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The Charming Mountain Goat – Betrayal

June 25th, 2011 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, South of France

The seasons of southern France have one strange characteristic. They arrive over night and consist either of summer or winter. The period of transience, when the leaves turn brown or the buds sprout is very brief and often even goes unnoticed. The chestnut tree that stands not fifty meters from here is bare-naked one day and then covered in leaves throwing its long refreshing shadow the next.

It is tempting to apply this observation as a metaphor to some of the events that are happening in our village.

Just over a year ago, our young neighbour Pierre the teacher died. It was sudden and violent and we all felt for Paloma, his bereaved girl friend.

Everyone rallied around her. The Reischs, a retired couple from Antibes became like parents to her. They took care of her dog, Chou-Chou, fed her, put up people who came to stay for the funeral and kept an eye on Paloma over the last 12 months.

Sandrine, the energetic 70-year old blonde widow across the road, has taken her to dinner dances. A young couple further down the road sat with her almost every night for a good four months. At times, we all wished they would be quieter since we needed sleep, but we felt that by letting her sit and talk out there every night until very early in the morning, we were also helping.

We have included her in get-togethers, had dinner with her, and aided her when we spotted a need.

Émile, our builder neighbour in his usual enthusiastic and helpful way, took care of Pierre’s motorbike and stored it in his own cellar. He was ready to help with complicated woodwork, running between his home next door and Paloma’s house opposite ours.

His common-law wife, Caroline and their daughter Manon live in the house next door. Émile and Caroline bought the four walls of the derelict building that had neither floors nor a roof and restored beautifully. Should Architectural Digest ever find out about it, it will be featured instantly.

Émile is a rare kind of man and probably the best neighbour both Lovely Husband and myself ever had. The very first winter we spent here, we left some logs of wood outside the house to cut up later at the end of the day. When we returned, Émile had chopped it up for us.

Another time, when Lovely Husband was ripping out an old kitchen in the house, Émile came in, took one look at the distressed wall and left. He returned a few minutes later to plaster the mess for us.

There are many people who have many similar stories about Émile.

So our little quartier was thrown into a speechless state of shock when a little over a week ago, Émile emerged from Paloma’s house early in the morning and returned there every night. Overnight, Émile was living across the road.

As always, our quartier observes, but there is no gossip. Caroline carries on with her life in a dignified way. Émile looks uncomfortable and sheepish. It feels as if his real self has departed on holiday. We are somehow expecting him back anon, but are unsure of the exact return dates.

Paloma hides. Last year, happiness was violently ripped out of her life. Now it appears she has torn apart someone else’s.

Sometimes we cross the line to the other side to step where the grass is greener. You turn back and see the trampled foliage you walked all over for some time.

As you marvel at the sight and your heart leaps at the fresh sensations ahead, you would never think of looking down.

Because if you did, you’d notice the flora your foot so recently joyfully tread upon already taking the same crushed shape as the expanse you left behind. And the baggage you took along is weighing down your new position.

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