Authors: Claire King
Tags: #General Fiction
There are four beds in the courtyard with no mattresses on. Claude has painted them yellow and is sitting next to them, watching them dry. He has Pablo asleep in his arms. Pablo sleeps all the time now, except at night. But then he only wakes up for milk. He isn’t as much fun as I thought he might be. He hasn’t done one somersault since he was born. Maman says he has forgotten, and when he gets a little older I can teach him.
What Pablo likes best is to be taken for walks. If you do not take him for walks then he cries and cries and cries. This is excellent. Because of this we go for walks, Maman, Pablo and me. We bump the pram down the track and on to the village road. Maman walks with her chin held up and pointed down the road and we walk past people and I say hello and Maman says hello too and she smiles a big smile because she is proud of Pablo. And everybody stops us to say hello, and isn’t he beautiful, and doesn’t he look like Amaury. Why do people keep saying that? Are they all crazy-mad? He really doesn’t look at all like Papa.
While they stop and congratulate Maman and say their silly things and ruffle my hair, my job is to rock Pablo’s pram – jiggle, jiggle – so that he doesn’t get cross that we are not moving. Then we set off again, parading through the village as if we were kings and queens.
People come to our door now too, visitors, and we welcome them. Claude comes every day. He brings food and flowers from his garden and he has been doing some mending. Every day Maman says things like, Really, that’s enough now, I’ll never be able to pay you back for this, you’ve done enough. And Claude just ignores her. It’s not that he can’t hear her, but that he is ignoring her. Sometimes he will say things back like, That’s enough, you just worry about yourself and that baby.
Mami Lafont has also visited a lot, and Tante Brigitte. They come and they pass Pablo around and jiggle him and talk nonsense to him. They bring jam and cakes and olives and sausages. Every day. Mami has done washing and pegged it out. She has cleaned the windows. She has even sneaked into the barn and cleaned the peachy mess off Papa’s tractor.
Josette has been here twice. The first time she brought a quiche and some beer. She said Maman should drink the beer. It would be good for her and good for her milk. Maman has not drunk the beer, but after Josette left she cried a little bit and said how nice people were being. That was the sadness you feel when you’re happy, I think. When Josette came the second time she brought me a bunch of her grapes, which were only just ripe and they tasted sweet and sour and burst in my mouth. She also brought a cardigan for Pablo. It is yellow and red; she made it herself. It is a funny cardigan because it is very tiny, but at the same time it is much too big for Pablo. Josette says he will grow into it in time for autumn. Like his skin maybe.
Autumn is not far away. The holiday people in the market are not so many and the days are not so hot, hot, hot. But they are still sunny. The yellow beds are going to be for the holiday people. Claude has already organised it and we have two people coming next week. They are going to pay Maman some money to sleep in the summer rooms and to have their suppers with us. Maman has been stewing the last of the tomatoes to make sauces.
Tonight we are having our supper outside. On the green plastic table is the yellow oilcloth, covered with black olives and blue gentians. Bread and tomatoes and olives are all laid out in bowls, and on a big white plate is the fruit that Maman has already cut up for our dessert. Each fruit has its own curving stripe on the plate – strawberries, cantaloupe, yellow peaches, grapes, blueberries, plums and figs.
The smell of sausages and honey-covered pork ribs sizzles up from the barbecue and paints smoky patterns in the air. Maman is standing by the barbecue. She has a fork in her hand but she is not turning the sausages. She is singing. So softly that you can only just hear the tune, and the words are lost, all tangled up in the rising smoke. She is swaying like a flower in the breeze.
Writing a novel is very much a solitary pursuit, but bringing it to life has been the work of many and I am filled with gratitude.
My heartfelt thanks to Annette Green, my agent, and Helen Garnons-Williams, my editor at Bloomsbury UK, for their enthusiastic championing of this novel and this author.
A huge thank you to the whole team at Bloomsbury, and to my copyeditor Sarah-Jane Forder, for their passionate and painstaking attention to detail. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all.
Many thanks to the friends who read early extracts of this novel – Janet, Tracey, Alison and Mary – for offering advice and enthusiasm, and to all the other friends too numerous to name (yes, that means you!) for encouragement along the way. Greatest of these has been Charlie, my best friend and cheerleader, who understands it all. Thank you.
Finally, many people have asked me if
The Night Rainbow
is pure fiction, or if there is some truth hidden in there. Did any of this really happen? As Pea would say, the truth is stranger than that. A word of thanks, then, to my mum, Jenny, who taught me through example that even when you don’t think you can go on, you can, and you will.
Claire King has found success and acclaim with her prize-winning short stories. Having graduated from Cambridge she now lives and works in France.
The Night Rainbow
is her first novel.
Copyright © 2013 by Claire King
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Published by Bloomsbury USA, New York
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA HAS BEEN APPLIED FOR.
First U.S. edition 2013
This electronic edition published in April 2013