Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Desires of Desiree Fauchon (Conclusion)

     It was an easy go. By the time afternoon had come they had pedaled quite a ways, and found the inn they had been seeking, right off the throughway. They ordered chowders, and a pitcher of stout. By the time they finished, they were well warmed, and ready to deal with the headwinds they would face returning. But all went well. The sun shone and the headwinds were light. They made good time. When they got back to their inn, however, they had decided to call it a day for England.
     The entire ride back, through the tunnel again, Roget kept his silence. Trixeme played more T. Rex and Who over his car stereo, and once they were back in France, everything was again, all too weary and plain.
     “You can’t ever get away from yourself, however you try,” said Roget.
     “Ah yes” added Trixeme, but you can’t but cease trying. To get out of ourselves, off our fine comfort station, to risk, to give a chance that somehow something might turn out a little different, just for having tried?”
    “Perhaps I am just too world weary  now, only I have what I have long sought, a woman’s fine love. I will resign to whatever blessing that means. “
    “I am afraid they are always a lesson we are constantly learning, Roget.” Trixeme’s smug smile spoke of not more than his moment, reflecting on his now lost wager of a weekend.
     When the car pulled in at the cottage, Roget was puzzled. Here were two extra cars outside- Claudine, he recognized. But the other? He did not. They pulled their bags from the trunk, and Roget thought he could see a hand pulling aside the curtain for a look.
    “Oh we are back early. She was not expecting us so soon. Ah, well.”
    Roget drew himself up tall and opened the door. There in his easy chair sat Michel De Lamartine, smiling, enjoying a cup of hot coffee and a plate of madeleines.
Claudine beat Desiree to the introduction.
    “Roget, I would like you to meet a  friend of ours, Monsier Michel de Lamartine- the tennis…’
     “I am aware of who he is. What…”
     Desiree attempted an explanation, but Roget brushed her aside, headed into the kitchen, and poured himself a shot of Marnier. Trixeme sidled up beside him. “Another wolf on your hen, eh, mon ami? Not to fret. We shall make short work of him.”

     “Who does she think she is” fumed Roget, “Dredging up her old boyfriend as if nothing…”
    Desiree was now standing in the doorway. Her eyes a little downcast, but she realized she’d made a gaffe.              “Roget, I want you to know, there has been nothing here. Claudine just thought…”
     “Claudine, so, Claudine just thought. Claudine. So she is the one behind this! Claudine, decides you must make a fool of me in my own home! Look, there he sits, drinking my coffee, scarfing my madeleine! The pouf! This hurts, Desiree. I am giving you all I can give. And you let your little… ah what can I say. Where can I go?”
   Trixeme piped up- “Perhaps we can go for a walk along the shore…”
   Roget looked up. “Oui! Nous le ferons. venir, Trix, nous allons marcher le long du rivage. Et quand je reviendrai-je veux monsieru sortir de ma coquille oysterbed!” 
     And he grabbed his jacket, his scarf, and stormed from the house without a look behind.
    When they returned, of course, Lamartine had fled. Desiree had given him no uncertain warning, and of course, she was very sorry to have bothered him, she had no idea her husband would have become so jealous. But Claudine’s car remained, and Roget had all he could do to keep his temper as she and Desiree continued their conversations exactly as though Lamartine had never been there.
    But he did not notice, that while Desiree and Claudine held court, Trixeme had himself caught Claudine’s eye, and was in his own way, circling vulpine about her. He negotiated a calling card from her with her telephone number, and as mysteriously as Lamartine had dematerialized, Trixeme himself seemed to vanish from their presence. It was another two hours before Claudine herself had played out her string of tales, gossips, and intrigues, but eventually she too took off down the highway, headed back to Paris, and they were alone again.
    Roget lay silent in the bed, as Desiree cuddled up beside him. “You know I am only nuts about you and always will be, non?”
     “Non. I do not know this. I barely know what to say.” He rolled over and forced himself into the reserve of sleep.
     In the morning he was out the door without a word, driving to the office, where he was greeted by Marianne. He had barely noticed the curve of her calf within her stockings before, nor the way her hips were set just so, the way her hair fell in brown ringlets just past her shoulders. He made a pass. He was rebuffed. The very next day when he came back to his office he found a letter on his desk. It was Marianne’s resignation.
     Garconteaux was certainly going to be rather upset, but Roget noticed she had cc’d him as well. So he might have some explaining to do, when Monsieur Grand-G came this way again.
He could get by without Marianne. And he realized he was really playing another fool’s game in walking off in such a foul mood with Desiree. On the previous night when he arrived back home, she had gone to great length to make him feel as though he had become, once more, the king in his castle. But she could not yet crack his icy resolve, his determined ego, which probably required a little more subtlety than Desiree was currently capable of, at this particular hour.
    And just as though he might have predicted it, as he was musing on what Garconteaux might say, the telephone rang. And yes, the man himself on the other end.
    “Mobiele, I am so upset with you right now. Do you know how long Marianne has been a friend of my family? I gave her that job with you so that she might be able to spend some time away from her silly and ridiculous husband, who is not the gentleman. The reason she is so upset is that you, someone who has a committed and contented wife yourself, you are playing like a stooge on her vulnerable case. I do not want to lose you, Mobiele, nor drive you away, nor do I care to fire you. But you are walking on thin ice here, and you really must agree, no more will you play footsies and such games with your subordinates, do I make myself clear?”
    Roget had been trumped, put in his place, and of course, found a humble voice to apologize.
    "Of course, it will never happen again, sir. We have just been having some difficulties, my wife and I. I think perhaps this will all come out in the wash soon.”
     Roget, however, was not quite out of the woods yet. Not only had Marianne notified Garconteaux, but she had also undertaken to send a brief email off to Desiree.
    “Madame, your husband is making serious errors in his career and his position with me. I am his secretary- Can you believe this? Yesterday he comes into my office and sits down on my desk, right in front of me, as I am opening his mail. He tells me that I have beautiful eyes, and a fine and shapely body. Would I like to spend some time with him, oh, possibly, say, spend an afternoon at the seaside café, dining on lobster and some fine vintage? I am so embarrassed. You have no idea, Madame, what my own husband has put me through. I have come north here to get away from his cruel self, his beating me for no reason other than his stupid pride, his own position in life, he does not care. And I find your own husband is quite the raconteur himself, now I see! Mon dieu, are they all so easily distracted, are they all so numb to the feelings?”
     Desiree, for her part, was to say the least, more than a little annoyed to hear this. She had been doing whatever she could to keep Roget on her side, and had apologized profusely, explaining to him that her bringing Lamartine to Villers had really been Claudine’s idea. Nobody’s idea but Claudine’s. And now it was as though her own words had turned to dust within her mind, as though Roget had never heard her! Sneaking out on her – and his secretary, for Pete’s sake. As if he could only go for the easy throw, the cheap shot, the fast bet! Roget, oh, Roget.
     And so it was, that when Roget swung the Corvette he now leased up the highway around the last turn to the cottage, and saw the curtains drawn, and the fireplace blank against the sky, not a wisp hurling the promise of an evening’s contentment by the hearth, he had a feeling something was not settled well.
   Indeed it was not! Desiree launched into him no sooner than he had removed his cap, and set his coat on the hallway rack.
    “OOOH! I can’t stand this! How could you?”
    Feeling his best defense might be a pretense of ignorance, Roget put on a quizzical face.
   “How could I what, dear?”
    “Don’t give me that, ‘how could I what’ merde! You know well what I mean! You make advances on Marriane at the office! You have no shame?”
     “ I am sorry, Desiree. You drove me to it. You told that little sheepkin Lamartine while I was away, he could come by and foll and fiddle on his own. Well, I had to get even. But you are right. And you win.”
     “Damn right, I win! And you must no more make these, these embarrassing actions! After we invite Grande Monsieur Garconteaux into our little house and feed him on flattery and quinces, and you made such good progress with him…”
   “I know, I know, Desiree. He had me on the carpet this afternoon. I told you, I am sorry.”
    "Roget, I have been tearing my hair out over this all afternoon. Do you really love me?”
   “Yes, Desiree, I do. I know it seems stupid, but believe me, if that little rat had not shown up…”
    “Maybe you think you are less the man than him? Well I don’t believe that. And I told you, it was Claudine put me up to it.”
    “As it was Trixeme, put me up to a stupid trip to bloody old England to have “one last fling, old chap.”
    “And I would not be surprised…”
    The telephone rang. Of course, who might it be but Claudine. Roget rolled his eyes and laughed. As he sauntered to the refrigerator to draw himself a bottle of cider, he overheard Desiree’s side of the conversation.
    “Non! Really? You’re kidding! You are? He is? You mean that? Interesting. Well I suppose we won’t be seeing too much of you for a while, huh? Oh. You are. Oh. Well. Well it is pretty short notice. OK. Talk to you about it later. Hah. You too! Adieu.”
    Roget’s eyebrows rose with curiosity. Of course Desiree had to share.
    “She’s met the man. She says she has met her man. Finally. Well I suppose she can just have her cake and eat it…”
    “And this man?”
    “This man, Roget, is your own friend Tricycle.”
    Roget burst out laughing. “You are kidding!”
    “Would I?”
    “No, I guess not.” His eyebrows fell, again. “Well, wouldn’t you say…”
    “I know…”
They said it together-
     “They’re perfect for each other, aren’t they?”
  Laughter floated up the walls of the cottage and up out the chimney, where a passing gull passed it along.

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