A Year In France – Episode 11

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

“I enjoyed last night,” Julia said as she poured coffees for her and Philippe at breakfast on the Sunday morning after supper at Christiane’s. “Your mum’s friend Thierry seems nice.”

Philippe, concentrating on pulling his croissant apart and heaping a spoonful of marmalade on it, grunted.

“I can’t see why Mama puts up with him.”

“Maybe because she likes him?” Julia said. “Why? Don’t you like him?”

Philippe shrugged.

“He was my father’s friend. They grew up together and were best men at each other’s weddings. Since he’s retired and moved back up here, he has been hanging around Mama more and more.”

“What happened to his wife?”

“She died.”

When Philippe didn’t say any more, Julia went on.

“They’re probably drawn together because of shared memories of your father. You should be pleased for her. She’s still got her life to lead and Thierry seems to be helping her.”

When Philippe didn’t answer, Julia helped herself to a croissant.

“So the London Book Fair. Are you going to tell me which hotel you have booked us into? Or are you planning on surprising me?” She smiled hopefully.

She’d wanted to talk to him last night on the drive home but had been too tired to broach the subject.

“Nowhere. We’re not going,” Philippe said flatly.

“That’s not the surprise I wanted,” Julia said, deflated. “I was so looking forward to it. Why aren’t we going?”

“I feel really guilty about disappointing you,” Philippe said. “But my edits came back from the publisher yesterday, and I can’t believe how many there are. I have to rewrite a couple of chapters.”

Julia sighed.

“There’s still a week before the book fair, though. Maybe you’ll get through them quicker than you anticipate.”

“Maybe. I promise you if that happens we’ll go. Even if it’s only for one day.” He stood up. “Right, back to the grindstone.”

“I was hoping we might go for a walk together at some point today,” Julia suggested. “Or even go out for lunch. It is Sunday.”

She knew she sounded petulant, but she didn’t care. She was fed up spending time alone.

She stood up and went to clear the table, but Philippe took her in his arms and hugged her.

“Fancy lunch in the village restaurant? But I warn you, I’ll have to work when we get back.

“And Julia, I really am desperately sorry. I was dreading telling you about the book fair.” He gave her a gentle kiss. “You could go on your own if you want.”

“I could,” Julia admitted. “It wouldn’t be the same without you, though. I wanted to introduce you to people. Take you to my favourite haunts.”

“I promise we’ll do that soon,” Philippe said. “Ring the restaurant and book a table. Give me a shout about one o’clock and I’ll have a quick shower before we leave.”

“OK. I’ll take Tess for a walk this morning,” Julia said, feeling happier at the thought of spending some more time with Philippe.

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.