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a man who’d say to her, ‘Madam, you can’t go on like this. Give me your hand. Take my arm. Let’s go back. Put your bag down. Don’t stay standing there. Sit down here. It’s over. You’re not going to go back there any more. You can’t. You’re going to fight. We’re going to fight. I’ll be by your side.’ A man or a woman, in fact – it didn’t matter. Someone who’d understand that she couldn’t go on any more, that with every passing day she was eating into her very substance, into her essence. Someone who’d stroke her cheek or hair, who’d murmur as though to himself, ‘How have you managed to keep going so long? How did you find the courage, the strength?’ Someone who’d rebel. Who’d say, ‘Enough.’ Who would take charge of her. Someone who would make her get off one stop early or who’d sit down opposite her at the back of a bar. Who would watch the hours go by on the wall clock. At noon, he or she would smile at her and say: ‘There, it’s over.’ It’s night. The night before the day that she’s been waiting for against her better judgement. It’s four in the morning. Mathilde knows she won’t get back to sleep, she knows the scenario off by heart, the positions she’ll try one by one, the effort she’ll make to calm her breathing, the pillow she’ll wedge under her neck. And then she’ll end up turning on the light, picking up a 4

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Underground Time  

Please click here to read an extract from Goncourt Prize Shortlisted Underground Time, by Delphine de Vigan.