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A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol.... Part 12
- "My, you've done a lot of growing up in just one week!"
- "No, Audrey, I haven't. You're just looking at me differently because I finally figured you for who you are when the whole time you took me for a stupid fool".
- "What do you think is going to happen now?"
- "Very simple. Obviously, you wanted me out of your life. Guess what? I AM out of your life! For good too!. As for you, honestly I don't really care what's going to happen to you. I guess you'll join the ranks of rapidly and not so gracefully aging women on the internet dating sites".
- "Maybe we could...
- "Spare me the damage control bout, Audrey, it's not going to work. You scewed up! You played hard, you lost big, life goes on. Live and learn a little".
And this being said, I had addressed Audrey for the last time. I quickly turned around and left her office. I got back in my car and drove around Paris for a while, thinking about what just took place. I was sad, but relieved in a way. At least, she didn't have breast cancer or a terminal brain tumor. Instead, I had found a side of her I never would have suspected. A side that I didn't like! After I calmed down, I went to look at the Christmas decorations on the avenue des Champs-Elysees, thinking what a beautiful city Paris is. I parked somewhere and dialed Chantal's home number :
- "Drinks! Les Deux Magots! Half an hour!" And I hung up. I had chosen a cafe close to where she lived. she didn't call back which told me that she probably already knew what happened.
She was already there when I reached Les Deux Magots. She had ordered a hot chocolate for herself and a large black coffe for me. The minute I sat down at her table, she said to me :
- "Let's not talk about this tonight, B., you're upset". And she put her right hand on top of mine, which had an immediate calming effect on me.
- "You're right! What are your plans for Christmas Eve?
- "Well, I'm supposed to go to my mother's, but I can wait till Christmas day, because she's going to have a bunch of friends over and they will play bridge till 3.00 AM, so I don't have to be there, she won't be alone. But I definitely want to go see her on Christmas day".
- "Then, you're coming with me to our family dinner. My mother will grill us with embarrassing questions but you can survive that, right? You'll meet my sister Eliane, her husband Gilles, and her two boys Henri and Patrick. I know Charles, the parking lot attendant from the ofice will be there too, since this will be his first Christmas without his wife".
- "Great! I can't wait, B. But who's there or not is not that important to me, as long as you are. Then, you're coming with me to Orleans on Christmas day!"
- "All right, thank you, I'll be glad to. What are you doing for New Year's Eve?
- "I was going to.....
- "No, you're not! You and I are going to dress up, have a fancy dinner, then party and dance till 6.00 AM. I'll make the reservations tomorrow"
- "And what about you, B. What are you doing for the rest of your life ?
- "Well, the way I see it, you'll be on probation for a good six months. Then, if you don't cheat on me, steal from me, stab me in the back with a rusty kitchen knife or scratch my records, I might, I just might then consider a long term relationship with you".
- "Don't worry about a thing! I'll pass every test with flying colors".
- "I'm not selling the Sunbeam or buying a modern car!"
- "I don't care, I love our Sunbeam!.
- "I snore!"
- "I already know that!"
- "I leave the toilet seat up all the time!"
- "Good! At least, it won't be full of piss when I want to use it!"
- "I can spend a whole day sitting in a bookstore!"
- "So can I! Come on, B. be a little more creative!"
- "I am a pain in the ass!"
- "Oh, I think you know first hand I can be too if I really work at it!"
- "Okay, Chantal, you're hired and I'm going home!"
- "You ARE home, B., so you're not going anywhere". And she grabbed my arm in a very possessive way.
- "come on then, let's go"...
We had Christmas Eve dinner at home with my family. It was a great gathering. I even went along to midnight mass, something which for once left my mother speechless. She still lived up to her reputation, though, and embarrassed me a lot with very personal questions, as expected! Mom has a knack for creating questions to which there is no easy answer! The important part is that everyone had a good time and we laughed a lot. Sister, brother in law, nephews, parents, they all loved Chantal on contact and made her feel at home.
The next morning, we drove the Sunbeam to Orleans to Chantal's family estate. The castle was the real thing, with towers, moat, bridge and everything. This place is a treasure trove of historical facts and artifacts. A couple of kings slept there! I met Chantal's mother, a very proper old world woman oozing with class and charm. In her house, everyone dresses up for dinner, no exceptions! Even though she can no longer afford a full staff, a local cook will come to the castle on a need to basis. After lunch, a quite sophisticated affair with roasted pheasant, glazed chestnuts and a traditional home made yule log, I was asked by the lady of the house to go "look" at some parts of the roof of the castle where slates had been displaced by a recent storm. It turns out, the roof hadn't obviously been looked at for a number of years and there were many slates missing or broken. So, I replaced them all, spending three hours of my Christmas day thirty feet in the air in freezing temperature. The things we do in the name of love!
Chantal has moved in with me permanently in my Paris appartment, which we retained over hers because it is a bigger place. She had sent a magnificient portfolio of her pictures from the fashion show to Stella McCartney, and half a dozen of her shots were selected to illustrate a catalogue. Quite a nice thing to add to her resume. I have held firm on my promise not to replace the Sunbeam with a more modern vehicle. But I ever hardly drive it anymore since Chantal is using it all the time. So, I invested in a "family car", a 1964 four door Jaguar MkII, which is a much more civilized vehicle than the Sunbeam. My thought is, the minute Chantal takes the Jaguar for a spin, I'll get my Sunbeam back. Maybe!
Audrey Audincourt resigned from her position of Editor in Chief of Femmes de Paris and went to live in New-York where she got a high paying job at a fashion magazine. Any day, we expect to hear that she will be marrying some Texan oligarch. Her former job at Femmes de Paris was filled in by Cara Templeton, who had to move from London to Paris. We have dinner or drinks with her at least once a week and she's become a very good friend of Chantal and me.
It was very late at night and I was just finishing writing this paragraph when I heard Chantal's voice coming from the kitchen :
- "Cheri, when you have a minute, please bring your sweet ass over here, I need your help to choose the color of the paper for the invitations...
There's one thing I haven't figured out yet, and I'm afraid to ask. When you marry a Countess, does that make you a Count ?
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.
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