It was on the Cote d’Azur. I was no jet-setter, but the Learn and Leisure brochure was enticing and the dollar was strong. Toulouse would have cost about the same but, hey, I’d seen The Boyfriend where they sing how it’s “so much nicer in Nice” right? Besides, and this was the great part, a welcoming banquet would kick things off July 31st, on my 40th birthday!
How better to launch a new decade… iconic Mediterranean setting…a coterie of international students? Yeah!! Extend the old horizons. In my 30’s I’d hitched the roads from coast-to-coast, taken on San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York, fallen into and climbed out of two mental hospitals, survived innumerable indignities in the name of love, and waged a relentless pursuit of acting that included two major roles on Broadway. Approaching 40 I’d given up cigarettes, poverty, hard-drinking, therapy, and dead-end relationships. My slate was clean; my toes a fire engine red. Let the celebration begin.
Or sort of. The International Institute gathers us to explain our schedule: “French classes 9 to 1, afternoons free (the beach is just a walk down the hill), private dormitory rooms strictly off-limits to non-students, cafeteria meals six days a week, Sundays you’re on your own, and oh, the banquet?…well… You each have a restaurant coupon in your orientation folders which you may redeem any time during your stay.” Forty students, and consensus spreads like a virus. Every single one agrees to save the coupon till they have enough French to order like a native. Except me.
C’est la vie. I raise a glass to my new decade at a table for one. Hey, they really know how to make Salade Nicoise here. (Wink) Delectable. No one crowds my view of the future or of the magical blue waters where I will soon be swimming. One point of my trip was to act on the probability I’ll never marry or have kids. No more waiting for Prince Charming to sweep me into a magical new life. I am treating myself like a princess and tasting the best life has to offer. Alone or in company, good food is good food…right?
The Creative Writing & Poetry Challenge to submit a “prologue” or “portal” that would leave the reader wanting to know more spurred me to start a longer story about a chance encounter with life- changing consequences. Whether or not this opening works on its own, I’m glad for the challenge and happy to have the story in progress now.
Some people believe in fate. It’s as good an explanation as any for how chance meetings can be life-changing.
On the other hand is the Napoleanic mantra: “Circumstances? I make circumstances.” Preparedness is everything.
I hold to both points of view.