This was Armand.
He sat on the stone park bench, boylike, casual, with one knee crooked, looking up at me with the predictable innocence, dusty all over, naturally, hair a long, tangled mess of auburn curls.
Dressed in heavy denim garments, tight pants, and a zippered jacket, he surely passed for human, a street vagabond maybe, though his face was now parchment white, and even smoother than it had been when last we met.
In a way, he made me think of a child doll, with brilliant faintly red-brown glass eyes; a doll that had been found in an attic. I wanted to polish him with kisses, clean him up, make him even more radiant than he was.
"That’s what you always want," he said softly. His voice shocked me. If he had any French or Italian accent left, I couldn’t hear it. His tone was melancholy and had no meanness in it at all.
"When you found me under Les Innocents," he said, "you wanted to bathe me with perfume and dress me in velvet with great embroidered sleeves."
"Yes," I said, "and comb your hair, your beautiful russet hair." My tone was angry. "You look good to me, you damnable little devil, good to embrace and good to love."
We eyed each other for a moment. And then he surprised me, rising and coming towards me just as I moved to take him in my arms. His gesture wasn’t tentative, but it was extremely gentle. I could have backed away. I didn’t. We held each other tight for a moment. The cold embracing the cold. The hard embracing the hard.
"Cherub child," I said. I did a bold thing, maybe even a defiant thing. I reached out and mussed his snaggled curls.
He is smaller than me physically, but he didn’t seem to mind this gesture.
In fact, he smiled, shook his head, and reclaimed his hair with a few casual strokes of his hand. His cheeks went apple-perfect suddenly, and his mouth softened, and then he lifted his right fist, and teasingly struck me hard on the chest.
Really hard. Show-off. Now it was my turn to smile and I did.
"I can’t remember anything bad between us," I said.
"You will," he responded. "And so will I. But what does it matter what we remember?"
"Yes," I said, "we’re both still here."
He laughed outright, though it was very low, and he shook his head, flashing a glance on David that implied they knew each other very well, maybe too well. I didn’t like it that they knew each other at all. David was my David, and Armand was my Armand.
I sat down on the bench.
"So David’s told you the whole story," I said, glancing up at Armand and then over at David.
David gave a negative shake of the head.
"Not without your permission, Brat Prince," David said, a little disdainfully. "I would never have taken the liberty. But the only thing that’s brought Armand here is worry for you."
"Is that so?" I said. I raised my eyebrows. "Well?"
"You know damned good and well it is," said Armand. His whole posture was casual; he’d learned, beating about the world, I guess. He didn’t look so much like a church ornament anymore. He had his hands in his pockets. Little tough guy.”