Both Eden and I are francophiles, so it being my turn to write the opening, I risked dropping in a tiny bit of French. (The prompt certainly encouraged it.) This is the 11th in our 800 series. If you’re new to it, you’ll find details here. I hope you like it.
Prompt: “Eloïse was my half-sister, but everyone thought she was my cousin.”
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden
Entente Peu Cordiale
Eloïse was my half-sister, but everyone thought she was my cousin. Not sure why. Mind you, she encouraged it. She wanted to be mysterious or something. Because of her name, I think. You see, our mum, Estelle, was French. We had different dads, both called Bernard. Mine was from Manchester but when he and mum got divorced, she married a French Bernard and his name was pronounced the French way. So when they had a daughter – Eloïse – she was all French.
My name’s Derek, so I’ve got no choice. I suppose I could pretend it was Dirk or something, but I still couldn’t do all the exotic stuff that Eloïse manages. She looked up her name and the only things she found were about some nun way back in the 12th century who wrote sexy stuff but also philosophy stuff, even though women didn’t do that in those days. According to our Eloïse, the stuff the history Eloïse wrote started feminism. Of course, they didn’t call it that back then, but our Eloïse seemed to think it was a pretty big deal. Anyway, none of this was a problem until she started seeing this bloke called Denis with one ‘n’.
It was Tuesday, the one day of the week I got home early enough to shower and nap before dinner. Ten minutes of hard scrubbing with clay soap removed the stench of the shop, clearing my nostrils to enjoy Mum’s home cooking. Tuesday was liver and onions night—my favourite.
When I stepped out of the shower, an unfamiliar voice made me pause. Male, boisterous. Then I heard Eloïse.
“Bro, I want you to meet someone,” she shouted from the bottom of the steps.
Shit. I was looking forward to the nap.
I opened the door. “I’ll be ten minutes.”
By the time I made my way downstairs, I’d already had enough of the stranger. Who was he, and why was he so damn loud?
“Hi,” I said as I entered the kitchen. Mum was standing over the stove, Eloïse and the man seated around the table. Sis stood up; he didn’t.
“This is Denis, my new beau.” She introduced him with a sweep of her hand like showing off a new car.
“You’re the big brother. I gotta be careful!” He stuck out his hand while still seated.
I made up my mind right there I didn’t like him.
I’m not usually like that. I’m pretty easy-going with most of the guys. Some of them are prats, but I put up with them. But this guy… good-looking, wearing French gear, the sort none of the rest of us could get away with, French name… and yet this weird twang to his booming voice. Too bloody American altogether!
But I saw this sort of anxiety on Eloïse’s face as she looked at me. It was a familiar expression. She’d seen and heard how I’d ‘greeted’ previous boy-friends. I put on a deliberate grin, shook the guy’s hand and said, “Dennis. Good to meet you.”
To his credit, he didn’t correct my pronunciation, but Eloïse noticed. So did Mum.
”Petit salaud,” she said. ”Tu sais bien que c’est Denis.”
”Not in Scotland,” I said.
But even as I spoke the words I wondered what the hell had got into me. I hadn’t dared give Mum any cheek since I was a kid. What the hell was I doing?
Dennis, the bastard, was smiling all over his bloody French face.
”It’s cool, Madame Martin”, he said, the first bit pure American, the second undisguised Daniel Auteuil. ”He’s just protecting sa cousine.”
Eloïse blushed and sat down.
I also took a seat. “Look, Dennis, watch your step, okay? Eloïse has already told you I’m her brother, so don’t confuse the matter further.” My response immediately wiped the smug look off his face. He stood up, and I pushed back my chair too. Luckily for me, I was at least two inches taller than him.
The tension in the room thickened.
Finally, he said, “Look, Derek. I’m sorry. Can we start over … please?”
Eloïse’s eyes pleaded with me. When I nodded, Denis gave me a friendly punch in the arm. After we both sat down again, Mum brought beer to the table.
“I’m sorry too … Denis. Long day at work.”
“No worries, mate. I can come on strong at times.”
Mum opened the fridge, and Eloïse got up to help her.
“You staying for dinner, Denis?” I asked. “Liver and onions night, I’ve been looking forward to it all day.”
This time, it was Mum who spoke, “No liver and onions, dear. Denis is vegan, and Eloïse bought a non-dairy, meatless lasagna for us.” She looked at me sheepishly.
I knew there was a reason I wasn’t going to like this guy.
As usual, comments, suggestions, critiques are all welcome.