Twentieth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers
20. Sweet apples
Isabel Rosella stood amongst the echoes in the courtyard, where the gendarmes had shouted and the rebels sung. She had sung, too, a lifetime before, when they had been young.
After she had married Denis, she promised herself that, if she lived long enough to become a widow, she would return, buy a cottage on the island, and settle for her remaining days. And so, once her year of mourning passed, that was what she did.
The changes provided counterpoint to the memories, rather than writing entirely new songs. The bistro was now a café.
She heard the same dialect as before, with jokes that followed the old cadences.
The thrum of political change still reverberated through the courtyard, though now it traveled that well-worn route of elections, rather than revolution.
One evening, while sipping her macchiato, one of the political candidates stepped into the café. She recognized Alec Dolan from the Green Party website.
“Your last speech,” she said to him, “it was brilliant!”
“You liked it, no?” he replied. “I hit the vital points right in the, what do you say, the pressure spot, no?”
She laughed. “You had me at ‘for the butterflies’!”
They talked for hours. He had heard of her, of course, though he had not read Mountain Rebels, nor any of her lesser known but similarly highly acclaimed novels. She listened to every name he mentioned, as he spoke of his speech writer, his campaign manager, the campaign finance manager, and the stalwart party supporters. Claude’s name was not among them.
She had heard that Claude was still in Three Rivers, though he had dropped out of the political scene decades ago and was seldom seen.
“Perhaps you know an old friend of mine,” she said at last. “Claude Deveralle?”
Alec shook his head. “But I know of him, of course.”
Like he knows of me, she thought the next morning at breakfast. If Claude were still here, she would find him, likely in one of their old haunts.
The day was fine, with that sparkling light of late summer.
Isabel rode the ferry across the bay and walked to the old orchard.
The trees were heavy with an early crop, and the apples still tasted sweet.
“Nice to see someone making use of the harvest,” said Janet Fuchs, on an afternoon hike.
“Oh!” laughed Isabel. “I’m a trespasser from way back. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Not I,” said Janet. “I don’t think anyone does, right? This old orchard, if it belongs to anyone, it belongs to the village. We all help ourselves.”
“I used to come here often,” said Isabel, “back, oh, forty years ago! More!”
“I guess it’s changed, then,” Janet said.
“No,” laughed Isabel. “Not that much! And I find, neither have I! I’m still the same fool-hearted romantic I was that long ago summer, when my lover and I would meet here to hide from the crowds on stolen afternoons.”
“Happy days,” Janet called, as she continued on the trail to the waterfall, leaving Isabel to her memories.
This had been their favorite spot, aside from the garret where she’d stayed that summer. This was where Claude had inspired the idea of the gypsy lover, the rogue in Mountain Rebels. Ah, if she had written even half of the pleasure they’d made beneath these trees, the novel would have been banned, for sure!
She strolled to town to visit the library. What was she looking for? Maybe proof that those days had happened–maybe the other side of the memories, the public side. On the shelf with histories, she found L’Internationale: An Analysis of the Windenburg Rebellions. The index listed her name and Claude’s, along with their closest comrades.
She passed the shelf which housed her novels. A gap stood where Mountain Rebels, The Heart’s Handmaid, and Forgotten belonged. Perhaps some young romantic was reading her stories.
In the history, she found Claude’s most famous speech, the one they’d written together in the garret.
“And don’t believe that what you make with your hands has no worth. For what could mean more? Your thoughts! Your ideas! Your own hard labor! On this, we build a country. Let it be yours.”
The translation was pedestrian, but still, it moved her.
Her spirits were high when she stopped by the tavern for a drink and a bite to eat before catching the late ferry.
The barman flirted with her, and she flirted back.
“Should I know you?” asked the man at the bar beside her. “Are you someone famous? You look familiar.”
“I just have one of those faces,” she said.
“One of those beautiful faces,” said the barman, “that we never forget.”
At the end of the evening, she was alone. She marched along the road where they had marched for a cause those decades before. For a moment, she heard the rhythm of feet beside her, she felt the warmth of the shoulders of her comrades, she heard Claude’s voice, “Alors! Alors!”
And then, she reached the top of the hill, and it was all gone, faded in an instant. She stood alone, an old woman, a writer, who had woven the stories her life had spun.
She was a fool still, still in love. Love had been the warp of every story, and she had been the weft, and the broadcloth wrapped around them still, and if they were alone, they were never apart.