In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.
Venturing Out of Songais
When my alarm sounded at 6:30, I leapt out of bed, eager for another opportunity to attend a course at the Université François-Rabelais. I wanted to make a good impression on my professors and peers, so I spent a bit more time on my appearance, brushing some blush on my cheekbones and curling my eyelashes before applying mascara. The result prompted a grin from my mirror image. Pulling on a sweater, I grabbed my purse and ran downstairs.
After I completed my usual morning routine with the children, Madame Dubois rattled off a list of chores, my pulse accelerating with concern as I listened. Has she forgotten that I’m going to Tours today?
“Wash up the dishes in the sink, change the sheets on my bed, and sweep the entranceway.”
“I have to catch the ten o’clock train, or I’ll be late for my class,” I reminded her.
“Well then, you had better get started.”
Rushing out the door an hour later, mumbling angry words, I half-jogged the road to Songais and barely arrived at the train in time.
Oooh . . . she makes me so mad!
Out of breath, I boarded the coach and found a place to sit down. Unclenching my jaw, stretching my neck right, and then left, I willed myself to relax. I was determined not to let Madame Dubois ruin my day.
As the train pulled out of Tours, the attendant, a young man about my age, sauntered down the aisle, his gaze darting back and forth as he identified new passengers. I watched him, admiring his masculine features, until he reached me. Our eyes locked, his sky blue on my moss green, and my stomach lurched.
“Vous visitez Songais?” he asked.
“Non, je suis arrivée récemment,” I said handing him my rail pass. No, I arrived recently.
He glanced at my document and leaned in closer. So close, in fact, that I smelled his cologne, musk with a hint of citrus. “Linda . . . d’où êtes-vous?” Where are you from?
“Je viens des Etats-Unis.”
He smiled and my heart fluttered. “Enchanté,” he said, and added, “Je m’appelle Renaud.”
“Enchantée,” I responded, feeling tongue-tied.
Renaud tried out his English. “How long you visiting?”
“Many months,” I muttered.
“It is wonderful!” he exclaimed, and heads turned to look at us. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. “I go now, Linda, but I hope to see you again.”
Picking up his pace, he moved down the aisle and exited into the next coach. A few of the passengers glared at me, but I ignored them. I had enjoyed my interchange with Renaud and felt flattered to receive so much attention from such an attractive Frenchman. From now on, my rides to and from Tours might be the highlight of my day.
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