There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Francis – Forging new bonds
Francis Baxter checked into the hotel in the middle of Chamonix on the Friday night and tired from his long journey headed off to bed and slept for ten hours straight.
He woke to find the sun streaming in through the windows of his suite and a craving for several cups of strong coffee. He showered and sat in the extremely fluffy bath robe supplied by the exclusive hotel and waited for room service to send up his breakfast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t want to think about Chrissie back home in Houston or Dane and Shannon finishing off their semester before heading home for the Easter holidays. He hadn’t informed anyone, not even his business partner of twenty years, where he was going; he had not switched on his mobile since landing in Geneva yesterday.
Unfortunately denial did not stop the rush of thoughts and emotions that had been triggered two days ago when Chrissie has asked for a divorce. Their discussion that had developed into a full-blown argument replayed in his head over and over. Her accusation that he was more interested in his work and making money than their marriage, and that she no longer loved him had established itself front and centre in his mind; he had not seen that coming.
He knew that he was ambitious and he and Richard, his partner, worked long hours keeping their accountancy business afloat in these uncertain times. Yes, they played golf at the weekends but it was their way of unwinding after a long week. He admitted to himself that there were too many dinners in the city with major clients but they required constant attention.
The fact was that without the business they would not have the big house, fancy cars and vacations. He had thought that Chrissie was content with the trappings that came with his job; he was furious with himself for missing all the signs and taking so much for granted.
There was a discreet knock on the door and Francis walked over to admit the uniformed waiter who wheeled in a laden trolley. Having slipped the young guy a generous tip, Francis settled down at the table and contemplated his breakfast. Suddenly he had little appetite so sipped his strong black coffee and flicked through one of the local guides that were spread out in front of him.
The truth was that he knew this area quite well as he had lived here as a child with his French mother and American father who was an artist. They had moved to the United States when he was twelve years old which is why, when faced with this bombshell he had chosen to run as far as he could; to somewhere he still considered his home. A picture captured his attention as he automatically turned the pages in the glossy brochure. It was of a place that he remembered from his childhood when he and his parents would take long treks at the weekend up the sides of the surrounding mountains. His father would carry the rucksack containing their lunch which always consisted of a fresh baked baguette from the local cafe along with fresh tomatoes and a tub of rich homemade mayonnaise. They would find a perch above the valley and the three of them would break the bread into chunks, add a dollop of mayo, a couple of slices of the bright red tomato and it tasted heavenly.
This reminded him that he was actually hungry right now. He decided to tuck into the now cooling omelette and croissant; he was going to need some fuel for the walk he now planned to take.
Francis opened his suit carrier which he had hurriedly thrown random clothes into and realised that he was not equipped for hiking. He pulled on some jeans and a sweat shirt and headed downstairs and out into the main street. The shops didn’t open until later in the morning, but he spent his time well, window shopping and popping into a bakery for another coffee and some supplies for his hike. He returned to one of the sports outfitters that he had scoped out earlier and bought some jeans, boots, parka and a rucksack. He also picked up a detailed guide to the trails, not trusting his memory completely, and a water bottle. He returned to the hotel and quickly changed into his new clothes. At the last minute he added his mobile phone to the essentials in his rucksack for safety reasons and headed down the corridor to the elevator.
Two hours later, after realising how out of shape he was, Francis breathlessly reached his destination. The roar of the torrent of water that rushed down the mountainside from the spring melt filled the air and the scent of pine was strong in his nostrils. Memories flooded back of a different time when every spare moment that he had was filled with activities like this. His parents always seemed to be there beside him hiking, skiing and sledding down moonlit slopes close to the town. He remembered drinking hot chocolate around the fire at a local inn and being included even when there were adult guests around the big kitchen table for fondue. What he could not remember was the last time that he, Chrissie and the kids had spent any time together or even enjoyed a family meal.
He viewed the narrow footbridge across the gorge that he needed to cross to reach the small building clinging to the rock face on the other side of the raging river. It had carried thousands across safely over the hundreds of years that it had existed but a little hesitantly he walked over watching the flood waters racing beneath him.
Francis knew what to expect as he opened the door into the little chapel but was still unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept through him. Sunlight fought to gain entry into the tiny space through small windows fashioned into the thick outer wall. The faint rays illuminated the walls of stone and the shrine at its heart. Francis walked slowly inside and stood for a moment with his head bowed. Around him in the cracks in the walls, hundreds of small slips of paper caught the light. They were the prayers and supplications of people across time that had needed guidance and restoration of faith. Townspeople had walked up from the valley and travellers through the passes had stopped for a brief respite and comfort. Their combined presence had created a vortex of emotion and the hair on the back of Francis’s neck stood on end.
He had never been a religious man but he knew that this place was a spiritual oasis where all could regain their strength and sense of purpose. He remained for a few minutes longer and then gently closing the door behind him he walked back across the bridge. Gradually the feelings that had been triggered so forcefully subsided and in their place came clarity.
He walked down the trail until he reached a point overlooking the town. He sat on a warm rock and opened his rucksack. He broke the baguette into four pieces and liberally spread fresh mayonnaise on each piece before adding a thick slice of tomato with a little salt. He ate his simple meal as he contemplated his next move.
Satisfied now in body and soul he picked up his mobile and switched it back on. Ignoring all the texts and messages waiting for him; he made two calls. The first to Chrissie that lasted a long time and ended with his satisfied smile; the second that was equally lengthy to his business partner. He packed up the remains of his lunch and headed back down into the town where he spent the next few hours visiting chalet rental offices
For the first time in years, Francis felt that he was where he belonged and a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. Chrissie would be arriving tomorrow and then next week Dane and Shannon would join them. It was time to repair those bonds that had been broken and to forge new ones that were stronger and would last a lifetime.
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection.
I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.
Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.
My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.
This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.