One Summer In France – Episode 16

It was two o’clock when the club members began to arrive. Cars and motorcycles jostled for space in the parking area and on the canal path.

One of the first to arrive was Pascal, and Agnes quickly introduced him to Libby.

“Unfortunately I can’t ride this afternoon as I have to get back to the garden centre, but as president of the club I like to send them on their way,” he said, smiling at Libby as he shook her hand. “I return for tea. Please keep me a slice of that delicious-looking chocolate gâteau.”

Lucas was one of the last to arrive and Libby gazed in admiration at his car as he parked. As Agnes had said, it was a beautiful vintage Delage which, with its gleaming cream and dark blue bodywork and classic sports-car shape, looked as though it was starring centre stage on a 1930s film set.

“Bonjour,” he said, striding over to Libby where Agnes made the official introductions.

“I know you’ve met in passing, but Libby, this is Lucas, our local vet, and owner of the most lusted-after car in the area,” Agnes said. “Lucas, this is Libby.”

“Nice to meet you, Libby. Thank you for not cancelling this afternoon.” Her hand, taken in a firm grasp, was left tingling when he let go. He turned to Pascal. “How are things? You joining us today for once?”

Pascal shook his head.

“Non. Duty calls until six o’clock when I’ll be back. Enjoy the drive. Don’t get lost today.”

“Do people often get lost on these rallies?” Libby asked.

Lucas shook his head.

“Only when Pascal here does the map directions. Today Bruno has done them so it will all be good, eh, Agnes?”

Agnes nodded.

“I think it’s time to get going,” she said.

Libby and Chloe joined Pascal as he stood watching the cavalcade depart. Lucas, the last to leave, gave them a wave and a toot on his horn as he followed Bruno and Agnes out on to the path. As he, too, disappeared, Pascal jumped on his motorbike.

“I must get back to the garden centre. I return for the gâteau later!”

“Nice man,” Chloe said, glancing her Libby. “About your age, too!”

“Chloe, stop it!” Libby laughed. “I’ve got enough to do coping with the auberge without having a man in my life. Come on. Let’s get organised for their return.”

For the next couple of hours Libby and Chloe were busy setting out crockery, cutlery and glasses, as well as the food on the long trestle table they’d set up on the lawn at the side of the auberge. At least the sun was shining, so they could eat outdoors.

Noticing the mobile phone sticking out of the back pocket of Chloe’s jeans, Libby said, “Not heard yet then?”

Chloe shook her head.

“It doesn’t look as if I got it. Today was the date of notification.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve kept to it,” Libby said, placing the first of three large quiches on the table. “Sometimes things get delayed.” Looking at the despondent droop to Chloe’s shoulders, she knew her daughter didn’t believe her.

With ten minutes to go before they could expect the first drivers to arrive back for the celebration tea, they’d finished setting everything out. Libby, looking at the table with its bright yellow and blue tablecloth laden with all the food she’d prepared, breathed a sigh of relief. It looked good, but the real test would come when people started to eat.


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.