I am thirteen. Maybe it’s a Sunday. For sure it’s an afternoon. The tv is on, but no one watches. It’s often like that. My father is at work. My little brother is at a friend’s place. My mother is at her desk, correcting essays. I have no idea what I am doing. Perhaps I just finished my homework, or I just had lunch alone in the kitchen. But as I am crossing the living room, I stop in front of the tv. I don’t sit down, I just stand there watching, as we often do in my family. On screen I see a German soldier in his Second World War uniform on the platform of a train station and it’s winter. When he talks you can see his breath. He faces a young woman about to board the train. I notice she is pale and well-dressed, but in grim dark colors. She holds a four-year old boy in her arms and a seven-year old girl is by her side. The German soldier tells her in an elegant voice, as if enumerating for her convenience the names of all the cities in which the train will stop, that he is going to kill one of her two children and she can choose which one she would prefer he kill. If she does not choose, he shall then kill them both. She pleads no for what feels like a very short time, then she lets go of the little girl’s hand and tells him she will keep the boy.
I am interested in the scene. I take in all the dialogue, observe the faces. I’m fairly confident that I’ve understood the situation. Then my mother comes out of her office and goes towards the pack of cigarettes she left on the living room table. She glances at the screen:
“Again that same movie!”
“That scene does not work. It’s just not plausible. No mother would choose.”
My mother’s face transforms into a mask, totally frozen. Her eyes are not quite quick enough to escape mine, but I can’t read them. Fear? Something about her watching me watching her? Shocked I’m so old and so naive? She concentrates all her attention on her lit match. She takes a long thoughtful inhale.
“It’s more complicated.”
She pronounces the words as she is already turning away from me, her torso twisted towards her office door, as if she had just heard someone calling her name. She returns to her desk and closes the door behind her.
Lucie Bonvalet is a writer, a visual artist and a teacher. Her fiction and nonfiction can be found or is forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, Michigan Quarterly Review, Entropy, 3AM, Fugue, Oregon Humanities, Catapult, Cosmonauts Avenue, Hobart, Word Riot, and Shirley Magazine. Her drawings and paintings can be found in Old Pal magazine and on Instagram.
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