The narrative flashes back to the beginning of Francis’s relationship with Nicole Renard, starting on the very first day he lays eyes on her at parochial school. He had just dived onto the floor to retrieve a piece of chalk when Nicole was introduced as a new student.
Francis’s childhood was centered so firmly on his love for Nicole that he does not feel obliged to recall anything before the day they met. This shows how simple and innocent his life was; wanting Nicole seemed to be all that defined it.
After a brief exchange of glances, Francis decides that Nicole is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, silently pledging her his eternal love. Enamored, Francis begins to hang around the hallway of his apartment building whenever Nicole is over playing with his neighbor, Marie LaCroix. Eventually, Marie forces Francis to admit that he likes Nicole, promising to keep his love a secret.
Finally, Nicole passes Francis in the hallway and gently teases him, leaving Francis speechless in her wake. He agonizes over the meaning of this brief interaction for the entire night, fixated on how his name had sounded on her lips.
Later on in the summer, Francis and his friend Joey LeBlanc are walking through Frenchtown when they spot Nicole at a distance, waving hello to them. As they wave back, Joey cracks a joke about Nicole’s stockings, which makes Francis angry—though it makes him angrier that he can’t tell if Nicole was waving to him or to Joey.
Here, Francis’s disproportionate anger over a fleeting interaction deepens the idea that as a child, Francis’ problems were all relatively innocuous, though he lacked the perspective to understand that.