Womans Weekly Fiction Special|July 2020
Françoise ran barefoot from the room, from the reception, with her brand-new high-heeled shoes clutched tightly in her hand. As she slumped into one of the nearest chairs on the empty vineyard veranda, the offending shoes slipped from her fingers and tears began to wet her cheeks. What have I done? she thought desperately – all she’d wanted to do was impress, but instead she had made herself a laughing stock in front of the assembled gathering – her employers, her workmates, the invited guests. But worst of all, before him.
She and Pierre had been friends at the local village school, and when she got a job at the vineyard his parents owned, she couldn’t have been happier. She couldn’t think of living anywhere else except this beautiful part of Provence, but now her dreams had been shattered. She knew she couldn’t stay, but where could she go?
She and Pierre had left school at the same time and had worked together for the last six years. All day, everyday, they had gradually learnt the job together; learnt everything, from looking after the vines to blending the wine. They had grown close and even Monsieur and Madame Tanguy treated her like the daughter they had never had.
But now, her idyllic life was collapsing around her. When did this all begin? Perhaps it was that morning when Pierre had met her with a broad smile on his face…
‘Françoise! Great news – my parents have arranged for me to go away on a viniculture course.’
With Pierre their only child, she knew that the Tanguys had always envisaged that he would take over the vineyard when they retired. Even so, his announcement came as a shock and for a brief moment the thought crossed her mind that maybe she could accompany him, but then she exclaimed, ‘Go away? How long will you be gone?’
‘Three months,’ he’d replied, smiling. ‘The course is in Beaune, I’ll be living in the college there.’
‘Three months?’ A crestfallen look replaced the smile on Françoise’s face.
‘They want me to keep up with all the latest techniques so we can be one of the top wine-growers in the area.’
‘I’ll miss you,’ she blurted.
‘And I’ll miss you too. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it when I come back.’
It was during Pierre’s seemingly endless absence that she had slowly realised that although she loved her job, her enjoyment largely came from working with Pierre. She couldn’t wait for his course to finish.
When he finally returned, he shared with her, as promised, all the new things that he had learnt. Then one day he revealed his new big idea – an idea that had led, little by little, to her humiliation this evening.
‘Françoise, guess what?
‘You know I’m no good at guessing, Pierre,’ she’d said, raising her eyebrows. ‘Just tell me.’
‘My parents have agreed that we are going to have a wine shop.’
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