May 2008, Three Years Later
Rachel ran her fingers down the spine of her notebook as she sipped on her morning coffee at her desk. It was her morning ritual now for almost three years. Wake up to the smell of freshly brewing coffee, pour herself a cup and write in her journal. Every day since Tristan had given her the first notebook she had written something down. She had exhausted her memories of her brother and parents so now she wrote to tell them about her day, the progress in school or how work in Raoul's bakery was progressing. It was a comforting ritual that she religiously pursued to keep her mind focused on what was truly important. Living.
Claude had just graduated university with his architecture degree and was spending a week with his parents before starting his internship in Bordeaux for the summer. It would be her first summer alone since she moved. Smiling, she wrapped her hand around her arm, her thumb on the inside of her wrist as she gently felt the black script tattoo, You Are Never Alone.
No, Claude would be away for the summer but Raoul and Julia had plenty of work for her at the bakery to keep her busy. She was never alone. Her eyes swept across the desk, over the collection of photography books she had acquired over the last couple of years. The first book had arrived at the end of Rachel's first summer back in France. He hadn't left a message or a note, but Rachel knew there was only one person who it could be. Every four or five months later she would receive another book in the mail, each one of them full of gorgeous photographs documenting his time in India and beyond. She looked up to empty spot on her mirror where Tristan's post card had hung for three years. Its emptiness was still jarring, even after she had pulled it down and sent it away two weeks prior.
Wrapping up the last of her daily entry, Rachel finished her coffee and rinsed the mug in her small sink. She briefly pulled the blanket on her bed up to the corners before stepping out of her studio apartment and walked down the stairs into the back kitchen of Raoul's bakery.
"Salut." She greeted Raoul with a nod as she walked over to the sink and began washing up. "When did you get in this morning?"
"I just got here a few minutes ago, when is your first class this morning?"
"No class today. I finished up the last of my finals yesterday, so I'm free for the rest of the summer! I can open the shop this morning if you'd like to get some work done back home."
He shrugged and shook his head. "Claude's home, he can help Julia."
"Well, in that case," Rachel walked up next to her surrogate father and pulled a bowl of dough towards her. "Want to see what they taught us in school last week?" Her eyes lit up as she waiting for Raoul's approval.
Smiling, Raoul pushed a bowl of flower towards her. "I knew sending you to culinary school would do wonders for this bakery."
Laughing, Rachel showed Raoul her new pastry tricks. "I have to prove myself if I want to take over the bakery right? Well I'm going to prove to you that I can make the best pastries in the village. At least then your money won't be going to waste."
Raoul reached over and gave Rachel a half hug, careful not to get flower on her shirt. "Even if you choose not to take over the bakery it won't be a waste. Seeing you pursue something you can find passion in is enough for us."
Grinning sheepishly, Rachel's cheeks reddened. "Thanks."
"Now, let's put that passion to good use this morning. The travel journalist that was supposed to be here in a month pushed their date up. Jean-Paul called me this morning and told me they checked in late last night."
"What!" Rachel's head snapped up to Raoul. "I don't have anything ready yet! Why didn't you say something as soon as I woke up? Or better yet, wake me up as soon as you heard?"
Laughing, Raoul calmly began a fresh batch of dough. "It's four o'clock in the morning. We have plenty of time to get the spread ready."
Quickly, Rachel mentally ran through every item in the kitchen. Smoothly, she threw a handful of dough onto the counter and smoothly pulled out her rolling pin. "Can I show off some of new creations?"Raoul laughed, "It's your bakery Soleil; do whatever you'd like."
After a grueling and frantic four hours, Rachel wiped at her face with her forearm. Her eyes swept the counters, finally satisfied with the final results for the morning. "Well, I think we just barely got what we needed finished. I'll be back down in a few minutes to get everything set out in the cases."
Raoul waved a hand, "Take your time. I can work on the displays."
Rachel jumped up the stairs, pulling at her morning work clothes. She quickly rinsed off and rummaged through her closet for something nicer to wear for the journalist. Pulling a yellow sundress off the rack, she held it up for inspection. The sleeves were short, sitting just off her shoulders with a shallow scoop neck and willowy skirt that settled down to her knees. She pulled the dress over her head and slipped a pair of simple gray closed toed sandals on. She ran her fingers through her chin length hair and made her way back down the stairs to the kitchen. She was wiping down the front counter when the bell at the main entrance began jingling from the morning's first customer – Claude.
"Salut!" Rachel called from behind the counter. Seeing Claude, she jogged around the corner and gave him a brief hug. "Is Julia giving you hell back home?"
"Absolutely," He shook his head frustrated. "You haven't been home the last two days. Maman is on a canning spree. It's a nightmare. I just woke up and she's already bugging me to start on the cherries. I need coffee before I can function."
Rachel laughed as she pulled a mug down from the cabinet and poured Claude a fresh cup. "Well, other than coffee, I have the perfect solution. You have to try these pastries. I made them for my final, which I aced."
"Of course you did." Claude agreed instantly as he downed the scalding coffee. "One more." He said, holding the cup out to Rachel with a wink.
Rolling her eyes, she poured Claude another cup before she slid a pastry across the counter to him.
He took a bite and groaned. "God Soleil, this is incredible," He wolfed the pastry down and eyed the rest of plate. "I don't want to leave if this is what's waiting for me every morning here."
Grinning, Rachel leaned across the counter. "I feel like you are using me for my baked goods."
Claude shrugged. "You said it, not me."
"Jerk," She scoffed as she pulled the other pastry away from Claude and slid it into a bag.
"The other one is for Julia. You don't get two."
He made a face before swiping the bag from Rachel. "Fine," He pouted. "Are you going to be home for dinner?"
She shrugged non-committedly. "Should be."
Raising an eyebrow, Claude gave Rachel a knowing look. "Unless you-know-who shows up."
Rachel blushed. "Don't make fun of me. I'll never tell you anything ever again."
Claude chuckled as he reached over and mused Rachel's hair. "I'm not making fun of you. He probably just got the post card. I'm sure you'll hear from him soon."
"You've been saying that every day the last week."
He shrugged. "And it's true. He's been sending you those books for years. He's definitely still interested."
Biting her lip, Rachel glanced away.
The bell rang as a woman walked into the bakery. Her head was turned as she spoke to someone outside the bakery, calling for him to come inside. Rachel glanced up from Claude to take in the new customers. The woman was older, maybe in her thirties with short auburn hair cut into a sweeping pixie cut. She was wearing a yellow and green plaid short sleeved shirt over a black tank top and a pair of tan cargo pants and dark brown work boots. She pulled off a pair of thick black rimmed sunglasses and surveyed the shop before she walked up to Rachel.
Rachel ignored the second bell as she confidently walked up to the woman.
"Salut," The journalist greeted Rachel and Claude with a warm smile. "I'm Evelyn Fisher, I'm a journalist with Modern Foods. We're doing an article on local wineries and restaurants across Northern France."
Rachel reached out and shook Evelyn's hand. "Salut, welcome to Morning Star Bakery. I'm Rachel Bylieu and this is Claude Moore. Raoul Moore, the owner is in the back, let me get him for you." Out of the corner of Rachel's eye, she saw Evelyn's assistant's camera drop from his hands and hang from his neck when he heard Rachel's name. She glanced over at him and looked into his bright emerald eyes for the first time in three years, instantly recognizing him. She stumbled as she stopped moving backwards towards the kitchen. "Tristan?"
He stood frozen, his hands at his side as she stared at her. His skin was tanned, darker than he had been at the Academy. His black v-neck t-shirt fit neatly across his solid chest while a wide tan webbed belt securely held a pair of green utility pants with multiple pockets. His dark hair was flecked with blonde from the sunlight and pushed up off his face into a short faux hawk.
"Rachel." He breathed slowly, a smile widening on his face. "I almost didn't –" He laughed and started over. "I mean, well, you look –"
"Different?" She supplied softly.
Evelyn eyed Rachel for a moment. "Is this her?" She asked Tristan in English.
He nodded silently, his eyes still on Rachel.
"Well, in that case, why don't I sit down with monsieur Moore here while I let you to get reacquainted?"
"I'll just go get Raoul." She stepped backwards as she kept her eyes on Tristan. "Just one second." Exhaling, she turned and broke their contact as she quickly strode into the kitchen. She leaned against the cool metal of the fridge and briefly closed her eyes.
"What's going on Soleil?" Raoul tossed his dishcloth across his shoulder as she quickly made his way over to Rachel.
"He's here." She breathed, just barely above a whisper. "With the travel journalist."
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
She laughed as she ran her fingers through her short hair. "You know when he said he would find me, I didn't actually expect him to show up at the bakery!" She reached down to the neckline of her dress and pulled out a silver chain, her thumb on Tristan's pendant.
Claude stuck his head into the entryway and pointedly looked over at Rachel. "Stop scaring the poor boy and come out here." He nodded his head to the front of the shop before he pulled backwards out of the doorway and walked back into the shop.
Raoul gently squeezed Rachel's shoulder before following Claude. "You sent the post card and now he's here. You should be smiling, not hiding!"
Nodding, Rachel paced nervously for a few seconds letting her heart race. She counted her breaths three times before she exhaled one last deep breath and marched out of the kitchen.
Evelyn, Raoul, and Claude were sitting comfortably at a table talking and snacking on an assortment of breakfast items Rachel had prepared earlier. Tristan was leaning over the counter snapping pictures of her glass counter with the spread of breakfast items. He moved gracefully behind the counter and snapped a couple photographs of the bread baskets and the dining area. She watched him silently from the door to the kitchen as he walked. When he turned towards her, he smiled and snapped a photograph. His smile held when he saw the silver pendant around Rachel's neck. "Long time no see." He reached down into one of his pockets and pulled out her postcard. With a grin, he held the card between his fingers as he leaned up against the counter. "It's good to hear from you."
She was quiet for a moment, her eyes locked onto his and she enjoyed simply seeing him again. "The journalist wasn't supposed to be here for a month."
He shrugged casually. "I asked her if we could make a detour."
She laughed. "Where were you supposed to be?"
"Hell of a detour."
Tristan leaned his elbows across the counter as he inched closer to her. "Worth it." His voice was low and soft as his eyes swept over her face and pale yellow dress. He resisted the urge to reach out and touch her, just to make sure she was real.
"How was India?"
He shrugged, "Hot. But I saw a lot of my dad for the first six months he was there. He moved back to the States right after Christmas. Mom and Dad's relationship always worked better from a distance anyway."
"Sorry to hear that."
"Don't be. I spent a year with mom after I graduated setting up hospitals, digging wells, building some houses, we," He searched for the right word for a second, "Came to understand each other better. I started school down in Paris last fall and I'm interning with Evelyn for the summer."
Tristan grinned unapologetically. "I heard France was a nice; thought I'd give a try."
She bit at her lip for a second, her mind racing at thought of Tristan being only a couple hours away. "Wow. Seems a lot more exciting than my tiny, little culinary school."
He raised an eyebrow and nodded. "Culinary school?" He glanced down at the pastries in front of him. "Did you make all of these? Because I've been drooling over all of them since I walked in."
"I did." She laughed. "I was trying to impress your boss."
He snorted. "Well you certainly did that. She's a sucker for sweets." He glanced back towards the group once before he turned his focus back to Rachel. "How are you?"
She knew what he was asking. Nodding once, Rachel hooked her fingers in front of her dress. "I'm doing well." She nodded once. "Better."
A wide smile spread across Tristan's face. "Well, in that case. It's been three years. I think we need to get to know each other again. Are you free for dinner tonight?"
Nodding slowly, Rachel's smile matched Tristan's. "I'd like that. I know just the place."
She followed Tristan out of the bakery as he followed Evelyn out the door. The wind had started to pick up, sweeping in the beginnings of a spring shower. Pulling a piece of her chin length hair behind her ear, she lightly waved as Tristan made his way to the car.
Tristan stopped at the car door and glanced back at her for a moment before he turned and walked back over to her. He stopped inches away from her and reached out to her shoulder as he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. "Just in case." He whispered softly in her ear.
Smiling, Rachel lifted her eyes to the building storm clouds and blinked as the first drops of rain gently landed on her face. For the first time since her childhood she didn't hate it when it rained.
A/N: Thank you everyone for reading When It Rains! It has been a great time rewriting this story and I'm so happy that all of you have stuck around to the end. A couple of people I specifically want to thank. Anthony - thanks for being my biggest supporter of this book through the years and for putting up with all the rewrites. Jenny - thank you for sending me your notes for after reading every chapter. Your excitement and prodding really helped me finish the book so quickly. (Otherwise it might have taken all year instead just all summer!) To all of the followers and reviewers: thank you, thank you, thank you for reading!