It all seemed so strange, thought Lillie Mathilde, as she mused the passage of time. It was as if she had drifted from one plateau to another, without skipping a beat. Her love of pretty things had often found her taking this route along the network of curving tunnels that made up the Paris Metropolitan.She loved to explore little shops and boutiques, in out of the way places.
How detached she had become over the years. Almost, an undoing, as it were.
She remembered the first time she had boarded the new trains, grasping tightly at her father’s sleeve. She was five years old. Papa had taken her from Le Touquet by land train, to stay overnight at a small Paris auberge. They left early the next morning, marvelling at the silver quick speed of the brand new Metropolitan that would carry them to the Great Exposition. The rest of that day had faded from memory, but she still had the lovely porcelain doll that Papa bought for her at the Grand Belgian Pavilion.
As the train rumbled on, she thought of her life as a child, in Le Touquet. It was a charmed life. Her father, the school administrator; intense and noble, was never to be seen without his waistcoat, jacket and gold pocket watch. Her mother; the proprietress of a small baked goods shop, that had been her grandmother’s many years prior, was always seen in her crisply pleated white apron, save for Sundays and church-going..Deliciously aromatic smells would waft from the bread and pastry ovens, reaching the wind swept coastal dunes, where miracle of miracles, holiday makers were arriving from all over France and England, filling up palatial hotels that seemed to spring up yearly along the rugged coastline. Le Touquet was heaven on earth.
Lillie Mathilde sat up abruptly when station Liege was approached. As a young teenager, she had well remembered that this metro stop had been called 'Berlin'.So much had changed after 1914.
She had become beautiful, entering her twenties. The British soldiers, who now occupied the grand coastal hotels of Le Touquet, often commented on her tiny waste and ample bosom.They gave her pretty things.
Years had flown by, and times were difficult for her after The First World War. Both of Lillie Mathilde’s parents had passed, and being neither baker nor scholar, she found herself, allowing to be helped by kind gentleman and soldiers who would give her pretty things.Now, at forty three, she resided in a small pension near the Monmartre, in Paris. She no longer possessed the slender figure of her yesteryears. Her body had thickened, and her hair, although colored with henna, was no longer full bodied and luxurious. But, even for the large woman she had become, she was always neatly dressed and coiffed, her black suit perfectly pressed, her white blouse stiffly starched, opening at the neckline, to show a single strand of pearls. The small inheritance that she had received from her parents, allowed her the pride of appearance.
Lifting herself off the wooden metro seat bench with a sigh, she exited the train and made her way to the steel framed door that would lead her to the cobbled stone street . It was May 28th, 1940, and the headlines in the newspapers of the day, prophesied doom for France. Belgium had surrendered to the Germans, and it was just a matter of weeks, perhaps days, before Paris would fall.
Lillie Mathilde pondered this, as she walked the short distance to the old stone building that housed her tiny room. As she climbed the crooked steps, she paused for breath. Soldiers would soon be filling the city of Paris. Maybe, just maybe, she thought, she would once again, have pretty things.
© lionel walfish, 2019. All rights reserved.