Wednesday, August 5, 2015



[Chapter 15 will be available on September 1, 2015]

Vanessa stood in the morning sunshine that fell through the leaded glass windows of the chateau's foyer. Charlie whimpered as his eyes flitted from one to the other of the upset family members. Jack had his hand on the ornate, brass door knob ready to storm out and confront their neighbor about the missing lavender. Lucy was pulling on his arm to hold him back. Michelle put both hands to her mouth, her jeweled rings sparkling as her fingers moved in agitation.
     A booming voice from the back hall cut through the air. “Vat is da matter? Vat is da problem?” Wilhelm strode in, his pompous belly leading the way. Everyone turned to face him.
     Michelle quickly explained to her husband in French. “The special lavender for the contest is missing.” Vanessa was grateful she was now able to follow most of what they were saying and noticed that Michelle had used the French word for 'missing', instead of 'stolen'.
     Wilhelm held up his hands. “Missing! Of course, it's missing. I worried it vas not in a safe place and put it away.”
     Jack's face turned red. “How dare you? It's not for you to safeguard or move my ingredients.”
     “Vell, you did not have dem in a safe place if I could so easily move dem,” Wilhelm blustered. “But come, I vill show you them, so you can stop your yelling.” He turned on his heels and Jack stomped after him.
     Lucy looked at Vanessa. “Well, the drama never stops in this family.” She laughed. “Don't the English call this a tempest in a teapot.”
     Vanessa didn't know what to say. She had been feeling relief realizing if the lavender was missing, she wouldn't have to compete in the contest. But she didn't like the idea of Jack confronting their neighbor about a possible theft. She blurted out, “I'm glad it wasn't stolen.”
     Lucy agreed. “It was silly of Wilhelm to pull a dirty trick on Jack and would have been worse if he hadn't told what he'd done before Jack rushed over to Ricard's.”
Michelle commented. “Now that the excitement is over, perhaps we should get ready for breakfast.
     Vanessa looked down at her robe covering her tattered pajamas. “Sorry. I rushed down stairs when I heard the commotion. I'll go up and get dressed.
     She leaned over to Charlie who jumped into her arms and they climbed back up the grand staircase. Before she dressed she plunked down on the edge of her bed, still holding Charlie for comfort. She thought, This is getting worse and worse. What have I gotten myself into? Are these people all crazy? Well, as her mother used to say to cheer her up, In for a penny, in for a pound. She was here and she had made a promise. She had to keep her promise. But her mother was going to hear about this.
     Vanessa wasn't sure what time it was in Thailand. She just knew she had to talk to the woman who had urged her to get involved with this flaky family.
     She took several deep breaths before dialing her mom's number. If she remembered correctly, Bangkok was five hours ahead of Paris. It was 7:30 a.m. at the Chateau so she calculated it would be 12:30 noon where her mother was. Unless she and Dad had taken off another fantastic journey. Wherever they were they were probably having another lovely lunch.
     Her parents both enjoyed Thai appetizers, especially chicken satay with peanut sauce and crab rangoon stuffed with cream cheese. While she waited, the phone half way around the world rang and rang, and her stomach growled. She still hadn't had breakfast. Another grievance about her situation. Of course, if she'd been back home in Chicago at 7:30 a.m. she'd be polishing off a cup of instant coffee and toasted raisin bread with peanut butter. At least here she had a delicious home made breakfast to look forward to. That is, if Jack had found his purloined lavender and was back in the kitchen.
     “Hello, darling. Is that you Vanessa?” Her mother's cheerful voice almost soothed away her frustration. Almost.
     “Mom! This family that you wanted me to help is crazy. I swear every one of them, including their in laws are bonkers.”
     “Now, honey. I know they can be eccentric, but they are good people at heart.”
     Vanessa seethed as she listed all the dramatic events she'd lived through since she'd arrived at the charming chateau, with its not so charming inhabitants. Well, to be fair, 
Lucy was OK, very helpful and lots of fun, but she brushed that aside as she rushed on with her complaints.
      “And this morning, Jack—well, the family calls him Jacques, of course—but he's Jack to me. This morning when he discovered his sacred lavender was missing, or stolen as he argued, he was raring to run next door and punch out Ricard, their neighbor, who has always seemed perfectly nice to me. And is even extremely handsome, not that that matters. But as it turned out, Wilhem, Michelle's starchy husband removed the lavender from where Jack had stored it to prove a point.”
      “What point did that prove?” Her mother sounded bewildered.
      “Why that Jack was too careless with their valuable, vital product.”
      “Oh, dear. That sounds like the Wilhelm I remember. A little too officious and too quick to take matters into his own hands. I think it comes from marrying an heiress, even taking her family name, and now feeling he needs to prove himself.”
      “Mother, I absolutely am not going to feel sorry for him, or anyone else in this family.”
      There was a pause. Then Vanessa's mother said thoughtfully. “When is this cooking contest?”
      “Tomorrow! So there's no way you can fly here in time to help me.”
      Her mother laughed. “Sorry, I was not thinking of leaving your father or Thailand. You're a big girl now. I just wanted to reassure you that in a short time, your misery wil  l be over and you can fly away with a good conscience, no matter what happens at the contest.”
      Leave it to her mother to look on the bright side. Vanessa didn't think there was a bright side. “Right. Well, thanks for listening. I go forward to my doom.” Her mother continued to laugh as she hung up the phone.
      Vanessa got dressed for another day of labor in the Chateau's kitchen. She tried to follow her mother's advice and tell herself, only 36 more hours and it will be over. Downstairs breakfast was a quiet affair. No one seemed to be speaking to anyone. OK, by her. Her head could use a rest from constant translation.
      She had finished eating and was refolding her napkin when Edmund came in and whispered in her ear. “You have a visitor.”
      Vanessa's full stomach clenched. She shouldn't have had that second croissant. Could that dreadful Mr. Lay be back about Charlie. Edmund saw the distress in her face and explained, “It is a young woman, whom I have not seen before.”
      Mystified as to her caller's identity, she walked into the marble tiled foyer.
      A voice shrieked, “Vanessa, it's me! I'm in France. I called in all my frequent flier miles and took planes, trains, and automobiles and I made it.
      Vanessa yelled, “Sylvia!” and lunged at her for a monumental bear hug. “You must have mental telepathy. How could you know back in Chicago that I needed my best friend right now.”
To be continued on September 1, 2015

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