Justine laid Artaud’s head in her lap and as his arms slipped around her, her fingers stole into his long hair, stroking it longingly. “Tell me that you won’t cut it,” she pleaded.
“I must,” he groaned. “I am going back to my parents’ house this week for the summer, and it’s bad enough there without provoking them. Besides, my father is ill and I must show the proper respect, et cetera.”
“Your father is ill?” Catherine asked him.
Artaud rolled onto his back and looked adoringly up at Justine, relaxing beneath her touch. “He may die.” He closed his eyes as she pushed a lock of hair back from his face.
“But don’t you care what happens to your father?” The way Catherine asked it, so softly and hesitantly, made her sound like Marianne when she had asked me the very same question so long ago. Years ago. Artaud’s face tensed, but he said nothing. That was familiar also.
I pushed the memory away and turned to Roger, leaning toward him to tease. “Too bad!”
Roger looked over at them and made a face. “Let them play. It’s Genica who’s the love of his life, although I can’t imagine why; Artaud’s set himself up for disaster with that girl. I won’t begrudge him a little happiness with Justine. I can wait.”
“You’re waiting for Justine?” I persisted. “What about Bernice?”
His face looked a little too eager. “You like Bernice? I can drop her.”
“I’m sorry I asked!”
“Bernice likes you, you know; she wouldn’t mind. Oh, you know I’d be different with Justine; she’s special.”
“I’m glad you think so,” I muttered.
Roger set down my violin. “Ahem. I think I can delay this happy reunion with your family, Artaud, if you’re interested. I’ve rented a house for a week, a large cottage in the Loire Valley near Nevers, a beautiful place. The second week of June.” When Artaud didn’t look enthusiastic, he prodded, “Oh, come on. Landis and Desnos are going. You can bring Gen—” and he paused, seeing Justine’s wicked smile. “You can bring whomever you want.”
“Am I invited?” Justine asked innocently, making Catherine smile behind her fingers.
Roger stammered, for once unsure of himself. “Of course you are! And Geoff, you must come. Bring your violin.”
“There is the question,” Artaud said, “of where I can stay in Paris until the second week of June.”
Roger pounced on that. “Just where have you been staying?”
Artaud was silent. “In a theatre!” Justine scolded, pinching him. “Sleeping on the floor, next to the furnace.”
“At the Atelier? Really?” Roger glanced at Catherine who looked askance at me. Furrowing her brow, she rose to take everyone’s empty cups into the kitchen. He waited until she was gone to whisper, “Then it’s true? You were thrown out of the Hotel Troyon for causing a flood?”
“I did not intend to cause a flood!” the other man replied indignantly as Justine and I stared at him. “I was only trying to drown a mouse.”
Roger covered his face with his hand. “Only you, Artaud!” Artaud glared at Roger. Out of respect for the actor’s feelings, Justine and I fought to keep our faces blank, but her cheeks grew pink with the effort, and my chest ached from suppressed laughter. “Well, let’s see,” Roger continued. “If you promise to behave yourself I could find a corner for you in my apartment…and if you can’t promise, you know Desnos will always put you up.” Artaud scowled as Roger began to laugh. “At his place, you can engage in knife fights if you like!”
“Sh, Roger, don’t tease,” Justine told him.