Original Manuscript Copy: This is not the final version. You are welcome to read, like and comment. Do not copy, cite, or distribute without the express written permission of the author.
© Perry A. Simpson 2022
Published by The Lemon Zest Project
Written by Perry Simpson
Knockmonlea, Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland
(Tel: +353 (0)86 109 2836)
by Perry Simpson
Hidden away in the darkness of the cupboard, Jackie could hear the footsteps getting louder on the terracotta-tiled floor. Heading directly towards me, she gasped, pressing her hands to her mouth. The dark silhouette cast an eerie shadow over the door. There was a pause. Her heart thumped out an erratic overture. The stony silence was broken briefly by the warning shrill of a frantic blackbird. The kitchen window is open, she thought. Hope was all she had left now. The handle of the door began to turn slowly. She counted, one; two; three. Then, she forced the door open with all the strength she could muster.
Jackie breathed a sigh of relief as she lay in the bath. It had just been a dream, she thought. She was enjoying a warm soak in the bath and must have drifted off. Jackie thought about how much more she had been enjoying life since they had moved to France. George had reluctantly accepted an early retirement package from Lloyds. They decided to sell up in the UK and buy an old farmhouse in France. The children had fled the nest and set up home with their own families now. Quite by chance, they came across a charming old farmhouse situated in the very unspoiled Dordogne region. This stunning stone-built house was seductively hidden away in a rural setting amid lush green countryside, winding lanes and sleepy villages.
Jackie slid beneath the bubbles and closed her eyes, very content with their new idyllic life. They had escaped the rat race that overwhelmed so many homeowners in the UK.
This is no longer just a dream, she thought.
Outside, the sun had risen high, spreading its warm glow across the rows of smiling sunflowers, standing proud around the boundary of the farm. The crickets sang harmoniously and high in the sky, two buzzards were gliding effortlessly. A slight breeze tickled the net curtains in the tiny window. Peace, tranquillity and freedom – très agréable, she sighed. Jackie could understand why so many Brits had been lured to the area with its many charms, surprises and hidden treasures.
George had also adapted well to the change of pace, she thought. George had said the fishing here is very good. They had already eaten fresh fish on several occasions – the reward of the patient fisherman. George also found the weather very agreeable, which, in general, was better than in the UK. Being that much further South seem to make a difference, even in the cold winter months, she thought. Yes, it certainly seems to be the idyllic lifestyle we had yearned for, she concluded with a relaxing sigh.
The water was beginning to feel cold now. Jackie lifted her prune-like hands out of the water but resisted the urge to climb from the bathtub. Just five more precious minutes, she sighed. A familiar smell greeted her nose – the smell of freshly baked ...
‘The blueberry muffins!’ she shouted.
The relaxing, uninhibited bath came to an abrupt end as she rose sharply from the ornate bath, situated in the centre of the room. She quickly grabbed a white towel from the rail, but it was barely enough to cover the prominent features of her body. More concerned about the muffins than her appearance, Jackie headed down the creaky wooden stairs and into the kitchen below.
The air was filled with the aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins. Her face was met with a hot blast of air as she opened the oven door. ‘Good, they’re not burnt,’ she uttered.
Taking a tea towel from the table, she wrapped it around her hand, removed the tray of unspoiled cuisine from the rack and placed it carefully on the side to cool.
A car came sweeping into the gravel drive, spraying small stones as a little blue Renault van swung round to park, facing the exit. The driver gave a small toot of the car horn. Pierre, the baker’s son, she thought. In a panic, she ran towards the cupboard. It was closer than the stairs. I can hide in here until he has gone. Jackie knew that Pierre would let himself in, place the fresh Baguette on the table and leave. It would only be a couple of minutes at most. She listened intently as the footsteps on the gravel grew louder. There was a gentle tap on the door. The door was open, she thought. It is a nice day. The footsteps drew closer. She waited for the sound of the bread being placed on the table and the footsteps returning to the door.
He’s heading directly towards me, she gasped, pressing her hands to her mouth. It was now that she realised that in her panic to flee to the cupboard, the towel had fallen and she was completely naked.
His dark silhouette cast an eerie shadow over the door. There was a pause. Her heart thumped faster. The handle of the door began to turn slowly and the door opened with a ghostly squeak.
‘Bonjour Madame, EDF.’ In the opening of the door stood a little man dressed in blue overalls. He had a clipboard and a small torch.
Blushing, she replied, ‘Bonjour monsieur.’
‘Le mètre électrique, Madame?’
She pointed to the meter above her head.
The little Frenchman took out his glasses from the top pocket of his overalls, carefully placing them over his nose. He fiddled with the torch until a flicker of light shone from the end. He pointed at the dials on the large black meter, progressively writing down the readings, while pointing the torch at the meter.
‘J’ai pensé que vous étiez le Boulanger,’ she said shakily.
‘Merci Madame,’ he said, with a blank expression. He politely raised his little cap with the tips of his fingers, ‘Au revoir, Madame.’ He closed the cupboard door and walked slowly from the house and onto the gravel driveway.
‘Bonjour monsieur,’ George said as he climbed from his car.
The little Frenchman just greeted George with a cheeky smile, paused to raise his cap and then got into the little blue EDF van.
Realising the coast was clear, Jackie slowly crept out from the safety of the cupboard, just as George entered through the back door. George said nothing, just tried to smile through the confused expression on his face.
‘Blueberry Muffin, George?’
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