Rating/Genre: pg-13/femslash, romance
Characters/Pairing: The Bennet family, Angela Petrelli, Peter, Nathan, Heidi, references to Claude, Arthur; Sandra/Angela (Angela/omc, Angela/ofc and Angela/Noah in the prologue).
Summary: Sandra has never won anything in her entire life, but one night, she gets a great surprise. This takes her, eventually, to the Petrelli estate in France…
Word count: 6 178
Spoilers/Warnings: None, pre-series/No, except that timeline is a bit off. Claude is still Noah’s partner, but I’m thinking that Claire and Lyle are maybe 13 and 12 years old.
Notes: Shameless romanticizing of Angela from Sandra’s point of view, with only as much sexy times as I managed to squeeze into it, sorry about that. Written for lynchgrrrl88 in exchange for her generous donation to waltzmatildah’s/fandomaid’s Fic auction for Flood aid for Australia.
Angela has a garden and a house. The house is big, but the size of the garden makes it look almost small. It’s more like a park, really, and they have gardeners who take care of it. And whenever Angela is there, she takes care of the roses, and she admires them, and looks at the trees… She walks around there during all hours of the day; she walks in the shadow of the big branches during the hottest hours, and she enjoys the lovely perfume of the roses at sunset, and she’s talking silently to the trees in the early dawn if she has had a night of insomnia or dreams.
Her garden is one of the best things Arthur has ever given to her. At first, she thought it was unnecessary to have such a big house if Europe, considering how little time they were going to spend there after all, but Arthur insisted that they had to have it, especially as she didn’t like the old place in Italy.
Arthur Petrelli was born in New York, like his father before him, but his grandfather was an Italian immigrant. He was not one of those people who came to America with the hope of a better and richer future for his family; he simply came looking for adventure, and that’s why he left behind a considerable inheritance in the old country.
The house in Venice has belonged to the Petrelli family for generations, and it means a lot to Arthur. But Angela can’t stand it; it is too gloomy and dark. Generations of dreams are stuck in the walls like voices from the past. Voices from the past are the last thing she needs.
So Arthur bought the house in the south of France as a gift for their third wedding anniversary, and many years later, she is still in love with the house and its surroundings. Especially the roses, and the trees. And the old village; she can’t see it from the house, but it’s there, within walking distance, if she wants it. Angela feels that she has to spend at least a month of the summer there ever year; if she doesn’t, it’s like there’s something wrong with the entire remaining part of the year.
The first time Angela made love in the garden was not with Arthur. Her husband has never cared much about the attendance of the place, but Angela wanted to learn right from the start, and there was a strong and tanned smiling Frenchman who was digging up flowerbeds, planting trees, and teaching her about roses.
It’s such a cliché, she told herself, but at the same time, she saw no reason why she shouldn’t let herself be embraced by those strong arms in the shadow of the bushes when the sun was hot up in the sky.
That gardener is long gone; the affair had lasted one summer, and when the roses faded, so did her passion. The fall and the winter in New York were spent by Arthur’s side as if nothing had ever happened.
Someone else who is long gone is the local jeune fille au pair who took care of Peter when he was a toddler. The girl, Juliette, had had the same sexy southern accent as that gardener more than ten years earlier; she had that very pronounced yet soft way of saying her ‘rrr’, and she said that Angela’s accent was that of a posh Parisian tourist.
Angela didn’t care what she said, as long as she said it in French and when no one else heard. Juliette had been so innocent and young. Angela only had to put her hand on her arm for a moment to make her blush; she only had to lower her voice and smirk a little to make the girl loose track of what they were talking about, and she teased her mercilessly by ‘unconsciously’ licking her lips with the tip of her tongue… The first time she kissed Juliette was one evening in June, in the dusky corner of the hallway on the second floor of the house, behind the half-open door of the bedroom where Nathan was reading Peter a story. The girl had been shy but not unwilling, and Angela made love to her the next day, and the next and the next, somewhere behind the tool shed while Peter was taking his midday nap.
Such things can happen in her garden, sometimes.
Even old acquaintances can drop by sometimes. Angela is reminded of that when she wakes up at night because of a rattle on her window. She is a light sleeper, if she doesn’t dream. She hears a soft whistle from the garden, resembling an old folksong. She doesn’t know any locals that would whistle outside her window like some old Occitan troubadour, not anymore.
She opens her window, because Arthur has had his own bedroom for decades now, and whispers out in the darkness of the night:
“Noah Bennet, what on earth are you doing here?”
“How did you know it was me?” says a familiar voice right below her; she looks down and she sees him close to the wall.
“Company business”, he goes on, “Claude and I are going to Marseille soon.”
“You don’t need to report to me”, she says, “and least of all in the middle of the night.”
“I know”, he grins. “I just thought I should come and see you, when I was so close. Can I come up?”
“No”, she snorts, “most certainly not. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Jump, then”, he says. “I’ll catch you.”
Angela is not going to jump. She closes the window, knowing that Noah won’t leave.
She sneaks down the stairs, barefoot, and goes out, meeting Noah on the lawn. He nods at her, courtly, and she nods back, consenting, and together they walk under the far-flung branches of the trees.
They don’t speak. They kiss. The night wind is cool and soft, rustling softly in the leathery evergreen leaves of the holly oaks. Noah follows when she drops to the ground, knowing that her skin will smell of Garden sage and Artemisia in the morning.
Such things can happen in her garden, sometimes. If she feels like it. She feels free there. The brick wall in one end of the garden, dew-dipped lavender, sometimes rain, the lovely scent of flowers and the first, cold blows of the mistral. Bushes and grass, stains of dirt, too. Thorny roses.
In the evenings, the trees are dark, massive silhouettes against the sky, and sometimes, she hears someone somewhere singing an old melancholy song in langue d’oc.
It was an ordinary Friday night; Noah was working late, Claire was at a friend’s house, and Lyle had done his homework and was watching TV with Sandra.
They watched a stupid game show where ridiculous people won ridiculous amount of money while the studio audience laughed and clapped their hands as if they were paid to do it – when in reality, they had probably paid to get in, to watch that perky young redhead run around in her mini-skirt while that sleazy old guy smiled his sleazy old smile, throwing bad jokes all around.
“Why are we even watching this bullshit?” Lyle asked idly, swallowing the last of the popcorns.
Sandra didn’t say ‘Language, Lyle!’ because she agreed with his choice of words, and she simply reminded him that the DVD player was broken.
“But we could always play Scrabble or something…”
“Nah…”, her son said, his eyes half-closed, and Sandra sighed.
There was that phone number on the TV screen again.
Call, answer a simple question, and if you got lucky, answer a few more questions in TV. And if you got really lucky, you could win a family trip to Hawaii or somewhere.
“What do you say?” she asked, “Do you think I should give it a try?”
Sandra had never won anything in her life. Well, except for when she won the heart of her husband, but… there hadn’t really been that much competition, so maybe it didn’t count. She had no expectations as she picked up the phone that happened to be within reach – she wouldn’t have had the energy to go all the way to the kitchen – and that’s why she couldn’t even believe it at first when she was told by a voice in the phone that within moments, she was going to be in live broadcast.
“We have Sandra Bennet from Odessa, Texas, on the phone with us tonight”, the sleazy guy said into the cameras, and Lyle mouthed ‘wow’, in a way that could mean either ‘that’s awesome’ or ‘please let me die’, she wasn’t sure which…
“Sandra”, the man said, “are you ready to play the game with me? We have some real tricky questions this time, but you never know; this could be your big chance. Where would you like to take your family if you get lucky tonight? To some tropical island? Or all the way to Europe? Maybe you’d like to pay a visit to the land of Crocodile Dundee, or would you rather be an extra in a Bollywood musical?”
“I’ve always wanted to go to France”, she said.
I will never be that lucky, she told herself, but she answered the quick series of questions to the best of her ability while Lyle mumbled ‘come on, mom!’ by her side, and before she knew it, the redhead and the audience were cheering, and she was told that she had won a trip to southern France.
Sandra was too overwhelmed to register the details, but she was told that she was going to get all the information with the mail within a week, so for the moment, ‘Southern France’ was all she knew, but it was enough; it was, with her son’s words, awesome.
Provence was really, really beautiful. When Sandra had dreamed about France, she had rather been picturing Paris, but now she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Her prize in the game show was to spend two weeks in a modern and fully equipped, but picturesque, cottage in a village in France, Italy or Spain. Noah helped her choose the location, and then there they were, in the lovely French summer; to Sandra, the sunshine had the color of honey, and the air smelled of herbs.
Their cottage was small – and the kids had made a fuss about having to share a room – and so was the village nearby, but the mountains were blue in the distance and Sandra bought croissants from the boulangerie every morning; after only two days, she felt like the trees that bordered the way into the village centre were her old friends.
She enjoyed trying her old school French in the village, buying bread and vegetables, cheese and red wine, and she hoped that she was going to get the hang of it soon. French really was a weirdly tongue-twisting language, she told herself, and why did they always have to talk so fast?
The third day in the bakery, she saw a new woman behind the counter. Sandra told the lady what she wanted; that was easy, and then she got ready to prick up her ears to catch the amount of Euros she had to pay.
But what the woman said had nothing to do with numbers, or so she thought.
“Excusez-moi”, she said, “pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît ?”
The woman repeated willingly what she had just said, but Sandra still didn’t understand.
Now what do I do, she asked herself, feeling a wave of panic coming towards her; she hadn’t expected to feel so lost, because she thought she could handle the French well enough to do some simple shopping, but the foreign language was beginning to feel like an incomprehensive mush of sounds that threatened to suffocate her.
“She asked”, said suddenly a voice behind her, “if you’d like to try their special olive bread, because it’s their ‘offer of the day’ and you can get three for the price of two.”
Sandra turned around, startled and confused, because the voice was American and crystal clear and lovely as music, or so it seemed to her at that moment.
“Oh, thank you so much!” she said to the woman who had spoken. “But no thank you…”
Too late did she remember that it was to the bakery woman she should say ‘no thanks’, but the stranger simply smiled, turned to the clerk – or maybe it was the baker herself – and repeated Sandra’s negative answer, before she ordered the olive bread for herself.
“That will be two Euros and fifty cents for you”, she said, and Sandra rummaged about her bag for her purse.
As far as she could tell, the woman’s French accent was flawless. Maybe she was French, but spoke English with a perfect American accent? Sandra looked at her as the baker began to tell some funny anecdote she didn’t quite follow, but apparently, her new ‘friend’ had no such problems; she answered, and smiled, and Sandra just stared at her in awe. She had shiny black hair and wore a bright red linen jacket over a white blouse and white linen pants; she was older than Sandra, but very attractive. It was still relatively early in the morning, but Sandra felt flushed and a bit sticky after the walk, and dusty too; how did the other woman get to be so seemingly unaffected by the heat?
“Au revoir”, the stranger said; Sandra mumbled the same, and turned to the door.
“Au revoir, Madame Petrelli”, the baker said.
Back out in the sunshine, Sandra turned to the woman.
“Thank you so much for saving me in there.”
“You’re welcome. French can be tricky before you get the hang of it. Is this your first time in France?”
“It’s that obvious, huh? Yes, I’m here with my family, we just got here a couple of days ago. Are you a resident here?”
“I have a summer residence”, the woman answered, giving Sandra her hand, “not far from here. I’m Angela Petrelli.”
“I’m so pleased to have met you, Mrs. Petrelli. My name is Sandra Bennet.”
The elegant woman told Sandra to call her Angela, and with that, they began walking toward the fruit market nearby, at the town square, right outside the medieval church.
Sandra found herself wanting to ask the other woman all sorts of questions; where were that ‘summer residence’ of hers, did she have a family there, where did she come from, was she Italian, did she want to come over to the cottage for a cup of coffee some day? But Angela Petrelli had a somehow very private air about her, making personal questions seem inappropriate, and instead, Sandra asked her about the village and the ancient wall that still surrounded it, and the castle ruin on top of a hill.
When they bought their fruit and vegetables, Sandra felt less shy with Angela by her side, and she got her bright red tomatoes, olives, thyme and rosemary. Then she began to feel a little sad, thinking that they would have to go their separate ways, but Angela surprised her by asking her to have a cup of coffee at the only café in the village.
So they sat there, under green sunshades, watching some old men playing boules, with children and dogs running around, until Sandra was reminded by Claire’s voice in her cell phone that people were waiting for her to come back with some picnic food for the day’s excursion.
“I’m so sorry”, she said, and she genuinely meant it, “but I really have to go…”
“Of course.” Angela smiled graciously. “Don’t let your family wait. But Sandra, perhaps you’d like to come by for dinner tomorrow night?”
If Sandra had given herself the time to stop and think about it, she would have asked herself why the sunshine seemed a little warmer all of a sudden, and why the small butterflies that hovered over the flower bed next to them had taken residence in the pit of her stomach, but she didn’t stop to think.
“Oh, I’d love to!”, she said, “are you sure? But how do I find your house?”
Angela looked at her with piercing eyes as if she was actually counting all those little butterflies.
“Of course I’m sure”, she said calmly. “You can bring your family if you want. It’s easy to find, you can’t miss it if you follow to the main road to the crossroads, and then you take the smaller road to the left, until you see tall holly oak hedge, and voilà – the Petrelli estate.”
Later that night, Noah told her that one of his old friends happened to be in the neighbourhood, wanting to spend some time with him.
“Claude?” Sandra said and didn’t bother trying to hide that she was put out at the mentioning of the Englishman. “What is he doing here?”
“Same as we”, Noah answered. “He’s on holiday, and, you know; we wouldn’t be gone for more than a couple of days…”
“Don’t insult my intelligence”, Sandra snapped. “You knew he was going to be here, didn’t you?”
Her husband looked sheepishly at her.
“Well, yeah…”, he admitted. “I guess I sort of did that… but I didn’t trick you or anything! You love this place, don’t you? And the kids, too. So it’s good for all of us.”
“What exactly is it that you and Claude are going to do? Fishing again, are you?”
Sandra sighed. If it wasn’t business trips that kept him away, it was fishing excursions with Claude.
“Yes, we’re going fishing”, Noah nodded, “some of his friends have a boat in Marseille.”
Sandra stared at him.
“This was supposed to be a family thing…”
“I know…” Noah tried to take her in his arms. “Look, I’m sorry; I should have said no to Claude… if you really don’t want me to go, then I’ll just tell him…”
“No.” Sandra broke free. She said what she always did. “No, go and have your fun. We’ll be fine here.”
“Are you sure? Thank you, I’ll be back again before you know it…Three days, or four at the most.”
The bottle of red wine they had planned to open once the kids had gone to bed remained unopened in the kitchen cupboard, and they didn’t exchange too many words before they went to sleep.
But Sandra admitted to herself that she wasn’t really that upset. He could go; she wasn’t going to be alone. She had a dinner with Angela Petrelli to look forward to… The thought made her smile, and she remembered that she hadn’t even told her husband about the American lady with a summer residence in the vicinity. But when she turned around in the bed to tell him, she found that he was already asleep.
So, she thought, that’s how bothered he is by the thought that I might be upset…
She shrugged her shoulders. Angela was going to remain her secret for the time being, then.
Sandra walked alone to the Petrelli estate. Noah was picked up by Claude in his car in the early afternoon. Claire and Lyle, after having jumped around ‘Uncle Claude’ like crazy little monkey children, declared that they had been invited to a barbecue party hosted by a British couple who lived with their many children in the village.
It was of course great that they had made friends, but normally, Sandra wouldn’t have let them run off to complete strangers like that. This time, however, she was content with walking them there, exchanging a few words with the other grownups, to make sure that everything was all right.
She had hired a bike in the village, and she rode slowly through it; past the square and the café and the church, past the old roman wall, and onto the road. She saw blue fields of lavender, small bushes and juniper trees, and the sun was slowly on its way down behind the hills.
And there was the gate and the hedge and the park, and finally, the house; large and white; art nouveau style, and Angela opened the door at the same moment as Sandra stepped down from the bike.
A sudden jolt went through her at the sight of the other woman, and this time, she paused momentarily to consider it. What was she all of a sudden; a fourteen-year-old with a teacher crush?
Angela walked up to her to greet her – in the French fashion – and Sandra thought that it was her way of walking that did it. She walked as if she was taller, or if she was floating above the ground, riding on air. Where did she get that air of confidence and elegance? Was she the president of some big and important company? Did she have royal blood in her veins?
“Welcome”, she said, “I’m so glad you could come. Parts of my family is here, too. I see you didn’t bring yours?”
“No”, Sandra replied, “my husband chose to go fishing with an old crony, and the children found some friends of their own.”
“Good for them. As long as you’re here…”
Sandra followed her hostess inside and through the ground floor of the big house, out to the veranda in the back, where she was offered a drink.
Three other people were there; Angela’s two sons and her daughter-in-law. Sandra could see and feel the family resemblance; even the young woman, Heidi, looked like she was born Petrelli.
Then Angela proposed a walk in the garden before the dinner.
The garden was so big that they soon had left the house out of sight, and Sandra sighed happily.
“This place is wonderful. It’s so… like something from a fairytale. I thought all French gardens were so… so organized, full of esprit…”
“They often can be”, Angela agreed, “but this one was designed differently, and I like it this way. I like spending time here.”
“I can see why. I spend far too little time out in the nature; I think it would do me good. And heaven knows I needed this vacation.”
“Any special reason why you needed it?”
Sandra thought about it.
“No, I guess not. Not really. But with a husband who is always working, a daughter going through puberty and a pre-pubertal boy… it can be tiring.”
Angela nodded, and then she asked Sandra what she liked best about Provence. Sandra answered willingly, happily. Other women might have asked her about the exact age of her children, their names and natures, and what her husband was doing and things like that. But not Angela Petrelli. She asked about Sandra’s dreams and wishes, and seemed to be interested in her primary as a person, not as a mother and a wife.
“What’s that building over there?” Sandra looked at a house that suddenly became visible between the trees.
“It’s our stable”, Angela replied, “do you like horses?”
Yes, Sandra liked horses. That is, she used to like them, when she was a young girl who had time and access to them; her grandparents had had a ranch, and she used to spend long hours on the horseback.
“But it was long ago”, she said, “I haven’t been riding since I got married.”
“If you want to”, Angela said, “we can do it some day. You don’t have to be nervous; if you’ve learned it once, it’s in your backbone forever.”
“I’d love to”, Sandra said.
They walked in silence, and darkness fell.
“It’s time for dinner”, Angela said, but stopped under a tree. She looked at Sandra; her eyes were burning intensely.
A thought flew through Sandra’s mind:
If she wants to kiss me, I don’t think I’d mind…
But Angela didn’t move, didn’t touch her; she showed no signs of wanting to kiss her. Sandra didn’t know if she was relieved or not, and tried to forget the sudden idea.
“The trees”, Angela said, “they’re beautiful, don’t you think so?”
“Yes”, Sandra agreed.
“They have souls. This one, for example… it has a beautiful soul; can you feel it?”
The tree was big and beautiful; old, no doubt, but Sandra had never really thought of trees in terms of souls before.
“I don’t know…”
“Yes”, Angela said. “Close your eyes. Yes, close them! And listen… Listen; it is the soul you hear when the wind is whispering in the leaves…”
Sandra didn’t answer; she kept her eyes closed, and listened; she heard the wind, and the beatings of her own heart, and maybe something more…
She opened her eyes again and looked at the other woman who had her eyes fixed upon her.
“Yes”, she said, “I can hear it…”
“I knew you would understand.” Angela smiled. “Shall we go back?”
The dining room, big and lit up by chandeliers, had a certain touch of luxury that Sandra wasn’t used to, but it was beautiful and she liked it, even if it felt a little surreal.
For starters, they were served a delicious soup de pistou, and then some kind of grilled fish with fennel – a local specialty, Angela said, but Sandra forgot the name as soon as she heard it. It was very good anyway, whatever it was called; Sandra decided she could get used to living in Provence.
“So where were you earlier?” Angela’s youngest son asked. “Did mom show you the garden, Mrs. Bennet?”
“Yes. It’s really beautiful. Everything is beautiful here.”
“The trees”, the other young man said, “Ma is a real lunatic; crazy about her trees…”
“Nathan”, his wife said, “don’t talk about your mother like that…”
“You don’t know anything… Ma, tell her I’m right; you’re crazy about your trees!”
“Maybe I am”, Angela replied calmly. “Or maybe you just don’t understand?”
“Ha, see what I mean?”
So, Sandra thought, evidently, Angela’s love of trees was something of a family joke. Well, she, for one, wasn’t laughing. Why shouldn’t Angela love her trees? Sandra would, too, if she had had a park of her own.
They had fruit for dessert; strawberries and apricots. Sandra didn’t want the meal to end, because that meant that she would have to go home.
As soon as she thought that, she felt guilty; she had children, after all…
“Don’t worry about getting home in the dark”, Angela said, as if she had heard Sandra’s thoughts. “Heidi will give you a ride home… Won’t you, dear? You didn’t drink any wine.”
“Yes”, Heidi replied. “Of course.”
Later that night, when the kids were asleep and Sandra had gone to bed, she thought about Heidi’s words to her in the car.
“So, do you like Angela?”
Sandra had answered that of course she liked her; she was very pleased to have made such an unexpected acquaintance.
“People don’t usually like my mother-in-law that much”, Heidi commented, “unless she wants them to like her. So apparently she likes you.”
Sandra didn’t know what to make of Heidi’s words, but she admitted to herself that she wanted Angela to like her. She wanted it very much.
This idea didn’t make much sense to her. She didn’t even know the woman. Angela was just an elegant lady in a beautiful house on the French countryside. She was friendly, but did that have to mean that they could become friends?
The shape of Angela’s face and the sound of her voice haunted Sandra; she couldn’t sleep. She was going to see Angela again tomorrow.
“This doesn’t make any sense”, she mumbled, “I don’t understand it…”
She tried to ignore the thoughts she couldn’t even put into words, and she dozed off eventually, and sleep overpowered her, but she didn’t feel like she had slept much at all when her children woke her up by making much noise outside her bedroom, and when she got out of there, they asked her why she hadn’t gone to the village to buy breakfast bread yet.
Sandra thought about how quickly habits settle. They hadn’t even been there a week, but already, Claire and Lyle expected their mom to do what she ‘always’ did.
It was only a ten minutes walk, and there was only one road.
“No”, she said. “Why don’t you two go to the village today?”
They stared at her.
“But won’t you come, too? What if they don’t understand English?”
“It’s easy”, Sandra promised, “just point to the things you want to buy, and then you say merci, you can do that.”
“So…”, Claire said, “can we buy anything in the bakery for breakfast? I mean, like anything?”
“Sure”, Sandra said, fully knowing that they were going to come home with something sweet and sticky.
They ran off, and left her to the butterflies among the roses outside the cottage and inside of her. Looking at the rose bush, she felt an absurd urge to quote some old poem she once learned in school. She was meeting Angela around lunch time.
“Sorry we’re late”, Lyle shouted when they returned.
Sandra was still sitting on the bench outside the cottage, enjoying the sun. She looked at her watch and realized that her children had been gone for almost an hour.
Oh my god, she though; I didn’t even notice – what if something had happened to them?
“What took you so long?” she asked sharply, knowing that they couldn’t know that she really was angry with herself, more than with them.
They told her that they had been talking to the kids they had been seeing the day before, and they wanted to spend the day with them.
“If it’s okay with their parents”, was all Sandra said, as they went inside to find a knife to slice the bread with – Lyle and Claire had bought both bread and a couple of small gateaux – and to get fruit, plates and cups. Sandra realised that she hadn’t even made coffee yet.
“Yeah”, Claire promised, “we talked to their parents; they invited us.”
Good, Sandra thought. Then I don’t have to worry about them while I’m with Angela…
She was a little ashamed of the thought, and she wondered if the British couple who so willingly took in her children among their own thought that she was a bad person for not even trying to get to know them. But she really did get to know all the parents of her children’s friends, normally. She knew like fifteen phone numbers by heart, not counting the ones of her own friends. But Angela was her own friend. She felt selfish and protective of her secret – but she didn’t care to feel guilty for very long.
And there they were, having picnic in the garden. Sparkling wine and fruit and sweet things; Sandra didn’t really care about what they ate.
The wind was humming softly in tune with the birds in the trees with their leaves that were dark green above and pale whitish-gray below.
“Where’s your family today?” Sandra asked.
“They went to the sea. Where’s yours?”
“With their friends…”
What else was there to say? They were alone. It didn’t have to mean anything. Friends spent time alone all the time, especially female friends; it wasn’t like they were doing anything wrong…
But there was something in Angela’s voice and in her eyes that seemed to tell Sandra that ideas about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ were insignificant.
“You always get what you want, don’t you? I think you are that kind of person.”
“Yes”, Angela admitted, “most of the time I get what I want. Is that bad?”
Light and shadow were dancing in intricate patterns over the grass, the blanket and the dark-haired woman. She was so quiet, so composed. And powerfully attractive. Sandra didn’t try to question and fight the fact anymore.
“No”, she said, “I don’t think it’s bad. I wish I could be like that.”
“Do you, really? And what do you want right now, Sandra?”
The wind and the birds and the souls of the trees were all quiet, as if they were holding their breaths, afraid to miss one single word, spoken or not.
“I want you”, she said.
Sandra was not a woman who wanted other women. She was not a woman who cheated on her husband. But for once in her life she wanted something – something that had nothing to do with children or dogs, but something that seemed to come from deep within her.
Or maybe it came from Angela? Because Sandra didn’t think that she could want and have Angela, unless Angela wanted her, too. But did she want her, or was it only some kind of sunstroke that made Sandra out of her mind?
“I appreciate your honesty”, Angela said. “I like that. I like you, Sandra.”
And with that, Angela kissed her, and the birds were singing again, and there was a scent of lavender and thyme in the air.
Angela’s lips against hers, the warm pressure of her body, stirred up a desire in Sandra that until then had been vague and nameless, but then she knew that what she felt was pure lust. She let her instincts take over and guide her as she began to undress the other woman, who just as hungrily tugged at her clothes. Skin against skin, they flew into the sun together.
That first day of lovemaking had been hot and long. Sandra didn’t go home until it was almost dark, and to her relief, the kids had been fed by the British family, and they didn’t ask her any questions at all.
Parts of the next day were spent on the horseback, and Angela had been right; Sandra had not forgotten how to handle a horse. That she became sore and then stiff later didn’t bother her. She and Angela explored the wild nature, and explored each other.
And then Noah returned from his little fishing expedition, and she couldn’t see Angela.
It felt so strange. She didn’t have to lie, because he didn’t ask her anything. She knew that it was unthinkable to him that she could have been unfaithful while he was away, and with another woman.
It was like it had never happened… except that she knew for a fact that it had. She would never forget it, she couldn’t regret it, but she also knew that nothing more could come of it.
She did love Noah after all, even if she believed that she could easily fall deeply in love with Angela – like real, deep love – if she was given the chance. But she wasn’t. The two of them hadn’t talked about their husbands – the man Angela was married to wasn’t even in the country – but Sandra realised that Angela had never wanted anything serious.
They met in the village the morning after Noah’s return – Sandra decided to revive her daily morning walks – and Angela had smiled and kissed her cheeks as greeting, but nothing more. Of course nothing more. They couldn’t say or do anything in public; that was the unspoken rule.
Sandra told Angela that her husband was back, and Angela told Sandra that she was leaving the next day.
“Good bye, Sandra”, she said. “I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your vacation. It has been a pleasure; a true pleasure.”
“Yes”, Sandra was confused, “thank you…”
Angela’s smile was blinding and her words so unexpected. She was leaving? They weren’t going to meet anymore? No more kisses? No more hot hands, fingers eagerly searching and taking, touching, caressing?
Angela walked away from her, and not until later did she realise that she didn’t know where in the world the Petrelli family belonged when they were not living in France.
She knew that she could find out if she tried. It wasn’t impossible to find out the address and phone number of someone. But Angela could have given her that information herself, if she had wanted Sandra to have it.
So Sandra didn’t try to find Angela when she came back home. Instead, she just remembered the few unexpected but wonderful days in Provence; she kept them locked up in her heart instead of the photos she never took.
Then, years later, when she realized who Claire’s biological grandmother was, she was shocked and shaken unto the core of her being.
But Angela acted like they had never met before, and Sandra played along.
Still, there was one time when they happened to spend a few moments alone, and Sandra couldn’t help herself.
“I still remember you”, she said hastily, “whenever I smell lavender…”
“I’m glad to hear that”, Angela said, looking deeply into Sandra’s eyes. “I’m very glad. If you ever happen to come to Provence some time when I’m there, we should meet and catch up.”
“Yeah”, Sandra replied, “absolutely, we’ll do that.”
But she knew that it was probably never going to happen. Some times things that happen in a garden only last one summer.