2. La Misère


“Stepping out into the crisp, winter air, I snapped sober. This time, more of us piled into the Renault, with one young woman perched on her fiancé’s lap, in order to make room for me, and drove into the mountains.

Sadie had described the house as a “chateau” and I had seen a picture of the family seated in front of a bare stone wall, so I steeled myself for the tall stone towers, bridges, and arches that I would soon call home.

 “Elizabeth” they hinted , “we are almost there.” My heart raced, despite my fatigue. The car worked its way further up the mountain, straining under the extra weight of people and baggage.

Yes, absolutely, we must be near, I thought. This elevation is too high not to attack without a plan. Garrisoned troops would have stood along here to defend their castle. My mind fully reconstructed small crumbling structures that I discerned in the shadows. The woods would have made ideal hunting grounds for royalty. Perhaps wild boar lived there. Maybe, I could train the boar to sniff out truffles buried at the bases of the trees and become rich. My mind was working overtime. But wait, the car didn’t continue to follow the road. It was turning off of the road down, down, to the left. This made no sense, for I could see nothing ahead, but a steep, icy path and, except for a few scraggly pine trees that lined the asphalt, no protection from careening into a ravine on the left side. Everyone stopped talking and held my breath. That is, the other occupants did not want to deter the concentration of the driver while simultaneously, they were all occupying my personal space. Finally, we stopped where the driveway leveled and tumbled out of the car. I strained to reconcile my imagination with what I was seeing. 

Very clearly, the structure to my left was no chateau. If anything, it resembled a Swiss chalet. It was made of yellowed stucco, trimmed with wooden beams, and stood two stories tall. Real wooden shutters enclosed the windows, but some light escaped the cracks. Several cars were also parked at the foot of the driveway which was to the right of the house. On this side, one climbed a few wooden steps to the only door I could see. A large flat yard spilled out from beyond the parking area, and a line of trees stood beyond that. I could not see around the far side of the house, nor did I care to explore. I just wanted to go inside, meet the family, and sleep.

I followed everyone in the main door…”



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