, now 11 and 12, were evicted from their home when the bank foreclosed on the unpaid mortgage.

A post mortem carried out on Jean Louis revealed that he had four times the drink drive limit of alcohol in his blood. This was a mystery to Anna whose husband had previously been tee-total; the fact was borne out by the healthy test records filed in the Paris RER train company’s human resources department.

Nevertheless, Anna lost all entitlement to his pension, and no compensation was forthcoming for the accident. Broke and heavily reliant on medication, Anna moved her family into the Chateau Rouge district of Paris, where she’d grown up. However, things had changed significantly since the millennium. She was forced to take three jobs, cleaning for residents across the river, on the affluent left bank.

Anna’s children enrolled into the local school, the Lycée Professional Edmond Rostandnot. Not the most ideal of environments for two vulnerable, traumatised teenagers.

The school was a boiling broth of the offspring of post-colonial immigrants, and impoverished locals. The environment infected the exposed wounds of the children, each at a crucial stage of development.

The apartment block in which they lived had seen better days, many years previously. It was now run down and occupied by a ramshackle collection of folks in a similar position to the single mother. There was however one exception; the General Practitioner who occupied the apartment on the top floor and held his surgeries on the ground floor.

The ageing doctor was a source of comfort for the young woman and her two children. Over the ensuing three years, he succeeded in weaning Anna off the drugs. She managed to secure a position as head of year in the local Middle School. This meant less hours and more time for her family.

However, behind the scenes, the two teenagers were experiencing their own problems which they took to the doctor. Alain was struggling with his sexual identity and his sister had taken up with a boy six years her senior. Each brought fresh challenges for the under pressure medic who had to conceal these problems from the children’s mother.

The doctor investigated the opportunity of counselling for Alain, which saw him apply for gender reassignment surgery. As for the girl, he prescribed the birth control pill. She looked several years older than her fifteen and was awash with hormones. He had seen too many such girls bring unwanted babies into the world.

One day, Anna was emptying the bin in her daughter’s bedroom when she spotted a small blister pack. The familiar appearance, of days written on the rear of the empty packaging, stunned the woman. She frantically began searching through the child’s drawers and cupboards. Eventually, she found the box and her worst fears were recognised.

The label on the box froze the blood in her already chilled veins. She had been betrayed by the one person she’d trusted most in the world. The words read: Dr Lucien Muersac.

Anna gripped the box tightly, crushing it between her thin, delicate fingers. She dashed out of the apartment and down the stairs. Bursting into the waiting room, she ignored the glares and muttered protests and swung open the surgery door.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Riveting stuff Brian.


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