A Year In France – Episode 46

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

The auction started promptly at two o’clock with the professional auctioneer whizzing through the early lots.

Julia found herself outbid on a couple of things, but to her delight succeeded in buying the oak table she wanted for the new kitchen, as well as a couple of boxes of glasses and table linen.

She found herself holding her breath as Lot 103 was announced and the bidding began for the desk.

A man in front of her raised his hand to start, then the auctioneer accepted a bid from a woman over to the right of the hall.

For minutes the bids went to and fro between the two of them before Julia joined in and the man in front shook his head and dropped out.

Showing her hand to bid on the latest rise, Julia began to despair. The price was fast approaching the limit she’d marked on her catalogue.

The woman bidding against her clearly wanted the desk as much as she did.

“Might have to go over the limit for this,” Julia whispered to Christiane.

“Don’t get carried away, but I’m happy to contribute towards it,” Christiane replied.

Julia smiled her thanks and raised her hand again, and waited as the auctioneer turned to look at the other woman.

She sighed with relief as the woman shook her head regretfully and the auctioneer accepted Julia’s final bid with a loud bang of his gavel.

Half an hour later, when all the items Julia was interested in had gone under the hammer, she and Christiane made their way to the office to collect her purchases and to pay and arrange delivery for the table and the desk – everything else would fit in Christiane’s car.

When the man behind the desk apprehensively said there would be a delay with delivery and told her the first available date, Julia took a deep breath and smiled at him.

“No problem. That’s the day I’m moving house, so you can deliver it straight to my new address.”

*  *  *  *

Before closing down her computer for the evening, Maddy re-read the Facebook message Luc had sent her earlier. The simple message had stopped her in her tracks.

Are you free this weekend? I’ve got this invite to a do and I wondered if you’d like to come as my plus one. No worries if you’re busy. Let me know tomorrow.

Maddy sat back in her chair thoughtfully. Her first instinct had been to reply instantly and accept the invite.

But for once she’d been restrained, reminding herself she didn’t socialise with clients other than at book launches and signings.

She’d always felt it better to keep things on a business footing rather than becoming best friends with clients. But somehow Luc was different.

Since that first meeting in Covent Garden they’d communicated by telephone, e-mail and the occasional chat on Facebook, slowly developing their agent/writer relationship.

Maddy had shrieked with laughter when Luc had told her one of the scenes in his book she’d suggested some edits for was based on his own failed attempt to learn to scull during a family holiday in Devon, which had ended with him falling into the river.

“You wouldn’t believe how cold the water was, even in June,” he’d said.

In return she’d given him a shortened version of the time she’d been chased and butted by the billy-goat on her uncle’s farm.

Inevitably she’d learned a bit about his personal life. His retired parents lived in Suffolk. He had one sister, whom he was sure was going to tease him mercilessly when she heard he’d written a romance novel.

And now he’d invited her out. Not as his agent, but as a friend.

The question had been spinning around in her brain all afternoon. A large part of her wanted to get to know Luc on a more personal level, but would it complicate things?

Might she be better keeping things on a strict business footing until the book was the big success she knew it would be?

Maddy sighed. Julia, she knew, would advise caution.

“Think things through thoroughly before you jump,” she’d often urged when Maddy had been about to jump feet first into some scheme or other.

But then Julia hadn’t followed her own advice, had she, when she met Philippe? She’d taken an impetuous jump into the unknown without a care in the world.

Remembering how quickly Julia’s life had changed in less than a year, Maddy smiled to herself. Julia getting married and moving to France had been the catalyst for the domino effect of changes in her own life. Unexpected changes that had all been good.

Maddy pulled the computer keyboard towards her and began to type. For once she’d take the chance and mix business with pleasure and go with Luc to whatever this do turned out to be.

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.