coming home – a summer story – part five

by Sharon Santoni

Can you believe this is already part five of my summer story?!  A tale of a woman we could all be friends with, who unexpectedly inherits a house in the south of France, and sets off to discover a part of the world she had never visited, and along the way discovers herself too.

watercoliour illustration of coffee cups and air mail letter

As always, I am happy to be accompanied by Jeanne McKay for the illustrations and Heather Robinson for help with editing.

watercolour painting of keys with lavender

If you would like to catch up then you are welcome to read the previous chapters:

in part one Catherine learned of a mysterious inheritance in the South of France:

in part two despite her husband’s  reluctance she travels to France alone to discover the house that is now hers,

in part three she begins to understand that her great uncle Paul,  who left the house to her was also a respected painter and artist

in  part four, Catherine finally reads the letter that Paul left for her and takes some big decisions.

Today we will discover whether Bob will really come to join her ….


watercolour bread in market basket


The morning following her chat with Antoinette,  Catherine found a message on her phone:

Cath honey. Something came up at work that I couldn’t reschedule. Am booked on a flight leaving Saturday, arrive Nice airport Sunday afternoon. Wondering what I’ll find when I get there.

She re-read the message several times, it was normal that Bob would feel wary. Not only was he coming to a country he knew nothing about but also he was seeing his wife in a new role – more adventurous, unpredictable. The fact that he was coming at all was a big step in the right direction and maybe meeting up like this, so far from home would be a good thing ….“But then again” she sighed, “it could all go horribly wrong!”

The few days before Bob arrived flew by. She decided to wait for him before exploring the rest of Paul’s house but in the meantime she became more familiar with the little town of Callianes.

watercolour boulangerie

In one of the narrow side streets that led off from the market square, she discovered a row of small  shops that she silently dubbed “the essentials.” First there was a butcher, who on her very first visit  told her his name was Jean. He was medium height, rosy-cheeked and had a sparkle to his eye. His pride in his trade was evident in the way he displayed his meats and hams and sausages behind the squeaky clean glass counter. He joked with all his clients, especially the ladies and loved to make suggestions for their lunch or dinner each day, “ …Un petit roti de porc Madame Bergeron, votre mari serait très content…” She soon discovered that he had a locally-cured dry ham that was to die for and totally delicious served alongside a ripe, sweet smelling melon.

watercolour rosé wine

The melon in question had to be bought from Chantal. She owned the fruit and vegetable store and also sold a small selection of Provençal wines. Everything about her was very ‘french’ with her blue eyes and dark well cut hair. She generally wore no make up and wore jeans and a white shirt with an apron tied neatly around her slim hips. Yet even dressed so simply and without fuss she still looked very chic and feminine. Chantal spoke a few words of English, explaining ‘I once go to Calfornie, très beau.

The boulanger didn’t speak a word of English but it didn’t matter. His bread was delicious, his croissants made Catherine sigh with delight and each morning she stopped by to buy a fresh baguette. On Sunday morning the line to buy his patisserie came out the shop and a few yards down the street as clients waited patiently to buy a fruit tart or a selection of petits fours for their family lunch.

watercolour french bread

In the same street, there was a coiffeur and Catherine made an appointment to have her hair done the day before her husband arrived. She had worn her hair long for years. Some grey hair was mixed in with the light brown and although she didn’t want to start coloring it, she had decided to take inspiration from many of the French ladies she saw and go for a more gentle, feminine cut. The hairdresser spoke no English but she quickly understood that Catherine was wanting a change and gave her a book of hairstyles to leaf through. She found a picture that she liked, the hairdresser approved her choice  and nearly two hours later a transformed Catherine emerged from the salon, her head held high and a contented smile on her face.

By the time that Sunday came around and the taxi drew up to take her to the airport to pick up Bob, she found herself as excited and nervous as if she was on a first date. She dressed carefully that morning, ran her fingers through the new shape of her hair, dabbed a little perfume behind her ears and applied her new lipstick. Instead of the heavier eye shadow that she had used for years, she simply ran a soft brown pencil above her eye lashes as she had seen the girls at the perfumerie do and added some mascara. She looked in the mirror, pleased at her no fuss but pretty appearance.

As the taxi drove to the airport in Nice, she had time to reflect on all that had happened since she first arrived just ten days ago. It felt like a lifetime and she felt like a different woman, or maybe just a truer version of herself.

The taxi parked outside the airport and promised to wait for her in the same spot. With a spring in her step she walked briskly into the terminal, looking for the arrivals board.

She sat down until the flight was announced then moved forward to stand opposite the sliding doors from where her husband should emerge. Passengers started filing through and after a short while later she spotted Bob walking tall, looking all around and pulling a small suitcase on wheels behind him.

He glanced at Catherine but kept moving. She called out “Bob!” He turned around, searching for her. “Bob, I’m right here”, she smiled…. and he frowned. “Cath?!”  He drew closer. “Cath? Wow! Honey, I didn’t recognise you, look at you, you look so different. I thought you were some chic French gal.”

Catherine laughed and guided Bob out of the airport to the taxi. But before they slipped into the back seat, she reached up and hugged him tightly, a tear in her eye. “I’m so glad you are here, I have so much to tell you.”  He hugged her back and whispered, “I’m glad to be here.”

The drive back to Callianes sped by with Catherine talking non-stop, telling Bob about the notaire, about Jocelyne and Antoinette but less about the house and not mentioning the paintings. Not yet. She wanted to leave Bob the pleasure of discovering the house in his own way, and she didn’t know how much of their conversation the taxi driver could understand, so she preferred to be discreet until they were alone.

As they drove, Bob listened to her but he couldn’t take his eyes off the landscape they were driving through. He was obviously thinking hard and now and again he interrupted her with a question. “So, Cath, if I understand right…you like this house, but what are you thinking, do you want it as a holiday home or what?” For the moment she kept her answers open. “Let’s get you there first of all, and then we can talk”.

As they climbed out of the car outside the tall gate, Bob whistled long and low. “Wow. You told me it was special but I wasn’t expecting this. Isn’t it a bit big for us?”

watercoour painting of french gate

“Come on, come inside and see it first, there is so much to show you!” Catherine grabbed his suitcase and swung the gate open, smiling to herself to think how she had been in Bob’s position just ten days ago as Jocelyne and Antoinette opened up the house for her the first time.

The afternoon passed quickly as she led Bob around the house. She showed him the journals, the book about his work  and finally explained the importance of the paintings stashed away in the attic. The tour complete, they went back down to the kitchen and sat down together at the long table.

Bob had started off the tour of the house all worked up about the age of the building and its value, talking about whether to sell the property or how they could possibly have a second home but now he was quieter – seeing the house for real was a different situation entirely.

“Seems like there’s a lot to think over here. An inheritance like this could change our lives Cath – I get that – but maybe first we need to work out what it is we really want at this stage in life, do we want to live so far from the kids and what is the right thing to do with all those paintings. It feels to me like there is more than just our own wishes at stake here…maybe this is an opportunity to do something good. You know, honour the memory of a good man.”

Catherine beamed. Never in her wildest dreams could she have guessed that Bob would react so calmly and so positively.

Early in the evening, Catherine brought to the table a simple meal with a bottle of wine. They talked more than they had in many years. About the house, about the paintings but also about their lives and their empty nest back home. That night they fell asleep early, peacefully, with Bob’s arm draped around Catherine’s shoulders.

The next day Catherine awoke to find an empty bed beside her. She put on a robe and went to the kitchen where there was a delicious smell of fresh coffee in the air but nobody in sight. The kitchen door to the garden was wide open and Catherine walked into the little potager and found herself drawn by noises coming from a small stone building at the end of the garden. “Bob?”  she called.

He emerged through the door of the building with dust and cobwebs on his shoulders. “That great uncle of yours may have been a fine painter but he didn’t have a clue about keeping a workshop tidy!”

Catherine laughed. She could see that her practical Bob had found his own place to discover on the property and she didn’t want to spoil his pleasure. “Well, why don’t you have some breakfast and then you can start getting it all cleaned up.”

While he showered, she laid a small metal table in the garden with plates, mugs of coffee, a small basket of toasted baguette and a pot of raspberry jam that she had bought from Chantal. Bob emerged and looked at the table laughing,  “Is this the French idea of a breakfast Cath, you mean I don’t get my eggs here?”

watercolour breakfast table

Bob ate his breakfast quickly then returned to “get that workshop in line”. Meanwhile, Catherine lingered over coffee, reveling in the sunshine and the peaceful feeling of having her husband nearby to enjoy this little bit of paradise.

As she was doing the dishes, Antoinette arrived. “Bonjour Madame, alors votre mari est bien arrivé?  Your ‘usband arrive good?”  “Yes, thank you Antoinette, merci, he is in the garden. Would you like to meet him?”

Just at that moment Bob walked in, holding in his hand a huge iron key with an old card tag attached to the end. “Hey Cath, look at this key will you, have you ever seen a key this size…oh!”  he noticed Antoinette. “Excuse me Ma’am, my name’s Bob, bonjour.”

Antoinette gave Bob’s outstretched hand a quick and awkward shake but she had her eyes firmly fixed on the key.  “Ah mon Dieu, la clef de la bergerie!” she burst out as she turned to Catherine. “Monsieur Paul ‘ouse à la montagne,” and she pointed upwards. Catherine didn’t understand, so Antoinette stepped out of the kitchen door and indicated the top of the hill behind the village, “Voila, la bergerie.”

“La berjery? “ Catherine tried to repeat the name, “You mean there is another house?”

“Oui Madame, old ‘ouse, in…montagne, two ‘ours à pied,” she walked her fingers in mid-air, “little ‘ouse, very nice.”

Catherine looked at Bob. He grinned, “Sounds pretty intriguing to me…why don’t we pack a picnic and head on up there for lunch?”   She laughed, “Well, aren’t you the boy scout!”

watercolour bread in market basket

Antoinette drew them a small map explaining how to find the path out of the village that would take them up into the hills behind. She even drew a simple outline drawing of the ‘berjery’. An hour later they walked through the village, stopping only at the bakers to buy a fresh baguette, the butchers where they chose some cured ham and sausage and at Chantal’s store to buy some peaches and a bottle of rosé. Once they left the village the path grew quite narrow and started to rise steeply. The sunshine that had heralded the start of the day gradually gave way to a dark, menacing sky.

watercolour shepherd's hut

Within an hour they stood on the side of the hill and the entire village lay at their feet. “This sure is beautiful country Cath, I have to give you that”  Bob checked Antoinette’s map and they continued to rise until coming to a small plateau where they discovered the charming old stone building standing beside a large tree.

“That must be it!” Bob sounded excited. They approached the stone shack and walked around the building until coming to a little wooden door with a lock beneath the door handle. Bob reached into his pocket for the key and inserted it into the lock. As he turned the key, Catherine held her breath wondering what they would discover inside. The door creaked open and they walked inside just as a deafening clap of thunder sounded above them.



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


thank you for coming back to read each week

watercolour painting of house


joni August 10, 2015 - 4:28 pm

This story is wonderful!

Jean Watkins August 10, 2015 - 11:23 pm

Love this story!! Don’t stop now!!!

Kelly August 11, 2015 - 11:47 am

I just love the story and the illustrations are beautiful! I want a picnic basket just like your illustration!

Nancy August 10, 2015 - 5:18 pm

It’s wonderful! Sad to see it stop just yet, afterall, we just found the key!
Ah, so marvelous……

Rhondi August 10, 2015 - 5:52 pm

I am LOVING the story! Just discovered it yesterday through Jeanne on her Instagram page. Having been to France several times, I can picture so clearly everything you describe.
Now you will keep me I n suspense for a whole week….sigh!

Denise August 10, 2015 - 6:49 pm

Oh No, so quick we have to wait till next Monday. Sharon not fair. Give us a hint of what is next. Is it a wonderful romantic cabin for two. The kind we all dream of , or is it a studio.
Sharon you are a wonderful writer.
I received my book last week its wonderful, love it. It came and I got a glass of wine and spent the evening reading. I felt like I was home.
Its beautiful. Thank you.

Joan August 10, 2015 - 6:50 pm

It ends next week? How can that be? It is too soon. I love visiting the lives of these people. This gentle village and lovely house. It is almost as though you have moved us there and how can we leave so soon?

Margie August 10, 2015 - 11:41 pm

I agree with all Joan wrote. It surely can’t end next week, it is much too soon. These people you have created & the lovely house & village, it is what we (your readers) dream of. You have touched our hearts and souls with your words.

Susan Gabriel August 10, 2015 - 6:51 pm

Last installment. . . Oh non, just getting good. A sequel in the works?
Very sweet. Merci bien,
Susan Gabriel
Gabriel Papers

Joie Lynn August 10, 2015 - 6:51 pm

No, no, no….next week cannot be the last installment. You have something very special with this story and there is so much that could be told. Plus, I love your writing. I see at least “un peu roman”.

Vicky from Athens August 10, 2015 - 6:56 pm

You sure do know how to keep us on the edges of our seats! Am so enjoying the story and Jeanne’s watercolors really bring it all to life – you two make a wonderful duo as author and illustrator!

Valorie August 10, 2015 - 6:58 pm

Wonderful!! Just loved this installment as I have all of them. So looking forward to next week, but sad that it’s ending. Thank you again for this wonderful gift!

Janet August 10, 2015 - 7:00 pm

Bonjour! This is such fun – to read along and feel like I am beside Catherine on her journey. (Bien sur, I would love to BE Catherine at this point!) Please continue the story. There is obviously so much more to be told . . . !

amanda riley August 10, 2015 - 7:05 pm

The story is wonderful,it seems a shame that it will be finishing so soon!

Jennifer Walker August 10, 2015 - 7:05 pm

I love your story; I find it quite relaxing because of the

environment and yet, quite exciting because of the unknown.

It is perfect. Plus, I love your book “My Stylish French Girlfriends”

Thank-you so much for sharing all your wonderful talents.

Sincerely, Jen.

JayJay August 10, 2015 - 7:12 pm

Mondays are fabulous days now, thanks to your story! It’s hard to wait, though. Thank you for your delicious words.

Karena August 10, 2015 - 7:19 pm

Dear Sharon, art and intrigue, I am so excited for the next chapter. This should be a book !!!!

The Arts by Karena
Artist Nicoletta Belletti

Yvetta August 10, 2015 - 7:19 pm

Oh my, I can hardly wait until next Monday!! I love this story, thank you for sharing..


Emm August 10, 2015 - 7:23 pm

Oh, nooooo. Only one more chapter? I am going to have PWS, Provence Withdrawal Syndrome.
This is such a lovely story.

Gillian August 10, 2015 - 7:26 pm

LOVE, love, love this. Everything about it. The stories, the wonderful illustrations. All of it!

Colleen Taylor August 10, 2015 - 7:43 pm

Wonderful & oh such a lovely story! Thoroughly enjoyed this Sharon.

Gail Morris August 10, 2015 - 7:48 pm

Sharon, I just began reading from the beginning, finished part three and am having trouble bringing up part four. dont want to begin part five until I read four! Help!
Enjoying it so much!
Gail Morris

Sharon Santoni August 10, 2015 - 8:03 pm

Hi Gail

thanks for pointing that out! the link was faulty

you can find part 4 here


Gabriella August 10, 2015 - 7:52 pm

Absolutely LOVE it ! Thank you so much Sharon for such a beautiful story… but please, please don’t stop here…This MUST be another great book!

Michelle August 10, 2015 - 8:23 pm

Great new chapter, enjoying the story very much. I too was hoping it would continue, at least through August, lovely summer story.

Alice August 10, 2015 - 8:32 pm

You have stolen the hearts of us ladies with your sweet french story and I can’t bear to think it’s going to end so soon. Inside that pretty head of yours is an entire sweet book that needs to be released. I’ m sure of it and will be waiting for more of the story.( will be first in line to purchase )

Patty August 10, 2015 - 8:58 pm

I now look forward to Mondays just because of this story. I hate to see it end!!!!

Nicole August 10, 2015 - 9:12 pm

Love the story… it’s a little dream of mine! Sorry that it will be ending so soon!

Grace August 10, 2015 - 9:20 pm

I don’t want the story to end.

Victoria August 10, 2015 - 9:47 pm

Love this story. I was so worried that Bob would give Catherine a hard time. Glad he didn’t and now I can’t wait to see what they have found in the little house. You could have this story published and it would be on my nightstand so whenever I wanted to escape to the south of France I could. Hope there are many more chapters since the story is part of my Monday routine. Merci!

Betty Baker August 10, 2015 - 10:15 pm

Marvellous story and am eagerly anticipating the next chapter. You are a brilliant author.

Florence Brown August 10, 2015 - 10:30 pm

There is nothing to add to these comments. I am ready to book my flight to France!!!

Barbara August 10, 2015 - 11:14 pm

Absolutely love the story ! I feel like I am there in each chapter! Will really miss it softer next week !

suzana borlovan August 10, 2015 - 11:40 pm

Sharon, you’re leaving us wanting more of the story. x

Marilyn August 11, 2015 - 12:01 am

I will miss the Monday stories when they are finished. Just lovely, to dream upon.

Judi Fortino August 11, 2015 - 12:10 am

Your post of the next chapter is such a sweet find each Monday! Such a great read! Cannot guess how it’s going to end and really wish it wouldn’t! Merci!

Ann August 11, 2015 - 12:13 am

Oh, I simply love your story telling. Thank you!!

Maria August 11, 2015 - 12:27 am

Wonderful story! and I’m in love with the Illustrations! Congratulations ladies!

leslie in Little Rock August 11, 2015 - 12:28 am

You’ve made me love Mondays! (-;

Dalia Ward August 11, 2015 - 1:08 am

This could be a movie, please don’t stop now. You have a great gift writing wonderful stores, please don’t quit now so much more to tell…

Jan Drury August 11, 2015 - 2:08 am

Hi Sharon, my copy of your book arrived yesterday. What a joy, it is truely beautiful. Enjoying all the stories about your girlfriends, their homes and the delightful photographs. Congratulations, a true coffee table book to enjoy again and again.

Sharon Santoni August 13, 2015 - 3:15 pm

Thank you Jan, I am very glad that you are enjoying it, thank you for taking the time to let me know 🙂


Marilyn McPheron August 11, 2015 - 2:28 am

Next week is the last installment? Nooooooooooooooooooooo……
I would love to hear through an entire year…summer, fall, winter and spring in their new adventure.

I would love to have such an experience. As it is, I will enjoy even more my experiences in France now but I must make it to Provence!

christine August 11, 2015 - 2:49 am

like all your other readers, I just don’t want it to end!! It has me drooling each time I read an episode. I am sure we are wishing we were Catherine

Bonnie Schulte August 11, 2015 - 3:09 am

Even tho, I don’t want this story to end, I can’t wait to see what happens next week. How exciting to find that key. What an adventure!!!

sel August 11, 2015 - 4:59 am

Our attention is obvious, love the artwork, awaiting more details

Sandra T. August 11, 2015 - 5:46 am

This is just the BEST story! I’m all involved with the characters and I am loving being in your French Village! Only 6 more days until Monday!

Valerie August 11, 2015 - 6:46 pm

I love this story! I had cafe creme and a croissant for lunch, while sitting on my deck pretending to be in the south of France! I,too,don’t want this story to end! Merci!!

Hannele August 11, 2015 - 7:15 pm

Thanks, I have so enjoyed the story. You should publish it as a small book and write more of these stories!!!

Agnes Irene August 11, 2015 - 9:12 pm

Delightful! I knew Bob would come round – how could he not? A sequel? A series?? You’ve created a charming world that none of us want to leave. I’m right there with Catherine (wondering if I, too, could be so transformed in just ten days. I doubt it, but it would sure be worth the experiment).
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a story so well paired with just the right artwork. A beautiful combination.
Agnes Irene

Adelia August 11, 2015 - 11:05 pm

Agree with everyone. Love this and don’t want it to end.
Thanks for this …and for the many delightful facets of your wonderful blog, Sharon!

Delaine August 12, 2015 - 2:28 am

I am just having more fun reading your summer short story! Merci!

Stephanie - Melb, Aust. August 12, 2015 - 2:51 am

Thank you, delightful story – enjoying every instalment & feel as though I am there with them.

Pamela August 12, 2015 - 5:10 am

Oh man! I did not want the story to stop. ☺️, the story and the paintings are just beautiful. I so want a tote like the one at the beginning of this chapter. I would love to have those coffee cups in a print. Thank you so much for sharing the art and the story. Can’t wait until next week to read more.
Have a great day!

Eleni August 12, 2015 - 3:03 pm

Can’t believe the next installment will be the last ! such good reading and the illustrations are just wonderful. Your book arrived yesterday, oh my, just beautiful. I dare not start to read though, I have a small knitted outfit to finish for a very special baby’s 1st birthday and must be mailed across Canada in a few days !!! I am knitting as fast as I can.

Can’t wait for next Monday…

RebeccaNYC August 13, 2015 - 2:38 am

Thank you so much for this sweet fantasy! Anyone who has ever fallen in love with the South of France has a dream like this! Now…what is this I hear about next week being the last installment? This just can’t be true!!!!!!!!

Julia August 13, 2015 - 11:52 am

No no no you cant leave us all in suspense like this….My imagination is working overtime on what the next installment will reveal….This is such a sweet story and I loose myself in it every week and yes I have to admit to re- reading each chapter a few times….I want to be Cath!!!….The illustrations each week are so well suited to the story and just so pretty…

Brenda August 13, 2015 - 6:06 pm

Love, love, love this story. Thank you!

Carole Fitzgerald August 14, 2015 - 2:51 pm

As a committed Francophile I am finding this a delicious read . Read all episodes straight off . I don,t want till wait till Monday . Thank God it’s Friday. Wish it would keep going ,if not it would make an absolutely delightful book with the gorgeous water colour

I’m . Carole all the best
From Down Under xxx

Jennifer Canfield August 15, 2015 - 6:57 pm

I am simply in love with this story and only wish it were my life. I save Parts One – Four to read until yesterday so I had a lot to read. I am going to read Part Five today knowing I only have two days to wait for Part Six. You are a brilliant writer and story teller — thank you for letting me find you. I am a committed Francophile, too .. following Carole Fitzgerald in the post above me. I travelled to Provence in 1997 and have yet to get back there although I am letting this tale transport me. Maybe Summer 2016… You are tres magnifique. Merci beaucoup. Jennifer

Kim St. Clair August 15, 2015 - 7:06 pm

After the worst possible week I have ever experienced, the one thing I looked forward to most was your beloved story’s waiting for me in the inbox when I finally arrived home.
Like so many others, I feel like the story has only just begun, can we please have more?
Thank you for bringing such joy.☺️

Kindest regards

Kim, Melbourne

Melissa O'Toole August 16, 2015 - 3:16 pm

I love this story its wonderful!!


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