Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup
« ¤ EXTENDED SUMMARY ¤ »
After the shocking revelations and catastrophic disasters of her senior year at Hilton Academy, which ended in her younger half-brother's death and her subsequent break-up with Gabriel, Silence is determined to move on. Moving to a small town just outside of Paris, France, with best friend Mary-Alice seems to be the best thing to do for the summer break at least. Will a new country, new faces and a new guy be enough to make Silence forget Gabriel?
Disclaimer: none of the famous places or people are mine. I have no claim on them, and do not receive financial gain by mentioning them. Le Havre, Caen and Deuville are real French towns - Le Havre and Caen are coastal cities, Deuville a town a few hours between both Le Havre and Caen.
Any stores or places I mention within those cities and towns are completely fictional - I've never been there, I've never stepped foot outside Australia. They are purely figments of my overactive imagination, so enjoy, but don't steal.
I do not own the songs mentioned at the beginning of each chapter, i.e. "I Lied" belongs to Wendy Matthews and other appropriate syndicates.
Overall - mine, no takey!
Chapter One - I Lied
Do you remember when I told you,
as I swam against the tide,
that if I ever really loved you,
it would have been the day you said goodbye,
well I lied.
I Lied - Wendy Matthews.
I slept almost the entire flight. And all the time I was asleep, I was plagued by dreams of Gabriel. Here's the thing - there are four major guilt groups in life: food, work, mothers and love. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was the latter one that was troubling me so much.
Mary-Alice had brought along her MP3-player, and every song that came on seemed to be a love song that mocked my actions of the past few days - Only the Lonely, When You Say Nothing At All, I Lied. Even the in-flight movies teased me. They showed nearly every single love story ever put on the silver screen, and the majority of them ended up with the stereotypically clichéd happy endings that I didn't have. I still couldn't believe I'd done what I did with Gabriel. Or what I'd said.
In the few hours I'd been able to sleep, I had dreamed of everything we'd been through together, and I'd come to a startling realization: I had lied to Gabriel. I may not have been in love with him yet, but I was well on the way. And it scared me… more than I cared to admit.
"Si?" Mar-Alice asked, touching my shoulder lightly. She looked concerned, so I attempted a calm, serene smile. Her expression didn't change, so I could assume I'd only managed to look queasy. "You okay?"
"Fine," I muttered, stretching my arms above my head. I looked across the aisle, and saw a creepy older man eyeing my chest, so I quickly crossed my arms, glaring at him when he smiled lewdly and winked.
"You know, you don't have to pretend with me. And we don't have to stay in France when we land. We can go straight back home and you can go to Gabriel and tell him the truth."
"What truth?" I scoffed. "I'm not in love with him."
"No, but you're not, not in love with him, either, are you?"
I frowned at her. She was too good at reading me. "That's not the point," I snapped. "We're not going back."
"What are you running away from, Silence?" Mary-Alice's soft question struck a nerve, and echoed in my head for the rest of the flight though I tried desperately to ignore it.
We landed half an hour later, ending a stifling silence between Mary-Alice and myself. It wasn't that we weren't talking to each other, just that we couldn't think of anything else to say after her probing question. She had returned to listening to her sappy music on her MP3-player, and I returned to pretending to sleep. I knew she wasn't fooled.
The airport, much like at home, was busy with people going everywhere. But this time, they spoke in French, and at the top of their lungs, too, it seemed.
"Oh dear," Mary-Alice whispered, clutching at my arm as I forged through the crowd, looking for the man in the photo that Richard had shown me. He was supposed to meet us here when we landed. "Don't any of them speak English? I don't understand a word!"
I laughed, and continued to push through the throng; my eyes peeled for a glimpse of old, weather-beaten features and dark, compelling eyes. "Not all of them, but definitely some. And I wouldn't expect them to speak English just for you, Mar. That would be like a Frenchman traveling to America and expecting them to talk French just for him."
"Do you understand them?"
"A little," I replied, deciding to stand on a chair to see above the crowd. "Richard made Paul and I take lessons when we were children." I ignored the painful pang at the thoughts of my brother that flooded my mind.
"You never told me that before," she grumbled, glaring up at me, breaking my trance. I smirked. An irate Mary-Alice, grumpy from lack of sleep was amusing to say the least.
"You never asked," I pointed out, jumping down from the chair. "I think I see him."
"Think? Why doesn't that inspire me with confidence?"
I shot her a look, and she apologized. "Sorry. It's just that I've never felt this tired before."
"Jetlag," I informed her, taking her arm and pulling her through the crowd again, towards where I had thought I had seen Monsieur Gaston Jacques. Finally, spotting him again, I increased my speed. "Monsieur!" I called out, waving my other arm to try and get his attention. "Monsieur Gaston Jacques, non?"
He turned at my call, and a smile spread over his face. "Aurora? Aurora Donovan?"
"Silence O'Faoláin," I corrected. When he frowned, I sighed, and nodded. "Oui, Aurora Donovan." The guy was over seventy - who was I to complicate things for him? I think he'd have an apoplexy if he was told that I wasn't the product of Richard's nuclear family, but of a more modern blended family combo. Oh well.
"And who is your friend?" he asked, his cracked voice making the French words almost unintelligible. He looked exactly like his picture - kind of like a French version of Anthony Hopkins, but much leaner, with chocolate brown eyes that sparkled with life despite their fading age.
"Didn't Richard tell you that I was bringing Mary-Alice?" I asked, responding in kind. I wasn't sure if he spoke English.
"Maybe, but this old man's memory is not too good these days." He laughed, tapping his forehead. He opened his arms, as thought waiting for something. I wondered if he expected a hug. I didn't have to wonder long, because he pulled me into his arms, patting me on the back exuberantly. "Oh, the last time I saw you, you were knee-high to a grasshopper!"
"Oh, I wasn't aware that we knew each other," I laughed sheepishly, lightly returning his hug. I figured it was the only way to make him let me go. He did. Mary-Alice shot me a confused look, but I just shook my head. "Would you happen to speak English at all? Mary-Alice doesn't speak much French."
Gaston shook his head, shrugging slightly as he bent to pick up one of my bags. "Only a little. I never took the time to learn, really. I am sorry."
"No need, I'll just play translator when necessary." I smiled at both Gaston and Mary-Alice, and wondered just what in the hell I was getting myself into.
The drive to Gaston's mansion, on the outskirts of Deuville, was stiflingly quiet. Mary-Alice and Gaston had both fallen asleep - Mary-Alice was drooling slightly on her shoulder, but Gaston was snoring. Loudly. So even if I had wanted to sleep, I couldn't. I'm one of those people who like to fall asleep in silence. If there's any noise at all, it can only be soft music, or the ambience filtering through a window.
I ended up looking out the window, watching the landscape change from bustling, noisy metropolis, to quiet, sleepy suburbia, to long expanses of endless fields filled with gorgeous summer flowers that filled the air with succulent scents and vibrant green grass stretching as far as the eye could see.
Finally, though, with my window down, I caught a faint whiff of a salty breeze that lifted my sour mood. I had been silently reflecting on the past few months of my life - my poor choices and how out of control everything was because of them. But with the fresh sea breeze stimulating my dulled senses and blowing the cobwebs from my mind I suddenly felt a lot better. Like I could take a step back, assess the damage and wipe the proverbial slate clean.
Gaston woke himself up with a loud snort. "Oh, dropped off to sleep, did I?" he chortled, straightening his clothes self-consciously; unaware that he'd been asleep for the better part of the drive. "I'm sorry. I'm not much of a companion, I'm afraid."
I shook my head, smiling kindly. "Don't worry; I've been lost in my own thoughts for a while. I hardly noticed you weren't awake."
Mary-Alice stirred in her sleep, but didn't wake. I wished I had a camera to take a picture of her and the small pool of drool on her shoulder to show at her twenty-first birthday.
Gaston looked out the window groggily. "Goodness, we're almost there!" he gasped, blinking the sleep from his eyes. "I must have been more tired than I thought. Happens when you get to my age!" He returned my smile, and then looked at Mary-Alice. "And at your age, too, it seems," he added incredulously, shaking his head.
"Mary-Alice has never flown before," I told him, shaking her arm in an attempt to wake her up, to no avail - Mary-Alice sleeps like the dead. "Jetlag is a new experience to her."
"And you? Have you flown before?"
"Once," I replied, renewing efforts to wake Mary-Alice by shaking her harder. Still no satisfactory response. "Richard took us to Australia on a holiday, once. I didn't particularly like flying all that much, either, at first. Except I wasn't so much tired as I was sick."
"Here, try this," Gaston said after I had spent a little over a minute shaking her with no response. He handed me a small, inconspicuous bottle.
"What is it?"
"Try it and see," he said, smiling slyly. "Hold it under her nose."
I waved the bottle under Mary-Alice's nose, and still got no response.
"Twist the top first," he said, gesturing with his hands.
I twisted the top open, and took a cautious sniff of the contents myself. I recoiled. "What the hell is this stuff?"
"Smelling salts," Gaston said, chortling quietly. "Awful, aren't they? Height of fashion in my mother's time, though. She wouldn't go anywhere without her smelling salts in case she fainted - of course, she never did. Wasn't the swooning type!" He apparently found it very amusing. I just smiled, and waved the bottle under Mary-Alice's nose. She jerked awake with a cry of alarm.
"Cheese and whiskers, something smells foul in here!" she said hoarsely, gagging. "Wind down a window, will you, Silence?"
I finally saw what was so funny, and, passing the bottle back to Gaston while Mary-Alice was winding down her window, shared a secret smile.
The 'mansion' that Richard had told me about was not a mansion.
It was a frigging castle.
Okay, so it didn't have a moat or a drawbridge or anything like that. But it was made of stone, and had a few turrets. Mary-Alice gasped in delight - I'm pretty sure that all her dizziest daydreams and fairytales were coming true, and she was imagining herself a fairytale princess or something. Typical.
The stone was smooth, worn down by time and weather, which meant that it was a very old castle. The gardens, full of succulent summer blooms and winding paths, beckoned to be explored and sampled. The breeze carried a faint scent of the ocean, though I guessed that the nearest beach would be at least an hour's drive away. The castle was built in an excellent location, its land unfolding almost as far as the eye could see before rising up to meet the mountains.
With a thick forest on one side of the castle, and the mountains stretching up to meet the sky behind, it would have been a difficult castle to lay siege to in the dark ages. Not impossible, but difficult. I immediately wished that I knew the history of the place, instinctively knowing it was probably rich, illustrious and most likely bloody, too.
"Welcome to my humble home, girls!" Gaston cried exuberantly, throwing his arms wide. I was beginning to piece together that he was an eccentric man for his age. Full of piss and vinegar, so to speak. "Choose any room you'd like - there are some very nice ones on the second floor, very feminine if you like that sort of thing," he added, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "My rooms are on ground floor - I don't like the stairs too much, in my old age. The doors to my rooms are all locked. All other doors are open to you - you can come and go as you please."
"Merci beaucoup," I murmured quietly. He beamed, as though I had handed him a million dollar cheque. Very easily pleased, it seemed.
"We have a well-stocked library, if you like to read. Not to worry about cleaning and the like - I have a good staff that will make your bed, do your laundry if you put it in the basket by your door and put it in your wardrobes again. Cookie will make anything you desire… if you are willing to put up with some complaints. He means well. The town is a fifteen-minute walk down the road, or you can ask for the car to go back into Paris.
"Well, I'm heading in; I've got some paperwork to tend to. All play and no work…" he attempted in English, frowning as he sensed that he'd made a mistake somewhere, before shrugging. "I'll see you at dinner, perhaps. Feel free to explore." He smiled widely at Mary-Alice, who smiled back blankly, not having understood a word that he'd said, even the part in English.
"What was that all about?" she asked, as soon as Gaston had moved away.
"Free reign," I said, fighting a yawn as I bent to pick up my bags. "Watch out Paris, teenage American girls are on the loose!" Mary-Alice laughed, but fought a yawn of her own. It looked like going on an exploratory rampage was going to have to wait until we'd slept for a couple of days straight.
"Oh, and girls?" Gaston called, pausing momentarily. "You won't have to find your own way around Deuville and Paris all the time - my great-nephew will be around somewhere, sooner or later. You know how these young kids are these days…"
WORD COUNT: 2,332 words (5.75 pages)
A/N: short first chapter, I know, but I was struggling to start up the story. Hopefully other chapters will not be as short. I know pretty much where this story is going, so hopefully it won't be too long between installments. Remembering that I have SACs and exams and stuff, and because I'm in year 12, these are important - sadly, more important than my stories at this stage.
Anyway, just a thank you to all those who reviewed the prequel, MPDCQJV, and a special thank you to Kaika-Suki, loyal reviewer and editor for DJVAB.
Hope you enjoyed the first installment - keep your eyes peeled for the next!
Chapter Two - Apple Pie a lá Mode
We found the perfect little café. There were a few, we realized, but this one was special. You got the impression that it had lived for centuries, a small piece of history. It gave the small, dark café-come-library… ambience.
We made our orders, and chose a seat out in the sunshine.
"Gorgeous," Mary-Alice breathed, and, for a moment I thought she was talking about Deuville or France in general.
Then he walked by.
Gorgeous – yes. Delicious – god yes. Tall, dark and handsome. Mills and Boons, eat your heart out.