One Summer In France – Episode 54

Agnes fanned herself with the newspaper she’d bought as they’d passed the newsagent’s kiosk on their way to the station that morning to catch the train.

It was impossible to believe they’d been down here for five days already. Five days of whirlwind sightseeing as Isabelle tried to show them all the places she’d come to know after three years of living down here. They’d explored Nice and strolled along the famous Promenade des Anglais. They’d gone along the coast to Antibes-Juan-les-Pins and Cannes, and today it was Monaco/Monte Carlo, as the arrivals board at the station had announced it.

Ten o’clock and already the temperature in the principality was in the high twenties. It was a relief to sit at one of the tables outside the Café de Paris and order cold drinks. Whilst they waited, Bruno wandered over to look at two luxury red sport cars parked in front of the casino steps.

Isabelle, after seeing a friend on another table, apologised to Agnes and went over to have a quick chat with her before their drinks arrived.

Left to herself, Agnes amused herself by people watching for a few moments before unfolding her newspaper, scanning the headlines and then flicking through the pages in search of something more interesting. A short feature at the bottom of the entertainment pages caught her eye.

Where is Suzette Shelby? Mystery still surrounds the disappearance of the injured ballerina from her room in the Hôtel de Paris, Monaco, some weeks ago. A small picture alongside the feature showed the ballerina dressed for her role in “Swan Lake” a couple of seasons previously.

Agnes had never been a keen fan of ballet, but there was something about this photo that caught her attention. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. How could a picture of somebody in costume for a ballet mean anything to her?

She’d never met a ballet dancer in her life – aside, of course, from Madame Le Mairie in the village, who’d given toddler Isabelle a few lessons in the village hall years ago.

Even when she turned the page of the newspaper and went on to other features, she was drawn back to the picture. It definitely reminded her of somebody.

Agnes was still thinking about the picture when Isabelle returned.

“Are you OK?” Isabelle asked anxiously, looking at Agnes. “Do you need to put your sunglasses on? You’re screwing your eyes up.”

“I’m fine,” Agnes said. “Just thinking about something. And I’m hot. Ah, our drinks. A cold lemonade will help. Where are you taking us next?”

“I thought we’d have a quick look at the gaming rooms in the casino – they really are worth seeing,” Isabelle said. “The chandeliers and the ornate decorations are amazing.”

“I think those cars come under that description, too,” Bruno said, rejoining them and pulling a chair out. “Although amazingly expensive would be a better description, I think. Still, the engineering that goes into them . . .” He shook his head.

“And after the casino?” Agnes asked.

“We’ll need to make our way up to the palace before midday to watch the changing of the guard,” Isabelle said. “I thought afterwards you’d like to see the cathedral, too. It’ll be nice and cool in there. Then we’ll have lunch.”

“Sounds good,” Agnes said. “I can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of our holiday. All this sight-seeing has made the days go so quickly. But tomorrow we start the packing, oui?”

Isabelle smiled in agreement.

“Oui. Then next week it’s back to Brittany.”

“We’ve got a lot to do before then,” Agnes said.

It was only as they stood with the crowds in front of the palace later that morning to watch the changing of the guard that the truth behind the newspaper photograph dawned on Agnes.

An involuntary “Voilà!” left her lips.

Isabelle turned to look at her.

“Sorry,” Agnes muttered. “I’ve just realised something.”



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.