Author’s Note: This chapter of Noble Doubt and the last chapter of my spin-off series “Dax in Paris” have overlapped in a story. Because of this, you may want to read “Like a Brick in the Face” featuring Dax prior to reading this chapter.
Dear Diary, as you can imagine, after seeing Matthieu in a fist fight with Dax, I met him in our yard when he came home, expecting a full explanation. His expression was one of such regret, though, I was no longer so eager to ask him what happened.
“Are you all right?” I asked instead.
Hanging his head, he nodded. “It seems you and some of the children saw that.”
“Unfortunately, yes. Charles, Laurent, Marty and I were folding diapers on the dining room table when Laurent called us to the window.”
“I wish it had never happened,” he sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me you were upset about Dax yesterday?”
“I see now that I should have. I guess I was just trying to put it out of my mind. Dax has been so strange.”
“You’re telling me. He said some pretty rotten things. Still, it’s no excuse for my part in this. I need to talk to the children about it.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. They did their chores and helped fold diapers, so I told them they could play. Marty and Charles are in the treehouse and Laurent is playing with Bootsie.”
I should mention here, Diary, that I was not a witness to the events coming next. Instead, I’m writing this in a different way, using the information Matthieu gave me.
All the way back to the house, Matthieu pieced together what he wanted to tell the children. His mind was deeply troubled by the fight they had seen him get into with Dax St. Cyr. Normally, it took a lot to make Matthieu react in such a way, and now that it was over, he wished he had walked away.
The first thing he did was ask them what they saw. Charles spoke for the younger two, explaining that they had seen the scuffle and Dax limping away a few steps once it was over.
“Are you hurt, Daddy?” Charles asked, his face clouded with concern.
“No, I’m not hurt. And I think Dax is all right, too. What I want you to understand, though, is that what I did was wrong. It was done in the heat of the moment and in a fit of temper. We must always be careful not to lose control of ourselves because someone could get hurt. Do you understand?”
“But, Daddy, if Dax was mean to you, why was it wrong to bust him one?” Marty asked.
“Well,” Matthieu began, “do you think Dax and I worked anything out by handling it that way?”
“No, I guess not,” she answered.
“Wouldn’t it be better if Dax and I were able to work out our differences and remain friends rather than the way it really happened?”
“I wouldn’t want to be friends with him if he was mean,” Laurent said. “Besides, you don’t make mistakes.”
Matthieu smiled down at him and said, “But I do make mistakes. Everyone does. I’m your father, so I try to be a good example in order to teach you how to behave. The problem is, sometimes, even I don’t make the right decisions. That’s why I’m talking to you now, so that you know what I did was wrong.”
Charles stared at the ground for a moment.
“What is it, Charles?” Matt asked.
“Well, Sir, I think if it was me in that situation, I might’ve hit him, too. When he came to our picnic yesterday, Momma got really upset and I could tell it was because of him.”
“So you would hit him because he hurt your momma?”
“Yessir, I would and I don’t think I’d feel bad about it either!”
Matthieu looked toward Laurent who was being especially quiet. “And what do you think, son?”
“Well,” he began slowly, taking the time to measure his words, “I think Momma wasn’t in danger and she didn’t say she needed help, so it would have been wrong to clobber him then.”
“And what about today?”
“I don’t know what he did today, Sir, but sometimes I wonder…”
When his voice trailed off, Matthieu prodded him to continue. “Tell me what you were going to say.”
“There’s this kid that sometimes plays with us – ”
” – Oh! Yeah! Theo! I can’t stand him!” Marty chimed in.
” – yes, Theo,” Laurent said. “He’s really mean sometimes. Once he pulled Marty’s hair and another time he made another kid cry. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m thinking about Theo.”
“Yes? And what do you think?’
“I think he’s really sad.”
“So maybe Dax is sad?” Matt asked with a small smile. He was glad Laurent could put these thoughts together and explain them in such a way that Charles and Marty would pay attention to as well.
“I think you’re on to something, Laurent. Come with me. I want to take you somewhere.”
As Matt and the boys started to walk away, Marty lagged behind.
“Aren’t you coming?” Matthieu asked her.
“I thought you just wanted the boys to go.”
Matthieu knelt down and held his arms out. “I meant for you to come with us, too.”
Quickly, she ran to him, snaking her arms around his neck as he stood up.
“I love you, Martha. I would never leave you out on purpose. Don’t you know you’re my favorite six year old?”
“I love you, too, Daddy.”
After going to the St. Cyr farm, they found out Dax wasn’t there but was on the beach taking a walk. Matthieu and the children walked in the same direction and soon found him near a park bench.
As soon as Dax saw them, he took a defensive stance as if ready for another fight.
“I’m glad I found you,” Matthieu told him. “I owe you an apology. I’m very sorry about our fight this morning and I hope you can forgive me.”
Dax’s eyes narrowed. “Is this some kind of trick?”
“Why would I try to trick you – especially in front of my children? I mean it wholeheartedly. I’m sorry.”
Gradually, Dax began to relax until, finally, he said, “You know, I’m sorry, too.”
With all forgiven, Matthieu smiled widely and introduced Dax to Charles, Laurent and Marty. Up til then, they had been very patiently listening. After the introductions were over, they begged Matthieu to let them explore the beach and then walk to town to see if there were other children who could play. Matthieu relented and sent them off.
“Your kids are really a handsome bunch,” Dax said. “Oh, and uh, pretty.”
Matt laughed and said, “You should see the other three! We also have Lissie, Carrie and Susan.”
“Wow, that’s a houseful all right. It must be pretty exciting at your place.”
“It’s never dull, that’s true.”
Without warning, Dax crumpled to the ground, pulling his knees up. Unsure of what was happening, Matthieu knelt next to him. When he saw that Dax was crying, he was careful not to stare in his face for fear of making him even more upset.
“What’s wrong? How can I help you?”
Slowly, Dax shook his head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know I’m just awful to everyone but I don’t know how to stop myself.”
For a few minutes, Matt was at a loss. But remembering what Laurent said earlier when they were at home gave him an idea. “You seem really sad.”
“I thought what I’d always wanted was to go to Paris and paint. Then I had my accident and all those dreams faded into something that could never be. After that, my goal was to hide my hideous face. I was afraid I’d scare people or that they’d stare at me and make fun. Worse than that, I was terrified of hearing ‘poor Dax, he used to be so handsome.’ Just when I thought I’d given up on ever being normal, Blue came into my life and she treated me like I was normal even though I was so clearly not. It wasn’t hard to feel something for her, you know?”
Matthieu thought he was beginning to understand a little bit. “Then suddenly, the scars were gone.”
“Yeah, just like that. It changed everything so fast. When I found Mango’s letter telling me to give everything up here and go to Paris, I thought my prayers had been answered. I thought maybe my feelings for Blue weren’t what I’d imagined them to be and off I went.”
“Straight into a relationship.”
“Yeah, man,” Dax said. “When I got to Paris, it was all exciting and new. No one knew me and I could keep my past hidden. I could be anyone I wanted to be. Cosette’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but Mango told me to meet up with her because she could get me going in the art world. And she has. I think my last showing might be the break I was looking for all these years.”
Dax didn’t speak for a long time and when he finally did, his voice was almost a whisper. “But now she knows my past. She knows who I am and I can’t pretend anymore.”
“Is that so bad, though? The Dax I knew was a pretty good friend and I liked him.”
“I think the guy you knew didn’t exist. Not really. The fact is, I don’t know who I am at all.”
By now, Matt’s legs were sore, so he suggested they sit on the park bench.
“Do you think you just wake up one day and say, ‘this is who I am! YAY!’” Matthieu said with a slight smile.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happens.”
“Maybe you just need a break.”
“A break? What kind of a break?”
“I hear that people on the mainland take vacations away from their lives for a week or two every year or so. Something like that. Go on a trip by yourself. Paint, read, do whatever makes you happy for a little while. You just might have an entirely new perspective on things when you get back.”
“I wonder how Cosette would take it… me going away by myself.”
“Does she love you?”
“I’m sure she does.”
“Then she’s likely seen you’re not yourself lately. If she loves you, she’ll trust you and understand. You never know, maybe she needs a break from you, too.”
“Very funny,” Dax said with a small smile.
“I’ll think about it,” he added. “And, Matthieu?”
“Thanks for being there for me even though I was so rotten to you.”
And that’s what I know about Matt and Dax’s exchange, Diary. Later, he came home childrenless, kissed me, said hello to everyone, then went outside to work. It was plain to me that things had gone well, so I was happy.
I had just gotten the twins fed and Susan down for an afternoon nap when two guilty looking boys showed up.
“Yes?” I asked, expecting to hear something bad.
Unfortunately, they were not about to disappoint me.
“Momma, we’re sorry to have to tell you this,” Laurent began, then looked uncomfortably at his older brother.
“It’s Marty,” was all Charles added.
“Well, where is she and what’s she done?”
“She won’t come in. She’s afraid you’ll faint.”
“What in the world?” Leela asked.
“When have I ever fainted. You tell her to march herself in here this minute.”
The boys quickly disappeared and after what seemed an eternity, Marty made her appearance.
As soon as I saw her, I thought perhaps I was the fainting kind because, at that moment, I would’ve liked nothing better than to pass out and wake up to find out I’d only been dreaming.
“Good heavens! What have you done to yourself?”
Her lower lip began to tremble and she quickly brushed a few tears away. “I wanted short hair like Charlie and Laurent.”
Leela and Alice were sympathetic but also trying to stifle their shock.
Sighing, I gave Marty a comforting hug. “Well, there’s nothing to be done about it now. What’s done is done. I guess you know now why we don’t cut our own hair.”
Much to Marty’s dismay, I found a hat for her to wear which did nothing to lift her spirits.
“You look like a girl!” Charles laughed.
“I am a girl!” she scowled.
“You children quit fighting before you wake Susan up. Go find something to do or I’ll find something for you to do! I think there’s another pile of clean diapers ready to be folded and corn that needs shucking.” I said, shooing them out.
Too late, Susan was already crying to get up.