One Summer In France – Episode 44

Suzette methodically went through her cooling-down stretching exercises after doing an hour’s barre work. Thank goodness her ankle was back to its normal size now and she could move it without pain. It was getting stronger every day.

A quick shower and then she’d tidy up the sitting-room. Libby was coming over for a coffee later and she wanted to make sure the gîte was presentable.

The chairs forming the makeshift barre in the corner needed to be put back in their proper place; the wigs on the stand in the bedroom could go in the bottom of the wardrobe where they wouldn’t be seen if Libby went into the bedroom.

She was in the kitchen setting up the coffee machine when Libby arrived.

“Hi, I made a prune clafoutis yesterday so I’ve brought a couple of slices,” Libby said. “It’s fat free. You can have a small piece and go for a walk this afternoon if you’re worried about putting on weight. Can’t see why you would be, though. You’re so slim.”

“Thanks. I’m not too bothered about my weight now that I’m mobile again and can exercise,” Suzette said, taking a couple of plates out of the cupboard.

The sun was streaming in through the sitting-room windows as Suzette placed the cakes and the coffees on the table and the two of them sat down.

“There’s a wrought-iron table and two chairs in the out-house,” Libby said. “Would you like them for the terrace outside? It seems a shame you have nowhere to sit out there to enjoy the sunshine.”

“Thanks. Sounds good.”

“I’ll pull them out later and give them a bit of a clean up,” Libby promised. “Have to say, I love what you’ve done in here to personalise it. I’ll have to pick your brains when I get time to start on my apartment. Right now it’s just a place I sleep in.”

“I would love to help,” Suzette said.

“These cushions are stunning,” Libby said, picking one up and examining the bead work. “Did you buy them in Paris?”

Suzette shook her head.

“No. I bought the material there and I made them myself. It’s a hobby – it helps to pass the time when . . .”

She stopped, realising she had been about to say when she was backstage during rehearsals and performances. Embarrassed, she jumped up and went into the bedroom. As comfortable as she felt with Libby, she didn’t want anyone to know her secret yet.

“I make clothes as well. Do you like this jacket?” she asked, taking the white velvet jacket with its embroidered tribute to Lesage out of the wardrobe, and turning to show it to Libby. Libby had followed her and was standing in the doorway. Suzette quickly pushed the wardrobe door closed. “This is the latest thing I’ve made.”

“That is so beautiful. You are very talented,” Libby said.

“Thanks. How are you enjoying life in France and being an auberge keeper?” Suzette asked as they moved back into the sitting-room. The conversation was in danger of becoming too personal for her liking. Any minute now Libby would be asking what she did for a living in Paris, a question she had no desire to answer. “Is it like you dreamed it would be?”

Libby laughed.

“Not a bit. I’m far busier than I expected to be. I’d thought, even when there were guests, the days would be my own to mooch around and enjoy the place. But keeping on top of everything like the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking – especially when all six bedrooms are occupied – is never ending. Not to mention the chickens and the garden. I’m enjoying it, though, and glad I took the plunge. Brittany is beautiful.”

“It is,” Suzette agreed. “But you must make time for yourself.”

“Sorry, did I sound as if it’s all work and no time to play?” Libby said. “It isn’t. I do have a social life as well. Next Saturday I’m going to the jazz festival with Lucas.”

“I also go out on that evening,” Suzette said. “So we both have the social life.”

“Are you going anywhere nice?”

“Just dinner with a new friend,” Suzette replied. Picking up an envelope from the table, she handed it to Libby. “This is the rent for the next month. Perhaps you can check to make sure it’s correct.”

“I’m sure it is.” Libby looked at her. “You didn’t have to go to the trouble of getting me cash, Evie. A cheque would have been fine.”

“It wasn’t any trouble.” Suzette shrugged. She couldn’t tell Libby that Evie Patem didn’t have a bank account and it was out of the question to have given her a cheque written by Suzette Shelby.




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.