She was born in 1933. We met in the épicerie 10 years ago. She became our dog walker. Having just lost her golden retriever, she fell in love with ours. It was a match made in heaven. She was too old for a new dog and I was too busy with three young children to give Molly the amount of exercise she required. We had a secret code. Dog basket up against the wall = Molly was with Marlyse. If Molly did not return, sometimes for days at a time, I knew she was having a sleep-over.
Marlyse extended her attention beyond the dog basket. Childless and partnered to Milo, her “fiancé” for 30 years, she took a great interest in the children. Many a rainy, dark winter afternoon she would stay after her walk with Molly and chat with me amidst the chaos of homework and dinner time. As a mother of three children I was grateful for the company and she sensed it.
Molly died 18 months ago. Tonight, back in Switzerland for the summer, we invited her over for dinner. On the telephone she couldn’t remember where we lived or who Molly was.
“Bonjour ma belle,” says Sophie taking the tiny bird-like creature into her arms, not flinching at the dramatic change in body composition. I thank the stars for giving me such a sensitive, loving child.
Alexia shows pictures of her horse on her iphone. Marlyse peers at the screen but can barely make out the images so instead remarks on how Alexia has grown.
“You should see her legs.” I say.
“Why?” She replies. ”Does she have three?”
There are wonderful flashes of wit and clarity that you grab hold off, like coming up for air.
Oli introduces his girlfriend and they joke about the army – Marlyse’s first ever boyfriend was a Grenadier – and that conversation goes well.
The past is lucid, the present is more confusing.
At the table we all adjust our eating time to hers until Mr. J. cuts up her meat for her.
She is our friend.