Hello :)

I hope that everyone is alright ^^

This chapter is a bit special, because today I want to speak quickly about something that happened. You may have heard that there have been an attack in France, two days ago, against a teacher who was teaching the right to express ourselves to his students. In France, we're lucky. We can usually express ourselves freely. We can speak. We can write. We can draw. We can do many things to express our visions and hopes and thoughts. We can be angry or happy in those expressions. But mostly, we can be ourselves. Now, someone tried to silence us. It's not the first time, sadly. But I just wanted to say this. For every attack like this, and after our mourn, we will speak louder, write harder, and draw bigger, because it is our inner right, because we're free to do so and we should do so. But moreover, because we won't let someone steal us this freedom. We won't be afraid. We won't be silenced.

I wish you a nice reading ^^


Guest: Thank you so much for your review! I'm so glad that you liked the previous chapter! Shirley's in a bad place, and it won't end soon, unfortunately. For now, I hope that you will like this chapter, and again thank you for your kind words :)


Chapter 21

.

Someone, somewhere, was playing violin. Sometimes the melody would disappear behind the clamor rising from the street, but often Una could hear it struggling weakly to be heard. She had never heard this music before, yet she had the feeling, as she was hearing it, that it was like a glimpse of home. Sometimes the rhythm would slow down, and she would remember the walks around the Glen, the echo of the sea, the sweetness of the summer evenings. And again the notes jostled, and she was somewhere else. She could be, if she closed her eyes.

How she would have liked to have been there at that moment. Not just being at the Rainbow Valley, but be back to those times where everything was still easy, or easier. But the invisible musician did not gave her time to delve deeply into these precise memories, as the rhythm was already accelerating, just like the echo of a burst of laughter that nothing could silence. She would think about Faith and Jerry, laughing in the church under the angry looks of half the congregation, or about their games in the Rainbow Valley, when they were still playing there.

The violin stopped, and after some moments, she understood that the musician had stop playing. She sighed as stood up. Soon they wouldd have to prepare themselves to the reception, anyway. Shirley had been absent to lunch, and Oliver, who had knock on his door, had came back saying that the young man was fully asleep. He had only reappear in the middle of the afternoon, and they had played a card game. He was still tired, anyone could see that, but Una had been reassured by his expression which was a bit more peaceful. To her silent question he had answer that he was feeling better, still a bit tired, but nothing serious. But that something was serious, whatever the young man was saying, and Una couldn't help but think about how they would manage tonight.

Thinking about that, her gaze naturally fell on Faith's dress. After ironing it, she had hung it on a hanger behind the door so as not to wrinkle it. A precaution that would surely have seemed superfluous to her sister. It made her smile. How many ways were there to live in this world? And her mind turned to Shirley. The only ways he had found to survive were silence and alcohol. All for years. All without anyone ever noticing a thing. She bit her lips. She should have seen something. She should have understood. Since she had discover it, she couldn't help but feel guilty that she hadn't seen it sooner.

"Nobody should suffer in silence," she was silently thinking when she heard a soft knock on her door.

Surprised, she remained seated for a while, when a second knock startled her, and she jumped up to open the door. Pauline was standing in the corridor, and smiled at the young Canadian girl when she saw her in the doorway.

"I'm sorry Una, I hope I'm not disturbing you," she said, worried by the look of the young woman's expression.

Una shook gently her head. The day before, they had agreed to help each other, and Pauline was just holding the iron she had borrowed from a housemaid in one hand, while she was holding her dress with the other. She had already put her shoes, which was giving her a funny look of a little girl who would have look in old wardrobes to dress herself.

"I was just ... lost in my thoughts," Una explained, with an apologetic smile. "Please, come in," she added, opening her door more largely.

"Are you sure I do not disturb you?" Pauline asked, as she came in. "I can come back later, if you wish".

"No, that's alright," Una answered quickly. "Besides, there are not much time left before the reception," she added, looking at the clock hanging above the table.

They were supposed to be in the hotel's hall in less than an hour. Henri would come with Edith, as both were invited, though unofficially they were here to help for the translation, at least in Henri's case. He would drive them to the place where they were expected - though neither Shirley or Oliver had been able to tell them where it would be. They didn't even know who would be there, only that it would be hosted by Pierre Latécoère. Una helped the young woman putting in place the ironing table, where Pauline gave her outfit a quick snip. Una, on the other hand, went to her suitcase and took the box in which she and Faith had put their mother's pearls. Leaving Pauline to finish her ironing, she went to the bathroom, where she put on Faith's dress. The small adjustments Faith had made fell perfectly on her. Una smiled sadly. They had made them in the kitchen while Lucy was still asleep. The young woman bit her lips. She couldn't help missing home, tonight.

She breathed a little, and in doing so, she discovered that the dress had retained the peculiar smell of Faith's wardrobes. It was so subtle that she hadn't paid attention to it before, but at that very moment she felt as if she was at her sister's house. She breathed more easily, while the tears that threatened to run down quickly faded away. A glance at the pearls, placed on a small pedestal table, confirmed this feeling, and she had a melancholy smile. She may not have been at home, but she was not alone either.

"Do you need some help?" Pauline asked, from the other side of the door.

Una's smile grew a bit larger. She came out and, pointing to her mother's pearl necklace, she asked: "Can you help me put it on, please?"

Pauline immediately noticed that the young woman's eyes were still a little red, but she preferred not to say anything. Silently she nodded with a smile before fastening the clasp.

"They're very pretty," she said smiling.

"They belonged to my mother," Una murmured, touching the thin white beads with her finger. "Her mother had given them to her for her wedding. Pauline?" She added, turning around, with anxious look. "Do you think it will be all right?"

She wasn't talking about her dress or her necklace, as Pauline guessed instantly. The young woman smiled more warmly, nodding : "Yes, I'm sure everything will be all right. Don't worry Una. And if you don't feel well, tell me, we'll go out for a while," she added. "

Una nodded in silence. She was sure she would not do it, for not only she did not think it would be polite, but she would also never dare to disturb the dinner, but it was reassuring to hear those kind words. Once again, she felt that she was not alone, and deep down, she hoped Shirley would eventually feel this too.


"Ladies," Oliver exclaimed pompously, making a deep bow to Pauline and Una as they left the latter's room.

"Shouldn't you wait downstairs?" Pauline asked, surprised.

"Yes, but it's funnier that way," Oliver smiled as he held out his arm to her.

"You're very cheerful tonight," the young woman remarked, cautiously holding out her arm.

Oliver just smiled. The truth was that this dinner made him anxious and excited at the same time, and he couldn't stop joking about it. Turning to Una and Shirley, he exclaimed, "Are you coming?"

Shirley, who was behind him, was about to look up, but he held back. Instead, he turned to Una, who locked the door.

"Faith's dress really suits you," Shirley said in an embarrassed tone.

"Thank you," Una replied in the same tone, "Your tuxedo looks really nice too."

Both stood, facing each other, feeling a bit awkward. Hearing Oliver call them again, they pressed on. Just as on the night of the lighthouse ball, they walked down side by side behind the young couple, feeling relieved not to have to say any more. Henri and Edith were waiting for them, sharing an armchair in the hall. They stood up when they recognized them, and Henri approached with a large smile on his face. He could not have approached a prouder expression if it was his daughter who came down dressed like a queen.

"You are all really very elegant," he said, smiling broadly. "I'm sure everything will be all right," he added in a kindly tone, remarking that none of them were really sure, "and you're going to have a wonderful dinner, you'll see. Come, now, the car is outside."

"I thought you had park it in the kitchen," Oliver said to him, while Edith was greeting Pauline and Una.

"I would have love it, but it wasn't big enough," Henri replied casually, offering him a reassuring look, as he drove them out of the hotel.

The journey was not long, and Henri soon parked near a pavement, before getting out of the vehicle. Gallantly, he opened the door to the occupants of the back seat, while Shirley got out of the passenger seat. While waiting for the others, he looked around and noticed a fancy restaurant from which a few laughs were already coming out, and the confused noise of several discussions. He had never come to such a restaurant, and he suddenly felt out of place.

Henry nodded his head and slammed the door: "Yes, it's there, but don't worry, it will all go right. The others are probably already settled, come, follow me," he added loude..

A young waiter went to meet them, and after Henri's explanations, he offered them a broad smile before beckoning them to follow him. Henri and Eidht were starting to follow him when Eidth remarked that the rest of the group wasn't following. They were at the same place, looking at each other. After a look with his wife, Henri intervened again: "Go ahead, I promise they won't eat you. According to what the waiter said, it's upstairs, which is the quietest place. And I promise we'll all get out alive of this," he added with a smile, as if this last argument could decide them.

Finally, the young people followed them, as the waiter led them to the upper floor via the large staircase. They went through a large and quiet room, where some tables were occupied, but they did not stopped there. Instead, they went to the back of the room, where they found themselves facing Latécoère and the other guests who had joined the meal.

"Here they are, sir," announced the young boy.

Pierre-George Latécoère stood up and, with a smile, greeted them.

"I'm glad to see you here, all of you," he said, turning towards the group.

Henri, taking things in hand, greeted back before presenting his wife. He was going to do the same for Pauline and Una but Oliver, who had come back to his senses as he was used to this kind of things, took a step up and added : "This is my wife, Pauline," he said, as Pauline smiled, "and this is Una Meredith," he added, as Una shyly saluted him.

"Your fiancee I suppose?" Pierre turned towards Shirley.

Both Una and Shirley looked at each other, surprised and embarassed.

"No, sir, she's ... she's a very good friend, but not my ... not my fiancee," Shirley replied.

A young man smiled before saying : "On sait tous ce que ça veut dire".*

Shirley, who had not understand the meaning of it, understood it when he saw the smiles on other faces.

"Oh la ferme, Vanier,"** a well-known voice replied dryly. "Méfie-toi, la prochaine fois que tu te marieras, ce ne sera pas une fois, mais deux qu'il faudra tout reporter," she added with a look that made the young man look away.

Una looked closely, and recognized Adrienne, who smiled towards her.

The waiter was about to help them set up, and he came closer to Una, for whom he pulled the chair out so that she could sit down. However, bot too stressed and afraid, the young woman did not understand his gesture, and thinking that he was going to remove it completely from the table, began to pull the one next to it. Shirley immediately noticed him and, tapping the arm of the young waiter who was about to express his disbelief, he said kindly, in an approximative French : "Je vais faire, merci"***.

The young waiter, dazed, walked towards Pauline while Shirley whispered to Una that she should sit on the chair he was pulling. Red with confusion, the young woman fell into it before bowing her head. Shirley sat down beside her, smiling as if nothing had happened, and no one except the waiter had noticed anything.

"It's nothing, Una," he whispered to the young woman. "Nobody saw anything".

He understood that the pressure she was under had made her misunderstand the situation, so whe Una eventually dared to look a bit upper, he smiled and repeated that it was nothing. In the same time, Pierre named all the guests around the table. To his right were Vanier and his wife. Pauline, who was sitting next to them, took a brief moment to hope that Adrienne's advertisement had been enough. On his left were Raymonde and Didier Daurat****, and Adrienne was between him and Shirley. She smiled as he recognized her.

"I had promise we would all see each other again," she said. "Please, tell your friend to not worry. Vanier is a joker, but he's not mean," she added, seeing that Una was barely looking up and thinking that it was because of the joke. "And if he is, I'll took care of it," she promised with such a look that Shirley opened big eyes, as he started to worry a bit more about this dinner.


*"We all know what it means".

** "Oh shut up, Vanier [...] Watch out, next time you get married, it won't be once but twice that you'll need to postpone everything."

Raymond Vanier was a French pilot who came in Latécoère in 1919. Adrienne told him to watch out for his wedding because in 1920, Vanier pilot Pierre's plane to fly him in Casablanca. When he brings him at Toulouse, Latécoère invites him to lunch. Vanier uses this occasion to tell him that he'll get married on June 10. Latécoère tells him that he can't get married that day, that even himself would report any business on this day, and despite his protestations, Vanier is forced to postpone to the 22. Nothing happened on the 10's, so people think that it was just to remind him that first, he was married to his work. He was never invited again by Latécoère to lunch or dinner, but as we are in fiction, I used this privilege to invite him to dinner ^^

Also, I used him as a comic relief because when he flew for the first time on the Latecoère's "ground", in front of the Capitaine Beauté (real name!), he started to do some acrobatic figues, thinking he was alone. When he came out of the plane, Beauté came to him, asked his name, and Vanier apologized. Beauté replied that it was alright and asked if he wanted to do a useful acrobatic figure. He send him convoy the planes to Toulouse with some comrades. (If you understand French, the first story is told in a podcast which you can find here www. francebleu. fr / emissions /objectif-ciel /toulouse /un-mariage- perturbe-des -hydravions- en-espagne-et -des-nouvelles-bien -fraiches. For the second, it's in Jean-Gérard Fleury's La ligne: de Mermoz, Guillaumet, Saint-Exupéry et de leurs compagnons d'épopée (p. 15)

*** "I'll do it, thank you".

**** Didier Daurat (1891 - 1969) enters in Latécoère's company after the war, and become the operation manager in 1920. he recruited Guillaumet, Mermoz and Saint-Exupery (unfortunately not yet, in this story). He was known for his iron will, and was both admired and feared by his pilots. A representative scene of ths is the day Mermoz makes a test in front of him. It was a superb flight, but too spectacular for Daurat, who told him when he got off the plane :"I don't need circus performers but bus drivers. We will train you!". In 1933, Latécoère is taken in Air France Company. As he had some ennemies (precisely because of this will which would often break the aviators), he is dismissed. He opens another company, which carry the mails day and night, and which is a success. He was initially buried on the old Aéropostale's ground, in Toulouse, as it was left empty, but in 2007, the place is demolished, and his body is buried in the family grave, in Marseille.

His wife, Raymonde (1893 - 1970), was a piano teacher. She earned the first prize of the conservatory, in the women's category (Le Premier prix du Conservatoire femme). She was leading a promising career but she put in brackets because of her husband's career.

Thanks to you for reading!

I hope that you liked this new chapter ^^

Have a nice week and take care :)