One Summer In France – Episode 50

The words hung unanswered in the air between the two women as Suzette struggled with her conscience.

She did so want to continue being anonymous for the rest of summer. She liked being an ordinary person, living a simple existence in the country and being accepted as a friend without any ulterior motives or thoughts. Once people knew who she was their attitude towards her was sure to change.

Silently Suzette picked up the coffee Libby had poured for her and took a sip.

“Shall we sit down?” she asked. Not waiting for an answer, she pulled out a kitchen chair and sat at the table.

Libby sat opposite her and waited.

“Why do you think I’m Suzette Shelby?” Suzette said. Were other people also going to start jumping to the same conclusion, she wondered.

“It’s just a feeling I got this morning.” Libby shrugged. “The few things I know about you all suddenly came together when I realised you were wearing a wig. The injured ankle, you live mostly in Paris, you watch your weight when you’re already slimmer than the average woman.” Libby paused. “And then there’s the way you avoid talking about yourself.”

Suzette smiled ruefully. So not mentioning anything about her life in Paris had been seen as suspicious, making people wonder about her. Time to own up – with Libby, at least.

“You’re right. I am Suzette Shelby,” she said quietly.

“You are? Truly?” Libby said. “You know, if you’d denied it I’d have believed you.”

“I didn’t want to lie to you, Libby,” Suzette replied.

“Haven’t you already done that by saying you’re someone you’re not?”

Suzette shook her head.

“I don’t think so. All those things you’ve just pointed out about me are true. And I’ve deliberately tried not to talk about my life to you precisely because I don’t like lying.”

“Calling yourself by a different name isn’t lying?” Libby asked.

“Evie Patem isn’t a total lie. Evie is short for Evelyn, which is my middle name, and Patem was my mother’s maiden name.”

“Oh, Evie,” Libby said. “Or do I call you Suzette now?”

“Can we stay with Evie, please?” Suzette said, hesitating before adding, “I’d really appreciate you keeping my secret.”

“It’s not my secret to tell, nor is it any of my business what you call yourself,” Libby said. “So I promise not to tell. But can I ask you why? Why bury yourself here in rural Brittany under an assumed name?”

“Because I needed space and time to think where there was nobody to apply pressure: keep exercising, keep dieting, keep in the spotlight.” Suzette drained her coffee mug. “I know my career as a ballerina will finish this autumn and I needed to decide what to do next. I didn’t think I could exist away from the world of dance, but living here, alone, is showing me I can.” She smiled at Libby. “I’m finally beginning to realise I still have a lot of life to live.”

“So at the end of summer you’ll leave, go back to Paris and become Suzette Shelby again,” Libby said. “The retired ballerina.”

Suzette fiddled with her coffee cup, thinking about Libby’s words. Though she’d never truly realised it until Libby said the words, “retired ballerina” was exactly how she would be viewed in the future. The phrase made her feel so old.

“Yes. When I leave here, Evie Patem will be relegated to the past. A fond memory and a secret between you and me.” She smiled at Libby.

“Any time Suzette feels the need to get away, Evie will always be welcome to visit,” Libby said smiling back at her. “And now, tell me, where did Pascal take you last night?”

“How did you know it was Pascal?” Suzette asked, surprised.

“Lucas recognised his car.” Libby hesitated before adding, “He was surprised, to be honest. He said Pascal’s mother has a huge influence on his life. Controlling.”

Suzette nodded.

“He explained to me last night about his father dying and his mother needing him.”

“So where did he take you last night?”

“A lakeside restaurant in Huelgoat,” Suzette said. “We had a lovely meal. He’s such a gentleman.” The word described Pascal perfectly.

“Do you think you’ll see him again?” Libby asked.

“He’s taking me to the Pont l’Abbé Embroidery Festival this week,” Suzette replied. “So he does manage to get away from his mother from time to time. I think maybe my fellow countrymen are used to handling domineering mothers!”




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.