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17.

I had expected an article, a feature at most, maybe with a picture or two. Instead they talk to me about film rights, foreign rights to my story, a book But I couldnt write a book, I tell them, appalled. I can read, all right, but as for writing At my age too? It doesnt matter, they tell me soothingly. It can be ghostwritten.

Ghostwritten. The word makes me shiver.

At first I thought I was doing it as revenge on Laure and Yannick. To rob them of their little glory. But the time for that is over. As Tomas once said, theres more than one way of fighting back. Besides, they seem pitiful to me now. Yannick has written to me several more times, with increasing urgency. He is in Paris at the moment. Laure is suing for a divorce. She has not tried to contact me, and in spite of myself I feel a little sorry for them both. After all, they have no children. They have no idea of the difference that makes between us.

My second call that evening was to Pistache. My daughter answered almost at once, as if she were expecting me. Her voice sounded calm and remote. In the background I could hear Prune and Ricot playing a noisy game, and a dog barking.

Of course Ill come, she said mildly. Jean-Marc can look after the children for a few days. My sweet Pistache. So patient and undemanding. How can she know what it feels like to have that hard place inside? She never had it. She may love me-perhaps even forgive me-but she can never really understand. Perhaps its better for her this way.

The last call was long-distance. I left a message, struggling with the unfamiliar accent, the impossible words. My voice sounded old and wavery, and I had to repeat the message several times to make myself heard against the sounds of crockery, talk and the distant jukebox. I only hoped it would be enough.


| Five Quarters of the Orange | c



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