This is an excerpt from my first book project about our adventures buying, renovating, and renting out our four homes in Burgundy. I’m currently searching for a publisher and / or agent, so if anyone knows of anyone who would be a good fit s.v.p. send them vers moi!
This excerpt of “The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers” picks up after Franck and I have arrived back at his family home in Burgundy to try and recover from two exhausting years in Oxford where I worked day and night completing my law degree. I’m teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown which isn’t helped by the fact that we’re still in limbo – awaiting my final exam marks which will dictate our future. After I receive a small and unexpected inheritance from my grandfather we try to distract ourselves by looking for a little pied-à-terre of our own near Franck’s village…
If an amazing property for sale at a bargain price in the charming village where Franck and I were married was a sign, what was the meaning of a wasp getting stuck in my sandal?
We visited the property in Marey-les-Fussey the next morning. The realtor was driving in from Châlon-sur-Saone, about half an hour South, and the only free slot he could give us was eleven o’clock. Right away would have suited us much better, but we reminded ourselves that it wouldn’t do to appear desperate.
We walked to Marey-les-Fussey, only a leisurely ten minute stroll through the vineyards from Villers-la-Faye. We arrived half and hour early, of course, and there was no chance of getting lost. We had only driven by the sprawling property about a dozen times or so the day before.
I crossed the street and walked right up to the front gate of the property. It looked deserted. The agent had told Franck that the sellers, two elderly sisters, had already moved into a nursing home. The red tiled roofs and the old stone well in the courtyard beckoned. Franck tugged at my arm and pulled me back into the shadows on the other side of the street.
“Everyone in the village will be watching,” he hissed. I surveyed the empty cobblestone thoroughfare. A vineyard tractor rumbled in the far off distance, but that was the only sign of human life.
“In here!” Franck ducked under the thick stone walls of the village washing house and pulled me in behind him.
“What’s wrong with just walking around the yard of the house?” I asked, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the dark. “Nobody’s there.”
“We mustn’t be seen,” he answered in a furtive whisper. “Or overheard.”
There was a little round window looking out to the street. I stood on my tiptoes and peered out. Still no sign of life except a few chickens clucking their merry way around a grassy patch two houses down.
“There’s nobody out there,” I said. “Unless you’re worried the chickens are spying on us.”
“They’re there even if you can’t see them.”
“The villagers. They’ll be watching us. That’s how it is in ces villages.”
Franck was always full of tales of the mysterious workings of ces villages, but I was skeptical.
I looked out the window again. It was just past ten thirty, but the day was already so hot that waves of heat shimmered over the cobblestones and seemed to slide down the slopes of the vineyards which dropped from the village on either side. There were worse places to wait than under the cool of the ancient lavoir, to be sure, but I still couldn’t believe there was any real need for the cloak and dagger furtiveness.
“Even if the villagers are watching us,” I countered, though I was far from convinced, “Surely we’re allowed to visit a house that’s for sale, aren’t we? Or is there a law against that that I wasn’t aware of?”
He reached over and pulled me to him. “It’s not that.” He nipped my earlobe. “The fact is that if they see us visiting the property they will start to think they should take more interest in it. They’ll steal it from under our noses.”
“Why would they want another huge property when they all own a house in the village already?”
“To keep an outsider from buying in their village.”
“An outsider? You’re from one village over.”
Franck’s teeth flashed in the dim light. “I might as well be from outer Siberia. Don’t forget that I also married an etrangère.”
The roar of a car engine drowned out the chickens’ clucks. Franck used one strong arm to pin me against the wall while he peeked out. Cool humidity seeped through my T-shirt and a pointed rock edge poked into my back.
“It’s him,” Franck informed me and let me free. We emerged from our hiding spot and tried to walk as nonchalantly as we could across the blistering road.