This fictional story was inspired by Michael Morgan’s painting “Bonjour!”
Alain Durand missed his native France. Overcome with nostalgia, he walked along the path in the gardens which were an oasis in the city. Wistfully, he watched the people passing by and cherished the hope that he might chance to hear the intonation of his own language pass their lips.
It was a crisp day in late autumn. The sun shone brightly, but there was no heat in it. Alain was grateful for his coat which he clasped tightly around himself. He liked to dress well as befits a Frenchman. He wore a bowler hat which offset his deep red coat with its black lapels. An onlooker could quickly perceive he was a man of style and expensive taste.
Alain crossed the well kept lawns to the kiosk. He sat at a table set out on the terrace. It was peaceful there with the sparrows hopping about joyfully eating the crumbs left behind by earlier patrons.
A pretty young waitress took his order and returned with a steaming hot cup of coffee. She placed a magnificent chocolate cake covered in cream before him.
“Thank you,” he drooled enthusiastically. “This is just like we have in France.”
“I am glad we can make you feel at home. I hope you enjoy it,” the girl smiled.
“Indeed, I will.”
Marie-Paul would love this, he thought.
A vision of Marie-Paul floated in his mind. He could see her smiling eyes and wide, generous mouth. He almost felt he could touch her, sense her lips on his. Oh, how he missed her. She was always vivacious and alluring in her tight skirts and high heels that suited her slim figure.
At first he had been excited by his post in Australia. The Company had selected him as their representative, not only for his managerial skill, but for his command of the English language. Melbourne, where he lived, was a city of energy. New high rise buildings appeared constantly on the skyline. There was a vibrant interest in the Arts and sport was a serious devotion. But despite this, Alain yearned for his home town of Cholet. He missed the charm of the winding streets with their mysterious, old houses, where shuttered windows had hidden the lives of their occupants for generations, where history overlapped the present. He was proud of the past, the heritage which coursed in his veins and shaped his attitudes.
He thought of the convent on the hill from which the bell rings out over the city heralding the mass exodus of uniformly dressed children released from the day’s lessons. The nuns had given their lives to the education of the young there for centuries.
He remembered the smart shop windows displaying vividly colourful fashions and the patisseries with shelves of rich chocolates and cakes. His favourite haunt had been the café- bar opposite the Cathedral.
Here he used to meet Marie-Paul and his old friend, Henri Dupre. Together they had laughed and drunk wine while they discussed the affairs of the world. Rosette was always there with her little white dog who accompanied her at the table. Rosette was a little too comely and her face framed by dyed blonde hair showed evidence of a life well lived.
Alain finished his cake and wiped away some cream left on his mouth. Already he was feeling livelier. The coffee had warmed him. He determined to go home and write to Marie-Paul.
Walking back along the path he passed a man who raised his arm in a wave to him.
“Good Morning,” Alain confidently greeted him.
To his surprise the man returned his greeting.
Perhaps Australia is not so bad, Alain smiled to himself.
© Gabrielle Morgan