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the house mocked me as I rummaged
through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the
meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow
highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d
been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the
kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent
of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard
his booming voice.
telephone. Uncle Martin, the baby of my
grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II,
found a French wife, and stayed.
Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended
nearly two weeks before.
I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness. “Lucie and I are tired.
need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of
Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling.
Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in
Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil
from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample
education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin
and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house
during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the
house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists
to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came
out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land
that Peter Mayle described.
“obviously, since you’re not working.”
current jobless status. When a huge
conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper
in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home
design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the
bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add
depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I
added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
positive so an amazing job would find me,
and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix
that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew
past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and
extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV
families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they
ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a
hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads
like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can
all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the
goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the
credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been
complaining about money.
planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the
almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t
that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I
made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve
disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but
the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered
swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t
bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until
the bottom dropped out of journalism.
visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it
agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and
breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the
for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I
pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking
along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets.
I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home,
the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although
I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women
always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling
footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on
a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his
bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam
around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of
this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make
this happen — with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward
Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I
thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He
looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled
a recently plowed furrow.
into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum
briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
phone. “He has a business proposal…”
showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a
minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened
the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
About The Author
Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of France, I See London I See France, and Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.