A Year In France – Episode 07

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

“Come on. You know what a stickler my mother is for punctuality. She forgives anything but lateness.” Philippe was standing by the car, its engine running.

“Sorry,” Julia said, slamming the cottage door behind her. “Maddy wanted to chat.”

“She always does at the weekend,” Philippe said. “She needs another flatmate.”

“That’s why she rang. She’s seeing someone this evening. A friend of a friend. Fingers crossed they’ll get on.”

Julia climbed into the passenger seat and snapped the seatbelt into its lock.

“Is it just us this evening?” she asked, as Philippe turned on to the road leading down to the village.

He shrugged.

“Mother didn’t say. I guess there might be a couple of neighbours there. I know she had a couple of friends she wanted to introduce you to.”

“Are any of these neighbours likely to speak English?”

It would be a long, mainly silent evening for her if they didn’t. Still, at least Philippe wasn’t working for once and they were spending time together.

“Possibly not,” Philippe said. “But I’ll translate for you.”

About to turn left, Philippe slammed on the brakes instead. An orange Route Barrée sign had been placed in the middle of the turning.

“Now we are going to be late,” he muttered.

“Any idea why the road is closed?” Julia asked.

“Probably a small landslide somewhere. We had a lot of rain this winter, which always loosens any unstable rocks.”

The long way round meant that Julia saw parts of the village and surrounding countryside that she hadn’t seen before.

Ten minutes later, as they drove down an even narrower lane than usual, she saw a small house set back from the road, a For Sale notice fixed to its garden gate.

“Isn’t that the cottage I liked? What a lovely setting. Are you sure we can’t look at it?” she asked as the cottage disappeared from view around a bend in the road before Philippe turned on to the rutted driveway that led to his mother’s house.

“There’s no point, it’s not what we want.”

“But it’s exactly the kind of house I like,” Julia said. “I know you said it wasn’t big enough for us, but do you like the look of it?”

“It’s a traditional design in this area. You’ll see lots very similar when we start house hunting.”

Philippe drew up alongside a scarlet Range Rover that was parked in front of the house.

“Who does that belong to?” Julia asked as they got out of the car, but before Philippe could answer, Christiane Delahaye had opened her front door and come out to greet them.

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.