Chapter no 163 – Chocolate‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Madame Ruelle finds Marie-Laure that evening in a requisitioned school. She grips her hand and does not let go. The civil affairs people have stacks of confiscated German chocolate in rectangular cartons, and Marie-Laure and Madame Ruelle eat too many to count.

In the morning, the Americans take the château and the last anti-air battery and free the prisoners held at Fort National. Madame Ruelle pulls Etienne out of the processing queue, and he wraps Marie-Laure in his arms. The colonel in his underground fortress across the river holds out for three more days, until an American airplane called a Lightning drops a tank of napalm through an air vent, one shot in a million, and five minutes later, a white sheet comes up on a pole and the siege of Saint-Malo is over. Sweep platoons remove all the incendiary devices they can find, and army photographers go in with their tripods, and a handful of citizens return from farms and fields and cellars to drift through the ruined streets. On August 25, Madame Ruelle is allowed back into the city to check on the condition of the bakery, but Etienne and Marie-Laure travel in the other direction, toward Rennes, where they book a room at a hotel called the Universe with a functioning boiler and each takes a two-hour bath. In the window glass as night falls, he watches her reflection feel its way toward the bed. Her hands press against her face, then fall away.

“We’ll go to Paris,” he says. “I’ve never been. You can show it to me.”

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