Bunny Comes to Dinner

HerbsI deep fried cubes of bread in olive oil as the kids walked into the village to meet our guest. A wooden salad bowl in the cupboard inspired me to make Caesar Salad. I hoped the theatrics of preparing it at the table might counteract lapses in the conversation. I tossed the hot croutons in paper bag with herbes de Provennce. I’d eaten half of them by the time I heard voices outside the door.

In she walked – not an old lady by any means, but a fit and stylish woman in her later years. She carried a stately appearance and took the liberty of introducing herself. Alex and Chris helped her with her coat and scarf.

“Well then” she said with an elegant British accent, looking at each of us. “There you are.”

She explained that she’d been staying in Claviers while renovating her home in nearby Bargemon. It was hard to imagine such a lady swinging a sledge hammer. I wouldn’t have believed she was into DIY work except that her eyes bounced around our townhouse like an English ping pong ball. We gave her a tour and she asked about every little fixture in the place. When she saw the cave she covered her mouth with both hands. “This expensive flooring tile?” she gasped. “Down here?”

Climbing up the stairs, I stole a glimpse at Donna and saw she was grinning. I still wasn’t sure what to think about our guest.

Donna poured wine while I fried more croutons. Bunny chatted with the kids at the dining room table. Jill got out her photo album and Bunny wanted to know all about her friends. She told them she went to boarding school and used to talk her classmates into cutting class to go smoke with the boys in town. She was eventually suspended. I tried to make eye contact with Donna again, but she didn’t dare look my way.

Bunny shared her lament of dealing with building contractors. She rolled her eyes upward “The Dutch…” she said, shaking her head. Donna topped her wine glass and I brought the salad fixings to the table. As I pressed fresh garlic into the bowl Bunny continued with her biography telling us that in her early twenties she dated a married man twenty years her senior. As I whisked in the egg yolks (and Donna relentlessly avoiding eye contact), she told us her father got wind of her affair and sent her to an aunt’s house in the British colony of Rhodesia. I longed for that lapse in the conversation I’d anticipated earlier.

“I absolutely loved it there.” She added, placing her palm on Jill’s arm. “Until I married a banker. Bloody Hell was he dull.” She held up her near empty glass for Donna to top off. “That’s when I came to France.”

After dessert, Bunny announced she had to go home. She reminded Jill and Chris that she needed an escort. Alex and I brought her coat and offered to go along. She took our arms. “I’ll be safe with you two big men” she exclaimed. Donna handed me a flashlight and wished me luck.

NExt: Half-schnockered


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