As I've written before, my son N has a friend named Paul, who was his best friend from the time they were three years old. Paul has not had an easy life, as I've written from time to time; but he's now grown up and has mostly escaped, making a pretty good new life for himself in Paris.
Paul's parents, who divorced when he was about 14, were always friendly to me, and as far as I was concerned, they were nice people; although sometimes the stories I heard about them would make your hair stand on end, and I wondered how my impressions could be so different.
Paul's mother disappeared from my life at least eight years ago when she moved to her home town in the provinces. I came back from the U.S. to find her voice leaving a message on my French phone.
"It's a revenant [ghost], yes a ghost....I know it's been a while that we haven't seen each other, but I just wanted to wish you a happy new year, you and N-- I am so fond of him... You know that he and Paul have always been so close.... and I don't forget those we have lost... [here her voice shook a little, talking about her mother, a lovely lady who once asked me seriously if I, an American, could read English; the grandmother died three years ago, leaving Paul, who had often taken care of her in her long last illness, some desperately needed money and causing a family brouhaha because of it]... Voilà... I wish you an excellent happy new year. I am saving up money to visit the United States... I know that Paul and N are very very close... Tell N that if he comes for a visit, I will make him escalope à la creme! Voilà... I wish you an excellent happy new year! à très très bientôt!"