It all started a few miles from Bordeaux.
There was a small village located fifty kilometres from Étang de Batourot. The streets were cobbled. The small, rustic-looking houses were white painted, the doors were carved in wood and each property was bordered with a fence of the same material. There was a square in the center of the village, in which there was a marked from wich women entered and left carrying their purchases in paper bags and some woven baskets. To the right of the marked was built a small but beautiful church. There were pigeons on the belfry and some people listened from outside to the eucharistic celebration. On the left, a small school surrounded by other busy businesses.
There were horses and donkeys walking around the streets.
And there was a house that was built on the outskirts of town, a few meters from a small stream. It was single-storey and the facade was painted in blue. It had few, but large Windows, covered with white curtains.
That morning, an elegant black car with polarized crystals came to town, calling the attention of the neighbors.
The vehicle parked in front of the doctor’s office, wich was connected to a smal pharmacy. There was a dark, plump man dressed in a black color stripe suit. The first thing that drew attention to him was his prominent nose, whide and with the foses looked like a pig. The man approached wheezing to the vehicle. From the driver’s side came a guy wearing smoked glasses. The guy opened the back door. Three people came out of the vehicle.
The first was a man of wide back, tall and burly. His skin was white. His hair, straw-colored, was combed backwards. His traits, angled. His green eyes were hidden behind the golden-rimmed glasses. He was wearing a black suit, and wore a neatly buttined shirt, adorned with a wine-colored tie. He wore a pair of perfectly polished moccasins. His expression was cold and indifferent.
The second person was a beautiful woman. Her skin matched with her long chestnut hair that fell like a waterfall by her back. She had a small nose. Big gray eyes. She wore an elegant and simple brown dress with a neckline that left bare a part of her chest, with curves perfectly remarked. She had a curious and mischievous look.
And the last one was a ten years old boy, thin and of average stature. On his face he hightlighted a warm look, with a mischievous and innocent glow. His hair was short and brown. His eyes were olive-colored. On his cheeks he sketched a slight blush, and that bestowed a touch of tenderness upon him. He wore only a t-shirt, jeans and shiny and impeccable Nike shoes.
The plump man held out a hand towards the burly man.
“Welcome to Le Village de Tulipes. You must be the doctor…”
“Montalbán”, the man completed, shaking his hand. “François Gérard Montalbán.” He pointed to the woman with a nod, and said: “This is my wife, Marie Claire.”
“Nice to meet you, madame Montalbán”, the plump man said, shaking the woman’s hand. “My name is Pierre Gaudet. I’m the mayor of the town.”
“The pleasure is mine, monsieur Gaudet”, Marie Claire replied.
“And this is my son, Jacques”, François concluded.
The boy smiled, and Gaudet did it so.
Thereupon, he advanced wheezing to point out the medical office with a gesture of the head.
And, without erasing his smile, he said:
“Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s ready for next week’s opening.”
“Is the house that we will occupy already ready, monsieur Gaudet?” François said.
“In full condition to be inhabited”, Gaudet said servilely. “You can move in this week.”
“It is a picturesque village, monsieur Gaudet”, Marie Claire conceded. “Although the idea of moving here worries me a little.”
“May I know what you mean, madame?”, Gaudet said.
“Are there schools in this place, monsieur Gaudet? You will understand that our son needs to continue his studies.”
“There is a good quality near the church”, Guadet said.
“That is debatable, monsieur Gaudet”, François said. “Are you going to take me to see that important patient?”
“Yes, doctor”, Gauded replied. “His name is Raoul Pourtoi. He lives with his wife, Odile. And his daughter, Apoline.”
“What is his situation?”, François asked.
“He’s got a broken leg. It’s a big problem to have a lack medical support in the village, especially for them.”
“Why?”, Marie Claire asked.
“They are by far the poorest family in the village. Raoul is a mere farmer. Their income is scarce as all products are provided by trucks coming from Bordeaux. Odile is a housewife who occasionally comes to the square to sell handicrafts that she manufactures with her own hands. And Apoline, well… She’s just a little girl.
“Fine. I want to meet them”, François announced. “Could tou tell me the way, monsieur Gaudet?”
“It will be a pleasure”, the alluded smile.
They crossed a dirt road that led them to the little house near the stream. Marie Claire looked at her rapt. A humble but cozy house, she thought. Marie Claire and Jacques took time to admire the environment and inhale the fresh air. The woman smiled.
“Do you like the place?”, her husband said, surrounding the woman’s waist with one arm.
“It’s beautiful”, she said.
They followed Gaudet to the door. The man called, knocking on the dooy with his obese knuckles. The answer was immediate, as a woman opened the door. She was brunette and wore a long ponytail. Her beautiful hazel eyes were hiden behind a pair of half-moon glasses.
She was wearing a dress and an apron of impecabble whit lace. She wore a pair of leather shoes, old and worn. She was drying his wet hands with a small red towel.
“Good day, madame Pourtoi”, Gaudet greeted with a smile.
“Good morning, monsieur Gaudet”, she replied. “What can I do for you?”
“Allow me to introduce Dr. François Montalbán and his wife, Marie Claire.”
“Nice to meet you”, Odile smiled while shaking their hands.
“And this is our son, Jacques”, Marie Claire announced, pointing to the boy.
“He’s charming”, Odile conceded.
Jacques smiled to her.
“Where is your husband, madame Pourtoi?”, François asked.
“Raoul is in our room. Please, come in.”
“Can I wait in the car?”, Jacques asked, giving a tug to his mother’s dress. She repressed it with a stern look, so the boy added: “Please…”
“A little fresh air would not hurt you”, his father said.
“Just don’t go away”, his mother added.
“You may meet my daughter”, Odile said. “She was playing near the stream.”
Jacques nooded. He bade farewell with a smile, and withdrew. The boy walked slowly towards the brook.
The fresh air was nice. He was looking to trees growing on the other side of the sream. He took a pebble from the ground and kept it in his pocket. And when he looked up, he saw her.
There, kneeling beside the crystalline water line, was a little girl. Jacques guessed immediately that she was his age. Her hair was long and straight, black and falling like a waterfall by her back. In her childish face were sculpted traits as fine as those of a porcelain dool. Hazel eyes. Shi nibbled a leaf torn from some tree with her little splintered teeth. The little girl was trying to build a mountain of peebles.
Jacques smiled and approached her, saying:
“What’s your name?”
Upon hearing him, the little girl ended up knocking down her pebble mountain with a clumsy movement of her hand. An intense blush appeared on her cheeks. Jacques knelt down beside her and helped the girl to rebuild the mountain.
“I’m sorry”, Jacques said.
“It’s okay”, the girl answered.
The pebble mountain rose again. Jacques shook the the dirt from his knees and held out a hand to the girl. She thanked him with a smile.
“My name is Jacques. Jacques Zaccharie Montalbán. What’s your name?”
“Apoline. Apoline Pourtoi.”
“Nice to meet you, mademoiselle Pourtoi”, Jacques said with a smile. And In a sweet outburst of gallantry, he took the hand of the girl to kiss her knuckles.
“You must be madame Pourtoi’s daughter”, Jacques continued. “I’m the son of the new doctor. François Montalbán. We’re moving here this week.”
“Do you come from the city?”
“I’ve always wanted to go there! Madame D’Compt, the school librarian, has shown me pictures of the Tour Eiffel. I’ve always wanted to see it by myself…”
“From our apartment in Paris you can see the Tour Eiffel so close that you can touch it.”
“Paris must be a beautiful place…”
“It is. But it doesn’t compare to this place. I’ll be like going on vacation!”
“How long are you going to stay?”
“I’m not sure…”
“Well… If you stay, we could be friends. I can show you the town. And you could tell me more abour Paris…”
“That sounds fun.”
At that moment, they heard a voice behind.
“Jacques, it’s time to go! Monsieur Guadet will take us to our residence!”
It was Marie Claire’s voice. Jacques smiled at his mother and dedicated a warm look to Apoline.
“Excuse me, I have to go”, he said.
“We’ll talk another time”, Apoline smiled.
Jacques returned the gesture. Again he took the hand of the girl and gave her a kiss on her knuckles. She blushed and Jacques ran along with his mother. Marie Claire, Jacques, François and Gaudet boarded the caer and moved away, lifting a cloud of dust behind their backs.
Thank you for reading!