Sat 31 Jan 2009
Page one and I am already exhausted! But I can just about raise my head to look at myself in the mirror. How my hair has been shorn! I may be 17, but I do declare I could pass for 15. Still your beating hearts, mes petits schoolgirl fantasists! For the honour of my notebooks, I shall have to explain how I come to be in Paris. Oh Papa, I am as furious with you as I am with my naughty eyebrows! How could you have forced us to leave Montigny after a publisher failed to respond to the delivery of your manuscript on the Malacology of Fresnois within half an hour? It was all I could do to find my darling cat, Fanchette, before our train departed.
Our arrival at the apartment in the dismal rue Jacob is confused in a fog of misery. The effort of unpacking a single box of clothes left me with a brain fever so profound the doctors feared I might never try on another pair of camiknickers again. The violets by my bedside prolonged my illness for they reminded me of Montigny and it was several months before I was well enough to venture outside.
"We should visit my sister, your Aunt Coeur," Papa said one day.
"But my hair is far too short!" I complained. "And I have nothing to wear!"
The whipped-cream living room couldn't have been more 1900 and I was curious to get to know my aunt's grandson, Marcel, who was waiting there. The days before our dinner engagement passed slowly. I spent my mornings having my bottom pinched - Ooh la la! - and the afternoons worrying that my breasts were too tiny for my décolletage - encore Ooh la la!
It was annoying to be seen in public with Marcel as he was far too pretty to be a boy and everyone stared at him not me. Yet I contained my jealousy and fluttered my eyelashes coquettishly at him.
"I am not a goody-goody," he said, "but I will not make love to you. Rather, let me tell you about my dear friend, Charlie."
How thrillingly racy for the Paris demi-monde! A boy's forbidden love for another boy! We must become each other's confidante!
"Tell me all about Charlie's naughty bits," I demanded.
"Only if you tell me all about your Fresnois Sapphism," he pouted.
How I yearned for a glimpse of Aimée's budding breasts! How I used to delight in beating Luce about the head when I caught sight of her staring at me pulling my silken stockings over my milky thighs! How strange it was she had not replied to my letter! But, no! I would make Marcel wait awhile.
After a few days' tiring shopping, Marcel introduced me to his father, my Uncle Renaud. Mon oncle bowed low before me, taking my hands in his and kissed them softly, brushing his silver moustache against my quivering skin. My lips flushed with excitement. How could I contain my incestuous feelings for an older man?
"Let me take you to the opera," he whispered in my ear, "and thrill you with scandalous tales of men who dress as women while we watch Marcel and Charlie slip away in the night together."
Paris was muggy that month and men were staring at the sweat glistening on my exposed breasts when I unexpectedly met Luce, dressed in the most expensive fashions, on the Rive Gauche.
"Ma chère Claudine," she said. "I moved to Paris to escape my horrid papa and threw myself on the mercies of my wealthy 127-year-old uncle, who gives me 30 louis each month for the pleasure of my flesh! But I yearn for you. My breasts are rounder now; take them in your greedy hands and ravish them."
She pushed her mouth towards mine and I felt a momentary passionate quiver, before beating her cruelly until she gasped her little death. I dismissed her contemptuously, enjoying her squirming every bit as uncomfortably as the messieurs who are reading this on the Métro.
"So tell me about all the saucy things that you and Charlie do?" I begged Marcel, as he tried on a crepe-de-chine cravat.
"It is a special love we have," he replied, guilefully. "Not like Papa. He is a journalist and he sleeps with any older woman whose nipples harden for him."
How I hated those other women! And how my own nipples also strangely hardened!
"Do not call me oncle any more," Oncle implored, as we shared a bottle of Asti Spumante. "It makes me feel such a dirty old man."
"That is precisely why I love to use it," I said, feeling quite gay. "I would be your daughter, if I could, as that is so much more shocking. Yet if you insist, I will call you Renaud."
"Oh, Claudine! My grey hair is turning blond once more. Let us be wed!"
How I enjoyed the twisted thrill of older men imagining themselves in bed with a submissive teenaged girl! And yet how strangely coy and dated it now seemed!
"You're only getting married to Papa to get his money," Marcel sulked.
"I cannot marry you," I cried, thrusting myself against Renaud in a last attempt at titillation. "I will be your mistress instead."
"Non," Renaud insisted. "I may be a dirty old perve, but I am a dirty old perve with family values."