The Life and Times of Arnaud Morin
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2015. Sam Sparks. All rights reserved. Including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author. Email: [email protected]
Arnaud Morin was given up for adoption at birth.
His conception and subsequent adoption was the result of a Mayoral dalliance with a country girl barely of legal age called Mimi, who herself had been taken in by a farming couple.
Pierre Morin had held the office of Mayor of St Dessault for five years. He was married to Anne – Marie for ten and had a daughter Margaux, aged two.
Mimi had caught the Mayoral eye on one of his rounds of the local area. Ensuing countryside alfresco liaisons took place. Arnaud was the unwanted result.
When Mimi realised she was pregnant, she told her adoptive parents. Naturally they were keen to know the name of the father.
Her response, that since she had slept with five men it was impossible to know, sparked a huge row.
She had thought of telling them the truth but could foresee a better outcome for herself. What Mimi lacked in years she made up for in savvy. To get what she wanted she knew her offensive would have to be brazen and duly presented herself in the office of the Mayor.
Since they had only ever met in a wood this caused Pierre Morin no small amount of discomfort. Her sudden appearance required a hastily thought up story for his secretary.
Once she had broken the news, Mimi had two demands. Not only did she want the baby adopted by the Mayor and his wife, she sought to extract a regular monthly payment for herself to keep the matter private. Her aim was to give him no space to wriggle out of his situation.
‘No proof?’ she had said when he tried to bluster.
‘We have been seen. Madame Arment. She doesn’t know about my condition. But that would quickly change of course.’
Pierre had gone to school with Madame’s daughter, Amelie. In recent times due to the departure of her husband, she was regarded as the most eligible of the mature single women for miles around.
The Mayor was both panicked and sceptical. He reasoned, as Madame Arment was known to enjoy a gossip, then this juicy morsel would surely have been broadcast all over town.
Mimi and her demands were summarily dismissed.
He was expecting a tantrum. No violent protest manifested itself; instead she withdrew quietly from the room. The passive response made him feel even uneasier.
The next morning he rounded the corner of the side alley of his wife’s pharmacy to find Madame Arment walking towards him. She smiled as they approached each other.
She greeted him first. ‘Monsieur Mayor.’ projecting her voice to him from some distance. It could have waited until they were at closer quarters. He started to fear the worst.
Madame Arment had not been short of admirers, but was not interested in any of the potential suitors. Inevitably in a small provincial town there were rumours, but that was all they were. She was however looking for a less formal arrangement and with someone considerably younger. And here he was twenty yards away. They exchanged pleasantries perhaps a little more conversation than normal and his initial panic had subsided. But it was obvious as she put down her shopping that she was in no hurry to leave. She continued the conversation, talked about some local issues he would be involved with, then on to her daughter, a little about her ex husband, emphasising how she missed male company. At this point, he wanted to be on his way, his body language indicating the conversation should be terminating. But she evidently was not similarly minded and lingered on the topic of being on her own. The lonely evenings were the worst she said.
Then she hit him with his second blackmail demand of the week. Meet her for regular “ liaisons” in the same place she had witnessed the conception of Arnaud, or she would indeed put his secret about town.
‘Only in the summer you understand. We can meet the day after tomorrow at four. I’ll expect you.’ She instructed,
Mimi had one testicle, Madame Arment the other.
He had no choice but to cede to Mimi’s demands and of course Madame’s. The alternative would be a catastrophe.
And so they started to meet.
His life was spiralling out of control. Taking money from public funds solved the Mimi financial problem. But the insurmountable problem would be selling the idea of adopting a child to his wife.
And so Arnaud was duly born.
The Mayor was relieved he had been a boy, leverage he could use to say he wanted a son.
After a sleepless night, he broached the subject with his wife at breakfast one morning.
En passant he mentioned that a boy had been born to a poor local girl who was looking for adoptive parents.
‘And?’ his wife enquired.
He expressed his wish to consider an adoption, pointing out that whilst he understood that she would not want to go through childbirth again after the trauma of Margaux’s entry into the world. And saying he would have liked to have tried for a second child in the hope it was a boy.
In addition to his spurious wish to have a son, he explained. ‘And of course the Mayoral elections are nearly on us again. It will play well with the voters. The mother’s family are dirt poor, we come to the rescue.’ Since he was a dead certainty to win again, this logic lacked real substance.
He waited for her reaction.
Madame Morin could understand he might want a son. She told him she would think about it. She had harboured an occasional slight conscience about her refusal to try for another child, so a week later she agreed. On the proviso that she had no wish to know anything about the parents. The Mayor was very happy to comply with her wish. He instructed the family’s legal representative to proceed with the adoption of Arnaud.
Though he was spared the exposure of the truth and possibility of losing the position of Mayor, something he loved more than anything. He could not bond with his new son; his wife showed the boy no love either. Once old enough he was at the beck and call of his parents. The Mayor’s regret deepened and Arnaud suffered. Margaux, their daughter, was the favoured child, if only just. The Morin’s relationship became remote at best.
Margaux grew up largely isolated from her peers. No boy was interested in her, not that she was unattractive but due to poor parenting she had an unfortunate way about her.
Arnaud was informed he was adopted when he was twelve. The news hit him hard, his childhood had been difficult enough and then this news. But in a way, it made sense to him. He knew he was treated a little differently to their daughter. Always a quiet boy, the news of the adoption drove him to become withdrawn. The only high point in Arnaud’s life were chemistry lessons; his teacher predicted a bright future for him.
He never asked about his real parents, taking against that idea soon after the news was broken to him.
His talent for his favourite subject led him to qualify as a Pharmacist and he became “Le Pharmacien” in the shop owned by his adoptive mother. Her father had been the unpopular dispenser for some twenty years previously. There was one other Pharmacy in the town and it did very well. Arnaud took over from the incumbent after his death.
Madame did not pay him well. But, for his part the responsibility had given him much needed confidence. Everyone noticed he was more outgoing. When conversing about medications he would become animated. His enthusiasm for his subject played well with the few customers the business had retained. Word spread, business improved. In the first year after he took over, takings had taken a significant upward turn. Another year went past and the Pharmacy was prospering. However, Arnaud’s salary was still dismal. He had not been successful in negotiating a pay rise and rarely had time off to himself, just the odd fishing trip with his best friend Giles the mechanic.
As far as the opposite sex were concerned in his last year at school he had briefly dated a girl from the gypsy camp that had been pitched on the outskirts that summer. The travellers were quickly moved on as soon as the Mayor’s wife got wind Arnaud was seeing a gypsy girl. False charges were made and the Mayor told them they were not welcome.
Madame Morin was concerned about her daughter’s single status. The historic lack of boyfriends, except for one good-looking boy called Gregoire whose family inherited a jewellers business in Paris. His family left overnight and Margaux held a foul mood for weeks. The prospect of her daughter becoming an old maid and continue living at home bothered her immensely. Margaux had a small crush on Arnaud. Nothing on the scale of Gregoire. But as far as she was concerned the awkwardness of him as a kind of brother put paid to anything more than a schoolgirl crush. She had of course no idea they shared the same father. Madame in an effort to move things along, invited a boy round for tea one day. That didn’t work; Margaux was not amused to find him at their kitchen table. Her mother tried twice more. Margaux was getting the message but the more her mother tried, the more Margaux made it obvious these gauche attempts were not appreciated.
One night when Madame and her husband were away on Mayoral business Margaux fuelled with some absinthe she had found, went to Arnaud’s bedroom door. She knew he also had been drinking. She knocked; he opened the door as she slipped her nightdress over her head. They both had been long keen to lose their virginity. But their intoxication had side-lined taking any sort of precautions. Life was about to change for both of them. Some weeks later Arnaud was told he was to become a father. A shock for all, not least the Mayor when his wife broke the news. He had never considered the possibility that Arnaud and Margaux would sleep together.
He immediately summoned his distraught adopted son to the Mayoral office to explain himself. The Mayor raged at Arnaud. The shock that he had sired both the daughter and the adopted son. And now he was to be a grandfather on both sides. He felt sickened. A situation arisen from hell itself.
His wife wanted a quick wedding; Monsieur Le Mayor would hear nothing of it, but Madame Morin prevailed. She insisted there was no solution other than a wedding, spelling out to Arnaud that since they took pity on his situation he was somewhat in their debt.He had to do the right thing. The Mayor was fast losing his hold of familial problems. Madame Arment had upped the ante and his presence was required all year round. Amongst the turmoil and with a strange irony, he found some solace with her.
He had long since stopped going to the confessional. The Priest would have had a hard time absolving him of some of his sins. A few Hail Mary’s were not going to cover the Mayor’s transgressions.
Arnaud, with his impending marriage and the maelstrom of recent events, became withdrawn for the second time in his life.
The wedding was a civil ceremony; a church wedding was out of the question. Mimi did briefly attend, which drew some curious looks from the small amount of invited guests. But then she was widely regarded as a little odd, so nobody took it further. The Mayor only just made it through the day. His mental state deteriorating by the hour. His ability to be rational under pressure worried him. Also of concern was what the townspeople, his electorate, would think of him. Whilst they thought it unusual, they truly adored Arnaud. So the nuptials passed without adverse local comment.
Directly after the birth of the child, a boy they named Jacques. A sedated Margaux was taken to a unit where the possibility of conceiving again was removed. A Mayoral favour being called in with a doctor friend at the Hospital. The birth of the little boy soured relations between them. An unconventional start to a marriage, no courtship and then a shotgun wedding. The news that Gregoire was back in the area and had opened up a jeweller’s in Cognac one month later was more than Margaux could bear. She gave up going to Church on the strength of what she took to be a cruel blow.
The little boy was largely ignored by his grandparents and little better by his mother. History repeating itself. Father and son shared a kind of common bond. Arnaud doted on his son. His only source of happiness.
Arnaud’s expertise and loyal following of customers were not lining his pockets, all in all he was unhappy. His only pastime was walking the dog with his son and the odd fishing trip with Giles.
Margaux did no work and frittered her time away with trivialities, running errands for her father doing charity work, no more than an occasional afternoon in the Pharmacie.
Arnaud and Margaux’s marriage was moribund. The relationship was never based on anything other than a mutual drunken one-night stand.
With marital relations at an all time low and no conjugal activity for some years Arnaud was desolate. The lack of physical contact had affected him more than he realised. The regular rejection of his advances made him harbour a deep resentment that had built to breaking point. And this part of a marriage he pointed out to her one day, went against the Catholic Church’s teaching of a mutuality of expression. Not only had she offended him, but God as well. Not that he was any more than a token Catholic, but Margaux never missed a Sunday.
Arnaud could not see how things could be worse, he needed to unburden himself. He met Giles where he could be sure of a sympathetic audience. They went fishing.
‘Three years? You have not had sex with Margaux for that long?’
‘She’s put on weight eh? Shame, she had a good figure as well. But, you have a mistress right?’
The blank stare on Arnaud’s face told him that there was no mistress.
‘Arnaud, Arnaud, Arnaud my dear friend what am I to do with you?’
He shrugged the shrug of a beaten man and cast out a line.
I don’t get treated like you Giles. Lauren is different; there is warmth between you both. I can see it whenever I see you two together. You talk to her like she is your friend. I have a wife in name only, she is not my friend. I am trapped. I have no money. I am like a slave. If it were not for Jacques,’ he paused,’ and the dog, I would go, it’s not worth it.’ They have all the aces! I own nothing.
Giles had a fish on the line, a big one, they both had the rod and landed a huge carp, they fell back on the ground. Giles finished the fish off, bagged it and gathered up his things. They got into the car; Giles looked across at Arnaud tapped the side of his nose and said
’But your good friend Giles has the answer.’
He told Arnaud the solution to his immediate problem lay at a Salon de Thé in a town twenty kilometres away.
‘Bien sur mon ami.’
He explained himself. A customer of his garage, once a month joined a group of enlightened individuals that had open marriage relationships. Would he like him to make enquiries?
’The little place on the way to Cognac?’
Since Arnaud’s frustration had troubled him for a long time, he was past the point of propriety. To hell with it.
‘Get me an invitation.’
Giles explained it wasn’t quite as simple as just rolling up unannounced. He would need to be vetted. Arrangements were made the following day. Arnaud left the Pharmacy just after lunch on the Saturday afternoon and drove the twenty kilometres to the Cafe. As instructed, Arnaud carried a copy of a local publication “La Vie”. He placed his car keys on top with the ignition key pointing away from the others on the ring and ordered something that was not on the menu. If he was asked to pay for his food he was not welcome.
A little overly clandestine Arnaud had thought. He was served by a woman in her early fifties who took the order to her husband who appeared to be the cook. He looked over at Arnaud.
After consuming his off the menu request, he asked for the bill.
‘There is no bill, we will see you soon then.’ came the response from the waitress.
The next meeting at the Salon was the following week.
Arnaud arrived early and waited in the small walled garden at the back of the Cafe. The familiar faces of the owners of the Cafe, Arthur and Catherine Leconte appeared from the kitchen. She beckoned him inside. Her husband left them on their own. Three hours later Arnaud was on his way back; elated.
Giles was keen to know how he had got on and was on the point of ringing him when Arnaud walked into his workshop.
‘Ca va?’ Giles asked.
‘Bien, Bien et Bien.’
Over the next few months he proved a popular addition to Le Salon.
His mood was improved, noticed by his wife. When he took courage in both hands and tried to re-establish a physical relationship one night, it was the usual response. The rejection however did not bite like before. Only a few more days until he was back at Le Salon de Thé.
In conversation with one of the other participants he was asked what he did for a living. He said he was Un Pharmacien.
‘Is that so?’
‘It is’ Arnaud assured her.
‘Are you happy where you are?’
A blunt ‘Non.’ Came back the reply.
The woman explained that every year her brother’s pharmaceutical company reviewed their requirements for chemists and said he should keep in touch as that time was nearing again.
He enquired the name of the company; it happened that one of the firm’s reps called on Arnaud twice a year. It interested him. Maybe just maybe this could be a way out, but what of Jacques ? What would happen to him, he couldn’t leave him to uncaring relatives and he included his wife in that collective.
He reflected on the fact that he owned no property and had no money in the bank. The pittance he was paid in comparison to other pharmaciens was eaten up in family expenses. He decided to call the personnel department at the Pharmaceutical Company. Why had he not thought of this before he asked himself.
Again he consulted with Giles. Who had one piece of advice.
‘Be true to yourself, you owe them nothing, the whole town likes you Arnaud. It is because you genuinely care for them. Do what you have to Mon vieux.’
A few days had gone by and no response from his enquiry for employment. He thought about contacting the hosts at Le Salon to get a contact for the sister of the owner. Maybe use a little leverage.
At breakfast the next morning Arnaud pushed back his chair from the table and said he wanted to leave her. And with their son. At first he thought she hadn’t heard. But no, she’d heard. She was choosing not to answer.
She then made her reply. ‘I don’t think you are leaving me, you won’t get a reference from Maman and you don’t have any money. Oh but if you do go, you’re welcome to Jacques.’
‘You bitch!’ He could not believe she had said those words. Life was taking on a real edge.
They did not speak for three days, when they did it was Margaux as if continuing on from their recent conversation.
‘I won’t give you a divorce. Papa will make things difficult for you. Anyway you have your work here to consider, the patients would not be happy.’
He was about to bite back but was summoned to the phone by his assistant. He was in a foul mood and dropped the phone on the floor, the chord got twisted he was cursing whilst he picked it up convinced that he had cut the caller off. When he finally got the phone to his ear he issued an abrupt greeting. Two minutes later and he had been offered an interview at the Pharmaceutical Company the next day. Better still he would find out if he was successful the same day. At last a real escape route.
Margaux came down to breakfast two days later to find his bags were packed. She demanded to know his intentions.
‘I’m off.’ He left with a promise to Jacques that he would come for him soon. The accommodation issue was solved as well. Giles’ tenant was due to move out soon, he would live in the flat over the garage business.
He left Le Pharmacie on the Friday and moved into the flat on the Monday.
Arnaud Morin took his son and their dog and moved to a town near his new work. In the course of his work he met a fellow researcher Simone Noiret. They had a conventional courtship and had a planned birth of a daughter.
Giles kept in touch and up to date with the gossip. One year on and the Mayor had left his wife and taken up residence with Madame Arment. Margaux had finally got a job, working for a vineyard near Cognac and started to see Gregoire.
His wife sublet the Pharmacie due to ill health and placed an advertisement for a live in maid. The ad was vague as to exactly who or where this employment was available. It was seen by Mimi who wanted to move into the town from the farm. Her ‘retainer’ had long since finished and she applied. She received a letter in return and was of course surprised to find out the identity of the employer. But she needed a job; she was the only applicant and was hired. Madame Arment was first to break the news to all and sundry. Monsieur Mayor just shook his head and said ‘Interesting interview.’ Jacques never saw his mother or his grandparents again. Something that did not bother him. He recognised love when he saw it and when he didn’t.
Table of Contents
The Life and Times of Arnaud Morin