As Jacques entered the old train station, he could hear the tinkling twang of a classical guitar playing softly from the massive vintage stereo speakers he had brought from his apartment in Montreal a few weeks earlier. He hung up his coat and was startled to find Tanita sprawled on the floor of the main hall, hidden by the big sofa they'd recently bought at a local thrift shop. She'd dragged the old gym mat in front of the antique cast iron stove, and adjusted the air vent to obtain the maximum amount of heat. She lay on her side, her upper torso flat on the mat and her hair spread all around her head like a walnut crest as she stared at the rafters above her.
“Harmonium,” he said aloud.
“Hmm?” she replied, suddenly realizing he was there.
“This song. It's a classic.”
She rolled upright. “Anik chose this CD,” she said defensively. “I like it,” she admitted timidly.
“It's their eponymous CD,” he said, smiling. “An essential volume in any Québécois music collection.”
“I like it,” she repeated. “I forgot my name once.”
Jacques smiled again. “I see your French lessons are going well.” Anik had been teaching her a few new words in French, every day since she'd been released from the hospital, and while she still lacked the confidence to speak she could already understand basic conversations.
“Where's Mont Car, Jacques?”
He sat down on the sofa. “Mont Car? Where did you hear that?”
“In the song. He sings, for a moment, I breathed really hard, and that permitted me to visit Mont Car.”
Jacques laughed. “Mon corps,” he said, “not mont cors. It means 'my body;' it's not a place.”
She stared at him as if he was teasing her.
“The words go, 'Pour un instant j'ai respiré très fort; ça m'a permis de visiter mon corps'. By breathing very deeply, after heavy exercise for example, you become more aware of your body. That's what it means.”
She pouted at him as he picked up the CD case, pulling out the paper insert. He flipped it open and showed her the words.
“On that note, why aren't you outside throwing snowballs with the other kids?” he asked gently as she studied the paper intensely.
“I don't want to,” she muttered, her attention focused on the words of the song.
“Tanus seems to be having a great time,” he prodded.
“He laughs at me all the time,” she said, looking up with a frown. “He doesn't respect me.”
“Do you respect him?”
“Do you respect him?”
“What kind of a question is that Jacques?” She tossed the booklet aside and turned her upper body to face him.
“An important one. If you don't respect him, how can you expect him to respect you?”
“It's not the same thing!”
“Of course not! Don't be obtuse; he's a rogue with bad hygiene, at least I'm trying.”
“Trying to do what?”
She looked at him as if he had sprouted a second head. “To be normal,” she finally said, quietly.