Morning before the Arrival
Meet Veronique and Francoise:
Monday was the day Susy’s “Wedding from Hell” was scheduled to arrive.
I met with Susy downstairs near the kitchen where I just finished eating breakfast. “Today we have a lot more to do as the wedding from hell is arriving and we just aren’t ready yet. We need to clean up that bottom apartment that will be rented out tonight. It had a nasty leak coming from the shower in the upper apartment, but it should be fixed now.” Susy exclaimed. We walked out of the door onto the gravel terrace, where we ate dinner the night before, down the pathway past two concrete barricades the height of my shins (used to stop cars) towards the newly renovated apartments in the manoir (old school house).
We passed by Francoise and Veronique where Susy introduced me to them officially as her personal assistant manager who will be running the chateau while she is away. It sounded great to me; manager of a chateau, anyone’s dream. The girls acknowledged and said something along the lines of “it’s great to have someone new”, they smiled at me and continued on their way.
Francoise has somewhat of a dirty blondish gray hair which looks a little wild, and suits her. She has a thin complexion and is middle-aged. She wears glasses with a thin frame and a rectangular design, kind of like my own. She has a very friendly demeanor and when she talks it’s full of expression and often playful sarcasm.
Veronique on the other hand has darker, auburn hair. She is shorter than Francoise, and I would guess around the same age. She is quiet at first but very friendly when she warms up. Her son, Arnaud, also works at the chateau with her; as did her husband before he quit a few months prior. I met Veronique and her family originally in March when I went out to photograph a wedding at the chateau.
The bottom apartment:
“There are a few things I need you to get the boys to help you with today.” she said as we walked past the manoir towards the cross-path that leads either to the pool or garage. “One of the paramount things we need to do is double check the bottom apartment for the leak. My darling husband is always so right, I never would have thought to check it again but he told me that I should. Now I’m just hoping that we don’t still have a problem with it. The other thing we need to do is clean the pool and make sure the pool house apartment is also ready”
We walked into the bottom apartment, the air was damp and musky. Mold I thought, clearly this leak has been here for a while. (Working with my uncle in Vancouver renovations during some summers gave me a bit of experience and insight into what I was seeing here.) The roof clearly had water stains, black spots on the walls next to what appeared to be the places where the concentrations of water were coming from. Black mold… ‘this isn’t good’, I thought.
“Would you be a dear Andrew and go upstairs and turn on the shower. I will stay downstairs and see if it’s still leaking.”
“Sure thing” I said enthusiastically, but with a bit of worry in the back of my mind. I ran up the three flights of stairs to turn on the water. I waited a few minutes before running back down to see if there was anything.
“This is horrible!” she said, “My husband was right to get me to check for the leak, I’m going to have to call the plumber again. He said weeks ago that it was fixed.” Water was pouring down from everywhere.
Before calling the plumber we went into the upper apartment to double check to make sure at least that one was presentable. She started to faff a little bit here and there asking me to help move a table, then move it back and then asked my opinion on what looked best for a few other fine details, “They just don’t have the same artistic sense as we do.” she said, I wasn’t sure what she meant so I got her to elaborate a bit; she continued, “The french! They just don’t care about the fine details. We Jews just seem to always know what looks best; but then again we were born with it, we just are better at most things.”
‘Again with the Jew thing’, I thought. She’s old and grew up in a different time, I tried to justify her naivety. I know a lot of Jews, but I have never met one who has used so many biased stereotypes unless they’re making fun of themselves. Needless to say, I didn’t reply.
We needed to hang a few photos so she asked Laurent to take me to the Costarama (essentially the french equivalence of the Home Depot) to buy a few tools. “We used to have every single tool imaginable, but we had quite a few thefts.” she said annoyed, “sometimes it was even past employees that took some of the tools. Like Thierry, Veronique’s husband, took a bunch of my tools when he left.” I thought it weird that she would keep the wife employed without problems if this was the case.
Laurent is about 5’10”, a little taller than myself. He’s 51 years old, his head is shaved with a bit of salt and pepper peach fuzz. He has kind eyes, a weathered face yet still handsome. His calves are muscular as before he came to the Chateau de la Beuvriere he was a mountain guide in the Alpes and a specialist in edible plants and foraging. He looked very healthy and capable despite, like most of the French population, he smokes his self rolled tobacco. Again Susy introduces me as the assistant manager.
She handed me about 200 Euro in small change and a 500 Euro note as well. “If you can take the 500 Euros to the bank and exchange it that would be great, I don’t have anything smaller and I don’t think any of the businesses will accept it.” I take the money and count a few times how much was given to me so I can keep track. We went to the store and picked up a drill and a few other miscellaneous items to finish off the apartment and the pool house room as well.
After the running around with Laurent I stopped for lunch. Susy wanted me to eat with her, so I obliged and joined her in her office. While I was there I heard a knock at the door and Thomas walked in. Dressed in work clothes, a t-shirt and shorts that had paint splatter all over them. He has short brown hair, about 3/4 inch in length. A slightly receding hairline, but nothing too drastic. He has a goatee similar to my own though much darker with a rugged unshaven sideburns coming down his cheeks. He is about 30 years old with fun-loving eyes full of determination and life. He came in to talk to Susy about missing Friday and explained to her it was a family emergency. This is the guy that Susy wanted to make sure I watched out for as he wasn’t always honest and could be manipulative, so she told me. I didn’t get that feeling from him when I met him, I would reserve my opinion until I got to know him I thought.
“I’m so sorry to hear that darling” she said in her sweet granny-like voice, “I hope everything is alright” They talked for a few minutes and she then turned to ask me to go with Thomas to get what I needed to clean the pool.
I walked with Thomas towards the pool and chatted with him briefly, he was a bit reserved as we had just met. When we arrived I had a look at the state of the water and was aghast. It was murky to say the least. Leaves were everywhere, hadn’t been removed in what would seem like a week. Don’t even get me started on the jacuzzi. Thomas told me that they clean it every 3-4 days, put chlorine in the water etc “However we still get frogs and toads in there nightly and have to take them out in the morning” He said seriously, “Madame Stayne saw the toads the one time and refuses to swim in the pool ever since” I could see the start of a sly smirk start to form; I knew he wasn’t bsing me. I cleaned the pool for over 2 hours. It still looked unwelcoming.
At around 5pm, the guests were already an hour late when Dave and Leanne, from the day before, showed up again. Veronique let me know that they were there and looking for me, not Susy. They were a little disgruntled as they wanted to see the rooms. I understood but this time I legitimately couldn’t show them all the rooms as the guests were meant to arrive any minute; I did however make certain as to show the downstairs room which is situated under the Chapel so to ease their worries as much as possible. They told me they weren’t pleased with the avoidance of seeing any rooms, and I told them I understood completely. They took my email in case they had any concerns and were once again on their way. Potential disaster averted I thought.
The wedding party arrived only a few minutes later…