Chapter 1: First Part / Chapter 1

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 1029

This is a work of fiction. The addresses, phone numbers, and companies are used fictitiously and not based on real individuals. However, this is not said about the psychological components. This book contains episodes (including violence ones) which some people might find disturbing.
English translated by Roman Boukreev and corrected by hullaballo22. This book illustrated by Roman Boukreev.
At this time Nicole Gratte was married to Francesco Ricardo. Sometimes his father spoke Italian to the son due to him being an Italian. Francesco, a citizen of France, graduated from a French school and had received education in a new language. Nevertheless, he speaks Italian quite well and reads books written by Italian authors. But he writes Italian very poorly. He cannot write a serious text, express a serious idea. He has a good passive understanding of Italian.
Because Nicole was French, she didn’t understand Italian and never taught him. But she could understand similar words. (For the average Frenchman, Italian is similar to German or French from the English point of view: in almost every paragraph there will be something similar to your language, but common the meaning of the text may not be clear.) Their flat was located in a three-story mansion on Route de Pourville Street, in the coastal town of Dieppe. She moved there from Paris.
His company Eldorado was selling cigarettes, and the brand really sounded like Italian or Spanish for the average Frenchman. Incidentally, the brand name was Spanish: Nicole had heard from Francesco the story of how his father had called the company the word “golden” in Spanish. Then it was fashionable to give companies foreign names in their home country, because incomprehensible names promised big profits due to the resounding name, and therefore status. Then this home-grown Spaniard, I mean the company, became live in France. Yes, Nicole was married to a millionaire.
Returning from a clothing store, Nicole and Francesco started talking about names.
“What was your childhood name, Nicole?”
“Nicko. We could use diminutives in France. Someone would call you Fran.”
“Do you know the nationality of Santa Claus?” Francesco Ricardo asked Nicole.
“Who is he?”
“An Italian, Nicko. Santa is an Italian name.”
“It’s not surprising, Francesco. Americans actually take a lot of things for themselves. Especially Italian. Santa Claus, pizza, a cheese. C’mon, many Americans would think that Pinocchio and Cipollino are characters of Walt Disney.”
Although the overwhelming majority of France adequately think about any nationality, the time of Jacques Chirac often paid attention to “copied ideas”. Someone else’s food, cartoon characters, fairy tales. Yes, it’s true that a lot of things are attributed to Americans: not even American by origin.
“In Italy, by contrast, names can lengthen. I could call you Nikoletta if we were there. It’s our diminutive.”
“It seems, I’ve already heard this name. Nikoletta was a friend of my grandmother, Bernarda, but I know for sure that she was not Italian. By the way, can I call you Francesceto?”
“No, usually diminutives are extended. The Italians won’t say that.”
“It seems that diminutives and their acceptability in culture are highly dependent on the country,” Nicko continued the conversation. The French are always using diminutives. The British—John might be offended if you call him Joe. Unless he says to you ‘You can call me Joe.’ The US—if the Americans are British, then they copy the UK, but the Europeans copy their cultures and diminutives may be acceptable. It comes to the point of absurdity: an American from a French family, called John, will not be offended by Joe, and some Joe, but a British, may be offended. Canada—diminutives are quite common in the conversation, because that country is full of the French, and the French slightly change the rules of ‘ordinary Britains.’
“Nicko, I’m really flattered that you’d learned so many cultures,” Francesco said. “But previously, you said that you’re interested in Germany.”
“Yes, both my parents studied German. In addition, my stepfather Alfred used a German name. He is dead now.”
“Do they use diminutives?”
“The Germans don’t. Besides, German names are so short. You can’t really shorten them.”
“Why? Phillip is a German name. He could be Phill.”
“But he couldn’t be, because it depends not only on syllable’s system but the tradition itself. We can turn Alfred to Alph. Is this that freakish character from an American TV series that looks like some kind of dog? Is it a German man?” Nicko laughed, and then Francesco joined in with her.
“By the way, the dog is a symbol of stupidity in France,” she added after some time.
“Yes? But I thought every second person a lover of Poodles and Bulldogs in France.”
“It means that when you call a person a dog.”
“Understood. When it’s about a person, then he or she is a fool?” Francesco asked.
“Yes, Fran. Such a person is a fool,” Nicko smiled playfully.
She never argued about Italian, and she couldn’t, but she noticed something: her husband may not know all the words of Italian. Once he decided to show her books by Italian authors, reading them out loud: first in Italian, then translated into French. Nicko looked at the page, and some of his sentences translated into French turned out to be shorter than a couple of rare adjectives were used in books. On the other hand, Francesco knew almost all the verbs, and if he didn’t know something, he could reliably retell.
She compared this to her seventh-grade German period, which she studied as a foreign language: she also knew German. She had some German books, and there was a lot to understand, but she skipped something that she didn’t know. It seems that Francesco understood Italian quite well, at the level of a competent average schoolchild, but could hardly be a translator of literature that he wanted to appear as in her eyes.
Despite this fact, it seems that Francesco thinks that is a matter of honour make fiancé learn his father’s original culture. Three months after their marriage, he put Italian books in a box and he was no longer interested in them. At the end of the honeymoon, Nicole had never seen Francesco reading an Italian book.
Being an Italian on his father’s side, he didn’t have a satellite dish, he didn’t watch Italian channels, he didn’t even fly to Italy itself; not for books, not for anything. But almost always he could be seen answering crossword puzzles from French newspapers or reading the “Jokes” column in the language of his wife. Moreover, he loved to laugh. The Italian culture of his father had for himself, just not for the sake of honour—very minimal value.
Nicko tried to use his interest in humour with the condition that he told her something Italian. He called two jokes. According to the first one, this, by the way, is a real case when the Americans landed on the moon, Italian journalists wrote: “On this significant day, Armstrong first mooned on the planet.” The Italian language itself is like this: there are verbs “to land”, “to splashdown”, “to mountain”, “to moon”. The Italians invented a verb for each surface.
Francesco was a good translator of Italian serious prose for Nicole; it was some kind of crime drama, reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo—Nicole’s favourite book when she was about fifteen years old. But Ricardo was a mediocre jokes translator, with the exception of the Moon and Armstrong. When she asked for a second joke, he said:
“I heard one thing. Nicko, what will you do in case of an emergency?” It was as if everything is logical. Surely, this is something about fire extinguishers, fires. “These metal claws can bite, but they won’t do you much harm. Therefore, try to turn into a male bee, and your problem will be solved immediately.”
Nicko completely misunderstood this set of words. She barely managed to force herself to laugh, but he didn’t suspect anything. Obviously, it was a question of a poor translation from Italian, or in general about some kind of irreproducibility, when everything is based on the form or polysemy of a word that does not have the same properties in another language.
Nicole really wanted to discuss some common, serious topic because she was well-educated and competent. She noticed that they have almost no common interests, as well as topics for discussion. They don’t discuss anything, they don’t argue about anything, they almost don’t attend joint walks. It seems that crossword puzzles and jokes are almost more interesting for Francesco than the business itself, and even the Italian language of his father.
And then, on another day, would come under control, as if she is in a leash collar, as if Gratte was his little dog, so she felt like a fool. Phone calls only with the notification of the guard about who she called, and food only with his prior permission, because the kitchen with a refrigerator is locked. Nicole usually went down to the wine cellar, there were several barrels of wine (Francesco was not a chronic alcoholic, but he drank from time to time), and she tried to dial someone’s number while the guard didn’t see her. The mansion is not so cool to still have video surveillance. Why does it need in the wine cellar? Do thieves break into homes from the cellar to the veranda?
A private guard was securing the home of Francesco. He earned so much money that he didn’t know where to spend them, it seems. Unfortunately, she had no one to support her intellectual discussions. The husband was not interested in these topics at all, the guard didn’t start any discussions. Nicole could call her mother, who in general was a big lover of all kinds of political televised debates, especially about the fate of France in the world. For this, she went down to the wine cellar, which her husband kept open. It wasn’t even particularly guarded.
Of course, before Nicole married, she knew other guys besides Francesco, but he had some important qualities for her that played at the beginning. As already mentioned, he talked a lot about Italian culture, and she generally loved cultural studies. Unfortunately, for him, it’s more a matter of honour, rather than something really playing to his thinking.
After all, you can live in a rich home with a husband-businessman, and at the same time, your life is locked up all because he is jealous. You can live in poverty when your younger sister gets everything, you’re struggling from some medical conditions but can still have something you love. The same German language, German books inherited from the mother. Although Nicole was not interested in psychology and didn’t go into the motives of her behaviour, perhaps, in marriage, in communication with the opposite sex she was looking for a replacement for her father who was absent in her childhood. Her stepfather, who made her younger sister but could not become her father.
There were days when they walked along the coast, found themselves on a stone-grassy slope. Dieppe is not rich in beaches and white sand at all: there are no such places in the town, but there are much more slopes there. Nicole was then in jeans: she really wanted to rip them, but he wanted to look at it. But Nicole wanted more from her husband, something more interesting than just sexual relationships.
After telling Francesco that she had a lot of unloved clothes in her childhood that she wanted to rip, but being a “good girl” (her mother was not a policeman in the sense of rank, but sometimes seemed strict in raising), she never did it. She decided to make an exception today. Especially because ripped jeans are generally in fashion. It’s believed that France is associated only with a model of high fashion, but in fact, this is not always true. Yes, jeans were invented in France: for the first time, they were industrially made in Denim, a French province.
The fashion on the torn jeans was also introduced by the French. Her mother, Margeaux Gratte, several times told about the story she read in the newspaper, when the grandmother of a famous French singer among young people was categorically against his performance in torn jeans, even in spite of fashion. After all, she judged only by high fashion: a rich grandson can hardly have the right to imitate poor people. Yes, her mother would not like it.

Submitted: May 13, 2019

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