Saturday, October 31, 2015



[Chapter 18 will be available on December 1, 2015]

Paris shop that features
American food products 
Vanessa was torn between raging with anger, crying with humiliation, and feeling sucker punched by what she felt was her mother's betrayal. With a sea of emotions storming inside her she could only gape helplessly at Jack.

His face looked drained of blood and he whispered, “I am appalled at what my family has done to you. I am abject with horror that I was an unknowing party to this travesty they visited on you.”

The formal solemnity of his apology was the straw that tipped the camel over and Vanessa giggled. Jack's eyes widened. She thought he looked pop-eyed and her giggles became guffaws. He backed towards the door. “It is bad, but you must not lose control. Stay calm.” He continued to retreat, speaking softly as if soothing a child with a temper tantrum.

At this, she threw herself on the bed, shaking and roaring with laughter. It felt good. She'd been tightly strung for twenty four hours, worrying about the contest, suffering the disappointment of losing, and as the coup de grace (as the French would say), hearing the family's confession. Her cup had definitely runneth over.

Jack, alarmed, muttered, “I will call a doctor.”

“No, no.” Vanessa got a grip on herself and reduced her output to a few snickers. Jack c+ontinued to look wary. She took a deep breath. “I am not hysterical. I just find I no longer care and I can look at this whole….affair? would you say? as a comedy of errors. If I saw this in a movie it would be funny.”

Jack squinted his eyes. “What do you mean, funny? I don't see anything funny about my family setting us up for a romance.”

“Well, you're a man and your pride has been hurt.” Vanessa smiled, her eyes twinkling.

He crossed his arms across his chest. “My pride has not been hurt. But I can find my own dates.”

“Yes, I hear you've done very well in that department.”

Glowering, he asked, “Are you laughing at me?”

“Of course not. But you do look cute when you're mad.”

“I am not mad. And I do not appreciate your condescension.” He put out his hand. “I came to apologize and we have gotten sidetracked. Please forgive my family for their idiotic behavior.”

She put her hand out to shake his, but instead he grasped her hand, gave her a long look and pulled her to his chest, quickly putting both arms around her to hold her. 

“What are you doing? Are you crazy?” she muttered, her face pressed into his white shirt.

He stroked the top of her head, “Your hair is very soft. I've wondered what it would feel like.”

Despite her shock, Vanessa felt herself melting into him. It'd been a long time since she was this close to a man. And although he was irritating as a speck in the eye, he was cute, even when he wasn't mad.  Just as he bent his head to brush her lips with his lips, the door flung open.

Vanessa! I have arrived.” It was her mother, wearing a pink and green silk dress that +skimmed her slim figure. Obviously made to order in Bangkok.

Vanessa shoved Jack away. Her mother was not going to think her wretched plan had succeeded. Planting her fists on her hips, she glared at the happily smiling woman. “What are you doing here? You have some nerve trying to set me up with this egotistical cook.”

Jack growled. “I am not a cook, I am a chef.”

Her mother waved her hand towards Jack as she continued to face her daughter. “Have you forgotten what next Thursday is?”

“Don't tell me it's your birthday, because I know it's in July. I could never forget that since you're the quintessential Leo. And next Thursday is still November.”

“Yes but it's the fourth Thursday of the month. It's Thanksgiving.” Her mother turned to beam at Jack. “and I'm here to help my good friend, Michelle Sevigny, celebrate.”

Jack muttered. “This is France. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving.”

“Well, you will next week.”

“Americans!” Jack shook his head and left mother and daughter to it.

Vanessa and her mother hugged. Mrs. Tippett then asked her daughter to tell her everything she'd left out of her emails and phone conversations.

Although she still thought her mother should have been more honest with her, Vanessa was relieved that she had someone, besides Sylvia, to help her deal with the maddening Sevigny family. She went over everything that had happened since she arrived in France, including the terrifying dog-napping of Charlie and the humiliating lavender cooking contest. “How could you do this to me? Don't you love me anymore? And by the way where's Dad?”

“Of course I still love you. You're my only child and I want the best for you. I've known Jack all his life and he's a good guy. Michelle and I thought we'd just give you both a little push in the right direction. Like all men, though, he has his rough spots. Which speaking of, Dad's at the local barber. His hair and beard grew a little too au naturel in Thailand. I thought he should get spiffed up before he showed up at the Chateau.”

“This has been a very upsetting day for me and now you drop in like a punctured blimp.” Vanessas wasn't about to let her mother get off with just a nice hug.

Her mother frowned. “A punctured blimp? Punctured maybe, but I resent being compared to a blimp.”

“I'm sorry.” Her mother'd just flown thousands of miles from her Thai adventure to spent Thanksgiving with her. She should appreciate the effort. Although the lavender cooking contest was outrageous, Vanessa admitted that her mother did have her best interest at heart and told her so.

At dinner that night, an effervescent Lucy told them amazing stories about American attempts to have a traditional turkey dinner in France. Once an ex-pat couple invited French friends for such a dinner at five o'clock in the afternoon, the time they'd always had it back in America. Their guests had thought the invitation was just for early cocktails and were surprised to learn they would be eating so early, since they had just finished a regular, four hour, French lunch. Another American ordered a twelve pound turkey but with the language confusion got a twelve kilo, or twenty seven pound bird that would not fit into a small French oven.

Lucy added, “However, Americans in Paris no longer have to worry abut the proper ingredients. An enterprising young woman now runs 'Thanksgiving,' a store dedicated to American food products, including,” Lucy made a face, “canned cranberry sauce.”

Mrs. Tippett said, “I'm sure we won't have any disasters with Jack as our chef. And with me giving him precise instructions.”

Jack, who'd been persuaded to join them at the dinner table that night, looked like thunder. Vanessa thought his dark look did not bode well for the coming Thanksgiving dinner.

To be Concluded December 1, 2015