*Continued from With the Fade of the Tide, Part II
"How long have you been using?" It's a futile question. Benoit's already prepared to disbelieve her answer.
"Since I was 21. I dated a footballer after university."
She's a good liar. The footballer detail might be true, but he knows she doesn't use drugs. There is guilt here. That he also knows she's no fool adds doubt. Why would the drugs be here?
"Mother and I used to get high together." Melanie's surprised at her own voice. The admission is akin to a flinch; an attempt to deflect. Not only her own guilty conscious, but Benoit's unmistakable direction of thought. And it's another clear lie.
"Do not speak of your mother this way, Melanie." It is an uncharacteristically mature statement. And hypocritical. He himself had bad-mouthed his father since coming to Le Havre. But, then, his father was not dead.
She's caught, and she knows it. Still, she's certain that Benoit isn't sure of what she's been caught doing. Or refuses to be sure. She stares out the window to avoid his discerning glare. The moon is rising early, its third quarter just visible over the eastern cityscape. There's some solace in that she's managed to make him love her for this long. She's waited a long time. Ever since her mother pushed away her step-father with her unpleasantness and irrational demands. But she's also certain that Benoit is no fool, either. And their ending is nigh.
Hervé motions for Benoit to sit. "It could not be Melanie."
"She was in Lebanon at the time. Travel records and passport verify this. As does the French consul in Beirut."
Benoit frowns. "Why did she go to the French consul?"
"They will not say."
"Seems rather convenient, don't you think?"
Resigning himself to the possibility, Hervé shrugs and nods. Possibility, of course, but likelihood? Hervé makes it known that he doesn't believe so.
"It was not her, Benoit. As much as I would like to be, it could not be Melanie."
A sigh. A regret. Many regrets. "So I owe her an apology."
It is an easy apology, yet a strange one. Melanie immediately breaks into tears. Benoit can't tell if they are false or not. Her sobbing respiration forces him to give her the benefit of the doubt. She apologizes profusely in return, perhaps once too often, but it persuades him not to ask about the drugs.
She's unsure of what to do. She's in love with Benoit. Always has been and always will be. She tells him so. His lips surprise her. There's something hidden in the kiss, though she imagines the whole of it to be heartfelt. Upon the break of the embrace, pragmatism takes over. Benoit will figure her out. This cannot last.
They sit at the cafe. Benoit notices the waning crescent appears as if it's about to strangle Melanie. The image disturbs him, so he shifts his chair. And again, once he notices the tip of the moon gives her the appearance of having a devil's horn.
"Did you see my father?" The question is abrupt. As if radioactive. Why it chose now to be asked is beyond Benoit.
Melanie turns her head sharply to stare at Benoit. "What? No. I was not here."
"I'm leaving soon. Returning to America." The statement is jilted, stunted. This conversation will have no flow. Facts attempting to escape their hiding places reveal themselves at random.
"You're not staying for the trial?"
"No. Father will be found guilty. There's nothing I can do for him."
"You believe that now?"
"It doesn't matter. Do you believe it?"
I wonder why that is. He does not share his thought, for it has no conclusion. He's not certain he wants it to.
They make love for the final time that night. She's all too aware of the conclusion between them. She doesn't want it to end, but knows it must.
"New moon," Melanie says. There is no one around, save a lover in memory. She looks out to the horizon, invisible between the sky and the sea, and throws the gun into the English Channel.
In her hand, an unopened farewell letter from Benoit. He's finally written her back.
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