Since September, every 7:23 a.m. has been the same. First, the dull sound of an engine, then the headlights piercing the dark. The bus slows, then stops. The doors open in front of... [+]
He searched his memory, but came up blank. He’d had nothing more than a couple of sodas with Lexie—and a damned good time they’d had too, until her mom showed up! His ears were still ringing from the scolding she’d given him.
Huh! Maybe that’s why his head hurt so badly.
Mystery solved, Michel rolled out of bed and headed down to the kitchen to get some coffee. His roommates were already there.
“Je!” Michel said, greeting Alex and François.
“Bonjour,” Alex replied, giving him a funny look.
François just grunted into his coffee.
“Est-ce-que tu as have a bueno noche?” Michel asked. What the hell? He tried again. “Did you een geode gehad?”
“Dude, c’est pas drôle!” François said, sitting back and glaring at him.
“Je ne suis pas hacienda absichtlich!” I’m not doing it on purpose, Michel screamed in his head. But when it came out of his mouth it was all jumbled up in so many different languages. How was this happening? He didn’t even speak that many languages! French, English, maybe a word or two of Flemish—that was it!
“Michel, qu’est ce qui ne va pas chez toi? What is wrong with you?” Alex asked. His expression seemed to be torn between actual concern and annoyance.
“’ana la jani!” I don’t know, he cried in his head, collapsing into a chair. He dropped his still pounding head into his hands.
“Uh, maybe we should get you to the hospital or something?” Alex asked, clearly unsure as to what to do.
Michel could only nod pathetically.
Alex and Francois gave each other a nervous look, but got up and helped Michel to his feet.
They were approaching the hospital when there was a burst of loud, hysterical laughter. “You can’t make it go away with medicine,” a woman called out. “Aucun docteur ne peut le guérir,” she said, bursting into laughter once again.
Michel spun around. “Sie!”
“Oui! Yes, I did this to you. This is for sweet-talking my daughter. Maintenant tu ne feras plus jamais de charme à personne. No unsuspecting girl will ever fall under your spell; you are now under mine.” She glared at him with glee.
“But, no! Eu não era charmant haar.”
“Stop your filthy lies,” she spat. “I watched you. I watched her. She was so well fooled by you and your sweet words. But I wasn’t. No pas une minute.”
Michel could only sputter out his argument, but she wouldn’t listen. Finally, he got down on his knees. No, he was not too proud. He didn’t care if he looked like a fool to the world. He had to be able to speak one language at a time. He needed to be understood.
It was there that Lexie found him.
She stepped up behind her mother. “Maman, où êtes-vous allé? Oh!” she exclaimed having finally caught sight of Michel on the ground, begging. “Michel, what are you doing? Maman?” She looked to her mother for an answer.
“He has gotten what he deserves,” the woman answered.
“Ela tem cursed me! I cannot één taal spreken.”
“Comment?” she shook her head. “I can’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
“Si! Ze vervloekt me!” Michel tried again.
Lexie just shook her head in confusion.
Her mother laughed, clearly enjoying this.
Lexie turned on her. “You did this!”
“Mais, oui!” her mother said with obvious pride. “Never again will this horrid boy charm you.”
“What? But I like him! He is charming. Nous avons parlé et nous bien amusés ensemble.”
“Had fun? That is what you think? You’re besotted,” her mother answered, brushing her off.
Lexie grabbed her mother’s arm. “Lève la malédiction! Immediately!” she added. “He’s sweet and funny and intelligent. Now remove the curse.”
“But... but...” her mother protested weakly.
“Now!” Lexie insisted, even went so far as to stamp her foot.
Her mother looked back down at Michel, still on his knees. She started to turn back toward her daughter, but Lexi just repeated, “Immédiatement!”
Madame frowned, but muttered some words under her breath. Aloud she said sadly, “Voilà! It is done.”
“I can speak now?” Michel said slowly, tested each word as he said it. With a sigh of relief, he collapsed down onto his heels. He perked up immediately, though. “Thank you, Lexie!”
She just smiled and reached out a hand to help him to his feet.
“As thanks, may I take you to dinner tonight?” he asked her, but quickly turned to her mother, “Avec votre permission.”
Madame just humphed and walked away.
“I’ll take that to mean yes,” Lexie said, smiling up at him.
“Bon. On se voit à 19h.” He gave her a quick kiss on either cheek and then turned back to his stunned housemates.
“You have some courage facing that woman!” Francois said.
“And taking her daughter out again!” Alex added.
“Hey, some girls are worth it!” Michel said, giving Lexie a warm smile.
The following day, Michel was relaxing with a cup of coffee when a woman’s voice startled him.
He looked up to find his sister, Olivia. He stood and gave her a big hug.
“Olivia! Qu’est-ce que tu fais ici? I thought you were still at school.”
“Non. Je suis revenue pour le weekend. I needed a break and a little of Maman’s home cooking,” she said laughing. She sat down with him. “It’s so good to see you again! Ça fait trop longtemps.”
“Yes, it has been too long. You should come home more often.” He intertwined his fingers with hers.
Michel turned and was thrilled to see Lexie walking up to them. She was looking curiously at Olivia, so he grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her up. “Lexie,” he said. “Meet my big sister, Olivia.”
“Oh, you’re his sister!” Lexie said, a smile brightening her face. “Enchantée.”
He turned back to Lexie. “Puis-je t’offrir te un café?”
“You offer her a coffee, but not me?” Olivia exclaimed.
“I’ll get one for you too, if you want,” he said.
Lexie laughed. “I’ll get them.”
After she disappeared into the shop, Michel and Olivia sat back down, but immediately she grabbed his hand again. “How could you not tell me about her?” she accused.
“You! You! I knew it was too good to last, you scoundrel!” The shrill woman’s voice pierced the air.
He turned to see Lexie’s mother bearing down on them. “Madame!”
“Tu ne m’appelles pas ‘madame’! You lying cheat! No, you will tell nothing more to anyone ever again. No more lies. Plus de mensonges!”
“But...”Michel began, but the old woman’s mumbling stopped him. “Non, madame! Non!” he cried, suddenly terrified. “Que ben je está fazendo? Oh, non!” Michel dropped his head on to the table as he realized that she had cursed him once again.
“And this time there is no going back,” the woman said triumphantly.
“Que?” he cried.
“Maman! What are you doing here?” Lexie said, coming out of the shop with two cups of coffee.
“Lexie!” her mother said, clearly startled to see her daughter there. “Why are you not in school?”
“Mon professeur est malade,”she answered.
“Oh.” Her mother seemed to deflate. “Mais qui est-ce?”
“’Akhtaa,” Michel said sadly.
Olivia looked at him oddly. “I’m his sister.”
“Oh.” The lady’s shoulders slumped even further.
Michel stood up. “Vzit door le via,” he demanded.
“I can’t,” the woman said sadly. “It is permanent.”
“Qua?” he nearly shouted.
“Tu lui tenais la main!” she replied, defending herself.
“Elle mon sister!” he said.
“Why shouldn’t he hold my hand?” Olivia asked. “I don’t understand. What did she do to you?”
“She made it so he can’t speak one language at a time,” Lexie explained. She turned back to her mother. “Now remove it.”
But Madame just shook her head, a pained expression on her face. “I can’t. I told you. Personne ne peut lever le sort.”
“No one?” He refused to believe that no one would ever be able to remove this curse.
“But how could you?” Lexie cried.
Her mother just opened her mouth and then closed it again. She could say nothing.
Lexie turned to Michel. Taking his hand in hers, she smiled reassuringly. “It’s okay. I like languages. I’ll learn them.”
“All?” he asked, stunned.
She nodded. “As many as I can.”
Heedless of their audience, Michel kissed her. “Ik hou táime.”
“I love you, too,” she giggled.