I Forget Everything on Vacation

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The convertible sped down the highway. The traffic was flowing at last. They would be there in thirty minutes. Three weeks as a family watching Juliette getting tanned and the children splashing about in the pool. Three weeks away from colleagues and work projets. This year, Ludovic had even turned off his cell phones. All his cell phones. There was no question of being disturbed, he had earned enough millions from his clients this year. A drink, a barbecue and a game of bowls, that would be the program for these three weeks. The good life. Of course, he would have to put up with the not very interesting anecdotes of Jean-Pierre and the snippets of advice from Christine, Juliette’s parents, seeing as the house belonged to them. Ludovic could easily afford to take his family somewhere else, but this vacation with Jean-Pierre and Christine gave Juliette and the children so much pleasure that he had long ago given up suggesting other destinations. They were simple people, not the most interesting in the world but not bad people. They were always prepared to look after the children, and had actually picked them up two weeks ago. Crossing France without hearing Louis asking “Are we nearly there yet?” and Jules complaining he was hungry or wanted a pee, Ludovic owed them a big favor for that alone. But the worst of the family was Jeanne, Juliette’s older sister. A character… Nothing like Juliette’s sweet nature. Nobody but Matthias could ever have put up with her. Matthias wore his heart on his sleeve. Always ready to look after the kids. He was used to it, of course, he was a schoolteacher. Ludovic was completely out of his comfort zone when he went to see him. Matthias had an organic vegetable plot, just one cell phone (which he was constantly forgetting) and only traveled by bike... In short, just what you might expect from a man who called his children Plum and Mirabelle. Ludovic liked Matthias, he found him amusing. Like the way he would count the members of the family every time they left the house to go on an excursion or just to go shopping. Good old Matthias. As if there was the slightest chance of losing Mother-in-Law. 
The car radio was playing Pharrell Williams singing ‘Because, I'm happy’. Ludovic smiled. Life did indeed look better through sunglasses. Matthias was not wrong. When he got back to Paris, Ludovic would make an effort. He would spend more time with Juliette and the children. It had been an exhausting year. It was time to ease off a bit. Yes, he would take better care of his family. And he might take up cycling as well...
Ludovic parked, pulled on the handbrake and glanced lovingly at the passenger seat... which he found desperately empty. 
“Juliette...,” he murmured, pulling off his sunglasses. 
He turned round quickly, and inspected the rear seat. No Juliette. 
Matthias came up to the car.
“Well, we left you loads of messages... what’s the point of having three phones?”
“I... I...,” stammered Ludovic.
“Well, Ludo, it’s usually the dog people forget when they go on vacation, not the wife!”
And Matthias burst out laughing.
Ludovic closed his eyes and thought back to the stop at the highway service station. The trip to the bathroom, the return to the car, no Juliette. She was taking her time, as usual. And then that guy who had come up, complimented him on his gleaming bodywork, they had talked cars. Ludovic had got back into the car, revved the engine and sped off… without Juliette.
“I don’t understand... I…”
“You’re working too hard, Ludo, old chap. Don’t worry, I’ve made us a little plan that will soon get you right again. As for the children, Jean-Pierre and Christine have taken them for a walk. You can imagine, when Juliette called, they were so happy thinking they were going to see their mother again in half an hour. If they find out Daddy abandoned Mommy at a highway service station, believe me, you’ll be in for months with the child psychologist.”
It was at that moment Jeanne appeared. 
“What’s Jeanne doing with the secateurs?” asked Ludovic in a panicky voice. 
“Jeanne, put those secateurs down, please, you’re frightening Ludo,” Matthias shouted to his wife.
And, turning to Ludovic, he continued,
“You know Jeanne, she goes a bit too far. But don’t worry, she’ll calm down when Juliette gets here. Come on, get out.”
“What?” gasped Ludovic.
“I said get out. I’m going to fetch Juliette. It’s quite obvious you’re exhausted, Ludovic. So, I’m going to take the car and you’re going to have an aperitif.”
Ludovic got out and watched Matthias get into the convertible. 
“Go and drink your pastis before Jeanne puts some arsenic in it,” Matthias said.
Then, seeing the horrified expression on his brother-in-law’s face, he added,
“I’m joking, Ludo. Relax, you’re on vacation!”

Translated by Wendy Cross


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