Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Short story: Balance (part vi)

After they left the cafĂ© Claudia stopped to take photos of children chasing pigeons on a cobblestone street. “I sell pictures to tourist agencies,” she explained Michael as he watched her adjusting her lens. “They want conventional shots. Not the kind of stuff I really like, but they pay me and for now that’s what counts.”

“Is that how you support yourself?”

“That, and teaching some night classes to students wanting to learn English.”

“I thought you need a work visa for something like that.”

Claudia shrugged. “There are so many students who want to learn English that schools fill up quickly. It’s not hard to get work teaching if you have a university degree. Besides, it’s not a real job, it’s more like tutoring.”

Michael didn’t reply, just looked at her with knitted brow - an expression that made her think instantly of her father and she bristled.

“Look, living in Paris isn’t cheap. I have to pay tuition and rent, plus all the photo expenses. How am I supposed to pay for these things if I can’t work?”

“You should apply for a working visa.”

“Do you have any idea what a hassle that is? French administration is a nightmare.”

She turned the camera on him, attempting to distract the conversation, and he scowled at her. He had shaved his beard the night before and his white jaw contrasted with the dark, weathered skin of his cheeks and forehead. Through her lens, his childish scowl and raw skin reminded her of the boy she had been friends with years ago. She put down the camera and remained facing him.

“Are you nervous about going back to Canada?” she asked, purposefully softening her voice. He looked away and into the silence she volunteered, “I don’t know if I’d be ready to go back now.”
Michael sucked in a breath, bit his lower lip, then replied with a tight voice. “Why would I be nervous? I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Claudia turned away, annoyed that she suddenly felt ashamed of what she was hiding from her cousin, from those back home.

“We should get back,” she said. “I have to develop this roll for tomorrow.”

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