Paul is a good listener. I told him things I never meant to tell a living soul, and he listened in silence, nodding occasionally. I told him about Yannick and Laure, about Pistache and how I had let her go without a word, about the hens, the sleepless nights, and how the sound of the generator made me feel as if ants were crawling inside my skull. I told him of my fears for the business, for myself, my nice home and the niche I had made for myself among these people. I told him of my fear of growing old, of how the young today seemed so much stranger and harder than we had ever been, even with what we had seen during the war. I told him of my dreams, of Old Mother with a mouthful of orange and of Jeannette Gaudin and the snakes, and little by little I began to feel the poison inside me drain away.
When at last I finished, there was silence.
“You can’t stand guard every night,” said Paul at last. “You’ll kill yourself.”
“I have no choice,” I told him. “Those people, they could come back any time.”
“We’ll share watches,” said Paul simply, and that was that.