(An excerpt from The Rose of Rhodes )
Chante stood at the sliding glass door to their backyard and couldn’t help but laugh, watching Lucien dance with Melodia across the patio with Melodia balanced on the top of his tennis shoes. Time had gone by so quickly watching their little girl grow. Her baby fat was gone and she gained two inches in the last year. She had turned six years old in mid-February, and even now a personality was developing along with an exceptionally organized and inquisitive mind. Lucien and Chante had discussed whether they wanted to have another child, but they decided that they didn’t want to be distracted from every precious moment of their daughter’s development. Melodia displayed a wide range of emotions and wasn’t afraid to speak about what she thought or how she felt. She seemed already half grown up and was able to easily occupy herself for hours on her own without getting bored.
For the last two and a half years the world had suffered through the pandemic. Because Melodia was a young child, it was an opportune time for Chante and Lucien to remain at home and raise their daughter. Lucien took very few jobs during that time to keep his family safe. Instead, he used the time to increase his knowledge of investigative work by studying many cold cases and taking special courses. By then, his father Gervais had retired from teaching at the university, but was still writing books. In order to support one another better emotionally, Gervais had moved out of his small house and into their larger home just outside Perpignan in southern France. With his retirement pay from the university and the royalties from his books, he was able to greatly contribute to the household so they could all live together comfortably and safely. With three adults who adored Melodia, her language and reasoning skills had developed quickly. They taught her both French and English at the same time, knowing both would be to her advantage when she grew older. She could also count to twenty and write those numbers. She knew the letters of her name and could print her name, Chante’s, Lucien’s and Gervais’, but she preferred to call them Mama, Papa, and Grand-père. Melodia’s vocabulary was growing quickly and she talked a lot.
By late July of 2022, the pandemic seemed to have waned, and Lucien was aching to get back to work. That’s when he got a call from Monsieur Teniet, from UNESCO’s Paris office, asking if he was ready and willing to take on a new assignment. Teniet had previously directed him to work on Cyprus, and his accomplishment brought him recognition within the department of that venerable organization. Now there was a problem on Rhodes. An archaeologist working on a large dig site had unearthed many revealing artifacts, only to have some of them stolen. Lucien’s assignment was to investigate the theft; find out why those items were stolen, who stole them, and if at all possible, have them returned. So, the Reynard family decided to accept the opportunity and take the time to finally get away together, this time taking Melodia with them, for her first grand adventure.
There was much talk around the dining table about the possibilities of a trip to a place they had never been before. Melodia sat next to them drawing a picture. Chante had regained her figure quickly after giving birth, and as a busy mom, her long brown soft curls were more often now clipped up, though shorter wisps still hung about her lovely face and light brown eyes. Lucien had commented that she seemed more relaxed and happier as a mother, with a gentle and patient nature. Chante replied that it was because her love for Lucien had grown, and having Melodia had brought her so much delight. It was impossible not to be happier.
Lucien was as handsome as ever. His lean hard jaw, usually clean shaven had gained a small amount of stubble, since he did not need to report to anyone. He also had a small but neat pyramid mustache that was new in the last year. He had gained a couple pounds from eating many home-cooked meals, but he went jogging in the neighborhood to stay in shape. He was still tall, his hair dark, and his eyes still had that sharp blue clarity. Chante was still captivated by him, and just looking at him could produce a gentle flurry of elation within her.
Gervais was much the same man he had been six years before, only his hair was grayer and the prescription of his glasses was stronger. He looked every bit the retired professor in his still preferred corduroy pants, plain shirt and cardigan sweater with a shawl collar. His English had improved as well. In fact, he often preferred to speak it so Melodia would learn it listening to him. He still spoke French to Lucien when they were alone and when he got excited or frustrated, but he spoke more English when Chante was around.
As usual, each had their laptops in front of them, prepared to discuss all aspects of the upcoming trip.