Mrs. Adeline Dupont labored breathlessly as she peddled her paint chipped bicycle up the craggy dirt path. The sun beat down incessantly on her causing tiny beads of sweat to form beneath her wool shirt.
Just another mile more…she chanted silently to herself as she redoubled her efforts.
The town of Aubigny lay just south of Loire Valley and only two miles from her small cabin in the hills.
The Scottish influenced town was close enough for her to get the necessary supplies she needed to survive in her self imposed seclusion, yet far enough away for her to maintain her privacy. A privacy she treasured above all else.
When she and Jacques found the log cabin tucked away in the hills of Loire Valley they both knew it was the perfect place for them.
They had met as exchange students in London. She was from America, Jacques was from France. Their love was instant and strong. And as so often happens with young passionate lovers, they followed their hearts one starry night and eloped.
Their joy however was not shared by all. Jacques parents took great exception to the union.
Adeline was an only child from very humble means. Her father died in a mining accident and her mother lived on a small pension. The marriage pleased her mother greatly but Jacques was from a very prominent family in France. His mother was Norwegian while he father was French aristocrat. They did not feel Adeline a proper match for their son.
Upon hearing of their marriage, they demanded he have it annulled, else he'd be disinherited.
Jacques parted with his family and took his young bride away. They purchased the small cabin she now lived in with the few funds he had managed to save on his own, and they had lived there, blissfully happy, until five years, two months and seven days ago.
It was exactly five years, two months and seven days ago that Jacques went out for his morning bike ride. He loved riding his bicycle through the scenic mountains of France, taking in the heavily intoxicating scent of grapes from the many vineyards the country was so famous for. It became a ritual with him. He would wake just before the sun rose each day, kiss her sleeping face goodbye and promise to be back before she woke so that they could share their morning meal together.
Up until that particular morning, Jacques never broke his promise.
Days, then weeks went by before her beloveds' bicycle was dragged from the river. News came to her that her husband was dead. Though they never did find his body. She remembered the day clearly. It was the same day she found out she was pregnant.
The shock of hearing her husband was dead was too much for her to bear. She locked herself away, refusing to speak to anyone for weeks.
Then one day, Jacques parents came to see her. When they saw she was with child, they offered to take her with them, and care for her and her child. Adeline refused.
She realized during those weeks of grieving that something was very wrong. Jacques could not be dead. Surely if he was, she would feel it, but she didn't. She refused to. And that's when the realization hit her that her husband was not dead, he was very much alive!
Her newfound revelation however did not sit well with her in-laws. Adeline scoffed at the pity she saw in their eyes when she informed them that Jacques was not dead and that he would return to her. She rationalized a million different scenarios for his disappearance. He got kidnapped. He hit his head and had amnesia and was trying to find his way back to her. In her mind, these were much more practical explanations then the alternative.
But Jacques parents would not accept her reasoning. In fact, they thought her mad. Their concern grew when word came that Adeline's mother had passed away from a sudden heart attack. Adeline once again took to her room, not to come out for weeks.
Jacques parents brought in doctors to see her, but she refused to let any of them examine her. At one point, they tried to have her committed, but was told unless she was a danger to herself, her baby or anyone else, they could not commit her.
Left with no other options, Jacques parents stayed in the Town of Aubigny, visiting her everyday until the birth of her child came.
That day came on April 9th, four years ago. She delivered a stillborn baby boy.
Jacques parents stayed to burry the baby then left without a word. The only evidence that they were ever there to begin with came in the form of a check written out to her in the amount of five hundred thousand dollars.
Adeline did not grieve for her child, just as she did not grieve for her husband. After Jacques parents left she questioned her own memories. Did she give birth to a stillborn? Or did Jacques family steal her child from her? Again, as with her husband, it was a much more practical explanation for the disappearance of her son.
Having grappled with all that had happened to her, Adeline decided to wait. She would wait for the day her husband would return, and then together, they would go get their son back. A renewed sense of hope filled her as she went about her days.
Unfortunately, others did not share in her optimism. Her trips to town became more and more stressful over time. She started seeing the same look of pity in the townsfolk's eyes that she saw in Jacques parents' eyes.
She tried to explain to them when they offered their condolences that Jacques was not dead, he was alive, and would be coming home soon, but it fell on deaf ears. Instead of believing her, she became fodder for town gossip.
After a while she gave up trying to make people understand. It no longer bothered her that they whispered behind her back as she walked through town.
"Poor thing…So tragic…How can she survive up there alone all this time? I hear she talks to herself… I hear she hears voices….Yeah, from her dead husband…."
Those words use to sting, until she dismissed them completely as ignorant remarks made by ill-mannered people. After all, how could such commoners understand true love? The kind she and Jacques shared. The kind that never died…
He lived now, in her heart and in her mind. And yes, she did speak to him often. He was a great comfort to her. She could hear his voice clearly as if he was still there, with her. His image was sharp and vivid in her minds eye. She could still smell his sweet scent; feel his soft silky blonde hair beneath her fingertips. And at night, when she laid her head down upon his pillow, his eyes, bluer than the Aegean Sea stared back at her from behind closed lids.
The connection she still held with him was so strong, how could he possibly be dead? Still, it had been so long.. so very long. When would he return?
A loud 'popping' noise from behind broke into her thoughts. She turned her head to examine the tiny rickety wagon tied to the back. Its wheels squeaked in protest as it bounced awkwardly over rocks and discarded branches, but it held fast. She frowned noting its days were numbered. Much like hers.
She pushed that morose thought away along with a strand of dirty long brown hair that escaped from beneath her tattered wide brimmed hat. She mustn't give up hope she reminded herself.
Doubts always plagued her when she was forced to leave her sanctuary to go to town. It was those people who put doubt in her head. She had to remain faithful. Their time would come.
Five years of waiting was taking its toll on her. The loneliness was excruciating, but she would endure, no matter how long it took. She had to. The alternative was unthinkable. She lived for one purpose alone. His return. And he would return, he promised.
And Jacques never broke a promise…