It was the start of a new semester at Oakland Community College and Martine Carter was on her way to her first class of the new academic year. As a junior professor in the Foreign Language department, she had the pleasure of teaching college students her native tongue, French. Hopefully, this class of students would be as interested int the foreign language as her last class.
Upon entering room 305, she put on a bright smile and surveyed the room. As expected, the jocks were present, taking the mandatory Humanity course. The hopeful romantics, taking the course because French was supposed to be the language of love. There was also the "regular" students, probably taking the course so they can speak the language when the travel around Europe during the next summer break.
Only one student stuck out to Martine, a young man with a light complexion, but it was his features that caught her attention. They were so familiar, but she never saw this individual before. Why did he look so familiar?
Pushing her thoughts aside, Martine went into professor mode and introduced herself to her class, French 101.
"Bonjour et bienvenue à Francais Un Cent et un. Je suis votre professore, Pro. Martine Carter!" she began. "I like my students to be immersed in the French language so I will be speaking French most of the time. It is my aim for you to become accustomed to hearing the language and in turn speak it. To start, we will be introducing ourselves by answering two questions."
Martine turned to the black board and wrote the questions. Pointing at the first question, she said, "Comment vous appellez vous? What is your name?" Then she pointed to the second question and said, "D'ou etes vous? Where are you from?"
She turned back to the class and answered the question, " Je m'appelle Martine Carter. Je suis de l'Avignon, France." Pointing at the first student in the first row, she asked "Comment vous appellez vous? D'ou etes vous?"
As the young woman answered her questions, Martine reached for her roster and found the student's name, checking it off. One by one, she asked each student the two questions written on the black board and checked off their name on her roster. Soon it was the turn of the mystery student.
"Je m'appelle Alain Bouvier. Je suis de l'Avignon, France," he sain in an impeccable French accent.
This took Martine aback. Yes, he was on the roster, but by his last name and his obvious command of the French language, she wondered why he was in her class. She never would have expected a student claiming to be from her small hometown to be taking her French class.
She stared at him for what would have been too long because the room was very quiet and some of the other students were beginning to fidget nervously. She turned to the next student and continued the exercise, trying not to think about Alain and why he was in her class.
Upon completing the introductions, Martine taught the class how to ask someone their age and what they are studying. She then put them into pairs where they would ask their partners what their names were, where they were from, how old they were and what they were studying. Unfortunately, the period ended before she got the class back together, so she asked them to remember their partners and make notes of their answers for the next class.
As the students exited room 305, Martine made notes on how the class went and where she had reached in her class plan. When she looked up from her paper work, she noticed that Alain was still in the classroom, still seated at his desk.
"Is there something wrong, Alain?" she asked.
"Is your next class in this room?"
"So why are you still here, Alain?"
"Parce que de toi," Alain answered timidly.
This took Martine by surprise, forcing her to stand, hoping that it would put her in a dominating position. As all his answers were in French, she continued to speak in the language of her birth.
"Why are you here for me?"
"Because I wanted to meet you, " Alain replied. He looked out of the window, but Martine wondered if he was seeing the students and teachers crossing the courtyard. "Doesn't my last name sound familiar to you? I'm sure you met my parents at least once, Brigitte and Henri Bouvier."
At first the names did not sound familiar, but then Martine started to remember. Their faces flashed across her mind and all she saw in her mind's eye were a young, white couple holding a little newborn boy with pale skin, but the tips of his ears were dark.
"Why did you give me away, maman?" Alain was now looking at her, a sole tear had streaked down his cheek.
Martine started to walk to him, intending to embrace him, to wipe away the tear, to tell him that she thought about him every day of his life, but students started to walk in. The next class was to start in five minutes. This was not the place for an emotional reunion between a mother and son.
She returned to her desk at the front of the room and retrieved a scrap of paper and a pen. She quickly wrote down her address and directions, then beckoned Alain to the front.
"There is a lot we have to talk about, so come for dinner at my house. This is the address and the directions. Come for 7 o'clock," Martine said to Alain while giving him the scrap of paper.
He nodded and left the classroom while Martine put away her paperwork, her fingers trembling. Throughout the workday, her mind returned to the young, French man. At times, she would space out in the middle of a class exercise. If anything, the students now knew how to say "I'm sorry".
Thanks for reading the first part of Martine, I hope you enjoyed it so far. For the next installment click here.