petite amie

Church in Cairanne. In today's story: a tart, a church, and a twist in this tale....

Petite Amie


noun, feminine


On Friday, the lendemain of Jean-Marc's fortieth birthday, a florist's van pulled up to our front gate. I watched as the driver handed over a lipstick-red ceramic vase with a single orchid inside. Halfway up the exotic flower a hummingbird clung, its delicate wings poised for flight.

When I noticed Jean-Marc smiling as big as Le chat de Cheshire, I ran out to meet him, curious to know who was sending him flowers. It had to be a female. Probably my sister Heidi, I reasoned. Who else could it be? 

"C'est qui cette garce?" "Who's the tart that sent you the flowers?" I teased, with mock jalousie, not at all referring to my sister but to an imaginary rival. The birthday boy took his time reaching into the vase to retrieve the gift card.

"Aha...!" he exclaimed, adding to the intrigue.

"Who is it from?" I insisted. The quiver in my voice belied the confident smile on my face.

When Jean-Marc named his former petite amie, my face turned as white as the dress I wore at my wedding. The same dress that the Other Woman had once sat scrutinizing.

The Other Woman is she who appeared on the scene when I came home to America having just met Jean-Marc. (We'll call her "Owch" for the Other Woman [after I] Came Home). Owch and Jean-Marc dated, broke up, and dated again before breaking up for good. Sure of his decision, Jean-Marc invited me back into his life, also "for good" (I hoped).

On the morning of my wedding day Owch called her Ex (my Future) for directions to the church, and, in so doing, managed to pee on my parade. (I hope that the reader will excuse any verbal crassness and instead conjure up an image of one woman's (Owch's) attempt to both mark her former territory and cloud up an otherwise bright day). And so my wedding day began with Owch and, as you will soon see, ended with Owch for a double wedding whammy. Indeed, Owch was a thorn in my very swollen side.

Owch, with the shiny black bob, did not show up this time in painted-on-the-body black leather, but wore two dresses on my wedding day: one to the church and another shorter, plungier, blacker number to the wedding feast. Big as I was (or felt), I didn't have another "little number" to change into, as Owch did. What with my growing girth... it wasn't an option. And so I stood, not in a fitted dress like my rival's, but just fitting into my gown with its fat cloth buttons riding down my back like cellulite. And though I should have been thanking my lucky stars that the wedding dress fit at "five weeks," I could only think of how frumpy I looked compared to Mademoiselle Owch, the Parisian panther.

At around two in the morning, I found myself face-to-face with Owch, in her clingy dress and concave stomach. We were seated at a table next to the dance floor, where Owch had spent the evening shaking it up, uP, UP! With the rise of her skirt I noticed her legs, which were taut, tanned and untamed by nylons as she crossed them on the chair before me. My own legs were covered in opaque white stockings and hidden beneath some increasingly constrictive crêpe de chine.

Owch took another drag from her slim cigarette before aiming dead center between my eyes, which crossed in disbelief as I followed the train of smoke that escaped from her pursed lips. A thick ashen wall of defense now separated us. From the opposite side of the front line, the enemy spoke.

"So, when is the baby due?"

I was too stunned to answer. My eyes dropped to the floor, but not before catching on Owch's blood-red nails, which curled like claws around a glass of champagne.

                                       *     *     *

Fast forward now... My own fingernails, trimmed short and unpolished, crowned insistent fingers that snapped the gift card out of my husband's hand. I studied the fake hummingbird that accompanied the flower. I felt an urge to swat the delicate creature as one would a fly.

Before I could learn the true answer, Jean-Marc assured me: "I was only kidding you!" Reading the card, I saw for myself that the flowers were not from Owch. Ahhh....

They were from someone else!

Do forgive me if I do not tell you just who sent the orchid. For, like a well-covered woman (whether in crêpe de chine or plain ol' cotton), it is the mystery that adds to the allure. And it is the allure that endures.

One last note, this time to my son: Max, your father and I were married in a civil ceremony—two months prior to the religious ceremony—in Marseilles's magical Bagatelle. You can put your calculator away now, Honey, and know that God was on our side, even if the French law sometimes wasn't. (I'll tell you about your mother's stint as an illegal alien when you are a little older. For now, do as I say and not as I do and remember your great-grandfather Gordon's words of wisdom: When you are around trouble, you are in it!)


To leave point out any typos or grammatical errors, please click here. Don't forget to check the vocab section.

To see a photo of the groom and bride, click here--and go to the end of that post! 

French Vocabulary

le lendemain = the next day
Le chat (m) de Cheshire = The Cheshire Cat
la jalousie = jealousy
la petite amie (le petit ami) = girlfriend (boyfriend)
Bagatelle = the name of the town hall in Marseilles's 8ème arrondissement


Improve your French with music: A French Christmas 

Read the classic: 501 French Verbs: with CD-ROM

Le pessimiste pense que toutes les femmes sont des garces. L'optimiste l'espère bien.
A pessimist is a man who thinks all women are bad. An optimist is one who hopes they are. --Chauncey Depew

:: Audio Clip ::
Download garce.wav
and listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote:

Le pessimiste pense que toutes les femmes sont des garces. L'optimiste l'espère bien.

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