The first girl I met in my class was Mary from the Philappines. We were both in a different location from the class to take a test to see which class we should be placed in. I could have told them if they had asked. I finished the test in ten minutes simply because I had so little knowledge of French. Mary was there with an older man that I assumed was her husband and she finished about as quickly as I did.
At our first coffee after class I found out that she was engaged to a Frenchman and that the man who had been with her was her father-in-law to be.
She was a beautiful girl with dark eyes and long black hair and a tiny perfect figure. She was from the Philippines but had met Jacques, her finance, in Japan where she was a singer.
We were all enthralled. “What kind of singer?”
“I sang rock and roll mostly in a night club.”That’s where I met my fiance.”
“Are you going to be singing here in Paris?”
We were puzzled. She had a huge saphire ring on her engagement finger so I thought that maybe she just didn’t have to work, but that wasn’t the case.
“Jacques doesn’t want me to sing in a club because he is jealous of other men who would come to hear me sing.”
Well, being an American, I thought this was awful. I don’t think women should stop doing something they love because their spouse doesn’t approve. “Are you sure you want to marry him? It’s not too late to back out.”
She was sure.
We asked what language they spoke at home. “Mostly English. He doesn’t speak Philipino and I don’t speak French. And we both know a little Japanese.” Thus the French class.
The more I was around Mary the more I wondered why she was getting married. Maybe a lot of it had to do with pre-wedding jitters, but she seemed unhappy to me. One day I asked her how her week-end had gone and she replied that it had been awful. “We drank too much and fought every single minute of the week-end.” Once again I said, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” She never said she wasn’t.
Mary also told me, almost on the first day that I met her that Jacques didn’t want children. “Do you?”
“Yes. I’ve always wanted children. I want to have them while I’m young. My mother had me when she was older.”
“Why doesn’t Jacques want any children?” I asked.
“He’s an only child so that may be why, but he just told me he never wanted any.” She was obviously very sad about this.
She would never take the metro. One day I was with some American friends in Paris for the week and we got on a bus after my class and there was Mary. She told us she was on the way for the fitting of her wedding dress. She seemed very nervous. We got off the bus before she did and I told my friends about her and the fact that her fiance wouldn’t let her sing.
I also found out that she was living with her in-laws to be with Jacques. She told us about long, long dinners every night.
“I just don’t know how they eat so much. We start at 8 in the evening and we are never finished before 10. I get so tired of sitting there.”
One day we all got to meet, or at least see, Jacques as he brought by a book Mary needed. So at least he was going out of his way a little bit for her. This was the middle of the day. I never did find out what he did for a living but I think there was some money there in his family.
The final week before her wedding she was very nervous. She came every day, though, and on the day before her wedding she brought two bottles of champagne to celebrate. Between the 12 or so of us, we drank it all. I often went home a little drunk after class as someone was always bringing in champagne to celebrate something, usually birthdays. I would struggle to stay awake on the metro, climb up the 3 flights to our apartment and fall on the couch for an alcohol induced nap.
We were all invited to the wedding. Five of us went the next afternoon after our class. And there she came down the aisle. I could tell by her face that she was extremely nervous and once it looked like she was going to burst into tears. She wore the beautiful gown that she had gone to that fitting for and had a long white veil that flowed behind her. It was a long Catholic cermony and I was happy to see that after the ceremony, out in the sunshine on the church steps, that she looked radiant and happy. So did Jacques. What did I know? Maybe they would make it.
She was gone for two weeks on her honeymoon to the Philippines. And a few weeks after she got back she had talked Jacques into singing lessons with a private teacher for her. I bet it wouldn’t be long before she was singing somewhere again.
One day before class she rushed up to me and said, “Guess what?”
“You know I told you I had started singing lessons?”
“Well, my teacher loves my voice. He had a friend come over and listen to me sing. It turns out this friend is in the music business and he wants me to make a CD!”
“Mary! How wonderful! When do you start?”
“Well, first we have to get together and plan the style and pick out songs. Then we have to find an orchestra. We have all sorts of things to do. Lots of work.”
I’m thinking that one day not only will she be singing in Paris, but that she will also have at least one child.