We made it back to the rugby festivities where I tried my best to make a good impression and speak all of the French I knew. A few cans of beer later, I was agreeing to join the ladies’ rugby team.
“I don’t know why I agreed to that,” I mumbled as we were on our way home.
Edouard raised an eyebrow at me with a smile, the blood drying on his face. “You get overexcited, Lizzie.”
Edouard and his friend Philip were greeted like heroes by the rugby team and we were keen for everyone to have an amazing time despite them losing the match. We drank at the pub, celebrated and soon I couldn’t fight back the yawns.
“Are you ready to go home?”
Edouard nodded eagerly. “Yes, I am very tired.”
He walked back to his friends and after exchanging a few sentences in French, his friends stared at me incredulously.
“You want to go?!”
I raised my eyebrows in mock shock. “Me?”
“Edouard says you’re tired-”
I waved them off, insulted. “Edouard said he was tired!”
The eyes turn to Edouard in suspicion. The look of utter disbelief passes over his face as he stares at me.
I nod with a shrug. “Yeah. Of course I don’t want to go.”
I do want to go home. But my pride is a fickle thing. The accusation that was directed on me from the rugby players has now turned to Edouard.
“You want to play it like that, do you?” Edouard said. “Fine.”
The next thing I know, we both have fresh drinks in our hands and a swirl of regret is settling in my stomach.
Edouard laughs as we join back in the festivities for another couple of hours until we finally manage to slip away. By now, I’m feeling the effects of the rum. I’m suddenly missing England. It’s been hard trying to speak French all evening. It feels difficult sometimes trying to make new friends when you can’t convey your personality.
The next thing we know, we’re passing an English pub called The Queen Victoria.
“We have to go in!”
Edouard has a broken face and I’m insisting on going to another pub? What’s wrong with me?
“Excuse me!” I say to the barman. “Do you have anyone here who’s English?”
“No, but there’s a Canadian who works here.”
The next thing I know, we’re drinking shots with the Canadian called Gary. It’s amazing to talk fluent English with someone and not worry about speaking slowly or being concerned if people don’t understand my jokes.
Edouard and I at the same time bump into a friend of his from the village he grew up in. Soon, we’re drinking shots, cheering, and going to another bar as soon as that one shuts.
It’s an amazing night and I’m suddenly letting my hair down.
We invite Gary back with us to the apartment and we’re soon jamming out on the guitar and drinking wine. Giving him our bed in the main room, Edouard and I go to our makeshift bedroom in the cupboard in the kitchen. It’s huge, enough space for us to fit in a double bed. Painting it blue and hooking up fairylights, it’s a romantic little secret place in the apartment with a ladder leading up to it.
Edouard’s been so amazing staying out so late even though he’s got a broken nose. He’s taken no painkillers and I know he won’t in the morning either. He always lets me do whatever I want, never telling me what to do or ever being embarrassed of me. I could walk across Marseille naked and he would support me.
I opened my eyes in the darkness of the cupboard and rolled over to face Edouard. He was still fast asleep, his face a bruised blotched mess of blue and black. Guilt washed over me. I pull the covers from myself as quietly as possible and creep to the end of the bed. Edouard really is a wonderful man and I wanted to surprise him with breakfast.
Still feeling drunk, I sneak out of the cubby and swing my leg over the side onto the ladder.
I’m going to make him an omelette. I’m going to make him a wonderful coffee and tell him how amazing he is. I’m going to take care of him. I’m going-
The ladder moves.
Suddenly I’m falling.
I have a clear moment when I am suspended in the air. The wall is sliding down across my view for what seems like minutes, but is actually seconds.
Suddenly a huge bang fills the room and my leg is caught beneath a rung.
I’m on the floor.
Ow! Ow! Ow!
A moment passes where I wonder whether there is any chance in the world no one heard the noise. I look up and see Edouard’s startled bruised and swollen face peering over the side. He sees me and suddenly jumps the entire way down like a wild man, landing on all fours and darts over to me.
“I was trying to make you breakfast,” I offer weakly.
He picks me up instantly and carries me into the next room and lays me on the couch. I can’t walk. The pain is excruciating in my ankle and suddenly I’m worried I’ve broken something.
“I wanted to make you breakfast,” I say again, startled.
He gives me a kiss. “Don’t move.”
Before I know it, he has a pot of tea for me and is making an omelette for us all.
I look at him as he walks in, his face broken as I sit there barely able to walk.
A sensation of love washed over me as our guest continued to sleep behind us, oblivious of what had just happened.
“You’re amazing,” I tell Edouard, giving him a hug. And suddenly I want to cry. I want to cry because I’m in pain. I want to cry because he’s in pain. I want to cry because I’m so happy and he’s such an incredible man.
Living in Marseille has been a challenge in many ways but it’s also been wonderful. It’s been such a gift to be living with someone you love so much and to share an adventure together. And whether we’re on the ocean, in the woods, beach, city or on a mountain, we were there together.
I was learning about myself all over again. About giving and taking. Edouard had done so much for me already to make my time in France as beautiful as possible.
I really was a lucky woman.
Gary woke up eventually and joined us for breakfast.
“I thought I heard a bang!” he said, inspecting my ankle.
But whatever pain I was in was quickly overridden by the delicious scent filling the room. Edouard had made a cheese and onion omelette and it really was delicious.
“Well guys, it’s been awesome! Meet again soon?” Making promises to meet up again, Gary left. It was nice to make another friend in Marseille.
Edouard and I were really enjoying our time together in our apartment. We had painted the bathroom and toilet and we had put more finishing touches to the place to make it our home. We would spend our days working and our nights talking with each other on the sofa. We didn’t want a tv in the apartment, preferring to watch films on our laptops if we felt like it.
Edouard made an appointment for a doctor to my relief. I was glad he was seeking someone out to help him. That was a good thing about Edouard. He always found a way, despite the hospital telling him no.
“You do not have to come with me, Lizzie,” he said in concern as I hobbled down the stairs after him.
“I do,” I winced, realising that wearing flip flops was probably the most stupid thing I could do with a sprained ankle. “I’m coming with you.”
“I’m coming with you. I want to be there.”
It was slow going and I realised very quickly that my ankle was a lot worse than I expected. Still, it didn’t matter. Edouard had a broken face and he hadn’t complained once. After turning up to one of the richest parts of Marseille, we were both biting our lip at the worry of how much this was going to cost.
“I’ll pay for half,” I told him.
“No, Lizzie, I have health insurance. Hopefully they will cover some.” He shrugged, looking very out of place in his torn shorts and his wild hair in the pristine waiting room. “Maybe this is silly. It’s just a nose.”
I knew it was just a nose. But it was his nose. If he wanted it put back then I would support him in that.
I liked the female doctor immediately. In her forties with short cropped hair, she was a beautiful woman. A picture of her daughter was in the corner and her clothes were expensive but simple. Paintings of the sailboats of Marseille surrounded us, and I instantly felt comfortable. I wondered of all of the people that had come in here, paying hundreds of euros to have something changed about themselves or fixed.
Today was a difficult age to feel beautiful in.
I caught my own reflection in the mirror as we talked with the woman. My hair was scruffily piled on top of my head and I was wearing Edouard’s clothes. It was getting colder and I didn’t own anything suitable for my new home apart from hotpants and crop tops from Delos. I looked away quickly.
Edouard told me I was beautiful every single day.
That was good enough for me.
After listening to the conversation and not understanding a single word, I soon learned that it was a simple procedure to fix. She booked him in straight away to return for an operation in three days’ time, not even charging us for the appointment.
“They will have to break my nose on the other side,” Edouard explained to me as we were driving home. “And I will have to be off rugby for six weeks.”
I didn’t mind this, but I knew he was hugely disappointed.
“I will have to join a gym as I cannot play rugby,” he said. “I need to get stronger.”
The men who they had played against previously had been monsters. And Edouard’s team played more as a hobby and to meet new people than anything serious. But I think they had been startled with the two big injuries on their first match.
“Philip will be unable to play for three months,” Edouard said. “I do not know if he will play again.”
“A broken shoulder will do that.”
I was keen to join the gym. I had enjoyed myself thoroughly over the past 8 months and it was time to get healthy again. Plus, if I was to live a life in France where the diet was mostly meat, cheese and wine, fitness was essential to keep things balanced.
Plus, I kind of enjoyed watching Edouard work out…
Edouard’s operation day came quickly. I think we expected us to cost about 600 euros. Luckily, it cost us 50 euros. I don’t know how, but Edouard’s gift with people enabled us to still be able to afford the rent the next month.
I waited nervously with him in the waiting room holding his hand. White pristine walls surrounded us, every inch immaculate and disinfected. I looked at the people waiting, eyes downwards, not saying a word to each other as they either waited for their own appointments or for family members.
I always get a bit emotional in hospitals of any sort. It reminded me of my sister and I visiting my Granddad when he was ill. The scent of chemicals mixed with food and old clothes. The sound of rasping coughs and wailing for the nurse. The march down the freezing corridors, a maze of signs, directions, nurses and families walking back and forth, hurrying, hurrying, hurrying.
God bless the NHS.
But this was not like the hospitals in England. This was a private clinic. No rush, no stress, no wailing or crying, no overworked doctors and exhausted nurses.
I exhaled loudly.
Edouard’s hand grasped mine, jolting me back to reality.
“It’s ok, Lizzie,” Edouard said, squeezing my fingers.
I felt so selfish all of a sudden being emotional when it was him who had to have the operation. I knew it was a simple procedure, and of course I knew he would be ok.
I just hated the thought that he had to go through this at all.
We were led to a private room and Edouard had to change into his hospital gown. There were two beds within with a couple patiently waiting for their family member to come out of surgery. The husband was lying on the bed whilst his wife played a game on her phone.
I sat next to Edouard as he caught up on an hour’s sleep, anxiously checking the time every ten minutes until the doctors finally came for him.
“I love you!” I said, giving him a huge hug and kiss.
“I will be fine, Lizzie,” he told me with a smile. “See you soon!”
I watched him go until the door finally clicked shut.