Audrey – A Short Summer Story – Part IV

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AUSTRALIA 2009

Her head ached with November sun despite the straw-hat, and dust coated her shirt and shorts. Audrey was driving the tractor in bare feet, as she had always done, and her toes danced on the brake and clutch as she eased down into the last row of bananas. To her left the first tree had a ‘bunch’ covered in the coloured plastic sheet she was looking for, a lurid orange, and she brought the trailer to a stop with a touch on the brakes and a grunt of gearbox. Her boys spilled off the edges of the trailer and started down the row, looking for further flashes of orange which indicated maturing bunches that were ripe enough for cutting. Dotted down the row were other colours, red and green, each indicating a different stage of maturation. This week it was the orange they were after. Her bandana was wringing wet and she squeezed it dry over the mudguard as she stood on the small plated step. The late afternoon sky above was a vivid blue, and for an instant she was jolted back to a land of lavender and grapes, where a small house sat on the edge of a little village. The thought startled her with its suddenness and intensity, and she shook her head, wondering which bizarre part of her brain had brought the scene to life.

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There was a clump on the flatbed as the first bunch of fruit was added to the trailer’s cargo and Tony turned to look up at her. This was her grandson, a strapping 20 year-old from Brisbane who came every year to dutifully harvest bananas for his grandmother. He was tall, like his grandfather, and the fact he was hewn from good ‘banana stock’ had been a godsend in some previous years. He was also a musician, and seemed always to be on the verge of something ‘good’ or ‘promising’. He grinned up at Audrey and she realised she loved him very much. Silently she strummed her fingers on the rusty red mudguard of David’s old 165 and thought good thoughts for a second.

There was a distant sound in the hot air, a faraway call of greeting, and Tony narrowed his eyes past the tractor and back up the hill, to where two small figures were standing high on the skyline. They waved faintly in the distance. Audrey peered in surprise at the figures and wondered who they were, and even as she wondered they stopped waving and started down the hill towards the rows of trees.

“Strewth, grandma, who the heck are they?” ask Tony, looking back at her.

She shrugged in reply, “I haven’t a clue, Tony, not a clue – we’ll find out in a minute or two,” and she turned back to the trees and watched the other four workers as they stacked bunches to pick up by the side of the row. “Come on, hop on,” and she let out the gears with a jolt and started off slowly down the row. A minute later and they had a full load and she turned back for the shed with Tony hanging on the back, planning to disgorge the orange bundles carefully into the refrigeration room. As they turned out of the row she saw that the two figures walking down were almost upon them, some 200 yards away. She peered closely, and realisation suddenly dawned with another jolt of memories; braking hard with a great heave of her foot, she threw Tony off the running board onto the ground where he rolled over, unhurt. Stumbling to his feet he watched incredulously as his grandmother jumped gracefully off the tractor, let out a great whoop of joy and raced up the track towards two young dark-haired women; with a shriek of excitement all three joined in one giant embrace.

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They sat on the old sofa, Jacqueline and Josephine on each side of Audrey, well into their second bottle of Chardonnay. The sun was slowly edging down over the hills behind the house and the early evening was rushing in like a dark purple shadow from the sea. Audrey had finally stopped talking with a tear in her voice, and the girls had finally stopped crying with the joy of reunion, the torrent of words had subsided to a more coherent outpouring of tales of travel and a brief recap of the last eight years of life. The girls were now 20 years in age, and they had been on the road for eight months, travelling across Asia and through Indonesia, coming down to Audrey’s valley via the north after a sea-crossing on a yacht to Darwin that had sailed from a surf and dive resort on Rote, an island on the western end of East Timor. They looked worldly and triumphant, though Audrey thought they could both do with a week’s worth of decent food. They had grown into two beautiful young women, aglow with the vitality of youth and health, and their exposed limbs glowed golden from time spent on a thousand beaches. Her heart burst with happiness and pride, and knowing now they were to stay a while, a warm nugget of good fortune simmered deep inside her.

Over supper, she brought them up to date on all her news and problems. The three of them had last heard from each other a year before, when the girls had written to tell Audrey of their plans, which, with the slow passing of time, she had completely forgotten. The twins listened intently to Audrey, the conversation a mix of French and English, a language they seemed to have fluently absorbed on their travels. Their faces glowed with wonder and sadness as Audrey outlined her life and the future she was so unsure of. When Mary’s father had passed away earlier that year her two brothers had sold the farm to the pineapple giants and Audrey’s little banana farm was now the last in the valley. Unable to compete with the huge banana industry in the far north, Audrey had crept into debt in an effort to stay alive. There was none to offer help or advice, everyone else had gone.

“But Audrey, have you nothing left at home, on your island?” asked Josephine, in her quiet but serious voice. Audrey remembered now that Josephine was the thinker, while Jacqueline was the more outgoing girl.

“No, my father is still alive, but he lives in a nursing home,” she said, unsure quite how he had survived so long.  Audrey’s mother was long gone. Audrey had not gone home for the funeral – she had been eight months pregnant with Deborah, their second daughter, and she and David had been so lacking in money for a plane ticket that they would have had difficulty going anyway. Instead, Audrey had stopped by her mother’s grave ten years later when she had returned to move her father into the home. While her brother had waited in the car she’d sat at the graveside weeping; it had turned into an hour of murmured regrets and apologies as her beloved seagulls had swirled overhead in a westerly gale, trying to reassure her that time forgot and forgave. Her dear brother had waited patiently, not intruding, just understanding.

“So much life,” Audrey ended her little tale , “and so much death.” She looked at the serious faces of the twins. “Seriously, I have no idea what to do and now that Mary’s father is gone I have no one to help or advise.”  The conversation was getting grim, so she abruptly changed the subject.

“How are your parents, mes cheries?” and she thought about the handsome couple she had once met and the photo she had of them with arms linked and lips arched conspiratorially towards the other’s ears.

There was a silence across the table, and Audrey wondered if she had said the wrong thing.

“Ah,” muttered Jacqueline.”That’s difficult to answer. We have not heard from them for several weeks, so we hope all is well.” She sat back and poked at a chicken bone on her plate.

“Difficult?” Audrey replied, “Difficult??” She was bemused and it must have showed, for Josephine spoke next, with a wry smile of embarrassment.

“They fight, Audrey. For years now they have been fighting. It’s one of the reasons we set off traveling and came to see you!” and she grinned.

Audrey thought about the long eight months and considered it a journey well spent if it had ended at her doorstep. “Do you want to call them?” she said.

The twins spent thirty minutes on the phone, and Audrey stayed outside on the sofa, revelling in the soft breeze that kept the bugs away. Far out to sea she could see the lights of boats on the horizon while above the universes wheeled in slow arcs through a sky dimpled with stars. Once, a flaming meteorite had fled from east to west and she had been quick enough to murmur a wish, unsure if it would ever come true. It was close to bedtime when the twins came outside, and Audrey knew instantly from their demeanour that something had happened. They nestled on the sofa beside Audrey as though she was their most favourite person in the world and she waited, knowing that they needed time to put things right inside before speaking.

It was Josephine who spoke first and after the first two hesitant words, the rest followed in a rush, a rasp in her throat betraying her emotions.

“They’re going to get a divorce, Audrey,” and there was a little sob on a shoulder on one side and a wretched squeeze of a hand on the other. “They say they have always waited until we were old enough, and now is the time for them…….” and her voice trailed off into silence.

Audrey did not know what to say, so she tried to be positive, ’Well, if it has to be done it has to be done, I suppose – at least they will both be happy, no?” and she looked down at the heads on each side of her.

There was a murmur of sadness and then a jerk of the sofa as Josephine sat up properly to dispel the faint thought that had suddenly occurred to Audrey. “Yes,” she said, “we have known for a long time that this was going to happen, but,” and she paused, and Audrey interrupted, knowing where the conversation was going.

“No, I can’t buy the house, girls. I have nowhere near enough money to come back to Europe, my darlings, not nearly enough. Even if I sell this farm, and then pay all the bills and the last of my mortgage, I would barely have enough to buy a plane ticket home….” and with those words she knew she was never going to see her little cottage again, and she firmly put the thought out of her head and wrapped an arm around each unhappy girl instead.

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The twins stayed for a month, and helped with the bananas down in the plantation. Audrey could only afford to pay them a pittance but they seemed to love the work, the camaraderie of the trailer and the shed, and they integrated so well into the harvest that they became part of the gang, surfing at dawn down in the cove and carousing each night till midnight. When they left, two weeks before Christmas, Audrey had wept for a day afterwards, sitting wrapped in a shawl all night on her sofa as she watched the dawn come up on the ocean below. Having the twins there had brought her round to see the sensible side of her life, and brought her to a conclusion that she knew had really always seemed inevitable. Josephine had confirmed it after spending two days going through Audrey’s books; even with only a working knowledge of how a farm should work, she had still easily seen that Audrey had no option.

Audrey and Tony had driven the twins to Noosa, and they dropped the girls off with their huge backpacks on the coast road, crying openly with the pang of parting. It was obvious that Josephine and Tony had created a bond between them; a long kiss as they parted providing proof if needed that something serious was afoot, and as they’d turned the car and set off home, Tony had muttered something so low under his breath that Audrey was unsure what she had heard.

“What did you say?” she demanded, slewing the car sideways in momentary shock.

“I said I’m gonna marry that girl,” replied Tony with a huge grin. “Reckon I’m going to have to go to France to find her though. You going to come too, Grandma?” and Audrey had both laughed and cried at the thought.

“Oh Lord,” she thought to herself, rubbing her nose dry of tears, “What on earth have I started?”

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It was Christmas Eve when they rang with the offer. Audrey had listened, dry-mouthed as a nasal voice the other end had outlined the terms and conditions of the sale, and she had shaken with emotion as she had muttered “Yes” in acquiescence to something she knew she could not refuse. It should never have been like this, she thought. It had been a life somewhat different from what she had intended, and though full and happy in most parts, there were still instances where she wondered what might have been. She went out onto the porch and stood there looking at her view; the warmth from it had given her strength in the bad times, and joy in the good ones, and as she stood there it helped once more. She sat on the sofa, bare feet on the calloused planks, and let her toes soak in the last of the evening sun, thankful her youngest daughter and husband had offered her a home with them in Melbourne.

One term of the sale had been a quick vacancy of the farm, and after Christmas Audrey started to pack on one hot summer’s day in early January. She’d ordered a large quantity of boxes and had them all taped together and ready to fill, making orderly piles of memories on one side, and a pile of discards on the other. There were books, photographs, moments from early parts of her and David’s life, paintings and drawings, sea-shells and dried flowers. The kitchen gradually filled with a pile here of one thing, and a pile there of another. At some point she stopped and wondered what she had got herself into, and she stared at all the boxes, bemused that a lifetimes memories could fit into so little. The pile of belongings going immediately with her to Melbourne, stood on the table. To another side were the things that were to go into storage, and then there was a pile of odds and ends which she had no excuse to keep, no matter how important they were; Tony was coming very soon to pick up this pile with the flatbed truck. The air was hot and sultry, and the huge fan in the ceiling turned slowly to alleviate the warmth. Also on the table was her most prized possession, her old book of French verbs and phrases.  Its pages were worn and battered, littered with scrawled notes in her schoolgirl handwriting, its leather binding open and disintegrating like some decaying exoskeleton after fifty years of constant companionship. 

She made herself a cup of coffee, and closing her eyes, perched on the table where her hand could reach down and touch the book. She went quiet and gathered strength from its familiarity, a rush of memories flooding into her caffeinated senses. She heard the growl of Tony’s truck coming up the hill and drew a deep breath, readying herself to say goodbye to the pile of memories by the door. A car-door slammed and there was a hesitant footstep in the doorway and then a soft voice, familiar from a thousand dreams, said, “Golly, I haven’t seen that book for a while, Auds….”

Audrey’s heart gave a lurch in her chest of such immense proportions that she spun round, sending the coffee cup flying across the room to explode in a crash of broken crockery, and the phrase-book spinning off the table to land on a pile of clothes. There, framed in the doorway, was a burnt-brown kernel of a woman with a familiar face, a wry grin of hope etched across it, framed by a tousled head of thick sun-burnt hair.

Audrey put her hand to her mouth in disbelief, her face sagging with shock and her heart pounding with excitement.

“Mary? MARY?” Audrey paused the question, unsure, still disbelieving. “Is that really you?” and the figure in the doorway came forward hesitantly, hands outstretched in supplication, the head nodding agreement to the question. The woman came into the room, and as Audrey’s eyes cleared of doubt she saw it was indeed her beloved Mary; thinner, with a skin burnt to a crisp by decades of Pacific sun, and hair bleached by the salt from a million waves. The woman’s eyes were raw with emotion and moisture and Audrey knew instantly that hers were the same, and then as one they flung themselves forward into each others arms and wept with deep utter joy, a feeling so strong that the length of years apart only added to its intensity. They stood there for long minutes, holding each other, sobbing, slowly coming to terms with the strength that they always gave to each other, the strength that no length of time apart could change.

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They had a week to themselves before the house-papers were signed, and for most of that time there were tears. They talked through the nights, and snoozed during the day on the sofa on the porch, always smiling between the tears, and touching each other for reassurance. There was such an innocence to this rekindling of spirit and heart that Audrey lost the haunted look she had carried for so long.

The tale of Mary’s lifetime needed four nights in the telling, her story was so simple, and yet so complicated and Mary spent each session of its recounting in tears. Mary’s marriage had started to unravel when it became clear that they had been unable to have children. As time passed and he grew more frustrated, Stephane had become a drunk and violent husband, depriving her of communication by removing all electronics from the house,  and then he sold her cameras. In a deep depression,  Mary had retreated from life for twenty years, too ashamed to admit to anyone that anything was wrong with the marriage. Instead she had succumbed to a state of servitude and slipped into a form of catatonia which Stephane exploited to the full.

Matters became worse when Stephane was eventually fired from his teaching post at the school; he took Mary and a few cases of belongings and slipping Médoc from her moorings they wandered through the Pacific for ten long years, with Stephane scraping a living as a mechanic as they drifted from island to island. Médoc gradually lost her gleam and glitter, and became a rust-stained, barnacle-encrusted hulk that became known for anchoring on the extremities of every mooring, and slipping away before dawn when it was time to pay fees. By the end Stephane was probably one of the most well-known debtors in the islands, and Mary was the woman who lurked below and washed dishes in the galley.

Mary’s life changed very much for the worse in 1998 when Stephane was murdered early one morning in Pape’ete, back in Tahiti. His body had been found in an alley on the darker side of town, a heavy-handled scuba-diver’s knife protruding from his back. There had been no witnesses, no signs of other violence and no one came forward to release any information that might have stopped Mary becoming, as she ultimately did, the main suspect. Six months later, she was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to life imprisonment, pending an appeal. In some way Mary blamed herself for the killing, and refused to go through with the appeal and her rights to contact with family and Australian officialdom. Her time in jail passed relatively uneventfully; she was foreign, and obviously simple, so it seemed. As a result many of her fellow prisoners kept a wide berth and she remained relatively free of attention as a life of permanent custody beckoned.

Mary may well have rotted away for the rest of her life in Pape’ete but for a chance encounter a local barman had one afternoon ten years later with a large lorry on the coastal road on the north side of the island. The barman’s Jeep had rolled off the road after the collision and then into a steep ravine, crushing its occupant as it fell some 500 feet to the valley floor. Several days later, the barman’s widow reported tearfully to the central police station in Pape’ete and told the officers on duty a grim tale of adultery and murder. It became clear under questioning that the barman had been Stephane’s killer, exacting revenge for the petty sordid affair the Frenchman had been having with the barman’s wife. Statements were taken, an inquiry held and without ado Mary was released one morning into the bright sunlight, scarcely believing what was happening. Médoc was still in the harbour, impounded in a police yard, but before she went into the water Mary had the sense to scrape the hull clean and anti-foul it with some borrowed money.

A month later, as she was sitting with a clear head on deck, mending sails, the same police launch that had taken her to jail ten years earlier came puttering alongside with an embossed invitation to the President’s mansion. There, feeling awkward in a borrowed frock, she was given an apology by the President himself and she left with a promise of financial compensation. It was an overwhelming turnaround in her life that took on a surreal turn when a cheque arrived on board later that month that was sufficient to pay for a complete refit of Médoc, a labour of love that returned her to her former gleaming glory. Once the work was done, Médoc sat on her mooring for months, swinging aimlessly in the breeze as the vessel’s captain fretted and procrastinated, unsure of her next move, unwilling to return to normality.

It was her father’s death-notice in a three month-old Australian paper in the yacht club that finally forced her hand and brought her fully into the living world. In mid-July Médoc finally set out to sea and pointed southwestwards for Australia with an itinerant sailing couple as Mary’s crew, and two days after the New Year the boat passed through the Heads at Noosa with a fit and healthy Mary determined to undo the sorrow and loss of the past 40 years. On the journey south the ocean toned Mary’s body out of its ten-year enforced neglect, and her head filled with salt air that ate away the doubts and the last lingering vestiges of depression. Her stay at Audrey’s farm was the final step to rehabilitation, and when the farm papers were finally signed, Mary was strong enough to take her sad friend’s hand and drove her the few miles south to the marina at Noosa, where they boarded Médoc and planned their future.

It took a week for Mary to come up with a plan, and the suggestion that she made was so audacious that Audrey’s eyes widened in amazement.

“Auds,” Mary started, “I’ve been thinking. Why don’t we buy your little cottage together?”

Audrey had laughed. “Come on, I know you don’t have a penny to your name. You spent all your compensation on Médoc, didn’t you?”

Mary grinned back excitedly, “Yes, I did.” and there was a pause. “But I can always sell her.” and Audrey looked at her in complete silence, pondering the enormity of the offer before she replied.

“No, you can’t – you love this boat. It won’t work”. She shook her head vehemently.

“I can, and I will, Auds. I might have loved this boat once, but it holds too many dark memories for me. I could,” and she paused before continuing with a steady voice, “show you at least three places on this fine craft where Stephane nearly ended my life.” and she looked pointedly at the step down from the companionway. “He pushed me down that so violently one night at sea I hit my head and needed eight stitches,” and she bowed forward and showed Audrey a fine scar running just below the right side of her temple.

“Oh my god!” muttered Audrey.

“It’s settled then,” said Mary and she gleefully went up the companionway leaving Audrey gasping at the table like a goldfish out of water. By three that afternoon a picture of Médoc had been posted on the harbour master’s noticeboard and the marina gossip monkeys were spreading the details of it down the pontoons. Audrey’s life was about to complete its French journey.

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FRANCE 2010

The hollyhocks still grew in great profusion in the yard behind the little house. The shutters were freshly painted and the ancient cobbles had been recently weeded. The small house buzzed with noise, laughter and love again. The previous three months had passed in a blur since the sale of Médoc, and as the cottage had been lived in so recently, Audrey and Mary were able to move in as soon as the sale had been completed. Tony would visit soon, they knew, and the twins would come to stay too, so they spent the time returning the house to its former charm as best as they could.  There was room in the yard for a small potager, and there were grapes to pick during the imminent vendage. A brand new Nikon sat proudly on the side board in a bag, ready for Mary to return to the passion she loved so much. It would keep them busy enough, they’d decided, but they’d be careful with the money they had left and grow old and fat together. Putting flowers from the yard in a vase on the table they laid it for supper;  outside the evening sun glowed on the newly cleaned roof and the last of the nesting swifts from the church tower shrieked overhead as they fattened themselves with insects in preparation for the long journey south beyond the Sahara.

I have been quite overwhelmed by the reaction to this story so far. I hope you enjoy this final part. Sorry it had to end, but I have to make way for other things, so much more planned for the blog!  Thank you to each and every one of you, my readers, for your comments, for the interaction that I enjoy so much, for taking the time to read my ramblings, for without you none of this would be possible. Susan x

If you missed part I you can read it here, part II here, and part III here

92 thoughts on “Audrey – A Short Summer Story – Part IV

    • As you may have read, I tend to dream these up in the shower, and this part took an entire tank of hot water to sort out the twists and turns, as you so rightly say there were many loose ends to tie up and I also wanted a happy ending. Susan x

  • I have followed your blog for a long time but have never commented until today. Maybe because the story has come to my hometown of Brisbane that I feel compelled to do so. You write beautifully. When I think of some of the rubbish one reads that people get paid to write. Your talent is totally wasted. Somewhere amongst you vast following, there must be a publisher, someone who could scoop you up and take you further. I think we should start a petition amongst us all, to find a future for you.

      • My missus and I will sign. Just show us where. I’ve spent a fortune on kleenex this month thanks to you, Susan; tears of joy mainly, I think. I’ll ask her again to make sure but I know we both enjoyed this very much. I half expected the Cole family to make an appearance. 🙂

      • Hi Phil, ahh the Cole family from Christmas! Not this time! So glad you both enjoyed it, I am quite overwhelmed by the wonderful support from so many people, huge hugs and thanks to you and your wife. Susan x

    • Gosh, don’t know what to say, thank you Alison, I really do appreciate your support. I think there are a great many more talented writers than myself out there, but I am grateful for wonderful comments such as yours, they keep me going, writing this blog which I love so much. Thanks once again, Susan x

  • I never wanted this to end, but I am so happy she went back to France, loved every bit of this, I am going to save and read again over the summer and share with my daughter and her family when she comes for a vacation in August.

  • Lovely. Thank you for a few moments of traveling the world in my imagination on this hot July day. You have a true gift of words and thank you for sharing.
    SKP in Missouri USA

    • Hi Sharon, so happy you enjoyed journeying to Australia and France with me today! It’s hot here too, but with a nice breeze keeping it pleasant. Enjoy your day. Susan x

  • Susan – you are truly a gifted writer – blog posts and short stories. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tale.

    • Thank you Elaine, I really do appreciate all these fabulous comments, as you probably have realised I thoroughly enjoy writing this blog and chatting with you all. Have a lovely day, Susan x

  • We finally have some sunny days in England and I was able to sit outside and read your story, savouring this final part, you made me cry, I didn’t want it to end.

    • Hi Lisa, so glad you finally have some sun in the UK! Enjoy it, I hope it lasts now until September! Glad you enjoyed the story, at least it had a happy ending! Susan x

    • Thank you Sue, I love the blog too much to let it stop, don’t worry. Every now and then I come up with these ideas for short stories, usually whilst in the shower!!! Have a great day, Susan x

    • Hi Valorie, thank you so much, there were so many endings I thought of, but I’m one of those people who love a happy ending, she simply had to get her beloved cottage back! Susan x

  • Having visited France once and with a longing to return, I find your blog to be an absolute delight. This story was equally as lovely and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for a burst of positivity and hope in a world that has been full of so much despair of late. Cheers!

    • Hi Krista, thank you so much. The world is indeed in such a mess, it is so depressing watching the news, reading the papers, there is so much hatred, but there is also so much good in the world, there are so many caring people, I think we all just have to do our bit and help one another, that’s why I so enjoy writing and sharing our life on the blog. Susan x

    • Thank you so much Nadia. So glad you enjoyed it. I have just found your comment in spam, I don’t understand this, you comment regularly, so why would wordpress suddenly spam you? Beyond me I’m afraid!!! Glad I checked though! Susan x

      • I find that happens every now and then with my blog too. Very frustrating.
        Have a lovely Friday. It is my daughter’s 23rd birthday today. But, being in Cape Town, I will have to have a glass of champagne for her.

      • Very frustrating, I only looked on the off chance. I shall make a point of checking more regularly now! Hope your daughter has a wonderful birthday, sounds like a very good idea to toast her with some champagne, hopefully outside on this beautiful afternoon, I am sure it is prefect in the Dordogne also. X

  • Susan, you almost render me speechless! I have so loved every word…the characters…plot development…sensory images, etc. I have some concrete suggestions for you, which I will email to you. Oh, and by the way, don’t compare yourself to other writers; everyone has their special voice, and yours needs to be heard.

    • Hi Angela, thank you so much. I would love to hear your suggestions, I welcome help from anyone! I am still so new to the blogging world, compared to so many, with so much to learn, and as my children so often remind me, so new to writing too!!! I shall look forward to your email. Susan x

  • A lovely story Susan! Even brought tears to my eyes! It was easy to read and moved along at a good pace, never outstaying its welcome on any part. It put pictures in my head as I read, always a sign of a good story and I’m so glad Audrey returned to her cottage and a happy life! Thank you, a brilliant job.

    • Thanks so much Marian, so glad you enjoyed it. I have to be honest, every time I reread it for spelling mistakes etc., it still made me cry! Shows what a softie I am!!! Hope you are enjoying some sunshine. Susan x

  • What a lovely end to a love story- maybe there will be a sequel one day?
    Thank you for the wonderful read!

      • A short story sequel, and/or someday you may want to tell this story in more detail, filling it out with more chapters. I’d like to get to know more about Audrey’s life up to the point at which this story ends, as well as how her life with Mary in France goes from 2010 on. You have so many talents and such good energy; it is fascinating to see how you are using them now, and it will be fascinating to see how you chose to use them in the future!

      • Thanks Leslie, it’s always fun to write, I think a sequel would be quite good featuring the twins maybe, you’ve got me thinking now! I am off to mow the lawn, so I have two hours to work out a story in my head!!! It’s one of the best places to think, as I’ve said before, no one disturbs me, just me and my little red tractor and a blazing hot sun! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Susan

    • Thanks so much Ali, I am a lover of happy endings! And let’s face it there is so much hatred in this world that a nice ending is what we all need every now and then to lift our spirits, even it is pure fiction. Finally we have absolutely gorgeous weather to coincide with the start of the school holidays, great timing! We spent an afternoon on the beach today, pure bliss! Susan x

  • Such a lovely story, thank you. I sniffled and cried the whole way through. 🙂
    In a world of grim news and disasters, it’s so refreshing to read and remember about good things happening to nice people.

    • Thanks Emm, I cried every time I reread it, which was several times!!! I do think it is important for us all remember that a simple act of kindness speaks a thousand words, as you say we live in such troubled times, everyone here is worried about Brexit, worried in general, so much uncertainty. Susan x

  • Hi Susan,

    Thank you, that story was superb. I truly hope that we’ve all been treated to a synopsis of your first book.

    Suzi x

    • Hi Suzi, thank you so much, I am so glad you enjoyed it. Funnily enough you are not the first person to mention a book, we will have to wait and see what the future brings! Maybe one day, a long way down the line!! Most of all though thank you for your encouragement, it is so much appreciated. Susan x

  • Please say it is not done, finished, or over! Excellent writing. Thanks for a bright spot in the very hot Missouri summer!

    • Hi Deborah, So happy you enjoyed it. Sorry but yes, it’s over! But lots of other things to follow. Enjoy your summer, how hot does it get? Do you get immense humidity too or just a dry heat? I can cope with the heat it’s the humidity I can’t stand. susan x

  • Thank you, Susan, for a lovely break during these late June and early July days reading your charming story. I enjoyed every word and the beautiful verbal images that you drew. Yes, the world is in a bad state now but there is so much good in it as well. I am a very, very happy reader of your blog in whatever form you care to pursue and am eager to see what you have for us next!! xo Anne

    • Hi Anne, thank you so much, I so totally agree with you, there is good around every corner. Hope you have a wonderful summer and thank you again for your encouragement. Susan x

  • I liked this story very much, you have a true gift. I was so happy Mary returned and the friends were reunited. Keep up the good work.

  • A thoroughly enjoyable story, making many of us wish, I’m sure, that we could have our own cottage somewhere in France. Your Halloween and Christmas stories were also great fun to read. I know you’ll think of something new….

  • Oh Susan!!!! Yes, your story is so lovely, your writing is something that is needed, and with reading some of these posts; ‘our troubles of today’ are quite disturbing which i agree. But you ‘my lady’ are taking us away to a time that is so lovely that we should embrace and remember… May they be difficult or challenging, always graced with love in some form.
    We ALL have challenges in some form and thank you for taking me, yet again…AWAY!
    May I also say, I started reading your blog thru a connection from another blog – I LOVE ALL THAT YOU POST…so it’s just not your Audrey post – it’s your entire Blog!!!
    sincerely,
    S

    • Hi Sherry, thank you so much, I so appreciate all your comments and of course I am so glad you found me and are following along. I think we all need a little escapism every now and then, whether that is in the form of a book, a blog, a magazine, just something to take our mind off the every day details of life. Susan x

  • Susan!
    I absolutely got lost in your story. You have a way of painting a scene with your words that is very vivid in my mind. The characters had heart and I loved the adventures and travels. Not everything works out peefectly in life, but it was good to see true friendship endure. I was glad they got the cottage back! Your photos really add to the color of the story, too! I hope there are more stories (or a book?) in addition to the blog.
    Nancy

    • Thanks Nancy, true friendship never dies and when we see true friends even after a time lapse of years or even decades that time just fades away, that is what I love about real friendships and that is what I tried to convey in the story, so glad you enjoyed it. Have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • With tears in my eyes, I so enjoyed your story. Keep writing please! I started reading your blog some time ago and it has fast become the what I look for first. Candi

  • I loved your story. Perhaps you could expand it into a book? There are so many interesting characters. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    • Hi Kathleene, ah but then you would know the ending! So glad you enjoyed the story and all the characters, it was truly great fun to write, have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • Oh Susan, the two of us here have been transported out of London for a month now – thank you. I love the pictures you paint with so few words. I was saying to my girlfriend that your succinctness is very reminiscent of one of my father’s favorite authors – Nevil Shute. I read all of his books as a teenager and you have reminded me greatly of his economic use of words – not too much, and not too little. Plus you add a touch of magic as well. Brilliant stuff. Can’t wait for the next one, I truly adore the mix of pieces you put up.

    • Hi Simon, so glad both you and your girlfriend have enjoyed this, although I think you are far far too flattering comparing me to anyone like Nevil Shute, but thank you all the same. have a great weekend, Susan x

  • What a sweet ending to a story of such twists and turns! I think we have truly all loved living out a little dream through Audrey; you are a very gifted writer.

    • Hi Helen, thank you so much, I am so glad you have enjoyed the story, it’s a shame it had to finish, but all good things must come to an end! Hope you have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • Bravo Susan. Bravo et merci pour cette charmante histoire qui a rendu heureux tous les OFOans ( OurFrenchOasis fans/ joli mot créé par Millie ! ) !!! Vous méritez tous les éloges de vos followers car votre travail d’ écriture est superbe. Quel talent et quel sens de l’ organisation il faut pour alimenter aussi régulièrement votre blog et gérer votre vie de famille.Cela m’ épate depuis 1 an que je vous lis. J’ espère que vous aurez le temps de prendre quelques vacances cet été et revenir avec d’ autres belles histoires.// Bravo Susan. Bravo and thank you for that charming tale which made happy all OFOans ( OurFrenchOasis fans/ lovely word made by Millie! ) !!! You well deserve all the praises of your followers in view of your magnifcent work of writing. What talents and, also, organization skills do you have to feed so steadily your blog and cope with your family life.It has amazed me for 1 year that I read to you.However I hope you ‘ ll have time to take some holidays this summer and then, return with good new stories. Thank you for all of this. Philippe.

    • Thanks so much Philippe, I have really enjoyed writing this and also the blog, the best part – chatting with everyone and getting to know so many people from around the world. I am so happy that school holidays are here and with them the beautiful weather, perfect timing! We shall enjoy every second we can of the holidays, don’t worry! Hope you have sun too finally! Allez les Bleus! Susan x

  • That story warmed my heart. I have not been able to visit my beloved France in 40 years but I feel the same as Audrey. One day I will be able to return to once again experience all that France has to offer. I look forward to that day. Thank you for the memories.

    • Hi Amy, I am so happy you liked the story. 40 years is a long time, I am sure you will get back here but oh what changes you will see, which areas do you know and where will you return to? What a wonderful dream to have. Have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • Such a riveting story, Susan. I loved every bit of it. You have a real talent for story telling and should definitely write a novel. I’ll be one of the first takers. 🙂 Happy weekend to you.
    P.S. Loved your photos too.

    • Thank you so much Sylvia, I doubt I will ever achieve that, but the support is wonderful and much appreciated! Have a great weekend, we have Florida heat but without the humidity so it’s pretty nice! Susan x

  • Bonjour, Susan!

    This is Anita from Les Dames D’abord! Thank you so much for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. And, how amazing to read your creative muses that have all been encouraged or at least in part, by this REAL place in which you have established your life! Real places and people make for the best fiction, don’t they! GRAND SUCCESS! Anita

    • Hi Anita, I couldn’t agree more, creating fiction from real life does indeed make the very best stories in my opinion! We are very lucky here, the mind is able to explode with creativity there is so much to capture the imagination in all forms of life. Have a most wonderful Sunday. Susan x

  • Loved, loved, loved it. I can’t possibly know how I can be both smiling and crying at the same time. Thank you so much Susan for this wonderful story. I will be rereading it again with the same enthusiasm!

  • Far from being predictable, the twists and turns in this story were unexpected and kept one riveted! Also, the way it worked out in the end, could not have been better. For all of us who have a very special friendship like Audrey and Mary did, I think it is easy to imagine being in their shoes in the “last semester” of our lives, sharing a little house and the things we love. The heart may be a strong muscle, but it is easily pierced! Thank you Susan, and congratulations on a beautiful summer story. What amazed me too, is that you take the trouble to reply to each and every comment. A huge compliment to your readers.
    Jeanne xx ❤

    • Thank you so much Jeanne, I am so glad you enjoyed it, I do think true friendship is amazing. I have friends that I might only see once every few years but when we do meet up it is like the last time was only yesterday. As for replying to everyone, well, I have to admit, I love the comments, I love reading them and I love getting to know you all, I am so grateful and so appreciative that anyone takes the time to write a comment at all! I had no idea when I started this blog that it would get so popular and I never realised I would become virtual friends with so many people. I am loving every minute of it! Susan xx

  • What a story! I cried tears of sadness and of happiness. You wrote a perfect ending, the return to the charming cottage. Thank you.
    Looking forward to more stories.

  • Oh Susan! And Audrey… And Mary… And the twins…you didn’t disappoint!!
    Absolutely spectacular storytelling, life telling. Cannot remove the content smile from my face.
    I am indeed enriched by this story, and I feel like I know them, and I feel they could be me!

    Many, many thanks. Purely divine !!

  • lovely story, from a Guernsey girl, with family in Noosa and a grandfather buried in Melbourne, these Channel Islands get everywhere!

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