All of Pralognan, France knew her as Madame LaRue. Not much was known of her personal life, seeing as she hardly spoke a word and was a rather difficult woman to approach. She could be found, in solitary, seated at the Voltaire downtown. Always first to arrive, and last to leave. In fact, many believed she never left. She was a slightly stout woman a bit on the shorter side, approaching her early fifties. Her red hair was dyed and thinning, silvery roots a subtle hint of her age. Yet, that was not the most noticeable of her features. She was a walking display. The weight of pearls, garlands, and colliers left her neck, a wilting rose. Rubies, diamonds, dazzled on her hands, not a finger left unclad. One might mistake her for the wife of a loan officer, perhaps an underwriter if not for her clothing conditions, which was moth-eaten and faded, stained and out of fashion.
Her intentions each evening were unclear. She met with not a soul, but rather appeared to be waiting for someone in particular. People speculated… several rumors having been told. The most popular being her wait for a long lost love. Each night she wore all the jewelry in her closet, hoping to attract the beloved she had never had. She eyed the door each time it opened, reeking of desperation and cheap perfume. Sat in her stool, third down from the end of the bar, she ordered not a single drink in hopes a certain gentleman would offer.
Oliver Barnes was a budding English exchange student taking a portfolio development class in the city. He found himself in the Voltaire one evening for a drink and a couple poker games. He assumed it would be good fun and serve as an escape from his father’s impending doom. Not to any surprise, he wasn’t entirely thrilled to hear his only son was to be an artist, not a businessman or something “sensible,” as he put it. He walked into the bar, greeted with the scent of alcohol and loneliness. It was not long before he caught the eye of Madame LaRue, seated in her corner buried under her beads and baubles. A few of his fellow peers were there and soon offered to deal him in. He took place at their table and placed an ante, with the unnerving feeling that someone watched him. This went on for a few minutes before Oliver stood abruptly and offered to buy the table a round of Carlings. His colleagues were well aware he came from money. The brand new textbooks he carried and various pairs of expensive shoes he wore around campus was a dead give away. They said yes, without hesitation.
Fairly quickly, he discovered it was her whose eyes he felt were burning holes in the back of his head. He walked straight toward LaRue. She held her gaze, fixed and unwavering. Oliver could not do the same; he found it unsettling. He sat in the seat beside her, waved over the bartender, and signaled towards his table. “Une tournée… uhh… Carlings s’il vous plaît, for the gentlemen over there.” He sat in silence for a moment before turning to face the Madame. “Yes?” He asked. His eyes falling to study her assortment of strings, slightly startled by her choice in fashion. He found, the more he looked, the more he was blown away. She didn’t look the type to afford luxuries such as these. Pearls, garnets, and… was that tanzanite? Had she robbed a jeweler’s?
“I knew you are coming!” she exclaimed. “Excuse me?” “Marci told me you do not come. She thinks you go back without me, back to Cambridge.” This caught Oliver by surprise. What gave it away? Was it the accent? And who was Marci? “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She smiled and rolled her eyes, “You are silly, Thomas, you have packed your things? It is in your car? Look, I wear all the jewelry you gave me. Isn’t it funny?” At this point, he had come to the conclusion she wasn’t all there. Perhaps it was dementia. “Thomas?” he echoed. “… Barnes. Yes, your name… we do not have the time for this mamour.” This could no longer be coincidental. His father’s name was Thomas. “Oh, I cannot wait to go!” She cried, giggling like a schoolgirl. “You have your music, and I have my poems. We will be happiest.” Still curious, he played along, “What year is it, darling?” Her smile faltered. Concern quickly replaced her excitement. “1934 mamour.” She was wrong. It was 1966.
Oliver knew he was a carbon copy of his father, though he liked to joke he was a few inches taller. He also knew his father spent some time on holiday in the city before he was born. But what he knew now was his father was a musician. He knew now his father once was defiant. He knew now his father failed to meet a young lady roughly twenty years of age by the name of LaRue at the Voltaire one night thirty years ago. He knew now his father, the same man who frowned on his son for pursuing a dream, gave up on his own, and Oliver pitied him.