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Saint-Martin’s village was alive with the sounds of the night as Amélie crept outside her family’s house. She paused right outside the door, looking at the world around her. Shadows were swarming all around, stars glinted above, and the wind caressed her like a long-time lover. Behind her, the family slept, blissfully unaware. Her two sisters and three brothers, her mother and father, all of them were lost in dreams that didn’t concern her.

Amélie preferred to dream during the day and come alive at night. The eldest in her family, she’d always been the spirited, different one. It was she whom their mother sighed at when she smelled the ragoût burning, and she whom their father hoped would marry into money because she was too pretty to be ‘really useful’. Amélie knew this, but though times were hard, she’d never been one to live for others. Flights of fancy and passionate romps were more her style: she had a taste for danger and excitement, not quilting and peeling carrots. Her parents could moan all they liked- with her, it wasn’t a question of nurture so much as nature.

She walked away from the house and down the village’s main road, smiling to herself. When she was certain to be out of earshot, she broke into a gentle song.

Alouette, gentille alouette.... Alouette, je te plumerai…”

She walked past her father’s shop (apothecary) and past the general store, turning one corner and then the other, until she was stood right in front of the village boulangerie. Her heart skipped a beat as she recognised him, sat very still on its wooden steps.

“Amélie!” he whispered.

“John,” she whispered, nearing him as his body unfolded upwards.

He was taller than all the other village men, and she thought him ever so much more handsome. He was dark-haired and fair-skinned, with brilliant green eyes and fox-like cheekbones that seemed to stretch out forever. As always, his posture spoke of propriety and self-control. He was so rigid, so very Anglo, that it brought a shadowy smile to her face. Anglo indeed - would she like him as much if he were Québécois, she wondered?

“Beautiful evening, isn’t it?” he said. He coughed gently to clear his throat – his hay fever always seemed to be worse at night - and then sneezed his usual hushed, self-conscious way. It warmed her despite the chill of the night. Shrugging in lieu of apologising, he shyly added, “Très belle nuit.”

She gave a quiet laugh and said, “C’est very good, John. Toi aussi, t’es pas mal beautiful this night!”

They hugged, understanding one another and happy to be reunited in the night’s shadowy secrecy despite the tensions flaring between the villagers and St-Martin’s new Anglo Seigneur, John’s father.

Amélie knew of John acute awareness of how all the villagers had resented him ever since his family set foot in ‘their village.’ He was an intruder, the spawn of the overlord, singled out as a creature of terrible vanity, power and pretension. His pale skin spoke of sheltered spaces lined with books they were wary of, his omnipresent handkerchiefs and quiet sneezes of weakness and disdain for the fresh country air. She’d seen him aggrieved and angered in turn by the looks they gave him when they thought his back was turned, and by the catcalls when he passed. Yet in a way not being able to understand what people were saying was a blessing, she mused, because the words made sense to her ears and she knew that the villagers weren’t bidding him good day.

And so as things usually proceeded in such situations, because John believed they disliked him, he disliked the villagers. All of them, that is, except Amélie … and for that she would be eternally grateful.


John had been walking through the village a week after he and his family had first moved to Saint-Martin. Immediately, he’d sensed something was wrong. Happy chatter ceased abruptly wherever he appeared, replaced by frowns and murmurs he couldn’t understand. He’d feigned not to notice, sticking his chin out as far as it would go in response and balling his fists around a damp handkerchief he had already come to despise, unaware that putting up a stiff upper lip would only put oil on the fire of the village-folk’s discontent. He’d ventured in and out of the general store to buy a half-pound of sugar at his mother’s request when, all of a sudden, something small and hard had hit his back just as he’d been bringing his handkerchief up to his face to catch a sneeze.

He’d heard a few people cheer as he’d looked toward the ground. He’d been hit by an apple.

Furious, John had whipped around to find himself confronted with a half-dozen children in torn trousers and dirty shirts grabbing projectiles from a nearby tree to pelt them at his head. He’d stood there, raising his hands to shield his face and shouting out angrily, completely at a loss until a clear voice had sounded out somewhere in front of him.

“Eille les p’tits monstres, ça va faire! Vous m’arrêtez ça tu-suite, sinon j’le dis à Mme Tremblay pis a va vous donner une bonne fessée!”

He couldn’t understand her words, but her intent was clear. As soon as she’d spoken, all apples were abandoned and the children had scurried away like a pack of frightened rodents. John had dropped his hands, relieved, and had looked at his rescuer… and, if such a thing is at all possible, he’d fallen instantly in love.

She was beautiful, typically Québécoise, obviously a local. Her colouring and traits an ancestral legacy, she had hair and eyes the colour of chestnuts. Her skin was a delectable golden brown from working in the sun, and two long braids framed a face where a sprinkling of freckles highlighted an otherwise near-perfect symmetry.

“Thank you,” he’d said, searching his mind for something else to say. “I’m very grateful for that timely rescue, Miss.”

The girl had shaken her head and laughed, coming closer. “Desolée Monsieur, j’comprends pas c’que vous m’dites. Mais j’imagine que c’est ‘merci’, alors ça fait plaisir.”

Then, amused by John’s look of utter confusion, the girl had taken one hand away from the wicker basket she was holding and had stuck it out towards him. Enunciating clearly, she’d said,

“Amélie Tremblay.”

John nodded. This part, he’d understood. Amélie was her name, and what a beautiful name it was. He’d taken her hand in his bigger one, tempted to bring it to his lips but feeling this might be too forward.

“John. John Wolfe,” he’d said. “Pleased to meet you.”

And then, with the worst possible timing, a burning tickle had arisen and he’d had to lean to one side and quickly sneeze. Mortified, he’d looked back towards the girl he was still holding hands with, but her eyes were sparkling and all she said was:

“John. Très pleased to meet you.

They’d both broken out into a smile then, and had continued to hold hands for a full ten seconds, searching each other’s face with their eyes. At length, Amélie had broken away, suddenly colouring.

“Pardon, mais je dois y aller. Les gens vont jaser…”

John understood that she was anxious to leave and had nodded, a simply beautiful smile playing on his lips as he’d turned to watch her brush past him in her haste. The rich, pollen-filled air forced another sneeze out of him then, but he wasn’t bothered – even the terrible hay fever that had plagued him ever since his arrival in Saint-Martin couldn’t dampen his spirits right then.

That same lovely, light-filled smile had resurfaced for the remainder of the day every time thoughts of her crept into the edges of his consciousness. Amélie. As he’d fallen asleep that night, he’d wondered whether he’d be so lucky as to be rescued by her again.


Amélie loved pressing her slight form against John’s tall frame. She liked to think that some greater power had had a hand in making their bodies lock so well against one another.

“Je suis très happy to see you,” he said.

“Me too,” she said. “I missed you.”

“That’s good. Your anglais est…” She saw him pause and instinctively held her breath. It only took a second for him to quietly sneeze, not thinking to let go of her while he did it and then reddening afterwards. Amélie pressed her face into his shoulder so he wouldn’t see her smile as he resumed. Pardon. I wanted to say que ton anglais is so much better than mon français.”

Somewhere along the line, they’d decided that though body language was nice, they should try and communicate with words. He’d promised teach her English if she taught him French, and though more often then not they ended up speaking to each other in a curious sort of Franglais, the agreement had worked out quite well. Amélie knew that John’s French, though still limited, surpassed that of anyone in his family. It allowed him to communicate with the village’s inhabitants, even though the way he kept on sneezing gave a lot of them a good chuckle. She knew that they by no means liked him, but at least they seemed more tolerant of him ever since he had started making the effort to learn their language.

Picking up on this, John’s family had decided that he should be the one to leave their big house on the outskirts of Saint-Martin to run the daily errands. Amélie had struggled not to squirm when John had recounted how he’d hated it at first, especially as going out and exposing himself to the fragrant, pollen-filled air of the village more often than not gave him a headache and a sore nose. When people had begun to at least be civil to him, she’d been quietly ecstatic. Even more so when he told her that he rather enjoyed the opportunity to escape his father’s tyranny and his mother’s hysteria.

The best part was that this meant she sometimes ran into John during the day as well as at night. The pains they were at to keep things polite and superficial in the village’s daily bustle were made up for after twilight. She would then come to him with her apron removed and her hair flowing free, looking more vibrant in the moonlight than she did amidst the villager’s scrutiny. At night all pretence was set aside and she could allow herself to be his.

“My English is more good than your French, mais j’adore quand tu parles Français pour moi. C’est trés charming.”

That Amélie thought John was charming when he attempted to string a sentence together in French – even more so when a sneeze interrupted him - was a vast understatement. She’d been charmed by this handsome, misunderstood boy from the very beginning. But then, she’d always had a taste for the forbidden. John, shrouded in the mystery of the Seigneurie and his incomprehensible language, had immediately appealed to her. The speculations of the villagers had only fanned the flames of her curiosity, and their inherent dislike of the unknown had piqued her interest. When she’d finally caught sight of him, bothered in the street by Mme Tremblay’s children, she’d known instinctively that something was going to happen with this young man. And when he’d sneezed that first time they’d held hands…

“Merci. I still wish I could do better though- it’s hard to get about around here sans français.”

This village was too small for her. Amélie dreamt of exoticism and foreign delights. And what was John, if not a combination of both?

“Peut-être, but you have me, et moi je peux get you about!” she laughed.

Seeing him smile as he delicately drew up a hand to rub his tender nose, Amélie couldn’t resist the urge to draw him to her and kiss him deeply. She loved brushing her quicksilver francophone tongue against his slower Anglo one; however maladroit it was at pronouncing words in her native language, it was wonderful with kisses. There, John excelled, and Amélie quickly forgot his other linguistic imperfection. There were just so many things about him that delighted her…

It hadn’t taken too long for her to fall in love with this shy, awkward, sneeze-prone stranger. He was such a comical mix, so eager to please and yet insidiously defensive, restrained by his Anglo upbringing in his interaction with the Québécois. He was calm, subdued and polite, yet just below the surface, she could sense a sea of yearnings, aggressively hidden, beckoning to be tapped if someone would just make the effort. How fortunate for her that she’d been given this chance the very first time she’d seen him walking about the village.

She hadn’t been disappointed. From their first kiss onward, things had progressed with amazing speed. It was remarkable what both of them could communicate with a few sentences of Franglais and a lot of body language.

John fascinated Amélie. He was so different from anyone else she’d known; educated but naïve in ways she was not, often vulnerable despite his tall frame and steady gaze, she at times felt like she was older than he despite their two year age gap. And then, he’d surprise her at random with facts he’d picked up from books or his travels, and she felt so young and dull that she couldn’t understand what he saw in her.

Except when she looked into his eyes on nights like this. Then, everything between them seemed to come together and make sense. It was quite simple, really, and was neatly summed up when John broke off their kiss and said,

“Je t’aime so much!”


John remembered their second meeting just as well as the first. He’d been in the boulangerie, having a Hades of a time trying to purchase two loaves of bread. His hay fever had been especially bad that day, the resulting pounding headache and sore nose not helping his mood. The fat boulangère had been excruciatingly rude, pretending not to understand as he’d tried to order with the few French words he’d learned.

“I would like two loaves of pain, s’il-vous-plait.”

He’d tried again and again, tripping over his own tongue and sneezing miserably, pointing to the array of golden loaves behind the counter while holding up two fingers to indicate the desired quantity. The boulangère had feigned ignorance and laughed in his face, shrugging her shoulders and answering back in that damned language he couldn’t seem to make sense of no matter how hard he tried.

He’d been on the verge of exploding, considering simply hopping over the counter to help himself when again, like some sort of very attractive guardian angel, Amélie had appeared at his side.

“Bonjour,” she had said to him and the boulangère.

The witch behind the counter had pointed to him and said something, bursting out laughing. John, beyond miserable, had sneezed forcefully into his already sodden handkerchief before turning to walk out of the shop. He’d been fully intending to slam the door behind him so hard as to make the frame splinter, when he’d felt a hand on his arm.

He’d stopped, standing completely still for a moment, full of such desperate frustration that tears were brimming in his eyes – though if asked, he would surely have said they were a result of his allergy. How he’d hated Saint-Martin at that moment! He’d detested this village with its inhospitable, cruel people. He’d hated the impotent rage that flooded him whenever horrible individuals like the boulangère made his life hell. He’d loathed not being able to tell them all exactly what he thought of them in words they would understand. He’d been disgusted even with his seeming inability to get a full sentence out without needing to sneeze. To be made a complete fool of on a daily basis by elements out of his control, and to have it happen again in front of this girl… He hadn’t known why he cared so much about her being present for this particular humiliation but he did.

“John?” she’d said.

He’d turned to face her, taking a deep breath, so very ashamed. “Oui.”


He hadn’t been able to do anything but sneeze, bringing the handkerchief to his face for the millionth time that day. He’d done it like a man defeated, out of necessity but without colour. The sound was filled with exasperated resignation.

The smile on Amélie’s lips had died when she’d seen the look on his face afterwards. He remembered her expression going from curious to pained, and then becoming angry. She’d turned to the boulangère and said,

“Madame Veilleux, vous voyez bien qu’il comprend pas c’qui arrive. Ça vous donne quoi d’être méchante avec? C’est pas sa faute si son père nous donne du trouble, pis si y’éternue. Pis si y parle pas anglais ici, c’est pas facile de s’mettre ami avec le monde. Pourquoi vous lui donnez pas son pain?”

John, again, hadn’t understood what she’d said, but a look of remorse had flittered across the boulangère’s face. Silently, she’d reached behind her and taken two loaves of bread off the cooling rack. Placing them in a paper bag, she’d put the loaves on the counter and pushed them towards John.

Amélie had taken the bag and pressed it into his arms. He’d been so startled that a sneeze that had been brewing suddenly died.

“Merci,” John had said, fumbling to find coins to pay the boulangère whilst not bringing them in contact with the balled, wet square of cloth in his palm.

“Non, ça va,” the fat woman behind the counter had said. “Cadeau. Amélie a raison; j’m’excuse.”

John had been puzzled. “No? You don’t want money?”

“Elle se sent mal de t’avoir traité comme elle l’a fait,” Amélie had whispered, placing her hand on John’s arm, indicating that payment wasn’t necessary.

He’d given the boulangère a timid smile and a nod, and was surprised and gratified when she’d responded in kind. When she’d said, with her heavy Québecois accent, “Thank you, Mister Wolfe,” he’d been nearly bowled over.

Amélie had paid for a loaf of bread of her own and John had waited so that they could exit the shop together, trying his best to keep his blasted hay fever under control so as not to put his rescuer off.

Once outside, John reminded Amélie of their first meeting when he again shook her hand and said, “Thank you.

To which she had smiled and again replied, “Ça fait plaisir.”

This time, John had decided to throw caution to the wind and kiss his rescuer’s hand. Amélie had laughed when he’d done it, her eyes shining. A second later, she’d taken on a stern expression and said,

“Dis donc, les Anglos, vous êtes vraiment vites en affaires!”

“What?” John had said. For a second, he’d cursed his impulsive nature, but then before he could apologize a sneeze had crept up on him and he’d had no choice but to turn away in order to avoid spraying her. He’d been terribly embarrassed, his headache worse then ever, when he’d noticed that Amélie was smiling again.

“Viens, she’d said.

That word, he’d understood. ‘Come.’ Taking his hand, she’d glanced around before leading him off into a side street. Away from prying eyes, Amélie had taken him by surprise, standing up on tiptoe and delivering a sweet kiss to his lips.

“Oh!” he’d said. The throbbing pain behind his temples had suddenly vanished.

“Oh!” she’d mimicked, laughing. “T’es vraiment mignon, toi… Un peu coincé, mais mignon!”

Not understanding her words but instinctively sensing everything would be all right, John had brought a timid hand up to caress her hair. It was flowing loosely down to her shoulder blades that day, he remembered, and it smelt of sun-warned straw. She’d given him another kiss, and then it had been his turn to kiss her. Again and again and again.


Amélie kissed John’s neck, slipping her arms under his warm coat and locking them behind his back. She looked up to find him smiling down at her. He looked so tender at that moment, so good-natured, open, innocent, and consequently vulnerable. She opened her mouth to tell him she loved him, but what came out instead was,

“My father says your mother was in his shop today. She has fait une autre crise, and my father is very troublé. He says your mother a menacé de faire closing the shop. Encore.”

She hadn’t meant to tell him about it, and was immediately embarrassed. It had been weighing on her mind all day, but this was the first time she’d interrupted what was officially their own ‘private time’ with daily business.

John’s smile dissolved. “Oh no! I’m terribly désolé. Je ne sais pas what to do…”

Clearly chagrined, he sniffed and cleared his throat as he stroked Amélie’s back. His mother’s temper was legendary. As soon as Mrs Wolfe discovered the village’s apothecary shop, she’d been a semi-regular visitor, purchasing vast quantities of smelling salts and ointments, potions and vitamins to aid her variety of imaginary symptoms and psychosomatic ailments. (Mrs Wolfe had also forced a few foul-tasting concoctions on John, but to Amélie’s relief, they hadn’t done a thing to stop his nose running.) Where the villagers perceived John’s father as a two-dimensional figure of silent, commandeering masculinity, his mother was known to be a hyperbole of hysteria that flew in and out of a temper at the drop of a hat.

“My father have no more… Mille-pertuis?”

“St-John’s Wort,” John supplied, instinctively guessing correctly.

Yes. No more. And your mother, she was very angry. She says he never have rien de c’qu’elle veut, and his shop is terrible, and she is going to talk to your father pour faire amener quelqu’un from another village to hold his shop for him qui va pouvoir faire mieux.”

John stuck out his chin. “I’ll speak to her. Don’t worry. I’ll tell her…”

He had to sneeze then, and did so in his usual quiet manner. When he didn’t speak afterwards, Amélie suspected it was because he couldn’t think of a way to finish his sentence.

The trouble with John’s parents, she knew, was that they never listened. They were quite happy to make a living off the blood and sweat of the villagers and surrounding farms. They’d been ‘appointed,’ after all: it was their due. Mr Wolfe had immediately taken to running everything with what John told her was his customary iron hand. As for his mother, Amélie could tell that she saw the village as a playground and his inhabitants as a bunch of surly dolls. Mrs Wolfe would only infrequently wander in, but when she did, she expected everyone to be at her beck and call. The villagers, fearing consequences from her husband, treated her with something resembling respect. It was ironic, Amélie reflected, that because (unlike his mother) John wasn’t shouting out “This is terrible! I will have to bring someone from a neighbouring village to replace you!” at every opportunity, his credibility had suffered.

“I’m sorry,” Amélie said, seeing how troubled he looked.

“No, I’m sorry. Don’t worry- ton père ne va pas lose his shop.” He paused, contemplating the family-shaped wedge driven between himself and the frightened girl that held him so tightly against her. “Damn!” he suddenly shouted, pulling away.

He turned and sat on the steps again, gripping his head with his hands. How he longed to leave both this village and his family, this sheltered prison from which there seemed to be no escape. He felt as if he were on board a perpetually sinking ship, with only this girl for a lifeboat.

Amélie sat down next to him. “John. C’est correct. Don’t worry, on va s’arranger.”

“No, it’s not all right!” John snapped. “I have enough de tout ça. Je veux get away. Je veux get away from Saint-Martin – I can’t stand this anymore. Mon père is a bully, ma mère is crazy, and my frères do nothing but sit around the house doing bloody rien du tout all day. And me, I’m-“ he stopped, his anger suddenly deflating like a popped balloon, and he sneezed. As though that summed everything up. “Je veux leave here, Amélie. Do you understand? Tu me comprends?”

Amélie grew very still. She understood the essence of what John was trying to say: he wanted to leave. But what of her? As much as she understood his helpless anger, as much as she could empathise with his pain, she didn’t want to lose him. However inappropriate, she’d fallen very much in love with the Seigneur’s son, and to watch him walk away from the village, from her, was too painful to contemplate.

Big fish in a small pond.

“Et moi alors?” she asked him, putting a hand on his arm. “I do not want que tu partes.” The words hurt her, and though she felt guilty because she felt as though she was entering emotional blackmail territory, she added, “I love you tellement!”


John had been so happy when Amélie had agreed to meet him at night for the first time. He’d seen her on several occasions during the day in the village by then, and each time he’d paid her special attentions that had gotten people around them whispering. He hadn’t been bothered by it, (neither had Amélie) and after a few more occasions where they had sneaked off for secret kisses in side streets, he’d managed to make her understand that he’d like to meet with her in private.

He’d gotten out his pocket watch in the middle of the main street and pointed at the clock, his heart pounding. He’d scarcely been able to believe his own audacity.

Would you meet with me after dark? At ten? In front of the boulangerie? I’d be ever so honoured if you would. Please.”

“Quoi?” Amélie had said, shaking her head.

He’d cleared his throat and tried again, halting, using the few French words he possessed to try and make her understand. “La nuit. Voir moi. Dix heures?” And before he could stop himself, he’d had to sneeze. He’d cringed afterwards and apologised, wondering whether she’d refuse his invitation because of it. His blasted hay fever couldn’t have gone unnoticed; at times, he felt the entire village was snickering over it. Did it make him ridiculous to her eyes, even more than he already felt?

Though she’d missed the eloquence of John’s first query, Amélie had nonetheless been delighted by the second – especially because of its irrepressible punctuation. Far from being put off, she found herself curiously delighted. She’d laughed and simply said, “Ben oui. J’aimerais ça. Yes.”

“Wonderful!” John had exclaimed, feeling as though he’d just emerged as the winner in a foxhunt. Tonight, then. Ce nuit.”

“Yes,” she said again.

And she had come. He’d been half an hour early, feeling like a caged animal in his house with nothing to do except watch the clock and sneeze as the evening progressed. His mother had passed out drunk and his father was locked away in his study, writing letters to important people whom John didn’t care to know. His brothers had all been fast asleep when he’d made his escape, unnoticed, running all the way to the village centre.

It had been like a ghost town; the people of Saint-Martin were early to sleep so that they could set about their daily routines at dawn. It had been so quiet, everything so still, that he’d been afraid every time he needed to sneeze that the sound would wake everyone. He’d just been blowing his nose, as quietly as he could, when he’d spotted Amélie’s shadow as she’d rounded the corner to meet him. The starlight had been reflected in her eyes, making them sparkle, and even in the moon’s dim lighting he could see a flush on her golden cheeks.

Their superficially intense friendship had deepened that night. They had talked for hours, and though the meaning of most of it was lost because neither had then understood the other’s language, the essence of what they’d said had filtered through. It was amazing how much could be communicated through intonations and body language.

They’d kissed for hours, and John had been at pains to keep his persistent erection hidden from Amélie, fearing she’d be offended yet desperate for her to accept him. As it had turned out, however, he’d been troubling himself for nothing.

“Qu’est-cé ca?” Amélie had smiled as her hand inadvertently graced his hardness. “Dis donc, j’te plais pas mal mon grand, pas vrai?”

John had been furiously embarrassed, pulling back and shifting his offending midriff away from her. “I’m terribly, terribly sorry.”

“De quoi tu parles, toi? Viens donc ici. Est-ce que tout les Anglos sont coincés de même? C’est trop mignon!”

It wasn’t so much her words (incomprehensible) as her gestures (obvious) that convinced him that she wasn’t going to smack him and run off. Shifting close to him once again, Amélie pressed her lips to his and very slowly let her hand creep towards his erection. With the worst possible timing, he’d felt the need to sneeze at the precise moment when he’d felt her touch it through the fabric of his trousers. But then, through the flurry of his apologies, he’d seen her smile and had known everything would be all right when she’d leaned over and kissed him again.

It had gone on for a while, their kissing deepening as she began to slowly massage him through his trousers. It had felt like hours before she’d finally got up the nerve to fiddle with his buttons, seeking to bring her cool hands directly in contact with his warm flesh, and by then he was so excited that it had taken him a ridiculously short time to explode.

“I’m terribly, terribly sorry,” he’d whispered again, not meaning it.

“Terribly sorry,” she’d repeated, unable to keep mirth out of her voice.

They’d been pressed together until the sun had begun to rise. When light had come to conquer the night’s mystique, the village’s inhabitants had begun to stir. John was still sneezing intermittently, but instead maintaining her apparent nonchalance, he’d noticed Amélie now jumped at each one, as though each of his sneezes had the potential to rouse a mob of angry villagers. For all he knew, they might have had, but of course there was nothing he could have done about it.

Still, frightened of being found out, Amélie had pulled away and given him one last kiss, saying,

“J’dois rentrer- ma famille vont croire que j’me suis sauvée d’ la corvée pis ma mère va avoir ma peau. Mais… merci pour tout, John.”

John had made his way home alone in a daze. Had he been sleepwalking? Had he dreamt everything? It all seemed rather fantastical now that Saint-Martin was coming alive around him. But then he looked down at his untucked shirt, open coat and dripping handkerchief, he knew he hadn’t imaged it.

That foray into the unknown had been repeated numerous times. They would meet, always after dark when no one could see them, shrouded in the night’s shadows. During further nighttimes excursions, they’d gone out into the surrounding woods, into side streets, or even into unsuspecting people’s gardens and done in the darkness acts which would have made secretive lovers anywhere proud.

Months had led up to this particular nighttime meeting, and if anything, each encounter had served to cement in his mind what he’d known from the first time he’d seen her.

Perhaps their meeting hadn’t just been a random occurrence.

Perhaps it had been fate.


Amélie’s heart was beating too hard and too fast. He wanted to leave! She could scarcely blame John for wanting to escape Saint-Martin, but what of her? She’d grown so attached to him, her lovely Anglo boy with the haunted eyes and the ticklish nose, that she mourned the thought of forever forsaking their nighttime rendezvous. The very thought of losing him made her insides grow cold.

“S’il-te-plait, John, pars pas,” she said. “Don’t leave.”

John didn’t know why he was so distraught over the daily incident Amélie had just related, but it had set something in motion inside him. His mother always put on such theatrics- it was just her nature- but now she was threatening the livelihood of the family of the girl he loved, and that somehow brought everything into perspective. His family was stifling him, consciously or unconsciously, dimming every small light of life he managed to find. Moving to Saint-Martin, they had taken away his friends, his studies, and - if his nose was anything to go by - his health. His father chipped away at his self-confidence, constantly berating him for not being as overbearing and insensitive as he. His mother stole his freedom by demanding that he take care of her and run her errands as if he were just another servant. And now, in a roundabout manner, they were threatening to take away his love by forcing her family to move away and seek employment elsewhere.

Amélie’s pleading voice, begging him not to go, spurned him to do precisely the opposite of what she was requesting. No longer angry but very nearly broken, he said,

“I can’t. Amélie, I’ve had enough of all of this. Assez. I’ve got to leave, I’ve got to get out, don’t you see? This can’t go on. Ça ne peut pas… peut pas… go on.”

The words hurt her more than they did him. She could understand his thoughts; they’d had enough halting conversations for her to know what his life was like and why he was yearning to leave it behind. He didn’t need her problems or her family’s on top of everything else, and he was probably annoyed that she’d brought him news of his mother’s latest outburst...

Yet all of a sudden, she grew annoyed at his perceived aggravation. She loved John’s gentle nature, but if he wasn’t enough of a man to confront anything at all, then of what use would he ever be? She couldn’t deny that watching him sneeze did strange things to her, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to be with an eternal victim, a weakling or a coward. She had enough to deal with on her own - she was willing to give John support, but she was just as much a prisoner of Saint-Martin as he, albeit in a different way. Perhaps it would be better for both of them in the long run if she let him go, and she told him so.

“Ah pis merde alors, John! Si t’es trop scared of Saint-Martin, de ta family and of me, alors pars. Just go, and… sois heureux.”

John looked at Amélie, taking in her flushed cheeks and her blazing eyes, her anger and her pain practically radiating out of her as she struggled to take his feelings in stride. God he loved her! He’d never seen her look as beautiful as she did then. Not thinking, he opened his mouth and said,

“Marry me. Marry me and come away with me. We can go to the United States, cross the border and never look back. I’ll get a job and we can have a family, and we can be happy together. Come with me; let’s get out of Saint-Martin. Please say you will, Amélie! Nothing in the world would make me happier!”

He was speaking so fast that Amélie only understood the words “marry,” “United States,” “happy,” and “come with me.” It was enough. She felt as if an enormous knot inside her had suddenly come undone, and felt warmth rushing into every part of her body as she looked at him, his handsome face, the light in his eyes, his hopeful smile.

To leave Saint-Martin and her family behind, forever. To go live in a foreign country whose inhabitants were refreshingly different but comfortingly familiar. To marry John, this strange and wonderful young man with whom she was deeply in love, and to have his children in a place of their own. It was everything she’d ever dreamed of.

“Oui, she cried, rushing into his arms. “Oh oui, John, oui!”

“Let’s do it now. Cette nuit. Come with me to my parent’s house; I know where Father keeps his money. I’ll take just enough for us to get by until we find our feet and then reimburse him as soon as I get work. We’ll get a train. We’ll be free!”

Laughing with him at his excited happiness, Amélie stood up. John grabbed her hand and they both raced down the quiet streets as Saint-Martin slept on. Midnight had only come and gone; they had time to walk over to the neighbouring village in time to catch the morning train that would take them to Montreal and then on to somewhere yet to be determined in New York.

Her family wouldn’t miss her much; one less mouth to feed and besides, as her father was fond of saying, Amélie had never been ‘really useful’ around the house. She’d go where she’d be needed, as a wife and lover and friend, escaping towards freedom and new horizons with a curiously different Anglo boy who would finally be allowed to come into his own.

What would their new life be like, they mused, as they crept into John’s house to borrow all they’d need. They talked about how they were going to make it, each reassuring the other that everything would turn out all right during their hand-in-hand walk to the train station. What wonders did the future have in store for them, they wondered, as the train sped away and they saw the Saint-Martin coming to life in the distance.

Though they’d never been there before, John and Amélie could hardly wait to get home.