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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Thanks for putting this story back out. I must have missed it the first time! OWCH...ha.I love it!


I remember reading this back in 2007. I had just started dating my French boyfriend and sent him the quote at the top of the entry. We both thought it was a good one. I'm happy to say he and I are still together and going strong. Thank you for a walk down memory lane. :-)

Lisa A., CA

I too like the term: OWCH!! C'est parfaite!!

I only have one question though: Why was she invited to the wedding and the dinner? Is that a "French" thing to do????


Love Gordon's words of wisdom. I have never heard that before and it is very wise indeed.
This is good reading and so is your hospital drama as well! Hugs from California!


Thank you, Kristin for writing down these fun and often touching glimpses into your French life. I've been reading your blog for a few years now. I was a full-time French teacher for the past 14 years in Texas until recent budget cuts also cut the French program and turned me into an English teacher! That said, reading your posts means more to me than ever because I am feeling "homesick" for my former French life.


Yes, why was she invited to the wedding? You were (are) a classy lady to except and deal with the situation.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for your wonderful feedback!

Lisa and Kathleen, re why the invite? Je nai aucune idée!

Tim Averill

I prefer "pee in my pool" or "piss on my parade" and I love the image and the "marking of territory."


Lovely story! Speaking as a copy editor, I have two small items of punctuation to mention:
At the end of the second line, there should be a hyphen between 'lipstick' and 'red'.
Three lines after the ***, there shouldn't be a comma after 'hummingbird'.

Sushil Dawka

Hello Kristin,
'Owch' really cracked me up!
By the way, don't you mean 'belied' instead of 'betrayed' in the fifth paragraph?

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Linda! 

Sushil, you may be right about that. I think Ill keep betrayed as Im still not sure the exact meaning of belied.

Dont forget to add your names to the Acknowledgment box if you have offered edits for any of these stories. I may not incorporate all the edits, but I do find them all helpful!


gail bingenheimer

L'on (On) reste toujurs un peu enfant
A little bit of the child always remains in us.

Bill in St. Paul

I love this story. I, too, remember when you first wrote it. I think you're too kind using Owch for the other woman, I would have gone for a "b" sound. Two comments: I don't see a translation for "crêpe de chine" but maybe that's the actual name of the cloth. Also, I think you need to include a picture of that cute couple on their church wedding day.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Bill. I wondered about whether to add crêpe de Chine to the vocab section. I think I decided against it (for I get the same translation in English!)

Ive added that photo to the book... :-)

Diane Scott

While this one is fun, it is all too true of the American woman's sense of inferiority to la femme francaise. Dorothy, I would not give OUCH, the wicked witch of the west, your ruby slippers, by wasting a single word or whisper of her in your lovely book.

Linda Williams Rorem

Hi, Kristen, I don't think I have commented before, but do read every post. I am a journalist and francophile living in the Seattle area. Anyway, I was intrigued by this post and did find some typographical errors. I have set them off with > big as Le chat de Cheshire

The Other Woman is she who appeared on the scene when I > to America having just met Jean-Marc. (We'll call her "Owch" for the Other Woman [after I] Came Home).>

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 >(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 though I should have been thanking my lucky stars that the wedding dress fit at "five weeks,">

At > two in the morning,

Owch took another drag from her slim cigarette before aiming dead center between my eyes,> which crossed

Too stunned to answer, my eyes dropped to the floor,> but not before

I studied the fake hummingbird > accompanied the flower.

For, like a well-covered woman (whether in crêpe de chine or plain ol' cotton),> it is the mystery that adds to the allure.

One last note, this time to my nearly >12-year-old son.

Sarah LaBelle

I think this story belongs. It is quintessential you.
You said this is for your family, and of those years of your life. You made the decision for your son to know you were married before he came along. Not every couple handles that situation the same way. I see two stories: enduring the old girlfriend at the wedding and reception, and telling it to your children. Both good stories in my view.

Especially as you never thought of your swelling belly as proof of J-M's choice, right choice, for his wife. What occupied your mind (besides some anger I suppose) was bits of stray jealousy and worry. Even when you had already married on the official record. Potent emotions make a good story.


Priscilla Fleming Vayda

A couple of notes: at "five weeks," >comma should be inside quotation marks;
I would hyphenate face-to-face and I would put OWCH in caps but that is a personal preference.
Love the story and the final note to your son. Also, I noted comments by Linda Rorem and she is on the mark.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks Linda, Diane, Sarah, and Priscilla! 

Does anyone else think Owch should be in all caps? I had thought about this when writing the story, but thought the caps might scream too much (as there are so many references there...)


Yep, this story needs to be included. I have no suggestions for improvement. It's good as it stands.

Lynn at Southern Fried French

Great story, too funny! Didn't see anything that others didn't catch. I do think OWCH should be in caps, as an acronym, and it really should scream!


I loved the story, as well, and think it should live in your book. And, I didn't know,as I began, that you were "with child"!

I think you need commas before and after the "..,with the tiny, black bob,.."

And, I'd make two sentences out of your very, last one, and use quotation marks around the wise statement....as in, "...not as I do. And, remember your grand...wisdom, " When you are .....".) I think that softens it and it looks more special. (Does that make sense?)

Suzanne Dunaway

Go easy on the italics, aside from French words or a whammy sentence. "Ended with Ouch", for example would be better with no italics. The straighter you write (and I understand italics for emphasis, belive me)and the fewer you use, the more emphatic they are when used.


I think I'd leave Owch as is. It's common to write acronymys (abbreviations that can be pronounced as words) without all caps: for example, Unicef. Mercosur. And typographically Owch looks better on the page than OWCH, particularly when you use it so many times.

Great story. I love "blood-red nails, curled like claws around a glass of champagne." (Capitalize Champagne?)

Virginia Gardner

Loved this story with its vivid depiction of the femme fatale rival, it was funny and suspenseful right up to the clever end, but, tiny glich, I was a bit confused by the reference, "[she] did not show up this time in...black leather," as I had no idea what time you were referring to. Had you met her before or did you know this was her habitual panther uniform from stories your husband told you? It's a minor point, but I had to reread the story, which plays with time, to understand. Perhaps a bit of amplification here would clarify this time reference? I love the complex interior monologue flow. Great story, I'm looking forward to the novel! BTW, I agree with the artist's comments about covers #4 and #2.

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Bonjour, Kristin...
This is a great story that almost anyone could relate to or sympathize with. A couple of comments:

1. It appears to me that "lendemain" as used here means the day after JM's birthday. Is that correct (i.e., the flowers were late), or does it mean "the day before" in this context?
2. For the sentence: "When Jean-Marc named his former petite amie my face...", I think there should be a comma after "amie."
3. In "the reader will excuse", I would suggest softening it a bit by either inserting "please" after "will" or starting the parenthetical phrase with "I hope that".
4. I realize that your wedding guest was probably speaking French, but, in English, I would be inclined to add a comma after "So"in "So when is the baby due?" to give it more unfriendly punch.


Wonderful Kristin!
I love this story. It's funny, romantic, and a bit bitchy. All great components.

I wouldn't change anything. I love the warmth, humor, and love in this story. I truly adore the note to your son.

Sois Sage!


I too remember this one from 2007 and think it seems to fit perfectly with the type of stories you're going for for this book. There are some really great descriptive sentences in this piece, so brava!

Lorrie Kazan

when I came home to America (add after) having met Jean-Marc.

I also wondered why she was invited and didn't want to hate her just because she'd dated J-M. You're such a beautiful woman, perhaps she was intimidated by you!

(You might want to add the paragraph reassuring Max earlier in the piece, but I could be wrong about that) Lorrie

Olga Brown

I like this new title of this story. It sounds better than "Tart".
People asked why your husband invited that girl to the wedding. I know why: to show off his pretty bride! He just did not think, that trying to needle her, he hurt you too. Young folks somethimes do things spontaneously, wisdom comes to them later.

Good job!


Great story which definitely should be included. Sandra

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

On re-reading, I think that "honey", used as a name when speaking to your son, should be capitalized, but I'm not sure that it's worth searching the previous stories to make the usage consistent.


I love this piece! I only have one suggestion (and only because I want to be mentioned in the credits!):

"... pee on my parade. (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.)"

If you wanted, you could say "lift her leg on my parade." to convey the same image just a bit more delicately and then follow with the complete sentence in parentheses as above.

I love your work!

Alison Johnston

Great story Kristin! I am just wondering if there isn't another word other than cellulite? I just hate that word and can't imagine it is fitting of you! Marshmallows maybe?? Also, perhaps too many Owches mentioned in succession.

Have you ever heard of F.R.O.G.? I love frogs, of all sorts but the acronym stands for "finally relying on God" I need to remind myself of this daily... hang in there!


It's a great story and I love the way you told it.
Although most of them are probably just trying to be helpful,it's starting to get irritating the way there are so many people telling you where to punctuate and what words or phrases to use.
Just sit back and enjoy the story-telling folks. Or you could write your own stuff and punctuate however you wish.


Hi Kristen,
Not sure if others have covered it, but your "five weeks", should have the quote marks inside the comma, not outside.
I remember this from when you wrote it, lovely touch.

Dawn Bouchard

" .... in so doing managed to pee on my parade: (I hope that the reader will excuse..."

I think just a period after parade would be better, or leave off the parentheses.

"Owch with the shiny black bob did not show..."
Either "Owch, with the shiny black bob, did..." OR maybe to 'mirror' the hyphened description later in the sentence you could do "Owch-with-the-shiny-black-bob did not..."

"We were seated at a table next to the dance floor, where Owch had spent..." I don't think you need a comma here.

I, too, remember reading this ... you were one brave woman to endure that, looking back with a sense of humor. Thanks for making us smile!

Bruce T. Paddock

Hello again, Kristin –

If I’m too late with this, just ignore it.

First off, I think Olga is correct. I had an ex attend my wedding, partly because she told me she wanted to (which baffled me, frankly), and partly because I wanted her to see how much better I was doing without her.

Call me petty…

Anyway, you might consider a comma after “the exotic flower.”

May I assume it wasn’t a live hummingbird with its feet tied to the orchid stem? Maybe “a glass hummingbird” or “a lovely, lifelike hummingbird” or something like that would be clearer.

I am clueless about the capitalization rules in French. Is “…big as Le chat…” correct?

I think I remember that Heidi is your only sister. However, if there is another sister lurking around somewhere, you’ll need to delete the comma before Heidi’s name.

Consider deleting the comma between “teased” and “with mock.”

The exclamation is usually spelled “Aha,” but you should spell it however you want.

However you spell it, “Ah ha” is not an answer. J-M was deliberately ignoring your question. Maybe “he exclaimed” or something?

I don’t think your vocal quiver “betrayed” your smile. The word your looking for is probably “belied,” which means “showed to be false.”

I like how you use your pale visage to segue to the flashback, but when you say, “as white as my wedding dress once was,” I wonder why it’s not white any more, and whether the story is going to be about how the interloper soiled your dress at your wedding. Still. you need something to trigger the shift to the past. Maybe
“as white as the wedding dress boxed lovingly in the attic”
“as white as the lace dress I wore at my wedding.”

Given that you’re writing this in France, you “went” home to America.

Did the hussy appear when you went home or after you went home?

Did you return home just after meeting J-M? Weren’t you two together for a while before you left?

Bruce T. Paddock

Janet is correct, acronyms of four or more letters can be initial-capped or full-capped. I don’t think any of us can judge how intrusive the many iterations of “OWCH” would be without seeing the story typed out that way, so the decision is entirely yours.

You need a comma after the introductory “on the morning of the wedding day” because it consists of more than one prepositional phrase.

Consider a comma between “to the church” and “and in so doing.”

I love “pee on my parade”! Believe me, I’ve read much worse. And besides, it nicely combines the ideas of raining on one’s parade and marking territory, and the alliteration makes it sound classier.

You should delete the colon after “parade,” as it doesn’t lead to anything.

Owch’s name should be in parentheses, not brackets. (Yes, you can have parens within parens within parens. Wheels within wheels, too.)

When did she show up in painted-on-the-body black leather?

An em dash might work better than a colon between “wedding day” and “one to the church.”

The comma goes inside the quotes: at “five weeks,” (Commas and periods go inside, question marks go outside.)

Bruce T. Paddock

Owch is not in her stomach. Maybe “…Owch, with her clingy dress and concave stomach” or “…Owch and her clingy dress and concave stomach.”

You need a comma after the introductory “With the rise of her skirt” because it consists of more than one prepositional phrase.

You need a comma between “thick” and “ashen.”

Also, is “ashen” the right word? Smoke and ash are two different things.

And just to beat this dead horse further, how was it a “wall of defense”? It didn’t protect you from her snide question? Maybe “A thick, gray wall now separated us.”

You need a comma after the introductory “From the opposite side of the front line ” because it consists of more than one prepositional phrase.

Your eyes were not too stunned to answer. If I may make yet another intrusive suggestion:
I was too stunned to answer. My eyes dropped to the floor, but not before catching on Owch's…
Since I was too stunned to answer, my eyes dropped to the floor, but not before catching on Owch's…
Too stunned to answer, I dropped my eyes to the floor, catching a glimpse on the way of Owch's…

In the next paragraph, you use “now” twice in the same sentence. The one between “which” and “snapped” isn’t really necessary.

Should be either “…insistent fingers, which…” or “…insistent fingers that….”

The “which” after “fake hummingbird” (I knew it was fake!) should be “that.”

“Before I could learn the answer…” The answer to what? J-M said the flower was from Owch, and you believed him. What question was left to be answered?

“Another woman,” like “the other woman,” is a loaded phrase. Plus, you’ve sort of set up Owch as “the other woman.” Maybe “They were from a different woman!” or even “They were from someone else!”

G-gf Gordon’s first word of wisdom should be capitalized.

Kristin Espinasse

Many thanks, Bruce. I think I got most of your edits in! I went ahead and kept answer. I hope adding true made the sentence work:

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.

Sharon Marchisello

I vote for all caps for OWCH since it's an acronym.
This sentence sounded a bit awkward:
The Other Woman is she who appeared on the scene when I came home to America having just met Jean-Marc.
Here's a suggested revision:
The Other Woman appeared on the scene when I returned to America just after meeting Jean-Marc.
Also, I wanted to know who the flowers were really from.

Audrey Wilson

Haven't we women all had an OWCH in our lives !! Loved the story & on going to your wedding photo you had nothing to fear . You looked lovely.
One small editing sugestion.
"When I noticed jean Marc smiling big as ---"
When I noticed Jean Marc smiling as big as---"
Yes WHO were the flowers from ???

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for catching that one, Audrey!

As for Who sent the flowers? ... Aha! (as Jean-Marc says). Just keepin you guessing ;-)

Muriel H. Teusink

Love the explanation to your teenage son! They do grab calculators very quickly!

Marcia D.

Ahh if only we, your followers, had been at the wedding, you would have had a big support group! :-)


I don't think Owch should be in all-caps, it's much cuter written as a proper name!

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