The Petite Cottage 🏠

RÀN: Chapter I

Nice– a crowded, comfortable, homey, and sunny city. Well, usually. Today, it wasn’t lit with it’s characteristic shade of yellow. Instead, the city was covered in a thick fog, rendering even the best of views completely ruined with an opaque cloud of moisture.

Such was the window of Patrick’s room. The lighting– well, the lack of– gave his room a completely different aura than it had in his teenage years. But in truth, it was exactly the same as he had left it three years ago.

A smirk on his face, he shed his vest, tie, and slacks in favor of his old trademark wear. Admiring the getup, he saw that the red star on his shirt was now rather worn and barely visible– and he suddenly realized just how much longer his hair was compared to before. Easily, it was several inches’ different. Now, it was kept in a more «professional» (at least, that was what his mom told him), tamed style.

He glanced in the mirror and couldn’t help but laugh. If it weren’t for the hair, he realized, he’d be the spitting image of the naive teenager he used to be. Perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad, he thought. He suddenly felt, with some strange sense of mysticism, that if he looked the same as he did back then, he would be the same as he was back then. Bright future ahead of him, good friends, and plenty of opportunities to achieve his dreams. … and, something he quite deliberately squelched until it become a mere footnote in his mind– Charlotte didn’t completely and utterly despise him then.

Patrick was then struck with the feeling that some god with a brilliant sense of timing had decided to toy with him– because at that very moment, his phone went off.

Chaudia.

Not who he was thinking of, exactly, but the message from an old friend was more than enough to impact a very sentimental Patrick.


Charlotte and Jean-Charles hurdled down the highway at a brisk pace. Charlotte cried out, «Jean-Charles, slow down, there’s no need to go so fast!» He ignored her. Maybe not for you, he thought. Nice was, yes, very nostalgic for him– but it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. There were good times, the ones he liked to remember, but his mind would inevitably drift over to the bad ones. The times he’d rather forget, thoughts of all the people he’d hurt and alienated. Those were the thoughts that burnt he most, like the aftertaste of a soda left to simmer in the summer sun for seven hours.

For him, there was no need to stay in Nice any longer than absolutely necessary. They would stay just long enough to pick up Charlotte’s things and leave for Paris. A day, no longer.

That was why he ignored Charlotte’s pleas to slow down. That was why they hurdled toward Nice in the thick fog.

In the rearview mirror, she just barely managed to make out the form of Mana High. «It’s our old school, look!» she gestured in it’s general direction. He winced. That was exactly the kind of place he didn’t want to think about.

«Do you remember how we met?» She was clearly giddy with excitement at being back in Nice, and it resonated in her voice.

«No, not really,» he said.

She remarked, «You’re a dream, you know that?» A grin spread across her face.

«Hey, I’m a good catch, what can I say?»

They laughed. «Eh, I guess you’re a pretty big fish, too, Charlotte.» He smiled.


Chaudia glanced down at her phone, just enough to get the gist of the incoming message. Yellow, of course. «I’m by the farmer’s market, in the parking lot,» she was able to gather.

It had been three months since she had last seen Thomas– something she could hardly bear. Without him, she felt as if an important part of herself was missing, lost in a far away Cordon Blue. But now, this piece wasn’t in some Cordon Bleu so many miles away. He was within a mile of her– they were so close to being together again, if only for a week.

She sped past the border sign, which, were it not so foggy, would quite obviously and boldly say, «Bienvenue à Nice.» If she weren’t so consumed with excitement for meeting with Thomas, she would probably be filled with overwhelming waves of nostalgia. But instead, she slowed down to get a better look at her surroundings. There was a parking lot nearby farmer’s market, somewhere she could leave her car for the next week. After all, all of Nice was very accessible on foot.

Through the fog, she could just barely make out the outlines of the lot in her left window. She squinted, hoping to see Thomas there, waiting for her like he said. Instead, she felt a heavy thud thunder through the hood of her car to the leather of her steering wheel.