On a perfect summer day in Annecy, France, Valerie rides a bicycle down a winding path toward Lake Annecy’s azure waters.
She reaches a patch of grass by the beach and pulls a baguette from her pack.
A boat passes pulling a water skier. Children splash near shore. A sailboat glides by.
Valerie’s gaze fixes on a catamaran anchored offshore.
Alphonse, rugged with tousled hair and broad shoulders stands on one of the catamaran’s hulls fishing. He yanks the rod and pulls up a ten-pound Arctic Char.
Alphonse leans the rod against the jib and scans the shore.
Valerie chews on her baguette, fixated on Alphonse. She snaps out of it when she realizes he’s waving in her direction.
Alphonse dives in without a splash. He comes up swimming for shore. His chiseled arms make quick work of the distance.
Valerie watches Alphonse walk up from the lake.
She starts to walk towards Alphonse, stops, spins to hide an embarrassed smile. When she turns back, he’s close. Eyes locked on her. She musters courage.
Alphonse walks right by.
Valerie spins to watch Alphonse greet a group of friends.
Alphonse glances back at Valerie.
Valerie walks to the water’s edge.
She balances along the shore with her arms out.
She focuses so intently she doesn’t notice Alphonse casually strolling beside her. When she notices, she stumbles into the lake.
You fell in.
Valerie smirks and shrugs.
Valerie glances at Alphonse’s catamaran. Is it yours?
It’s my home.
Valerie puts her arms behind her back and keeps walking. After a moment, she realizes Alphonse isn’t keeping pace.
He’s standing with his hands on his hips. Would you like to go for a ride?
Valerie tugs on her shirt. No suit.
Alphonse turns to his friends, I’ll see you later! Just before diving in, he turns back to Valerie. You only live once!
Valerie watches him go. He doesn’t look back. Valerie takes a deep breath and dives in.
Alphonse pulls himself onto the catamaran. In the distance, Valerie struggles. She pulls up and treads water.
You can make it.
It’s too far. Come help. Hurry. With a devious smile on her face, she sinks.
Alphonse laughs, waits for her to come up. She doesn’t surface. He laughs again, unsure. Finally, he panics and dives in. He swims to where she went under. Dives.
Not far away, Valerie eases to the surface and treads water. Alphonse comes up for air. All he hears is Valerie cackling.
That’s not funny.
Valerie pokes her bottom lip out.
Alphonse swims over.
Valerie jumps on his back. Take me to the boat!
The catamaran slices across the water. Alphonse behind the wheel. Valerie beside him wearing a button-up shirt that’s way too big. It flaps in the wind.
Alphonse looks at her and smiles.
She’s too busy watching the sun set behind a mountain.
Valerie and Alphonse are married on the porch of a grand château high above Lake Annecy. Alphonse slides a ring on Valerie’s finger. They kiss.
Alphonse pulls away from a kiss. He looks proud. Valerie sits up in a hospital bed holding a son. She stares into baby Peter’s eyes.
Valerie, pregnant and beaming again, watches a four-year-old Peter chase Alphonse around the yard. She stands on the porch of their farmhouse. The house is surrounded by fields, then lake, then mountains.
Valerie yells for Peter. He stops chasing Alphonse and runs over. He jumps into her arms.
Valerie hugs Peter.
Alphonse holds one year old Isabelle. They are outside of a school. They watch Peter disappear inside.
Valerie exits the farmhouse. Alphonse heads in from the fields, tired and dirty. They kiss. He pats Peter, 8, on the head and scoops up Isabelle, 5, into his arms.
The family eats dinner. The children act up. Valerie smiles at Alphonse lovingly.
Valerie and Alphonse walk hand in hand towards the lake. The sunset blooms behind it.
Alphonse stands by a car. Peter, 18, exits the house carrying a bag. He’s dressed in a French Army uniform. Valerie follows. Isabelle, 14, is behind her. Isabelle leans against the porch rail and watches, bored.
Peter hugs Valerie and Alphonse. He nods to Isabelle. He gets in the car and drives away.
Valerie and Alphonse hold each other and watch him go. Isabelle joins the hug.
Valerie and Alphonse stroll hand in hand toward the lake. Isabelle trudges behind them walking a black poodle.
Valerie waits near a closed door. The door opens and Isabelle steps out. She’s wearing a sweater with Université de Genève (University of Geneva) written on it. Valerie’s eyes well with tears. Valerie follows Isabelle outside.
Alphonse works on a tractor. He sees Isabelle and shoots her a grim look before returning to work. She frowns and approaches a waiting taxi. The driver puts her bag inside.
She hugs Valerie then looks to where Alphonse still works on the tractor.
He glances up. Face still angry.
Isabelle gives him a pouty look.
He breaks and a grin crosses his face.
Isabelle holds up a fist and breaks into a smile. She runs to Alphonse and jumps in his arms.
Valerie and Alphonse enter the empty house. Alone again.
Alphonse and Valerie eat quiet meals together.
They stroll through the canal-lined streets of Annecy.
They eat candle-lit dinners.
They shop at local markets.
Alphonse and Valerie walk towards the lake hand in hand silhouetted by the sunset.
Alphonse stops, holds his chest, and falls to the ground.
Valerie shrinks to her knees and screams at the sky.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His short story collection JADED is available from Main Street Rag/Mint Hill Books. His hybrid collection QUASI is forthcoming from Anxiety Press.