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  • “Can we sit here?”
    “Of course.”

    I asked if they lived in France and she told me about fleeing Russia during the Second Chechen War—from the Caucasus Mountains to the French Alps. We talked about sports (he’s trained in martial arts) and languages (he’s learning English) and birthdays (he just turned twelve). She described her village in Russia and praised my desire to become a teacher.

    “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked.
    “No,” I laughed.

    She told me it was good to focus on my studies and broaden my mind: when love comes it will come, no need to rush it. “Take Alarin for example, he wants to become a doctor. Me, I’d much rather he masturbate than go off distracted by girls. Normally I wouldn’t speak like that to a stranger but,” she smiled at me, “j’adore.”

    I've never seen a kid laugh so shyly. He suddenly found the lake outside the window very interesting.

    She wrote down their phone number as the train approached the station. “Come stay with us, you will call won’t you?”
    “Of course.”
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