Chapter no 67 – Trip Wire‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Her bladder will not hold much longer. She scales the cellar steps and holds her breath and hears nothing for thirty heartbeats. Forty. Then she pushes open the trapdoor and climbs into the kitchen.

No one shoots her. She hears no explosions.

Marie-Laure crunches over the fallen kitchen shelves and crosses into Madame Manec’s tiny apartment, the two cans swinging heavily in her great-uncle’s coat. Throat stinging, nostrils stinging. The smoke slightly thinner in here.

She relieves herself in the bedpan at the foot of Madame Manec’s bed. Pulls up her stockings and rebuttons her great-uncle’s coat. Is it afternoon? She wishes for the thousandth time that she could talk to her father. Would it be better to go out into the city, especially if it is still daylight, and try to find someone?

A soldier would help her. Anyone would. Though even as the thought rises, she doubts it.

The unsteady feeling in her legs, she knows, stems from hunger. In the tumult of the kitchen, she cannot find a can opener, but she does find a paring knife in Madame Manec’s knife drawer and the large coarse brick Madame used to prop open the fireplace grate.

She will eat whatever is inside one of the two cans. Then she will wait a bit longer in case her uncle comes home, in case she hears anyone pass by, the town crier, a fireman, an American serviceman with gallantry on his mind. If she hears no one by the time she is hungry again, she will go out into what is left of the street.

First she climbs to the third floor to drink from the bathtub. With her lips against its surface, she takes long inward pulls. Pooling, burbling in her gut. A trick she and Etienne have learned over a hundred insufficient meals: before you eat, drink as much water as you can, and you will feel full more quickly. “At least, Papa,” she says out loud, “I was smart about the water.”

Then she sits on the third-floor landing with her back against the telephone table. She braces one of the cans between her thighs, holds the

point of the knife against its lid, and raises the brick to tap down on the knife handle. But before she can bring the brick down, the trip wire behind her jerks, and the bell rings, and someone enters the house.

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