Of Medics And Musicians

"Of Medics and Musicians"

Who: Christiane, Kathleen & Antoine
IC Date: July 1918
OOC Date: May 8, 2006
Where: Cafe de Paix in Arras, France

What: Christiane shares a blissfully peaceful lunch with Kathleen and, later, Antoine.

Cafe de Paix
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION < < <

A narrow wooden door with a bell chiming merrily is a contrast to boarded up window which once was giving a nice view of the street outside. Hit by shells, the window has broken and the owners have found it better to simply board it up, leaving sunlight outside and no view except a painting of the countryside which has been put up to cover the ugliness of the boards.

The rest of the cafe has a coziness to it, however. Small, round wooden tables and chairs of metal are spread out unevenly in the room. White tablecloths, candles, ashtrays and a little flower decoration on each table makes it feel almost classy. The wooden floor is kept clean by the staff, who keep that mop ready at all times to wipe off the dirt from soldier boots. Wine is the main drink here, as that is the only thing not in short supply, but there's simple meals to be had.

It is currently daytime.

Sub-Rooms :


Out <O>

The afternoon finds a sizeable crowd of soldiers, and a smattering of non-combat personnel, taking their lunches in the cafe. The hum of sober conversation in the air and the coziness of the establishment make it an almost pleasant environment to spend a precious free moment in. Christiane slips in, the ting of the bell over the door announcing her arrival. The sound makes her smile. She's off duty, in a freshly laundered Red Cross uniform. Blessedly, she hasn't had an opportunity to dirty it since resuming her work in Arras.

Christiane's Desc
Not yet twenty, this young woman already has a look of maturity about her. It isn't out of any sense of sophistication or wisdom. There is a look in her eyes of quiet sadness and knowing. One who has seen things too terrible for her tender years. Those eyes are probably her most arresting feature. They are a deep gray, just a few shades too stormy for blue, and filled with intelligence, compassion and a gentle humor. The rest of her face is unremarkable. Oval-shaped and fair-skinned, with pleasant features and a small nose, but nothing of remarkable gorgeousness. Her hair is a pale shade of brown, usually worn back in a bun to keep it out of her face. She's average height for a woman with a slender build, and when she speaks a strong Belgian accent lilts her soprano voice.
She moves with a natural grace and determined efficiency and self-possession. This is a woman who has a job to do and is intent on doing it, regardless of how tired she gets. She's dressed in the uniform of a Red Cross nurse, long skirt billowing around her legs and an apron hung across her front to keep her dress somewhat protected.

Kathleen is already sitting at one of the tables, alone in spite of the efforts of several soldiers that she had to politely turn down. She sips at a cup of tea, and waves when she spots her fellow nurse enter. "Christiane! Hello." She sets down the cup and offers a friendly smile. She's off duty as well, but is also still wearing her Australian Army nurse's uniform.

Kathleen's Desc
Small but wiry - that's the usual impression folks get looking at this woman, who appears to be in her mid-twenties. Slim and standing just over five feet, she might at first glance seem somewhat frail. A closer look reveals a hint of strength behind that compact frame, and weathered hands that look like they've done some honest work in their day. Her face bears a light tan, her sandy-blonde hair bleached almost white by too much sun. The harsh, bright color seems almost at odds with her dark brown eyes and delicate, features. Her looks are rather plain, a situation not helped any by the unflattering bun her hair has been pulled up into.
She is dressed in a nurse's uniform. Light gray in color, the heavy dress has brass buttons up the front and a large white collar. Over the shoulders is draped a small cape with the word "Australia" on the epaulette. Occasionally visible beneath the hem of the long dress are well-worn ankle-high boots. On her back, a short, dark blue cape is thrown over one shoulder. A drab brown floppy hat completes the ensemble. Around her neck, a silver cross hangs from a plain chain. Her only other jewelry is a simple gold band on her left ring finger.

Christiane turns her head when she hears the sound of her name. The sight of Kathleen makes her smile, and brings more than a little relief to her expression. She hadn't been looking forward to eating alone with all the soldiers around. "Kathleen, hello," she says, striding briskly over to meet the other nurse. "You would not mind some company?" She gestures to the table at which the Australian woman sits.

"No, no, not at all," Kathleen replies readily, motioning toward an open seat at her table. "How are you? Happy to be back in Arras?"

Christiane sits into the indicated chair, crossing her legs comfortably beneath her long skirts. "Thank you," she says as she settles in. Her gray eyes scan the establishment in search of a server, but most of them are occupied with the soldiers at present. She purses her lips, having to think on Kathleen's question before answering. "I suppose," she says finally. "Still, it is not home, you know? Every place I am sent…all seem too much the same."

Kathleen offers a slight nod to that. "I understand. I feel the same sometimes. I've been transferred to so many aid stations - they all run together a bit." She shrugs slightly, taking another sip of her tea. "It's not that I don't like the Yanks or anything - some of them are rather nice blokes - but I'm happier to be back with our own men."

"I can understand that all too well," Christiane agrees, a note of sadness in her soft Belgian voice. She doesn't look at Kathleen for a moment, resuming her attempt to flag down a waitress. Her waving catches the eye of a Tommy sergeant before it does his waitress. The NCO taps his serving wench on the arm and gestures to the nurse's table. "I think they's need you more than we's do, luv," he drawls to the waitress. "And it'll be a fairer duty, too." Christiane blushes, but she does call a quick, "Merci" to the sergeant as the waitress moves over to attend them.

Kathleen offers Christiane a sympathetic look, remaining silent while the server comes over and takes Christiane's order. But though she can see the sadness, she's not quite sure why, "There are some Belgian soldiers about here, though, right?" Then she ahs, perhaps guessing the reason, "But not one in particular, eh?"

Christiane orders a cup of tea much like the one Kathleen is drinking, and whatever soup they have in the pot today. Mushroom, it happens to be. This pleases Christiane. She thanks the waitress softly as the girl scurries away to relay her order and attend to other customers. She gives Kathleen a small nod, confirming her guess. "I have to admit, I am envious of you," she says, but her voice suggests she's happy for the other nurse as well. "Your Jack is so close now. You are so lucky to have him posted here."

Kathleen's plate is already empty save for a few breadcrumbs. Her cheeks flush a little as Christiane mentions Jack, and she gives a shy nod. "I am. I wish you could be so lucky as to have your Julien near. Have you heard from him? I know the letters have had some trouble, with us being shifted back and forth." She smirks and notes, "When Jack first arrived, he still thought I was in Belleau since the post hadn't reached him yet."

Kathleen and Christiane are sitting at a table in the crowded cafe, chatting.

Christiane and Kathleen are seated at one of the tables in the cafe. They're both in uniform, but appear to be off duty at present. There's a sizeable crowd of soldiers, and some more non-coms as well, enjoying lunch in the cozy establishment. Kathleen is already sipping a cup of tea. Chrisa looks to still be awaiting her own meal. She sighs at the state of the mail, nodding. "I just received two letters from him here, when I got back. I wrote him from Belleau, but I have no idea if those messages have reached him. I am going to finish a letter tonight, letting him know I have returned."

Kathleen offers a quiet smile at that, relieved that at least she's heard from him. "At least I no longer have to wait for Jack to pick up a pen." She's complained before of his lax letter writing. The smile fades a bit as she admits, "But I do worry more. Every time I hear the aeroplanes returning…" She shakes her head, sipping her tea to keep her from having to finish that sentence. To give voice to her fears.

Kathleen is grateful for the gesture, and more than happy to go along with the change in topic. "Yes, though I've grown quite used to it by now. It's strange the things you take for granted." She shakes her head, and says, "I saw some soldiers, in Belleau, sharing some chocolate as if it were more precious than anything."

Christiane smiles at that image, but her smile isn't without a trace of sadness. The expression rarely is, on her face. "I admit, I wish they had shared with me," she says. "Oh. Chocolate." She makes it sound quite the precious thing, herself. "The men are good to each other. The closeness they share, it is something I must admit I admire."

"I must admit I was a bit jealous myself," Kathleen says lightly. She nods her agreement. "It is good that they have each other, at least, amidst all of this." She smiles slightly, "All the more reason for us to stick together, though, eh?"

Christiane sips at her tea, savoring it despite the lack of sweetness. Truthfully, she barely notices the lack of such luxuries anymore. "Yes," she agrees firmly with Kathleen, setting her cup down and reaching across the table to clasp the other nurse's hand. "All the more reason, Kathleen. We are better off than they, in so many ways. I cannot envy them some brotherhood if it comes at such a price."

"Indeed, it is horrible, the things they have to endure." Kathleen shakes her head grimly. Not that being a nurse is any picnic either, though. "But they soldier on, the brave lads." She quirks a proud smile at that, thinking of their lads in particular. But then she has to offer a resigned sigh and say, "Well, I would love to stay and chat longer, but I'd best be off to the church."

Christiane nods, taking another long sip of tea. "I will be along in a bit," she promises. She still has a little time left before she's back on duty, and she's going to savor it.

Antoine arrives from Place des Heroes.

Antoine's Desc
Antoine is a very thin man, probably somewhere in his thirties. Although he stands at about 5' 11" (1.8 m) his long-legged, narrow build makes him appear somewhat taller. He is a bit too gaunt and pale to fit the usual definition of 'handsome,' though it isn't hard to imagine him as somewhat good-looking, with a bit more flesh and some kind of color. Dark hair in some need of cutting is combed back, but has a habit of falling forward over the man's forehead. Dark, straight eyebrows are settled over a pair of gray-green eyes. His nose, somewhat large, but quite thin and straight, seems to strike out like a blade from the long, gaunt face. The hollowed cheeks occasionally show a day or two of stubble, but are generally clean-shaven.
He hasn't got a hat, and his dull charcoal-colored suit, several years out of date, also seems to be a bit too large for his skinny frame, though it fits his height. A shapeless brown overcoat adds to the bulky layers enveloping him. His black shoes, too, are worn down at the heels. When he carries his battered and patched violin case, Antoine Baillot seems to be the personification of hard times.

Christiane is seated at one of the tables in the cafe. She's in uniform, but appears to be off duty at present. There's a sizeable crowd of soldiers, and some more non-coms as well, enjoying late lunch and early dinner the cozy establishment. She bids a quick good-bye to another nurse she was sharing a meal with as the woman heads back to her duties. Christiane is alone at the table now, sipping at a cup of tea and a bowl of mushroom soup, by turns.

Antoine shoulders his way past a small group of men who are clustered in front of the door, greeting one another with a thin jocularity before they sit down to their food. Going past sideways, he leads with his left hand in which he carries the battered violin case that is his constant travelling companion. He nearly runs that into a passing waitress, for which he nods and utters a quiet apology. Finally, he gets out of everybody's way and shifts a little awkwardly, giving the place a look, perhaps either searching for a person or a vacant place to sit. He seems to be sweating, his overcoat still buttoned up.

Christiane seems a little uncomfortable in the cafe now, with her companion gone and so many soldiers spending their off time here. She tries simply to keep to herself and savor her tea and soup. The entrance of a newcomer does make her look up with curiosity, though. The fact that Antoine isn't wearing a military uniform makes her take a second look. But it's his violin case that really catches her attention. "Monsieur," she calls to him with a little wave. "There is room here, if you need a place to sit." She gesture to the empty chair her fellow nurse just vacated.

Antoine isn't actually quite sure she's speaking to him until she gives the wave and he gives a glance over his shoulder. Looking back to her, his hand raises automatically as if he would touch his hat, but he wears no hat, so the gesture dissipates as vaguely as smoke. "Oh, are you sure I don't disturb, Mademoiselle?" he says, straight brows lifting. But he doesn't wait terribly long for her answer, apparently grateful to get a seat. "You're very kind," he adds as he pulls out the chair.

Christiane shakes her head. "Non, non. Please," she says, repeating her motion at the chair. Her head shakes again at that last. "I am quite selfish. I simply do not like eating alone." She lifts a spoon of soup to her lips, her eyes lingering on his violin case.

Antoine puts that object in his lap, across his knees, one long-boned hand resting almost protectively on the shabby case. "And you invited me because you think my table manners may be better than the soldiers'?" he asks, a lopsided smile gently teasing her. "Well, I make no promises…" When a girl comes by to ask him what he will have, he quizzes her closely on the prices for even the most modest food, at last asking for bread and a cup of tea.

"The soup is very good," Christiane tells him, when he orders simply the bread. The eyes the skinny young man with mild concern. "Monsieur Beaumont keeps a good kitchen, especially under such conditions as this. I do not know how he manages." At his words about his table manners she laughs softly. "Most of them are good men, but they will get…ideas in their heads if I begin inviting them to share tables and such. It was that, actually." She gestures a finger at the violin case. "You do not see many such things in this place."

Antoine smiles politely at her description of the soup and her talk of the good kitchen here, but seems to have little to say on that matter. The other comments, however, draw another half-smile from him. Then he looks down at the case. "And lucky for me," he replies. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be having tea."

"You play then?" The idea brings a smile to Christiane face. He does, obviously, if he's carting the case around, but she can still hardly believe it. "May I see it, Monsieur?" she asks, still staring at the case. "If you do not mind."

Antoine shakes his head. "I am delighted, of course," he replies. With that, he sets the case on the table, though careful to keep it a respectful distance from the woman's dinner. He opens it up and withdraws an object swaddled in oiled rags. Those rags are unwound and a violin is indeed revealed. However, the instrument is by now means in as shabby condition as its case. Quite to the contrary, it looks to be an instrument of some quality, the wood glowing warmly in the cafe light. "My meal ticket," he says, introducing the violin.

Christiane catches her breath at sight of the violin. For a moment she just stares at it, as if she can't quite believe what she's seeing. "It is lovely," she finally says softly. For a long moment she just stares at it, her eyes faraway. Distant from Antoine and the cafe now, lost in her own thoughts.

Antoine clears his throat softly. "Something like a gem in a bed of hostile rock, hm?" he replies. "A flower can bloom even in the desert. At least, that is what they say. I myself have never been to the desert, so I couldn't tell you certainly." That's said with a smile. He moves his case from the table as his tea and bread arrive, but he leaves the instrument on the table. As soon as the tea is delivered, one thin hand wraps around the hot cup.

Christiane blinks when Antoine clears his throat. Pulled back to reality. She nods, sipping at her own tea cup again. "A gem, yes," she says, still speaking more to herself than Antoine. She takes a breath, putting her head back on straight. "I have never been to the desert, either. Some of the other nurses have. They talk of working in Egypt. By the pyramids." A trace of wonder creeps into her voice. "I have never been to Egypt. Your violin, though. It makes me think of far better places. It reminds me of home, a little."

Antoine makes a contemplative sound. "It reminds me of home, too, but there's not much helping that," he says quietly. He wraps both hands around the teacup now. "Egypt sounds tempting. Warm and dry…"

"My father played, a little," Christiane says, looking at the violin rather than Antoine as she talks. "The piano was his love, but he could manage the strings." She downs some more tea before going on. "Right now, I would just like to be back in Ghent. In Flanders. The city is lovely in the summer. So warm." She sighs. "Though I suppose it is not so lovely right now."

Antoine coughs softly into his hand. "The piano is my first love, as well, but I only pushed it about a mile or so before I gave up," he jokes. Then he sips his tea as the girl reflects on the dream of better days. "Well, nothing much is lovely right now."

Christiane gets a little laugh out of that piano joke. "I suppose it is not so easy to carry one under your arm," she agrees wryly. But her face turns somber at that last. She nods. "Non. Nothing much is lovely." Her eyes suddenly lift to his face again, studying him with renewed scrutiny. "How old are you, Monsieur?"

Antoine smiles wanly at her. "Thirty-two," he pronounces distinctly. "And rudely enough, I've neglected to introduce myself. Forgive me. My name is Antoine Baillot. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." He clears his throat again once he has finished saying that. Perhaps it's a habit.

"The pleasure is all mine, Monsieur Baillot," Christiane replies with a smile. She sounds sincere in that. "And I am just as rude. My name is Christiane Ingels. I am here with the nurses." She gestures vaguely to the uniform she wears. "With the Red Cross. Are you from Arras?"

Antoine nods vaguely at her explanation of her occupation. Apparently, he had gathered that. He sips his tea for a moment before responding to her question in a quiet voice. "Er, no. From a town just outside…Amiens, actually…" A sigh.

Christiane simply nods. There are few places left in France that don't carry their own tragic story. "What did you do there, Monsieur Baillot?" she asks. "Before…well, before all of this." She stirs her soup, watching it swirl in the bowl as she adds, "My father, he was a music teacher in Ghent. Still is, I suppose, though there is not much call for lessons now." Her tone is somewhat wry on that last part.

Antoine touches his violin almost absently. "Actually, I was itinerant even then," he replies. "I have been what some might call a musical drifter since 1913. I haven't—" he breaks off speaking, turning aside and ducking his head down a bit to cough into a fist.

Christiane tilts her head, even more curious when Antoine breaks off like that. She does not ask any further, however. His cough brings a faint frown to her face. "Are you well, Monsieur?" she asks softly, true concern in her voice.

Antoine recovers in a moment, putting up the palm of a hand to ward off too much concern. "Quite," he says a bit hoarsely, taking a sip of his tea. "As I was saying, I haven't ever really held a steady job, aside from teaching music lessons while I was at the Conservatoire de Paris."

Christiane catches her breath again, blinking at Antoine. As if trying to reconcile the man she sees before her with the image of one from the conservatory. "That is a a job to take pride in, even if it was awhile ago." She is quiet a moment before adding, almost shyly, "I had thought, when I was a girl, of studying at the conservatory in Brussels." She smiles a wistful, trace of a smile. "I wanted to be a singer. Opera." She laughs softly. "That was a very long time ago."

Antoine avoids her scrutinyor at least his cognizance of itsomewhat by sipping his tea, eyes on the cup. But her last comment makes him lean forward a little, interested. "Do you still sing? What part?"

"Soprano," Christiane replies, doing some more stirring of her soup. She laughs that soft laugh again, shaking her head. As if to make herself sound less serious about this subject. She can't really manage it. "When I was a girl, I had dreams of standing on a stage in Brussels, playing the heroine before the crowd. But as I said, that was long ago. I was only fifteen when…" she trails off, clearing her throat. "The world does not need sopranos now, Monsieur Baillot."

Antoine lifts his chin a little. "It most certainly does," he counters strongly. His tone is more firm than it's been all night. "The world needs sopranos now more than it ever has before. The world needs a beautiful voice with which to express her suffering." He regards her a moment. "You must allow me to accompany you one day."

Christiane is taken aback by the firmness in his tone. For a moment, she doesn't quite know what to say. His last suggestion, however, makes her smile. A smile that, in a rarity, actually touches her gray eyes. "I would like that, Monsieur Baillot," she says. "I would like that very much." Her meal is almost gone now, just the dregs of soup and tea remaining. She's surprised when, when she lifts her tea cup to her lips, she finds not even enough for a proper sip. "I should be going." She sounds truly regretful of it. "I have…duties to attend to."

Antoine breaks apart a piece of his hitherto neglected bread, nodding. "Attend them well," he says with a small smile. "And practice your scales. The next time we meet, I hope we can have a bit of music." His smile broadens somewhat. "It has been a distinct pleasure meeting you, Mademoiselle Ingels."

Christiane laughs softly at the idea of practicing. It's been awhile since she's done anything like that. "The pleasure is all, Monsieur Baillot," she replies, rising to her feet. She places a few francs on the table to cover her meal. A bit more money is pushed across the table, at Antoine. "You must come to the church sometime. The men there, the wounded…I am sure the music of one who has studied at the conservatory would do much to lift their spirits."

Antoine hesitates at the sight of the money, then puts a hand out to cover it. "I'll do as you say," he replies, "And provide enough music to repay this. And more," he promises.

"I look forward to it," Christiane replies. With that, she offers the musician a parting smile and strides out of the cafe, the bell over the door tinging softly as she slips through it to exit.

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