A Year In France – Episode 36

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

Back at the cottage Philippe was still in his study so Julia went out to the conservatory to do some work before supper.

Concentrating, making sense of and typing up the notes she and Nicola had worked on was engrossing and Julia lost all sense of time.

She jumped in surprise when Philippe appeared.

“You still working? It’s nearly eight o’clock.”

“It can’t be!” Julia quickly closed her laptop down and went into the kitchen.

“Pasta OK?” she asked as she put a saucepan of water on to boil. “I’ll fry onions, mushrooms and garlic, add a jar of tomato sauce and we can pretend it’s spaghetti bolognese.”

She took the parmesan out of the fridge and handed it to Philippe.

“The grater’s on the dresser.”

The onions, mushrooms and garlic were simmering nicely with the tomato sauce when her phone rang.

While she answered it Philippe finished grating the cheese and poured two glasses of wine, handing one to Julia before wandering into the sitting-room with his own glass.

“We’re invited to Sunday lunch with your mum and Thierry,” Julia said, calling through to him. “Christiane wants to tell us about their holiday. From what she’s told me, it sounds like they had a wonderful time.”

“Have you accepted?” Philippe asked, returning to the kitchen.

“Of course I have. Why wouldn’t I?” Julia said.

Philippe shrugged.

“You could have asked me. I might have my own lunch plans for us.”

“But you haven’t planned anything, have you? So don’t be such a misery. I’m looking forward to hearing about their trip to Venice. Christiane says she’s taken lots of photos.”

Julia gave the sauce mixture a stir before pouring pasta into the saucepan of boiling water and looking at Philippe.

“Your mum sounded happy,” she said quietly. “I don’t understand why her friendship with Thierry bothers you. I thought you were accepting it and were glad that she was happy.”

Philippe sighed.

“I know, and I am in a way. It’s just I always thought that people were attracted to similar types after they’d lost someone.

“But Thierry’s so different from my father. My dad was always the life and soul of everything. Thierry is an introvert compared to him.”

“Maybe Christiane prefers a quieter companion these days. Did she and your father do a lot of travelling together?”

“Not really. She stayed at home with me while Papa was away on business. He’d come home with all sorts of stories about what he’d got up to around the world.

“When he was home I remember lots of dinner parties and Mama getting in a tizz entertaining his business associates.”

“But they must have gone away on holidays together,” Julia said. “Especially after you left home.”

Philippe shook his head.

“Papa said he did enough travelling for work. He wanted to spend holidays at home. Even when he retired he refused to go further than Provence.”

Julia was silent for a moment.

“To be honest, Philippe, Christiane’s life with your father sounds a bit one-sided, especially in this day and age. He got to see the world and she got to stay at home with you and work.”

“I suppose it was,” Philippe admitted. “I took it for granted that that was the way it was. The way their generation did things.”

“I think Christiane is lucky to have Thierry as a close friend in her life these days. He may be quiet, but he’s charming and kind,” Julia said.

“She was so excited to be going to Venice; she told me she’s longed to go for years. I also think she enjoys the company of a man who clearly likes her and wants to take her places.”

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.