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Episode Four

The sun rose softly, a seeping light that floated through the mist and over the edge of the fields.  Claude found another road, barely more than a lane and headed into a small village.  He came suddenly to a barrier and swore—under his breath—but it still woke Marie-Anne and Jin.  Theresa listened while the three of them discussed the barrier.  Claude said to Theresa, "Eat is the Tour! Mon dieu, I forget it comes here today!"  

Marie-Anne shrugged.  She said, "So, mangeons, eh?"  and Jin said, "Tres bien, an early breakfast!"  He turned to Theresa.  "The [Link Removed] coming through here today and so this road is blocked.  We will walk to a boulangerie for some food and find another road, okay?"

In response, Theresa shrugged and then caught his eye and laughed.

They walked, the four of them, down a narrow sidewalk.  The houses and stores almost abutted the street and Theresa couldn't believe anyone was skinny enough to walk on that sidewalk.  "Ahh, right", she thought to herself, "I am in the country where no one supposedly gets fat."

Claude and Marie-Anne stopped in front of a bread store, a boulangerie and after a short—for them—discussion, thy led Theresa and Jinn down a narrow alley next to the boulangerie and around back.  They seemed to know the place.  Certainly no one stopped them from walking through the door.  

Theresa followed them in and was instantly enveloped by the smell of [Link Removed]  It was everywhere that smell, as golden and warm, yeasty and slightly salty as the baguettes that were being pulled out of the ovens.  It was only 7 a.m., but the boulangerie was busier than Rush Street on a Friday night in the summer, Theresa thought.  The baker greeted Claude, Marie-Anne and Jin effusively.  There was much cheek kissing, several back slaps and hearty, passionate, rapid conversation.  Theresa let the sounds wash over her with the smell.  She felt oddly content in here.  

She became aware that the conversation had turned to her.  The Baker approached and said something to her, but she shook her head.  He turned to Jin and fired off a question.  She heard Jin say, "L'Americaine" and waited for the New York follow-up, but it never came.  Instead the baker shook her hand vigorously and then started speaking rapidly as he led her out the front door of the boulangerie.  He put his hand on her shoulder and turned her to face the road on which they had come in.  Jin translated.  

 "He is saying that he was a small boy in World War Two.  He says that the American soldiers, they came in down that road, the liberation soldiers.  He says, the American soldiers, they gave the children bubble gum and the people gave them brandy."  Theresa looked down the empty road and then looked into the face of the old baker and could see the little boy in shorts, running down the street.  She nodded her understanding.  

He turned around again and led them back through the store and into the kitchen behind.  An assistant was pulling a rack of loaves out of the oven and spilling them onto a marble topped table.  The baker went over and picked up a boule a perfect round ball of bread, golden brown and very warm.  He picked it up and put it in Theresa's hands and then kissed her on both cheeks.  She understood he was thanking her for the American soldiers and impulsively, she double-kissed him back.  She said, "Merci" and they all clapped.

Back in the car Claude broke open the boule and passed it around.  Theresa had never had bread without butter or jam before.  It was perfect.  Jin watched her eat.  She caught his eye and said, "I love this bread!"  He said, "Oh, Terese, I did not think you believed in love!"  and they all laughed.

Claude said, "We must go before all ze roads shut down for Le Tour, eh" and he started the engine.  Theresa suddenly didn't want to leave.  She said, "How long does the Tour last?" and Jin said, "Through here, all day." Marie-Anne spoke rapidly from the front seat.  Jin translated.  He said, "Marie says next time you come for the Tour, you should make a pic-nic and spend the whole day watching the Tour."  She said, "Does it really last all day?" and Jin shrugged.  "No, the peloton finishes in a few hours, but the pic-nic  lasts all day."  

Claude followed the soldier's path out of town.   On either side of them the sunflowers rose up over the car and the vineyards dropped away in neat, orderly rows.  

They came to another river and crossed over into [Link Removed]  Marie-Anne started pointing out the sites.  She was clearly excited to be here. "Voila les Jardins du Mai" she said, pointing to a park bounded with flowers.  "Et L'Universite Catho – c'est ici" she said, as they drove past a university that Jin said dated back to the middle ages.

 "Regarde, regarde!" Marie-Anne said, pointing to a beautiful cathedral sending spires into the sky.  "Eh bien, [Link Removed]  Claude paused the car in front of a castle that looked more like a dungeon.  Theresa said, "People lived in this? It looks like a dungeon!"  and Jin said, "Yes, Alianor did, for awhile when she was queen."  "The woman from the Courts of Love?"  Claude and Marie-Anne beamed back at her, as proud as parents.  "Oui, oui, Alianor!" said Marie-Anne and nodded approvingly.  

Theresa said, "Well it looks more like a prison of love, eh?" and Jin laughed.  He said, "You want to take a picture?" and Theresa said absentmindedly, "I don't have a camera" and he said, "The Blackberry has a camera, yes?"  Theresa had completely forgotten about her Blackberry—but she made no move for it.  "Yes I guess it does" she said, "But I think I'll just sit here for a few minutes" and Marie-Anne reached back and patted her on the knee.

Claude slipped out of the car while she was studying the chateau and came back with several coffees.  Theresa was shocked.  "You have take out coffee in France??" she said incredulously and Claude smiled.  "Here it is not always the moyen ages, you know."

Claude slipped the Citroen into gear and climbed slowly through the maze of streets around the chateau until he came to her hotel.  He said, "Nous sommes ici" and Jin started to translate but Theresa interrupted, saying "I understand what he said."  Jin made a moue at Claude who smiled at Theresa.  She said, "Let me register and then I'll buy everyone a proper breakfast, okay?  Wait right here."

She turned and went into the lobby.  At the desk she said, "Do you speak English?" and the clerk said haughtily, "Of course madame."  Theresa looked at him and said, "You know, I parle a little French" and grinned.  She gave him her name and credit card and asked him to register her while she found her friends.  

She went back outside into the bright morning light and looked around for the Citroen, but she couldn't find it.  She shielded her eyes from the sun and looked again.  Odd, Claude's car was nowhere to be seen.  She asked the doorman if he had seen a Citroen but he looked at her and shrugged.  There was a businessman waiting for a cab.  "Excusez-moi" she began, "avez-vous—" but the man cut her off.  "I don't speak French" he said to her in English.  She said, "Did you see a midnight blue Citroen parked at the curb, a CX from about 1963?" and the man said, "I wish I had, why?"

Theresa shook her head.  How could they just take off like that?!  It was—it was a giant, emotional shoulder shrug!  How utterly French.  She went back inside to the desk.

The clerk was waiting with a pen poised in his hand.  He said, "One night Madame?" and she said looked around, a little sorrowfully, "I wish I could stay longer."  He said, "Okay, so another night, then."  

Theresa looked at him ruefully.  "No really, I have too much work to be able to swing that."  He said, "But you wished for it and it is your 3rd wish."  

Theresa looked hard at him.  Whatever language he was speaking, he wasn't making much sense.  She said, "Whatever are you talking about" and he said, "Oh I think you know.  You wished for a way to Angers et voila, Claude.  In the café in Paris you wished for someone to understand you and voila, there is Jin.  Now is your 3rd wish."  

Theresa said, "What the hell are you talking about?  This is a business trip, not a fairytale!" and in response he shrugged his shoulders and pouffed out his lips.  He said, "Here" and he handed her her Blackberry.

Theresa said, "Where did you get that??" and he shrugged again.  She flipped it over.  It was hers alright.  She held down the power button to turn it on and when the screen blinked to life there was a text message waiting.  It said, "Make your own wundermarchen, Terese.  A bientot, Jin."

Theresa  laughed.  She asked the clerk, "If this really is my 3rd wish, then after that I'm on my own?" And he said, "Yes, Madame."  

Terese said, "I can handle that.  Book me for another night.  And here—" She shut off the Blackberry and handed it to him.  "Hold that for me, will you? I'm going for a walk."  

And so saying, she went back out the door, into the morning sunlight.

The End


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