One summer I live in Normandie for a month. Clémence is my host sister, about to start her last year of lycée, French high school. We have just spent the past month at my home in Ohio, and now it is my turn to come with her to France. Clémence and I are the same age and height, and thrown together like this we are fast friends.
She lives with her parents, Pauline and Roger, in the countryside just outside a small town called Bernay. Their home is an old barn they spent years converting into a house. It is beautiful, all dark beams and old stone walls warmed by a fireplace that burns real wood when it gets cold, which is often, even in August.
I am given a small bedroom of my own. It is up the steep, narrow wooden steps to the attic, where the ceiling is slanted and the floors creaky. I push open the window and the view is of misty, grey-green grassy fields, scattered with cows and lined with hedges. I can see the next-door farmer baling hay from where I stand. It doesn’t look too drastically different from rural Ohio, but I find it all endlessly romantic.
When I come back to the Unites States it’s my senior year of high school. For New Year’s, my friend Liam has a party out at his house. I drink too much vodka and spend half an hour speaking French to Liam’s cat. Everyone is impressed by my accent.