Welcome back for part two of my summer story. Thank you to everyone who left a comment after reading part one last week, your response was overwhelming, and not a little worrying … I just hope you like this episode as much!
Jeanne has provided some beautiful illustrations again this week, don’t forget you can contact her if you wish to purchase the originals.
The notary was young. That was her first surprise. She had imagined this moment so many times over the past few weeks; seeing herself in a charming old office, with patina walls and high ceilings, and a wise looking, handsome French notary unfolding a handwritten document and handing her the keys to her house with a seductive smile.
Instead of that, the notary looked about twenty five, was visibly uninterested in Catherine’s inheritance and in the place of a beautiful, old, handwritten document, he hit a button on his computer keyboard and printed out a copy of the will before her very eyes.
“Voila, Madame.” His accent was heavy and not very easy to understand, “Zis eez ze paper zat gives you ze ‘ouse. Pliz, you will sign ‘ere, and ‘ere and ‘ere… zank you.” Catherine signed the paper and handed it back to him. “And zis is anuzzer document for you from Mister Gates. It eez an envelopp and in ze envelopp, zair eez a key.” Catherine turned over the envelope. It was sealed with an ink signature sprawled across the envelope flap. She looked at the notary questioningly.
“Zat is right, Madame, it eez ze signature of Monsieur Gates, he want me to give you zis key, and to tell you zat eef you take it to ze bank in Fécholles, zair eez a letter waiting for you zat will explain everyzing.”
“Fécholles? What is that?” The notary sighed, “Fécholles, Madame, is ze closest town zat has a bank with ze safe boxes for ze clients, it is one hour from ‘ere… And now, Madame, eef you ‘ave no more questions, zen I suggest zat we meet again in one week and eef you wish, I can ‘andle ze sale of ze ‘ouse”
“Thank you, Monsieur…um,” she searched for his nameplate on his desk, “Monsieur Delabarbe. Yes, I do have questions. First of all, I’d like to thank you for handling this inheritance and for contacting me. Now, I wondered if you knew much about my great-uncle, Paul Gates?”
“Non, Madame, I know nuzzing. Now ‘ere is ze key to ze ‘ouse, you will find it quite easy, it eez number two, on ze place du marché, zat is ze market square. Voila. It eez five minutes from ‘ere. I believe my secretary know ze lady who cleans ze ‘ouse for Monsieur Gates, maybe she ‘elp you more.” And with that, Catherine was led to the door and unceremoniously dumped at the secretary’s desk.
Here at least she got a smile: “Don’t pay attention to ‘im Madame, he is always like that at first. ‘e will be more friendly next time. My name is Jocelyne, if you need something, you are welcome to come to see me.”
Catherine smiled back, relieved to find a pleasant face and someone who spoke better English. “Thank you, Jocelyne, that is nice to know. I’d be grateful if you could tell me how to find the market square?” Jocelyne drew a little map of the town, indicating how to get to Paul’s house.
As Catherine walked through the quiet, cobbled streets of the little village, checking the street names and finding her way to the market square, she could feel her heart beating faster and faster. She still knew nothing about the property that she had inherited and still didn’t understand why Paul had left it to her. Maybe Bob would be right, maybe it was just a ruin and she’d be on the first plane back home…
She turned the corner onto the market square and paused to take in the charm. A sandy-coloured open square, lined with houses, with iron seats dotted around the edge, and large shady catalpa trees in purple flower overhead. There was no market today. In fact, the village seemed eerily quiet, the wheels of her suitcase sounding even louder as they wobbled their way across the uneven paving stones.
“Number two, now where is number two?” Her eyes scrolled along the limits of the market square, as she searched for a small door or a broken down wall… “Number 8, number 6…I can’t be far…” She walked slowly along the narrow road that ran around the square. There were tall houses with blue-green shutters, smaller houses covered in ivy, a large iron gate but she couldn’t find a number two. She walked back and forth several times, before coming to a halt, with her suitcase beside her. “Why can’t I find number two, this must be the jet lag”
She felt a tap on her shoulder and spun around. Standing before her was the secretary from the notary’s office, accompanied by a tiny lady wearing a flowery apron.
“‘’Ere we are, Madame, I have brought you the ‘ousekeeper of Monsieur Gates. I think it is a good idea if she ‘elp you open the ‘ouse. ‘er name is Antoinette.”
“Well, thank you, that is very kind but maybe first of all she could tell me where the house is! I can’t find a number two anywhere.”
The two women spoke quickly together in French and then laughed, “But you are ‘ere, Madame, this is your ‘ouse!” They brandished their arms triumphantly and pointed to the gate behind.
Catherine’s jaw dropped. She let go of her suitcase and walked slowly up to the tall, ornate iron gate. Peering through the bars, she could see that across the courtyard was a beautiful and rather big house with many windows, all with their grey blue shutters pulled shut. The ground in front of the house was covered in a very fine gravel, there were several large pots containing plants positioned along the façade and a wisteria vine weaving its way around the iron balustrade at the window above the front door.
The vision of the house left her speechless, standing and staring. She turned to the secretary and to Antoinette murmuring, “This is the house that I have inherited?!” “Oui, Madame, this is the ‘ouse that Monsieur Gates used here in Callianes. Come, let us open the gate and you can see inside.”
Seeing that Catherine was stuck to the spot, the secretary delicately took her suitcase, while Antoinette slipped the key from her hand and deftly turned the lock on the gate. There was a loud creaking as it opened and as Catherine followed the women into the courtyard, she could smell the wisteria wafting on the air. She whispered, “I think I am in heaven,” but nobody heard her. Antoinette had hurried ahead and was unlocking the front door, while Jocelyne pushed the gate shut and pulled the suitcase up to the house. Catherine felt dazed. She had only ever seen this sort of house in films. She stood in the middle of the courtyard trying to take it in, vaguely aware that Antoinette had opened the main door and was moving from room to room inside opening the shutters on the windows.
She walked up to the front door and crossed the threshold. The house smelt of lavender. Entering a large square vestibule, paved in deep red coloured hexagonal tiles, she saw that there were doors leading to the right and to the left while straight ahead a winding staircase beckoned upstairs.
Antoinette and Jocelyne were talking together as they moved from room to room, pushing the shutters open and letting the light stream in. Catherine couldn’t speak. Leaving the hallway, she walked into a wide living room, furnished comfortably with a fireplace on one wall. There was a desk on one side with a view through the tall window and over the courtyard. Jocelyne smiled, “Ah … this is where Monsieur Paul liked to sit, because ‘e see the market from ‘is desk.”
From the salon, Catherine passed into an elegant dining room and from there into the kitchen. A simple, long wooden table ran down the centre of the room with a wide bench on one side and a mix of wooden chairs along the other. At the far end of the kitchen there was a deep stone sink with an old cooking range beside it. The middle of the longest wall was dominated by a huge fireplace with a pile of small logs stacked neatly against one side. Doors at the far end of the room opened onto the side of house, and Catherine could see a narrow stone path leading down into what must have been a little potager and herb garden, with a rose bush climbing over a frame in the center. The potager didn’t appear to be planted, but somebody kept it tidy. It all couldn’t be more perfect.
Jocelyne and Antoinette were talking to her in a mix of French and English but Catherine didn’t hear a word. She wandered around the ground floor of the house, her mouth slightly open as she gasped at each new surprise. Once all the shutters were open and a gentle breeze was moving through the rooms, the secretary and housekeeper took their leave, promising to come back later on.
After a couple of hours of wandering through bedrooms and salons and hallways, pausing to look at paintings, picking up books and peeking inside cupboards, Catherine checked her watch. It was breakfast time back home. She walked outside, sat down on an old iron chair in the middle of the courtyard and dialed Bob’s number on her phone.
He picked up immediately, his gruff voice asking, “So was I right? Is it a wreck?” Catherine felt tears rolling down her cheeks. She was deeply touched by the beauty all around her but also tired from her journey and pleased to hear his voice, even if his question could have been gentler.
“Bob, honey,” She tried to control her voice, “No, this is not a wreck, this is the most beautiful house I have ever seen. Oh Bob, I wish you were here with me. You wouldn’t believe it.” The tears were running faster now and the words caught in her throat.
“Cath, Cath, are you ok? I can’t hear you very well, has something happened?”
Catherine took a deep breath to control her voice, “Yes, Bob, something has happened. I think this may be a new beginning for us both. Bob, you and I have never been anywhere even remotely like this in our whole lives. Please, oh please, Bob, will you come out here and join me?”
“Ah, come on Cath. You’re tired from your trip…You know I have a lot of work going on right now, I can’t just jump on a plane and head over to France.”
They talked for a while and Catherine tried to convey the beauty and magic of Paul’s house and the charm of the little town but words were insufficient to describe such a place to someone who had never ventured much outside of his own backyard.
After their conversation, she returned to the house, opened her suitcase and instinctively pulled out a comforting shawl as the sun was beginning to set. In the kitchen, she noticed that Jocelyne had been back and left a loaf of fresh bread and milk, along with a packet of coffee on the table for her. Besides the provisions was a card bearing the name of the only hotel in the village.
Catherine smiled, grateful that someone was looking out for her. She knew it would be sensible to go to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep, but the house! How could she walk out and leave the house when she had only just found it?
She opened the kitchen cupboard and found a glass. She was going to pour herself a glass of milk when she noticed a bottle of cognac on a higher shelf. Yes, something a little stronger would be a good idea.
Her small glass of cognac in her hand and her shawl around her shoulders, she walked back into Paul’s main salon, with his desk facing the window. The chair in front of it was wooden with a tapestry cushion to soften the back. In the centre of the room there was a long chaise with a small table to the right, the walls were hung with many paintings. The fireplace was on the wall facing the window with two small armchairs pulled up close. To the right of the desk were tall bookshelves. She searched for switches and turned on a couple of table lamps. The room lit up with a warm intimate glow. Catherine’s eye was drawn by a row of identical books with a handwritten number on each spine. She could see that the pages were uneven inside. She pulled out a volume that was marked ‘38’ and let if fall open near the middle. The book appeared to be a travel journal, each page covered in ink and watercolour sketches with italic notations all around. She flicked through, then hauled another from the shelf and another.
Carrying the small pile of books to the chaise, she pulled her shawl closer and put her feet up, unaware of how dark it was becoming. Paul’s writing was sprawling but easy to read. He described the people he met, the meals he enjoyed and told some amusing anecdotes. In the company of Paul’s sketches and personal notes, she took a journey through the South of France at a time when it was still uncrowded, a golden age, when the Côte d’Azur was an elite playground for the rich and beautiful.
She turned the pages slowly, feeling like she was enjoying a conversation with this older relative. She smiled and said out loud, “It’s a shame I never knew you, Paul, I think we would have gotten along very well.”
If you missed part one of this story you can catch up here,
part two is right here, part three is here ,part four here
part five here, part six here and part seven here
Hi Sharon, It’s so fun to see this story unfold and imagine what the house that Catherine inherits might look like inside. I’m feeling so fortunate to be able to provide some of those visuals, thanks so much for asking me to collaborate with you! Love the story! XOXO
And Jeanne, it is so gorgeous to see the story through your eyes! You and Sharon make for a truly winning duo.
I am loving this story so much. Can’t wait till Monday. Ruth
The story really draws me in – I can smell the lavender, hear the crunch of gravel under foot, feel the sun on my face, and the warmth of the cognac as she sips and reads the journal…. Thank you.
I checked your website a few too many times at work today, awaiting episode 2- worth the wait, this story is drawing me right in. If this were a published book, I would have devoured the whole thing by now. I love your descriptions, your characters and the wonderful plot so far. We all need a Paul Gates in our lives! Jeanne’s paintings are delightful and in my mind, I can smell the lavender and imagine the unique Southern France light bouncing off the buildings. Can’t wait until next Monday! Nicola x
I sat down to my blog roll and was reminded of the exciting continuation of your story.
I got my tea and turned on some serene classical music to set the mood.
I am drawn back to my memories of Paris and the South of France almost exactly one year ago.
I am so glad to know the feeling of the market town and you describe it perfectly…now if I could only find that great Uncle who would leave me his maison!!
Ahh. but for now I will live in your story…Merci!!
Sharon this is truly a dreamy story and I am looking forward to the next chapter! Jeanne’s illustrations make it all even more real and memorable!
The Arts by Karena
Such a dreamy one you’ve come up with here Sharon. You write so very well. X
So loving your story! I’m an aspiring author and take pleasure in reading a well written tale that grabs at my senses and heart. Thanks so much for sharing and look forward to the next installment.
While only dreaming of being in France one day, your story brings me there! I love it and cannot wait to read more. The illustrations jut add to the visiting.
I forgot to add that the watercolors bring the story to life! Thanks for transporting us to a land of our dreams.
What fun! Keep it up!
I tore myself away from live coverage of the Tour de France to read the next chapter of your story. It did not disappoint! And Jeanne’s beautiful watercolors have brought it all to life for me. I can smell the lavender, hear the sounds from the market, taste the cognac . . . I am there!!
Can’t believe I have to wait a week for the next episode. I absolutely love reading this. Have been to France many times and you are simply making me want to go again…we do have reservations for next May. sigh…..
I am in love with this story! You cannot possibly disappoint, don’t worry about that! Absolutely lovely, can wait till next Monday! Makes Monday mornings so much better. Thank you for this lovely gift. xx Most sincerely, Valorie
stunning + the illustrations give it such meaningxxpeggybraswelldesign.com
Waaah…I want to inherit this house. Such a fun story. Can’t wait for more. I am in the process of sketching travel stories of my trip to France a couple of years ago. Love that she appreciated the ones she saw. I am in the process of finding my travel journal voice and reading your story and seeing the lovely sketches accompanying it, has helped me think about the direction I am going with them. I look forward to the story and pictures for the next chapter.
Once again you have captured and brought back memories of my trip to Provence.
The spiral staircase is a replica of the house we rented! So is the fireplace! Amazing!
More story, please and more water colors, too!
Chapter 2 was wonderful. So looking forward to chapter 3. I am ready to buy the completed book. Love the story line, character, setting, etc!! The illustrations are beautiful!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. My imagination is going crazy. So in love with yours!
I know the feeling when a relative leaves quite the surprise. Your heart
Is overwhelmed with gratitude! A lovely, heart inspiring story!
You have a new calling. This is as good as anything I have read recently. The story is there. The descriptions put one right in each scene. It is truly delightful. Jeanne’s watercolors as so French.
Absolutely charming! And the watercolors are perfect. So looking forward to the next installment.
Enjoyed the second installment! Every Francophiles dream!!!
What fun this is! I had an Uncle Paul, who I never knew, but unfortunately no inheritance of a house in France.
Your story makes my heart sing with dreaming. Thank you!
Please, please consider a book/composite of short stories. You have a way of drawing in your readers and skillfully guiding them through to the end. And, you already have an illustrator extrodinair.
Forget the “summer” read …we need this every Monday! Hooked.
ooh la la, can;t wait and would love to have the whole thing….merci beaucoup
I guess because something like this happened to me–inheritance of a beautiful old estate (although not in France!!) this story resonates and takes me back…the sense of wonder, of mystery about a woman about whom I knew so little, the old photographs, the beautiful Chanel blouse that I still have–I can identify strongly!
Thank you for reminding me of a time of wonder.
I am so excited to find out what happens next. Thank you.
Oh, this is wonderful Sharon (and Jeanne, with thanks to Heather)! I wanted to curl up and read the whole story, but it ended all too soon. I’ll have to wait for next week.
Lovely story! Just the kind you want to read forever!
Enjoying this story on my ‘buffer’ day after a week vacation. Back to work tomorrow. Merci!
Thanks Sharon this is so creative (and Jeanne for the illustrations, with thanks to Heather). Lovely story….can’t wait to see what happens next. All the best.
Hello Sharon! While I am loving the illustrations that accompany your lovely storey, I find that I can easily picture the scens in my mind. Having enjoyed your blog and your Instagram photos for so long, the village, the house and and the gardens are already activated in my mind! Ibe seen them all! But this is a special colaborative undertakingmso please get tomwork on your next installment! Perhaps after working hard, you’ll pull a shawl around your shoulders and meet Gibson and Ghetto in your evening garden, with a smokey Cognac, of course!
I loved your story – thank you for sharing it.
and yes of course I pass it along….
I love your stories. I can’t wait for the next instalment!!!!!
I have really enjoyed episodes 1 and 2.. The illustrations add to the enjoyment and creation of the storyline. If was published as a book I would read until finished! Looking forward to Monday next week
I cannot wait for next week……but soon the bills are going to arrive… and the Taxes….!!!!
Thank you Sharon and Jeanne for this lovely story and illustrations.
How fun to look forward to Mondays. Love Provence and this story.
Enjoying this lovely story, wishing I was there!!
Hello Sharon. This is the most interesting story. I can picture the square and what the market would look like. And the house===it is spectacular. Her husband is a pain in the butt…..looking forward for the next one – Betty from, Ontario. Canada.
thank you so very much for writing this….I am enjoying the story along with the beautiful illustrations….I am very much looking forward to part 3….. hopefully part 4, and maybe part 5….not sure I want this to end!
Dear Sharon, Your writings are just delicious. You have happened into my sweetest dreams. I hope is all true for you. I look forward to your blog ever day. MERCI, Marcia
Thank you again, for the wonderful time I spent in South of France with the reading of your brilliant story. The illustrations are so beautiful, helping imagine being there living the moment. Can’t wait for my next visit there. Thanks
I love the story, well done. If this was in book form I would buy it!!
Ooooo! This is exciting. Really enjoying and can’t wait for next installment! Thank you
Your story is wonderful, I am completely taken in with your wonderful words and the beautiful illustrations. Thank you.
Loving it. It has your inimitable “stamp”. You definitely have a calling, Sharon. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ !
Your story is just what dreams are made of. I’m totally envious. Book beautifully illustrated and just makes me want to be there
Sweet and lovely…Merci.
Hi Sharon Well what can I say!!!! all of the above comments say it all
You blow me away with your talent’s . Great story I just can not wait till next
Monday! Thank You
Oh I love this thanks so much cant wait for more.
I’m loving the story. Waiting for next Monday!!!
Your writing and story are beautiful. I feel like I’m there. Love the illustrations!
I am loving the story and wish I could just read it all in one sitting! One of my favorite places and dreams ever imagined. I bought the house watercolor from the first chapter as soon as I finished reading. I now hope the key is available as I think they would be great together. Keep writing!
What a wonderful way to begin a new week…swept away to beautiful France in a wistful vision of a small French village, an American with a heart open to all possibilities, and delightful new French girlfriends. What plot twists await us next week? I will be here to see.
The story and the drawings are pure magic! Anxious for next Monday to come!
Thank you for brining such joy with your story, I truly love it, it’s magical. Monday is so far but what a treat to look forward to.
I’m sorry we have to wait til Monday to get the next part !!!!
Ahhhh Sharon. Such a lovely setting. I really do feel like I’m living in this story, I slip in so easily on your words. It seems worth publishing as a novella (e-book novella?) with the wonderful illustrations. A fabulous Monday gift!
Thanks to you and Jeanne.
This story is just fabulous! And I love the illustrations!
Sharon, you have brought me back to time spent in Provence. I, along with many others, surely have dreamed of living there, even if for only a short time. Thank you for bringing me along on this magical journey.
Sharon and Jeanne, I just returned from a wonderful holiday in Provence with my dear cousins & our daughters. So of course I had to share your wonderful story and illustrations with them as a lovely reminder of our time together! Merci beaucoup!
Merci, again! I love that part of France and would gladly move into that lovely home. I am looking forward to the next installment.
Hi Sharon ,just love the story can’t wait for the next episode,the paintings are loverly also,Would love to live in the house sounds delightful.
I wanted to keep on reading, Sharon! I’m really looking forward to the next installment.
Pure delight! Thank you!
Love chapter 2. Oh to have an unkown relative with a home in France. One can dream! The drawing of the keys really caught my eye.
Ah. If only! An entrancing story Sharon and am looking forward to your next instalment. I’m learning to paint with watercolour too and love those pretty little vignettes representing your story.
Thank you so much for writing this and making the summer so enjoyable Love every minute of it and every Monday
This story is delightful–writing and illustrations! I look forward to reading more!
Wonderful story Sharon, thank you. Wish it was my life story! Can’t wait for episode 3.
Dear Sharon and Jeanne, what a great combination you two are with the writing and paintings. You have made my Mondays so pleasant with two chapters so beautifully written and illustrated. Looking forward to more…
This is just how I imagined southern France to look like and smell like. Looking forward to next Monday!
It is SO lovely!!! Thank you for brightening my otherwise dreary day of recovering from a bad broken arm. I can’t wait until next week!!
I made myself a cup of tea and settled into my favourite chair to read this instalment. Thankyou so much until next week. I do not think I can wait that long. Patience is not of my better traits.
Oh my goodness, I would hop on a plane straight away & fly to France to see this house!
so beautiful..the artwork is wonderful!
Bravo !! Author , Author ! Such a treat and where is my Paul ?
Hello…just writing to say thank you. I am totally enjoying your story, or should I say our story. It also shows me I can enjoy reading on my phone. My next step may be the newest Kindle. Love & hugs from Magalia CA.
Feeling the new owner’s bubble of excitement as the reality of it being the house of her dreams is beginning to settle that this is truly my house. We went though the house with her and felt like Goldilocks when she stopped to relax. Looking forward to the next chapter.
Sharon, such visual imagery every step/word of the way! And perfect illustrations taking us there. Thank you for this week’s treat!
Loving this very interesting story (and wonderful illustrations)! So much fun!
I can hardly wait for Part III!
Part 2 every bit as good as part 1. Can’t wait for Monday! And I adore the paintings! I would love the one with tje keys and the lavender. Is it still available?
I have just savoured every wonderful word of this story Sharon. I don’t know how I missed Part one but I actually read that after part 2!! What an enchanting story with such terrific visual imagery. That is one of the things that I really love about reading; creating an image in my mind of what the author describes. But normally, I can never tell how close what I visualise is to what the author has actually imagined yet with Jeanne’s wonderful watercolour images I didn’t have to wonder. Oh how I wish I had a great-uncle Paul to leave me a home in the south of France. Roll on Monday. I can’t wait for the next installment!
What a delightful story! I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
This story has drawn us all in…so now you need to complete it and publish it – and we will buy it! This is exactly the kind of story I need to download on my kindle for vacation next week. You have already proven to us that you can write, and your blog followers will sing your praises with rave reviews, so why not publish? Simply delightful – there appears to be no end to your talents!!!
Cathy in SB
Sharon, I’m hooked! Your descriptions are so beautifully vivid – thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to Part III. Cheers from Connecticut!
I WANT TO BE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!