Chapter 46

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Everything had happened so fast, Maude thought regretfully, a heaviness building up in her chest. She had barely had time to say proper goodbyes to Matt and Ben due to take an early flight. She had hugged Ben warmly, and he’d promised to let her know which instrument he had chosen for his twelfth birthday.

“Just don’t choose bagpipes,” Maude had murmured between hugs.

Then she’d turned towards Matt. They had looked at each other a little awkwardly sensing five pair of Baldwin eyeballs staring curiously at them.

“It was a pleasure working with you,” Matt said simply, stretching out his hand.

She wanted to scream! She wanted to tell him that nothing was going on with Thomas, that nothing ever could happen, that . . .

What was the use? He had been perfectly clear that he wasn’t asking for anything more than genuine friendship.

 “The pleasure was all mine,” Maude replied in an even tone. She took his hand and shook it just as awkwardly as she felt.

 And they had parted ways. He was flying back to New York, and she was back in dreary Carvin. Not much had changed here since she’d left. The Grand Place was animated, everyone wanting to enjoy the few, precious rays of sun. Couples were walking hand in hand, and from afar Maude could see Mrs. Bonnin eyeing them curiously from behind her counter taking mental notes under her immaculate baker’s hat.

While the Ruchets checked in at the Belle Etoile Inn, Maude went to see her dear old friend.

“Maude,” Mrs. Bonnin cried out. “How you’ve grown! And so stylish, oh my! I almost didn’t recognize you on the Grand Place.”

Maude hugged her warmly, all the while sniffing in the delicious smells that emanated from her oven.

“I’m sure you were too busy spying on Carvin’s newest couples. Is it just me, or does Mr. Martin finally have a girlfriend?” Maude asked utterly baffled. “Please tell me she isn’t a mail order bride.”

“No, honey,” Mrs. Bonnin laughed. “She’s the new girl in town. Her name’s Abby, and she’s always dreamed of living in a big city.”

“She should visit New York some time,” Maude replied, taking a bite in her warm croissant.

“Honey, you don’t understand. This is the big city for her,” Mrs. Bonnin explained an amused twinkle in her eye.

Maude nearly choked.

“Whaaat? Where does she come from?”

“Avesnes-le-Comte.”

 That was an explanation in itself.

“So, I want to know everything about your trip to New York,” Mrs. Bonnin said eagerly. In her mouth it sounded more like “Neu Yorque,” but Maude understood nevertheless.

“I’ll tell you everything just not now. I’ve got a few errands to run first,” Maude replied kindly.

“Okay, come back as soon as you can,” Mrs. Bonnin called out as Maude left.

Maude met the Baldwins near the fountain, and they headed for rue du Général de Gaulle.

“I’d go crazy in a small town,” Jazmine observed.

“Jazmine, don’t be rude,” Victoria warned.

“I wasn’t being rude. The town doesn’t look too bad. There’s just one huge problem.”

“What’s that?” Maude asked innocently.

“There isn’t a decent shop in sight.”

“I’m surprised you waited this long to make that observation,” Cynthia chided.

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