“In answer to the question you have not asked me; no I was not trying to cheat your uncle. He knew exactly what I’m doing and encouraged it. He simply was not interested. You knew him better than I, did he ever take winemaking seriously?” Aubrey Duncan asked.
“Yes he did, and I remember he produced excellent wines; there are still bottles in the cellar. I will admit it’s been ten years since I’ve been out here and so I can’t speak for those years, but I do know prior to that he was a vintner.”
“Perhaps as his health declined he became less interested. You sampled the wine and I believe you enjoyed it.”
“Yes I did; tell me about it in terms I can understand.”
Aubrey chuckled, “We only make 1000 cases a year sometimes a few more but that’s an average. It sells for a 100F each.”
“No Max, 100F per bottle, there are twelve to a case. It’s illegal to sell it on the market and so it’s sold at auction or to certain family owned restaurants.”
“And meanwhile La Siroque was crumbling around his feet.”
“It was his to crumble, and frankly you had shown no interest.”
“That may be true but I’m interested now. It’s too late to do anything about it this year Aubrey, but next year…”
“We’ve got time to figure all that out, Max; who knows maybe we’ll join forces. I’ve got all the latest equipment here and make a good wine at Chambord, but with your grapes we can make it better. La Siroque has a good table wine also; I always sent enough back for Henry’s wants and needs at no cost and I marketed the rest for him. He got a better price for it with my efforts.”
“I noticed that, but I didn’t understand what he was doing.”
“Well it’s something to think about for next year. Aw, Max, we’re all family here I’m not trying to pull something over on you.”
“So to speak, I understand you’re seeing my daughter Connie, and I want you to know you have my blessings if you think you need them.”
Blessings, he’d only taken her for a bike ride, “Oh, well thank you.”
He’d hoped Connie would make an appearance but she was not in sight so he drove back to his chateau where the harvest was full on. He watched the young people laughing and calling out to one another for a while and went back inside.
He hated to think about it, but he was going to have to go back to London and move some money around. The thought of his cold flat sent shivers down his back but at least there would be hot water. Hopefully upon his return he would be able to seriously attack the renovation of the chateau.
He called Bert at his building and had him take care of having the flat cleaned and stocked for his return. He had a thought stirring around in his head and he also had her father’s blessing.
Max moved things around on his desk for a while, opened some drawers emptied them in to a trash bin, generally fooled around trying to work up the courage to call Connie. He’d gotten her cell phone number in Gordes over lunch.
“Oh hello, Connie, “as if he’d forgotten who he was calling.
“Max, I was just thinking about you and wondering if you needed any more tomatoes.
“Tomatoes, um no I don’t think so, but um I’m going to have to go to London for a few days maybe as long as a week, um I was wondering if uh, well if you would uh be interested in traveling to London with me?”
“Traveling to London, but I don’t need to go to London.”
“Ah, well…of course you don’t. I just thought that um…”
“Max, are you asking me to go with you?”
“When are you leaving?”
“I was going to try and book a flight out for Sunday.”
“Sunday, and for a week?”
“Possibly,” he held his breath.
“Yes, I’ll go with you.”
Max held his phone away from his ear and looked at it, “You will? That’s, that’s wonderful, Connie. I’ll uh let you know the flight arrangements and Connie, thank you.”
“Thank you for asking me.”
He couldn’t help smiling; suddenly the flat awaiting him in London took on a whole new look.
Max busied himself around the chateau for the next two days, he was cleaning out years of rubbish; broken furniture, old newspapers, and boxes of papers so old they were falling apart.
It gave him a certain satisfaction at the end of the day to be physically tired and feeling muscles waking up that had been sleeping for way too long. He thought about what Toni said of his body not being as firm as Terry’s. Well he was working on that now; the soft living in London was a thing of the past. He dusted off his hands and walked to the end of the buildings attached to the house, one was a garage containing the bike and a tractor and various other farm items, the other held the car, a 1958 Austin Healey covered in a dusty tarp. Max had yet to uncover it to see if the seats were still intact. He had memories of speeding around the countryside next to his uncle in that car. His own rented baby Renault sat outside the garage.
As he hauled the pails of boiling water from the kitchen up the stairs to take his bath he had visions of a new boiler in place, the house cleaned out and spiffed up with a coat of paint here and there. It could, with a bit of money spent on it, be a place he could be proud of. He thought about Aubrey Duncan’s estate; it was probably older than his seventeenth century house, but it had money poured into it and looked a showplace to Max.
Tomorrow he would be picking up Connie for the trip to London. He was looking forward to her company, but a little apprehensive at the same time. They hadn’t…well it hadn’t got that far yet; there was bound to be a bit of awkwardness once they arrived at his flat. One step at a time Max, he told himself and turned out the light and crawled into his bed.
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