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Old 12-04-2016, 09:26 PM View Post #1 (Link) Worse Than The Worst
sarahgerman (Offline)
Literary Newbie
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Heidelberg, Germany
Posts: 7
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“Why did he kill them, Madame?” one girl asked. “Why could nobody stop him?”
“Is he going to do it again?” some other children asked. They were all talking in loud voices without raising their hands like they usually did. Madame Esperance tried to calm the class down.
At the same time, she was trying to think straight and find all the answers to these questions. When the children finally stopped talking, they all looked at her, waiting for her to clean up the mess in their little minds. They were only seven years old, and she, thirty years old, was still shocked herself.
There was complete silence in the classroom, which was really seldom. Usually, the children were lively and loud or it was noices from outside that interrupted the quiet working atmosphere. Sometimes, they could hear music played by a street musician on the square next to the school. When big tourist groups walked by, the children could not resist watching them taking pictures of everything and commenting on them.
The school was situated in the heart of Nice and Madame Esperance’s classroom was on the second floor, facing the square Place Massena. On the windows, they had put little hearts and flowers, in which the children had written their dreams and hopes for their future lives.
“Listen, you don’t have to be afraid of people like this. They caught the man, and he is not a threat anymore,” she said, leaving out the fact that the police shot the man. She did not want to reinforce the images that the little ones must have had in their minds anyways. Instead, she tried to smile and make them believe that she was not afraid.
“But why?”, the same girl asked again. “Why did the man do it?”
“He was part of a group of people who try to scare other people. It is very complicated,” Madame Esperance answered. She actually did not know what to say.
“My mum said that it’s the Muslims who want to kill the others so they can rule the world,” a little boy yelled from the back of the room.
Luckily, there was no Muslim child in Madame Esperance’s class who could have been offended. The children sounded flustered when they started talking to each other again with shocked expressions on their faces. Madame Esperance was horrified seeing these expressions and caught herself having the same on her face.
She had to think of her first love when she was nineteen. He had been the most interesting guy she had ever met, and since then she had never loved anyone so deeply. Back then, she had always pictured their future life together over the three years she was in love with him.
He had loved her at least as much as she loved him. But her parents, who were devout Christians, did not approve of this relationship -- because Farid was a Muslim.
Her parents did not accept any other religion but their own. They did not really know what the difference was between their God and other religions’ Gods, and they did not care.
They thought it was just wrong if people did not believe in their God and people should know better. This attitude was ironically one of the things people from different religions had in common these days.
Madame Esperance chewed on a nail. She was angry at herself when she noticed, because she had not done that in years. That day, she knew she did a bad job when she drove home from school.

Claire Esperance lived in her hometown with Cedric, her husband of five years. Instead of thirty, she rather looked like twenty-six because she was in good shape. She and her husband always worked out together and had a very healthy life style. Life had been good, and they were trying to enjoy every second of it and make it as long as possible.
On the way home, Claire called her mother. There had always been a close bond between her parents, her two older sisters, Emily and Susanne, and her. They met every Saturday at her parents’ house to chat and make sure that they were always part of each others’ lives.
Her family had almost always given her the support she needed for anything she did, and she appreciated it and knew how lucky she was to have them.
Her parents both came from poor families living in the suburbs of Paris. But both of them worked their way up all by themselves and made it to Nice. They were proud of their daughter because she was an independent woman. They felt like that was the result of their education. Like in their business, they thought they did a good job. They had always succeeded to keep her on the good side.
When meeting on Saturdays, the family shared their stories of the week. Emily and Susanne brought their two children, who were happy to play with each other and to see their aunts, uncles and grandparents. Claire’s favorite part about the family meetings on Saturdays was talking to her grand-father. Whenever she needed advice, she asked him for his opinion. He was ninety-five years old and had fought in the Second World War. His life experience had helped her many times and she loved listening to the stories he had to tell about his life.
But that day, Claire called her mother saying she could not make it the next day to the family meeting, which was a lie. She just did not feel like laughing and sharing thoughts with her family, or with anyone. Everybody always talked about the same thing anyways.
“I’m home,” she said to her husband when entering the living room, happy to get away from world’s craziness and finally being at her safe shelter.
She and Cedric owned a little house only five minutes from the heart of Nice, which had always been her dream. It was not a gigantic villa and not a tiny house, but the perfect middle road. The yellow curtains in the windows and the yellow flowers that she decorated the window sill with were chosen carefully.
Cedric sat on the couch reading online articles, as always. “How was your day, honey?” he asked. Cedric was a caring, very responsible husband.
Claire had always dreamed of a little family, including her husband and, hopefully soon, two children. A family, a little house, and a decent job was all she ever wanted. Her parents had set that example for her, and she was getting closer to achieving these goals. Cedric’s characteristics made him a suitable partner to live this kind of life with.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Claire answered in a calm tone. She only wanted to relax and forget about how bad she did at school. After taking off her shoes and sitting down next to Cedric on the sofa, he looked at her and smiled. Claire looked beautiful as always, which was one of the reasons why he had married her.
She always wore typical classy French, tight but elegant dresses. Not only when she went to work, but all the time. She was never without makeup, and her red hair was naturally falling on her shoulders in soft waves. Her face was pretty and cute because of her tiny nose and her huge blue eyes.
“Have you heard that they think he might have had accomplices?” he asked her, looking back on his article.
Claire closed her eyes for a second and could not hold back anymore. “Why the fuck does everybody have to talk about this terrorist attack from last night? Why?” She got up from the sofa again and walked over to the window. “It’s just not even worth thinking about it, we will never understand. Who cares if he had accomplices? They will never be able to stop them anyways.”
Cedric stared at her, shocked. Her face was red, she was sweating and she clenched her fists. He hated it when she explosed like this, which did not happen often.
”It is a quite an important topic, don’t you think?” he answered aggressively.
“It is also quitte impossible to understand or to explain to little children, don’t you think?”
At school, Claire was admired by the children she taught and the teachers she worked with. She did her work with all her heart, and usually she never complained about problems at work in front of Cedric.
He shook his head and did not understand why he was yelled at. “It is not a fun thing to talk about but it actually happened. So of course people discuss it. Are you not interested in the facts? We can learn from such attacks.” he said.
“Bullshit,” she said. “Because we could learn from the attacks in Paris and prevent this one, right!”
Claire went outside to get some air. The sun was just going down. She looked at her garden, chewing on her nails. She tended this haven of hers whenever she had some free time. Three apple trees stood on the left side of the garden, looking incredibly green and healthy.
Little yellow sparrows had built their home in one of them: Claire watched them every night. They were living such a peaceful life. The baby birds stayed in their nest all day, and their mom brought them food. They were singing cheerful songs all day long. Claire loved the smell of the white roses she had planted in a circle next to the little pond. The pond was filled with ten shiny red koi fishes, and a frog family came every spring to create new life here. Feeding the koi fishes became a calming ritual to her. It was her perfect little world.
This was the only place where she allowed herself to think about Farid and imagine what her life would have been like with him. He would have known the right words to say to her now. He would have been able to calm her down and make her feel safe.
At least she liked to believe so, but she was not sure, because she did not know how he felt about the attack. Even now she had to think of the man in the truck driving into the crowd and shooting at the police, killing eigthy-six people. He was a Muslim, like Farid.
But she did not want to mix the thoughts of Farid and the attacker. She was angry that she had let the van driver enter her little world.

I am the happiest person on earth. After so many years, I see Farid again. I did not think that I would ever see him again. I had even less thought that I would see him when walking to the grocery store.
He is very far away, but I am absolutely sure that this is him. His black hair looks the same as back then, maybe a little shorter. His chiseled features have not changed a bit. He looks so familiar but so strange at the same time.
All I want to do is walk over and fall into his arms. Ask him how he has been, what he is doing and if he still loves me the way I love him. He seems to be concentrating on something because his face looks strained.
I am going to go over and kiss him, right now. This time I won’t hesitate. But where is he going? I gotta hurry up before he can escape me.
What does he have in his hands? Is it a ... No, he never owned a gun. Since when does he drive a big van? Where is he driving? That is not the street! Stop! Stop, Farid! Stop the van!
Is that really Farid?

The following week, Claire was exhausted and she hated her job. She had not been able to sleep for days. Usually, she was very dedicated to teaching because she felt like she was making a difference in the children’s lives, which made her happy. The best part to her was when she saw the satisfaction in the children’s little faces after she had explained something to them.
This time, about the terrorists, she was not able to give them any satisfying answers and this destroyed her. She was hoping that having a coffee with her friend Camille after their yoga class was going to distract her.
“You know I am so stressed out,” Camille said. “ I got this huge project. And I’m the manager like all by myself and it is so stressful... Plus I have to work with people who are so incompetent. Like two days in a row, my assistant brought me a Cafe Latte tall instead of grande. How hard can it be? I mean I need my caffein cause I’m just so busy.”
“Wow,” Claire answered, unimpressed. Cedric was right, maybe it would be better to talk about it. Camille talked terribly fast so Claire had to concentrate to follow her.
“Yeah, right, and then, we have so many dinner parties to go to, like you know Carl’s business meetings. I need to come to every single one of them with him because you know it looks better if he appears with his wife. This makes it so hard to control my carb supply, they always serve the heaviest stuff. That lobster yesterday was incredible but the sauce was so fat. I had to do an extra workout after! Claire, you gotta stop doing that! You’re not seventeen anymore!”
Claire was chewing on her nails again. Her right hand looked awful due to this habit. What could I tell the kids?
“Are you even listening?” her friend asked.
There is just no way to understand.
“Madame Esperance, can you please listen to me when I’m telling you about my feelings?”
Claire looked at Camille and rolled her eyes. “Seriously? You complain about this kind of things while people are killed and cope with real problems every day?” Claire asked, staring at her.
Camille was clearly offeneded and raised both eyebrows like she could not believe what Claire just had said to her. She pointed her finger at Claire and said, “you are not the one to talk! Last time you complained about the lady in your nail salon.”
Camille’s friend was right. She herself was not better and they both only talked about things like that. They never talked about truly important things. What would even be considered truly important in her life? Claire got up and rushed out of the cafe, leaving her friend all by herself, left alone with her serious problems and no one to talk to.
She could have taken the metro, but decided to walk, because she needed to think. It was her grand-father who had advised her to take long walks in order to clear her head, because that was what worked for him, especially at night. What are the important things in my life? She walked to the Promenade des Anglais, which was a wide promenade at the harbor of Nice. It was also the promenade where the attack had taken place. Claire could not stop walking, because she was too agitated.
It is my family. My mother, my father, my grand-father, my sisters and their children. It is Cedric. It is my students. That is what counts. It is Farid. She rarely talked about them with her friend. They exchanged gossip and showed each other their newest dresses and shoes. Sometimes they would go shopping together or her friend would tell her about her latest lover.
Claire realized that she never mentioned to her how incredible all of these people were. Never did she tell her friend about how precious her conversations with her grand-father were to her; how good it felt to see her family every week and to see her sister’s children grow up; how good it felt to see that her parents were still happily living together; how nicely she was treated by her husband.
This was because Claire had taken it for granted. She had always known that she was a lucky woman; but now she felt like she had never appreciated enough. I am lucky and greatful for everything I have. But do I still have the right to question if am I happy? Or would that be ungrateful and stupid?
She knew why she did see the importance in these people now. I couldn’t bear it to have any of them taken away from me.
Claire looked at the sea. She felt stupid, thinking about how ignorant she and her friend used to be. It could have easily been one of them. Walking on the promenade with no clue of the van coming towards them.
She had to think of Farid again, because the seperation from him was the only time she had felt as bad as now. She had lost him and she did not clearly understand why this had to happen. I couldn’t bear losing anyone that close to me again.
She desired to talk to him about everything that went through her head. She wanted him to advise her how to process all. But isn’t that actually Cedric’s place?
The pain in her chest from back then came back and she started crying. No one can replace him. Claire felt lonely although she knew that she had all her family who all cared about her. But this one person was missing in her life. Why didn’t I get to have the one I wanted?
Claire turned her head towards the city and looked at the promenade. The man in the van could easily have killed one of my family. She stared at the ocean again for a long while. She tried to think everything through and come to a conclusion. Why did I let them take him away from me? Is it not bad enough when life takes our loved ones away forever?
Since the pain did not stop, she concluded that she was not happy. This again made her feel bad because she was supposed to be happy with all that she had. But why do people murder others in such a cruel way? She knew that she would never get a satisfying answer to this question. Why do I not get to live with the one I love? She blamed it on society and religion and condemned all religions to be the root of the evil in the world. What kind of world is this we are living in? She also knew that even if she had married Farid, at least now everything would have broken down. Or maybe already after the attacks in Paris. So actually it was the right decision to leave him?
When Claire got home, she rushed into her bedroom. She grabbed a pink pack out of her nightstand. For the first time after two years, Claire took the pill again.

When Claire started her studies in Nice in 2007, she got to know Farid on her second day of university. After a few moths they fell in love with each other and Claire and him started dating.
“You can’t be serious! A Muslim?” Claire’s mother yelled at her.
“Mom! I love him! I don’t care about his religion!”
Claire’s father was sitting on the sofa in the living room and had not said a word since Claire had announced that she and Farid were dating.
His eyes looked angry and wild. All their lives, they had well considered what the right steps were to keep their children on the good path. Claire declaring that she planned her future with a Muslim was the exact opposite of a good path to them.
“Claire, people like him don’t understand us. They don’t believe in the same things as us. How is that supposed to work? It starts with the little things. I am not able to eat with him at one table if he does not pray before dinner with us. That is just not acceptable! My grandchildren won’t be Muslims. Imagine! And what would Father Charlson say? No!” Claire’s mother was wandering around in the living room and talking in a trembling voice.
Claire did not care what anyone said or thought about it -- except her parents. She needed them to approve of Farid. “Mum, dad, he is not only a Muslim. He is a person. Stop defining him only by his religion. You should get to know him and you will see that he...” Her dad interrupted her. “I am not going to get to know this Muslim.”
Claire yelled, “His name is Farid!”
Her mother looked at her in desperation. “Darling, that’s just not the way it is supposed to be. As I said, I cannot imagine us together at one table.”
“You cannot sit at a table with him? Really mum? Oh come on don’t be ridiculous!” Her mom looked at her with pity in her eyes, because she felt bad that her daughter did not understand. “Honey, these people are crazy; they are extremists!”
Claire laughed. “Really, mom? They are extremists?”
Deep down, Claire knew that her parents would not change their mind about Farid. There were many things she could discuss with her parents and they were open to try to see things from her perspective. But the one thing that was not arguable or tolerable was their religious belief. This was not only a part of their lives, but it was the basis of their perception of the world. It shaped their perspective and their personalities.
Eventhough Claire knew this, she kept on trying. She kept on discussing. She kept on bringing up new arguments. She kept on crying. She kept on insisting. She kept on crying. She kept on yelling. She kept on crying.
Until one day, her grand-father took her in his arms after she had had a big fight again, and he said to her, “you know they will never agree. You already know it. You just have to admit it to yourself that this is not going to work.”
But admitting meant deciding. And how was she supposed to make that decision? There was no good choice she could actually imagine living with happily. If she had decided to stay with Farid, her family would have abandonned her. Her family - the people who raised her, her mother who gave life to her, her father who had always taken care of her. They both had dedicated their lives to make her life great. How could she abandon them without feeling guilty for the rest of her life? She had too much respect for her parents and sibblings.
She already knew that a life without Farid would be hard and cold. She already knew that she was going to miss his gentle character, his special way of interpreting and explaining the world, his tolerance and kindness. He made her a better person. But it did not seem to her like she had a choice.
Nevertheless, Claire thought about it night and day even after she had broken up with Farid. And she still kept on crying. She had never stopped wishing that they could have stayed together. But after she had made the decision to leave Farid, all these thoughts stayed secret in her head and she never dared talk to anyone about it. Maybe this was why she enjoyed talking about shoes and nail saloons with her friend and not think about this.

Claire was determined to make up for her bad answers she had given to her students two weeks ago. She had tried to avoid the topic ever since. But since she felt like she owed them an explanation and most importantly a positive perspective, she had been thinking of things she could tell them.
Since the attack, she had not been able to think of anything else. When waking up every morning, when having breakfast, when teaching, when talking to Cedric, when talking to her family, when going to bed. Most of her speech she had prepared she had heard from her husband or in the media.
When she entered the class room, she had big, dark rings under her eye, and it was the third day in a row that she had been wearing her red dress. Her hair was in disorder because she was nervously running her sweaty hands through it every other minute. By now, her left hand looked the same as her right hand.
“I wanted to talk about the attack again,” she started the conversation with her class. She had all the attention of every single child after saying this. She tried to smile confidently.
“I wanted to point out that this was a terrible thing that happened. It was a very bad man who did this to these people, but there are also a lot of good people who tried to stop him. And there will always be more good than bad people.” She paused.
Her voice was trembling when she continued, ” we don’t have to be afraid because we have each other, and we can help each other to get through bad times like this, right?” The children’s faces turned from afraid to relieved. Madame Esperance could see that she had indeed reassured some of them with these nice words.
“We should not blame each other, but stand together and fight back with hope and confidence that it is not going to happen again.”
Claire had tears in her eyes, but she was able to fight them. “I am sure everything is going to be fine,” she said. She never wanted to see this class again after she lied in their faces so badly.

I try to fight these thoughts every day. Because I know I have no reason to complain. I have Cedric, I have my wonderful family, and everybody has got my back. I have a great job, and I am a very lucky woman.
But ever since the attack, nothing seems to make sense anymore. Why would I have children with Cedric if I am not sure if they can bear this world we live in? Do I really want to expect my children to become happy here?
I don’t even see a good future for all my lovely students anymore. I used to believe that I can have a positive impact on their lives and that after years, I would meet them again and I could see what they made out of it.
I was going to love my own children more than anything in the world. This was meant to be the highlight of my life - everything I worked for. I was going to make sure that they are well, that they learn how to be good people, how to make the right choices and I was going to do anything to make them happy.
But as soon as they realize how this world really works and how pointless this all is, they would be devastated. They would not understand and suffer. Like all the families of the people who were killed.
Like me. Like so many people during the wars we’ve fought in the past and all these innocent people who had to die. For what? There is no progress to be seen.
People don’t realize all the things that go wrong in this world, so they will not be able to change them. Like I did not realize that I should stand up and fight for my love, Farid. I love Cedric, I do. But in a different way than I love Farid.
How would my life be now with him? Would it be awesome because he would make me happy? Or would it be awful because his religious beliefs would have destroyed my relation with my family. And right now, would we have to realize that our worlds don’t fit together? Would he agree with what the terrorists did?
He always had such an open mind and a different view on things than me; but it has never been cruel or unfair in any way. I knew I would miss him, but I thought life would be easier with a man who appealed to my parents.
But now, even this life doesn’t make sense anymore. So what is left?
I just want to escape this world. I am sorry; I am not as strong as the rest of you.

Claire was racing on the freeway and stopped on the bridge that went over the river. She used to come here with Farid. Her grand-father had shown her this place, because he loved the silence out there and the lights at night that made the bridge look even bigger. The tears on her cheeks felt ice cold in the wind. She thought of Farid, of Cedric, her mother, her father, her nieces, her sisters. Was she really going to do this?
She walked towards the very middle of the bridge. She looked down, but could not see anything, but darkness. She knew that down there was the river, cold and merciless. She was standing there for a long while, staring into the dark. Tears were still rolling over her face.
Claire felt exhausted and weak. She had not slept for weeks. She could never get her mind off her realization that there was no happy end in sight. She had realized that there was never going to be a guarantee that no one is going to hurt her family. She had realized how much she missed Farid but how impossible it was for them to be together. She had realized that she will never be able to understand why killers like the terrorists do what they do. She had realized that she had been blind all her life, dreaming of her future life and ignoring all the bad that was right in front of her. She had realized that she could not find a way to resolve this and that there was no one who could help her because Farid was gone and nobody would understand.
Claire had constantly thinking about this for weeks now and everytime, it made her feel the pain in her chest again. Shudders of fear and frustration went through her body. She climbed over the railings and was at a standstill on the other side of it. Only darkness was to be seen in front of her. The cold and the absolute silence felt good. She was standing there for almost an hour, which seemed to her like only a short time.
When she looked to her right, she thought that she had seen a man approaching her. At first, she was not sure because she could barely see anything with her red eyes constantly filled with tears.
She realized that she had been right when the man was only a few feet away from her. What was he doing here at that time? It was three in the morning and she had never met anyone out here before.
She could not see him; but she could hear his steps. He said, “What are you doing out here?”
Claire was surprised. The voice sounded kind of familiar to her. She did not know what to say.
“Come on, don’t do this. Why would you want to do this?”
Claire did not answer. She was confused, like she had been for the last three weeks. She had never answered any of the questions that Cedric, her family and her boss had asked her after she had not gone to work anymore. There was no point in answering anymore.
“Damn, how I hate selfish people like you,” the man continued.
Claire now tried to look at him, but the darkness was hiding his face. “What do you want?” She asked him aggressively. “Leave me alone.”
The man sighed and added, “there is no reason in the world why you should do this. But you’re typically human. You think you’re the one to decide who should live and who should not.”
This hit her right in the heart. She shouted at the man, ”these humans are the reason why I am standing here. Don’t tell me how they are; I now have understood how this world works.”
“If you did, you wouldn’t be standing here. But go ahead if you want to be one of those people.”
Claire got angry, “I am not the bad one here. I can’t stand the bad ones anymore. I can’t stand watching them destroy everything.” She tried to turn around as far as she could in order to get a better look at him. She could only see his silhouette, but not much more. He seemed to be fairly small and round, and he had a walking stick with him. It looked similar to one that her grand-father had. The man was breathing heavily and although she could not see his face, she could tell that he was very old. This raised the question in her mind why this man was out here in the middle of the night.
“Oh I see, you’re talking about the attack.” She could hear in his voice that the man was smiling.
She asked ”How can you not despair in this world?”
“I have seen worse, my dear. I have fought in the War. I lost friends and family fighting next to me and you have no idea how many times I have questioned the point in it. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and don’t take the easy way by releasing yourself from the pain. You think you’re the only one? Have you ever thought about how your people will feel when they find you dead?”
“How can I live a life when I always have to fear that they take away one of them? Or how could I ever have children and put them in the same situation?”
“So you’d rather let the terrorists and all the bad ones win. You give them what they want. So you are not better than them. You are actually like them. You’re an extremist who does not keep a cool head and does not care about destroying other people’s lives. Actually,” He paused and then he laughed. “Actually, this is very ironic, because you are even worse than them.”
Claire could not believe what the man just had said. How dare he talk to her like this while she was standing at the edge of a bridge, about to kill herself. “What are you talking about? How can I be worse than them?”
“At least they die for something they believe in. They are convinced that their death will cause change. You’re just fleeing the problems because you think you can’t face them.
Maybe you should accept you won’t find all the answers and explanations for everything that happens in this world. Then you can cope with it and create your own life and your own little world as good as you can. You’re so young.”
Claire felt guilty. She felt guilty of being selfish, weak and she felt ridiculous telling a man who fought in World War Two that her life was unbearable. She also felt stupid. The comparison he made was harsh; but it was true.
She tried to stop crying and to think clearly. When she climbed back on the side walk, she was going to look that man in the eyes and find out who he was. But he was gone.
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