A Year In France – Episode 39

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

On Sunday morning, Julia and Philippe took Tess for a walk down to the village and back, before setting off for Christiane’s at midday.

Christiane opened the door, smiling happily. A delicious aroma drifted towards them which made Philippe sniff as he bent to embrace his mother.

“That smells like cassoulet,” he said. “What are we celebrating? You only ever make that on special occasions.”

“Trust you to recognise it,” Christiane said, pausing before she added, “It’s one of Thierry’s favourite meals and we felt a celebration was in order today.”

Philippe glanced at his mother suspiciously but didn’t say anything.

In the sitting-room Thierry greeted Julia with a kiss before hesitantly turning to Philippe and offering him his hand, which Philippe shook.

“What are we celebrating? Apart from your return from a wonderful holiday, of course,” Julia asked, seeing a bottle of champagne and glasses on the table.

Seeing Christiane and Thierry moving closer together, she suddenly knew what was coming. Looking at Philippe’s impassive face, she guessed he did, too.

“We have something to tell you,” Christiane said, looking nervously at Philippe before holding out her hand and showing off a ring on her third finger.

“Thierry asked me to marry him while we were in Venice and I said yes. I hope you’ll be happy for us.” Christiane looked defiantly at Philippe.

It was left to Julia to react after glancing at Philippe apprehensively.

“What a lovely ring! Congratulations. Isn’t that wonderful news, Philippe?”

Philippe recovered himself at her words and Julia was thankful to see him remember his manners.

Putting his glass down on the table, he gave Christiane a hard hug.

“Be happy, Mama.”

He turned to Thierry and held his hand out.

“Congratulations. My mama is a special person.”

“I know that, Philippe,” Thierry answered quietly. “And I love her very much.”

“Here’s to the two of you. We wish you every happiness,” Julia said, raising her glass in a toast.

There was a short silence after they’d all taken a sip of their drinks.

“I need to check on things in the kitchen,” Christiane said.

“I’ll give you a hand,” Philippe said, and before Christiane could protest, he’d followed her out of the sitting-room and closed the door behind him.

Julia let out a deep breath at the same time as a sort of smothered groan came from Thierry.

“Are you waiting for the fireworks, too?” he asked wryly, looking at her.

Julia shook her head.

“Oh, Thierry, it’s just that he’s so protective of his mother. Don’t worry. Just give him time and he’ll come round.”

“I hope so,” Thierry said quietly. “His attitude makes Christiane unhappy and I don’t want to be the cause of that.”

He tilted his head in the direction of the kitchen.

“Very quiet out there.”

Together they listened. There were no raised voices. Nothing.

“I guess Philippe closed the kitchen door as well,” Julia said.

They both jumped when the door opened and Philippe appeared.

“Come on through. Lunch is ready.”

To Julia’s relief, tensions between them dispersed as lunch progressed and she enjoyed her meal.

Whatever had been said in the kitchen had obviously worked, as Philippe was clearly making a real effort to accept things.

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.