The house in the square has the word auberge painted bold along the front. It belongs to Monica and Brian and Sian and there they are when we arrive from the one-a-day Rodez flight. The doors and windows are all open, Lucy and Rich are on the wall – and they come from all angles to greet our arrival.
There is something about everyone here, this time together, two candles lit in a church.
Every meal there is bread and cheese on the table, bottle tops, wine in a box and plates passed around. We have the first night with Monica and Brian before they leave and go around to their friends’ house for melon and grapefruit cordial and wine in an orchard garden, hung heavy with blossom and fruit. There are little Welsh dragons on the flags strung in the trees.
Sian has written our names and pinned them to our bedroom doors. The paper is lined for drawing mathematical graphs and I like that she has cut them all into hearts. The light in the stairs and the hall and the ceiling when I wake up is white. There is the sound of the river, constant. We jump in and it’s cool, cool green. You can swim though the deeper middle to the other side where the shallows are warmer and the reeds brush your belly. Here is the salmon run, here are the frothing depths. That night Rich will push us to go skinny dipping, gasping in the black, our skin like white seals under the heavy yellow bulb of the moon.
Sitting outside later, letting the water dry in my hair, I’m on the stone wall of the marketplace with my back on the iron columns. I’m maybe a quarter listening to their voices inside, squared around the candlelit table, Haz is making dinner. I’m writing, making some notes so I don’t forget this.
Elliot, the little curly haired seven year-old from next door, is skulking, waiting to play fight with Chris. Maya is his mother, young – only thirty or so – brings him from Paris. She carries over some glasses of local liquor – rose pink and strong – on her mother’s silver tray. Lucy teaches us to lindyhop in the covered market where the concrete is still warm from the day. We jump our feet together and slide, laughing. Later, we turn the music up, so it’s louder, grinding, limbo under the handle of a broom.