Chere Julie, dear Jules. (Part 7)
Jules Lablagues xx
My dearest Julie,
Thank you for your letter. It is always such a pleasure to hear from you. I am sorry that my relationship with Jacqueline disturbs you but, as I have said before, there really is no need for you to worry. She sees me as a brother, almost as her twin. When we were much younger the adults forecast that one day we would marry but we would laugh at their suggestion. Last night, before we fell asleep, I asked her if she could ever contemplate marrying me and she listed a dozen reasons, in order of importance, why she would not. I was going to suggest that she stop sleeping over but after hearing her detailed and expansive explanation of why she did not want to marry me I felt it would be doubting her word to express my fears.
Congratulations on getting an order for a wedding dress. Maybe when others see your creation you will be inundated with requests. I would like to see a photograph of it. I am sure it will be very beautiful. It is very kind of you to make it at a loss out of sympathy for a poor family but you must not do it again or you will end up poorer than them.
You ask why I am Jules Lablagues xx and you are right to be confused. In France it is also normal for the eldest son to inherit the father's name but when Pierre was born my father was riven with doubts that it was his own son. He said that Pierre resembled Renaud the baker and not himself so he refused to hand on the name of Jules. When Jacques was born, he too resembled Renaud the baker but as Renaud is bald and has a babyish face it is not surprising. Most babies look like Renaud when they are first born. I was different in that I was born with a full head of fine black hair, my father's colour, and my paternity was acknowledged in that I was g iven the name Jules Lablagues xx. I hope this clears things up for you.
Pierre, who now looks more like my father than I do, resents the fact that I carry the name Jules and he has never acknowledged my existence. Last night we were eight sat down for dinner and Pierre constantly referred to the 'seven of us'. The other day he insisted on showing me his will again in which I am not mentioned. He changes his will frequently and is sure he will die young. He has always thought that but, as the years pass, it becomes less and less likely. He is still working on his life-size model aeroplane but it is far from completion.
Two days ago there was a fright in the house when my grandmother disappeared. At first we suspected Pierre of having hidden her but when he did not demand money for showing us where she was we knew that he had not. It is years since my grandmother walked very far unaided and so when we found her chair by the fire empty we thought she would be close at hand. You can imagine our surprise when we found her eating whitebait and drinking beer in a local village bar more than a kilometre away. We have no idea how she got there. She had been missing for more than six hours. We spent the first two hours looking all over the house and its immediate vicinity and then, after lunch, we spread the search further afield.
It was purely by chance that I found her in the bar. I had gone to notify the gendarmerie of her disappearance when I passed the cafe and saw her sat alone at a table with several empty plates and glasses in front of her. I paid the bill and it was obvious she had eaten at least a dozen plates of whitebait with the accompanying melba toast. You would think that the bartender would have more sense than to continue serving to an old woman who clearly did not know what she was doing. My father, who is renowned for his healthy appetite, would have great difficulty in eating a dozen portions of whitebait.
I also think it would be nice for us to meet and I have a suggestion to make. I will be spending a month with my English cousins in Buckinghamshire later in the summer and maybe we could meet then. They have a huge house and I am sure there would be a room for you. I will ask them if it is permissable for you to pay a visit.
In answer to your query as to whether things have changed much around here since I was a child, I must confess that they have not changed at all. I imagine things are quite the same now as when my father was a boy. Some of the trees in which he climbed have gone but others have taken their place. Most of the people I knew as a child still live close by. My father says there are less trout in the stream than when he was younger but there are still more than enough for our needs. It must sound very boring to you whose life has seen so much change.
You were right to imagine that Odile was disappointed when the end of the world failed to materialise but she wasted no time in entertaining regrets and immediately chose another religion from the list of ten thousand that she has and, for the past couple of days, she has walked around naked. I do not yet understand the purpose of this. I must remember to ask her.
The gardener has just arrived to tell me that the old elm tree has fallen. It was very very old and could be seen from everywhere on the estate. I have just looked out the window and it is strange to see a skyline without the old elm. It is very very sad and I must curtail this letter and share the news with my father. I do not know how he will take it.
13 Beach Street
My dearest Jules,
I dont know what to say. I would love to visit you at your cousins house but it scares me to death when I thinks about it. They sounds really posh with their own chef and everything and I'm not sure they wants someone like me to come visiting. I'm really working class and I'm not ashamed of it but I'm not so sure your cousins would be happy about it. I can talk a bit hoity toity if I wants to but I'm not sure I could keep it up for days. When I told my dad he said I should be proud of what I am and I am really because theres nothing wrong with it but I'm not sure your cousins would agree. There was a programme on the telly about stately homes and the people who lives there. They dressed up in their best clothes for breakfast and a butler rang a little bell. I've only got like two nice dresses and theyre not the sort of ones you'd normally wear at breakfast. When it came to lunch they was all wearing something different and again in the evening. They must have about fifty sets of clothes. I'd run out after the first day and a half. Sharons about the same size as me so maybe I could borrow something of hers.
Just one last thing. When you talks to them could you explain proper about me that I'm just ordinary. I wouldnt want them expecting a Lady or something or other and then getting me. I think it is best they are prepared for it.
That was terrible about your grandmother but alls well that ends well. Something the same happened with my gran. Somehow she got out of the Home without nobody seeing her but she was wearing only her knickers. She walked around town like that for an hour with nobody doing nothing and then someone called the police when she relieved herself on a flower bed. They took her to the police station and gave her a blanket but she wasnt charged with anything because they could see that she wasnt right in the head.
I was just thinking that if we gets to meet at your cousins house I hope they dont expect me to go horse riding because I've only ever ridden a donkey once at the beach and I dont even have the proper clothes. I'm not sure its a good idea for us to meet there. I dont even know how far it is to Buckinghamshire but maybe you could come down here for a couple of days. We cant put you up because we dont have no room but Mrs Costas across the road lets out rooms and I could talk to her. She dont charge too much and during the day I could show you around where I lives.
I'm glad you wasnt offended by me speaking openly about the Comtesse Jacqueline de Montfort but I had to say it. You put my mind at rest a bit but I am still a bit concerned. I'd like to know the dozen reasons why she wouldnt marry you. Thats a lot of reasons for not wanting to marry someone. Are you that bad. I bet I'd find it really hard to find more than one reason not to marry you and that it would be something to do with you and her. I think any woman would be suspicious of the situation. I know that she is French and you does things different over there but it still dont seem like normal. I dont know why it bothers me so much but I thinks about it a lot.
Sallys wedding is off. The man she was going to marry called Stan has been sent to prison for five years. She told me that the wedding has been postponed but five years is a long time to wait. Even with good behaviour it'll be about three years and thats still a long time. She's only known him for about six months but she says she's going to wait for him but it means that she dont want the dress for a while but she might marry him in prison. She's expecting his baby in a few months time so I can understand that for claiming benefits it would be better if they was married but she dont hardly know him really. During the time they was together he was out most nights so she only saw him now and then because he slept most of the day. If it wasnt for the baby I'd have said that she agreed to marry him just to get an engagement ring on her finger and everybody knows she was desperate to settle down and raise a family. The sad thing was that when Stan got caught stealing the police went to Sallys house and took the ring off her and said that it was stolen property and if she knew it was stolen she could get put away as well. You can imagine what that felt like with her being five months pregnant. Luckily they believed her when she said she didnt know nothing about it because she didnt want her baby born in prison.
It was Valentines day a couple days ago but I only got one card that thats one more than I got last year. Kirsty got six but then everybody knows her down at Daves club and I knows there are a lot of chaps that fancies her. I dont know how many people. I know who sent me my card and I wish he didnt bother thank you very much. It was Mr Johns whose first name is John but I've always called him Mr Johns since I was a nipper. He's really old and he's never been married and he lives with his mum. Some says they sleeps in the same room and I've heard the rumour that they sleeps in the same bed but thats only a rumour. Nobody ever goes into their house and his mum never goes out. She sits in the front window all day and looks out in the street and waves to people. I waves to her every time I goes past the house. I gets fed up with it sometimes when I goes past a lot of times because each time she waves and expects me to wave back. What I does sometimes is to walk around the block and come home the other way so that I dont have to pass her house. I knew it was him that sent the card because he signed it JJ. That was a dead giveaway. He's about as old as my dad and he's got his own table at the social club. He gets there before it opens in the morning and helps to clean the place and put out the ash trays and then sits at the same table all day until they closes at night and then he helps to clear up. Its not really his table I mean he dont own it or nothing but he's the only one who sits there. Nobody ever sits there with him and once he didnt turn up for three days and even though the club was really full nobody sat at that table and it stayed empty for three day. He eats his meals down there mostly pies and things. He's always inviting me to sit down at his table but I only done it once. He started saying the dirtiest things to me you wouldnt believe. I was gobsmacked. I got up and left but he started laughing really strange and licking his lips and staring at me so I had to go home. He still does that to me when I goes down the club which is not very often but I've got used to it and hardly notices anymore. He drinks cider and they says thats the reason. The cider they sells down the club is really cheap and its got bits floating around in it and Mr Johns is the only one who drinks it except for the schoolkids who goes around the back and gets bottles of it and drinks it down the park. I dont agree with it and I dont think they should sell it to schoolkids but they says that if they dont get it at the club theyll get it somewhere else and its better than going on drugs.
Sharon wants me to help her pick out some make-up because theyre having a sale in one of the shops. I dont use much make-up except when I'm going out and then I dont use much and I dont go out much anyway. One lipstick would last me for years. I got to go now. Please write back soon.
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