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Florence Gerard Ducasse(弗罗伦斯)

Florence Gerard Ducasse

I will call her Florence. This is not her real name, of course.

I was a newly qualified doctor at the time and that was in the early sixties. Trite as that may sound, she reminded me of the Madonna of Raphael, as she bent over her newborn child. She was a single mother, and single mothers in those days were tolerated if they behaved with sufficient humility and did not flaunt the obvious: that they had borne a child out of wedlock. She had brought her baby boy to my office. He was only two weeks old. She was herself about eighteen years old, maybe. She lived with an aunt. The father of the child had disappeared from her life.

Thereafter, she would bring her child regularly for his development checks, and for the sundry ailments all children suffer from. She was always well dressed, but with a quiet chic. She spoke in a measured and calm voice. She had beautiful black eyes, a sweet, charming smile, and a liquid radiance hung about her person. I am sure my heart beat a little faster, every time I saw her with her baby in the waiting room.

As the years went by, I saw Florence and her boy every now and then at the office. He was a healthy boy and, as he grew older, I saw less and less of them. She was as perfect a mother as one would wish. It seemed every fibre of her being was bent to her child’s development and happiness, and yet, she did not dote upon him. Her love was not exaggerated or silly. She was always poised, reasonable, warm, loving and lovable. I suspected that she worked for some “couture” business in town, for her dresses were always in such perfect taste.

I think that her boy must have been about four years old, when the dark secret that clothed her life was revealed to me. One evening, I had been invited to dinner by a friend of mine, who was staying at one of the city’s hotels. After dinner, he left me in the hotel lobby to get a newspaper. As I sat in a corner of the lobby waiting for his return, my attention was caught by a group of young women, escorted by some young fellows, who were leaving the hotel to board a limousine. The women wore slinky dresses with deep décolleté. Some of them had slits on the side of their dresses running up to their thighs. They laughed loudly. Some smoked cigarettes from long thin amber-colored cigarette-holders. They exhibited an air of nonchalance and sensuality. Their escorts’ hands slid on their bodies without any apparent show of resistance on their part. They aired their noisy good humor as they walked towards their waiting limousine. I suspected they were a group of escort girls entertaining their clients. Intrigued and curious, I got up and watched them board the limousine. One of the girls, as she got into the car, turned around, looked in my direction and our eyes briefly crossed. She was Florence.

She never brought her child to my office again.

Years later, late one night, I was called to the emergency department of our hospital, to see a boy who had been brought in unconscious. He had been knocked down by a car. The boy was about eight years old. Luckily, he was only concussed. He had a minor fracture and a few bad bruises, nothing really serious. The mother of the child arrived soon after. It was Florence. She looked older of course, but she was still very beautiful. She was very worried. She feared the worst for her child. I reassured her and explained that we would admit her boy, to set his fracture and to keep an eye on him for the night. I invited her to stay with him, and she eagerly accepted. Next morning, the young fellow was discharged home, as lively as a sparrow. As I wished her good-bye, I remarked that I had not seen her for quite a while. We shook hands. She smiled shyly, and left.

A few days later I received through the post a folded card, illustrated with a very delicate picture of one of Raphael’s Madonna. Life has these coincidences. The sender had not written anything in it, but had enclosed, within its fold, a dried flower. It was pale blue, very transparent, with thin fine veins. I held it against the morning light and blew on it. The soft breeze carried it away.

  弗罗伦斯

  我叫她做弗罗伦斯,当然这并不是她的真名。

  我认识她的时候还在是六十年代初,那时候我才刚刚获得专科医生资格。说起来可能有点老掉牙,可每次看到她俯身去抱她小孩的时候,我都会想起拉斐尔的圣母玛利亚像。她是位单身母亲,而在当时那个年代,单身母亲只要举止谦逊低调,不去四处张扬未婚生子的事实,她们还是能够得到社会的包容。她带她不到两周大的孩子来我的诊所。她自己可能也就十八岁左右,和她的姑妈住在一起,而孩子的父亲早就不知所踪。

  从此,她会不时地带她的儿子来看病,都是些常见的儿科疾病,还有做各种常规的体检。她的穿着非常得体,带有一种雍容的华贵,说话也是不紧不慢的。她还长有一双漂亮的黑眼睛,笑起来让人感觉很舒服,在印象中她总是容光焕发的样子。这也就不奇怪每次看见她和她的儿子在候诊室出现的时候,我都会感到心跳加速。

  在随后的几年里,我不时地和他们在我的诊所里见面。她的儿子非常健康,并且随着他的渐渐成长,我们之间见面的次数也越来越少。她是一位尽心尽职的好母亲,她的全副心思都花在如何让自己的孩子快乐成长上面,可她又不是无原则地偏袒溺爱。她的爱一点也不夸张做作,也不盲目。她总是那样地泰然自若,温柔体贴。我猜想她的职业一定和时装行业有关,因为她的穿着非常有品位。

  终于有一天,我发现了她不为人所知的秘密,那时候她的儿子应该有四岁了。那是一天晚上,我应邀到一家酒店和一位朋友共进晚餐。在吃过晚饭后,他去拿报纸,我就坐在大堂的角落里等他。在等的过程中,我留意到一群年轻女子在几个年轻男子的陪同下正准备离开酒店,酒店门口有辆豪华的轿车正在等着他们。那些女子很大胆地穿着袒胸露肩的华丽衣服,有些人的裙子还一直开叉到大腿位置。她们很放肆地大声说笑,有几个还手夹着细长的琥珀烟嘴吸烟。她们神情冷淡妖冶,对贴着她们的身体的男伴的手并不抗拒。她们一路朝那辆豪华轿车走过去,不时就一些蹩脚笑话发出肆无忌惮的笑声。凭直觉我怀疑她们是应召女郎,她们正在陪伴着她们的客人。对她们充满好奇,也想看看热闹,我很自然地站了起来,目视着她们上车。其中一个女郎在上车的时候回头张望了一下,正好和我的目光相遇,原来她正是弗罗伦斯。

  从那以后,她再也没有带她儿子到我那儿看病。

  几年后的一个深夜,我被医院紧急传呼回去救助一名被车撞倒昏迷的男孩。那男孩在八岁左右,幸运的是,他遭受的仅仅是轻微脑震荡,身上有一小处骨折和几处瘀伤,其余的并无大碍。孩子的母亲很快就赶了过来,她正是弗罗伦斯。当然了,她比以前显得老了一些,可是依然很漂亮。她看上去非常焦急,担心她的孩子有什么意外。我安慰她,并告诉她说我会安排他住院治疗,接驳好他的断骨,并会留意病情的发展。我还请她留下来陪伴她的儿子,她非常乐意地答应了。第二天早上,那小男孩已经活泼得像小鸟一样,可以出院了。在我们握手道别的时候,我顺口说和她已经有一段时间没有见面了。她有点不好意思地笑了笑,然后走了。

  几天后,我收到一张精美的卡片,上面是拉斐尔的圣母玛利亚像。生活总是充满各种奇异的巧合。寄卡人没有任何留言,但是在卡片中间夹了一朵干花。那是朵淡蓝色的干花,非常透明,可以清楚地看见上面的纹理。我举起花瓣朝着晨光吹了一口气,花瓣转瞬间就随风而去。

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