“When did you know you were lost? he asked.
“Ah! Vous parlez anglais! Oh, ce sera beaucoup plus facile! Désolée. Mon français n’est pas très bon. Well, we weren’t really lost. We were on the beach, the ocean was to our right, so we were going South. See? Not exactly lost. Just a little bit farther South than I thought.” She peered at the map from the rental car agency and bit her lip. “What town is this?”
“Vous parlez bien le français, madame! But yes, I speak English now because I can see that you are a lost touriste. This is La Rochelle, madame.” He pointed to a place on the map. And your husband, you say he is where, exactement?” He looked around, confused.
“He’s just behind me, and he has the tire. I saw you sitting up here, so I told him I’d run ahead to see if I could ask if there is a place to get it fixed. Is there? Somewhere close, perhaps? The tire is heavy.” She sighed.
“Oui, madame, it’s not too far, but it is in the town. You’ll need your shoes, madame. You do have…” He stared pointedly at her bare feet.
“Oh, oui! Zut! I forgot I’d taken them off. My husband told me a hundred times that they were impractical, and they are…if one plans to walk…” she consulted the map again, “…twelve kilometers along the beach! But I didn’t plan that, obviously!” Her husband came up next to her, rolling a car tire in front of him.
“Bonjour, Monsieur,” he said with a very strong American accent. He looked expectantly at his wife, who was sitting on a bench putting on her high-heeled shoes.
“Bonjour. Your wife was telling me about your troubles with the tire. I am so sorry! You know, it’s unfortunate that you are here at this time. It’s just past noon, so everything is closed until 14…o’clock. But perhaps I can help you anyway.” He looked behind him at an approaching woman, very pretty, with dark hair and sparkling brown eyes. She joined him and looked expectantly at him, glancing at the other couple. “Ah, ma chérie. This charming American couple needs our help! Their rental car has a flat tire and they have walked from the autoroute twelve kilometers with this tire to get it fixed!”
“Oh, mon dieu! You poor things. Madame, you have walked twelve kilometers in those…adorable shoes?! Pardon, madame, but I think your shoes are très chic! Did you bring them from America? Oh, désolée I get distracted. Your troubles with the tire! Marc, the garage, it won’t open until two hours. They must come with us for le déjeuner…lunch? Then we can drive them to have it fixed.”
“Tu as raison, Mireille. Come, you two, we have a lunch prepared in our home, just there,” he pointed at a small house several yards away, “and we’d be pleased to invite you. Then we can help you with this tire! The car, it is safe from the road?”
“Oui, it’s safe. Oh, merci mille fois, monsieur!” She glanced at her husband and said, “Well, renting a car is always a great adventure, isn’t it, sweetie?”
He shook his head, and smiled.”Yes, my dear, you always have a way of finding a ‘great adventure’ ! Merci, monsieur, merci madame. Sorry, but that’s all the French I know. It’s her, ” he nodded at his wife, “who took the time to learn your beautiful language. Me, I’m along for the ride!” he grinned.
Marc laughed and said, “No problem, monsieur. Let me help you with that tire.” He walked over to help, and his wife beckoned to the other woman.
“Come with me, I have everything prepared. And you can tell me now more about these shoes of yours, elles sont mignonnes! My father, he makes shoes and he has a shop in town. I can show you when our husbands are at the garage. Don’t worry, Marc will speak French for your husband, and he will make sure you get this repair done quickly. It’s not what you had planned today, je crois.”
“Non, madame, this is far better than what we had planned! Who could imagine that we’d meet des vrais anges in La Rochelle today! Yes, you are angels! ”
Mireille laughed and the two women walked toward the house behind their husbands.