After my day of classes, I went to the office of the Breast Cancer, Let’s Talk About It association. The room was overflowing with volunteers, most of whom had come to listen to Émilie, the association’s permanent representative, talking about the organization’s upcoming activities. As soon as I arrived, I saw she was in a good mood. Usually, she’s very serious when talking about future plans. This evening, she seemed more relaxed than usual and even cracked a few jokes.
I walked away to find a seat near the window, next to Thomas, an emergency ward doctor who advises the association free of charge. Absorbed in reading some documents, he barely registered my presence.
— Have you seen Émilie? She seems… really relaxed, don’t you think?
— Does she? he replied, his attention elsewhere.
— What are all those papers? A little late for your tax return, isn’t it?
— No, at last I’ve found a bank that understands what I do. I decided to switch my accounts some time ago but never seem to get round to it. So I thought I’d sort it out before the meeting began.
Émilie called everyone’s attention and began to explain the communication operations for the next few months. After a few minutes, she paused, seemed briefly at a loss for words before saying:
— I wanted to speak to you about something else,” she announced with a smile. “Do you remember the GénéRose operation that started last month? It’s been a great success. But yesterday, we went far beyond our greatest expectations! Way beyond!”
— New donations? asked Thomas.
— To be exact, one new donation. An exceptional donation! The maximum allowed for a private individual on the Espace Dons crowdfunding platform!
Her voice quivered with emotion.
— This is fantastic news! Never could we have hoped to raise so much money in so short a time, she said.
Everyone in the meeting applauded. And so we’re going to celebrate! said Émilie, opening the fridge and taking out three bottles. She filled several glasses and passed them round before raising her own:
— To the health of our generous donor! To the health of
The voices seemed to fade into the background, as if someone had just turned down the volume. Only the words Charles and Langley rang out above the babble of voices. “To your health, Mr. Langley!” echoed Thomas standing next to me. I mechanically lifted my glass, trying to smile. My left hand slipped into my pocket and brushed against the torn envelope.
A few minutes later, as I left the association office, I pulled the calling card from my raincoat. The light of the sunny day was dissolving into the darker hues of twilight. The streetlamps flickered on, as if to signal the official start of the night. In their gilded light, I read the name once again, printed in capital letters – CHARLES LANGLEY – to make sure that I hadn’t been dreaming, that the day was real.
Illustrations: Karolis Strautniekas/Agent 002; Yann Le Bec/Illustrissimo
Photos: Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac ©Luc Boegly, Yvan Zedda/BPCE, Banque Populaire, Stéphane de Bourgies, CASDEN Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne, Julien Crosnier/KMSP/DPPI, BPCE, DPPI/BPCE, Le Pot Commun, Neustockimages, Fidor Bank.
Getty Images: Btrenkel, picturegarden, Inimma-IS, Koraysa, Moodboard, Rachel Dewis, Peter Carlsson, Clu, Twohumans, Donal Husni-EyeEm, Nikada, egafoldo, Oscar Wong, Alija Izetbegovic, Uschools, Westend61, Bloom, milazvereva.
Shutterstock: Jacob Lund, EQRoy, Prostock, Diego Cervo, GaudiLab, Monkey Business Images, Travel Stock, Zhu Difeng.
Design and production: Havas Paris
Groupe BPCE, Corporate Communications Department.
Author of the short story: Jean-Pierre Montal.
Editorial consultants and drafting of the “Clues” pages: Information & Conseil.