Set in Marseilles, this is the story of Vanda, a beautiful woman in her thirties, arms covered in tattoos, skin so dark that some take her for a North African. Vanda dreamt of being an artist; she became a cleaner in a psychiatric hospital. Devoted to her six-year-old son Noé, she lives with him in a derelict shed by the beach. “You and me against the rest of the world,” as she says. But when Noé’s father Simon shows up after a seven-year absence, threatening the delicate balance of their lives, her suppressed rage finally explodes. The tension becomes unbearable, escalating to inevitable violence.
He Won’t Stay
She’s recognized him immediately, stopped breath- ing, frozen. He’s having a drink next to the speakers, a restrained swaying of the head, the bored smile of a guy who hasn’t hung around this sort of place for a long time.
What the hell is he doing here? Vanda hasn’t seen him for almost seven years. Seven years is a long time, another lifetime – a cliché for a physical reality. The guy isn’t moving, he’s always been like that, it’s only during sex that he’d go into motion, surprisingly unsystematic and eager.
Turning her back to the stage, Vanda walks through the group of dancers, pushes past the sweaty bodies and the jerking, colliding torsos. Glowing orange faces twist in the light, teeth exposed. As the group on the stage gets more and more excited and the mood at the bar goes up a notch, she realizes she’s already a bit plastered. Dizzy from the drink and feeling invaded on her patch. He, there, next to the speakers, is no longer a part of her landscape, but superimposed like an insect on a favourite painting. She’s got to go home, run away from the guy who’s suddenly popped out of the woodwork – fuck, she’d better get a move on before he sees her. She slinks over to the bar and orders a vodka. Last one, she tells the barman, who smiles and doesn’t believe her. He couldn’t care less if she’s lying – he sees worse than her every night. He also often sees her and has done for a long time. Through habit, this bar’s also become a kind of pretend family, people to have a laugh with even if you don’t feel like it, pissheads who become closer than the cousins you used to mess about with or your own kids. It’s the only place where you can still hear punk groups play like they’re smashing a bus shelter or a ticket machine. Slightly dirty rock for partying drink buddies. There are others like her here, damaged goods that forgot to grow old. Vanda downs her vodka in a large, single gulp that barely stings, and puts the glass back down on the counter brusquely.
Because she’s in a rush, she keeps to her word and waves away the barman’s offer as he picks up the bottle again. She seldom refuses the last drink on the house, but she really has to dash now, hasn’t got time to waste, too much to lose and her hands are shaking.
There are guys smoking on the pavement – one of them motions goodbye and giggles as he staggers. “Bye, Vanda, mind yourself on the coast road.”
She doesn’t reply and lights a cigarette before unlock- ing her ancient Renault 21 she’ll never be able to afford to replace. She paid an arm and a leg to the mechanic for a new timing belt to replace the last, so now it doesn’t make such a racket when she drives, such a treat. Shaking with a nervous giggle, she slides into the driver’s seat.
Thank you, Marion Brunet and Random Things Tours
About the author
Marion Brunet, born in 1976, is a well-known Young Adult and Literary Fiction author in France. Her YA novels have received over 30 prizes, including the 2017 UNICEF Prize for Youth Literature. Marion has previously worked as a special needs educator and now writes her fiction in Marseilles.
About the Translator
Katherine Gregor lives in London and has recently translated works by
Alexander Pushkin from the Russian and plays by Carlo Goldoni and Luigi Pirandello
from the Italian.