US Kindle deal $1.99 5/1-5/31
Publisher Lake Union Publishing
US Kindle deal $1.99 5/1-5/31
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A tale of heartbreak and hope, amidst the beauty of the south of France. Setting up her easel in the same fields as van Gogh, Arianna searches her heart for permission to embrace the life ahead of her.
There was a buzz of agreement as they all looked around to note their surroundings. Bertram pointed to a nearby bar and said he would be waiting there. “Time for a nightcap.”
Juliette turned to Arianna. “Do you mind if I hug you?”
Arianna smiled, and before she could say anything, Juliette had her arms around her. “I have adopted the hug from my non-French friends. There are times when it is the only thing that feels right.”
Her eyes teary, Arianna thanked Juliette for encouraging her to let down her barriers. Then she repeated the Buddhist quote, saying, “Thank you for the gift of those words. I will work on that.”
As others meandered away, Arianna and the Mitchells strolled off together. “Join us for the best ice cream in town,” John said in an attempt to entice her.
“Seriously,” Joan muttered, rolling her eyes, “he has built-in radar for it.”
“We just finished eating an enormous meal,” Arianna protested with a laugh.
“So? Ice cream is a completely different matter. We all have separate ice cream compartments in our bodies. Don’t worry! You’ll see I’m right.” John chuckled heartily as Joan nodded at Arianna and smirked. Arianna couldn’t help but laugh too.
The streets were crowded now, with late-night diners walking off their rich meals, concertgoers heading to the Place du Forum for a nightcap or, like them, a visit to the glacier.
“You weren’t joking,” Arianna said to Joan as her husband soon had them joining a long line at a busy glacier artisanal on the far side of the square.
Giving her a knowing look, Joan nodded her head and pointed to the long list of ice cream and sorbet choices. “We were here Saturday afternoon. Never tasted better—”
John interrupted, a rapturous expression on his face. “In fact, we came back again that evening too. This is the work of a true master, a gold-medal winner in any competition. The classic flavors are divine, and the original creations even more sublime—lavande, figue, rose, violette, cassis, passion . . .”
With a theatrical pause, he cleared his throat before ending in a dramatically dulcet tone, “Et la spécialité de la maison—caramel au beurre salé!”
Joan laughed, fanning her face with her fingers. “Oh là là! There’s almost nothing sexier than Johnny reciting ice cream choices in French.”
He grinned with exaggerated false modesty. “It’s my best French. No question.” He lowered his voice a few octaves and growled, his eyes blazing with melodramatic sexual desire. “Joanie, mon amour, mon coeur. I’m saving a few for our boudoir, to whisper in your ear.”
Joan’s laughter ended with a loud snort, and they all cracked up. “That might have broken the spell,” she sputtered.
They walked down the pathway toward the Romanesque two-story square steeple rising above the trees. Arianna was disappointed that the massive flower beds were between seasonal bloomings.
She could imagine the color and fragrance they would add to the setting, although she felt some were modern additions to the vast property. It had been a surprise when Juliette informed them the newer building was still an active health institution.
How many patients find interest in knowing Vincent himself was a patient? I wonder if art therapy is offered here? In many ways, it’s art therapy that is helping me now, the life-affirming pleasure of making art.
A tour of the premises did not take long. One room was a reproduction of Vincent’s room, with a window overlooking a wheat field like ones he had studied and painted. There was lavender in one area now, and Arianna wondered if that had been added later.
Here and there a lone scarlet poppy stood out. Just to remind me, Arianna was certain.
She spent quite a long time at the window, consumed by her thoughts.
Bertram came back upstairs in search of her after the others had left.
“Are you all right?” he asked, slightly out of breath. “I suddenly noticed you were missing.”
“Oh, Bertie, I am so caught up with the ghost of this man. He has come alive in my mind, and I don’t want to leave him. Come look out this window. Can’t you just imagine Vincent leaning on a windowsill like this, contemplating . . . sometimes tormented, other times not. What thoughts did he have to create such powerful beauty in his work?”
“When I think of him and all the devils he fought, there’s one thought that has stayed with me.” Bertram let out a sigh and his voice was full of reverence as he uttered, “Vincent believed that art consoles those who are broken by life.”
They stood quietly looking out the window for several minutes. Bertram rested his hand on Arianna’s shoulder. She laid her hand on top of his.
“He certainly was broken, wasn’t he?” Arianna’s voice was barely over a whisper.
“Terribly,” Bertram replied, his voice tender and filled with emotion. “And perhaps we all are in one way or another. Maybe that’s why we are all here. Maybe that’s why we want to draw and paint and create.”
Arianna turned and looked into his eyes, pleased they were no longer puffy and bloodshot. He had come a long way on his own journey on this course. She felt such warmth for him now, after their rocky start almost two weeks before. She wondered if he knew how helpful he had been by sharing his personal story and encouraging her to “come unstuck.”
“Maybe, maybe,” she replied, “but nothing close to Vincent. And guess what? I don’t want to feel broken anymore. The poppies freed me.”
He leaned toward her and gently planted a kiss on her forehead.
“That’s very good news. I’m pleased to hear it. Vincent would be pleased, I’m sure.”
Arianna chuckled. “You’re too much, Bertie. Thanks for making me laugh. Now I need to lighten up.”
Market day proved to be as Juliette and Maurice promised: big, boisterous, and beguiling. The parking lot was already full when they arrived, and people were disappearing into the depths of the market.
Arianna watched locals stopping to chat in the midst of the activity. Woven market baskets, panniers, were set down for a few moments as bises and greetings were exchanged. Laughter and banter floated above the busy scene, the language spoken so quickly it was impossible for her to pick out more than a few words.
She stood by the edge of an olive vendor’s long counter for a few minutes, out of the way of the bodies milling around her.
Staring off at nothing in particular, she was lost in contemplation and memories, reminded of words Faith had said when Arianna was packing for the trip. She couldn’t recall now who her daughter was quoting . . . she chuckled thinking about all the books on positivity Faith slipped to her. But she did remember the sentiment.
“Step out of your comfort zone.” “Become at ease with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” I guess that’s what I’m doing.
A voice interrupted her thoughts. “Bonjour, madame. Vous désirez quelque-chose? You like something? Here! Goûtez! Taste this, if you please!”
The grizzled face of the olive vendor smiled invitingly at her as he stretched an olivewood ladle toward her. A delectable-looking large green olive was stuck on a toothpick.
“Oh, merci, monsieur! Mmmm, c’est delicieux!”
She promptly purchased more of those olives, along with some smaller black ones sprinkled with rosemary and some green ones mixed with oil and walnuts.
The entire display was irresistible. The vendor proudly posed as she captured several photos, once again confounding herself. I’m not a picture taker . . . or maybe I have to put that in the past tense now. It appears I am becoming one . . . .
The colorful, sizable ceramic bowls, each filled with a different selection of olives or tapenade, were too inviting to resist. Multiple shades of brown, green, golden, purple, red, and black olives sat in seasoned variations. Rustic clay jugs and glass flasks with olive oil, cider, or vinegar lined the top of the counter.
Images of still-life paintings filtered through her mind’s eye. Inspiration was everywhere. Arianna could feel the artistic flame deep inside her growing stronger. She was coming alive.
Arianna was surprised as the vendor weighed each olive bag carefully, told her the price, and then added a few more olives to each bag. “Un petit cadeau, ma beauté—a little gift.”
As her visit to the market progressed, she saw that this was quite a common practice among the sellers, adding even more friendliness and camaraderie to the business at hand.
She chuckled to herself, observing as she strolled that some of the bonhomie might have been enhanced by the bottles of rosé or pastis next to a torn fresh baguette that could be seen on a table behind the main counter of many stalls. Sharing a glass or two with a neighbor or regular customer seemed to be the norm.
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Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else. An admitted travel fanatic, she can pack a bag in a flash and be ready to go anywhere … particularly the south of France. With a focus on travel, women’s issues and ageing, her stories celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. Encouraging women of all ages to stare down the fear factor and embrace change, she has heard from readers (men too!) ages 20 to 83. Her award-winning debut novel The Bridge Club was published in 2010 and her second novel, The Promise of Provence was an Amazon Hot New Release in April 2013, a USA Best Book 2013 Finalist and a Literary Fiction Finalist, 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards. Promises To Keep was released in September 2014.