Authors: Linda Kepner
Tags: #romance, #historical
In a few minutes, all the places were filled. Bettina hurried around the table, serving everyone, while they passed things to each other as well. Louis tossed his paper behind him, and joined in.
“How did you sleep, Adrienne?” Bishou asked her.
.” She looked down at the drab clothes she wore for the second or third day. “I am afraid I need a change of clothes.”
“I expected that. We’ll go around to
Ross’s, and get you supplied. What about you, brothers?”
,” said Bat. Beach.
Louis smiled. “Bishou guessed that from the noise.”
Bat grinned. “Yeah, one of those places rents surfboards. Andy wants to try it.”
Adrienne’s eyes widened. “Oh,
, like Hawaii.”
“That could be dangerous.”
“I wouldn’t let them out there if they couldn’t swim,” Bat demurred, “but we’ll probably have sore muscles tonight that we don’t even realize we own.”
“You will, I’m sure. I hope you have a good day,” said Bishou.
Louis glanced at the clock, glanced at his wife, and stood. Bishou stood also, and accompanied him to the front door. She kissed him and nestled against him.
, don’t make it more difficult for me to leave than it is already,” Louis murmured. “I will see you at lunch.
Au revoir, cherie
.” He kissed her again, slowly and gently. She stood in the doorway and watched him climb into the little car and drive off, waving goodbye.
The Howard boys trooped out, carrying towels. Bat kissed his sister. “See you sometime this afternoon. I think we’re headed for Plage Est, but we’ll see where we end up.” The boys kissed her, too, and also left. If Bishou hadn’t had a guest, she would have been tempted to go with them. But there was a guest.
Adrienne was pouring coffee at the dining table. She looked like another person now, different and peaceful. Her face didn’t look hard, her blue eyes were calm, and her hair was rather pretty, brown with gold highlights. She smiled at Bishou, and refilled her cup, too.
“Merci.” Bishou relaxed into the chair beside her. “I feel like we have just launched the first two assaults.”
Adrienne actually laughed. “You don’t need to entertain me, you know.”
“But I want to, if you’ll let me.”
“I would like to see more of this island,” Adrienne admitted. “If you have errands to run, I wouldn’t mind coming with you. Perhaps I could help.”
Bishou looked up at Bettina, picking up things behind her. “Do you need anything from anywhere, Bettina?”
“No, merci, Madame. I telephoned the greengrocer and the butcher. They will bring things out later today. Do you know if you or Monsieur Dessant will be paying the bills?”
“Non, I don’t know, not yet. That is one of the details I will work out with him later, who will pay the household bills. We haven’t really had time to discuss it.”
“Oui, Madame.” Bettina left with her armload of soiled dishes.
Bishou fixed her coffee and drank thoughtfully.
Adrienne said, “This is your first working day as Madame Dessant, is it not?”
“Oui.” Bishou focused again on her guest.
Adrienne smiled. “Whose first houseguest shows up the evening before with a loaded gun and a passion for revenge.”
Bishou laughed, and felt the weight of the day lift from her shoulders. “Non, non, my crazy brothers were my first houseguests. How can you compete with them?”
Adrienne laughed sheepishly. “And — I confess — this coffee is rather good. I am sorry I passed it up yesterday, in my rage.”
“If there is one thing I have learned, during the past year or two,” said Bishou, “it is about passion. Both the good passion, and the bad.” She patted Adrienne’s hand. “Come. Let’s go shopping.”
“In La Réunion? Can it be done?”
“Sure, in both stores.”
Now, Adrienne truly laughed. They finished their coffee, and Bishou went to the kitchen to tell Bettina and Madeleine where she was going.
The housekeepers were hard at work in the kitchen, and looked up as she entered. “Madame!” said Madeleine, sounding almost relieved.
“A mad weekend, yes?” Bishou asked with a smile.
“Oh, oui, madame,” said Bettina fervently.
“Here are the plans, such as I know them,” Bishou said. “Mademoiselle Bourjois and I are going shopping, to get her some lighter clothing for La Réunion — she is wearing winter Paris clothes. I am probably going to stop by the université, and we might stop at Chez Ma Tante. But I promised Monsieur Dessant I would meet him here when he came home for lunch.”
“That is usually about one, Madame,” said Bettina.
“Then Adrienne Bourjois and I will have just tea and biscuits at Chez Ma Tante, and leave room for a little lunch,” said Bishou. “Monsieur and I have an appointment or two this afternoon, so
Bourjois might be the only one here, but she will be alone only briefly. My brothers will return from their beach day by then, I am certain. Dinner will be at the usual time, for all of us. And the boys might want a little supper later in the evening — you know what boys’ appetites are like.”
Madeleine was obviously relieved. “I did not know if you would understand what the mistress of the house needs to tell us,
Dessant. And Monsieur Dessant told us nothing this morning, and left it to you.”
“I will try to keep you apprised of what is happening in your own house,” said Bishou with a wry smile. “And please ask me if you wonder if I have forgotten something. I may have.”
“Mademoiselle Bourjois — will everything be all right now, with her?” asked Bettina anxiously.
“I think so,” Bishou responded. “We’ll go shopping, and do girls’ things today. And — perhaps it is vulgar to say it — I think she is making friends with my brother Jean-Baptiste.”
“I was wondering if you had noticed that, Madame,” said Bettina. “He is making friends with her, too, you know.”
“Well, he is a very attractive man,” said Madeleine, “just like our Monsieur Dessant.” Then she blushed.
“Oui,” said Bishou gently, “and well I know it.”
“We’ll do our cleaning upstairs while you ladies are gone,” Bettina resumed. “Then if either of you want a nap, or a bath, or to try on new clothes, everything will be ready.”
“Excellent,” said Bishou. “Then we will see you sometime after noon.”
“Oui, Madame,” they chorused.
Back in the dining room, Adrienne asked, “Is the household all set?”
“Yes. They’ll clean the upstairs while we are gone, in case we need to rest from the heat when we get back. Oh, Adrienne, you definitely won’t need that black sweater. Just leave it on a chair. Bettina can put it away.”
“I am so used to Paris in cool weather,” Adrienne explained.
“This is La Réunion in summer,” said Bishou with a smile. “
Adrienne almost had to run to keep up with Bishou as she strode down Rue Dessant. They waited for the bus. Armand slowed down while Adrienne hopped onto an outside seat. Bishou climbed on long enough to give Armand his money, then dropped into a seat beside Adrienne.
“Bonjour, Madame Bishou!” Armand greeted her cheerily. “Where are you going?”
“Rue Marché first,” Bishou replied. “Armand, this is my sister-in-law, Mademoiselle Adrienne.”
, Mademoiselle Adrienne!” the driver greeted her. “Welcome to our island. Did you come for the wedding? I don’t remember seeing you.”
“Non, I came later,” Adrienne replied truthfully.
“Ah, well, you missed a good wedding.
! Enjoy your time here, mademoiselle!” Armand laughed.
, I shall.”
They watched mynahs and flycatchers, looked at cotton and tobacco and sugar cane in the fields, all those things Bishou had enjoyed on her first day on the island. At last, country gave way to town, and they were at Rue Marché, Market Street.
Adrienne changed into a sundress they bought at
Ross’s store. They bought underwear, and a second sundress. They bought a sunhat. Adrienne’s own clothes went into the shopping bag. “Whew,” said Adrienne. “I feel cleaner now.”
“I imagine Bat’s pajama top was clean, too,” Bishou laughed. “Certainly not used by him. I don’t know why he bothers to pack a set.”
“It was still folded when he gave it to me,” Adrienne admitted with a smile, “and he was not in the least embarrassed about it. Is he always like that?”
“Well, you know, Jean-Baptiste was a soldier, in charge of soldiers,” Bishou replied. “A mother-hen for a battalion. His boys must wash up and look good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean clothes that match. I don’t think any man worries about that. Except, perhaps, businessmen like Louis. For them, it is their uniform.”
Then they went to the shoe store. Bishou bought Adrienne a set of comfortable sandals, but also pointed out a daintier pair of white heels. “They’ll go well with the sundresses when you dress up,” Bishou said.
“Oh, this is too much to ask you to buy,” Adrienne demurred, but it didn’t sound as though her heart was in it.
“I think they’ll look rather nice on you,” said Bishou, and bought them.
They walked back a few blocks to Missy’s bodega, which also sold sundries. Adrienne needed a hairbrush and toothbrush. Then, at Chez Ma Tante, they had tea and biscuits, as promised, at a café table on the sidewalk. They had just been served when Bishou heard a voice call, “Docteur Dessant!”
Bishou looked up to see
Cantrell bearing down on them, with a male friend. “Bonjour, Madame!” Bishou greeted her. “How are you today?”
“Fine, thank you. We were just leaving, and I thought I would stop and say hello. Bertrand, this is Dr. Bishou Dessant, of the Humanities Department at UFOI. Bishou, Monsieur Bertrand Holian of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs.”
“So nice to meet you.” Bishou gave the gentleman her hand to shake. “Adrienne, this is
Cantrell of the Library Society of Saint-Denis. Madame, my sister-in-law, Mademoiselle Adrienne Bourjois.” Exactly the kind of social life Louis realized the Bourjois girls had expected on the island.
“How nice!” said
Cantrell. “I hadn’t realized your brother was married.”
, he is not,” said Bishou. “It is my husband who was married. He was a widower when I married him.”
Cantrell apologetically to Adrienne, “I forgot. How I put my foot in things. Forgive me.”
“Certainly,” said Adrienne.
“And how are you finding married life, Bishou?”
Cantrell boomed. “Already a little dull, eh?”
Adrienne smiled as broadly as Bishou, aware of her own part in dispelling the dullness. “Not really,” Bishou replied.
“Monsieur Holian is always looking for new blood for the Cultural Commission.”
Cantrell beamed at them. “You should both consider giving him your time.”
“Ah, non, Monsieur, not yet,” Bishou replied. “I am still finding my way through a fresh job and a new marriage. And my sister-in-law will be returning to Paris.”
“Paris! Oh, my goodness. I hadn’t realized the Dessants still had relatives in Paris.”
“Not exactly,” Adrienne replied. “I have a job there. I am a senior researcher at the Bibliothèque Nationale.”
“Oh, my goodness!” said
Cantrell again. Her companion’s eyes widened.
“Well!” he exclaimed. “Mme. Cantrell has been telling me of the talent that abounds in the Dessant family, and I thought she might be exaggerating. But I see she was not!”
“Have you been there for long?” asked
“Oui, for twenty-one years.”
” Madame exclaimed, “one would never suspect it from looking at you.”
“You are kind, Madame.”
They made their excuses and their goodbyes, and went on their way. Both Bishou and Adrienne waited until they were well out of sight before they burst into laughter.
“Well!” said Adrienne, “some types are universal, aren’t they?”
“All the subtlety of a volcano. But, I understand, a good heart.”
Adrienne made a face, and drank tea. “The université might force you to be on a local commission, as a representative of the department, if they think it would be a good move politically, Bishou. I’ve seen that done before. It might be a good idea to put yourself on some local or academic board you like, before they issue any ultimatum.”
“I will keep your advice in mind.”
Adrienne sighed. “Me, giving you good advice. And only yesterday I was making a mad fool of myself.”
Bishou put her elbow on the table and rested her head on her hand with a smile. “Adrienne, you are speaking to someone who has spent far too long in the field of literature, studying passion. Your passionate love, and equally passionate rage, are the marks of a good woman. Don’t apologize any more, no more than Louis should.”
“He was quite abject in his apology.”
“He has been thoroughly raped,” said Bishou, “as thoroughly as any virgin. Even now, he is hurt and bewildered by everything that happened to him. Little by little he begins to understand, and recover.”
“I imagine prison didn’t help,” said Adrienne thoughtfully.
“No — but nothing would have, at that time. He was beyond help then. And now, he has paid the State for his crimes, and he is paying the church for all the commandments he has broken.”
“I saw that he wears a penitent’s cord beneath his day-clothes.”
“Is that what one calls it? Yes, he does. I was so afraid Père Reynaud would just charge a fee for an indulgence — I am so glad he is making Louis work for his penance, and think about things.”
“But, penitence notwithstanding, you and Louis — you are lovers, are you not?”
“Certainly we are.”
“Do you plan to have children?”
“Yes. I would like a little Celie-Ange, myself.” Celie-Angel.
“Do you think you might already be pregnant?”
“I might be. I don’t know. It is a natural part of life, and I have no intention of thwarting Nature.”