We walked past the left corner of the house, following the gravel path that was gradually turning into a sandy one. We entered the shallow wood that surrounded the house and I thanked god for not having to carry my suitcase around with me. The wood had an exceptionally peaceful atmosphere about it. With the birds twittering at the tops of their voices and mum and Mrs. Alroy chatting happily, I felt as if I had been transferred into a summer dream.
Mrs. Alroy had been right to suspect that we would love the cottage. On first site it looked like a squat little model of the farmhouse as it was built from the same deeply red bricks and had the same window-frames and blinds, except that these were painted indigo-blue.
A plant with grape-like blue blossoms was creeping up the side of the house, throwing shadows on the small square terrace in front of the cottage and forming a kind of plant-y roof over it at the same time.
“We’ve stocked the house with some basic groceries, but Arthur’s going to Dublin tomorrow to buy ours, so if you need anything, and I expect you will, feel free to join him. And you could join us for dinner tonight.” Mrs. Alroy’s voice, although resembling that of a bird quite a lot, disturbed the pleasant summer sounds around me. I had almost reached the cottage door, my hand already stretched out in mid-air to open it, when I froze. Please say no, mum, just say no. I pleaded silently, looking at mum over my shoulder.
“We would be delighted!”, mum said enthusiastically and I suppressed a groan. Hadn’t she met enough people today? What if Mrs. Alroy invited Arthur too? And then there would be her husband and maybe even children. How wonderful! Was I expected to play with them? Deciding only to think of this possibility if I really had to, I ignored  Mrs. Alroy’s continuing babble and entered the cottage.
The soft, slightly dusty air greeted me in a rush of wind from inside as if it had been wanting to get out of there for a long time. The inside of the cottage was even smaller than I had suspected. Directly ahead of me, at the end of the narrow, dimly lit hallway, a plain wooden door seemed to lead to a bathroom. Next to it was a staircase so narrow, that my claustrophobia gave a nervous twitch. Well, thanks mum, for this cozy cottage. The rest of the ground floor was devoted to a living room plus tiny kitchen that I didn’t give a second thought. Bracing myself for the inevitable, I took a deep breath and started to walk up the staircase. I had to move much too close to the wall for my taste and my anxiousness wasn’t softened by the way every step creaked under my careful feet, but after what seemed an eternity, I reached the upper landing.
There were two rooms here: A small one with twin-beds and an alcove, and another, larger room. My suitcase was standing in the larger room which made me wonder whether Arthur possessed some kind of second site (you know, about my claustrophia), because this room was obviously meant for couples. The light floor-boards stood in perfect harmony with the old roof beams that cut the room in two. Behind the beams stood a plain double bed with plaid bedspreads in light blue and white. These colours were caught up by the flimsy curtains beside the large windows. A slim white wardrobe made the homely appearance of the room perfect. What made me like it from the moment I set foot in it was its decided airiness. This was the kind of bedroom that gave you space to think and move freely instead of claiming your attention all the time. I returned to the landing just in time to see mum climbing up the stairs.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it? I told Arthur to put your trunk in the large bedroom. I don’t want to deal with panic attacks every day of my vacation.” This might have sounded unkind to outsiders, but I didn’t mind. For one thing, nothing could ever keep mum from voicing her opinion and for another, she was right. We both wanted to enjoy our stay, didn’t we?
As I had estimated, mum loved her room anyway. By the time I sat down on one of the beds next to her open trunk, she was already having daydreams about the time she would spend in that alcove. I started searching the trunk for my bandages and listened to mum rhapsodizing as usual (in French, of course).
“And the farmhouse! So neat and beautiful and Mrs. Alroy, she’s all kindness and attention. I’m really looking forward to this dinner and she said she would invite Arthur too…” Her voice trailed away, confirming my suspicions. It was just like mum to fall in love at first sight and then to get hurt or disappointed or both. But for the time being, I didn’t want to spoil the fun. Why shouldn’t mum flirt with Arthur? She was on holiday and she had never looked more beautiful (as far as I could judge).
I fastened the bandages around my throbbing ankle and was amazed at the immediate feeling of relief that I experienced. I was getting really good at ignoring the pain which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but quite handy.
“So, what’s your plan for the day?” Mum sat down on the other bed, facing me and fastening the buttons on her summer’s dress. “Because I’m definitely going to take a nap now. I’m ex-hausted!” She put great emphasis on the “ex”, amending it with a theatrical movement of her hand.
“Oh, I don’t know. I might take a walk… I won’t get lost, don’t worry mum.”, I added, when mum opened her mouth to object. “The woods are shallow and I have a sense of direction.”
“Cheeky kid”, mum laughed. “You know, I never got lost in Paris in seventeen years.”
“But when we visited dad and Laurie in Conflans you did, and it’s kind of a challenge to get lost in this village.”
“Ah, just go!”, mum said, repressing a giggle. I grinned and kissed her on the cheek. “See you.”

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