The plane started a slow descent over the lush rolling hills and weathered cottages of Champs Le Sims. Savannah, who had the window seat, snapped pictures of the landscape from the plane with a huge grin on her face. “I never thought I’d ever be able to see things like this…” Savannah muttered in awe. “I thought my biggest vacation would be a weekend in Riverview, and that place is so boring, anyway. There’s more cows than people,” she said, which made Morgan laugh.

“Well, you’re in France now. Get used to the feeling,” she signed with a smile.

The airport took quite a while to get through. After waiting around the baggage carousels for more than an hour to collect their luggage and being screened, scanned and their passports scrutinized by France’s homeland security, the entire French class from Sunset Valley High was exhausted.

“Okay, kids,” their French teacher, Mr. Voison announced to them once they were outside the large bed and breakfast they were staying at. “We want to treat you like adults on this trip and give you the freedom to explore on your own while in France. I expect you all to meet here every night so we can make sure everyone’s safe, but during the day, you won’t have me to hold your hand. Feel free to explore the village and see the sights at your own leisure,” he told them all with a grin. Morgan and Savannah grinned back. No teachers to shuffle them around all day? This trip was going to be even better than they expected.

Margaret had used her family’s wealth and world-wide fame to pull strings and get Morgan and Savannah a luxury room to themselves on the upper level, rather than the large dormers the rest of the kids would share. It was really useful being a Charm sometimes. Savannah was nearly bursting at the seams with excitement and dragged her best friend all over the building, exploring and admiring everything. “Everything is so cute!” she gushed. Morgan nodded in agreement. The entire place had a quaint charm about it.

Morgan especially liked the bedroom. They had a view of the whole village from their window and the furniture looked antique and cozy. There was one large queen sized bed. “Don’t kick me in your sleep!” Savannah warned Morgan and Morgan stuck out her tongue.

The two of them sat in the kitchen, snacking on bread and jam while Savannah read through the tourist brochures. “This place is so cool! There’s a vineyard here and apparently, you can harvest grapes from their own gardens and make your own wine with them! We’re legal here, remember?” she winked and Morgan laughed.

“Yeah, just try not to get too smashed. My mom wouldn’t like that too much,” Morgan signed back. Savannah kept reading through the pamphlets.

“Ooh, there’s a marketplace with a café, book store, relic shop and I guess some sort of camping and outdoors store,” Savannah commented. We should check that out… but vineyard, first,” she grinned.

“So we can go shopping drunk?” Morgan laughed. “Yeah, that sounds like a perfectly sensible plan,” she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“Oh come on. Your mom’s pretty cool. I don’t think she’d freak out if we had some wine. She doesn’t treat us like we’re little kids.”

“True,” Morgan agreed. “I just think she’d be mad if we got really drunk and did something stupid. Okay, we’ll go to the vineyard,” she relented.

“Ah, des dames voudriez-vous essayer certains de nos vins de spécialité ? Ils sont faits avec des raisins les plus fins en tout de la France,” the lady behind the counter smiled. Savannah’s French was terrible, but Morgan’s was pretty good, so she translated in sign language, too shy to speak out loud in front of a stranger.

“Would you ladies like to try some of our specialty wines? They’re made with the finest grapes in all of France,” Morgan signed to her friend. Savannah shook her head.

“Er… uh… non, merci…” Savannah struggled with the language, not wanting to make Morgan speak and embarrass her. She pointed to the back door where the gardens were, hoping the lady would clue in. Thankfully, she did and nodded.

“Ah, vous êtes venu pour faire votre propre vin? Excellent! Sensation librement pour moissonner nos raisins. Quand vous êtes fini, vous pouvez les apporter au dos où les fabricants de vin sont… et bienvenue vers la France,” she winked. Morgan smiled and nodded, then translated in sign language.

“Oh, you’ve come to make your own wine? Excellent! Feel free to harvest our grapes. When you’re finished, you can bring them to the back where the wine makers are… and welcome to France,” she signed to Savannah. Savannah grinned.

“Merci,” she replied. She shook her head as they walked out to the garden. “I thought French people were supposed to be rude and snobby to foreigners,” she signed to Morgan.

“I think that’s just a stereotype,” Morgan signed back. “Just like when people say us Canadians all live in igloos and ride dog sleds. I’ve never seen an igloo in my life, have you?” That made Savannah burst out laughing.

The girls giggled and joked around, picking grapes in the vineyard for their wine. It was dusk by the time they finished and went back inside to make their wine. They had a lot of fun stomping on the grapes in their bare feet and they laughed at each other whenever one of them would slip and fall on their butts in the sticky mess.

When they were finished and brought their bottles to the counter, covered in grape goo and smiling broadly, the lady grinned. “Je vois que vous avez eu l’amusement. Rappelez-vous, le meilleur vin est vieilli sur des supports de vin dans un endroit foncé et humide comme une cave. Plus le vin est ancien, plus il goûte meilleur,” she told them, which Morgan dutifully translated in sign language.

“I see you had fun. Remember, the best wine is aged on wine racks in a dark, damp place like a cellar. The older the wine, the better it tastes,” she signed.

“I was kind of looking forward to drinking it now,” Savannah sighed as they headed back to the bed and breakfast for a quick shower before heading to the market to shop. “I mean, where else can we drink without getting in trouble?” Morgan laughed.

“We’ll have some wine before the trip’s over, I promise. It probably tastes gross, anyway. People’s bare feet have touched it,” she signed back, making a face.

The girls browsed the shops and Morgan bought an incense-holder for her mom, a toy Eiffel tower for her brother and a couple of pretty vases for her grandparents, but had no idea what to get her step-father. She knew he’d tell her not to get him anything and that he was just glad she had a good time, but Morgan wanted to do something nice for him, anyway. He was a good dad to her.  She still remembered the time he brought her a big bouquet of flowers when she was in a school play last year, even though she was an extra with no lines. She felt really special holding those flowers that were just for her.

Three hours later, Morgan was wheeling a shiny red vespa out of the shop. Savannah gaped. “You freak out on me because I want a glass of wine and you bought a vespa for your dad? Your mom is going to KILL you!” she exclaimed. Morgan shrugged.

“She can’t get that mad if he likes it, can she?” she argued. “Wanna drive it?” That shut Savannah up real quick and the girls took turns whizzing around on the new vespa, though Morgan insisted she only drive it on rural roads where no one was around. She didn’t want to get in an accident because she was deaf and couldn’t hear something or someone coming. When they went back to browse the outdoors shop, the woman behind the counter kept eyeing them intently, until she called them over to the counter. Savannah scowled.

“Look lady, just because we’re teenagers, doesn’t mean we steal, okay? You’ve been spying on us from the second we walked in here and as a paying tourist, I find that really disrespectful!” she snapped. The lady gave a smirk and shook her head before replying. She obviously spoke English as her second language.

“Zat iz not ze reason I ‘ave been eyeing you,” she explained. “I waz a teenager once myzelf, you know,” she told them. “You girlz look like you are brave enough to find a very important artifact for me. I waz exploring one of ze many tombs in zis village and lost a very special item in its depths. I ‘ave ozer responsibilities which prevent me from going back, but I am willing to pay anyone brave enough to find it for me and return it.” Savannah shrugged.

“Sure. Where’s this tomb?” she asked.

“At ze Forgotten Burial Mound on ze outskirts of ze village,” she told them, handing them a map. “I must warn you, zese tombs are very dangerous. You must prepare for ze dangers by purchazing survival items. I recommend you buy a tent and food rations from my shop at ze very least,” she told them and Savannah scoffed.

“Oh how convenient. Your store just happens to sell everything we need to get your item for you. Look, I’ll go get the artifact for you, but I’m no sucker. I know when someone’s trying to weasel money out of me, so I’m not buying any of your junk,” she snapped. “I don’t have any money to buy this stuff, anyway.” The woman shrugged.

“Suit yourzelves,” she replied nonchalantly. “Eet iz no buzinezz of mine whezzer or not you come back alive. I offered my azziztance and waz refused.”

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