In a French Villa

Abigail and Bailey hailed an airport cab and handed the cabby the note written in French with directions and the address of their paternal grandparents’ villa in Beaumont-sur-Oise.

“I hope Aunt Rachel wrote down the right sur-Oise town,” Bailey whispered to her sister. “I looked on a map and there’s a bunch of them.”

The cabby locked eyes with both women in his rear-view mirror. Not certain if Baily’s comment offended the cabby, the sisters remained silent for the remainder of the trip.

The drive through the Parisian suburbs eventually gave way to open fields, contained villages and homes dotted along the way in between. Finally, the cab slowed and took a right turn.

“Mesdames, c’est l’adresse. C’est beau, oui?” the cabby said.

The villa was just as described. A large multi-storied structure built by their great grandparents a hundred years ago, it looked like something out of a gothic novel. It had been vacant a while but was otherwise in good shape.

“This is where daddy grew up? Wow.”

“Far cry from our home, huh?”

—————–

“What’s all this stuff?”

Bailey stood in a corner room on the top floor, lit by a single floor lamp and small a porthole window under the eave. She stared at a wall of cardboard boxes covered in dust and cobwebs. She could not make out the writing.

“What stuff?” Abigail called back from somewhere down the hall.

“All these boxes. I can’t read the writing.”

Abigail came into the room and tried reading the writing, too.  “Well, it’s not French. Dad said his grandparents were from Belgium…so, Flemish maybe? Must be things of theirs.”

“Should we, what…open them? See what’s in them first?”

Abigail grabbed a box and pulled. Dust showered down, filling the room in a fog and subjecting Bailey to a fit of sneezing.

“This one’s got clothes, looks like,” Abigail said as she pulled garments out and dropped them on the floor.  

Bailey held up the garments, one by one. “They look vintage, for sure. Hey!” She held a military jacket up to her chest. “It looks like a woman’s uniform.”

 “Are those medals?” Abigail asked, pointing. Bailey flipped the coat around to look.

“Yeah, I guess.”

Abigail turned her attention back to the open box. She held up a small brass object. It was scalloped shaped with a hinged lid and a handle. The top was decorated with beading and filigree. Something rattled loosely around inside. She opened the lid and took out a pearl and gold beaded bracelet.

“Pretty,” Bailey said. “Anything else in it?”

“No, that’s it. Is this a box, or a, what?”  Abigail held the object this way and that. She put the bracelet back into its curious container.

Bailey reached into the cardboard box and took out a book and a pair of pink ballet toe shoes. “Ever hear of a dancer in the family?”

“Yeah, remember? Grandpa used to tell stories about his sister, the ballerina. She was with some famous company in Paris. Hobnobbed with famous people. What’s the book?”

“It’s in French.”

“Give it here,” Abigail gestured. Baily handed over the book.

“It says, Letters from the Earth. Oh! It’s by Mark Twain. Huh.”

“I know that book. Had to read it in college. I thought all this stuff was generations old. What’s it doing in the box?”

Abigail opened the cover. “It has an inscription…” she silently mouthed the French words. “It says, To Adrian, uh, que ce livre vous aide à comprendre la nature du deuil. Something about grief. Nature of grief. Doesn’t say who wrote the note.”

“We have a cousin named Adrian. Somewhere here in France.”

“Yeah. Huh.”

The last two items in the box were a broken teacup and a framed photo. “Oh, my god, Abigail, look!”

Bailey held out the photo to her sister. A woman in the same military jacket they found in the box posed with a rifle. “Those are the same four medals, look!”

“She looks like Aunt Rachel, doesn’t she?”

“Wow. You think that’s our great grandmother? Was she a soldier? What army? I thought women weren’t allowed in the army.”

Abigail pried open the frame, pulled out the photo and flipped it over. “A message to a Lucas.  It’s in Flemish, I bet. I can’t read it.”

“Who’s Lucas?”


In response to Objects in a Box writing prompt

The Blog Propellant Redux #4

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need. Once a week on this blog, I will repost former TBP or WP prompts, or maybe a new one.

Write a post! Fiction, poetry, even a photo post. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! Then all those who read this post will have a link to your post. And, all that read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers.


This week’s prompt:

Objects in a Box: Write a post about the five things below you/your character find in a box.

  • A framed photo of an unknown woman in a WWII military uniform with 4 medals on her uniform holding a rifle.
  • A very worn pair of pink ballet slippers.
  • A cracked ceramic mug
  • A copy of the novel “Letters from the Earth” by Mark Twain with a handwritten note in an unfamiliar language on the inside cover.
  • A small, strange decorative brass box shaped somewhat like a clover, with a hinged lid and a three-inch panhandle

The Blog Propellant Redux #3

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need. Once a week on this blog, I will repost former TBP or WP prompts, or maybe a new one.

Write a post! Fiction, poetry, even a photo post. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! Then all those who read this post will have a link to your post. And, all that read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers.


This week’s prompt:

The “Four Food Groups” of a sentence game was fun! How to play: Create your own prompt by mixing/matching one phrase from each column. Example: On a ski trip, a deceitful novelist accidentally reveals a secret.

The Blog Propellant Redux #2

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need. Once a week on this blog, I will repost former TBP or WP prompts, or present a new one.

Readers have two choices: Re-post your former response, or create a new post. The thing is, it is all about writing, so, whatever you decide … edit or create!

When you are done, include the URL address of this post at the end of your post. Simple! Then all those who read this post will have a link to your post. And, all that read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers.


This week’s prompt:

Think of a time that you/your character let something slide, only for it to eat away at you/your character later. Tell us how you/your character would fix it today. Write a fictional story, or a tale based on actual facts, or a poem in any form you wish.

Pounds, Pence and Pesos

In response to my writing prompt

I started with a tarnished quarter, and then remembered a handful of British coins I found among my father’s things after he died. But, I’ll start with a 1000 Chilean Pesos bill.

We were in the process of packing to move to another office space when I found the bill tucked into the cover of a book. I asked my manager about it, but she had the book for so many years, she couldn’t remember where it even came from. We decided most of the books on the shelf could go to the local Friends of the Library book sale, but we should keep the odd find. It is now prominently pinned to the partition wall in our new office. 1997 is the year on it. The year I bought my condo. Also the year I had my first “real” full-time career oriented job. Six years on from my divorce, it had taken all that time to finally land on my feet. What I didn’t know was 1997 would not be the beginning of something wonderful, but the start of the next tumultuous phase of life.

1971 two-pence coin: That year I was in grade school in southern California and every bit youngest child of upper-middle class suburbanites. And a beach bum, if you can call a little girl that. A friend lived next to an access stairway down a steep cliff to a beach only locals knew about. I remember time spent on those beaches as the happiest of my childhood.

1984 sterling pound coin: College. I lived in an apartment with a roommate I barely knew at the time, but who would become one of my closest, life-long friends. By that year, I had figured college out, what I wanted from it, and had come to know myself well enough to lay out some personal boundaries in regards to family, friends and the boys who came sniffing around. I was not reckless, but I had no fear. I wasn’t a know-it-all, but I was confident, as only a person who has not yet been truly kicked about by life can be.

1990 five-pence coin: Yeah, well. The year I realized it was falling apart, and from which I was forced to rise from the proverbial ashes.

Which brings me to the tarnished quarter: 2000. Pushing 40 by then, I started that year in a strange juxtaposition of being very ill with the flu, but going in anyway for my first day at a new, exciting job. I was determined to keep moving forward, though exactly in which direction, I was not sure.

Looking back makes me think of that thing people ask: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self? I used to shrug and say that I wouldn’t change a thing. But, now? Maybe it is because of the effect of this year’s constant state of crisis and spending so much time at home by myself that I can finally answer the question. (Smiling secretly to myself) I know exactly what I would say.