“She has ascended far above her station, while he, unfortunately has fallen far below his.”
“She’s just a slip of a girl. What on earth does he see in her?”
“How could she satisfy a man like Maxwell Cavendish?”
“She’s not at all what I expected. When I think of all the beautiful and glamorous women Maxwell use to be seen with, I’m at a loss as to why he should end up marrying such a simple little creature.”
“I felt sure that my dear Caroline would have been the next Mrs. Cavendish. You can imagine how shocked the entire family was when we heard of Maxwell’s marriage to that French girl.”
“She probably speaks English rather poorly or doesn’t understand a word of it.”
“Well, I heard that she didn’t know that Maxwell was the son and heir of Lord and Lady Cavendish until after they were married.”
“I heard that they met at the cafe where she worked.”
“Well, I think that she knew who Maxwell was and that’s why she married him. She’s tired of being a waitress and living at a boarding house in Paris.”
“Married to a waitress. How disgraceful!”
Yvette sat there, listening them gossip about Maxwell and her, angry tears pricked her eyes. How dared they presume to know anything about her? They looked down on her because she wasn’t rich like them or British or glamorous. They made being a waitress sound like one of the worst job for a woman. They had no idea that she worked as a waitress during the summer when she was not attending university and she shared a room at a student residence because it was more feasible than renting a room on her own.
Now she understood why Maxwell spent so much time away from his family and their snobbish and pretentious friends who spent most of their time gossiping and looking down at those whom they considered to be beneath them.
It is true that they met at the café where she worked. It was in the heart of the Latin Quarter. He walked in one afternoon shortly after she began her shift. He was wearing an orange sweater over a blue and white shirt and a pair of white pants. His sandy colored hair was nearly combed. He looked so out of place in the café but he didn’t seem to mind. He went and sat at a table beside the window. She waited a few minutes before she went over to him to see if he was ready for her to take his order and a pair of the most incredibly beautiful green eyes looked up from the open menu. For a brief moment, he just stared at her.
She was mesmerized by his good looks and those eyes. He looked to be in his mid-thirties. Her gaze quickly dropped to his left hand to check for a wedding ring and was surprised to see none. There’s no way that he was unattached yet, here he was alone. She raised her eyes to his face again and smiled. “Are you ready to give me your order, Sir?” she asked.
He smiled and her heart melted. “Yes, thank you,” he said in a proper British accent. “I’ll have the house salad and the Rib Steak.”
“And to drink?”
“A glass of red wine.”
She took his order, the menu and left. It was tricky concentrating on the other customers when he was there. Every time she passed his table, their eyes met. When his salad was ready, she took it to him, her heart pounding with excitement. She set it down in front of him, feeling his eyes on her. She smiled shyly at him before she walked away.
“What is your name?” he asked in French moments later when she took the rib steak to his table.
“Yvette,” she answered.
“Maxwell,” he said. “How long have you been working here?”
“Since I started going to university. It helps with my expenses. I work during the week and in the summer.”
“Are you still in university?”
“Yes. I graduate next year. Your French is very good,” she added in English.
“Do you live with your parents?”
“No, I share an apartment with another student on Rue de l’Universite near Quai d’Orsay. Your French is very good.”
“Thank you. So is your English.”
She left him to enjoy his meal. When he asked for the bill, she was sorry. She wondered if she would ever see him again. She took it to him and left him to it. “I hope you enjoyed your meal,” she said, returning a few minutes later.
He looked up at her. “I enjoyed both the meal and the service,” he told her, his expression serious. “I hope you don’t think me impertinent, Yvette, but I was wondering if you would let me take you out for dinner on Saturday, if you don’t have plans.”
She smiled. “I don’t have any plans,” she said. “I will meet you at the front of the apartment building.”
“I will be there at seven,” he promised as he stood up. “Au revoir, Yvette.”
“Au revoir, Maxwell.”
On Saturday, he met her outside of the student residence and they went to a popular Creole restaurant where they enjoyed a very pleasant evening together. Afterwards, they went for a walk along the Seine. When he took her home, they made plans to see each other again. They saw each other every day and on the days when she was working at the café, they met after her shift ended.
She didn’t know at what point she had fallen in love with him but she knew that she loved him deeply and hoped that he felt the same way. She still couldn’t believe that he was attracted to her, a twenty-two year old when he could have any woman he wanted. These were the misgivings she couldn’t seem to shake so it was a complete shock for her when one night, he proposed to her.
They were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower watching as it lit up when he suddenly dropped to his knee. She stared at him, her eyes huge. When he pulled out the box and took out the ring, she began to cry. After he popped the question, she managed to say yes, and he rose to his feet and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her. It was the first time they had ever kissed and was far beyond what she had imagined. Her head was spinning, her heart was racing and her senses were swimming as she kissed him back, oblivious to the stares and smiles of those who passed by or stopped to take photos of the Tower.
A few months later they got married at the Notre Dame Cathedral in a touching ceremony attended by his friends, his cousin Elliot and his wife, Louise, Yvette’s aunt, her room-mate, a few friends from the university, a couple of co-workers and the manager of the café where she worked. The reception was held at Elliot’s estate. It was a magical evening which Yvette didn’t want to end. After the reception, they went to Maxwell’s chateau in Champagne where they spent their first night together as a married couple.
When they reached the master bedroom overlooking the gardens and the gazebo, he opened the door and then picked her up and carried her to the bed which was covered with red rose petals. Moonlight streamed through the windows bathing the bed in its silvery light. She was a little nervous but he took his time. And afterwards, she held him as he buried his face in her neck and they drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, they drove to Nice where they spent their honeymoon. He didn’t take her to Monte Carlo but to St. Paul de Vence and they stayed at the Villa St. Maxime. From their room, they had a view of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a magical, entertaining and enjoyable week and she was sorry to leave. Maxwell promised her that they would return for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
It was one afternoon when they were strolling in the grounds of the chateau in Champagne when Maxwell announced that they were going to London and then to Yorkshire to see his family. Yvette hid the trepidation that she felt but that evening, she called Louise who had been so warm and friendly towards her at the wedding her and shared her concerns with her. “What if they don’t like me?”
“It’s very possible that they might not,” Louise told her. “When Elliot introduced me to his parents and the rest of the family, it was very clear that they didn’t approve of me—for three reasons, I was older than him, divorced and French. They all treated Elliot as if he had committed a crime and became estranged to him. The only one who remained loyal and stood by him was Maxwell. He welcomed me with open arms and reminded me that what really mattered was not what the family thought about me but that Elliot and I loved each other. It’s the same with Maxwell and you. I’ve never seen him so happy, Yvette. You’re good for him. Don’t let those stuck up ignoramuses make you doubt yourself or question Maxwell’s feelings for you. It’s as plain as the nose on your face that he is madly in love with you.”
Talking to Louise made her feel better and she felt that she was ready to step into the lion’s den. So, on the train ride to London she was in better spirits. A car met them at the station and took them to Yorkshire.
“Has anyone seen my wife?” The sound of Maxwell’s voice brought her back to the present and pulling herself together, she got up from the chair. He was in front of the fireplace, looking around at the sea of faces when he spotted her. “Oh, there you are, darling.” All eyes followed his gaze to where she stood in the doorway leading out to the terrace.
With her head held high, she walked past the women sitting there and joined him. She turned to face them, observing with some satisfaction the red faces and the expressions of disconcertment as it dawned on them that she had been on the terrace all that time when they made those unkind remarks about her.
Maxwell put his arm around her waist and drew her closer. “Some of you have already met Yvette and this afternoon, some of you are meeting her for the first time. I know it must have come as a surprise to all of you when my parents told you about our marriage. I never imagined that when I walked into the café that afternoon, I would meet the girl of my dreams. There she was, standing over me, waiting to take my order. She took my breath away. My life has not been the same since. I’m not here to ask for your blessing but I do ask that you show Yvette the same courtesy you would show me.”
When he was finished speaking some of the people in the room got up and went over to greet Yvette and extend warm wishes while others didn’t budge. Instead, they sat there bristling, determined not to welcome her into their society. Lord and Lady Cavendish saw their behavior as an affront to them and no longer welcomed them in their home. It took a while but Yvette’s in-laws finally warmed up to her and by the time Maxwell and she were expecting their first child, she and Lady Cavendish had become very close.