One Summer In France – Episode 01

Libby Duncan woke to the sound of the water rushing over the weir. It was several seconds before she remembered where she was. As realisation dawned, she smiled happily.

She’d done it. Three months after deciding to buy her friend’s canal-side auberge in Brittany, she and Chloe were in France.

Last night she’d opened the bedroom window slightly before closing the shutters so, as she’d collapsed, exhausted, into bed, the noise of the canal had lulled her to sleep. Lying in bed at either end of the day, listening to the water’s rhythmic movement, had always been a special part of past holidays. Now it was about to become a part of her future routine.

Stretching out her hand, Libby picked up the silver-framed photograph she’d placed beside the bed last night. Gently, she stroked the glass.

“Wish you were here with me, Dan,” she said softly.

They’d talked so often about moving to France. Dreamed about running a B&B, a gîte. But something had always stopped them from taking the plunge. Life always got in the way.

It was on their last holiday that Dan had started visiting the local immobiliers in earnest, looking for their dream home.

“We’ve got to do it soon, Libby, otherwise we’ll be stuck in a rut for ever.”

To discover that their friends, Agnes and Bruno, wanted to retire in a year’s time, and would be selling their auberge, had seemed like it was finally meant to be.

The dream had been cruelly shattered when Dan died shortly after that holiday, suffering a heart attack at only forty-six. Stress, the doctor had said. Libby and Chloe had clung together and somehow got through the awful months that had followed.

This photo of Dan sitting outside on the terrace by the canal evoked so many wonderful holiday memories. Evening walks along the canal path with the swallows swooping around their heads; supper on the terrace overlooking the canal. Watching the occasional boat manoeuvre through the lock, making its way to a mooring alongside the village quay.

Now she was here on her own. Libby brushed a tear away. It had been Chloe who had reminded her about the auberge going on the market in the new year.

“You should go for it, Mum,” she’d urged.

Libby had shaken her head.

“On my own? It’s too big a risk at my age.”

“You’re not exactly on the scrap heap yet. I know you’ve got the big four-oh coming up this year, but you’re still in reasonable shape for an oldie.”

“Oldie?” Libby had said. “Forty is the new thirty, I’ll have you know.”

“You’ll soon be past it if you don’t start living again. I know you miss Dad,” Chloe had continued relentlessly. “I do, too. But you need to do something with your life. Besides, you might meet a nice Frenchman. Get married again.”

Libby had shaken her head. Privately she accepted she’d struggle to replace what she and Dan had shared, and had resigned herself to living the rest of her life as a widow. She did need to do something with her life, though, Chloe was right about that.

Margaret Scott

Margaret is a sub-editor within the Production Team on the "Friend". Her main job is to work on the stories and make sure the magazine leaves us in its best possible guise. When not doing that, however, she either has her head buried in the old “Friend” volumes or is out and about giving talks or going on Warner trips (fab!). She hates cheese.