A Year In France – Episode 25

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

Driving back to the cottage for lunch, Julia kept looking at the photos of the house she was already dreaming of living in, mentally furnishing the rooms, cooking in the kitchen with its views out over the distant mountains.

“Would you mind if I did some work this afternoon?” Philippe’s voice broke into her thoughts. “There’s a couple of things I need to sort before I settle into my normal writing routine.”

“Don’t forget it’s tonight that Nicola and Gilles are coming to supper,” Julia reminded him. “If you’re going to be working, I’ll take Tess for a walk, then come back and start preparing stuff.

“I made chocolate mousses yesterday so dessert is done. Main course is salmon fillets, salad and tiny new potatoes.”

“Sounds delicious.”

Back home Julia quickly changed into some comfortable walking clothes and shoes, hooked Tess up to her lead and made for the path that threaded its way above the village.

Next week, when Philippe started his writing routine, she’d begin one of her own. Cooking, walking the dog and finding some freelance work.

Her mobile rang as she reached the track that led up to the farm where Nicola’s son Olivier lived with his great-aunt Giselle.

Leaning against the stone wall at the bottom of the track, Julia looked at the name on the screen before guiltily pressing the button.

“Maddy! How are you?”

“Hi. I’m fine, but I was beginning to think you’d been abducted. I’ve been trying to contact you for days.”

“Sorry about that,” Julia apologised. “I’ve been a bit busy.”

“So life across the Channel is good?”

“It’s wonderful,” Julia gushed. “Philippe’s taken time off and we’ve been doing things together. We have even been down to the coast, and since we got back we’ve been house hunting.”

“I’m beginning to be really jealous of your new life. Seen anywhere you like?”

“One absolutely beautiful place. We’re going back for a second look later in the week. I’m pretty sure Philippe will put in an offer then. Oh, Maddy, I wish you could see it. I’ll scan a picture when I get back and send it to you.”

“You sound really happy. I’m so pleased,” Maddy said.

“I am,” Julia replied. “How’s life in London? Recovered from the book fair? How’s Dannie?”

“Dannie’s fine. She’s settled in well. And London is the same as ever. The book fair was exhausting.” Maddy took a deep breath. “I’ve come to a decision – I’m going to start my own agency.”

“Brilliant news! It’s about time. What are you going to call it?”

“Maddy Matthews Literary Agency. It will be easy for people to remember and find.”

“It’s perfect,” Julia told her friend. “I know it will be a huge success. How soon will you start?”

“As of now. When I gave Kirsty a month’s notice she threw me out with immediate effect.”

“Why on earth did she do that?” Julia asked.

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later, but first I have to ask you something,” Maddy began. “May I take you up on the offer of a loan? Not a large amount. Just enough to help for the first six months. Provided, of course, that Philippe doesn’t mind.”

“Oh, Philippe won’t mind. He’s already told me it’s my money,” Julia said, remembering the earlier conversation about mortgages. “Of course I’ll lend you some money to help kick-start the agency.” Julia hesitated. “But there is one condition.”

Maddy felt her heart sink. Why had she rushed to give Kirsty her notice? She should have started organising things quietly while she still had a job.

But Julia had never mentioned a condition before when she’d made the offer, so why now?

Maddy could barely get the words out.

“And that condition is . . .?”

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.