“How’s your leg feeling?”
Evelyn and Gene had been staying in the Cartier home for almost a week. Louis had said that the swelling in Gene’s leg had started to go down, meaning that it was truly starting to heal; he’d even put it in a plaster cast and given him some crutches so he could hobble around. Now that he was okay to move around, Gilbert was driving them over to their new home, a little more towards the heart of Paris than Louis’ home.
“It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did,” Gene said, adjusting his position in the back of Louis’ car. The cast, though it only went to his knee, was bulky, so Gene ended up propping his legs up onto the other seats in the back, while his crutches sat where his legs should have been. “God knows I won’t be able to do anything very exciting, though.”
“And Francis doesn’t expect you to,” Gilbert said. “I think he’s planning on just having you two acclimate to the city for the next few days, anyway. After that, you’ll probably just end up do information runs for the next little while.”
“Information runs?” Gilbert nodded.
“Getting orders and stuff to the resistance and back,” he said. “He usually has people start out doing that before he has them do anything too major.” Evelyn looked out the window of the car and watched as the scenery went past. There were a lot of people mingling on the sidewalks of Paris that day, despite the cold, while German soldiers walked among them. Most of the civilians looked down at the sidewalk when they saw them coming towards them, almost as if they were trying to pretend like they weren’t there. If only they weren’t.
After driving for around fifteen minutes, Gilbert pulled the car over on a quiet street by Boulevard Saint-Germain, right in front of what looked to be an apartment building.
“Welcome home,” he said as they got out of the car. Evelyn got out, as well, helping Gene out of the back with the crutches. “I have to say, you guys were lucky to get something this close to the action.” He popped the trunk and began to unload their luggage onto the curb, including Evelyn’s radio.
Evelyn found herself looking up and down the street, wondering what Gilbert was talking about. “It doesn’t look like we’re close to anything.”
“I know it doesn’t,” he said. “The street on the other side of this building’s pretty busy, though; it’s one of the busiest in the city, I think.” Evelyn picked up the radio, Gilbert picked up the luggage, and the three of them headed into the building.
From the second Evelyn got into the elevator, she began to get nervous about what their apartment looked like. Everything was painted white, with most of the paint chipping off. The yellow lights made the entire place look dirty, while the sticky floor tiles beneath their feet confirmed it. There was a flight of stairs that wound upward, while a lift that looked older she was sat on their floor, waiting to be used. It looked horribly unstable, like all the screws and bolts that held it together would fall out the second it started going up.
Despite how the lift looked, the three of them piled into it and Gilbert pushed the three button.
“Don’t worry; the room doesn’t look like this,” he said as the lift slowly moved up, the entire car shaking slightly. It’s actually a nice place; I think you’ll like it.” Despite his reassurances, Evelyn wasn’t convinced.
She found herself wondering if the living situation with Louis and Denise, even with all their children, wasn’t the better one as they got off the lift. She hoped it wouldn’t be, or else life in occupied Europe was going to be more uncomfortable than she originally thought.
Once they got to the end of the hallway, Gilbert stopped in front one of the doors and pulled some keys out of his pocket.
“Home sweet home,” he said as he put the keys in the lock and began to try and jiggle it open. “On a side note, this lock isn’t quite functioning properly. I mean, it locks just fine, but it doesn’t really like opening.” The key finally moved to the side, unlocking the door. “Jiggling the key helps, though.” He pulled the key out and opened the door.
After the whole business with the hallways and the lock not working properly, Evelyn had been terrified of what their apartment would look like. She was happy to be pleasantly surprised. The apartment, though it was certainly well loved, was in good condition. The floorboards, doors and the cabinets were all painted green, while the wall was covered with a simple, floral wallpaper. The kitchen area had a black-and-white checkerboard pattern formed with the tiles, while the rest of the apartment was covered in scratched, dark wood floorboards, with once colorful floor rugs covering them in the living room. The couches and the cushions on the kitchen chairs were all red, while all the wood furniture matched the floorboards. At least, she assumed they had; now, the varnish had all but worn off of all of them.
“Welcome to your new apartment,” Gilbert said, shutting the door behind him. “There’s some food in the refrigerator and in the pantry, but you’ll probably have to go get more, soon. When you do, there’s ration books on your nightstands in your rooms and some money for anything else you might need.” Gene propped his crutches up by the couch and plopped down on it, assuming a position like the Vitruvian man.
“How long will we have to get settled?” Evelyn asked as she set her radio down next to their luggage. She sat down on one of the kitchen chairs.
“You’ll have a few hours to get unpacked, then the two of you are going to need to get to St. Severin’s church,” Gilbert said. “Francis is planning on meeting the two of you there. Do you know where that is?” Evelyn nodded; she remembered going there with Grandmere Jeanne, when they came for holiday in the summer.
“How are we going to know it’s him?” Gene asked. “We’ve never met the guy.”
“He’ll know you two,” Gilbert said. “He’s the one who forged your papers; he knows what you look like.” He said a few goodbyes and left, leaving Evelyn alone with Gene.
Evelyn walked into the kitchen, opening the cabinets to see what food was already in the cupboards.
“Are you making lunch?” Gene asked as she dug through the cabinets.
“I will, once I figure out what to make,” she said. She could hear him moving on the couch.
“Let me help,” he said as she pulled some bread out from the cabinet. She heard him curse and a loud thud, as if something had just fallen down on the couch.
Evelyn peeked into the parlor to see Gene sitting on the couch, holding his cast and wincing in pain. “Did you just hurt yourself? I don’t think Louis would appreciate us coming back so soon.”
“Just stepped on it funny, is all,” Gene said. “I’ll be there; just give me a minute-”
“You’re staying there,” Evelyn said as she walked back into the kitchen. “You need to get better, and that isn’t going to happen if you hurt your leg every time you get up.” She grabbed a knife from one of the drawers and began cutting up the bread. “Besides, I don’t think I need much help with making sandwiches.” He stayed put after that, waiting for Evelyn to finish making the sandwiches.
She didn’t exactly have many choices as to what kind to make: there wasn’t a lot of sandwich makings in the cabinets that still looked good. She took some lettuce and tomatoes out of the fridge, along with some chicken. She began to grill it, trying to remember all the things the cook had shown her those days she would sneak into the kitchens: grill the chicken until it was a golden brown color, then flip; make sure the meat isn’t squishy to the touch; she wished she could remember exactly what the cook had told as to her secret to making the perfect chicken, but she remembered enough that it smelled good when she took it off the stove.
She began cutting the chicken up into slices as Gene got up from the couch, again, and hobbled into the kitchen. He looked surprised at the meal as she began to assemble the sandwiches.
“I thought you said you couldn’t cook,” he said as she put the finishing touches on the first sandwich.
“I said I wasn’t very good,” she clarified. She offered him the first sandwich, but he simply shook his head.
“You’re the chef,” he said. “You should get the first one.” Evelyn nodded and began making the second sandwich.
“Who taught you how to cook, anyway?” Gene asked. “Didn’t you have a cook back home or something? That’s what rich people do, isn’t it?”
“Well, that’s who I learned from,” Evelyn said. “I used to go down to the kitchens while my mother was away. The cook would let me help her cook, and father would eat them and pretend like it was the best thing he’d ever tasted.” She finished the second sandwich with a smile on her lips from the memory. She remembered how proud she’d be when father would smile and tell her how good the food was. Looking back, she knew that he’d probably had to choke down those first few things she made, but she couldn’t help but wonder how long he’d had to do that.
Evelyn sat down at the kitchen table and handed Gene one of the sandwiches.
“Thanks.” The two of them began eating.
“This is good,” Gene commented, his mouth filled with chicken sandwich. He looked up at her as she took a ladylike bite of her sandwich. “Why did you say you weren’t very good at cooking? This is a lot better than anything I could ever do, myself.”
Evelyn found herself blushing. The truth was, this was probably one of the better chickens she’d ever cooked, but even so, she didn’t think it was that good; in all honesty, she thought it was a little on the dry side.
“Is it really that good?” she asked.
“Much better than anything I could’ve made,” he said. He was almost finished, now. “Give yourself some credit; it’s not nearly as bad as you think it is.”
Evelyn found herself blushing even more. She wasn’t used to getting compliments like Gene’s for work that she didn’t even think was that good.
As they continued to eat, Evelyn found herself shocked at the normalcy of it all. If anyone were to walk in on them, she was confident they wouldn’t have any idea what the two of them were involved in. She almost allowed herself to think that, maybe, they would be able to maintain some sort of normal life while they were there. Of course, that ridiculous idea left the second she thought it. How could they live an average life when they were trying to fight the very people controlling everything around them? No, theirs would be a life apart, a life spent jumping at their own shadows and breaking out into a cold sweat every time the Germans checked their identification papers, despite the fact that they’d never failed an identity check, before.
After a few more minutes of eating in relative silence, the two finished their sandwiches. They began to get ready to go meet the head of their network, pulling on their warm clothes and their shoes.
“What are we going to do if this guy doesn’t show up?” Gene asked as he shrugged his coat on. “Do we just sit around and stare at the front or something?”
“Normally, people go to a church to pray,” Evelyn said as she adjusted her beret’s position on her head. “I’d suggest bringing a bible to read; no offence, but I think you need to brush up on the New Testament.”
“None taken.” He yanked his shoes on and began tying them as Evelyn went into her room and pulled the bible out from her side table and carefully put it into a worn, black purse she’d found in her closet.
When she came back out of her room, she saw that Gene was just starting to balance on his crutches.
He looked up at her. “Are you ready?” Evelyn nodded as she grabbed the apartment keys from the counter.
With that, the two of them left the apartment and headed for St. Severin’s church.
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