A Year In France – Episode 52

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

Julia got up on the day of Philippe’s birthday determined that there should be some sort of celebration for him, although he insisted he wasn’t bothered.

“I was planning to work most of the day, especially as I’m taking time off for the move soon.”

“Cake and champagne about four o’clock, then, with Christiane and Thierry?” Julia asked.

“Sounds perfect,” Philippe said. “Are you sure you’re all right? Don’t overdo things today. And don’t spend the morning over-thinking things. See you at lunchtime.”

Julia promised she wouldn’t do too much and watched him disappear into his study.

Trying to stop thinking about the envelope she’d found was impossible, though.

It wasn’t just the shock of finding the decree absolute, it was the thought of all the other papers the boxes held.

Could she cope with going through them? Were they hiding more secrets that would tear her apart?

She stifled a sigh. She’d thought she and her mother were so close. Now she was almost numb with pain over the fact that her mother had lied to her.

Maybe she should treat the boxes as though they held lost papers belonging to a stranger. Papers that had nothing to do with her, but belonged to the stranger her mother had turned into.

She’d have to learn to live with the fact that her mother had lied to her, because there was no-one around to tell her the truth about what had happened in the past.

At that thought, Travis flashed into her mind.

How much did he know, if anything, about their father’s brief life with her mother? Maybe there was some memorabilia about him that her mother had kept in the boxes.

Julia sighed. She knew so little about her father. Travis would at least be able to tell her what he was like as a person. Not that there was any real point in learning about him now . . .

Then it struck her. She didn’t have to look in the boxes. She could throw them away unopened, or even burn them in the large fireplace at the new house. That way, what she didn’t know about couldn’t upset her.

Grabbing a black bin bag, she went upstairs. Packing up to move meant there was a lot of stuff being binned. She’d just add one more bag of rubbish to the pile on the landing for Philippe to throw away.

* * * *

Christiane and Thierry arrived for the birthday tea before Philippe emerged from his study.

“I’ll fetch him,” Thierry offered.

Christiane looked at Julia as Thierry left them in the kitchen.

“How are you today? You gave Philippe a fright yesterday.”

“I had a shock, that’s all,” Julia said. “I’m fine today. Honestly, Christiane. I was a bit groggy when I woke up first thing, but that’s probably because I’m tired with all the packing for the move on top of everything else. Once we’re settled into the new house things will get back to normal.”

“Well, if you’re sure that’s all it is . . .” Christiane said, giving her a concerned look.

Julia sighed. Philippe had clearly been talking to her.

Before she could reply, Christiane spoke again.

“I do realise how difficult this is for you, my dear. Learning unpalatable secrets about a loved one’s past must be hard, but perhaps talking to this Travis would help you to come to terms with things.”

Julia looked at her silently.

“I can’t take the risk that he has even more upsetting things to tell me,” she said eventually.

“I don’t think whatever else he has to say can upset you any more than the news about your mother already has,” Christiane said gently. “I’m sure anything else he has to tell you will be quite tame after that bombshell.”

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.