A month or so after posting the last part of this tale on my blog I received a letter from a notary, retired to the country.
My story had raised old memories he’d rather seen left undisturbed but, by a strange coincidence, he’d felt obliged to impart a personal experience that might shine a new light on the unknown fate of both these lost children.
A law student in the mid-Sixties, he was living in a sub-let, a single room on the top floor of the house where once the ‘aunt’ of this story had been living downstairs. The current occupant of her spacious apartment was a young lady who did as she pleased. It earned her a nickname from the unseasoned country lad that he was, 'Madame Sans-Gêne', after a popular movie of the period, starring Sophia Loren. If she had known, she’d have laughed at him, if she’d cared.
His room had French windows and a balcony which overlooked the tree-shielded inner gardens. From his eyrie, glimpses of her taking sunbaths for a seamless tan and a dip in the pond afterwards had often aroused him, which conflicted with certain principles of his religious upbringing and troubled him mightily in his sleep. He felt deeply ashamed of himself, but couldn’t abstain from spying on her.
On Saturday nights, there were house parties, which often spilled into the garden.
Unkempt youths and older men bearing the unmistakable mark of existentialism, clad in black, chain-smoking and swilling wine, endlessly debated on questions of political philosophy, while the young birds who clung to their arms, eyes vacant, ringed with black eyeliner, passively awaited the moment their dark knights would be ripe for being coaxed inside for a quickie in one of the closets, newly vacated.
Now and then the hostess appeared from the house. She used to be draped in flimsy gauzes of different hues. Waving her arms so as to make the tissues undulate behind her in the semidarkness she seemed to float through the garden circling around her guests until she found some one to her liking and, after the briefest of mating rituals, led him or her inside. Behind them discussions, which had dimmed only slightly, resumed at full tilt.