La Vie en Rosé was the title that my dear friend Natalie d'Arbeloff of Blaugustine gave to her installment of the Consequences game just recently concluded. She's decided to expand her vignette into a serialized story, and I suggested that we post them here as well, since my readership is somewhat different and because the story, with its French/English implications, seemed perfect for this space too. Plus, I'm a fan of anything this abundantly creative woman does - and, during the next three weeks of our final move from Vermont to Montreal, I'm going to be busy and unable to post as much. So, watch this space, and follow along with Natalie, her heroine Susan, and La Vie en Rosé. Part Three will appear later this week.
“We gulp what is here and ours and nobody’s and nothing’s” George said, handing her his glass of rosé.
That’s how he talked. She couldn’t understand him half the time but he was a poet so she had learned not to ask for explanations. “Guard it with your life,” he added, “I’ll be right back.”
Nothing he says ever means what it sounds like, Susan thought. 'Right back' could mean ten minutes, three hours or even three months. She surveyed the drinks table: two bottles of the local wine, two Perriers, two Evians and fourteen cans of sugary fizzy kid stuff. Their hosts were strictly teetotal and stingy to boot but the isolated expat community never turned down an opportunity to socialise so the room was buzzing with familiar talking heads. Through the window to the garden Susan could see the teetotal host’s teetotally blonde wife in intimate tête a tête with George.
Susan leaned back and tipped the wine down her throat. Three years on the wagon and five years of compliance suddenly vanished as she poured the remains of the first bottle into her husband's glass, drank it, then dispensing with formalities, expertly guided the rosy stream into her mouth straight from the neck of the second bottle .
Oblivious to the guests' shocked stares, Susan stumbled out of the house and down the village street just as Père Lafitte was passing by. She grabbed his arm, shouting:
"Portez-moi à une nunnery!"
Marcel Lafitte’s immediate impulse was to pull away from Susan’s urgent grip but he had just been mulling over something he overheard earlier in the day, a couple of old parishioners talking about him.
“He’s so farouche,* Père Lafitte. I always have the feeling he has to make a big effort just to say bonjour.”
“Beh! He should have joined the Trappists instead of coming here.”
Père Lafitte hesitated, then took Susan’s hand and holding it in both of his, looked steadily into her tear-smudged face.
“Une nunnery!” she repeated, “Une couvent. Tout suite! S’il vous plaît.”
Père Lafitte’s English is slightly better than the French of les Anglais who have gradually moved into La Rosière in search of a paradise which does not exist anywhere on earth. Although none of them are church-goers, he knows them all sufficiently to engage in minimal small talk whenever he sees them, thankfully not too often. Of course there is the gossip, dished out by the ladies who clean the church, but he pays no attention to it.
There is something about this Englishwoman’s tipsily desperate determination which moves him. She is middle-aged but seems childlike, bewildered.
“Would you like a cup of coffee pour le moment? We can talk about the nunnerie.”
“ Yes! Oh oui! Please. Thank you.”
“Come along then. I will make coffee.”
Père Lafitte moved away at his usual brisk pace, Susan stumbling on her high heels several paces behind stopped to remove her shoes. Barefoot on the warm cobblestones she caught up with him.
“Padre,“ she whispered, “I am a bit drunk and I should not be.”
“Bon Dieu!” he thought, “I will have to listen to drunken confessing without the shelter of the confessional!” But when Marcel Lafitte decides to do something he does it and in the past half hour he decided to be more responsive to people. Père Lafitte does not like people. He likes God who is silent and demands nothing. And he loves his land, the ten wooded acres which his mother left him outside the village of La Rosière.
*2. Farouche: Exhibiting withdrawn temperament and shyness coupled with an air of cranky, often sullen fey charm: "small, farouche poems illustrated with doodles, a cross between Ogden Nash and Blake"(The Free Dictionary)