Living With The French ~ A Novelette ~ Chapter Six



Friday 9th April 1993

Today would be a sad day. It was my last day at a French school. All the friends I had made would become but a memory to me and unlikely to meet again.

I woke up at 7am this morning, but stayed in bed until 8am. Luckily school started later today. As I dozed I remembered all the good times I had had with my French school friends, like chatting in the school recreation grounds, the magnificent Handball match and oh, of course, those rare moments I got to be near Blondine and exchange smiles.

After breakfast we promptly went to school. The first lesson today was French. After I sat down the teacher came up to me and asked me a question.

“Où habites tu?” she asked.
“En San Loubes,” I replied, thinking she meant where in France.
“Mais, où en Angleterre?”
“Shepton Mallet.”
“Où?” She replied.
“Dans le sud-ouest de l’Angleterre.”
“Ah,” She said.

At this moment, one of my French school friends who I call, ‘funny boy’, jumped up and shouted, “Oui! Oui!” I thought he was experiencing some orgasms of some kind, but re-thinking it, I think he had won a bet on me. The CHEEK!

The next lesson was Geography. I didn’t get picked on by the teacher this time. Instead I was stared at. The children stared at me, the teacher stared at me – it even made ME stare at me!

I KNOW I’M DIFFERENT BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A BIG THING ABOUT IT! Jesus! Can’t a man get any peace around here?

That lesson (if that’s what you want to call it) finished at 10am. At this time we went home for lunch. Yes, at 10am! Boy, they live the life here!

However, before we had “lunch”, seeing as it was only 10am, I went into town to change my traveller’s cheques, where Arnaud’s mother directed me inside an unknown building. I approached the man behind the counter.

“Parlez-vous Anglais?” I asked.
“Er… yes but slowly,” he replied.
“I have traveller cheque?”
“No,” he replied.
“Er… I can’t give you traveller cheque.”
“No! No. I want to give you traveller cheque.”
“Ah, thank you,” he said with a smile and waiting patiently.
“And… I would like French money, in return, oui?”
“Ah, non. Non.”
“Not here… er… Ze bank!”

And so it seemed that Arnaud’s mother was not quite sure where one should go to change traveller’s cheques since no-one I think, had the foggiest idea where we had just been. Least of all myself. But anyway, we tried the bank as suggested, and eventually, I got my French money.

Lunch was as usual and afterwards Arnaud and I returned to school to enjoy the last lesson of the day ~ a technology lesson.

Well, when I say ‘enjoy’, I mean ‘gaze out the window, watching the decorators paint the side of an adjacent building, whilst everyone else fries in their own brains’. No different then, to an English technology lesson I noticed.

Yet soon enough the final lesson was over and my last day at a French school to be completed.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of leaving this strange place, ‘Max Linder’, and the people who belong to it. Being at a French school really is like stepping into a different dimension, a different consciousness of emotions and behaviours, a social atmosphere unknown to people of my time and place.

So even though it is a school, a weird French school, where I found it hard to fit in quite often, it was also a most wonderful adventure. Leaving this place, this concrete, dusty, but inspiring place, was going to hurt, and it did.

Arnaud and I were walking out of the gates, when suddenly, I heard a familiar voice.

“Simon?” I heard.

I knew that voice. It was the voice that pulled me to its source. A soft, relaxing and tranquil voice ~ Blondine. I turned to meet her, the girl I fell in love with from the first moment I saw her.

“Oui?” I replied.
“Au revoir, Simon,” she said.

Blood rushed to my head. I now realised that I may never see her again from this day onwards.

Tears filled my eyes as she looked into them for probably the last time. She hugged me and I held her tightly, remembering my dream, cuddling on the park swing, wishing, oh, wishing for it to come true, but at the same time knowing deep in my heart, that some dreams must remain – dreams.

“Au revoir, Blondine. J’aime toi,” I said.

We let go of each other and after a brief pause and one final smile, she walked away. Her hair, swinging to and fro; the sight of a dream just disappearing, myself knowing that I must let go and not try to run after a dream which could never come true.

As she walked her way back up the long dusty school driveway to re-gather with her friends, my mind captured a moment of truth in pain; of a fusion between order and chaos, good and bad, of growing up, yet of dying – of loving and yet of losing. She was the girl of my dreams and yet here, as dusk settled upon a land unknown to me, I have in an eternal moment of my youth, experienced both the joy and the sorrow of truly living.

She is the forbidden ending, yet the making of all dreams.

I watched her until I could see no more than her feint shadow in the distance, as she disappeared into the sunset with her friends. A French sunset. A French dream. A French friendship. A French love.

Mother Nature, herself, I thought.

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