Home > One Summer in Monte Carlo

One Summer in Monte Carlo
Author: Jennifer Bohnet

 

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‘Nanette, this has been the perfect day. I’m so glad you agreed to be our wedding planner. You’ve done an amazing job. As for this place,’ Vanessa gestured around, ‘it doesn’t get any more romantic than this. Ralph and I can’t thank you enough for finding it,’ and Vanessa hugged her friend tightly.

The two of them were standing in the grand entrance hall of Dymond Park Hotel, the eighteenth-century manor house that a far-seeing local hotelier had bought and turned into the most aspirational wedding venue in South Devon. Once the home of a local aristocrat, the house stood at the end of a drive lined with tall silver birch trees, today though, their branches were bare of the silvery leaves which rustled in summer like tinkling water. The private chapel, set in the middle of a snowdrop-covered field, with views tumbling down the Devonshire countryside towards the distant River Dart sparkling in the late-afternoon winter sunshine, had proved to be an ideal venue for Vanessa and Ralph’s winter wedding.

Nanette smiled at her friend and employer. ‘I must admit to being worried about organising your big day. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done anything like it.’ She paused. ‘I did wonder whether I was still up to it.’

‘You did a great job. No question about it,’ Vanessa said.

‘You were a beautiful bride,’ Nanette answered.

‘Right, enough of this mutual admiration society. I need to talk to you urgently.’

Nanette looked at her anxiously. ’Can’t it wait until you return? You are only away for the weekend. Incidentally, you have to leave in about ten minutes,’ Nanette said, glancing at her watch. ‘Surely Ralph must be wondering where his new wife is?’

‘He knows I’m with you. It’s important for me to talk to you before we leave. I have to ask you something.’ Vanessa glanced at Nanette. ‘You know that Ralph has got this big filming project lined up in the Amazon?’

‘He was telling me it’s his biggest project yet,’ Nanette said, remembering how enthusiastic Ralph had been earlier. ‘He’s really passionate about this film, isn’t he?’

‘He wants me to go with him. We’d have a week’s belated honeymoon in Brazil and then I’d become part of his team filming the documentary in the rainforest.’

‘For the whole of the five months?’ Nanette looked at her friend wide-eyed. Personally, she couldn’t get her head around the prospect of spending such a long time in a rain forest away from civilisation.

Vanessa nodded.

‘How do you feel about being away for so long? What about the twins and your business – Oh,’ this, as realisation dawned. ‘You want me to step into your shoes while you’re away?’ Nanette took a deep breath. ‘Looking after the twins, fine, I’m used to that, but running the business? I don’t think I could do that.’ Nanette shook her head. ‘Organising today with the help of your office, is one thing, running your business in your absence, would be totally different.’ Vanessa ran a highly successful PR business with clients ranging between official government bodies, small businesses and the media. Nanette looked at Vanessa anxiously. ‘You know I haven’t done any office work since…’ She shrugged and didn’t finish the sentence. ‘I did think after organising today, I’d ask you if I could come in and do a regular stint in the office to help get me back into the swing of things, but being in charge—’

‘No, no, I don’t want you to run the business,’ Vanessa interrupted. ‘Caroline is more than happy to look after that side of things for me – she’s been taking on more responsibility recently anyway. But I do want you to carry on looking after Pierre and Olivia for me.’

Nanette gave her a relieved smile. ‘Of course, I’ll look after the twins while you’re away, no problem. But five months is a long time. What happens if there’s an emergency? Do I have full responsibility? What about Mathieu?’ Nanette couldn’t help but think about Mathieu, the twins’ father. Surely, he should be the one taking care of the nine year old twins while their mother was away?

There was a pause as Vanessa fiddled with the sprays of freesias pinned to her wedding dress, before she sighed and looked directly at Nanette.

‘I know it’s a huge ask, but I need you to look after the twins in Monaco.’ Vanessa held her hands up in a conciliatory gesture as Nanette looked at her aghast. ‘I know, I know. You vowed never to go back and I promised you wouldn’t have to.’ She hesitated before continuing. ‘Mathieu has agreed to have the twins live with him for six months provided you go too and look after them like you do here for me. He says he’s too busy to become a school-gate dad.’

Nanette turned away and watched silently as an all-enveloping mist began to rise from the river and drift up towards the chapel and the hotel. The afternoon was turning cold as the last rays of sunlight vanished. Damp air began to swirl around them as the reassuring presence of the old chapel became an eerie outline as the mist swallowed it up. Nanette tried unsuccessfully to suppress a shivery shudder of apprehension at the very thought of returning to Monaco. Painful memories of the place she’d pushed into the darkest recess of her mind began to swirl into her consciousness.

‘Can’t Mathieu come over here?’ she said, turning back to face Vanessa. ‘I’ll willingly look after the twins here.’

Vanessa shook her head. ‘Apparently not. He says it’s impossible for him to leave the country for so long right now. He’s got some sort of business deal going through and needs to be there.’ Vanessa placed an arm around Nanette’s shoulders. ‘I realise I am asking a lot. I know how difficult it will be for you to even think about returning and if you can’t face it, I will understand. So will Ralph,’ Vanessa said. ‘But please, will you consider the idea while Ralph and I are away this weekend?’

Nanette sighed. ‘Okay, I promise I’ll think about it. I’ll even run the idea past Patsy and see what her reaction is, but I’m ninety-nine per cent certain it will be the same as mine. A big fat, no way.’

 

 

After the happy couple left for their weekend on Burgh Island, staying at the iconic art deco hotel situated there, Nanette scooped the twins into a waiting taxi and headed off to the station to catch the train to Totnes, where the three of them were spending the weekend with Patsy, her older sister. With only ten months between them, and both inheriting their mother’s dark auburn hair and brown eyes, they were invariably taken to be twins themselves. Sibling rivalry was something that simply didn’t exist in their world and they’d been inseparable growing up. Later, separated by their choice of degree courses – Art History for Patsy and Business Administration for Nanette – they’d still talked daily via Skype and quickly signed up to WhatsApp. Patsy had used her degree to obtain a job with the National Trust and had worked as a curator for them in several of their properties. Nanette, who loved to travel, had soon found herself working in the high-octane world of Formula 1 motor racing – to the delight of her father, who’d loved the sport.

When their parents died in a boating accident seven years ago, Patsy and Nanette had consoled each other and become even closer, if that were possible. After Patsy met and married Bryan, a Devonshire farmer, and settled into her role of farmer’s wife like a born countrywoman, she’d insisted that Nanette regarded Blackberry Farm as their family home. ‘Until you get married, of course, and have your own home.’ But that had never happened.

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