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The Island Of Serenity
It was also difficult for J.J., who, also lacking the correct social education, was not that much better mannered than I was, and often, had to keep himself in check, to not contradict my mother’s instructions, as he was demonstrating beautifully, exactly what she was criticising me for doing. It was during one of these family dinners that a very weird event occurred; I actually had a conversation with my mother, and, miracle of miracles, we happened to agree on something. ‘Pierre-Alain, je trouve que vous êtes arrivé à l’âge d’apprendre de monter un cheval’. ‘Say, what ?’, J.J. had just entered into the room, and although, through the years, he had accepted to study French, he had to really concentrate to follow what was being said. ‘Pierre-Alain, is more that old enough to start horse riding lessons, in fact, I will also inscribe Jean-Jacques for some courses of initiation.’ ‘Real horses?’ ‘Bien sûr, les vrais chevaux’. ‘Comme un chevalier ?’ ‘Nous avons surement eu des chevaliers dans notre famille. C’est dans votre sang.’ ‘What’s in his blood ? Should we send him to the doctor?’ ‘J.J. please try to follow the conversation’, she turned, slightly irritated, ‘I was saying that riding is in his blood, we surely had noble knights, in our past’. ‘I can remember some noble nights in my own past’, he mumbled and gave me a sly wink. Maman’s look of total disapproval made it more than clear that I was to disregard this remark and to forget to have ever heard it. After a year or so of this arrangement, Jean-Jacques, although not yet six years old, was also included in these educational evenings. Jean-Jacques, apart from being the ‘Benjamin’ and therefore being, from my point of view, a little spoiled by my parents, (they seemed less demanding of him), had the huge advantage that I had two years to learn how to get things right for our parents, he just had to slip in behind my wake, and copy me. And so it was for the meals; from the first moment, he totally ignored our parents, fixing his big brown eyes on me, he faithfully copied every move, every gesture, every cut, every chew, every swallow. Maman was incredibly pleased, ‘comment vous êtes sage; très bien, quelle politesse’. I didn’t hate Jay, as I called him, not until later, in fact, at that time, even though I was a little jealous of him, we were best of friends. To tell the truth, if we hadn’t shared a room, I don’t know how I would have survived. You see, from a very early age, I was plagued with nightmares. There were several themes that repeated with slight variations; there was that of my parents leaving to go somewhere, somewhere good. They would take Jay out with them, but I always had to do or finish something, or I couldn’t find something, so they left first. Then I would panic that they would leave without me and I would run out after them, to catch them up. The house, being a mansion house, had two stone lions on either side of the front door, it was because of these awful adversaries that I never caught up with the others. The lions would shoot nets at me, zap me with electric shocks, trip me up, jump on me or even once, create an impenetrable force field. Even if I succeeded eventually to pass, it was always too late, the others we gone and I was left alone.