<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> The rocks glow red above the sea, embers of the day’s heat below <br> our balcony at the Hôtel Marie.<br> Down here, on the southern rim of the country, out of the mistral’s<br> slipstream, the evening drops as viscous liquid: slow and heavy <br> and silent. When we first arrived, the stifling sultriness made sleep <br> impossible; night closed in like the lid of a tomb.<br> Now, in the few hours I do sleep, I dream of all we have left behind: <br> the hamlet on the hill and the whispering trees. Then, with a start, I’m <br> awake again, remembering.<br> Until it happens to you, you don’t know how it will feel to stay with <br> a man who has done a terrible thing. Not to know whether the worst <br> has happened or is yet to come; wanting so badly to trust him now.<br> We cannot leave France, so, for want of anywhere better to go, we are <br> still here. When we first settled in, it was the height of summer. In <br> shimmering light, sleek white yachts etched diamond patterned <br> wakes on the inky blue playground and oiled bodies roasted on honey<br> gold sand. Jazz festivals wailed and syncopated along the coastline. <br> For us, days passed numberless and unnamed.<br> As the seasonal sybarites have drifted away to the next event, to <br> a more fashionable spot for September, or back to the daily work that <br> made these sunny weeks possible, we have stayed on. At this once<br> proud Belle Époque villa built on a rocky outcrop around the headland <br> from the bay of Cassis, we have found a short-term compromise. Mme. <br> Jozan has stopped asking whether we intend to stay a week longer in <br> her faded pension. The fact is, we are. No doubt she will tell us, in her <br> pragmatic way, when our presence is no longer acceptable.<br> We eat dinner at a café on the beach. How much longer it will be <br> open is anyone’s guess. For the past few nights, we’ve been the only <br> customers.<br> We hardly speak as we drink some wine and pick at olives. <br> Dialogue is largely superfluous beyond courteous replies to the waiter.<br> Dom does try. “Did you walk today?”<br> “I always walk.”<br> “Where did you go?”<br> “Up into the hills.”<br> I walk in the mornings, though sometimes I don’t return until <br> mid-afternoon.<br> We go to bed early, and then on to places in our dreams: places that <br> are not as they really are. This morning, in the shallows of <br> semi-consciousness, I was in a domed greenhouse, a ghost of itself: glass <br> clouded with age; other panes shattered, glinting and ready to fall; <br> ironwork twisted and corrupt with rust. No such edifice exists at Les <br> Genévriers, but that was where I was.<br> In my dream, glass creaked audibly above my head as I stood <br> mending bent iron shelves, frustration mounting as I failed repeatedly<br> to straighten the corroded metal. Through broken glass, the <br> pleated hills were there, always in the background, just as in life.<br> By day, I try not to think of the house and the garden and the hillside<br> we have left behind, which ensures, of course, that my brain must <br> deal with the thoughts in underhanded ways. Trying is not necessarily <br> succeeding, either. Some days I can think of nothing else but what we <br> have lost. It might as well be in a different country, not a few hours’ <br> drive to the north of where we are now.<br> Les Genévriers. The name of the property is misleading, for there is <br> only one low-spreading juniper, hardly noble enough to warrant such <br> recognition. There is probably a story behind that, too. There are so <br> many stories about the place.<br> Up in the village, a wooded ten-minute climb up the hill, the <br> inhabitants all have tales about Les Genévriers: in the post office, the bar, <br> the café, the community hall. The susurration in the trees on its land <br> was their childhood music, a magical rustling that seemed to cool the <br> hottest afternoon. The cellar had once been renowned for its vin de noix, <br> a sweet walnut liqueur. Then it was shut up for years, slumbering like <br> a fairy castle on the hillside, and prey to forbidden explorations while <br> legal arguments raged over ownership in a notaries’ office in Avignon. <br> Local buyers shied away, while foreign bidders came, saw, and went.<br> It is more than a house; it is a three-story farmhouse with a small <br> attached barn in an enclosed courtyard, a line of workers’ cottages, a <br> small stone guesthouse standing alone across the path, and various <br> small outbuildings: it is officially designated as un hameau, a hamlet.<br> “It has a very special atmosphere,” the agent said that morning in <br> May when we saw it for the first time.<br> Rosemary hedges were pin-bright with pungent flowers. Beyond, <br> a promenade of cypresses, prelude to a field of lavender. And, rising <br> at the end of every view, the dominant theme: the creased blue hills of <br> the Grand Luberon.<br> “There are springs on the land.”<br> That made sense. Three great plane trees grew close to the gate <br> of the main house, testament to unseen water; they would not have <br> grown so tall, so strong, without it.<br> Dom caught my hand.<br> We were both imagining the same scenes, in which our dream life <br> together would evolve on the gravel paths leading under shady oak, <br> pine, and fig trees, between topiary and low stone walls marking the <br> shady spots with views down the wide valley, or up to the hilltop <br> village crowned with its medieval castle. Tables and chairs where we <br> would read or sip a cold drink, or offer each other fragments of our <br> former lives while sinking into a state of complete contentment.<br> “What do you think?” asked the agent.<br> Dom eyed me complicitly.<br> “I’m not sure,” he lied. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Lantern</b> by <b>Deborah Lawrenson</b> Copyright © 2011 by Deborah Lawrenson. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.