The air is so thick with metal and smoke and oil he cannot smell the people-smells, sour milk and sweat and piss and musk and cooking-smoke and waste, and the streets are so full of metal clashes and screeches and whistles he cannot hear the people-noises, voices and feet on stone and dogs barking and laughter and wooden thuds and breathing, breathing as a city should. Even the colors are wrong: hot, bright. He has died – this place is Hell – and his eyes are wide, his breath is fast and frightened. He should not be here, not yet, not yet.
Jeannot has been to mass thrice in two days, has thrice been blessed and confessed and absolved, and he feels pure and clean and almost whole when Chrétien comes to see him on the second-holiest day of the year. His young friend glows like a saint, pink-cheeked and radiant, as though he too has been cleansed of whatever sins a boy like him can possibly have done. “What’s happening?” he asks.
Chrétien blushes and presses his fingers to his lips, shy. “He loves me,” he whispers; the secret is too precious to say aloud, even on this perfect bright day.
They are quiet and comfortable, entwined on the windowseat. Rémy's attention is on the boy leaning on his shoulder; Chrétien's is on the book. He has loved this Christian epic half his life, since he could reach the thick volume on the shelf.
He comes across familiar lines and closes his eyes, preferring to speak them out from memory rather than to read them from the dry page.
Her husband the relater she preferred
Before the angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather; he, she knew would intermix
Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute
With conjugal caresses, from his lip
Not words alone pleased her.
"Oh when meet now such pairs, in love and mutual honor joined?" Chrétien finishes, looking up. Rémy says nothing, takes his hand. Chrétien smiles and presses closer, content. "I know," he murmurs.