a story of country life in rural france

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
i have changed the names of most of the people in this story but i am sure once they read it they will recognise themselves.
the story of country life in rural france - is pure fiction but i have borrowed some of the names and characters from real life.
i would just like to say "thank you" to my family in france for making our stays so happy and for all the good times we share. love you all.

Submitted: October 07, 2018

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Submitted: October 07, 2018

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A story of Country Life

in rural France

 

 (2016)

"Pull up the drawbridge Welsh Dragon approaching" Ed called out to Lyn as he was peering out of the window.

"She will kill you if she hears you calling her that" laughed Lyn.

Their newest neighbour was walking down the street towards the house carrying a  big shopping  bag and looked like a woman on a mission.  Gwen  and her husband Gareth had recently moved into a house just around the corner from Ed and Lyn and the four of them were already firm friends. They lived in the hamlet permanently and had elected to spend their retirement there after spending several years living in Europe.

Ed pulled open the door just as Gwen  reached it and was holding the knocker which ensued in her almost falling through the door!! Ed put out his hands to catch her before she had a nasty accident as Lyn stood at the door in fits of giggles. 

"Here you are your knight in shining armour. I have saved you again fair maiden" He said in a rather serious voice.

"You are going to be the death of me!!! You daft beggar - you saw me coming didn't you????" Gwen  laughed as she regained her balance.

"So glad to see you both, have been waiting in all day so I didn't miss you, even had to send Gareth shopping on his own - bad news as you know he always fills the trolley with things he wants and we don't need. Here is your frozen food you left in our freezer. Have some really hot gossip. We are going to have some new neighbours."

This was quite an event as although there were a lot of empty houses in the hamlet there had been no new people for years.  Gwen and Gareth were the first English  people to move in permanently since we had been there.  Gwen loved a bit of gossip and with her brilliant language skills she was really up to date with all the news from both the French and the few English people round about.

"Brilliant! When is this great event happening then?" Lyn asked excitedly

"Not sure, but very soon, house has 'sold' on it and there have been people bringing things in.  They are English apparently and have connections with the hamlet.  More than that I don't know" replied Gwen.

"No good bringing us half a story" teased Ed

"Leave her alone" said Lyn "Take no notice of him Gwen he is just winding you up as usual. Make yourself useful Ed and put the kettle on"

Ed went off to the kitchen to make the coffee and Gwen sat beside Lyn and whispered

"Between you and me there is more to the new neighbours than the locals are letting on as rumour has it the connection is actually an old skeleton from somebody's cupboard but you didn't hear it from me"

 

"Oh I do envy your language skills Gwen, I bet you hear a lot of what is going on while waiting for your bread from the van in the morning" Lyn whispered back.

Ed came back with the coffee so no more was said.

A couple of days later a huge removal truck went trundling down the road with an English logo on the side.  Ed was sitting in the front garden on the seat.

"Hey looks like our new neighbours have arrived" he shouted to me in the house.

I ran out the house just to see the lorry disappearing around the corner. Our house is en route to the village about three miles away so we didn't think too much about it until we heard a huge beep from the van as it stopped, it sounded quite near.  Not wanting to be too nosy by following it round the corner we just sat and waited as it was nearer to Gwen's house than ours.  Sure enough after about 10 minutes she came strolling up the road with her little dog Princess.

"Bonjour" she called  "Put the kettle on, I have some news"

Ed went indoors to put the kettle on and Gwen vacated the seat on the bench he had just left.

"Bring Princess some water" I called "she may get thirsty, looks like this could take a while"

Gwen nudged me with a smile.

"You could be right there my lovely but hurry up with the tea Ed as I don't want to tell the story twice" she called.

"Did you see the lorry go past Gwen" Lynn asked

"Yes of course I did it pulled up at the bottom of my drive and Gareth was just going out so he had to ask them to move it.  Ok though as they are English and said the new people are moving in tomorrow.  They are waiting for someone with the keys so they can off -load.  Very chatty they were too.  Seems they are an English family but  one of the family is French and actually comes from this hamlet, although he called it a village" she replied.

"Ooh seems like a story there then" said Ed

"Go and mash that tea and I will tell you the story - you will be amazed as it concerns someone you know very well."  Gwen said in a mysterious voice.

Ed came back with a tray of tea and biscuits and a bowl of water for Princess and we all settled down to hear the tale.

"When I left you the other day I saw Anita.  She had been working in the next hamlet and was on her way home.  The garden she had been working on belongs to Jean-Paul's  cousin.  She happened to mention she worked in our hamlet and said how sad it was that he had died 6 months earlier.

The cousin then informed her  that it was also sad that he didn't live to see his sister return to the hamlet.  It appears that the French lady who is moving into the house near me is Jean-Paul's sister!"

"But I thought you said that the family are English?" Lynn queried

"I haven't finished yet" said Gwen

"Anita asked the cousin where she was moving to and he told her the empty house next to mine. The cousin had been very close to Jean-Pauland Helene as they had all grown up together.  Their mothers were sisters.  Helene and Jean-Paul's mother was very involved with the farm and she and her husband worked it together.  From a very young age the children were left with their aunt whilst their mother worked.Apparently, the sister left the hamlet under a cloud 60 years ago.  She had met an Englishman who was on holiday in the village. He loved walking and often walked into the hamlet where they stayed with their aunt and cousins.  He took a lot of notice of her and took her out a few times.  As you know they have to be chaperoned so Jean-Paul used to go along too but he was also happy enough for them to go off on their own, as long as he was there. When the Englishman left he promised to write and arrange for her to visit him in England.  Of course that never happened but as time wore on she discovered she was pregnant.  Of course it was a great disgrace as she was only 18 and very innocent.  The parents were mortified but she was sent away to stay with an aunt in Guret until she had the baby and it was going to be adopted.  Then she would find work there.

In due course she had the baby but she couldn't bear for the baby to be adopted and the aunt, who was quite elderly, begged her parents to let her keep it and she would have them live with her.  The story her parents had given out was that she had gone to Guret to live with her aunt so she could find work.

While she was living in Guret she met another Englishman, who was a radiographer at the hospital there.  He was very good to her but he just couldn't accept another man's child.  She was totally in love with this man but after fighting to keep her baby she just couldn't give her up. When the baby was 6 months old her aunt became very ill and she had to go into a nursing home.  There was nobody to look after the baby.

Helene was distraught.  She had to work to be able to look after herself and her baby but she couldn't look after the baby and work.  She had always been close to Jean-Paul and he had sent her letters regularly whilst she was living with her aunt.  He and May had recently got married and they had moved into a little cottage on the farm. She decided to write to him and ask him if he could take the baby for a while until she could try and make childcare arrangements in Guret.

Jean-Paul and May were hoping for a family of their own but under the circumstances they decided they had to help so they agreed to take the baby Eloise until Helene could make alternative arrangements.

At more or less the same time Helene's boyfriend James had been offered a position in England.  His father had not been well and his mother had written to him and asked him if he could come home as she couldn't manage.  His father had had a stroke and being elderly herself she was finding it hard work to cope and to work as he needed a lot of physical attention as well as medical.  He was sad that his parents were ill but he loved France and he loved Helene.  He was still adamant that he couldn't take on another man's child though so their relationship was at stalemate.

He had no choice but to go back to England.  It was all arranged he would travel back as soon as he could find a suitable position as he needed to work.  Luckily for him his mother had contacts as she was a doctor so tapped into her resources  and found him a position within a short time.  It was decision time.  Eloise was by this time living with Jean-Paul  and May and Helene was going to visit when she could.

He asked Helene to go with him to England.  She was torn.  She was totally in love with James and thought perhaps if they had a fresh start in a fresh country, he would grow to love Eloise.  He was very good with her on the occasions they were all together.  They discussed it long and hard but neither one of them could agree.  In the end Helene had to let him go.  She was heartbroken as she felt she had nothing.  Her baby was still living with Jean-Paul  and May and she didn't have the money to visit her more than a couple of times a month.  Her aunt was failing in health and her parents had virtually disowned her. Even more so since the baby had been living with Jean-Paul  and May.  They were also excluded from the family for helping Helene.  It was a very sad time.

It was the day that James was due to leave.  He decided to have one last try with Helene and after having lots of heart searching he was going to offer her one last chance.  His offer was that if Jean-Paul  and May were willing to adopt Eloise then he would make sure that Helene could visit twice a year on birthday and Christmas to see her.  Helene was torn she didn't want him to leave or to leave her baby.  She couldn't make a decision like this in an instant.  She told James he had to go because his parents needed him.  She would think about it.  She needed to speak to Jean-Paul and May.

James left and made sure she had his home address and telephone number and said he loved her and wanted her to come to England as soon as she could.  Helene wrote to Jean-Paul and May and described the situation.  She arranged to visit when she could manage to save the fare.

A couple of weeks later she arranged her journey to the hamlet taking some little treats and a little dress for Eloise whose 1st birthday was imminent.  She was growing up so fast and she missed her so much.  She dreamed of living back in the hamlet with her baby.  There were many tears on that visit and a lot of soul searching but they all agreed it would be impossible for Helene to bring the baby up alone and without James she had no support in Guret.  She was still living at her aunt's house but when the inevitable happened she would have to look for somewhere else to live.  It was a given that her aunt's children would want to sell it but were happy for her to live there until then as long as she contributed to the upkeep.  Jean-Paul explained to her that he and May were happy to look after Eloise but if Helene moved to England she may begin to forget who her mother was.  As it was she went to May if she cried or hurt herself which Helene found very upsetting.  She had to decide.  After many tears and discussions they decided between them that if Helene really loved James and he had agreed that she would be able to visit then perhaps it was for the best for her to go to him.  Eloise would be well looked after.

Helene went back to Guret and wrote a letter to James telling him of the outcome and saying she would go to England if he could arrange it.

She left with her belongings on her 19th birthday and has never been back since.

She married James in England and although he promised to let her visit Eloise, along with his mother, they decided a clean break would be better for everybody. 

James would make sure Eloise was provided for and would send money to Jean-Paul and May on  a regular basis.  Maybe when she was older she could make contact with her mother.  Sadly this never happened. James tried to comfort Helene by saying they would have more children of their own in the future.

Helene used to write regularly at first but she never had a reply to her letters.  It wasn't till years later she discovered the reason for this was that the letters were never posted.  James mother always offered to take them to the post office for her but in her wisdom she had decided that no contact was best. She just assumed that it was because Jean-Paul didn't want to have contact so after a couple of years she stopped writing the letters.  James would not let her work and her time was filled for the first couple of years looking after his father who was totally dependent.  His mother would not pay for someone to nurse him so it was all left to Helene.  She had worked at the hospital as a care assistant so they were happy she had the experience.  After a couple of years he had another massive stroke and he died in his sleep.  It was a merciful release.  James' mother by this time was worn out as she had spent many years looking after his father and trying to work part time in a busy practice as a GP.  At 72 she had decided to retire.  Sadly her retirement only lasted 2 years. She was out in the grounds walking her beloved dogs when she had a heavy fall, whereby she broke her hip.  After an operation she caught pneumonia and died in the hospital.

James had all the business of selling the house and sorting out their estate which took ages but finally they settled down in a beautiful cottage and decided it was their time and they would try for a family.

By the time Helene was 30 she had 3 children, 1 boy followed by 2 girls. They loved living in the countryside and with James being promoted there were no money worries.  His parents had left him well provided for and the money had been invested wisely.  The children grew up and moved on with their lives till it was just James and Helene again.  They had weathered many storms together but were content with their home and children and grandchildren. Although Helene never forgot her firstborn.

On their 40th wedding anniversary tragedy struck their lives. They had arranged a family party at their house.  James was on route to the station to collect their grandson who had just returned from a school trip.  It was bank holiday weekend and his daughter asked him to drive her as she had a flat tyre.  They set off in James new Volvo but were never to come back.  As they pulled out of the station car park a huge Spanish truck ploughed into them killing all three of them instantly.  the driver was on the wrong side of the road.

Helene was devastated.  To lose one member of your family is heartbreaking but three at once - how do you get over that? The rest of the family pulled in around her and stayed with her until the funerals.

Helene took comfort from her son , who being a solicitor took over all the things that needed doing with regards the wills, the investments and anything to take the pressure off of Helene.  It was then however that Helene discovered that despite her thinking James had had no feelings for Eloise she had been totally wrong.

James' will had been written many years ago and despite extra family members, he had always insisted that at the end of the day he would be leaving everything to his children.  If they wanted to share this with their children this was up to them.  It was only when Phillip started to read the will that he became puzzled.  He went with the document to Helene.  Phillip was the eldest and the two girls were Katherine and Louisa-May.  Louisa-May  had died in the accident. According to the will there was also another daughter named Eloise.  James had treated her the same as their own children and left her a share of his will.  Phillip asked if the solicitor had maybe made a mistake and spelled Katherine's name wrong.  Helene gently explained who Eloise was - the daughter she had not seen for 42 years.

Phillip was shocked but held her as she cried and promised once the funerals were over and a decent time of mourning he would take her to France and help her to find her daughter Eloise. 

Helene was too upset to make that kind of decision and just said "we'll see."

Gwen paused with tears in her eyes.

"Wow Gwen I think we need a refill after all that, kettle Ed" Lynn said.

"So May's daughter is not her daughter at all?  I often wondered that as May must have had her awful young" Lynn pondered

"I think Jean-Paul  was a lot older than her and they married when she was about 16" said Gwen

Ed brought beer this time -

"thought we needed something stronger than tea!"

"So the French lady is Helene and the family is her son or daughter?" asked Ed

"It is the son and his family.  They are buying it as a holiday home but she is sharing it with them.  They have built a little annexe at the back as there are 3 children so they all need a bit of space.  Be a bit strange coming back here though and finding people here who know you - even though they don't know what happened to you." replied Gwen

"So did she ever meet Eloise? Does Eloise know that May is not her mother?" I asked

"As far as the cousin knows Eloise never met her birth mother and was always told that May was her mother but that we will never know the answer to. The sad thing is May could never have children of her own so Eloise was a blessing from heaven." Gwen replied

"When John-Paul died recently the cousin said his sister thought perhaps they should try and find Helene to let her know but he said nothing came of that.  After all it would turn Eloise's  world upside down and she was already in shock with the death of her father, or the person she believed to be her father.  Also why open up the can of worms for May? He said they do not have a lot of contact with her anyway.  Such a shame though all  round. In the event his sister died soon after Jean-Paul, so he is the last of the generation of that family.  There are a couple of nieces and nephews but they live down south and are not aware of the family history.  They think that Eloise is May's daughter.  Although my neighbour Annette was quite interested when she knew who was moving in as she had heard it from the estate agent. Apparently she knew Helene from when they were children as she has lived here all her life."

"What a sad tale and heartbreaking for all involved.  Just let's hope the cousin does not share it with too many people roundabout as local people do have a tendency to gossip." I said.

"Yes it is but the cousin is housebound and he is the last remaining member of his family. He lived with his sister till she died a few months ago.Anita said it was his neighbour that asked her to tend to his garden as he had had a few falls recently and she looks after him.  She is English and only lived here a couple of years.  Doubt she knows the name of our hamlet as she is elderly and lives on her own.  He probably opened up to Anita as she said she was coming here next,  and when he asked her where she said it was opposite May's house.  She offered to make him a cup of coffee and they just got chatting."  Gwen replied.

"Yes but how did he know that Helene was moving here?" I asked

"Yes, I wondered that but Anita said the estate agent that is handling the sale told his neighbour that it was an English family but the grandmother was French and had lived in the hamlet as a child but moved away  when she was a young woman.  He then said she went to England to get married but was related to someone in the next hamlet. Being such a small place that would hardly happen more than once would it?  I doubt it. The neighbour knew that the cousin had connections with the hamlet so she told him. " Gwen replied.

"So Eloise never got her inheritance from James?" Lynn asked

"Suppose we will never know as nobody knew how to find her.  Now that Helene is back so to speak perhaps she will address that but who knows?  It would be a bittersweet situation as Eloise has always regarded May as her mother.  I wouldn't like to make that decision but then if it is a lot of money seems a shame for her not have it.  Maybe now Helene knows where she is she will address it in her will." Said Gwen.

"Seems the most sensible solution I suppose but seems a shame as he wanted her to have it."Lynn said sadly.

So the mystery  of the tale will remain.  We hope Helene enjoys her stay in our hamlet.  Let's hope she builds new memories with her own family and she can lay her ghosts to rest. 

If Phillip and his family use the house as a holiday home it maybe that he will never come across Eloise as she doesn't live with May now as she has her own family and moved away.  She does visit but maybe or maybe not their paths will cross.

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Marilyn Stubbings is married to John with 2 grown up children and one very precious granddaughter.  She is retired and divides her life between her homes in Suffolk, England and her holiday home in The Creuse in South West France.  This is her first fiction book but she has written a book of poems - Poems for Today or Life as We Know it, published by Exposure Publishing 2007. Available on Amazon.co.uk

When in Suffolk she is part of a community choir and enjoys crafting and generally socialising with friends.  She spends about 5 months a year in France with her husband with numerous visitors staying in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Marlene49. All rights reserved.

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