Today I need a bit of help. I found an old manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago, and I think that it has some potential (I spent most of the night reading it, if you must know). It is a love story between a (far from perfect) French girl, and a (very) British man. Following various Twitter exchanges, I have named him Archie. Here is the first chapter. It is supposed to explore all the cliches…in a funny & sometimes provocative way. Tell me what you think…
Oh, and I came across a great initiative by the talented Arnaud: if you want to brush up your French skills and enjoy good food, check Arnaud’s Language Kitchen. He is starting a supper club on Bastille day in Marylebone, London. Email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further info.
It is lucky. Really lucky. I can leave work early for once. My boring business meeting has been cancelled and I won’t have to go through my bloody PowerPoint presentation on European building regulations. I am looking forward to a nice calm evening at home with my English boyfriend, Archie and my little one, Alexandra.
But first, I need to pick her up at the nursery. Alexandra has settled in well, and she seems happy there. I push the front door. The receptionist, once again, doesn’t recognise me. She sees me most days. How silly can you be? I really wonder sometimes.
“ I am here to pick up my daughter Alexandra”
“ Oh yes, I remember you now. Sorry, you look so… um …young. You French women always look good, even after having kids.”
She sighs heavily.
She checks me out from head to toe. What she probably means is “You look so skinny”. I feel like slapping her right across her fat British face. I am about to say ‘how about cutting down on bacon sandwiches every morning? It might save your stool from breaking under the weight of your bulging bum!’. I just smile and mutter an unconvinced “Thank you”.
Alexandra beams when she sees me through the window. Her little face lights up and she throws her arms in the air, waiting to be lifted and hugged. I laugh and tuck her into the pushchair, quickly forgetting about the receptionist.
The journey home doesn’t last more than ten minutes. Alexandra keeps making funny noises and I reply as best as I can.
Archie, my British boyfriend, has been made redundant during the 2011 recession and we had to take a lodger, Graeme, to help pay the rent and the bills. Graeme is an old school mate of Archie. Archie is optimistic: he should find another banking job soon and is even starting to get interviews. He is really well connected and things are not as bleak as they could be. While he is looking for another job, I have returned to work full time as a project manager for a big construction company. They have French clients and were very pleased to find me to help them. I happen to be French, and my British colleagues never let me forget it.
I open the front door hastily, eager to sit down and play with Alexandra. I put her coat on the peg and sit her down on her carpet full of toys. Then, I hear loud, heavy laughs coming from our bedroom. Curious, I run upstairs, hoping that I too will laugh at the jokes Graeme and Steve are probably sharing.
But why are they in our bedroom…
Nothing can prepare me for what I see. Graeme has been trying on my clothes; he also has put some make-up on, and is perambulating in the bedroom with my Louboutin high heels. He is fully made up as a woman and has even put one of my bras on, with some cotton balls and oranges stuffed inside. He is also mimicking my French accent. Lovely touch.
Archie is sitting on our bed and laughing his head off , almost pissing himself. He is clearly finding Graeme’s attempt to dress and look like a woman hilarious. Correction: he is finding Graeme’s attempt to look like me hilarious. How pathetic.
I am standing in the doorway and can’t believe what I see. I am simply stunned.
Graeme sees me first and says:
“ Hello! How do your clothes fit me?”
I am in no mood for small talk. How dare he?
“- Give me my clothes back. What exactly are you doing here? This is my bedroom!”
Archie finally notices the anger in my voice. He thinks that Graeme is well dressed but finally picks up on the fact that I don’t seem to share his views at all.
“- Relax, Carine, we are just having a little bit of fun here. Graeme loves dressing as a woman. He has been doing it for as long as I have known him and he wanted to get ready for his office Christmas party. We are just relaxing, come on, just enjoy the show!”
I suddenly feel a pang of uncontrollable anger. They were using my own clothes to have fun and I didn’t know. No wonder I am never finding what I want to wear in the morning. And Archie is always making fun of me, saying I am too messy! What a bastard!
This must have been going on for quite some time. What is wrong with these two? Is Archie really enjoying this? And who is Graeme? I hadn’t realised that his irreproachable look was hiding an inner transvestite. Who would have thought that the seemingly perfect public school boy was dressing up like a woman? He must get out of my house. Now. I won’t stand another minute of this…
I can’t calm down. I shout at Graeme:
“- Get out of this house now Graeme. I don’t want to see you around. Don’t bother coming back. Take your stuff and go. We will reimburse you this week’s rent. Just leave now”
He heads to the bathroom. I jump in front of the door.
“- Don’t you dare use my make-up remover, I hate it when somebody takes my products.”
And I add:
“- You can take my bra too. I will never wear it again anyway! How dare you? I hope you didn’t try my thongs too or you will buy me new ones and they don’t come cheap.”
Graeme freezes and manages to look sad behind his thick layer of Clinique foundation. He quickly leaves the room. Archie is about to follow him, but I stop him. I am simply ballistic.
“- How long has this been going on?”
“- Carine, you are overreacting. This is just some harmless fun. Just a good laugh between us guys. Graeme started doing in at our boarding school. We were all doing it there. Nothing to worry about. And now, you have hurt him! “
“ – I don’t care. Don’t you dare take his defence! I can’t accept it. Are you gay or what?
“- Gay? Of course not! Come on! Get a grip. We need to talk about this.”
“- I sure don’t want to talk about it. So tell me, is there anything else I need to know? Anything else you have been hiding from me? Do you cross dress too? ”
Alexandra starts crying downstairs, and I rush to check on her. Archie follows me immediately.
“-Carine, it is not that big a deal. We need to talk about it. Do you want a cup of tea?
“-Keep your fucking cup of tea, I don’t need it. What is there to talk about? What I saw was enough! I get the picture!”
“- You have to understand that Graeme and me went to a boarding school from the age of 8. Going there shaped us for life. …And it was single sex, don’t forget! We had to find other ways to have fun, hence the cross dressing for Graeme… A harmless game, really.”
“- Just stop finding yourself excuses. You guys are just deranged. You need some professional help.”
“- Oh come on, it is not as if I cheated on you!”
“- No you are right: it is worse: I feel like I don’t know
you at all.“
The evening had started so well. I don’t know what to do. I am still in shock. A French man would never have done this. They like to take off lingerie, not put it on. I have never heard such a thing happening to anyone else. To me, it feels even worse than being cheated on. I need some time to figure out what to do. Then I drop the bombshell:
“- Archie, I think that you should move out for a while. I need some time to think.”
Archie becomes blank. We have never really argued this bad before. He knows that I am serious.
“- OK, I will go to the hotel tonight. By the way, I have got a new job.”
Shame I can’t really appreciate this good news.
I open the front door, pointing outside.
“ Now, off you go!”
Shortly after, Graeme leaves, using the basement door. I hope he is not he is not wearing my La Perla satin bra and matching thong that I couldn’t find the other day. Bastard. He is followed by Archie. Good riddance.
I can’t believe that I decided to become British last month. What went into me? Is this what I want? My bra has been stolen by a transvestite. Is this a new low in my life? Right now, I just feel like jumping on the first Eurostar with Alexandra, never coming back again to this land of cross dressing public school boys.
As for Archie, he’d better sort himself out. And pay up for all my lost lingerie. I really hope that Graeme didn’t enlarge my Louboutin heels otherwise I will kick his British arse to court.