Part Nine in the Derailleur Series
My new companion was unaffected by my face. He was heading home in four weeks and nothing seemed to drown out that noise in his head. He was my second dying companion. One more and I’d become known as a mortician. He was there to pick me up at the train station, I’ll credit him that.
And, instead of taking me to the apartment, we went right to an appointment. We went by metro, tram and foot. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t mount a bike because I didn’t tell him why.
Mme. Fontaine opened the door of her grand residence with what seemed usual grace and greeting for missionaries at her door. My comp introduced me and she suddenly changed her disposition and asked what happened to my face. She the first woman I’d seen and had actually spoken with since the attack just the night before. She grabbed the keys to her car and drove my new companion and I to a hospital.
Mme. Fontaine and her daughter, Catherine, had been seeing missionaries for several weeks, elders and sisters. She was amicably divorced and maintained a beautiful residence for her and her beautiful daughter of nineteen and her son of fifteen years. The three were a highlight of open mindedness and light and color in a city of coal mines and steel mills.
Catherine was attending the University in an adjacent town while living at home. She spoke a number of languages, English being her second, and was brilliant. She had a remarkable bond with her family, her father included, and seemed to fear absolutely nothing. She had her mother’s grace and her father’s sense of business and acumen. It wasn’t long till she had me distracted as well.
There was only one other time when my intentions as a missionary were diverted. It was in Luxembourg. We had been invited to present at an American university campus, a class on religion, content obviously about what were representing at the time. On our way from the campus to the train station we were intercepted by two students, female, one of which was a dead ringer for Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. They wanted to know more about the church, leading us to an address and an appointment the next day.
We met at their student housing and had a great discussion on the restoration and got a follow-up. Back the next day, and the next, and the next. A couple of weeks of this and I’m thinking baptism, though it wouldn’t count toward area stats since she’d be going home to the States soon, meaning in a day or two.
After our last appointment, the Susanna-lookalike had her companion distract mine as we walked through a large park on our way to the train station. We faded back a ways, far enough out of earshot of the couple ahead and she said she really wasn’t interested in Mormons, just this one, meaning me. She stopped me and took me by my lapels and kissed me long and hard and deep, and I didn’t resist.
We parted, her friend and my comp separated, and the girls stood and watched us walk away. My comp and I said nothing to each other on the train on the way back to Nancy. And we never talked about it later. But I thought about her, often, late at night after prayers when I felt it was my time to have my own thoughts.
At the hospital I finally found a bathroom before I was lead to an examination area. I removed the soiled packing and cleaned myself, then ran a trembling hand across a glut, the tips of my index and middle fingers carefully feeling down through the cleft. I felt existing scar tissue, but no fissure. Nothing had ruptured as I had thought otherwise. The bleeding had stopped and so had my mind in wondering why I had hemorrhaged so.
The exam and x-rays revealed a hairline fracture at the back of my skull, my broken jaw, the detached septum and greater alar cartilage of my nose, the displacement of two molars and an incisor on my lower left jaw, three broken ribs on my right side lower cage, and a fractured coccyx. An orthodontic appliance was made that fit inside my mouth, maintaining alignment of teeth and mandible while my jaw healed. My nose was set and my ribs were wrapped. My head and tail bone were left undone as there was nothing to be done about them except lay on my back with both my head and my ass suspended in inflatable pillows, and eight weeks of a liquid diet.
Mme. Fontaine brought me to her home to start my recovery. She and Catherine tended to me for a day after which I thought it best for all involved if I finished recovering at our apartment. I was back to proselyting after a week. A miracle. During that week I got my “Dear John” letter.