Hurry Back Valerie

Me and girls in France

From L to R: Me, Emmanuelle, Joanne, Valerie. France, 1976, shortly before we moved up to the mountain.

Visitors to the mountain were extremely rare. In fact, aside from the night that I’m about to recount, I can only remember one other occasion in the year when we had visitors, but that’s a tale for another day.

The other children and I slept in the same room. We had a motley assortment of beds and mismatched bedding, and I was in charge of making the beds every morning. We generally slept well after our daily wanders in the mountain air. On this particular night, we had gone to bed. As usual. And drifted off easily. As usual. I couldn’t tell you what time it was, but sometime after we had fallen asleep, we were awoken by the sound of loud bangs. Pounding bangs. We sprang up sharply in our beds. Confused. Fearful. More bangs. After some whispered discussion we concluded that it must be someone at the door. Somebody was pounding at the door. Who? It wasn’t a noise we were used to.

We sat very still. Unsure. Afraid. Shortly afterwards, we heard the adults lumber down the stairs. More bangs. Raised voices . The door must have been opened because the banging stopped, and new voices were heard. Muffled. We couldn’t make out what was being said, and people were shouting over each other.

Next, the sound of something being dragged. Furniture being moved? Why? Doors being open and closed. Still the raised voices. What was happening? Why was nobody coming to tell us what was happening? We had instinctively clustered together on the same bed now and held each other tightly. Joanne said that she would creep down the stairs a little to peep. Joanne was brave, but we said she was too young, so Valerie went instead. We urged caution, and let her go. We waited. Clutched each other in the darkness. Hurry back Valerie.

After a short amount of time, she scampered back in. She didn’t speak until she was right back into our huddle, and in urgent hushed tones announced “C’est la police!”

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This is my fourth memoir piece from the year I spent as a child living self-sufficiently with my mother and another family in an abandoned village in the French Alps, with no electricity, or any modern conveniences. If you missed the previous parts, they are here: A year in the French Alps

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41 responses to “Hurry Back Valerie

  1. I can only imagine how frightened you must have been! It’s easy, too, when we’re children to dream up the worst case scenario. And now you need to keep on blogging, because I really want to know what happens next! :D

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AND?! AND?!!

    Really, Vanessa, you shouldn’t do this to me at this hour. It’s only 6:49 a.m. Not the hour to process high drama. Well told, dear. Hurry along with the reveal, please.

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  3. “C’est la police!”
    Pourquoi?
    Talk about a cliffhanger… What’s the accusation? :o

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  4. Well, that would certainly spike the heart rate! I’m looking forward to learning more. :)

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  5. The bravery and camaraderie of these young girls really shows through, Vanessa. I hope we get to find out what’s behind this mystery!

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  6. I missed your last post, so I just read the two together. Well! Cliffhanger! Mais oui, you’re way too busy right now to reveal the ending any time soon! Can’t wait, though!

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  7. I really like your mountain stories. I wanted this one to be longer and, of course, I didn’t want to be left hanging out to dry. But I immediately wondered if the police visit was a good or a bad thing. Through the eyes of the little girls huddled in the room, it was terrifying. I’m sure you’re doing these in vignettes on purpose, but it seems like there is more here.

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  8. “C’est la police!” indeed!

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  9. Such a tease you are Vanessa! LOL I will await the next installment of your mystery.

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    • It’s funny because even though I obviously realised it’s a cliffhanger at the end, I didn’t deliberately write it to tease people, I just wrote what we knew had happened at the time – the reason behind it all I didn’t find out for a long time. And so you must all wait as I did too – ha!

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  10. You have me on the edge of my seat! What a terrifying experience it must have been for you!

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  11. Just like the old movies – a cliff hanger!
    (love the phrase/image “right back into our huddle”)

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  12. Delicious little snippets–keep them coming! :)

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  13. A cliff hanger? How dare you! I would never do such a thing…. Oh, wait…. Maybe I have—once in a while. :)

    I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out what brought the police out in the middle of the night to scare four young girls!

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    • I’m not too sure how to handle it actually because I didn’t find out why the police came that night (along with some other occurrences) until I was an adult, so the cliffhanger was how things were left for us at the time, not just an attempt to keep my readers hooked! So if I’m writing it all as it was at the time, the cliffhanger has to stay like that for now! Don’t know yet what I’ll do, I don’t have any great plan with these memoir pieces, it’s all quite random at the moment.

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  14. Well done on the cliffhanger … and the police isn’t what I expected.

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  15. How you tease us! Not nice, Vanessa. Not nice!

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  16. Wow… yeah I need to know the next part.

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