A friendship was being cultured between Emile and Sergey.
Emile of course was the infinite questioner, as much as an inquisitor, on analysing every answer Sergey would give about the social, economical and political life in the USSR. His journalistic ardour was steadfastly in motion.
In a more personal level, Emile was diving in troubled waters.
Sergey was somewhat shy in answering questions about his past commitments, he would become more philosophical, saying that everything in life is the manifestation of the constitution of the individual.
" When I was twenty six years old, my activities were more deluded and I behaved more in sinful ways. Today, after six years of soul searching, I have found the soul of existence. I have found my real identity. I love Madeleine, and I don't want to create an illusion, which eventually will make me dwell in dishonour and put her in misery and pain. But as a human being, I am prone to forget the past, I cannot predict the outcome of my present life, nor can I foretell the future. Maybe you can answer the following for me, would you have known, when you met Christine, that you would marry her, or you would join the Resistance, or even would you predict the birth of your son, Victor? ".
" I know, Sergey, I never judge you, life evolves, grows, matures and develops. Changes are part of the very nature of life. You know how close I am to Madeleine, my query comes strictly from my own inner self, and I want to be sincere with you, by knowing you better. And frankly, you have my complete trust and confidence. Ask for any assistance and I will do my best to help and support you ".
It was inconceivable for Sergey to exclude the hesitancy people would have about his past. This sensitivity was taking away the inner peace, which was established within him.
He developed a sense of remorse and became recluse and depressed and felt dejected.
His love for Madeleine was unconditional. And his love for his son was undoubtedly an absolute truth.
To maintain a mental stability was the most difficult part.
Following a week of rest, which was almost required of them by Papa Findji, Madeleine and Sergey ventured out to visit the police prefecture to make acquisitions on Sergey obtaining a residency permit.
They were directed to the Town Hall, where all the foreigners' residency matters were being conducted. There, they were given application forms to fill and submit and the resulting answers would be mailed to them.
" So far so good ", remarked Madeleine, " Let's walk around town, and enjoy this beautiful city Sergey, would you like to visit the Conservatory?, there are so many people I like to meet and find out what is happening ".
" Of course ", said Sergey, " you are my guide ".
Madeleine recognised Sergey's distressed disposition. But her thoughts were not guided by doubts about his former life; instead, she presumed his depressed mood was the result of the uncertainties about his residency.
She has become vulnerable to his complexions. But she found it normal to have Sergey's make up, because his difficult past and uncertain future. She had to give him strength and hope, after all she loved him completely too, and she would do anything to make him happy.
On the way to the conservatory, they stopped at a café and enjoyed some crêpe with chocolate.
" I want you to know ", said Madeleine, " that whatever the outcome of your application will be, I am standing by you. Nobody and nothing will change my mind. I will follow you, wherever our destiny will take us. Feel secure and let's enjoy our sojourn, all right? ".
They looked at each other's eyes, and there was a smile of coherence on their faces. They were uniting quietly with celestial blessing.
They both knew that this penetrating truth was to be their destiny.
At the entrance of the Conservatory, they both looked at the elegant and attractive building.
" This place was my life after I left school, it is like a church for me ", said Madeleine, showing tears in her eyes. " Let's go in and find professor Carro, I have to organise exercising sessions for the next competition, I want to participate in, and also acquire about my job prospects ".
Professor Carro was nowhere to be found. They walked in the administration office, where Madeleine met her old colleagues. It was very enlivening and delightful to find some of them there, as if it was yesterday that she had left the place.
They informed her that Professor Carro had unfortunately retired and left for Italy.
Madeleine was very disappointed. It was the first time in her musical career that she felt a set back, of course without counting her four years in Tournus.
" Do not despair, Madeleine, please, there are many great piano teachers in Moscow ", he said jokingly.
" Yes, I know, but I want one here and now ", she said in a spoiled manner. " Let's return home, after all, I am a good teacher too ", she added with a self assurance. " I will work on my piano scales four to five hours a day and I will choose a Russian composer's work, I think it will be Moussorgsky's piano suite " Pictures at an exhibition ", yes, it's perfect, it lasts about thirty five minutes, that's what the jury is asking for, I'll play for you when we get home, I will dedicate it to you and the Russian culture ", and she was already so excited, stimulated and thrilled of her idea that she was jumping around and hugging Sergey.
When Papa Findji arrived home that night, he had good news for Sergey. One of the building contractors of his Architectural firm had a job opening for a handyman on one of their building sites.
" As soon as you receive your residency permit, Sergey, I will take you to the building site and introduce you to the supervisor, it's up to you to decide whether you will accept the job he will offer you. If not, there will be other jobs ".
" Thank you Papa, I am indebted to you forever, I just hope that I'll obtain a permit as soon as possible. I want to start to work, to keep busy and to become productive ".
Most of the evenings at the Findji's were quiet nights. After dinner Madam Findji will get busy with her dress making, Madeleine would play the piano or pick up a book, and Papa Findji and Sergey would have a game of chess and listen to the radio for the latest news.
That night Sergey asked Madeleine if she could give him some letter papers and an envelope.
" I will write a letter to my son ", he said, " if I can put words together. I will try to explain him what happened to his father, and what he is up to now, do you mind "? He asked.
" Oh, Sergey, I think you must ", answered Madeleine, " he is your offspring, I think the Soviet Union is softening their approach towards humane conditions, I read yesterday in Emile's article that the evidence of the renewal of the purges of the Nineteen Thirties, has to be ignored. There is no such evidence. Write, Sergey, he is your son ".
Sergey was alleviated by Madeleine's answer. The tolerance that this woman was showing towards him was unbelievable. Her reaction to any self-seeking thought was always broad-minded and considerate.
He retired in his room and wrote his letter, page after page, full of confessions, admissions and revelations. He ended the letter offering his unqualified love, with a promise to join him in the future.
In January 1946, General Charles de Gaulle resigned as President.
A new Constitution was approved by referendum.
The economy was very slow in recovering.
A letter from the Interior Ministry, addressed to Sergey Ivanovitch Alexandrov, containing a permit card issued to his name, was granting him a temporary residency for six months with an option of renewal for another six months. Plus a working permit during this period.
This transient status had an ill-starred significance on Sergey. But at the same time, he came to the conclusion that one-year is long enough to make efforts to stay or to return.
With or without Madeleine. He hasn't spoken to Madeleine as yet.
She was diligently preparing her recital for the " Young People's International Competition " and Sergey did not dare to diverge her attention to anything else.
That day he decided to go to the city by himself to see Papa Findji at his workplace. He took the metro to St. Germain des Prés, and walked to the rue Bonaparte, where Monsieur Findji's architectural firm was located.
As soon as Papa Findji saw Sergey, he invited him to have lunch with him at a nearby brasserie on the boulevard.
Sergey showed Papa the letter he had received.
" I imagine, you came to look for a job, my good friend ", said Papa, " I will arrange that tomorrow, and hopefully you can start immediately. Do not be concerned much about the length of time the government is providing you for your stay, Emile has some affiliations within the administration, we will talk to him ".
" There is another subject I want to bring up with you, Papa ", " your hospitality is overwhelming and I am very grateful, but enough is enough, I like to ask you to help me find a place for my own, a small apartment or a room in an attic, nearby, as soon as I will receive my first wages ".
" Ha, ha, ha, Sergey, your putting me into trouble with Madeleine, I don't think she will agree to your suggestion, she herself is staying at home on the condition that you will remain there too. We will talk tonight, when I get home. You're not any burden on us, I want you to know that ".
" Papa, please do not open this subject, until Madeleine has ended her piano competition, would you promise this to me?"
" I promise, Sergey, meanwhile, please feel comfortable with us. You are welcomed in our home, like a son ".
It was an encouragement for Sergey to hear Papa saying those things, and also it was a pleasure for him to visit the city by himself and go around, so while he was close to the Eiffel Tower, he walked along the river Seine, on the Quai d'Orsay and arrived at this marvellous four hundred meters high iron framework, reaching the skies. When he was in university majoring in mechanical engineering, this tower was a special subject for being an astounding engineering achievement. And surprisingly, there were some critics that hated it, and when the Tower was due for destruction in 1910, nobody could confront the decision, so it became the symbol of Paris.
Sergey sat in the nearby park, until sunset, and enjoyed his day, savouring with his eyes the beauty of this city.
He had arranged with Papa Findji to meet him and drive home with him.
On the way home they stopped at a bar and had a few aperitifs and had a warm conversation.
" Tell me Sergey ", asked Papa, " Is Madeleine an important person in your life?"
" I cannot challenge you Papa, she is your daughter, but with great humility and modesty I can assure you that my love for her is genuine, and I'll do anything for her ".
" We always taught Madeleine that the value of life is not in materialistic endeavours, but essentially in moral and spiritual emancipation. She grew up to be a free spirited individual and an artist on her own rights, and we are immensely proud of her. The depth of her relationships has always been in giving, almost a self-forgetfulness. Therefore her mother and myself have always alerted her to be prudent to avoid unfolding disappointments. I am talking to you as a parent to a friend, who my daughter, is also very much in love with ".
" I have discovered her devoted nature, Papa, that's one of her spiritual resources, and I consider myself very fortunate. I would never harm or maltreat her under any circumstances. I myself have discovered that materialistic conception of life leads a person to self-destruction. I am a believer of conscientious behaviour, and when love becomes a quality of life ".
" Well said, Sergey, I cannot predict the inevitable, but I believe in fate, I want you to know that my wife and I, will accept any outcome of this existence ".
" Thank you, Papa, I will never let you down ".
" Let's go home, I am getting hungry ".
When they arrived home, Madeleine had a big surprise for Sergey. There was a huge package in the living room.
" Sergey ", she said, " You're not allowed to open before dinner ".
Papa interfered, " I am allowed…"
" No, Papa, that's for Sergey only, please, let's have dinner right now, Maman, is the dinner ready, shall we sit?"
" Yes, my dear, I am just bringing it on the dinner table ".
The time came after dinner to open the package. Sergey was somehow baffled, and asked Madeleine to open the package herself.
" No, Sergey, it's for you and you open it right away, please ".
Sergey slowly started to open the package. The more he got rid of the papers the more a navy blue colour material showed up. Finally, a good-looking suit got unveiled, also a white dress shirt and a matching tie.
Sergey was speechless. He put the jacket against his chest. It seemed the right measurement.
" Please, Sergey, will you go and wear the whole thing, with the shirt and the tie. I thought you have to get dressed formally the day of my competition, which is next week, on Saturday.
Come on, please, I like to see you all dressed up ".
" Oh, darling, said Papa, the competition is next Saturday, and where is the location, dear?"
" Théâtre Musical de Paris ", Papa, at the Place du Châtelet, you, Maman and Sergey will come together; I will be there three hours before for the last trial. Is it all right? ".
" Of course my dear, we wish you good luck, and we will be there to applaud your performance, Maman and I "
Sergey appeared at the living room in front of the Findji family, dressed almost like a groom.
They all had admiration expressions on their faces.
The next day, Papa Findji took Sergey to work with him.
Madam Findji was fully absorbed in cutting and sewing Madeleine's taffeta dress for her concert.
Madeleine was practicing on her piano all day. Repeating difficult movements, until she would consume and it would become a methodical reflex. This competition was of great importance for her. The four years in Tournus had consequently left her belated in her career. She was not regretful but she had to catch up with her technique.
The audience were already in their sits, and the three finalists, one of whom being Madeleine, were in the backstage, having inner tremors, and wishing each other good luck.
Madeleine was the first to appear.
All she could remember was the applause when she entered the stage and the applause when she left the stage. Behind the curtain she was quivering like a leaf and she had a feeling of failure, she was not pleased with her performance. She wanted to disappear, vanish from the place. She went to the lavatory and splashed her face with cold water. She looked at the mirror and her face was pale like the white marble around her.
" What happened? ", she asked herself. " The moments went so fast, I felt giddy ".
She went back behind the wings of the stage. She was stabilising slowly.
The second pianist had just ended her part. The audience were applauding again.
Suddenly she saw Emile approaching her.
" Congratulations ", he said, " You were marvellous ". And kissed her on both cheeks.
" Christine is in the audience with your parents and Sergey, we decide to celebrate the occasion at " Au p'tit Rémouleur ", here, around the corner ".
The announcement of the winner will be the next day.
She joined her parents and her friends and they left for the restaurant.
After having a glass of wine, followed by compliments,
" I think I am having stage fright ", she said to the people around the table, " For a moment, I was just lost, I don't remember a thing. And I think I will be satisfied to stay as a finalist. I think the prize will go to the last performer, Gerard Ferrand ".
" Don't you get annoyed darling ", said Papa Findji, " You were excellent, and you did your best, that's all you need ".
The next day, from the " Les Pages Française ", Madam Findji read the following;
" The debut performance of pianist Madeleine Findji, playing Moussorgsky's " Pictures at an Exhibition ", was a combination marked by perfect synthesis of objectivity and boundless subjectivity, and an outstanding interpretative power. She might have not won the First Prize of the competition, but undoubtedly she has unbounded possibilities as a virtuoso.
We congratulate her warmly."
Madeleine knew Emile was just being generous and charitable with his comments, but she was happy and contented by the outcome of her performance.
When Sergey returned from work and read the newspaper article, he was so delighted and rejoiced that he asked Madeleine to observe the occasion by going out to a restaurant.
Madeleine accepted. They decide to go to Montmartre. Dinner, nightclub and a show.
On the way back Sergey made a cunning remark.
" Can I invite you to my bedroom? ", and both were so intoxicated that they went into a laughing rave.
" I thought you'll never ask ", giggled Madeleine.
They went in together in Sergey's bedroom. Their relation reached its perfection.
After the successful completion of Madeleine's recital, she was offered a position in the Conservatory as a piano teacher, for first year students, and was given three candidates. In addition, a new programme was created on musicology, which was the study of music of different historical periods. She had the task of researching the development of musical compositions in Western music and giving lectures once a month on the subject.
This was colossal challenge for her and fulfilling at the same time.
Sergey was given an assistant electrician's job at the sight of a newly erected building. He was satisfied that he had an income, but he was unsettled. He wouldn't disclose his aversion to anybody except Madeleine.
" A place on my own will reduce my uneasiness, Madeleine, because I am beginning to feel actually a little like a parasite, not only having free food but also free lodging, do you understand my point of view, my dear, moreover the privacy of our relation, we shouldn't feel culpable when we want to make love. Please tell me you agree with me ".
" I fully understand your point of view, Sergey, I am living in my parents house, without realising the sensitivity of your position. I am very sorry. Why don't we visit Christine in the next few days, Emile knows about rental availabilities, and I haven't seen Victor for a while too, the little rascal, all right? ".
Saint Denis, two and a half kilometres away from Clichy.
A stronghold of Socialist and Communist sympathiser and supporters.
The headquarters of " Les Pages Française ". Emile's domain on the Boulevard de la Commune.
As well as the site of the " Club Commune ", on the same boulevard, where Emile, Christine and Madeleine frequented before the War, and still do occasionally.
Where the theatre " Les Jeunes Parisiens " is located on the Rue de la Républic, where Christine met Emile.
And where Christine, Emile and Victor live, in an apartment on the Rue Jean Jaurés.
How fortunate was Sergey to rent a small, one room, furnished, self-contained flat, a street away from the Geogiou's.
Both Madeleine and Sergey were very pleased. Thanks to Emile.
Sergey made sure on the day of his departure from the Findji's, to have a big bouquet of flowers to Madam Findji, and a bottle of Rum to Papa Findji. He thanked them for their hospitality and their generous reception. And promised them to visit as often as he can.
As much as a commodious life was being built slowly and quietly for Sergey, subconsciously he was not appeased. He was counting the days, the weeks that were passing by and coming closer to the annulment of his residency. What was stored for him next?
Emile's friendly conduct towards him was of great importance. After all he was known in every important political and social circles in Paris, and his humble and modest approach to him was reassuring.
Now that they lived so close to each other, Emile would regularly insist for Sergey to visit him and his family. And of course Madeleine was considered part of their family too.
They would all join at Emile's and have long discussion about the political situations around the world, especially after the War. Emile was always curious about the years Sergey spent in slave labourers' camp.
" I don't wish on anybody to live the way I lived during my imprisonment, because I was treated many times worse than an animal, particularly in the camp, because the factory was a little more humane, since we were producing for the Germans, but I would say, without any antagonism, that I did prefer it more than killing or being killed, I would hope that mankind will make sure that war will not happen again ".
The uncertainty of Sergey's residency in France was a great dilemma for not only Sergey himself, who was terrified of the thought and actuality, but for Madeleine also.
Even Emile, would bring up the subject and to enliven the existing depression, he would joke.
" Sergey ", he would say, " patriotic and nationalistic fever in the Soviet Union is high at the present. You can always return and take advantage of the democratic conditions. Or my dear, why don't you both get married and solve this problem once and for all? seriously ".
Both ideas were very close to Sergey. He really wanted to marry Madeleine and he also had the desire to return to his homeland.
One evening, when Madeleine was not at the Georgiou's, and him and Emile were left alone, Sergey made a proposition to Emile.
" Emile, I need your help. I know that you have affiliations with persons in the Soviet Embassy, here in Paris. Will it be possible for you to find out; of course without giving names, what will be the consequences if I, or any other Prisoner of War returns home? It is true that the new Constitution is guaranteeing democratisation, and civil legality has begun but I want to make sure, I don't want to ask Madeleine to join me if there is no brighter and safer future in my country. Is my request a possibility you can achieve, Emile?"
" Boris Tretyakov is a good friend of mine, he is a liaison, if I am not mistaken with the Cultural Attaché. He visits me quite often; sure, I can ask him, as a fictitious example. But, I tell you what, Sergey, this issue has crossed my mind before, sincerely, and do you know that Madeleine, if so to speak, complies to move to the Soviet union, that itself is an important publicity that the Soviets look for. Anyway, I think we both are speculating for the moment. I will see what I can get out of Boris, all right?"
On the way to his apartment the next day, Sergey bought a bottle of wine. Madeleine was to be there, ahead of him and prepare the dinner. This would happen often, and then they would go to the Georgiou's, to have after dinner drinks and chat away the night.
That particular night, Sergey recounted his conversation with Emile to Madeleine.
Madeleine was not surprised. She jokingly said.
" Well, you better start teaching me Russian, Sergey, let's start with the forbidden words ".
" Ya lioubliou tibia, panimayou?", said Sergey in Russian.
" Sounds so nice ", she said, " There is a musicality in it, say it again, please ".
" I love you darling, nobody will take you away from me ", he said.
" All that in four words ", she gibed, " I love you too, darling, who is taking me away?"
They both laughed. And kissed each other. There was silence for a moment.
" Do you miss your son, Sergey?" suddenly asked Madeleine, " his name is Vladimir, isn't it, beautiful name, sounds like a conqueror ".
" Yes Madeleine, I miss him, maybe because life has become easier at the present, and I have more time to think. When I left him, he was almost four years old, I told him I will make him proud of me, and promised him to return ".
" You haven't said a word about your wife though, do you miss her?"
" No, Madeleine, that part of me has changed, there is a part of life which maintains itself and another which evolves. Love is part of the evolution. You are part of the evolution of my life. And the realisation of this truth has resulted in losing my hold on the past. You are now and forever mine. My love for you is the enlightenment of our future ".
Coming home very tired from work, Sergey decided to have a nap. Madeleine and him were going to the theatre later that evening with the Georgious.
Deep asleep, suddenly he heard the door knocking. " Who can it be? ", he thought, Madeleine has the key. He jumped from the couch, and opened the door. To his surprise Papa Findji was at the door.
" Well, aren't you going to invite me in?, he asked smiling.
" Oh, please, Papa, come in, come in. What brings you here? I hope it is good news ".
" I just had a few hours free, before I head home, I was in the vicinity checking a building site. How are you Sergey? I hear from your boss, he is really happy with your work. He told me the other day that you had a conversation with him about your remaining six months, and that you are contemplating to return to the Soviet Union. Is Madeleine aware of this? Have you told her?"
" Yes Papa, we had a long talk the other night, nothing is final, I am deliberating my options, it will not be easy to stay or to go back. Social and political liabilities are catching up with me.
I am not in a position to tell you what Madeleine will do, that's for her to explain her mind to you and Maman."
" I am a person who tell it like it is, Sergey, we, French people, have the spirit of freedom rooted in our being. We brace Communism, because we are not materialistic. Many turned to Communism because they were patriots, like Emile. When an ideology tells you, " You can give to your ability and will receive according to your need, it is captivating". And so are Madeleine, and Christine and many of their generation. She is well matured to make her own resolutions. I better go home to my wife of thirty-five years. Next Sunday, you and the Georgious are invited at our place from the morning, including dinner. I'll see you then ".
" Goodbye Papa, thank you for your visit, and your wise comments, I'll be there Sunday ".
Back on the couch, Sergey entered in serious thoughts.
" I don't have to do much of persuasion to Madeleine, and I don't think Papa and Maman are opposed to a move, but the most important issue is the safety of my return, and the reception Madeleine will receive and if she will accept the Soviet way of life, which she has no idea of.
Certainly her musical talents are going to play an important part in our life, but will I be pardoned for my desertion, or my falling into the German's hands and all the sinful acts I have committed, according to the Party hierarchy? Who could advise me? Except Emile and his affiliates within the Soviet leadership. Patience, I have to have patience, and hopefully the horizon will clear up ".
He had not heard a word from his son, after sending him the long letter about his circumstances, past and present. Has his son received it, or has it fallen in the hands of the Authorities? Would the Embassy personnel know about his where about? Is he being followed at every step?
" No more ", he reminded himself, " no more, or else I will go insane. Where are you Madeleine? Please come to my rescue. You're the only one who can appease my tormented mind ".
He heard the key turning in the keyhole.
He leaped over to her and embraced her for several minutes.
" Let's get drunk tonight and make love, darling ", he said. " I need you close to me, never live me alone ".
Madeleine had an astonished look on her face.
" What happened, dear, your acting like you are very terrified from something ".
" Yes, darling, from my own thoughts, please don't grin, this is the outcome of years of degradation. I am sorry. I was left alone for a while. I'll be ready in a few minutes ".