coming home – a summer story – part six

by Sharon Santoni

Last week I told you that my summer story was nearly at an end, but the news was met with so many messages and emails, asking for it to continue a little longer that today I bring you chapter six, and next week really will be the last chapter!

Thank you for being such wonderful readers.   There isn’t a day that has passed since I started my blog, when I haven’t been grateful to have such generous and interactive visitors coming to the blog!

Thank you also to Jeanne McKay for having added so much enjoyment to my story with her stunning watercolours.  If you are interested in buying any of the original artwork, you can contact Jeanne here.   Thank you also to Heather Robinson, for keeping my t’s crossed and my grammar straight.


So here we go, for those who missed the past 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.

in part five we watch Bob discover the house for himself, and see his wife in a new context.  We leave them in the shepherds hut on the mountain just as a heavy storm breaks overhead …..

watercolour shepherd's hut

Enough light came in through the open door of the old stone barn for them to see that the building was just one simple room with a bed, a table, two wooden stools and a set of shelves in the corner of the room filled with a few books, a couple of plates and glasses. The floor of the hut appeared to be beaten earth. Everything looked a little dusty now but it was obvious that in its time the hut had been kept spic and span.

There was a small window opposite the door and a low fireplace on the wall to the right. A big basket of firewood and pine cones stood in one corner and an easel was propped up against the wall beside it. “This must have been Paul’s hideaway,” said Catherine. “I remember in his journals he mentioned a shepherds hut where he came to paint when the weather got too hot in the summer. He said it is was always a little cooler and quieter up here.”

The thunder sounded again, even louder this time and a cool wind suddenly picked up as torrential rain started to strike against the side of the small building. Catherine gave a squeal and quickly pushed the door closed, rubbing her bare arms. “Brrr, it’s colder than I had expected.” Bob took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders, then opened the interior shutter on the window so they could admire the storm playing out before them.

For a while they stood silently side by side, in awe of the beauty and drama of the storm. The rain was falling heavily and the sky was a dark inky blue, lit up regularly by flashes of lightning that illuminated the whole hillside for a fraction of a second.

“Well, I’d say we’re stuck up here for a couple of hours at least, so we may as well get comfy.” Bob turned his attention to the fireplace. “Sure hope this thing isn’t blocked up.” He stacked a small pile of twigs and pine cones on the hearth and struck a match from a box he found on the mantel. The flames took quickly and for a moment a thin line of smoke headed into the room, then suddenly lifted up the chimney flue, drawing brighter flames in its wake. “ That’s good, now I can make us a real fire.”

watercolour peaches and wine

In the meantime Catherine turned her attention to the food. She took their supplies out of the basket and laid them on the wooden table. She had thought to pack a pocket knife, a clean tea cloth and a corkscrew. She was about to wipe clean a big plate from Paul’s shelf, but on closer inspection it needed a little water.  “Well, we have plenty of that” she joked, as she opened the window and stretched her arm out as far as she could to rinse the plates and glasses in the rain. Chuckling to herself, “Never thought I’d do that,” she wiped the plate dry then lay out the cheese and hams. With her knife, she cut good sized pieces of the bread and then planted the knife upright in a large piece of cheese. She wiped  the glasses dry with her cloth and opened up the bottle of wine.

The heavy rain and the stone walls made the air feel damp and she realized they would appreciate getting closer to the fire, rather than sitting at the table.

The bed was made up with a couple of pillows, an old striped mattress and three patterned Provençal boutis or old quilts, folded neatly at the foot of the bed.

watercolour iron bed with quilt

She shook out one of the quilts and lay it on the ground in front of the fire. Then she put the bread and the cheese and meats on a big board and sat it on a wooden stool in front of the hearth. Bob had popped outside the door to bring in some logs that were stacked in a shelter on one side of the barn.

“Well, look at this,” he smiled as he came back inside, “all we’re missing is candlelight and soft music.”

Catherine had to smile, her improvised meal did look pretty in front of the flames in the fireplace and as the afternoon passed and the rain grew heavier, it was true that the light was fading.

“Well, if it’s candlelight you want, I’m pretty sure that Paul would have thought of that.” She pulled out a drawer on the side of the table and sure enough, there was a box of matches plus five white candles, along with a small enamel candle holder.

Voila, Monsieur,” she put on a French accent as she lit the candle, “and ‘eez zair anyzing more zat Monsieur requires?”

She laughed as she turned back towards Bob with the candle alight in her hands but was caught short by Bob’s expression. He was looking at her intently, a gentle smile on his lips and a tender look to his eyes. ”Yes, actually there is. Put the candle on the table, and come over here.”

Bob reached out his hand for Catherine’s and gently pulled her towards him in front of the fire. “This is all that I require…right here, my wife in my arms. And you know what?….it’s all I’ve ever really needed.”

He bent over his wife and kissed her tenderly. She nearly pulled away to laugh and answer with some smart remark but instead she gave into his kiss and returned the tenderness. Their embrace was long and then they held each other, hugging tightly.

“Oh Cath, why has it been so long since we felt like this?  What happened, when did we stop taking notice of each other?”

“I don’t know, Bob, I’ve been thinking about you all the time, ever since I got here. I would so love for us to have a fresh start. You know we still have many good years ahead of us. We have everything we need to be happy together.”

They kissed again, and again. Bob lifted her into his arms and then knelt down to lay her on the quilt in front of the flames. He stood up, crossed the room to get a pillow and shook it gently before lifting Catherine’s head and putting the pillow beneath her hair. For a long moment they looked at each other, then slowly Bob unbuttoned Cath’s shirt and then his. He leant over her and kissed her again.

As the fire burnt steadily, they made love slowly and gently, in a way they hadn’t known in years, possibly ever. They had all the time in the world, in fact there was no notion of time. They were alone in the universe, on a Provençal quilt, in front of a sweet smelling fire. They dozed for a while enlaced in each others arms and woke and made love again, then lay for a while staring at the flames.

“I think that has given me an appetite,” said Bob chuckling, “is this food just for decoration or are we allowed to tuck in?” Catherine smiled and pulled the stool towards them and together they shared the simplest and most delicious meal of their lives. As they ate they talked – about themselves, about the food, about nothing in particular.

With half the bottle of wine gone and a good part of their picnic, their lips found each other again and their bodies came together with that same intimacy and knowledge, until they finally fell asleep, an additional quilt over the two of them and didn’t stir until the following morning.

Catherine was woken by the sound of her husband putting more wood onto the fire. An early morning light filled the room.   She rubbed her eyes and looked around her, she looked down at the quilt, then smiled and laughed gently, “Oh yeah!” Bob laughed, “Yeah, that was quite an evening Honey. I’d say that the French air suits us pretty well.” He bent down and kissed her hair.

“I found a coffee pot while you were asleep and some very old coffee in a jar, do you want to risk it?”

“But how will you make coffee without water?” Catherine may have been only half awake, but she knew that she hadn’t seen a tap the night before.

“While you were sleeping I went for a little walk. I figured that if Paul came up here now and again, he wasn’t hauling water with him, so there had to be a spring somewhere. Guess what, I walked fifty yards along the path and bingo! A beautiful clear spring, that flows into a sort of stone basin, pretty neat actually.”

wtercolour coffee pot and bowls

Catherine pulled her clothes on while Bob made coffee over the fire. They drank the brew out of small ceramic bowls from the shelf and shared the remaining bread. Considering how long it had been there, the coffee tasted surprisingly good. The sun was shining now, and the hill was bathed in a beautiful light that you only get after a big storm.

Coffee in hand, they walked around the outside of the hut, admiring the old stone work, the heavy shingle roof and the fantastic view.  “You know what I was thinking Cath, while I was sitting out here alone this morning?” She looked up at him, waiting for him to continue. “I was thinking that the huge old house down there is just too big for us, it feels too fancy. We’d be lost in there, we’d never manage to use all those rooms. But this place …this place is different. If I knew I had a really special place like this to come to, I think I’d come back pretty often. Wouldn’t take that much to fix it up a bit, give us the basic comforts without wrecking the beauty of the place, and by road we’d still be close to the village.”

Catherine was surprised. “But what about Paul’s house, it can’t just stand empty, what do we do with that?”

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to figure it out, together. Talk to the kids too, see what they think. There’s no rush…we’ll make the right decisions.”
Catherine leaned in against his shoulder, “You know Bob, in his letter, Paul said I may fall in love with the South of France, but nobody could have guessed that thanks to his gift I would fall in love with you all over again.”

watercolour illustration of french house



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



The Enchanted Home August 17, 2015 - 2:55 pm

LOVE IT!!!! Please dont’ stop this is such a beautiful inspiring and uplifting story (and Jeanne’s illustrations just add the proverbial cherry on top). I love how this has turned into such a beautiful and heartwarming story……full of hope and promise that anything is possible and sometimes when you least expect it. I could see this becoming a series and I would be the first to line up to buy it! Bravo Sharon and Jeanne!

Pat August 17, 2015 - 3:16 pm

With tears in my eyes…such a tender chapter to a most romantic adventure story…I so appreciate your writing and the lovely watercolors add just the right touch… soft, feminine and romantic !

Jennifer August 17, 2015 - 3:41 pm

Dear Sharon,
Thank you! What a gift it has been reading “Coming Home”. I’ve never looked forward to Mondays with such pleasure!

Carolyn August 17, 2015 - 3:41 pm

So lovely. Thank you for your beautiful story and blog – you always brighten my day and inspire me to make my home life beautiful.

Karena August 17, 2015 - 3:52 pm

Dear Sharon, you have written he most beautiful love and discovery of France story…although I really hope she keeps the house!! We shall see….

The Arts by Karena
Artist Nicoletta Belletti

Denise August 17, 2015 - 4:41 pm

Oh Sharon another lovely part of the story. I hope they stay in France. All they need is each other. Thank you. By the way LOVE the book.
Thank . You should take all these wonderful stories you write for us and place them in a lovely little leather bound book . I would buy a few . It would be wonderful to have them together. To read at bedside and dream away.

LA CONTESSA August 17, 2015 - 4:51 pm

I want them to keep the HOUSE!
Just had an earthquake here………and this helped me to calm down.I got a bit rattled as my little office was bumping up and down!Cat left a nice scratch on my arm……….
Great story…….look forward to how you will end it!

Meredith August 17, 2015 - 5:10 pm

The story makes me think about how I feel when I visit France; relaxed, in love and slowing down to savour each moment. Thank you for another wonderful beginning to my Monday.

Sharon Crigger-Stokan August 17, 2015 - 5:26 pm

Magnifique! I love this story and look forward to every Monday so much! Thank you for your beautiful words that bring the story to life in our minds and hearts.

Jean Watkins August 17, 2015 - 5:35 pm

I look forward to each Monday!! Hope they stay in the big house and love each minute together there!!!

Jacquelyn August 17, 2015 - 5:37 pm

I live for Monday’s. Please don’t stop writing. Thank you. It’s glorious.

Eleni August 17, 2015 - 5:55 pm

Thanks for another wonderful chapter ! I do hope they keep the big house – perhaps open a B&B ? Just finished my first run through of your beautiful book, it actually felt as though we were just having a good chat about mutual friends. Loved the photographs. The weather here is warm and sunny – perfect for sitting outside with a cold drink and another read of your book. Many thanks.

Sandra August 17, 2015 - 7:32 pm


This should absolutely be a movie and the debut should be just before the Christmas holidays. The season of love and renewal of love, just like your story ! A lovely, lovely story!

Sheila in SF August 17, 2015 - 7:35 pm

The dream of so many of us–another chance at love in France. Love the story.

Gail August 17, 2015 - 7:37 pm

Sharon, this is such a sweet, romantic tale. I think everyone who is a true francophile (like yours truly), would like to include “Coming Home” as a chapter in their own life story! Provence…the village…the house…Paul’s art! All part of my own dream! Merci pour ce petit cadeau.

Marie August 17, 2015 - 8:23 pm

I am loving the romantic story and beautiful illustrations. Though I am of french ancestry (maiden name of Cote’) I can only visit France in my dreams but love my victorian home stateside and puttering in my gardens, making potpourri in my little cottage still room, having lunch under the grape covered patio, listening to the brook below etc. I am a widow with wonderful memories of my artist husband gone for 13 years now. Thank you for enhancing my life in these golden years!

Agnes Irene August 18, 2015 - 2:41 pm

Marie –
That’s a beautiful story right there – your life sounds as magical as the one in the story! It think when you celebrate the small day-to-day things, that life becomes beautiful. It’s nice to know that spirit that Sharon so wonderfully portrays is alive and well in the states.
Agnes Irene

Michelle August 17, 2015 - 9:19 pm

Thank you for adding another week. All of us (your Francophile readers) are enjoying it very much!

Vicky from Athens August 17, 2015 - 10:36 pm

Oh, are you sure the tale has to end? I think we are all caught up in a story that we wish could be our own and Jeanne’s wonderful watercolors bring it all to life! Don’t we all dream of something romantic like this happening on our own lives? Thanks for taking us away, even if only for a short while.

Kelly August 17, 2015 - 11:49 pm

Love your stories. I could read them over and over again. My husband and I were in Provence last year and fell in love with France and now are heading to Italy in 6 days to fall in love with Orvieto. Wine, pasta and of course love. Thank you.

Heather McPherson August 18, 2015 - 1:02 am

Oh no, please don’t end the story, I want to know what they do with the house & the barn! My imagination is running wild….so loving this every Monday morning. Thank you & if the story must end, pleeeese write another one

Cherry August 18, 2015 - 3:06 am! It can’t end in one more episode!
It has been lovely traveling along on their journey. Thank you so much for inviting us along. Please,another story soon?

Eileen August 18, 2015 - 4:32 am

Thankyou for making my morning a happy one. Have loved your story. Wish it would never stop. Please do not allow the house to be sold off. There is so much more for you to tell. You are a wonderful storyteller. We need more stories like this in a very mixed up world these days. Thank you once again.

French Happy August 18, 2015 - 8:55 am

I so don’t want this to end Sharon.
Just some thoughts, you could continue on with their children coming over for the whole summers!
Then they could make contact with Pauls relations and have a family reunion!
The paintings could be worth a fortune.
They could move to France permanently and rent out the rooms, just like you do! You would have some stories to tell from your guests!
Sharon your are a great writer, keep ip the excellent work.

Fleur August 18, 2015 - 10:15 am

I have just ordered your book My Stylish French Girlfriend, which should be delivered in the next 10 in South Africa. So looking forward to paging through the book.

Mary/Indiana August 18, 2015 - 1:23 pm

Awwww, nothing like a French romantic rainy afternoon!
Unfortunately, this is the closest I’ll ever get! But that’s OK.
Keep them coming please! Love the accompanying watercolors!

Agnes Irene August 18, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Like the others, I don’t want this story to end. It’s both believable, and a sweet dream – one that seems to stoke the fires of our own dreams.
Many thanks.
And the watercolors – beautiful!
Agnes Irene

Iris August 18, 2015 - 3:42 pm

As I started reading this chapter I was sitting watching a summer storm outside my window. How appropriate! Great story. I don’t want it to end.

Donna Lovold August 18, 2015 - 3:52 pm

Hello Sharon…this story has been so uplifting to read. My husband and I are going thru some troubles in our own marriage but we have a long planned trip to France for 3 weeks and I’m hoping it will restore

Marilyn August 18, 2015 - 8:47 pm

I am thoroughly enjoying your story.

Vicki L. August 19, 2015 - 12:57 am

I love reading your Blog and your lovely “My French Country Home” story “Coming Home” helped to prepare me and set up my husband’s and my River Cruise to Europe. We were fortunate to port in two cities in France and tour a touch of the French countryside. A longer tour to France is definitely on my bucket list. I read your fifth chapter on the trip and just finished the sixth. I very much agree with your readers–more please. You have a gift for writing, romance, adventure, and intrigue. The beautiful watercolor pictures give quite a lovely visual. A book series or even a lovely side table book of French Inspiration would be a keeper. I would order it. Thanks for such a wonderful Blog.

Pamela August 19, 2015 - 4:14 am

The story once again just beautiful , I so feel like I’m right there with them. I look forward to every Monday for the story. The art work is just as beautiful .it is not amazing what a little adventure will do for a relationship..
Have a great day.

sylvia faye August 19, 2015 - 7:20 am

The tally is in…your readers would truly wish this to continue as life is so stressful it is a treat in this story the characters are finding what is the most important thing in life……a happy mariage is the building block of society…along with a strong faith in God (Blessed Trinity).
How about a vote to continue your story (book) next summer?

On another note I perused your book in our small local bookstore. On a fixed budget that is all I can do but it is beautiful and the biggest surprise for me was how large the book was….not among my expections so it was a real treat.

If all of your girlfriends are half the person you are……then they are a treasure for you and for France, n’est ce pas?

Rhondi August 19, 2015 - 2:50 pm

What a sweet story. I hate for it to end too!

Delaine August 20, 2015 - 12:25 am

Such sweet romance! I,too, hate to see it end! But like they say, all good things must come to an end:)) Thanks for such a great summer story!

Sally August 21, 2015 - 8:30 pm

Oh, to be stranded in a cottage (in Provence) during a storm. How romantic! I don’t want it to end.


Leave a Comment