A short story for your coffee break.
The road wound around the village like a belt. The houses tumbled around the hillside like unkempt locks of hair. John had read in the guide book that in Medieval times the village had prospered thanks to its olives, wine, jasmine and roses.
Nowadays however it is mainly known for its gastronomic restaurant. Well certainly some of the olive trees could have been there for a thousand years and the heady scent of jasmine and roses still filled the late Summer air.
As he neared the top of the village he entered a little square and paused to admire the view. From the guide book he'd learnt that Village Perché meant it was perched on top of a hill. It made him think of budgerigars.
He looked at the address that his mother had given him but just at that moment a grey wooden door flew open and an old man appeared waving his arms and a red and white striped walking stick. He was wearing a red and white striped t- shirt to match and beige chinos. His tawny face had never seen any SPF and was wreathed in smiles.
'You must be John! You look just like your mother. What a girl eh? She was the only woman who could have made me want to settle down.She was magnifique! '
He lowered his voice and leaned towards John.
'My brother Bernard was in love with her too, it would have been too much for him.'
The old man seemed to blush under his tan .John didn't like to think what his mother had done back in the Seventies to be causing such excitement after almost forty years.
'Yes I'm John and you must be Jean-Marie. It's a pleasure to meet you.'
Another old man appeared from inside the house and offered a thin wrinkled hand.
' I am Bernard, pleased to meet you.'
The men smiled at each other and then beckoned John in. They showed him to his room and told him to makehimself at home and then come down for dinner.
Over coffee they rang John's mother on Skype.
'Oh Maggeee you are still so beautiful . Where have all the years gone. Look at us !! Two old men who misspent their youth. Now we will look after your delightful son.'
John looked in alarm as the coffee cups clattered and saw that Bernard's hand was trembling. Both men looked like teenagers in front of his mother's bubbly charm. Oh she hid her grief so well. He knew she instinctively did it for him.
'Now you two old flatterers I need to speak to my son alone.'
Jean-Marie and Bernard moved to the kitchen to clear up and John turned to the screen.
'Remember John you must think about what you want. You can't have Rosie back anymore than you can Mike, or we can have Dad. You must decide what you want. Do you want to hold on to resentment and bitterness ? Do you want to cause pain and hurt to get revenge? We all love you and miss you, but the doctor said a change would do you good'
John let his mother ramble on. she sounded like the self- help books that she was so fond of buying. He could just imagine her asking a shop assistant if they had one titled':
'How to help your son find joy in life again after his dad died, his best friend from school died and his wife and his colleague decided they were made for each other,while you at the same time are trying to keep going having lost your own beloved husband.'
John said goodnight to his mother and told her to send his love to his sister Fiona , husband Paul and little Millie, just five .
That night John lay awake listening to the unfamiliar sounds that the old house was making, creaking and sighing with the memories of its past.
Six months ago he had a father, a best friend, a beautiful wife and a friendly colleague. Now they'd all left him.Well the colleague, Sam, hadn't left him. They still worked in the same Solicitors practice in the small Warwichshire town where John had grown up. A couple of weeks ago John had flown at Sam in front of the secretaries and had had to be held back by Mr. Henshaw the Senior partner. Then he'd called one of his clients a greedy cheating tart and Mr. Henshaw had taken him aside.
'John, a divorce lawyer must be detached from his client's situation. Maybe you could have a six- month sabbatical to get things in perspective '
John didn't see how he could get things in perspective any more than they were, horrible. He went to the doctor to get permission to have time of work.
'You might be depressed. Take these tablets '
John wanted to throw the tablets at the doctor and call him a smug so-and-so.
That evening his sister invited his mother and him to dinner. His little niece Millie wanted him to read her a story.
As John turned the pages of the story book tears ran down his face. Thei little girl looked at him in distress then threw her arms round his neck and called out
'Uncle John needs kisses and cuddles.'
It was his mother's idea then , that he should go on holiday.
'A change is as good as a rest John. You need to make new memories, happy ones. You need to heal your heart . '
She said that he needed to go somewhere that he'd never been before, but where he'd be somehow protected and safe. She said she knew just the place.