Avatar de Sylvia
Chapter 3

A twin prophecy

Her fellow residents think that Sylvia is a later riser; never has she been seen to leave her apartment before midday. But like many well-established reputations, this one is based on a fallacy. It’s 7 o’clock and Sylvia has already been up for thirty minutes. Music, volume turned low, curtains still closed, shadows barely lightened by the glow of a computer screen and desk lamp… a studious atmosphere. Sylvia is painstakingly editing photos of jewelry. From time to time, she goes to fetch the original model from one of the numerous folders of drawings wedged between her wardrobe and bed. The young woman has always loved drawing and painting, a passion she discovered as a child that has never left her. Today, she alternates between painting, drawing, and creating models of rings, necklaces and earrings. But these creations – a closely guarded secret until now – may soon be leaving her studio apartment. Jeanne, the florist on the ground floor, has talked about working together. She wants to expand her business and has offered to reserve a part of her shop for Sylvia’s jewelry, whose highly floral style, inspired by Art nouveau, had impressed Jeanne a great deal. It would allow her to take a major step forward, to translate her dream into something concrete. And it’s this prospect that terrifies her, that wakes her up even earlier than usual. Sylvia is fully aware of the power of prejudices; they can hinder you, slow you down, and confine you… but also, paradoxically, protect you. One sight of her tattoos and you imagine a woman who’s determined and self-assured. But it’s all just a smoke screen she frequently hides behind. In fact, the opposite is true: she lacks self-confidence. Everyone has moments of self-doubt, don’t they? But, with Sylvia, it’s something more permanent, chronic, like a direct current passing through her body whose intensity, since her earliest childhood, she’s been trying to control.

“After you, ladies and gentleman!” Sylvia smiles, recognizing the voice of Martin Korvan on the stairs. He must have forgotten how early it is to be speaking so loudly. Beneath his serious demeanor, he’s more fanciful than you’d imagine. She then hears the thunder of the Korvan children crashing down the stairs. It’s a good time to take a break, to take a moment to pour herself another cup of coffee. The pictures of jewelry are dismissed from her computer screen and Sylvia’s thoughts return to her particular source of worry at the moment: money, her budget. She’s never been very good at managing things (to put it mildly). Of course, everything today is easier with the Internet. New services allow her to keep a better track of her spending and avoid the overdrafts of her youth. When she needed a loan to buy a gem-setting machine for what was still just a hobby, she was surprised to discover how easy it is to sign up for one. But, all the same… Becoming self-employed, setting up your own business is a far cry from taking out a loan online! Jeanne has tried to reassure her but, this morning, Sylvia is still looking for specific answers to certain questions.
She’s found a website where she can talk about money, investments and her plans with other people on the Internet. All kinds of questions can be asked, without feeling embarrassed or judged by others.

 

“What are the first major expenses
when you set up a company?”

she typed in yesterday.

 

 

Today, she’s received more than ten answers. “If you’re a retailer, make the shop as attractive as possible. It’s a key investment,” replied someone going under the pseudonym Luc77. “Keep calm and don’t panic. Here’s a list of expenses you’ll need to set money aside for. And, above all, good luck with your venture. There’s nothing better than setting up your own business,” adds Eva B. Sylvia prints out the comments, clicks on the recommended links, takes notes and slides it all into a cardboard folder bearing the word “Future?” written in large red letters, followed by an even bigger question mark. “You can’t miss this opportunity, Sylvia!” she says aloud in the silence of her studio apartment. She then gets back to work on her creations. Before starting her day at Tatoo you, the tattoo parlor where she works, she decides to have a coffee and croissant in the bar at the end of Future Street.

 

As she locks her door,
Sylvia hears
some strange noises.

 

 

They’re coming from the same floor as hers, near the hatch leading to the roof. She walks silently towards the noise, just wanting to make sure. At least she’ll be able to explain to Yves Arnoux that she has nothing to do with the mystery of the roof. After taking a few steps, the tattoo artist discovers some strange instruments lying on the floor: a metal pole, a digital recorder, and a microphone. She then hears the voices of two men. One of them has his back to her and is leaning through the hatch without climbing onto the roof. The other one is taking notes.

 

“Be specific: pigeons AND crows.
I think it’s a crow’s nest,”
says the first man.

 

 

Sylvia gives a little cough to attract their attention. The two strangers smile at her, without offering an explanation.

– Looking for something? asks the young woman.
– No, we’re simply checking the roof for leaks.
– So the pigeons can sleep in the dry? That’s nice, she says, a touch of irony in her voice.
– Yeah, we think of everything, says one of the men with a smile as he puts away his equipment.
Without saying another word, they set off down the stairs. For a few seconds, Sylvia wonders if she should go after them and ask the taller of the two, a redhead with a friendly face, whether they weren’t teasing her just a little. But she has learned to be wary of her impulses, which in the past have sometimes landed her in trouble. As she waited for the elevator, she watches them disappear down the stairs, weighed down by their metal poles.

In the café, Erwan is leaning against the bar, absorbed in the sports page of a newspaper and an article on the latest match of the Racing 92 team.

 

“I’ve just seen

a couple of men trying to climb up
onto the roof,”

 

 

says the young woman abruptly. They spun me some tale about checking for leaks. If they’re plumbers, I’m the Queen of England!
– Is that a fact? They’re definitely not plumbers then!
– Wise guy! replies Sylvia, pretending to punch him on the shoulder.Honestly, they seemed really strange.
– Sounds like burglars, doesn’t it?
– Perhaps, I’ll mention it to Arnoux.
– At least he’ll stop accusing you of going up on the roof, jokes Erwan. But Yves Arnoux is a bit devious. He’ll just think that you’re accusing others to put him off the scent, like in a detective novel. You want to be careful!
– Your friend’s absolutely right, Sylvia.

 

“We must
all be careful !”

 

 

Sylvia jumps in surprise. She hadn’t seen Mona Delernes arrive, the fortune-teller from the 1st floor, dressed all in red. Her rather stern face is softened somewhat by a pair of glasses… red, of course. Her appearance causes quite a sensation. The tattoo artist is pleased to see that she’s wearing the earrings she had given her. A simple quid pro quo: a fortune-telling session in exchange for a piece of original jewelry. During the sitting, Mona had told her that “she’d be offered a major opportunity and that she should seize it.” At first, Sylvia thought that the fortune-teller probably told everyone the same thing. But two weeks later, the florist mentioned her idea of their working together. Since hearing her prophecy, she saw Mona in a different light.
– Why do you say that, Mona? asks Erwan.
– Young man, I carried out a new search yesterday on the astral plane.

 

 

We are heading into a period of great changes. Of great upheavals, even! It’s a certainty, a cosmic certainty!
– Ah, the astral plane…It’s a bit like your second home, says Erwan with a touch of irony.
– Alas, not always, young man, not always. Material reality catches up with us all sooner or later. A case in point of this sad fact is that I have to deal with water damage in my apartment. I’d rather be studying Orion, you know, but fortunately I have good insurance cover. I’ll pay for your coffee, she says, taking out her smartphone.
– You pay with your phone? You’re more of a techie than I am, adds Erwan.
– We astral experts are always a step ahead of everyone else, young man.It’s our job, in a way… or, I’d say, our mission in life.

 

 

The distinctive dark silhouette of Mona moves to leave the café before suddenly turning back towards the two young friends leaning on the bar.

– In any case, we’ll soon be speaking about changes again. Be prepared!
– Always ready! laughs

In the evening, after a long day in the Tatoo you parlor, Sylvia finds a message taped on the wall near the letterboxes:

 

“Dear Neighbors,
Could we meet tomorrow evening
in my apartment?
For the pleasure of spending
a moment together, of course,
but also to tell you about a matter I find
somewhat unsettling and
that concerns us all.
See you tomorrow! Yves Arnoux.”

 

 

This immediately makes her think about Mona’s prophecy. It wouldn’t take much to persuade her to go to her apartment and swap a new fortune-telling session for a nice bracelet she’d finished only yesterday. She’d ask Mona all the questions bothering her: should I team up with Jeanne? Should I give up tattooing? Who are those men hunting pigeons on the roof? What changes did Mona refer to in the café? She would have answers to all her questions, Mona would like the bracelet, and Sylvia would go home feeling better. Why is life never so simple?