the paradise stones – a winter tale for you – part one

by Sharon Santoni

Here is the first part of a short tale for the holidays.  The Paradise Stones.   My daughter helped me work out the story line (thank you darling) and I’m trying to weave the text.   I’ll be posting part two in a couple of days time, I hope you like it!

Elsa was sitting in a low armchair in the corner of a charming living room, the view from the window was over grey Parisian rooftops, and in the distance the spike of the Eiffel Tower lit up in the early evening light.

She was chatting on the phone: “Yes that’s right, I was standing there in the airport for what seemed like hours, and everyone’s suitcase came out but mine! “ …..  I know, can you believe it?!  For the first time in my life I get to Paris, and my luggage gets lost! “

“But anyway, I just decided to make the best it, I went shopping, bought myself some really cute pyjamas, a pair of cashmere socks, and the airline tells me that I’ll have my bag later this evening”

“Oh come on Jane, yes cashmere!   you know how I need my creature comforts …. What? …. Yes that’s right, I’m staying in a really cute little apartment Rue du Paradis.  I met up with the girl from the agency at the end of the afternoon, and she let me in and gave me the keys …. She didn’t stay long because she had to rush off to let some other clients into a different apartment, but she was nice enough …. Yeah, I’ll send you pictures tomorrow, it’s just divine, everything you’d want for a weekend in Paris, … I wish you were here with me sis,… Mum would have loved that we made this journey together” …. She laughed … “yeah right, I’ll just find some handsome french guy and have a romantic weekend instead …..”

The door bell rang.       “Hold on Jane, there’s someone at the door, I hope its my suitcase, I have to hang up, I’ll call you again tomorrow, love you”

Elsa, turned off her phone that was plugged in to recharge after the long day out and about in paris, she grabbed the keys to the apartment, and rushed down the two flights of stairs, then flung open the huge heavy door that led out onto the street.   

“Bonsoir Madame”, the delivery man was standing there with her suitcase and with a clipboard.  On his chest she noticed an ‘Air France’ logo,   He was holding a page with a dotted line “‘votre signature ici, s’il vous plait,  sign here please”

He passed her the clipboard and to hold it properly she let  go of the door, which closed with a quiet  click behind her.   She signed the form and gratefully grabbed her bag “Merci”, he turned tail, jumped into his truck that was double parked and sped away.  Elsa turned around and pushed hard against the door, “oh no, it’s shut”, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the key ring, “now which one is it”,   the street was dimly lit and she fumbled for a while to find the right key.   “This must be it”, the key went in easily enough but refused to turn, “hmm”, she tried the other key on the ring,  same thing, “Oh come on, what is this?”

She tried both keys again, several times, a sinking feeling in her stomach.  Here she was in Paris, where she knew nobody, standing in the street in her pyjamas and socks, and holding a suitcase that she couldn’t open because it was locked and the key was upstairs in her apartment …  along with her phone.

“I don’t believe this is happening!”  She looked around, desperate for a solution, in the building on the other side of the narrow street, she saw a curtain move on a dimly lit window.   “Oh my goodness this is so embarrassing”.   A woman walked by “excusez moi Madame, do you speak english?” the woman crossed to the far side of the street and hurried past.

“What am I going to do?”, desperately she tried the keys again, it was mid December and she was beginning to feel very cold.

Behind her she heard a door open, she turned around.  It was the big entrance beneath the window where she had seen the curtain twitch.   At first she had trouble seeing who was there, but as she peered across the width of the street, the silhouette of an elderly lady, quite small and wrapped in a generous shawl.

The woman made a sign, beckoning to Elsa,   “Venez, venez ici”  At that moment it started to rain , “ Elsa didn’t stop to think but trotted across the street, pulling her noisy suitcase behind her.


“Merci madame, excusez moi, my key isn’t working, oh dear, this is very awkward.”


The lady didn’t answer but simply led Elsa slowly through a courtyard and up a steep flight of stairs.  Now and again she paused and turned around to make sure that Elsa was following, at the top of the stairs, she lifted a key to a tall wooden door, and turned the lock.

As the door opened, Elsa could smell a faint and somehow familiar perfume.  The lady walked through the door and disappeared, Elsa hardly dared follow.   “Venez, venez ici”, the lady called “well, I think that means come in,” Elsa said to herself.     She walked into the high ceilinged  hallway and parked her suitcase beside the door.   Before walking timidly further into the apartment


A beautiful  wooden floorway led her through another door and into the only room with lights on  “asseyez vous”, said the lady “I think that means sit down” Elsa muttered to herself.   She perched on a small chair  and looked up, and gasped. She was seated in the most beautiful room, full of paintings, comfy deep armchairs, lamps on small side tables…   The lady had disappeared and Elsa had plenty of time to take in the details of the room without daring to move from her chair.

The paintings on the wall were a mix of portraits, landscapes and what looked like sketches from a fashion show.   She was about to stand up and take a closer look but the lady appeared before her carrying a large cup and saucer “du thé chaud, ça vous fera du bien”  she smiled.    Elsa took the cup and the perfume of  a highly scented tea drifted up to her face, eagerly she held the cup in two hands, “Just what I needed, boy it was cold out there”,  She smiled at the lady ‘Il est tres froide”  thinking to herself, I hope that means it’s cold outside.

The lady was still standing in front of her.  She was not very tall, and it was difficult to give her an age, but certainly older than 70.   Her white hair was drawn up to a chignon behind her head, and now that she had removed her shawl, Elsa saw that she was wearing wide black pants that fell in  impeccable lines and a polo necked soft grey sweater with a bold gold brooch on the neckline.  She walked slowly and carefully, and Elsa had the impression that she was watching a delicate porcelain bird, rather than a woman.

The lady was talking in French and never in her life had Elsa regretted so much not paying attention to french lessons at school.  She kept repeating  “desolée, so sorry I don’t speak french”,   the lady smiled, nodded and walked away.

Just as Elsa was wondering if that was her cue to leave, there was a noise in the hallway and a young man walked in and greeted the lady with a warm kiss on each cheek, before even noticing that Elsa was present.  He looked at the lady “ c’est qui ca?  Ne me dis pas que c’est encore une touriste qui n’a pas les bons clèfs pour l’appart en face?!”   His unintelligible question was met with a slight nod of the head and a knowing smile.   He sighed and turned to Elsa.

“Bonjour Madame, can I ‘elp you?”   “Oh you speak English, thank you!” replied Elsa, relieved to find she could be understood.       “Please explain to this very kind lady that I found myself locked out of the apartment, and please thank her for letting me shelter from the rain in her beautiful home”

The young man smiled, “yes of course.  I am sorry to say zees is not ze first time.  It is ze girl who arranges ze flat opposite, so often she gives ze wrong keys.  But you are saved because we ‘ave a spare key ‘ere for you.“

He opened a drawer on a small desk and pulled out a set of keys “voila, madame, with zese keys you can get into your ‘ouse.’”

With that, he motioned to Elsa towards the door, and smiled.   She understood that it was time for leave; and turned to say thank you.  “Merci Madame, merci beaucoup”,  but the lady had turned her back and was walking slowly towards a far door.

The young man accompanied Elsa across the street, luckily the rain had been very short lived and as she tiptoed across the narrow street she hardly even got her socks wet.   He carried her suitcase for her “so you are ‘ere on a ‘holiday?”, he asked politely “Well yes, no actually, I am researching a piece of jewelry that will be included in a big show in New York, and I will be here for a few days while I try to unravel the story.”

He looked at her, surprised “Really, and what kind of bijoux is it?”  “Well it’s a little complicated to explain, but I am part of the team curating an exhibition about the exceptional jewels that were lost during the war.   And there is one piece that I find particularly intriguing because,  well….  for many reasons.”  She glanced at him, he was watching her carefully, listening to her every word.

He nodded, encouraging her to continue, “I won’t bore you with the details, but I am most interested in a necklace that I believe was dismantled at the start of the war, and I hope to find the pieces and that the story will be the main exhibit in the show.”

“Dismantled?” the boy was looking quite serious now, but just as she was about to say more the rain started again, much harder.   He pulled his collar up around his neck.   “Your story is interesting, maybe when we next meet you will tell me ‘ow it is going?   Bonsoir Madame”

And there he was gone.  Elsa stood for a moment, and watched him disappear back into the dark hallway of the building opposite, before turning around and hurrying back into the warm of her own little apartment, to reflect upon her day and get some rest.  Tomorrow would be a big day.



Thank you for reading this first part of my story, I hope you enjoyed it.    As ever I have no pretence about my fiction, it’s not great literature, just a little tale, with love from me to you!


Part Two is to be found here

and part Three is here.


Sally Bainbridge December 21, 2017 - 12:58 pm

Most enjoyable! I’ll look forward to chapter two!. Merci and Joyeus Noel!

Carol Betz December 21, 2017 - 7:42 pm

Your stories are so interesting & I look forward to them every year. Wish U would write more. Thanks & Marry Christmas

Pom December 25, 2017 - 1:10 am

I’m looking forward to next instalment. Nothing like a story on Xmas day

MGA December 21, 2017 - 12:58 pm

All of your stories enchant me and this one is no exception. Thank you for writing such intriguing tales! I anxiously await the next chapter!

Marie December 21, 2017 - 1:31 pm

Great story, I’m hooked and can’t wait to find out more. Merry Christmas Sharon, to you and your family.

Angela December 21, 2017 - 1:47 pm

How pleasant! Merci!

Tootsie December 21, 2017 - 1:48 pm

I have been waiting for one of your stories.

Judy Johnson December 21, 2017 - 1:51 pm

Great story, can’t wait for the rest to arrive in my inbox.
Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

Joanne Roberts December 21, 2017 - 2:02 pm

I absolutely love reading your stories. What a nice break from the holiday ” hustle and bustle “. Thank you for taking us back to Paris… I am so looking forward to the next chapters. Merry Christmas from Louisiana!

Susan Rolfs December 21, 2017 - 2:17 pm

Such a treat before Christmas and oh to be in Paris

Vicky from Athens December 21, 2017 - 2:18 pm

Oh, I do love a good mystery and this one is sure to keep me on the edge of my seat until your next post. So enjoyable to read with a steaming cup of Esprit de Noel in hand!

holly December 21, 2017 - 2:26 pm

Thank you for this holiday gift a good story. Here is a gift for you of a piece by Andrew Julian – The Quiet City: Winter in Paris.

Lovely little view of the Paris that most don’t travel to see. Je reve.

Tracy December 21, 2017 - 11:15 pm

That was beautiful! I barely scraped the surface on my visit. Must go again.

Dianne December 22, 2017 - 5:31 am

Holly, thank you for posting that.

Dianne Estes December 21, 2017 - 2:29 pm

A great way to start my day with a cup of coffee.
Can’t wait for the rest. merry Christmas

Reneelynn December 21, 2017 - 2:34 pm


Laurie December 21, 2017 - 2:37 pm

Loving it! I am intrigued.
Merci Beaucoup.

Jeannine December 21, 2017 - 2:46 pm

I can’t wait for the story to continue!!Have a wonderful Christmas celebration with your family!

Alice December 21, 2017 - 2:52 pm

Perfect reading at 5am with the snow falling softly. Lookin forward to the next episode.

Wendy December 21, 2017 - 2:56 pm

Lovely story Sharon, excited to read and enjoy the rest. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Fran December 21, 2017 - 3:02 pm

I so enjoyed part 1 & look forward to the next chapter

Bunny Jumonville December 21, 2017 - 3:13 pm

I so appreciate the gentle …yet courageous …multi-talented lady that you are ….. I’m loving the story!!
Bunny Jumonville

Jenine December 21, 2017 - 3:22 pm

Beautiful story. Looking forward to the rest of the lovely tale. Merry Christmas from Georgia!

Doris December 21, 2017 - 3:25 pm

Can’t wait!

Peggy Calhoon December 21, 2017 - 3:35 pm

In the rush of the holiday season, I just had to slow down enough to read the first portion of your short story You always hold my attention and keep me anxious for the next chapter. Thank you for sharing your creativity.

Debbra Weber December 21, 2017 - 3:44 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! I enjoyed it and cannot wait to read the next part. Merry Christmas to you and your family from Nebraska, USA.

Josephine December 21, 2017 - 3:48 pm

Joyeux Noël, merci pour la petite conte

Lisa Cassell-Arms December 21, 2017 - 3:59 pm

A fun read! Looking forward to the next chapter. (…makes me want to be in Paris 🙂

Candi Duncan December 21, 2017 - 4:38 pm

Oh! You’ve got me! Can hardly wait for more.

chris December 21, 2017 - 4:51 pm

For those who like a Parisien mystery – check out “The apartment” – a novel based on a true story about a French apartment, closed for decades, was discovered and curated for sale by a New York auction house…superb!

tracy December 21, 2017 - 11:16 pm

Thanks for the tip!

Roxane Lacroix December 22, 2017 - 11:27 pm

I loved A Paris Apartment!

Sharon December 21, 2017 - 5:19 pm

Thank you–your stories are always so charming.

Sandra Oliverio December 21, 2017 - 5:27 pm

love it! And, am intrigued to learn more.

sharon malan December 21, 2017 - 5:32 pm

Love your stories.. xx

Shari Ingraham December 21, 2017 - 5:37 pm

Very enjoyable, as always! Looking forward to the next installment!

Judy Lambert December 21, 2017 - 5:44 pm

Thank you for this lovely little surprise this morning! I was able to sit and enjoy it with tea!

Taste of France December 21, 2017 - 6:01 pm

A lovely story, and such evocative photos!

Jeanie December 21, 2017 - 8:01 pm

Thank you, Sharon! A delightful first installment. Looking forward to the next! Happy Holidays!

Cathia G. December 21, 2017 - 9:22 pm

I was transported and now contemplating just what will occur next. I’m new on your list so this is a first–very charming!

Heather McPherson December 21, 2017 - 10:05 pm

I love your stories, can’t wait for the next chapter

Madge December 21, 2017 - 10:20 pm

You have set up the intrigue nicely, Sharon. I’ll be looking for the next installment.

Holly Herron December 21, 2017 - 11:28 pm

Merry Christmas from Ottawa, Ontario,
Loving the story and can’t wait for the next chapter!
Warmest regards, Holly

robert December 22, 2017 - 12:28 am

Charming, intriguing, and enticing
Merci beaucoup
Joyeux Noel

Diana December 22, 2017 - 12:53 am

I’m hooked!

Rebecca December 22, 2017 - 2:48 am

I too am hooked. Bring it on!

Joan Sommerfield December 22, 2017 - 4:13 am

So delighted that you have graced us with
One of your writings.
Am eager for the next installment.

Yvetta December 22, 2017 - 4:41 am

How fun! I just love your stories. Thank you so much for sharing with us! I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Emm December 22, 2017 - 4:51 am

Such a fun story line. And your set-up is delicious. Looking forward to the next installment.

Sue Malizia December 22, 2017 - 5:44 am

Thank you for sharing this fun winter tale you and your daughter teamed up on. Looking forward to the next chapter. Merci 🙂

Patricia December 22, 2017 - 6:51 am

Thank you so very much for your holiday gift.I always look forward to your stories. You have a way of setting a scene and then drawing us in. Looking forward to the next chapter.
Happy holidays.

chris December 22, 2017 - 7:17 am

Good Morning Sharon,

Lovely story, and the apppartement is so beautiful.

Christmas Greetings from Belgium !

Penny December 22, 2017 - 2:04 pm

Delightful! A dream fo be in Paris anytime, but Christmas must be glorious. Thank you for a moment to escape. Always enjoy your stories. Merci

Dottie monta December 22, 2017 - 7:05 pm

Surely you know we are already conjuring possible outcomes of your story! Thank you for this charming diversion from quite a lot of bustle this morning. Don’t be late with the conclusion: We all thank you for this cadeau and wish you and your family the merriest Christmas! From Northern California, dottie

Kate December 22, 2017 - 7:29 pm

I always look forward to your stories. You have an unique ability to take one to exactly what you see and we can enjoy the journey with you. Thank I hope you never stop writing. Have a very Merry Christmas.

Diana December 22, 2017 - 8:07 pm

Merci, and the photos are beautiful as well.

Roxane Lacroix December 22, 2017 - 11:33 pm

The photos are great! Love the view of Tour Eiffel over the rooftops! I enjoy your stories so much, I can’t wait for part two.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Susan Gabriel December 23, 2017 - 12:30 am

Merry Christmas and Happy 2018 from New England. Thank you for the delightful gift of the story. You are an adept fisherwoman ~ you had me hooked with the first paragraph and the stunning photo. Cheers, Susan Gabriel

JaneEllen December 23, 2017 - 4:04 am

I am already chomping at the but, excited, to read chapter two,to see what happens next.
I love your stories, seems tome you are very good writer, you keep my interest and curiosity.Sorry don’t know any French.
Merry Christmas

Cecilia December 23, 2017 - 6:47 am

I always love your stories! Thank you, Sharon. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Sheila in SF December 23, 2017 - 5:03 pm

Merci, love it so far. Always enjoy your cute stories.
Merry Christmas from San Francisco. Met you last when you were in Sonoma on your book tour.

Vicki Rector December 24, 2017 - 3:28 pm

Intriguing story and looking forward to next chapter. Merry Christmas

Gretchen Bertman December 24, 2017 - 8:23 pm


Victoria Savu December 25, 2017 - 6:46 am

As always, I love your stories. Can’t wait for part 2. Thank you.

Valorie December 26, 2017 - 7:20 pm

I love it! Oooohhhh how I wish I were Elsa! Merci!

Joie December 27, 2017 - 1:11 am

Your blog is nice, but I think you have missed your calling. Your short stories are just wonderful. I just finished the first part of the current one and can hardly wait for more. I read a lot, from the classics to historical novels, best sellers and I find your way with words very pleasing and easy to read. And when one adds that to the content of a good story….well, voila, you have some good literature. Your should do a collection of short stories first….I am sure you could get them published…and I would buy them.

Trish December 27, 2017 - 4:58 am

Thank you Sharon. Your stories are lovely. They make me want to read on, to see what happens.

Sharon CS December 29, 2017 - 6:50 pm

Oh how I love your stories. I can hardly wait for Part 2!

pamela December 30, 2017 - 12:48 am

This sounds like it will be an other very good story

Donna January 5, 2018 - 5:26 pm

In an effort to push through mourning the death of my sweet little Italian Greyhound of 14 years, and current workplace upheaval resulting in abundant stress, I read part one of your story before heading into the office. Reading this wonderfully captivating short story before diving into a hectic workday isn’t part of my usual routine, but perhaps it should be. Thank you for this small gift to start my day. I know it will linger in my thoughts, and is a lovely reminder to live for each moment; to dream often, love deeply, and to be present with everyone, be they human or sweet creatures. I cannot wait to read part two. Please promise there will be more! Merci.

Anne-Marie Cartier December 20, 2019 - 10:09 pm

Sweet read…thank you. May I point out a few mistakes? Ne me dis pas que c’est encore une touriste qui n’a pas “les bons clèfs” pour l’appart en face?!” The word ‘clé’ or ‘clef’ is feminin alors ‘Pas les ‘bonnes clés’ or ‘clefs’… if you want to use the word ‘clefs’ there is no accent on the ‘e’ but if you choose the word ‘clés’ there is an accent on the ‘e’ Either word is used however, clef is the one that I grew up with and more comfortable using.


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