Today is my seventh anniversary. Not at marriage but divorce. I look forward to this day, not because it reminds me that I hoped something better for myself but because it taught me that I needed to stop. I am sitting at a coffee shop in Dinan, Brittany which is the north of France. It’s called Clafoutis and it serves the best Kouignn-Amann, a delightful mix of butter and sugar: my tertiary reason to come here. Dinan, as by locals and tourists is considered a village celebrating French fairy tales unlike my failure of ‘they lived together, happily ever after’.
“Another year eh”, said Ruth who works in this café. She has been an annual companion; we couldn’t pass the language barrier but she might be the wisest woman I’ve ever known. She had experienced eighty years of her life and at every wrong turn, she fought. I admire her but dare I say, she’s not very chatty.
“How could I not?”, I said. Ruth smiled. Every year on the second of October since my marriage, in the midst of falling leaves and apple ciders, I fly from Boston to Dinan.
I’ll be here soon, Dinged my phone with Will’s text.
“Will?”, asked Ruth while preparing her finest americanos for me. She knows my habit of constancy and hence my coffee.
“Yes, he’d be here in ten minutes.” Will has his fair share of the story as mine. Actually, we’re part of the same one. He is also my primary reason to come here. Ruth once compared us to French angelfishes. “Always together for life”, She had said. I agreed. Will did too.
“Bonjour!”, Will entered carrying a bottle of Roussillon Red. Huffing and puffing. He definitely took the wrong bus first.
“Ah Ruth!”, said Will while giving her a cheek kiss, or as he would say ‘La bise‘.
“I missed you” said the both of us in unison while relaxing in each other’s arms.
Even though he was half English, everything about Will was French. Minus the flakiness. He didn’t have that.
As we sat by the corner, Ruth came out with few drinks for us to taste. The second time we came here, when this café demanded something new, Will and I came up with an idea to create autumnal drinks to help Ruth. My secondary reason to come here. She wanted to change the orders every fall. The first time we had added flavoured spirit to the classic damson gin. Although, the fan favourite which Ruth very kindly continued would have been the slow cooker mulled wine. Will had suggested to add fragrant star anise and cinnamon sticks. This time, Ruth came up with her own. She mixed toffee syrup with Somerset brandy and a bit of cider. She wants us to try first.
“Exclusive huh”, I said taking the first sip.
Yeah. The Wisest woman ever.
“Oh, mon Dieu!” Will exclaimed and I smiled at his site.
I met Will when I came to France to pursue philosophy. I loved the idea of living in a pied-a-terre in the city of Paris. I wanted to try that life. Will liked Paris but without the Parisians.
“You have a peculiar nose”, he had said on our first date. I had been warned against the French honesty but this was brutal. It’s their vice. Although, when he told me that he loved me, I knew it was the truth and that it was mutual. Will asked me to marry him after six years of being together. We were happy. He was the kind of person who wanted to build a home, raise a family and struggle together. It scared me but I was so in love and too facile. I compromised. I was initially going to move to Boston but here, with Will, it felt like home. We got married and I cooked and scrubbed. Will helped but he had his job. I was still looking for one.
Sometimes, a person wants to end a relationship but sometimes they have to. As for me, it was both. After Will’s persuasion, I had applied for a Carte de sejour. It ensures an immigrant’s legal residency in France as my student visa had expired. Although, it was rejected. I didn’t have the required income and my savings didn’t count. Will wanted me to be his assistant. There was nothing wrong with that. It felt like a modest presage to my ethics and I just didn’t major in philosophy to work under someone. I wanted to explore, to write, to meet people. The marriage favoured him and I felt trapped.
When we ended our marriage, we knew it was important and nothing about it was malaise. Will and I decided to meet every year on this day, the 2nd of October. We didn’t choose our wedding anniversary. It just wasn’t about it rather it needed to be about a promise. Of wanting better. Of hope. Of our strengths in each other. Of knowing its futility.
“She says Papa more fluently”, Will says showing me pictures of his daughter. Florence. He had named her just like he promised me upon my suggestion. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I am happy.
“She is adorable! Look at her eyes, they’re just like yours.” Will laughed.
“Lily, I do want to ask you something”, He said sincerely.
“Ask away!”, I say staring at Florence’s beautiful eyes, still giddy.
“Could you accept the proposal of being her God mother?”
I know the answer. It’s a rhetorical question.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything right now. I’m sorry I rushed this but I couldn’t ask you on the phone and Marissa and I both wanted this. It’s okay if you don’t want to.”
“Will, you know I love you, don’t you?”
“Of course, I do. Merci.”
A marriage is not just about those two people but about their union. Together and separately. Irrespective of everything. For us, it drifted more towards him but it’s not entirely his fault. I allowed it. What a fatuous thing to do to oneself. I just never thought that there has to be a ‘someone’ in the end. We envision stability, we accept that marriage is the ultimatum before death and then we shame the opposition but what if it’s not?
Love to me is an ambiguous bond. That no matter what, if you truly love someone, cannot be broken. Not when you form an ugly pimple on your forehead and certainly not when you don’t want the same future. We chose Dinan because it represents an irony to us. Moreover, he had proposed to me here and for the first time, I had bent my morals. I love Will. I will always love Will and I know that he does to. There were days when I used to crave him but I know that I could just as easily live without him. With me. It really is a ‘happily ever after’.
One thought on “Dinan: A French Fairy-tale”
This has got to be one of the most beautiful pieces of short story. It’s different but genuine and I love how “Divorce” was not shown as something negative but instead a mutual agreement on hopes of something better.