“I wait long before I see mature in my mind something that I want to talk about. By working this novel I focus on information that helps me to choose a theme that would interest readers fond of stories of manners, problems of society. I still feel a great pleasure to talk about the past and evoke the sequences as they presented at that time. The image that gives our society with this intermixing of people of various origin - where different beliefs - make me treating this topic related to cohabitation, to evoke the sublime understanding between people of varied ethnic and to imagine a story that could be experienced by each of us or people we know. This is one reason why many people can recognize or identify themselves through each of the characters mentioned in the narrative. A young girl filled with ambitions and a poor family seems an ideal start to address the subjects I want to develop.”
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A love of youth
I discover that I am pregnant
I started to feel nauseous in the morning.I panicked and became mad when I imagined that I was pregnant. I decided to see a doctor to be clear in my mind about it. Florence was surprised about the situation. I confessed to her that I did not take precautions every time I had sexual relation with my lover. I could go out freely at that time. My parents were persuaded that I would behave myself well. A physician practiced his profession in a quiet place of the city. My friend told me that he was discreet and received few patients. He could examine me without risking revealing my secret in case the result was positive. I decided to see him on a Friday evening.
I left the doctor's surgery almost unconscious in Florence's arms. I did not know what to do. I did not want to keep this baby.What a shame!
My father was managing well in his business. He was developing his activities in the sales of second-hand cars.He planned to import new cars and welcomed business men from abroad. The bankers he dealt with were invited for dinner at home. He moved in the high society and started to be recognized as an important person.
I looked at my father's glorious ascension with admiration. It was also the beginning of my own decadence. My mother and I were in good terms. She treated me with sweetness and attention. I was in a difficult situation and did not know how to solve my problems. What a shame for me when my parent would learn that I was pregnant! When I thought how my father managed to offer us a happy life, I felt ashamed and worried a lot. We had everything we needed and he also offered me small presents from times to times. I could not stop blaming myself for making such a mistake. What should I do?
I had taken herbal teas with no result.I wanted to commit suicide. My friend asked me to be patient. She knew an old woman who lived at Le Brûlé and who could find me remedies to abort. I did not have the choice. I implored her to make it quick before it was too late. My friend came back with a sad expression. The old woman died some time ago.
I had two solutions: commit suicide so as not to suffer the humiliation and shame or to go in a place where people did not know me and where I could wait for my child without feeling any fear. The suicide seemed difficult to carry out. Moreover, I knew that it is forbidden in our religion. I was not prepared for such a sacrifice. It was obvious that I had suffered a bitter disappointment. How much my heart was wounded! How much I suffered inside! No one knew it. It was useless to feel sorry for me!I deserved my fate. These secret pleasures cost me a lot. I was coping with the most serious problem of my life. I had to find a solution, take an important decision; my future depended on it. It was strange as I felt a deep desire to keep this child.I already started accepting it as a part of myself although he was the child of the shame. In any case, it was my child. Why should I get rid of him?
I wondered how I could solve my problems before being thrown out of the house when my parents would learn about my situation.I had to act. A friend I met on the street told me that an agency situated at Rue de la Compagnie was searching models for a fashion house in Paris. I was pregnant, so being a model sound quite inappropriate to me, but it was the only possibility for me to leave; so I would do my best. The escape seemed the best solution. I still looked thin. My body could give me luck again. Why not seize it?
The conditions proposed were excellent for me. I had to provide my papers for the procedure. I was major and could manage everything by myself. The agency bought my ticket; so that I could board the first ship for France. My parents used to give me pocket money I had saved. This sum was not prodigious, but I could use it in difficult moments. I used to listen to the news on the radio and read the local, national and international newspapers my father brought home at midday.I was ready to cope with a new world. I feared to have difficulties in adapting myself to the climatic condition; and, I was sensitive to the cold weather. I spent sleepless nights analyzing the difficulties that I was going to face. What else could I do? Could I explain to my parents that I was waiting for a child? It was insane. I had to be discreet in such a situation. I felt an immense sadness for my parents.They put all their hopes in me. I did not deserve to be with them. I had committed an unforgivable sin. I had to expiate my mistakes. They would be so disappointed by my escape. Unfortunately, I had no other way to move away from them. I did not feel courageous enough to confess the truth. I would ruin their world. I chose to go far away.
I was worried to make such a long journey in my state. I had heard about the seasickness many people of weak constitution endured when making a long journey. I was aware of the risks I was taking and the difficulties I will have to face. Escaping and throwing me in the torments of life with no experience frightened me a lot. I had always been attached to my house. I wondered how I will adapt myself to a hard life in a world where everything might happen. Was I able to face the existence all alone in a different world? I’d rather not think about it. I prepared my departure secretly. I was careful not to attract the attention of my parents. My mother was close to me. She had the premonition that she was going to lose me. Maybe the repeated absences of my father had strengthened our relationship. Maybe the idea of leaving her in the next days had awakened in me this strange compassion. I liked both of them more than I demonstrated in this confession. And I also knew that they loved me a lot and have always tried to make my life comfortable. We need to warm our heart and gives us confidence in ourselves. Will I find such a feeling somewhere else? In what situation was I and how will I go out of it? I had already committed serious mistakes for which I ignored how I would be punished. I was going to commit a silliness that could cost me so much. My mother would be visibly shaken. She would never forgive me. She would suffer a lot. I preferred her to endure my departure than she knew I was pregnant. I wrote a long letter underlining the happy life I had with them and explaining that I was going far away for reasons I could not mention. This journey was a veritable luck for me. I wanted them to understand it, and I assured them I was in the right hands. I hoped to limit their fear. They would ask my friends the sheer motive of my departure. Since the beginning, I had decided to say nothing to my friends, except to Florence, my best friend, who will be traveling with me. They would speculate about the truth. How much pain will I make behaving this way, and how much harm will I do while carrying this child in me? Was it the fruit of the devil I was carrying within me so that my existence was changing so radically, taking me away from opulence to enter the miserable life of a fugitive? I foresaw the dark future that waited for me at the end of the path and had no means to turn around. How could I find the strength to throw me in the world like this? I did not know what I was leaving behind me, what I was losing in life. The path of emigration seemed long and uncertain to me.
“The picture that our society in Reunion Island gives, allows me to evoke in my novels the relationship that exists between people of a different stamp. Discover these people of the colony through the scheming, struggles, fights, loves and passions that separate and approach them. My novels are available in paper format and Kindle ebooks, immediate downloading. Good Reading. »
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A love of youth
My school years
In the high school, a young teacher from France metropolitan had a particular interest for me. I also felt a certain admiration for him.He was a good guy, of middle size, with long hair like the Beetles. He was married and had two lovely children that I had seen once in the company of his wife, probably a Parisian, in a car parked in front of the school. He taught us history. I was not particularly brilliant on this subject. I had to make enormous efforts to get good marks. I paid a lot of attention to his lessons.I was often designated to prepare and comment in class the lives of famous figures in history, the reigns of the Kings of France in the middle Ages and before.I made researches on the great conquests of history. When I was interrogated by the teacher, I had no hesitation to speak about everything I knew about these famous men, their weaknesses for women who shared their life.
My studies helped me to increase my knowledge, illuminate my mind in several domains that would never have interested me outside my school program. I hoped to be able to complete my studies successfully and felt able to work with energy and diligence. I already had clear ideas of this world and looked at the future with hope and confidence. I was not short of encouragement from my parents and had the opportunities and the comfort I needed.
At that time, radical transformations took place in the surroundings. The landscapes changed aspects and features.Several buildings were constructed to lodge the poor and unprivileged families who were living in unhealthy lodgings. I was selected to speak about the advantages and inconveniences of locating the school in agglomerated places. I asked pupils in the playground a mass of questions about their conditions within the school. I succeeded in gathering precious information to deal with and develop the topic. I left a strong impression on those who listened to me that day.
My father had always taught me to be simple, humble and pleasant. It was the reason why I had a lot of friends. I was often informed of their secrets, their misadventures, and their love deceptions.
In the early days of his youth, I had an opinion of what was sexuality. Some intimate friends had shown me obscene photos their buddies lent them. For me, it was a curiosity to try to understand these photos I found horrible. I had never imagined that such things could exist. It had truly often unsettled me a bit, and these obscene pictures haunted my imagination when I was alone in my room at nights. In my classroom, I was keen on general literature. I was interested in the life of the main French and foreign writers. I had the pleasure to read world famous works. I selected many romantic novels that fed my imagination in a way and registered with the regional library in Saint-Denis. I was allowed to take six books home for a period of one month with the possibility to extend the delay if I wanted to keep them longer. I read till late in the evening after my home works. During the third quarter, I had worked too hard. I began to feel tired. My parents worried about my health. They took me to a doctor. I should have stayed in bed for several days to avoid sinking into a depression.
I was not insensitive to the evolution of the society. I made observations on everything I saw when walking on the streets or during a walk. With time passing by, I accepted that life could include distractions that only young people could benefit. Some friends I’ve known for years tried to make me understand that I had to change my attitude towards the young boys who flirted with me. I did not want to throw myself in the lion’s mouth. I thought that I would not harm anyone if I looked lovely and was attentive to those Casanovas.
I resolved to do what I wanted. My mother was the first to notice the changes in my habits and let me know about her concerns because I often went home late. I looked beautiful. I did nothing wrong in high school. I only spent time in the library chatting idly with friends. I still cannot explain why I preferred staying with my friend than being home. My father was informed of my delays. He came to my room and asked why I was always late. I explained that the guys I stayed with late were not bad company. I was responsible enough to know what I had to do and not to do. It was not an answer my father wanted to hear.I felt sorry. I had found no other explanations. A little later, I apologized to him and assured him I did nothing wrong or incriminating. He felt better and told me that he trusted me and knew I had my head screwed on my shoulder. As New Year Eve parties approached, all the pupils were happy.We did not have a lot of homework anymore and spend time amusing ourselves. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. My presence in groups of young with a “will-o'-the-wisps” reputation astonished many suitors I had rejected before. It seemed I was welcome in this circle I had always avoided. Some boys I had hurt might think I was an easy prey. I could not imagine the way I had behaved in high school had displeased to the young wolves. They were ready to eat me alive. In spite of my efforts not to fall into the traps of existence, I amused myself like a mad girl among a crowd of unknown persons. This environment was so new and strange that I felt quite lost. I had the impression to be in a labyrinth, searching desperately for my path.While the feast escalated, the few friends who were with me joined their boyfriends who dragged them to the games. I stayed alone until some friends implored me to join them. I found their company so pleasant that I spent the whole evening with them. As night approached, some few electric bulbs gave light into the big room. I started to enjoy these pleasures while mixing with the crowd. I did not realize I was amusing me in the arms of these boys I had rejected many times. It was the beginning of a new life that will not stop taking an important place.During my studies, I met a metropolitan boy who seemed kind to me. Since we had met, he would not leave me. He was the nephew of a teacher. He was spending a few week vacations on the island. He spoke to me about the world as if he had been living for a long time. He was cultured, and I was fascinated by his intelligence. He wanted to visit my home. I discussed with my mother. She refused as she thought it was not a good thing to be friend with boys and let strangers come home.
“He is not a stranger. He is a friend!” I retorted.
“If he is a friend, meet him outside. I do not allow anybody home. How long have you been friends? It is not of your habit to make friend with boys. You think your father will be happy to know it? Our religion does not allow this behavior.I advise you to change if you want to keep your head held high. Our honor depends on how you behave."
I felt an immense sadness. I seized all the opportunities to meet him in discreet places where we could speak freely. I was in love with this boy who had a different religion. It made my life difficult.When I evaluated the situation, I knew that I was wrong. I did not have the courage to leave this man I loved so much. My mother discovered I was in love. She was deceived. She could not accept I loved a metropolitan boy. What would she say to her husband? She made threats and insulted me for this dissolute life I was leading. She started to search for a husband for me before I would dishonor the family. Many times, we had unexpected visits, and I introduced to men far from my tastes and aspirations. Some wore an Arabic strange and course suits, long beards. They frightened me such that I wanted to go. No one suited me. I was not allowed to leave the house without any reason. I was terribly sad as I could not meet the man I loved and who was in my thoughts. After a week without him, I felt a strong desire to see him even though it was necessary to run a high risk. I hoped I would find an excuse to trick my mother who continually kept an eye on me. Florence gave me a letter from my lover who was announcing he had to go in France soon. I wanted to meet him before his departure. I was desperate. I could never see him again. I was so sad and sorry that I wanted to die. When my friend left, I had the idea to ask my love to come to see me in the evening.I was sure that he would make it. I regretted I could not solve things this way. I had only one solution: go to his home. How could I deceive my mother's vigilance? She kept watch on all my movements. I asked Florence to give Christophe a message asking him to come to see me in the evening. I let the window of my room open. He arrived at midnight and entered my room. I murmured to him how unhappy I felt far from him. He understood the deep feelings I had for him and took advantage of my weakness to make love with me. I experienced an intense pleasure. We separated at dawn and promised to meet again as soon as possible.
I met him several times, and we made love for hours without tiring. I was happy. The day Christophe had to leave I locked myself in my room and cried for a long time. Florence soothed me away. She knew my least secrets.
Original title : Un amour de jeunesse
Translation by ©Kader Rawat Author
“The picture that our society in Reunion island gives, allowed me to evoke in my novels the relations that exist between people of different stump. I invite you to discover these people of the colony through the scheming, struggles, fights, loves, passions that separate and approach them."
To discover my complete works publish on Amazon kindle, please click here
A love of youth Chapter 1
My birth coincides with the end of the Second World War
The birth of a child has always been an important event in the history of a family. The birth of the first baby is expected with new sensations, strong emotions, huge expectations and a great joy. Only the woman, who carries him during nine long and sometimes painful months, knows about the difficult moments of pregnancy. On the other hand, she feels an intense happiness in giving birth to a creature that brings light and joy in a home and represents the symbol and proof of love between two persons. Their existences are welded and strengthened so that the father can share the same emotions and deep joys.
My birth coincided with the end of the Second World War. It was a difficult period for the population of Reunion Island, French Colony at that time. The shortage of goods had allowed dishonest merchants to take advantage of the situation. The island didn't succeed in pulling out of misery. People grouped together early in the morning in front of the shops, their ration coupon in the hands, to buy a few kilos of cassava root, corn or bacon. Several unscrupulous persons were arrested, prosecuted and fined. The black market was a common way of selling. Times were tough and relentless. However I felt comfortable there, tiny, stark naked, letting out a piercing scream as soon as the umbilical cord was cut and I was moved away from the maternal warmth. This could be interpreted as a distinctive sign of freedom. For Mom it was a relief after nine long months of pregnancy. I was heavy, three and a half kilograms at least and delivery had lasted long. Several persons were present that day to help Mom to give birth to me.
It was a Friday, just after the great prayer. My father came back as I was still in the arms of the person who made my first treatment. When I was put in the brand new cradle that was near the bed, my father came close to me and gave Azan in my right ear and Ikamah in my left ear. Every Muslim child who was just born must hear the evidence of faith and the call to adore the Creator. When I was born, I was particularly admired thanks to the funny faces I had when crying for my meal. My mother didn’t feel well enough to satisfy my daily needs. She should have given me powdered milk that my father could buy at merchants he knew in town. He was a storekeeper in a company specialized in fabric and building material importation that just opened in Saint-Denis.
My father was from Mauritius also called “Sister Island”. As the war raged in Europe, my father often went to Reunion to sell goods. He traveled by boat, carrying suitcases filled with rag bag and went up and down the paths of the highs to sell his goods. This is how he earned money. My mother lived in a large family in the Mountain. It was the time when many families left the city to shelter in the highs for fear that the Germans bombed the capital. My mother was the fifth child of a Christian family and was twenty years when she met my father. She was a beautiful girl, with a clear complexion, long brown hair, a pointed nose and looked like Nastasia Kinsky of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, bring to the screen by Roman Polansky.
The first time my father saw her was on a Sunday morning as she came back from the church of the ‘Délivrance’ in Saint-Denis. He was struck by her beauty, her nonchalant walk, her ease but he was not in love with her yet. My father was 22 years old at that time. Combed like Rhett Butler in Gone with the wind, a thin mustache above the lips, he was charming and exalted a charisma that left no woman insensible. But my mother was not attracted by him. She lived in a family with many children at kilometer 15th and all her time was taken by her brothers and sisters and the daily household chores. Her father worked in a furniture workshop in the Port. He had to leave the house very early in the morning and come back late in the evening. Her mother was sick and could not manage to do the household alone. My mother was called Sylvie. Her three older sisters were already married and lived in other cities and villages of the island. His older brother who had already graduated from school worked in a transport company in the west. He lived in a flat in La Possession, a few kilometers away from his workplace and lived together with a girl he met at the vocational school when he was a student there. He visited them once or twice a month. Three brothers and two sisters aged between eight and seventeen were still dependent on their parents. The three brothers were boarders in a high school situated in Saint-Denis and the two sisters were pupils at the school in La Montagne. They left early in the morning and returned home at five in the afternoon. My mother picked them at the end of the path, most of the time with an umbrella as it often rained in the region.
My mother liked to be well turned out. She often went to the city to shop for the house and took the opportunity of window shopping in the main streets, although she had no money to pamper herself. She admired the beautiful dresses in the windows, dreamt of wearing nice branded shoes and stayed for a long time in front of a jewelry store to admire gold chains, diamond rings, and pearl necklaces. By chance, one day as she was waiting for the bus at Barachois station, she ran into my father who had just arrived on the island and passed by there. He insisted to accompany her home, although she thought it was not a good idea. He sat next to her in the bus but said no word during the journey that lasted an eternity (that’s what she would say later) as my mother feared to get noticed by people who knew her and reprimanded by her parents when informed she was seen in public with a man. It was a decisive moment for these two persons who tried to ignore each other and had no feeling that could have brought them closer. But it is necessary to understand that such approach, as daring as it may seem, was the trigger that was going to bring closer those two persons who had nothing in common. It was the beginning of a mechanism that no rule could stop. When my mother understood this man was interested with her, she didn't believe it. She could not understand how love could exist between a man she ignored everything about and herself who was of a different confession. In her innocent heart, fragments of the elixir injected by the eyes of the man, his sweetness, the few words he hardly had time to pronounce, appeared. She began to think about him. And from now on, this thought was slowly contaminating her feelings without a break. When he came to the house, her heart quivered. She began to feel something for him and the most difficult had to be done. My father was ready to do everything to reach his goals. He also lived in a large family whose financial situation was far from being comfortable. A family of ten children depended on the revenues of an old and sick father. The children who were able to manage themselves had no choice. Beau Basin where the family lived in an old house made of sheet metal was a city with no appeal at the time, and the opportunity to find a job was nearly inexistent. Each member of the family had to take his destiny in hand and try to contribute the best he can to feed the others.
Reunion Island still was a small French colony lost in the Indian Ocean. It had potentialities that only well-advised people would recognize. My father was part of these very few people ready to bet a lot to take as much advantage as possible of the precarious situations. He decided to stay on this island, to take up every challenge, to face every obstacle that could stand on his way.
He simply asked my mother if she would accept to share his life. She took her time to make her decision and to inform her parents before giving her agreement to my father.
He found a flat in the capital and they started to live together. In Europe, the war ended. One year later I arrived in this world.
I was the happiness that filled my parents in their everyday life. I increased nevertheless the expenses of the family and my parents had to be extremely cautious not to spend the poor salary before the end of the month. I was precocious and was rarely sick. I was happy when I had had my meal. I easily got used to people around me and when I grew up, the neighbors took me home for the day. I had the bad habit of damaging everything when I was a child. I used to climb on the dressers, to open the drawers, to get onto the tables, to break everything nearby and amuse myself likewise. I sulked and threw me frankly on the floor when I was kept prisoner in a playpen. I liked so much to gesticulate that I hardly could stay doing nothing. I often looked for shelter in my parents arms.
My parents were religious people. Since my very young age, I understood why they feared God. They woke up early in the morning and spent a lot of time reading the Coran. My father went to the mosque for the five mandatory prayers at scheduled hours. In the morning, when he came home with some bread and croissants bought at the bakery Sorbe situated two streets from home, I was already awake. He wore a white courta and a Turkish cap on the head. He came to see me in my narrow and dark room with a small bed and a closet for my clothes. He sat next to me a few minutes, asked me if I had slept well, if I had made beautiful dreams while stroking my face. Then he joined Mom in the kitchen. She always sat on a sofa near the door to take advantage of the lighting and read the Coran. Her head was covered with a delicate colored shawl bought to itinerant merchants.
I often joined them while they drank the hot and steaming tea. I sat on dad's knees and leaned my head against his shoulder. I wanted to doze off a little while listening to their voices. They spoke for a while before Dad decided to go to work. The sunbeams began to leach through the windows. It was daylight. I was one year old when Reunion Island changed its status and became a French Department.
When I grew up and that my parents let me go out alone, I used to play with friends who lived very near my small house. We enjoyed going for a walk to admire the windows of the stores. We passed through areas where we could have a look through the grids, open courtyards covered with lawns wet with the dew of the morning and the big houses. I liked to contemplate the beautiful colonial houses framed by beautiful and gigantic fruit trees that made the owners and occupants proud.
My mother taught me the basis of my religion. I recited long verses of the Coran before going to bed and often prayed with her. When I entered school, I used to wake up early in the morning. I took my time to prepare myself; before choosing a dress I stayed a long time in front of the closet. My friends liked clothes. I didn't want to dress myself differently. My mother often shouted at me and reminded me that it was useless to be nice to go to school. I had difficulties to explain to her that it was important for me to wear fashionable clothes. In class I was a hardworking pupil and I was known as a brilliant and disciplined student.
I often accompany my parents to visit the other districts of the island. We left the house early in the morning before the sun rises. We drove a long time along the coasts of the mountains. We often stopped on the sides of the road to admire the landscape while the engine of the car cooled. The journey was exhausting but I appreciated this moment a lot. It gave me the opportunity to discover lovely places of my island. Some friends from Mauritius or Madagascar often stayed home, and Dad took them around the island to show them the volcano, the circuses. I was lucky to see those very interesting places and admire the imposing and picturesque landscapes that fascinated me.
I became a maiden when I was ten years. My mother who had not prepared me for such an event was upset about my fast growing. One afternoon, as I came back home after school, teardrops in my eyes because I lost blood that didn't stop, my mother panicked and pushed me to the bathroom to wash me and show me how to do and explain me what is the menstruation. At first, I was embarrassed and when in the evening my father looked at me with contentment, I guessed my mother already told him. I felt ashamed that made me think about the change that had happened to me.
At school, my life became interesting. I made friends with lots of girls and spent pleasant moments with them. I was living in a changing society. I became aware of the reality of the things very early and quickly understand that to make my way at school, I had to respect the rules and to know that success belongs to those who have initiatives and that luck favors the brave. In the meantime, my father's situation improved. He bought a second-hand pick-up Peugeot 404 to go to work and dropped me off at school. My father intended to use the pickup to sell goods at the highs on weekends in order to make ends meet. He had many projects for the future. He wanted to buy a house in the city. He was ambitious and wanted to succeed. Therefore he didn't want to fold his arms. He decided to move, to seize the opportunity. The city of Saint-Denis offered several perspectives of success. Business appeared the best way to make fortune very quickly if the person could be on a good thing.
One of his friends put him in touch with a district trader who offered to buy his pickup. As he didn't intend to sell it, he proposed twice the price he paid for it. The person accepted the offer. The profit he made was the equivalent to one month salary. My father had the idea to launch a business of second hand cars.
One day, as leaving school, my mother told me we will have to go to Mauritius. We had received a telegram informing that my paternal grandfather was ill. My father had already requested our passports to the Prefecture. Then he asked the director of my school the authorization for some days leave. This journey was memorable to me. I feel it happened yesterday. One of my father’s friends dropped us on Le Port embankment in the afternoon. We were to embark on the Jean Laborde. I was sick all night long and had a very bad trip. My stay in Mauritius was short. I saw my grandfather once in his bed before he passed away. One week later we were back to Réunion.
While returning from school in the afternoon, I used to stroll on the way. I chatted for hours with friends at the corners of the streets. Sometimes I went to their home and stayed late at night before going back home. We listened several times to the same pieces of music on a gramophone and copied lyrics on a sheet of paper. My mother didn't want to understand that I was with friends and often reproached me for my bad conduct and even suspected me to spend my time with boyfriends. To prove that she was wrong, I invited my friends at home and my mother was happy to meet them.
When I was sixteen, I was beaming with joy and discovered, while walking in the streets, the looks of the men on me. I never let boys woo me and avoided to talk to them. I held to my reputation. I respected the advice my mother gave me. I preferred slipping away as soon as I sensed the intention of the boys who wanted to speak to me at the school gates. I had no buddy when I started my study at Butor high school. I didn't want any.
Sometimes I exchanged some words with schoolmates but we only spoke about home works and lessons. I preferred my girlfriend's company with whom I felt at ease.
I felt no regrets behaving this way. I didn't know that I was transgressing the laws of the high school while trying to masquerade as a serious and chaste girl. The suitors were not patient anymore. However I was not going to change my behavior. I continued to be insensible to their attentions, indifferent and deaf to their call.
Translation by ©Kader Rawat Author
Seule dans une ville immense
J'étais perdue devant l'immensité de cette ville. Elle me paraissait vieille et exerçait sur moi une étrange fascination. Les aspects singuliers de la ville me donnaient la frayeur. Je me tenais debout sur le quai après avoir fait mes adieux à Florence. Je me sentais seule et n'avais aucune idée de ce que je devais faire. Rachid m'avait demandée de l'attendre. Il voulait me trouver un logement convenable. J'étais dans une situation où je n'avais aucune raison de me faire prier. J'étais contente et même touchée de l'attention qu'il me portait. Il était mieux placé que moi pour faire le choix d'un logis. Je lui fis donc confiance. Je demeurais longtemps dans l'ombre que projetait le mur haut d'un bâtiment. Il commençait déjà à faire chaud. Une faim terrible me tenaillait l'estomac. J'achetais dans un bistrot d'en face des croissants et du jus de fruit. L'horloge de l'église indiquait dix heures et quart quand Rachid me rejoignit dans une vieille bagnole. Il était accompagné de deux de ses cousins que je trouvais sympathiques et bavards. Un peu plus tard nous roulions le long des rues étroites, ombragées par des vieux immeubles délabrés. La voiture faisait énormément du bruit en grimpant les côtes. Je savais qu'on évitait les agglomérations et qu'on passait par des raccourcies en traversant les quartiers des immigrés. J'étais très fatiguée et je sombrais dans un profond sommeil. Je me réveillais plus tard quand la voiture s'arrêta devant une vieille bâtisse. C'était une pension de famille modeste occupée en grande partie par des immigrés. Une chambre était libre au deuxième étage. Rachid venait me demander si je me plairais ici. Je voulais me reposer et répondis que je ne voyais pas d'inconvénient de passer quelques jours. Mes bagages étaient transportés dans ma chambre pendant que je réglais la note au comptoir.
Rachid m'invita à déjeuner dans un restaurant z’arabe situé à peu de distance de la pension de famille. Malgré mon embarras je n'avais pu lui refuser ce plaisir. Nous avions passé un moment agréable ensemble. Pendant que nous étions encore à table à bavarder des choses de la vie un ami était venu voir Rachid et lui avait chuchoté quelque chose à l'oreille. Le visage de Rachid avait changé de teint. J'avais compris que c'était grave. Rachid m'avait demandé de l'excuser. Il devait s'absenter pour quelque moment. Je saisis l'occasion pour lui dire que je devais aussi rentrer pour défaire les valises et pour me reposer. Je lui remerciais pour toutes les peines qu'il s'était données pour moi. Pendant que Rachid et son copain se rendaient dans un coin pour parler je quittais le restaurant et me dirigeais tranquillement vers la pension de famille. Il était trois heures quand enfin je me retrouvais dans ma chambre. J'avais fait couler un bain et avais demeuré pendant longtemps dans la baignoire. Le soir j'avais dormi comme un mort. Le lendemain matin pendant que je me trouvais sur la terrasse pour prendre mon petit déjeuner, Rachid était venu me voir pour me dire que je ne le verrais pas pendant un certain temps. Il avait du travail à faire dans les autres villes de France. Je lui assurais que j'allais pouvoir me débrouiller et qu'il n'avait pas à faire des soucis pour moi. Il voulait tout de même me présenter un lointain cousin qui s'appelait Monsieur Mamoud. C'était un jeune garçon d'environ vingt ans. Je fis sa connaissance un peu plus tard. Il était algérien et travaillait depuis quelques années à Marseilles. Ses parents étaient tués pendant l'occupation. Il habitait chez une tante qui ne s'occupait pas de lui et qui passait son temps à boire pour noyer ses chagrins. Elle avait perdu son mari et ses enfants quand les allemands avaient bombardé les villes. Plus tard en faisant ample connaissance il me racontait comment il avait toujours été malheureux dans la vie. Il travaillait durement pour vivre. Il avait connu des moments difficiles et n'avait cessée de se débattre dans la misère. Il s'agrippait bien souvent aux mains qui lui étaient tendues. Il parvenait ainsi à donner un sens à sa vie. Ce qu'il me racontait sur lui même me faisait éprouver à son égard de la pitié. Je lui donnais souvent de fois des pourboires en échange des services que je lui demandais. Il allait faire mes commissions à des heures même indues de la nuit. Je fis appelle à lui quand je voulais mettre de l'ordre dans ma chambre. Il délaissait tous ses travaux aux risques même dirais-je de se faire réprimander par son patron pour répondre à mon appel. Il se dévouait beaucoup pour moi. Je compris qu'il avait une grande admiration pour moi. J'étais contente et même fière de me voir obéir et respecter de la sorte.
Au bout de quelque temps je voulais déménager. Je n'étais pas à l'aise dans une pension de famille. J'avais la tête fatiguée avec les problèmes des voisins. Quand ils me rencontraient dans le couloir ou sur la terrasse ils ne cessaient de me raconter leur vie. Cela me faisait de la peine de prendre connaissance des difficultés qu'ils faisaient face. La plupart était des étrangers établis là-bas depuis longtemps. Ils étaient des immigrés qui n'étaient pas en règle avec la justice. Ils n'étaient pas déclarés et faisaient toute sorte de boulots. Le patron les exploitaient et tiraient sur leur dos des avantages. Ce qui les intéressait c'était de gagner de l'argent et d'éviter d'avoir affaire avec les autorités. Lors des contrôles des polices ils allaient se réfugier dans des caves ou des greniers. Certains quittaient même l'endroit pour un certain temps avant de revenir pour continuer leur vie misérable.
Monsieur Mamoud m'annonçait qu'il avait appris qu'un appartement était à louer au centre de la ville et me demandait si j'étais intéressée. Je lui avais parlé auparavant de mon intention de m'installer ailleurs et lui avais en même occasion demandé de renseigner si un appartement n'était pas à louer dans les environs. Je souhaitais visiter la maison et rencontrer le propriétaire avant de prendre une décision. Un rendez-vous était fixé pour un samedi matin.
Nous nous engageâmes de bonne heure dans un étroit sentier qui débouchait dans un couloir entassé de chaque côté des caisses vides, des bouteilles vides bien rangées, des morceaux de tuyaux, et des caoutchoucs d'automobile. Des chambres à air étaient accrochées à des fils de fer. Au fond quelques gros madriers de Singapour, des tôles ondulées et des morceaux de contreplaqués abîmées par la pluie et le soleil étaient appuyés contre le mur décrépit. Un pan du ciel se découvrait. Des échafaudages posés de part et d'autre me firent comprendre que des travaux de réparation ou de construction étaient en cours. Les escaliers en pierres de taille étaient couverts des grains de sable. Je savais tout de suite que je ne pouvais jamais habiter un endroit pareil. Je voulais faire demi-tour. Nous étions accompagnés ce jour là par un monsieur qui se nommait Toula. Il était sensé trouver un locataire discret pour installer dans la maison. Je dois toutefois avouer que je ne disposais vraiment pas beaucoup d'argent pour envisager d'habiter un appartement. J'avais commencé déjà à ménager mes dépenses. C'était une épreuve difficile pour une femme qui voulait se lancer dans le monde. Je me montrais par contre très curieuse. Il était fort possible que j'avais hérité de mon père ce trait de caractère qui se développait en moi tardivement.
Je fus introduite dans une somptueuse demeure occupée par un couple d'âge mur. Ils me posèrent une foule de questions indiscrètes qui me mettaient mal à l'aise. Je n'avais pas voulu me montrer impolie et avais répondu avec calme et intelligence. Je dois toutefois avouer que je les avais mentis quelques fois pour cacher la vérité sur moi-même. Je ne cessais d'admirer les meubles en bois massifs quiembellissaient le séjour. Certains mobiliers étaient décorés de belles sculptures. Quand le mari s'était retiré un peu plus tard la dame me demandait si cela me plairait d'occuper une chambre sans avoir besoin de payer de loyer. Les chambres à coucher qu'elle me fit visiter étaient somptueuses. C'était de quoi me faire rêver. Mais de les occuper sans payer de loyer me paraissait quand même étrange. Je compris tout de suite que j'avais affaire à des proxénètes. Je parvenais avec beaucoup de souplesse à quitter cet endroit. En regagnant la pension je ne cessais de reprocher monsieur Mamoud de m'avoir emmenée dans un lieu pareil. Il me fit le grand serment qu'il ignorait cet état de chose et qu'il ne cherchait qu'à m'aider. Je lui croyais sur parole et me disais aussi qu'il n’était pas sensé tout savoir. Et encore aller comprendre la méchanceté des gens était une autre affaire. Je l'excusais et oubliais bien vite cet incident.
Je mis pour la dernière fois mes belles parures. Je sortais tôt le matin pour acheter des journaux dans un kiosque qui se trouvait au coin de la rue. Je cherchais du travail, et pendant mon déjeuner, je relevais les adresses et les numéros de téléphone pour prendre contact avec les intéressés. J'avais besoin d'argent pour m'acheter des robes de grossesse. Mes économies filaient entre mes doigts sans que je ne puisse rien. Je l'avais prévu de toute façon. Je savais en tout cas que je devais me débrouiller toute seule. C'était le moment pour moi de réagir.
Je réussi à trouver un emploi comme vendeuse dans un magasin modeste en ville. Le salaire n'était pas intéressant mais me suffisait pour régler mes dépenses de la fin du mois. Je louais une petite chambre dans un immeuble à peu de distance de mon lieu de travail. Cela m'évitait de longues files d'attente pour prendre le métro. Le prix du loyer me convenait. J'utilisais une partie de l'argent que j'avais mis de côté pour acheter des meubles et des ustensiles de cuisine. Le quartier où je m'étais installée était malfamé. Je ne le savais pas au début. Je l'apprenais tout de même bien vite.
Un soir en rentrant chez moi à une heure tardive après avoir été au cinéma du coin pour voir le docteur Zivago, j'eus la surprise de rencontrer Rachid. Il attendait mon arriver depuis le début de l'après-midi. Monsieur Mamoud lui avait donné ma nouvelle adresse. Cela m'avait fait un grand plaisir de lui revoir après ces quelques semaines d'absence. Il avait drôlement maigri. Je lui demandais des nouvelles de Florence et de Bakar. Il ne les avait pas revus depuis la dernière fois. Je croyais que pendant son absence il se trouvait avec eux. Je lui priais de rentrer à la maison et de partager le repas. J’avais dans le réfrigérateur des gratins. Quelques feuilles de salades et des tomates assaisonnées étaient suffisantes pour accompagner le plat. J’avais déjà acheté le pain en sortant de la salle de cinéma.
Il me remerciait infiniment de mon invitation. A table il m'apprenait qu'il avait des problèmes. Je pensais qu'il avait besoin d'argent et qu'il hésitait à me le demander. Je n'étais moi-même pas en position de lui venir en aide financièrement. Je lui fis tout simplement comprendre que je n'étais pas dans une position à pouvoir lui avancer de l'argent. Son problème n'était pas là. Sa vie était menacée. Il était mêlé dans une affaire de trafique de drogue. Il avait une livraison à faire à Nantes. Il transportait cinq kilos d'héroïne pur mais avant d'atteindre la ville il découvrit qu'il était suivi. S'il se faisait arrêté il aurait dix années à passer en taule. Donc il avait tout abandonné dans une voiture en location et avait pris la fuite.
L'idée ne me plaisait pas de lui voir venir se réfugier chez moi. Je ne voulais pas avoir des ennuis avec la justice. Je priais donc qu'il s'en aille le plus rapidement possible. Ma vie jusqu'à lors n'était pas en rose et je ne voulais pas la compliquer davantage. Pourtant malgré la décision que j'avais prise de lui mettre à la porte, quand il se faisait bien tard je n'avais pas eu le courage de le faire. Il coucha sur le divan jusqu'au matin. J'avais préparé le petit déjeuner et avais quitté tôt mon appartement pour me rendre à mon travail. La journée que j'avais passée était mauvaise. Toutes sortes de pensées me traversaient l'imagination. La crainte de me voir suivie par des agents de la brigade antidrogue me hantait. Je marchais dans la rue en éprouvant des craintes. Le retour de Rachid n'était pas d’un bon augure pour moi. Je voyais mon existence basculer tout d'un coup. Je voulais fuir encore une fois pour éviter des désagréments. Mais fuir pour aller où? Les grandes villes me faisaient peur.
Rachid me suppliait de lui laisser rester encore quelques jours. Je lui fis comprendre qu'il ne pouvait pas se cacher éternellement ainsi. Il partit le jour suivant sans me prévenir. Je me sentais soulagée. Je n'éprouvais plus de l'estime pour lui. Peut-être que ce qu'il m'avait appris sur lui avait laissé une étrange impression sur mon état d'esprit. J'avais dis un peu plus haut que le quartier jouissait d'une mauvaise réputation. Bien souvent le soir des hommes venaient cogner à ma porte. Avant moi une prostituée occupait la maison. Elle était jeune et très belle. Elle avait une clientèle de choix. Un jour elle partit avec un italien et n'était plus revenue. La voisine me racontait cela. Je décidais de chercher une maison ailleurs. Une vieille bâtisse située dans les écarts retenait mon attention. Une pancarte indiquait "Immeuble des Immigrés" me donna une idée du genre de personnes qui l'occupaient. Je rencontrais la concierge un samedi matin. Elle m'avait posé énormément de questions avant de se décider de me présenter au propriétaire d’un appartement situé au troisième étage. C’était une vieille dame longtemps à la retraite avec qui j’avais sympathisé en très peu de temps.
Je fis transporter mes meubles quelques jours plus tard et m'y installais à la fin du mois. Ma voisine était une mauricienne et s'appelait Devika. Je la rencontrais dès le lendemain de mon arriver. Le peu de paroles que nous avions échangées m'avait persuadé que nous allions bien nous entendre dans les prochains jours. Je ne m'étais pas trompée. Devika devint bien évidemment ma meilleure amie.