The following is an extract from Scorpion, one of the twelve short stories in Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel.
A long time ago, before I grew up, before I was married, before I had my children, my career and my mortgage, I worked as an au pair in Paris.
What was both a vain attempt to postpone real life and a more successful effort to aggravate my parents, I found work with the Charrons, a young family who lived in an elegant art nouveau apartment in the 9th Arrondissement. I arrived on a drizzly day in September with a suitcase full of clothes and a heart pumping romantic aspirations into my head.
I believed Paris was where I would meet my future French husband. Our paths would cross immediately: in the queue for passport control at Charles de Gaulle, or perhaps at the top of the Métro steps outside Gare du Nord. It would be the beginning of the rest of my life and it would be thanks to him that I wouldn’t have to return to a university course I was only partially interested in. Instead, we would lie entwined in bed for hours building the foundations of our happy ever after. We’d argue over future names for our brood of bilingual children, both hoping that they’d have my blue eyes and his brown hair. We’d talk about moving to the country to keep chickens and a fat, pink pig in the garden of a converted Burgundy farmhouse. Our first kiss would take place under the watchful arches of the EiffelTower.
I didn’t meet him on the day of my arrival, nor did I meet him on any other day after that.
My year in Paris was a gloomy one, tortured by grey skies and the mother of two slightly odd children. She nurtured both an eating disorder and a deep paranoia that her husband was having an affair. Her husband was a tall, jovial and charming man, who was almost certainly having an affair, or two. Their two sons, aged three and six, had many quirks – a tendency to grab my breasts at bath time and a habit of hiding food in their underpants – but they made my year tolerable as they grew loyal to me and I fell in love with their little French pouts and perfect side partings.
The highlight of my year in Paris was the summer we escaped. One day in early August, I helped Monsieur Charron pack up the family car – a Peugeot estate the colour of Nutella – and I dutifully sat between the squabbling Jean-Pierre and Marcel as we headed south.
The landscape changed rapidly and the clouds disappeared one by one. Slowly, promisingly, I watched France blossom into a country I thought I could love again. By the time the dry heat of the south flowed through our open windows, I was smitten.
“This collection of stories is like a blanket woven from 100% wanderlust under which you can hide as Frances M. Thompson tucks you in with her words and keeps you warm with her descriptions of characters you’ll love and places you can tell she knows by heart.” Gesa Neitzel, www.bedouinwriter.com
Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel is a collection of twelve quirky, charismatic and touching tales of travel.
The inquisitive Ruth tells the story of The Lost Children of Gatwick Airport and in Max’s Holiday we learn what a seven-year-old boy considers a “proper holiday” to be. In The Flowers Sleep Tonight, we meet Thomas and Carly, two solo travellers whose paths keep crossing… because that’s exactly what Thomas wants. A spontaneous plan to elope is revealed in The Runaways and Homes from Homes is about the lessons Patricia learns from the hotel bellboy she has a fling with. Oh, Henry is the story of how a dream holiday can mean two different things to two lovers and Katie’s Maps is an offbeat love letter to a vast collection of maps. Extracts from a travel journal tell one woman’s life story in All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles and find out what Australia and underpants have to do with Claudia wanting to leave her husband of forty years in The Road is Long.
From the unforgiving Australian Outback to the jagged beauty of the Amalfi Coast, along the pebbled beaches of Brighton & Hove and down the busy streets of late night Barcelona, this collection of short stories highlights how travel intersects and enriches all of our lives, often without us realising it…
“Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel transports you to exotic locales without leaving your armchair and leaves you wanting more… Frances M. Thompson has a novel in her and I can’t wait to read it.” Nathalie Harris, www.acooknotmad.com
Genre – Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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