A Year In France – Episode 01

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

Julia woke at six a.m. Ten years of working in a busy PR firm in London had etched the early wake-up routine deep into her subconscious.

She glanced at Philippe, still in a deep sleep. Philippe Delahaye, writer of crime novels and, as of December 24, her husband.

If she were honest she still couldn’t believe the fairy-tale-like twist her life had taken.

The stressed-out PR executive of four months ago had become a married woman living the dream in the south of France with the man she loved.

Knowing further sleep would be impossible, Julia made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

It was still dark. She could hear the gentle morning breeze rattling the roofing sheets of the lean-to sunroom attached to the kitchen.

Tess, Philippe’s collie dog, raised her head from her basket in the corner and thumped her tail as Julia switched on the lights.

“Silly time to get up, isn’t it?” Julia said, giving Tess a stroke, before switching the kettle on and spooning coffee into the cafetière.

Standing by the kitchen window, she watched as the sun came up over the red roofs of the cottages across the fields. It was so very different from London’s high-rise apartment blocks.

In London it had been all grey rooftops and skyscrapers, with the noise of traffic reaching her on the ninth floor if she dared to open the windows.

Here, where the suburban buildings had been replaced by woods and green fields, windows seemed to be permanently open and the early morning noise was dominated by the cockerel on the farm up the lane and the mooing of the cows as they were led in for milking.

Pushing the plunger down in the cafetière, Julia debated whether to take a cup up to Philippe but decided to leave him sleeping.

When she’d gone up at midnight, he’d still been in the study typing furiously on his laptop.

Meeting her, getting married and going on honeymoon had interfered with his working target of a book a year. Not that he had any regrets, he assured her, but it did mean meeting the deadline for his book was under threat.

“I’m going to have to burn the midnight oil for a few weeks,” he’d said.

Used to working long hours herself, Julia tried not to voice her objections to the hours Philippe was locking himself away in the study, knowing his book would soon be finished.

Spending so much time alone had given her a chance to catch her breath after the frantic pace of her previous life and their whirlwind romance. She’d been exhausted when she’d met Philippe last October at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

A mutual friend had introduced them to each other at the closing party.

Afterwards Philippe had escorted her to her hotel, asked for her number and promised to ring her the next time he was in London.

Forty-eight hours later he rang, saying he was back and inviting her for dinner. Ten weeks later, in the town hall of the French village where Philippe lived, they were married.

Julia’s only regret was that her mother wasn’t there to share in her happiness.

Geraldine Saville, widowed when Julia was a baby, had worked hard to give her daughter the best possible education and start. Three years ago she’d been knocked off her bicycle by an out-of-control car driven by a joyrider.

The hospital had done their best to save her, but she’d died from her head injuries a week later, a distraught Julia holding her hand. At the age of twenty-five Julia had found herself alone in the world.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.