The festival would start in three days and I knew my part forward and backward. This was the tenth anniversary of the festival that started in 1947. Over 100,000 people were expected to come to Avignon this year. July was beautiful in the south of France, the Mediterranean climate always warm and dry.
My father would not let me perform until I was eighteen years old. Finally I would be onstage. I did not care that our play was not in the Palace of the Popes. The “Festival Off” was very popular in its own right. I went to Mary’s house to pick up my costume.
“Try it on. Let’s see how you look Josette.”
I slipped my dress off and put the gown on behind the wardrobe screen.
“You look beautiful Josette; the men will all be after you.” Mary said with a grin and nod of approval.
I put my dress back on and Mary put my costume in a box for me and wrote my name on it.
“Don’t forget to send it to the school on Friday.” I said even though I knew all the costumes would be waiting there for us.
The “Festival Off” took place anywhere there was room. We were lucky enough to get a small school right on Rue de la Republique.
Friday came and Avignon was electric with excitement for the festival. The street performers staked out their areas of choice at first light. We were doing a musical play written by Sacha Guitry in 1930. I played the kitchen maid and had both a speaking and a singing part. I would appear in three scenes, one in the kitchen and two in the dining room. We had one show tonight then three on Saturday and Sunday. I arrived at the school two hours early and most of our cast was there already. Just before our play opened I peeked out into the audience. There must have been over 400 people in the small auditorium. People were even standing in the aisles and along the back.
I was not nervous at all, just excited. I watched my friends getting ready and going out for their calls. There was magic in the air and everyone could feel it. I got my first cue and stood in place waiting for my turn to speak. My father would come to a later performance. He apologized about not making it to opening night. I told him it was fine, that we would be even better on the second day.
Our play was perfect. My song sounded amazing in the auditorium and I couldn’t have been prouder of everyone, including myself. After our third curtain call we all headed out to greet our patrons as they left the school. A very handsome and well-dressed young man handed me a tightly folded piece of paper and said, “Please read this later, I loved your performance.” Then he moved on down the line thanking my fellow performers.
When our guests had left I opened the paper.
The handwritten note said:
Bristol Hotel room 438, I have to meet you, please come tonight, bring a friend if you want.
I thought about the man that gave me the note. He was tall and handsome. He had black hair and blue eyes. He was very well groomed and appeared to be a man of means. He had a kind face and I was not worried about being harmed, however I thought I should bring a friend if I go.
Why should I go to this man’s hotel room? Why does he want to see me? Did he write this note when he saw me on stage? Maybe he is a director or producer and liked my performance. I didn’t know what to do so I asked my friend Jamie what she thought.
“I have a date tonight at 10pm but if you want to go now I will go with you.”
We went together to the grand hotel. Room 438 was at the end of the hall. I knocked on the door. The man that gave me the note opened the door and invited us in.
“I am Louis Charlet and I am so pleased you came.”
“I am Josette and this is my friend Jamie. Why did you want to see me?” I asked bluntly.
“I have had a reccurring dream since I was 14 years old. I am at a play and I see this beautiful young girl on stage and I fall in love with her. This image has haunted me for nine years. You are the girl in my dream Josette. I had to tell you this. I know we are strangers, but I have loved you all my grown life. I just had to tell you this or I would regret it forever. I own a small vineyard in Pont-de-Crau that my father gave me when I became twenty-one. Perhaps I might call on you someday after the festival with your permission. You don’t have to answer me now, think about it and contact me at the vineyard. Take my card, and if I don’t ever hear from you again I will understand.” Louis said taking a business card from his pocket and handing it to me.
“I can’t promise anything, but perhaps after the festival we can meet and talk. I have to go now but I have your card.”
“That is more that could have hoped for, thank you for coming and nice to have met you too Jamie.”
Jamie and I left the Louis’s room and headed for the lobby.
“Talk about a fan of your performance, I could tell he was shocked to see you on that stage.” Jamie said with a grin.
Jamie went on her date and I went home and told my father what had happened.
I went to sleep that night thinking about our play. During the night I had a dream about the play. When I was singing I saw Louis Charlet in the audience smiling at me. His face was lighted by a soft glow and was the only one I could clearly see. I had the same dream every night that week.
I wrote Louis a letter and invited him to come visit me. We saw a lot of each other and I realized I loved Louis from the time we met. We got married in December 1947 and have a son. We are very happy and very much in love.
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