The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

Last week’s excerpt ended with the question “What were the two of you plotting?”  This week, the answer to that question becomes abundantly clear…



“Nothing…rien du tout…a simple misunderstanding…it was about another house I have for sale. I have the paper work for this one right here…you are not truly ready to sign an offer right now, are you?’

Franck extracted a pen from his back pocket. “Just tell us where to sign.”

The realtor clawed a hand through his hair. “If only it were as simple as that! I need to go back to my car and find the paperwork…He gnawed his lip. “But a 24 hour expiry on the offer, ce n’est pas possible! Nobody demands that of the sellers.”

“That’s not negotiable,” I said, waving my hand towards the empty space where the Notary’s car had been parked. “Especially given the circumstances of the last few minutes.” It was a desperate tactic, but it was perhaps our only hope of preventing the property from being sold out from underneath us.

The realtor’s eyes darted like minnows but Franck and I stood elbow to elbow across from him.  He sighed and opened his trunk again. “Just give me time to find the documents. It may take a moment.”

I grabbed Franck’s hand.  Did he feel as bewildered and angry as I did? Could this really be happening? Was the Maitre, who was supposed to be our savior, now trying to cheat us out of this property? The scale of the betrayal – if that is indeed what had just happened – was almost too enormous to comprehend. If we didn’t get this property because of Maitre Ange I was certain I would be catapulted back to the way I had felt when we first arrived back in France.  I couldn’t bear the thought.

Je ne crois pas! He’s on his cell phone,” Franck hissed. We were around the back of the car in time to see the realtor gabbling into his cell phone and making frantic gestures with his hands. He face was the colour of a ripe aubergine.

He caught sight of us and hung up without even saying good-bye.

“The paperwork?” I reminded him.

“Turns out I had it in my bag after all.  Sorry, phone call with a client,” he lied.

Oui.” Franck said slowly, arching a disbelieving brow. “C’est cela.” Can we get on with it please?”

The agent reluctantly slid out a wad of paper from his satchel, shut the trunk to use it as a writing surface, scrawled on the papers here and there, then shoved them over to us.  He pointed to the front sheet. “You sign here and here. Both of you.”

Wasn’t there supposed to be more gravitas involved in making a written offer? There was, after all, a heck of a lot of money involved. But then again realtors did this kind of thing every day…unless he was just doing this to get rid of us…

Franck read the papers over line by line while the realtor sighed, then passed them to me. The metal of the car underneath my hip burned, but I took my time. One of the few useful things I had learned over the tortuous last two years was to never skim over a contract.

“You’ve written nothing here about there being a 24 hour limit on the offer,” I said when I had scrutinized the last word.

Bah, you are not truly serious about that?”

“We are,” Franck and I said in unison.  I passed the paperwork back.

The realtor scrawled in the twenty four hour clause and then passed us the pen. I couldn’t believe we were rushing this way to make an offer. We didn’t even know if we would qualify for a mortgage. But if that ache in my gut was right about Le Maitre’s perfidy, we had no choice if we wanted our dream property.

This place was the path to finding myself…ourselves again; it could not be sold to someone else.

I felt exactly the same way about getting this house as I did about finishing my law degree at Oxford. When I walked out of the examination schools after my final exam I was fully expecting that in that very moment, everything would click. Struggle and the anxiety would be a thing of the past.

Franck was there waiting for me as I came down those stairs for the final time, as well as my friends Emmy and Melanie. They were armed with the traditional confetti and champagne and red carnations.  I kept waiting for the click – anticpating a feeling that never came.  Elation was all around me, but I didn’t feel it within me.  Why hadn’t it happened?

Now I understood. It wasn’t my law degree that would make everything perfect – it was this house. Owning this house would change everything.

“You are going to call the sellers, right away, n’est-ce pas?” Franck’s eyes blazed at the realtor.

Bien sûr, bien sûr, but I happen to know they are not home right now. I will try them tonight without fail. Are you sure you do not want to extend the deadline by a week or so?”

Non,” Franck said. “I will be expecting a call from you tonight after you speak to the owners.”

The realtor grimaced, shook our hands in a perfunctory good-bye, and drove off.  I watched his shadow through the rear windshield.  He picked up his phone  and was holding it to his ear before he rounded the first corner.


A suivre…