I jump into worlds that I know little or nothing about and write about them like I've lived in them all my life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Write...Edit...Publish entry for NEW BEGINNINGS...Martyrs...a Paris love story in more ways than one.

Hello all!

Here is my flash fiction piece for the Write...Edit...Publish challenge for January. I'm writing this on my travels. My strongest influence is Paris and its street life. One of my other obsessions is 24-hour news, so I think you might guess where part of the story comes from if like me, you're a news junkie. On a side note, all names in the story come from the Paris Metro Map which is always in my pocket when I'm in Paris.

If you'd like to post either a fiction, non-fiction, photo/graphs, artwork...for the prompt, or for future prompts, you are most welcome. After reading my story, you might like to click on some of the names in my sidebar list to see how others have interpreted NEW BEGINNINGS.


Martyrs



Blanche St-Ouen was once a premiere dancer at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Now she had lost her job. She was nothing, nothing.

She stumbled down Rue Des Martyrs, ignoring the tears that washed her face. The name of the street suited her well. 

Hearing a familiar croaking voice, she absentmindedly dropped a euro into her favourite homeless person's basket and patted the blond chihuahua in the lady's lap.

Blanche looked up at the blue and white street sign. She'd always  been a martyr to her beauty, now her beauty was fading and her services at the Moulin Rouge were no longer required. All she had to fall back on was her nursing training which she'd never used, having been lured by the bright lights of the stage. 

Marcel's words exploded in her head as she lurched on down the street, away from the artists at the Place Teatre at Montmarte who always wanted to paint her likeness; all she wanted to do was to shut out images of the dance hall that had been her life for the past ten years, but she couldn't shut out Marcel, never could.

"Moulin Rouge is not your whole life, Blanche, it's just an experience along the way. Your life, your calling, the best, is yet to be revealed."

"My life is here; it's all I ever desire, Marcel, no matter what you say."

"Don't you desire me, dancing girl?" He'd held out his arms and she'd willingly embraced him. He had his way of diffusing a situation, and his way was exciting.


*** 


It was a warm Spring night. She sat at her tiny table in the Chat Noir, not far from Moulin Rouge, sipping an aperetif, watching the evening crowd on the street. While she watched, darkness fell and the lights came on, electrifing the Pigalle district in exciting reds and blacks. How pretty it looked, all dressed up for Christmas. But her Christmas would be bleak. 

She'd lost everything that was important to her. What would Marcel say to her now? He'd always been negative about her choices. He couldn't understand her fixation with her dancing career. He'd had a fantastic career himself at the Moulin Rouge, caring for and training the animals used in the show. The snakes were always his favourite. She liked to think it was because she swam in the tanks with them, but she knew it wasn't that; Marcel just loved all living creatures. 

"Snakes remind me of the countries I want to travel to," he'd said. "I want to work, to help those less fortunate than I am, as corny as that sounds. As soon as I have my medical qualification, I'll be gone."

"Oh, Marcel, that is so dangerous. I don't want you in one of those field hospitals in some Godforsaken land. Can't you be happy in Paris? With me? I'm never leaving Paris. It is everything I want."

Turning her back on Marcel, she'd tossed a euro into the homeless woman's basket, reaching down to pat the head of the tiny dog which looked up at her, hopeful-eyed.

"If only you could see yourself, Blanche. Your heart melts for Paris' homeless who are relatively pampered  when compared to those in war zones in Africa and elsewhere...and a spoilt dog that will get sick of getting nothing but pats from you, but your heartache doesn't extend to the real suffering in the world."

"What else can I do to help the refugees in the Sudan, Somalia, the Congo, Syria for Christssake? The whole world has gone mad! You know I donate to World Vision and Medicin sans Frontiers. On a dancer's wage, that's a sacrifice."

"You could come with me to the Sudan to actually work with Medicin sans Frontiers. You're a trained nurse. Why not? You could do so much."

"My life is here in Paris. It always will be. That fierce sun would dry up my skin, suck the life out of me. I'd lose my looks."

"Blanche," he'd said sadly, "beauty isn't just what you see, but what you are inside. Helping others is a thing of beauty."


***


She looked up from her aperitif just in time to see Varenne and Iena walking arm in arm, giggling, heading in the direction of Moulin Rouge. Why did she torture herself sitting here, watching her friends make their way up the street? How she would miss the excitement of the dance. How she would miss the rehearsals, the costumes, the make up, the make believe. But most of all, she would miss Marcel.

She and Marcel had been together for three years, but they'd never shared an apartment. He needed his own space for studying when he wasn't at the theatre, he'd said. As soon as he'd qualified as a doctor, he was gone. 

The voices on the bar television soaked into her consciousness. She swivelled around in her chair and watched refugees trudging along the dusty road in the Sudan, trying to escape the latest atrocities. Their meagre belongings bounced on their bent backs. Tiny children clung to their mothers' bright skirts. Some were crying, some were laughing as they danced down the road.

As she watched, a spokesman for Medicin sans Frontiers came on the television, giving an update on the millions displaced by the latest outbreak, asking for donations for the cause. She leaned closer as the image panned to a close up of Marcel's face. 

"We won't claim that working for Medicin sans Frontiers is without risk," the spokesman said, "and the recent death of Marcel Maubourg proves this. We mourn the death of our gifted young surgeon who is a martyr to our cause, who was kidnapped and killed by insurgents while carrying out operations in our local field hospital. But Marcel would not have wanted his death to dissuade anyone with the desire and skills to help our mission here. These people are desperate. They have nothing, nothing. I beg you, if you have any medical training, consider joining us. We need you."

Blanche wiped her tears away. Her new life, her new beginning, was opening up before her.

She pushed aside her aperitif, placed her tip in the little metal tray, and walked out of the restaurant. It no longer felt like her special place.

Outside on the street, she dropped a euro into the homeless lady's basket and patted the dog which startled her by jumping up and snapping at her face.

Blanche withdrew her hand and laughed...and laughed...and laughed.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

WORD COUNT: 1087 (sorry I'm over, but I'm rushing to schedule this in case Google wrecks my connection as has been happening to some.)

FEEDBACK WELCOME AS THE FINAL VERSION IS TO BE PUBLISHED IN AN ANTHOLOGY 

In these times of global unrest, Médecins Sans Frontières is often the first on the ground to help. It has become one of my chosen charities and I support it in any way I can. I hope you have learnt something from my story... 




  • Médecins Sans Frontières
    Non-profit


  • Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, is a French secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic diseases. Wikipedia




  • Founded1971


  • AwardsNobel Peace PrizeIndira Gandhi Prize




  • 41 comments:

    1. That was beautiful, Denise. I like the way Marcel compared the homeless in Paris to those in Sudan so that Blanche could see the difference.

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      1. Thanks Bonnee. Hope all goes well with you!

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    2. You did an excellent job on the run, Denise. One of the major problems with aid workers in some countries, is that these people no longer seem to have any immunity against local crime. It takes a certain kind of courage and dedication to walk into that.

      Just reading this brought back memories of Montmartre and Place Tertre. . .We had coffee at the Starbucks across from the Moulin Rouge (at least in 2010). It was halfway up our walk to Tertre Square. My entry will be posted tomorrow (PST time, that is)

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      1. Feedback: the only place where I halted in my reading was the news broadcast of Marcel's death.That would be shocking if it happened to me, she seems to take it as a matter of course.

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      2. Hi D.G. Thanks for the feedback and showing me I didn't make it clear that she already knew of Marcel's death beforehand. I left a clue earlier in the story, but as often with flash fiction, you have to go back to find the clues. On re-reading I see the clue wasn't strong enough - What would Marcel say to her now?

        I'm glad it took you back to the area of Paris I used as setting.

        Denise

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    3. It's a lovely story Denise, I was surprised to learn of his death too. I assumed the first reference was just the fact that he was gone, in the sense he was in the Sudan. Next to last paragraph - basked instead of basket.
      Great story about a new and unexpected beginning with so much promise!

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      1. Thanks for coming by with your dislocated jaw, Yolanda. I've just left you a message at WEP. Thanks for the feedback. I will take another look at it after the prompts finish. I will fix up 'basket' though. Eek. A typo!

        Denise

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    4. An uplifting story, Denise, and I guess I enjoyed it all the more because I live in Africa, your story very close to home. Like the other posters, I stumbled when the death was announced, but I realised she knew beforehand on re-reading.

      Wish you the very best of luck for all your projects - writing. travelling and otherwise.

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      1. Thanks Nila. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the good writing wishes.

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    5. January 22nd, 2013

      Dear Denise,

      Interesting background to your story about Blanche at a turning point in her life. Wonderful that it will be included in an anthology.

      Best wishes,
      Anna
      Anna's WEP for January 2014

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      1. Thank you Anna. Yes, Blanche is definitely at a turning point.

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    6. Lovely and sad. She lost Marcel's last months by not joining him. Yes, she would have died but died with the one she loved. Great job. :-)

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      1. Yes, she was a foolish girl, but maybe it's not too late to make a difference.

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    7. Beautiful work Denise! And it was very thought-provoking as well. Thank you so much for sharing.

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      1. Thanks OE. I'm glad you found it thought provoking.

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    8. I really liked this! And in my Nano book, I too, wrote about Doctors without Borders and the dangers. Wow. I liked the progression of her growth, and the visuals you induced. Thanks for sharing a bit of Paris with us!

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      1. Lisa, I'd love to read your NaNo book. I'm glad you enjoyed my story.

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    9. Yes, very thought-provoking. Sad that he died though.

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    10. A wonderful story of learning ones true dreams for life. I enjoyed the setting of Paris, with the descriptions of the places. It was heartbreaking for Marcel, but at least he managed to achieve what he wanted, and died fighting for a cause he was passionate about.

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      1. Thanks Heather. i'm glad you enjoyed the story and setting.

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    11. Yes I agree this is indeed beautiful

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    12. A lovely evocative and poignant story, Denise.

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    13. Excellent Denise!!! I was wanting more! A very intriguing subject matter and I like the fact that the aging, dancing, beauty realizes that there is so much more to life than the bright lights and stage.

      "Helping others is beautiful." You go Marcel. But how sad to see him killed.

      Maybe he'll resurrect as a zombie and eat the ones responsible for his death.. LOL. They he and Blanche may have some type of life together. LOL.

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      1. Hey hey Michael, luckily I don't write zombie, but I agree it's sad that Marcel was killed, but unfortunately that's reality these days.
        Glad you liked it!

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    14. Welcome home, Lovely Lady! Your trip seems to have been a glorious, memory-filled trip that nourishes the soul. Loved your story! It touches upon so much (instant gratification, blurred goals, immediate success, etc.) that affect the global community. But, yes, Marcel had to die, unfortunately, because reality laces life. * * * For a while, your weather topped the news. Hope all cools off and returns to normal soonest. * * * Thanks for purchasing my book. You shouldn't have, but I'm glad you did. :))))))))

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    15. Denise,
      I love, love, LOVE this! It painted such a gorgeous picture of not just Paris, but of Blanche and her heart, her hurt, and Marcel's passion for the world. Congrats on this being published in an anthology. It deserves it. Thank you for sharing this!
      I hope you enjoyed your holiday! It sounds as if it really made an impression on you and your writing. Well done!

      Jen

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    16. Well done, Denise! I really enjoyed this...I think I know that Chihuahua. ;-) MSF is a favorite charity of mine as well.

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      1. Ha Li. That chihuahua is sitting on my lap! I'm glad you support MSF too.

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    17. Hi Denise I really find you writing easy to read for a lazy reader like me. Your character and setting was very believable and took me in. thanks you

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      1. Thanks kerrie ! I'm glad i took you in!

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    18. What great atmosphere, Denise. I felt like I was there on the streets, in the cafe. This was more real than my own touristy experience in Paris :)

      ......dhole

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    19. You definitely always let us feel that we are right there in Paris with your characters! :)

      So sad that Marcel died! but it sounds like she will have great meaning in her new life!

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    20. Such a beautiful piece...
      Marcel's death was an unexpected turn in the story... but necessary in the plot development...
      I liked the touch at the end when the dog snaps at her - definitely a sign that things have changed. Her laughter adds that final touch, wraps it up nicely.
      I really love your writing Denise. And congratulations on the piece being included in an anthology.

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      1. Thank you Michelle. The dog was important to the story.

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    21. This is such a wonderful piece. I was shocked by Marcel's death but I love shocks like that in a story. You really pulled me in so quickly with these characters. Bravo!

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    22. Sad and powerful, and you put us there with your writing.

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    23. Aw, Denise! A wonderful story!
      (yet again it makes me want to travel!!!)

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    24. As other commentators have mentioned I hadn't realised she already knew of Marcel's death. The announcement brought tears to my eyes.

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    I love reading what you have to say. Please leave a comment for me!