French to English Translations :
The morning had gotten off to a rough start for Rose. She had slept in and gotten a late start to shopping, limiting her grocery selection au marché. On top of the numerous changes to her shopping list, she was having a terrible hair day and ended up pulling her hair back into a ponytail, but her bangs kept falling into her eyes. Despite all her frustration, she was determined to keep a positive outlook for the rest of the day. After stopping à la fromagerie and having to make yet another switch on her list, she headed to Remy’s to put a smile back on her face.
As she walked, she grew more and more irritated every time her uncooperative bangs fell into her face. She hit her limit of annoyance when something kept shining in her eyes from a shop window. Looking up, she found the source coming from La Mine, le magasin de bijoux. A young woman with short, black hair pulled back with a bright red bow was rearranging the displays. Rose had never seen her before, but La Mine was an older store. It was owned by seven brothers that Rose knew, but not very well. They tended to spend time to themselves because they were self-conscious of their height. For lack of a better term, everyone referred to them as Les Nains. She decided to stop in since she enjoyed knowing everyone who lived in Domfront.
“Bonjour! Sorry for accidentally blinding you. Ces joyaux are more brilliant than I realized.”
“Ne vous inquiètez pas.” Even in her bad mood, watching how flustered the woman seemed brought a smile to her lips. “Are you new to town? I’ve never seen you before.”
“Oui. Je m’appelle Dahlia. I just got here a few days ago.”
“Je m’appelle Rose. What brings you to Domfront?”
“Oh, I just needed to get away for a bit. I’m staying with some of my best friend’s relatives.”
“How long do you plan on staying?”
Her face fell as all the enthusiasm drained from it. “I don’t know yet.”
“Oui, je le comprends. I’ve been here for longer than I can remember. I live with mes tantes and I work in their shop, La Robe Rose, to send money to my family back home. I don’t know when, or even if I’ll get to go back home. Don’t take that the wrong way because Domfront is the most wonderful place, but it would be nice to actually live with my family.” After a quick pause to think back to how it was being friends with her sisters, she felt an impulse creep up inside her, so she sucked up all her courage in her lungs with a deep breath and asked a question she had never asked before. “Voulez-vous sortir aujord’hui?”
Dahlia’s face brightened with excitement. “Vraiment?”
“Ouai. I could show you around Domfront. To be honest, you are the first person around my age that has ever lived here. I know everyone, but I’m not really friends with anyone.”
“It sounds like fun, Rose. I haven’t been able to see Domfront at all.”
“Well, let me drop off the groceries and I’ll come back.” Dahlia’s genuine excitement and her overbearing friendliness lightened Rose’s stress as she postponed her stop à la pâtisserie to unload her grocery bags as quickly as possible. She told her aunts about Dahlia, and though at first they seemed nervous, when she told them that she was staying with Les Nains, they were comfortable enough to let her go out for the day with a stranger. As always, their permission was followed by Faline’s usual, “Be home by 22 heures.”
“Toujours, Tante Faline.” Rose responded as she headed out the door with her green purse slung across her body and her favorite blue and pink scarf around her neck. She stopped inside La Mine and headed out with Dahlia after a quick meeting with two of the brothers, Prof and Tim, as they referred to each other. She discovered during their brief conversation that they used to be good friends with her aunts. Rose decided to show Dahlia her favorite spot first au Château. As they walked, Rose asked, “So how did you come to know Les Nains?”
“Les Nains? Oh! You mean les Mineurs frères, the owners of La Mine. They are cousins of some close family friends, les Victoires. Madeleine kind became family after ma mère passed away. Her husband and mon père work together in the military, so I grew up with their son Florian.”
“Florian? Is he your best friend?”
“Ouai.” But her smile told much more about their relationship than her words could convey.
“Je le comprends. He’s that kind of friend.” They giggled.
“Not officially. We grew up together. We lived next to each other. We were always in école together. He was always there, and then he left for la Marine Nationale, just like nos pères. It was so strange without him. Then one day he came home and things between us had changed. I guess things had to change because we had been apart for so long. But when I saw him in that uniform, he wasn’t cet enfant I grew up with. He was a man.”
“C’est doux. I wish I had a story like that, but at the rate I’m going I’ll live out the rest of my life here in Domfront, never meeting anyone my age. I’ll never get married.” As they approached le Château, she saw something that made her stomach jump up and fall flat. “Oh no.”
“What?” Dahlia then spotted the thing that caused Rose so much anxiety as he waved and approached them. “Qui est-ce?”
“He’s no one. Just un homme I met about a month ago. I had no idea he would be here. He just randomly shows up and spends time with me.”
“Rose! I was starting to think you had abandoned your pear tree for a better reading spot. Apparently you abandoned your books instead. Qui est-ce?”
“Je m’appelle Dahlia. And you are?”
“Phillippe. Enchanté, Dahlia. I’m a friend of Rose.”
“So he’s that kind of friend?” Dahlia winked at Rose.
Rose’s cheeks turned slightly pink. “Phillippe, I had no idea you would be here today. Dahlia’s new to Domfront so I’m showing her around. Please do not try to run her over.”
Phillippe laughed at her joke while Dahlia scrunched up her eyebrows in confusion, so he explained, “We met because I knocked her over while she was walking backward.”
Dahlia mouthed the word, “Oh.” After seeing how uncomfortable Rose was, she leaned toward him and asked, “Would you care to join us?”
“Mais, oui! Thank you so much for offering.” He turned to Rose and added, “I like her. You should bring her around more often.” And with that he took both their arms and prompted Rose to begin her tour.
The tour concluded with lunch at Rose’s favorite restaurant, la crêperie. Phillippe insisted on paying for everyone. Once lunch was over, Dahlia excused herself to finish moving into her new apartment and left Rose and Phillippe alone. As they walked casually back to Rose’s tree, he asked, “So what makes le Château de Domfront so special?”
“Well, there are somewhere around 100 châteaux in Normandy alone, but most of those are modern and built for comfort or as hotels for tourists and not what a traditional château was built for. This one was a huge part of history. It was sieged by Guillame le Conquérant. It’s a symbol of his reign.”
Phillippe cut her off. “You said all that during the tour. What makes it so special to you? Why do you come here all the time?”
“Oh. Um...Je ne sais pas.” She didn’t have an answer for that. “I guess it’s just amazing to see how such a structure that was revered for it’s power and stability has been overrun by nature. It’s kind of astounding to think about. Le terre won a long battle against human creation. What does that say about life, power, and human kind? It’s all so éphémère.”
“How do you do that? You take something so simple and turn it into some crazy, incomprehensible concept. You view the world in such a way that I will never understand. C’est incroyable.”
Rose was uneasy with the way he was watching her. His hazel eyes were so intense.
“You know so much about everything, yet you view the world almost with fear.”
“I guess that’s what happens when you only get to view the world through books rather than actually experiencing it.”
“Speaking of books, what happened to them?”
Rose guiltily smiled and pulled out her copy of Les Trois Mousquetaires from her purse. “I will always have my books. That’s another reason why I come here so often. It’s much more interesting to read outside in nature than to read inside some stuffy room somewhere.”
He laughed. “I should have known.”
Looking at le Château, she remembered a conversation they had during the picnic he brought last time he came to visit. “Two weeks ago you mentioned believing in magic. I think part of the reason I like it here is because it kind of feels magical that it has lasted for so long. I can almost believe that it was once the setting for a fairy tale.”
He smiled. “I guess if magic did exist, it would want a setting that felt familiar. It would exist in a place similar to the places where it thrived in stories.” After a period of silence he added, “I’ll let you enjoy your books. À bientôt, Rose.”
She waved as he turned and walked away before heading off to her tree. Looking at the autumn leaves, it struck her how similar they looked to Phillippe’s eyes. The brown had cracked, allowing some green to leak in to fill in all the little crevices. That led her to think of what Dahlia would say if she heard that thought. She was so outgoing and talked so much. She was fun. They would have to spend more time together.