The next Wednesday Angie and I walked home hand in hand while Greg wrapped an arm around his sister’s shoulders, shooting a glance at me with his usual cocky grin from time to time, his cigarette dangling from his lip. I would just blush and squeeze Angie’s hand when he did that. She’d squeeze back and nudge her brother in the chest with her elbow.
When we got to their house, Greg grabbed his stuff and rushed out the door, warning me not to try anything fancy with his sister dear.
Finally, Angie and I were alone. We walked up the stairs towards her room. When I entered her little boudoir, I looked around and examined the place.
She had a pretty room with floral bedsheets and pale pink walls. Her room looked a lot like her brother’s when it came to size and disposition. Only instead of having DVDs stacked on her shelves, she had books, and books, and more books.
Among the books, I noticed that there were quite a few French poetry collections. I picked one of them up curiously, thumbing through the pages.
“What are you looking at?” Angie asked as she settled her bag down on the ground and sat on the bed.
I flipped the book over for her to see the cover. She beamed at me once she saw what it was.
“Rimbaud… I really like that poet, you know?”
“… I actually didn’t know. You seem to like this guy though, so I wanna know more about him.” I told her as I settled myself on the bed next to her. I flipped through the book and saw that a few pages were annotated, there were some sticky notes here and there and somehearts were drawn around the poet’s handsome, youthful face on the biography page.
“No, the hearts.”
She blushed at that and bit her lip “He’s my literary crush, actually. He always has been.”
I stared at her for a second. A literary crush? Was that even a thing? I read down the biography which was written in french, trying my best to concentrate on it. To be honest, my knowledge about the French language had shot up since I started hanging out with the twins. They helped me greatly. Reading through the bio was a bit hard, as there were a few words I didn’t understand. I did get the main points right though.
Arthur Rimbaud was only 16—our age—when he started writing poetry. He was rebellious, stubborn, and excellent with words. As I skimmed down the paragraphs, I also read that he was autistic and most likely had Aspergers.
He also had a relationship with an older poet when he was about 20. Verlaine was his name.
Holy shit, I thought to myself, what a basket case.
“What do you think?” Angie asked me with a smile.
“He sounded like an asshole.” I said with a laugh. She nudged my arm with an exaggerated whine and looked up to me. I chuckled softly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She just pouted and took the book from me as delicately as she could, flipping the pages until she found the one she wanted before she pointed a poem to me.
“As punishment for insulting my baby, you’re going to have to read one of his poems without butchering it too much!”
I stared at her and quirked a brow.
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’m very serious.” She said with a smile as she took my hand “Just the first few verses. Please?”
I sighed and took the book in one hand, holding Angie’s significantly smaller hand with the other. Clearing my throat, I spoke up and recited as well as I could.
“Première soirée.” I announced the title with my best pronunciation. I had a hard time pronouncing the guttural ‘r’ sound, but Marie-Ange didn’t seem to mind.
“Elle était fort déshabillée—“ I started, blinking at the words. Was this talking about a naked woman? It was definitively talking about a naked woman.
“Wait. Is this poem about sex?” I asked Marie-Ange, quirking a brow at her. She shushed at me and pointed to the words on the yellowing paper
“Yes it is. Now carry on!” she huffed at me.
It was cute to see her so excited to share something she enjoyed with me. I wanted to continue, just for her, so she’d be proud of me and the progress I’ve made when it came to pronunciation.
Et de grands ar-arbres indiscrrrrets
Aux vitres jetaient leur feuillée
Ma-li-ne-ment, tout près, tout près. ‘’
I recited as well as I could for her, it was hard, God damn.
“Angie, I suck at this.”
“No, you’re wonderful.” She assured me. ‘’ Go ahead.’’
Mi-nue, elle joignait les mains.
Sur le plancher frissonnaient d'aise
Ses petits pieds si fins, si fins.’’
Those were the first two stanzas of the poem. I didn’t understand half of what was written. I just knew that there was a naked young lady and that the poet, I assume, was looking at her little feet as she was sitting on a chair. That’s it. That’s what I understood.
My pronunciation wasn’t the best, I concur. And neither was my ability to read correctly. I was never good at reading things out loud anyway.
I looked back to Marie-Ange. She smiled at me before she kissed my cheek.
“That was wonderful.”
“It was shit. I probably messed everything up. I’m sorry.”
She smiled again and held my hand “You did your best. You’ve done a lot of progress since the beginning of the year, you know?”
“Really?” I asked, looking down on her before I stroked her cheek with the back of my hand.
She nodded and took the book from between my hands, closed it and settled it under her pillow.
I sat there a little awkwardly, crossing my ankles as I looked at her.
She turned back to face me and smiled softly. I leaned forwards and took her hands.
We spent the next hour chattering about all and nothing. She told me more about Rimbaud and I just sat there to listen. Just when she was really starting to get into the most important parts of his life she cut herself off, biting her lip.
“Sorry—I’m getting excited for nothing. I shouldn’t talk this much.”
I shook my head and held her hands. At some point in her life, she probably talked a little too much about the things she liked and was told to shut up. That, in my opinion, was really fucking sad. I loved watching people talk about what made them feel passionate. Whether it was Angie with her dead French poets or Greg with his favoured rugby players. I liked letting people express themselves. I was all for that.
“And, uh… Do you read stuff other than poetry?” I asked. I wanted to relate to her. Poetry just wasn’t my thing. It was nice and all, but… That’s all there was.
She thought for a moment before she spoke up “Well, I do! I read a lot of things.”
“And… What’s your favourite book?” I asked, hoping it would be something I knew. She had told me she liked Harry Potter before… But yet again, who hasn’t read Harry Potter?
Marie-Ange got up and walked over to her bookshelf to get a book from it, handing it over to me.
Another French book. This one was a student’s edition of a classic French novel with women in rococo lingerie on the cover. I read the title.
“Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Les. Liaisons. Dangereuses.” I repeated. Marie-Ange smiled encouragingly before I repeated it again. “Les Liaisions Dangereuses.” I said once more, forcing a bit on the ‘r’.
“What’s it about?” I asked, handing her the book.
She bit her lip and thought for a moment, cheeks a little flushed “Well… It’s an erotic novel.” She told me as she took the book and held it against her chest.
I chuckled at that “Erotic, huh? You little vixen.” I teased, my hand going down to tickle her hip.
“Shush it you!” she squealed, wiggling away from my grasp with a laugh. I laughed as well and kissed her cheek.
“Now will you tell me what happens in this scandalously erotic novel, Mademoiselle Valmont?”
With a nod, she looked at the cover of the book and explained everything to me. I found out that the twins shared their surname with the biggest cocksucking bastard in all of French literature; the Marquis de Valmont.
Valmont (whom I considered to be the main character of the book) was a youngish aristocrat who sought to steal a young girl’s virtue in order to make her his lover. By doing so, he helps his friend take revenge on a woman she dislikes. Then there are also stories between the Marquis and his friend, with another woman, with his lackey’s girlfriend… The whole book is just a collection of letters that the characters send to each other throughout the story.
“I know it sounds boring, explained like that.” Said Marie-Ange a little meekly “But I love this book, it’s wonderfully written. You just have to get used to it is all!”
“I’ll try reading it in english if you want.” I told her, scratching the back of my head.
Marie-Ange’s eyes lit up at that. “You would?!”
“I said I’d try, I guess?” I said with a nervous laugh before she wrapped her arms around me and kissed my cheek.
Greg soon came home from rugby practice, cold and tired and a little grumpy. Marie-Ange and I came down to greet him in the living room. Upon seeing her brother’s state, Marie-Ange rushed over to him to give him a warm hug, telling him that she’d make coffee for him. Grégoire grinned at her and kissed her forehead with a nod.
“I’ll just go change into something else. Dave, wanna come?”
I blinked and looked back at Angie. She just smiled at me and encouraged me to go up with her brother.
When I got to Greg’s room, he quickly pulled off his clothes and lunged towards the radiator to turn it up to the maximum before he cozied against it wearing only his wet socks and boxer shorts.
I stood there a little puzzled, staring at the half-naked boy in front of me. Grégoire looked up and paused for a second, looking at his bare chest before he looked back at me with a laugh “You liking what you’re seeing?”
I blushed deeply at that “You idiot!” I exclaimed “Have some decency and put some clothes on, man!”
“You’re not saying no!” he teased. I frowned at him and he held his hands up in defense before he walked over to the closet and pulled out some warm clothes.
I stared at his arse until he put his pants back on.
Fuck—fuck it. I couldn’t help but look at him in an entirely different way ever since I caught him in the changing rooms with Connor. Now that I knew he liked men, I just… Felt weird. It wasn’t a bad weird, like an ‘ew, he’s gay’ weird. It was something indescribable.
When he got dressed, he looked back at me and coughed slightly. I pushed up my glasses and turned away “Maybe we should go back to the kitchen.”