One Summer In France – Episode 58

Stepping on board, Suzette followed Malik along the deck to where a table and two chairs had been placed. A bottle of champagne was already nestling in an ice bucket. She looked at Malik and raised her eyebrows.

“Are we celebrating something?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“We could be.” He poured two glasses and handed her one. “Santé. So, tell me – has burying yourself away from everyone down here helped you to think?”

“Yes,” Suzette said. “Most things are a lot clearer in my mind now, although I still have one major decision to make.” She watched the bubbles in her glass before raising her head and looking at Malik directly. “Where I live when I’m no longer dancing.”

“You’ll stay in Paris, surely,” Malik said. He waved his hand around at the surrounding countryside. “I mean, this is lovely for getting away from it all, but I can’t see you living here. You’re a Parisian through and through.”

Suzette was silent. She’d always believed that of herself, too, until recently. Now she wasn’t sure it was true.

“Besides,” Malik continued, “if you like the idea I’ve researched for you, you’ll need to be near a big city, with an airport for easy travelling. If not Paris, then maybe Lille or Strasbourg. Nice could work, too, but that’s about it.”

“So what’s your idea?”

“Photography. As in you specialise in photos connected with the world of ballet and publish a coffee-table book of glossy photos. I’ve run the idea past the major theatre companies all over the country and they’re willing to give you backstage permits and unlimited access to everything and everybody involved. They’d also use your work for promotion – brochures, posters, that kind of thing. Well?” Malik looked at her expectantly.

“It’s a good idea,” Suzette said. “I did think about becoming a professional photographer, but hadn’t considered the dance theatre side of things.”

“You don’t sound that enthused,” Malik said. “You would at least still be involved in the world of dance.”

Suzette nodded.

“That’s the thing. I’m not sure I want to stay involved in the world of ballet when I retire. A completely different life is beginning to look more and more attractive.”

“Doing what?” Malik demanded.

“Haute couture embroidery.”

A few seconds’ silence greeted her words before Malik nodded slowly.

“That would work. You’re an expert at it. But surely you’d need to be in Paris to source materials – and customers?”

“I have customers already who I am sure will help spread the word for me. And just because I won’t be living in Paris doesn’t mean I can’t visit for shopping and seeing people.”

“True.” Malik picked up his knife and began to spread some pâté on a crispbread one of the boat crew had placed on the table. “So, when are you planning to return to Paris and prepare for the final show? Some time in the next couple of weeks, I hope.”

When Suzette didn’t answer immediately, he sighed.

“There’s something else you’ve not yet told me?”

“I’m not sure I want to dance ‘Swan Lake’ again,” Suzette said. “I’m frightened. What if it goes wrong and I injure myself again? Last year’s performance was an acclaimed triumph, as you know, so perhaps it would be better to leave the public with that memory.”

Malik’s eyes narrowed.

“Your ankle is completely fit again, yes? And we’re talking here about a role you’ve made your own down the years, but now you’re afraid to dance it?”

Suzette nodded.

“You’re also willing to forgo that last round of applause, the last of the bouquets, the last standing ovation for your performance? You want to let me down? Have me offer the role to Donna?”

“I don’t want to let you down, Malik, but –”

“Then don’t. I’ll give you a week to decide whether you want a proper finale to your dancing career or not. Your choice.”

Suzette bit her lip. She knew she was taking the coward’s way out by not making a decision right now and telling Malik, but there was still that little knot of uncertainty in her stomach.



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.