Days pass in the apartment and I’m becoming more and more confident with my French. Of course when we arrange parties at our apartment, the conversation sometimes flows so fast that I don’t know what is being said at all.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lazy when Edouard speaks English with me all of the time. But he’s started to put his foot down with me.
“Go and get your exercise book, Lizzie,” he instructed me.
I groan and stomp over to the makeshift bookcase he made out of pallets and pull out my note pad. Returning to the table, I pour myself a cup of tea before we begin. Probably to buy time. Probably my small way of protest.
Edouard’s incredibly patient with me and unerringly kind as I get frustrated over pronunciation and understanding. This is why I was never good at languages at school.
I feel like a grumpy teenager as he teaches me more words and asks me to translate sentences. We’ve been invited to a wedding in April and his entire family are going to be there. It’s a goal of mine to be semi-fluent by then. I take a deep breath and try again, grinning with pride when he praises me.
I’m thirteen all over again, blushing as he acts as though I’m the most gifted and intelligent woman he’s ever met.
Maybe this is why he’s good with children. He genuinely believes in people.
He believes in me.
It can be a bit difficult when people speak French around me. I like Edouard to have some “French time” and relax for a while, as I know it can be tiring for him to speak English all of the time. At parties I can get frustrated because I sometimes feel like a ghost. Edouard doesn’t like it, feeling like it’s his responsibility, but it’s not. It’s up to me to make this life work. But I know as each week passes, I’m improving more and more. I’m learning extra words and I know that meeting people who don’t speak English is good for me to learn.
I think I’m still adapting to be around people. After staying with Delos so long, they were my comfort zone. They were my family. And now all of a sudden, I’m thrown into large social situations in busy cities with a language I don’t know very well. After arranging for another get together in the apartment, I find myself sitting in a corner staring into space. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I suddenly have flashes of my friends back in England, their rowdy voices filling the air as someone passes me a shot of tequila.
But there is no tequila. There is a glass of French wine in my hand as I find a space on the sofa to sit and fix a smiling expression on my face. I know when I stare off, I can look angry or upset.
I don’t feel any of these things.
I suppose I just feel overwhelmed.
Eventually I get thrown into the party and start talking with people more. There’s a few that speak English and they really make an effort with me. Edouard’s friends and family have been incredible and I feel guilty all of a sudden.
I know it’s all about time. I had made some incredible steps in my life, and my discomfort with not understanding the language was just the Universe saying: “It’s time to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new.”
If I’m not good at something, I get very embarrassed. But I knew I had to overcome that. I glanced over at Edouard who threw me a wink.
“I like it when you speak with my friends,” he said leaning over.
I smile. I would step out of my comfort zone. I would do it. For him.
The party passed, and soon it was Sunday. Edouard had finally joined a rugby club and it was his first match.
“I don’t know why I am nervous,” he said as he packed his bag.
“It’s ok to be nervous,” I told him, “it’s your first game in ages! You’ll be fine! Just promise me you won’t break your nose or lose any teeth.”
He laughed at the idea, kissed me goodbye and left.
His brother Jeremy was to pick me up, notifying me of his arrival with the text: “Wine or beer?”
With our arms laden with beers and a bottle of rosé, we arrived at the rugby match with minutes to spare. Sitting down in the sun, I adjusted my cap and peered for the sight of Edouard. We found him eventually, ignoring the sniggering from the fans from the opposite team as they muttered about my rosé wine.
I swigged it defiantly.
Despite loving rugby, I had never seen a real live game. My dad had always gone with his friends or my brother in law, probably because he didn’t want his youngest daughter to see him turn into a shouting and swearing machine. I felt a sense of pride in me as I watched Edouard run and dive into tackles. I stood up and shouted my own British encouragement, my voice ringing out over the pitch, merging with the French directions, curses and shouts of joy from the people around us.
It was wonderful, the sun shining on my skin as Jeremy and I hissed, cheered and booed.
A huge tackle came and Edouard was at the forefront. All of a sudden, we couldn’t see him anymore. He was gone, buried beneath a pile of huge thighs, bulging shoulders and wriggling backsides.
“There he is!” Jeremy pointed out at the lone figure lying on the ground. “He will get up now.”
“Jeremy… He’s not moving.”
“He will get up in one minute, I am sure of it.”
“He is not moving, is he?”
Members of the team leant over Edouard and he finally moved. Concern flashed through me until he finally staggered to his feet and was slowly led off the pitch.
“Oh God, I hope he’s all right!”
I watched him lie back down on the grass, not caring about the game anymore. I wondered whether it was wholly acceptable for a player’s girlfriend to climb over the fence and run across the pitch to see if her boyfriend was ok, but figured it would possibly be frowned upon.
Eventually, we saw him start walk towards us.
I stood up and ran over to the exit of the pitch, watching him approach me, his face splattered in blood.
“Are you ok?”
He wasn’t ok. Of course he wasn’t ok.
But he smiled anyway.
“I have a broken nose, Lizzie.”
I swallowed. “Yeah…”
Hi nose was completely cracked at the bridge and pointing in an entirely different angle. My beautiful Frenchman. My beautiful, beautiful French man and his beautiful nose was shattered.
“We should take you to the hospital!”
He shook his head. “But, I want to play, Lizzie-”
“I want to be a millionaire and have a castle, but here we are.”
“You need to go to hospital, Edouard-”
“I will ask if I can still play.”
I watched him walk away with a strange sensation of pride and frustration. I returned to Jeremy quickly, my interest in the game none existent. I respected that he wanted to carry on playing the game, but the break looked very bad.
“Is all well?” Jeremy asked.
“He’s broken his face.”
His beautiful face!
We picked up the rest of our beers, the wine and ran back over to Edouard.
“They will not let me play,” he explained, looking disappointed. “They say I should go to the hospital to have it put back.”
Relieved that he was out of the game, Jeremy drove off to get some ice as an ambulance turned up.
“Oh God, who’s this for?”
Edouard walked up to the ambulance to investigate and returned to say that his friend Philip had just suffered a broken shoulder during the game.
“So we will take him with us to the hospital.”
“There’s an ambulance there!”
“Yes, the ambulance asked if we can take him.”
I stared at him dumbfounded. “You are kidding me.”
We waited patiently at the accident and emergency ward in Marseille, Edouard and his friend both being taken away as me and Jeremy watched them both feeling a bit helpless.
“It’s ok, Lizzie,” Edouard said as I stared at him. “I’m ok, it’s just a nose.”
But I kept seeing him lying unconscious on the floor all over again. I hated that his game had been called short. What now? Would the hospital put his nose back together? Could they even do anything?
“I need a drink,” I told Jeremy.
Ten minutes later we’re in the Artist’s Quarter. A centre for the free living, musicians and artists, we sat down and ordered two tequilas as people danced in the fountain.
“What are they doing?”
“I think it could be very interesting,” Jeremy explained slowly, looking as though he was trying hard to understand as well. “It could be a political statement or an art piece…”
I wanted to be open minded and agree. It probably was. I would never tell anyone to not dance in the street if they wanted to. People could do whatever they liked.
But I couldn’t stop the words that came out of my mouth,
Jeremy looked at me in surprise. “Bollocks?”
I watched a man decide to take a nap on the floor inside of a hula hoop and could not stop that rise of British cynicism wash over.
But who was I to even claim that? Maybe it was. Musicians were surrounding them, playing their music as the people swayed to the beat, tourists stopped and stared whilst young children pointed as their parents ordered their lattes and americanos.
“Cheers,” I said to Jeremy, rising my glass of golden liquid to the light.
The sting of the salt scorched across my tongue as I downed the shot, my lips twisting with the zest of lime as I finished the last step.
“Bleugh!” Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand I turned to Jeremy. “I feel better already,” I smiled.
Soon Edouard called us to pick him up from the hospital. We were planning on meeting up with his rugby team afterwards so he got the sensation of joining in with the festivities at least.
But as we pulled up, his face was the same.
“They will do nothing,” he explained, getting into the car. “They said because I can still breathe they will do nothing.”
I swore for a while before Edouard calmed me down.
“It’s ok, I will make an appointment with a doctor tomorrow. My friend said she knows someone who can put it straight.”
I didn’t care whether his nose was straight, crooked or none existent. I just wanted someone to help him because he had asked for it. He never asked anyone for anything.
I stared off into the distance, my hand still in his as we drove back to the rugby club. I wanted to take him home and take care of him.
Realisation hit me in that moment. It had been a rollercoaster adjusting to this new life, but it was worth it for this man. I would always be home with this soul. I glanced back up at him as he laughed at one of his brother’s jokes and couldn’t help myself from smiling.
“It will be all right, Lizzie!”
He squeezed my hand tighter.
I knew it would be.