Balloon Man

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Chapter 9

Foret came home from the shop one day and found his wife on the floor dead. She’d suffered a massive stroke. The neighbors found him two days later next to her dead body, sobbing.

When Giselle learned of Ada’s death, she thought Foret would take her into his house to live and admit Alouette was his child. Instead, he became despondent, losing all interest in Giselle and Alouette.

Foret could not stand to be around them. He closed up the shop for a week and sought out his old friend, Herme. His plan was to move Giselle out of the shop and out of his life.

Foret introduced Giselle to Herme, telling Giselle Herme would help her now. She would clean and cook in return for shelter.

Thus began the downward spiral of Giselle’s life. It became a dark place she soon named the abyss. Giselle became depressed and lethargic when she learned another stranger would soon have control over her life.

All Herme did was yell and scream. “Girl, you fix me something to eat! Your looks don’t do any good here. All I need from a woman is what she can bring to the table. If you want to eat, you better work for it!”

He threatened to harm Alouette if Giselle didn’t do as he said. Giselle was not afraid for herself, but when it came to her daughter, Giselle would do anything to make sure she had food and clothing.

Occasionally, Herme went to town and bought books Giselle asked for so she could teach Alouette at home. Soon, she’d taught Alouette French and English. French became the secret language they shared. They would talk about Herme and laugh, making remarks about him he could not understand. This was their little ray of sunshine in a dreary place. They would giggle and laugh and continue to make fun of Herme in French, calling him an ugly, old man. “Il est un vieil homme laid ha, ha!”

“Knock it off!” Herme would yell. They would stop when he screamed. Herme was not young or strong, but he was able to elicit fear in Giselle. It was only because Giselle was not feeling well enough to muster up the courage to leave. Otherwise, she would have tried to find another place to live.

One day, Herme brought a drunken friend into the house and told Giselle to lay with him for money. She refused and ran toward the door with Alouette, but Herme grabbed the child before Giselle escaped.

“If you don’t do this, he is going to get to have her,” Herme yelled, pulling Alouette over to the man by her arm.

Alouette screamed, “Momma! Tell the man to get away from me!” She pushed at him and he laughed a low grotesque laugh while trying to lick her cheek. The sour smell of whisky on his breath made Alouette want to throw up.

“Please, don’t hurt my daughter,” Giselle pleaded. “She is only four and doesn’t even know what you are doing! I’ll do whatever you ask.”

“That’s better,” said Herme. He let Alouette go and pushed her out the door. “You go out and play now, we’ll see you later kid.”

With the child locked outside, Herme watched as the man who’d paid him good money took his prize on the bed.

Herme realized he’d stumbled upon a lucrative business venture. Giselle was now a sex slave. Herme would bring men home from the bar or anywhere he could find someone willing to pay to sleep with the auburn-haired girl. Herme kept Alouette separated from Giselle most of the time so he could control Giselle.

Then one day, Giselle became pregnant.

“You truly are a stupid woman getting knocked up again!” Herme screamed.

Giselle cried out of frustration and anger. She had so many pent up hostile feelings for Herme and disgust at herself for not leaving when the opportunity had been available. If she’d left the area when Foret’s wife threw her out, she wouldn’t be trapped with Herme. She would be living somewhere, anywhere, maybe even in the woods, but at least they wouldn’t be prisoners.

As Giselle’s pregnancy progressed, she became bed ridden again, which infuriated Herme. When drunk, he’d show up in the doorway to her room and scream filthy language, threatening to beat the baby out of her so she could get back to work.

It was the middle of the night when Giselle went into labor and she screamed all night in pain.

Four-year-old Alouette, terrified by the wails of her mother, pleaded with Herme to do something. “Please help my momma! Please?”

Herme was filthy drunk, but he went to town and got Foret up out of bed.

“Foret, you have to come shut this bitch up and take the baby out! Giselle needs to work and can’t with another screaming brat on her hands. Get rid of it!”

“What do you mean? Are the rumors true? You’re running your own whore house?” asked Foret.

“Yep, and you gave her up, so she is mine. All the money I collect for her services goes into my pocket.”

Foret couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He didn’t like the idea of Giselle and the child living off of him, but he did not think Herme would do such a thing. The thought made him feel a strange knot in his stomach.

Herme noticed Foret’s disgust. “Oh good grief, don’t tell me you feel bad? I should have kept my mouth shut. Here, I’ll give you a slice of the pie to keep your wits, and not tell the law or anyone else about the good thing I’ve got going on.”

Herme thrust a large wad of money into Foret’s hand. Foret looked at the cash, touched and smelled it. The scent of the cash and the feel of it in his palm swayed his opinion about the situation.

“Herme, I’ll help you with tonight’s problem. I’ll take the baby off your hands. If it’s a boy, lots of folks around here are looking to adopt boys. We can do this; we can open our own undercover adoption business!”

“Well, well, Foret, you are a genuine genius” Herme said while grinning from ear to ear. “Deal! Now, let’s go see if the little whore bears our first sale!”

When they arrived back at Hermes, Alouette sat crying in the corner of the room, her mother’s unconscious body on the bed, and a baby boy with the cord still attached lying on her belly.

Foret glanced at Alouette with a fleeting sign of recognition then quickly looked away.

“Get on outta here!” Herme screamed at Alouette “Get out!”

Alouette ran outside, thinking about how she had seen her momma bring the baby into the world and now they made her leave. It wasn’t fair. She lay down under a tree and cried herself to sleep.

When she awoke the next morning, she ran inside to see her mother and the baby. Her mother was resting and the baby was gone.

“Where is he momma?” she shook Giselle softly. “Where is the baby?”

“They said he did not live and they took him away,” Giselle sobbed.

Mother and daughter wept together and fell asleep. When Alouette and Giselle awoke, Herme made Alouette do all the cleaning up, and cooking. When Giselle got her strength back a few days later, Herme let the men return for her to entertain.

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