Ed. Note: The brilliant Elizabeth L. Smith is back with the fourth chapter of our summer fiction. She is such an extraordinary writer, I’m constantly in awe. And, I’m so touched that she wrote this romantic saga — taking place in Paris of course — just for us. If you missed the first three episodes, please click here, here and here.
ELIZABETH L. SMITH
ELIZABETH L. SMITH
“You look wonderful,” Alexis smiled broadly. “Thank you so much for coming. Really. It was so very kind of you.”
“You said that Annouk was in some kind of trouble. I lost touch with her so long ago, I don’t really know how I can help you.”
He brought a finger up to his mouth. “All in good time, I want to catch up with you. Tell me your news. I found you in the internet of miracles. You were speaking at a conference of head teachers.” “Tu sais, even one of them is enough to make me afraid. School was always like a prison for me,” he shivered theatrically.
Caroline laughed. “We’re not such an awful breed. I love my job, even though it’s the last thing I ever thought I’d end up doing. I run a little independent school in the north of England and my girls are just wonderful. It’s great sending them home at the end of every term, too,” she added, only half-joking.
“Do you have children of your own?”
“No.” The answer was short. She tried hard not to imagine how her life had been if she’d had a baby. The chance had been hers once, many years ago and had slipped through her fingers before she really grasped what was happening. And now she moulded and guided other women’s girls, and a damn good job she did of it too.
“A husband?” She though of Hugh, his ruddy, craggy face and baggy old cords, a million miles from the polished cosmopolitan man who twinkled at her over the glass table.
“Yes. A farmer. Well, a landowner really, he manages his family estate in
Northumberland. Where we live.” God, she was babbling. And what was all that showing off about? How gauche she felt, wittering on about Hugh. Lovely, kind Hugh, who thought Bath Olivers the height of sophistication, and who assumed that Alexis was a woman.
The email had read Hi, it’s Alexis, do you remember me? You said you would come if I asked you. I need your help with Annouk, she’s in trouble. If you can come, I am in the Paris office all week.
When she had shown Hugh, he insisted she went.
“You could fly from Newcastle, catch up with your girlfriends, why not? Lend a hand, eh? Nice to do a bit of shopping too, have some macaroons,” he added vaguely. He’d clearly been reading the Sunday Times Style section in the loo.
So she had come, without correcting his mistake, and she still didn’t know what on earth was going on.
Reading her mind, Alexis rose elegantly to his feet.
“Come, let me buy you a good French lunch and tell you all about our dear Annouk. It’s always good to have some pleasure along with the business, n’est-ce pas?”