The French Courtesan, Who Came In from the Cold . . . Part Five

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

Alexandria, Virginia – December 16, 1990



Discrete references to adult intimacy, but no vulgarities.

During the last week of June 1992,  Vivi produced a mini-movie at my farm house in the Shenandoah Valley.  Called “Renaissance” (Rebirth). It was primarily a legacy for her children and grandchildren.  The plot described her life from age 18 until December 1990. She hoped that they would not make the same mistakes that she did. Also, Vivi wanted her daughter, Aimee, to understand how truly sorry, Vivi was for being away from Aimee for long periods of time until age 6.   In the movie, Aimee played both herself and Vivi’s guardian angel.  A French Canadian couple from the Washington Area both operated the camera and played characters such as Sara and Bob. I played myself.

In the mini-movie,  Vivi called Sara her Âme mère  (Soul Mother) and me, her Amant de l’âme (Soul Lover).  It was then that I realized how close Sara and Vivi had become in 2 ½ years.  That bonding began on the morning December 16. 

As a precaution, Vivi kept almost all the photographs of us together. In early November 2020, Vivi sent me a photocopy of a photograph that I had taken of her, while she was drinking coffee with Sara by the picture window on “the morning after.”  She looked so happy.   

Since then I have been able to find three photos of her that were inserted in a gourmet food magazine, featuring our dairy, within a box of newspaper and magazine clippings about Shenandoah Chevre.  One is a frame from Renaissance, where Vivi is saying “Richard, voudrais coucher avec moi ce soir?”  There was also the black and white of her playing the French freedom fighter and a full-page Benson Hedges cigarette magazine ad with her covering much of the page that does not provide her name.

This is the forbidden Master Bedroom, where in 1776, the wife of Colonel John Tipton died in childbirth. Tipton was so distraught that he was away fighting the Redcoats, when she died that he never lived in the house again. In 1780, he and his former neighbor, John Sevier, led a wagon train of 80 families from Shenandoah County to settle in what was to become Tennessee. Tipton is considered one of Tennessee’s “founding fathers.” He rebuilt the same house near Johnson City, TN. It is now a state historic site. Apparently, the ghost of the wife or the lost child was still in the room. From time to time, my former wife would sleep walk through the second floor, speaking an incomprehensible language. For her mini-movie, Vivi chose this room for our first night together, even though it was much larger and fancier than the actual location in Alexandria.
My mother at 28 & I

 Vivi insisted that we use my master bedroom for the “voudrai coucher” bed scene, since I was rarely allowed in it by anti-wife.  For this series, I spliced in her photo into a photo of the former servant’s guarters. We only kissed and cuddled in the bed . . . which Aimee adored watching.

I feel sorry for Vivi, when her daughter turned 16.  Aimee obviously was going to take after her mother and love physical affection from men. Aimee had her mother’s black hair, but looked even more Native American than her mother.

It is astonishing how much Vivi at age 27 resembled my mother at age 27.  Up until the time she birthed me, my mother had long black hair like Vivi. Something primeval was going on that night of December 15th and 16th .   Our story starts up again around 8:00 AM on December 16, 1990.

The morning after

I awoke to silky black hair sweeping across my face. “Bonjour Ree-shard, bonjour Ree-shard, Je t’aime.”

Ree-shard, you are wrong.  I am the inexperienced one.  Do you know that this morning was the first time in my life that I woke up with a man’s loving arms wrapped around me?   Also, you are the first man, who has ever watched a nature program on TV with me.  I love nature programs, but must watch them with Aimee.  You talk about history with me.  My degree was in history, but the politicians and businessmen think I am stupid because I am pretty.  Please, can we go to the Smithsonian History Museum today?  I know very little about American history.”

Vivi, I would love to go to the Smithsonian with you.”   She kissed me and told me that I was the “best man ever.”

You were sleeping so a prayed to God again.  I told him that never again would I do something that I would be ashamed for my daughter to know.”  

I asked her, “What about us?”

Oh Richard, I am very proud of you and will tell Aimee all about the kind man, who saved my life.  For the first time, since I was 18, I feel pure this morning . . .  and truly loved.” 

We smooched a bit, then I hear a telephone ring . . . but it was inside her pocket book.  She jumped out of bed and pulled out the phone.  It was the first time I had ever actually seen a cellular phone in person.  It was one of the new types that was only six inches long.  The speaker and the microphone flipped out to cover the ear and mouth.  Amazing technology.

She was speaking in French, so I didn’t understand everything, but appeared to be someone checking on her.  In a sing-song form of French that is typical of its young women, she told the other person how happy she was and how wonderful I was.  I heard her mention Sara and then she looked toward me and smiled, slowly speaking my full name and the word, architect.  She sat down on the bed again, and said, “It’s the embassy security.  I was not at the hotel this morning and they wanted to be sure that I was safe.   This is Pierre.  He wants to talk with you.” 

Bonjour Pierre . . . Vive la France . . .Vive Vivi!  How are you today?

In perfect English, with almost a British accent, he said, “Good morning Richard. Thank you for being kind to Vivi.  We have been very worried about her.  This is the first time that she has been happy in a long time.”

Pierre went on to explain that because Vivi did work for the French government, his security team would have to do a background check on me then interview me.  I told him that was fine.  I asked him if he could give us a ride to the Smithsonian Museums and interview me on the way.  He said that would be perfect.  He would pick us up at 1 PM. In the meantime, he needed my current address, town where I was born and Social Security number.

I later learned that the men were bringing the rest of Vivi’s luggage from the hotel to Sara and Bob’s house.  Sara had invited Vivi to remain with them until she flew to Los Angeles Monday night. That would give more time for the “suicide drugs” to wear off.  Vivi was taking an Air France Boeing 747 to Paris on Wednesday morning so she could be with her daughter throughout the Christmas holidays.

Vivi then told me that the ambassador wanted a report on what she learned about Shenandoah Chevre. “I will tell him that you are an architect and will be happy to work with the government to improve the production of our chevre plants. That will make HIM happy. ”   

Vivi had an idea though.   She told me that my wife had told Sara that she planned “to cash out on the marriage” when there was a time when I couldn’t afford a lawyer in the divorce proceedings.  Vivi said that through her private company, she owned several restaurants and a small winery.  She asked me how I felt about her in January paying cash for my wife’s half-ownership in the farm and Shenandoah Chevre, Inc. She reminded me again that she had more money that she could possibly ever need.

There would be one condition, though.  She would like to hire a French cheesemaker, with a college degree in cheesemaking, to make the cheese after I trained him or her.  She said that I was an architect and should not be wasting my time milking goats and making cheese.  She also asked me how I felt about Shenandoah Chevre marketing some French style chevre from France, also.

I told her “Fine!  I never intended to be milking goats or making cheese all the time.”

She asked if she could sit on me, while she called Ambassador Andreani.  I jokingly responded that she was very slim and probably would not crush me.  I didn’t realize that her definition of “sit” was not your standard Webster’s Dictionary definition of “sit.” We won’t elaborate on that one.  

She called the ambassador, while I pondered the surrealism of the current situation. No need to elaborate on that either.   The ambassador soon asked to speak to me. He greeted me in a very friendly manner and also thanked me for being kind to his Vivi. He thought the idea of a joint American-French chevre company was excellent and probably would solve some problems they were having with American tariffs.  He said that on her next trip to Washington, he and his wife would like Vivi and I to join them for dinner.   I thanked him and promised to be able to speak better French in our next contact.  I don’t think that he realized I was legally married to someone else, or maybe in France, no one cares.

Vivi then began singing one of her hit songs, Eres Tu (It is you).  It was her version in 1985 of the song that won the 1973 Eurovision Music Contest. The original version was sung by a Basque group from Spain, but I preferred her version . . . which made her a French Franc millionaire at age 22.  I soon learned that when she started singing a romantic song, I better grab a bottle of vitamins and guzzle several tablets.

Listen to Vivi’s beautiful voice in the 1985 international hit for her.

Around 9:30 AM we took a shower together and put on casual clothes.  I had brought a flannel shirt and blue jeans for driving back in the snow.  We entered the kitchen to see Sara brewing some fancy French coffee.   I asked for tea instead . . . no problem.  

Sara instructed Bob and I to read the Sunday Washington Post in the living room, while she and Vivi enjoyed French coffee and cigarettes on a breakfast table, next to a picture window.   I could tell that Sara and Vivi were having a grand time, getting to know each other.  Both had university degrees in history.  They were discussing intellectual subjects, not small talk.

Around 10:30 AM,  Sara announced that “we girls are winding up our tête-à-tête, so Bob could go ahead and warm up their larger car” . . . which was in the single stall garage.  Vivi looked so happy.  Her hair had curled overnight.   She looked like at different person than the zombie, who had come to the Christmas Party 14 hours earlier.  I went into the guest room and grabbed my camera then documented her happiness with a snapshot. 

Indigo Hotel in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Driving over to the historic hotel’s restaurant, we told Bob and Sara that we were visiting the National Museum of American History that afternoon. Conversation immediately shifted to their fascinating experiences, while working at the Smithsonian Institute.  During the mega-breakfast, Bob and Sara also briefed us on the “must to see” exhibits. As we were getting up, Sara commented that she was amazed that Vivi and I were so comfortable with each other.  She said that if she didn’t know better, she would have assumed that we had been happily married for several years. 

The French embassy SUV arrived precisely at I PM.   Both men profusely apologized for even having to interview me, but rules were rules.  They were taken aback though, when I answered the first question .  . .  How long have you known <Vivi’s public name>.  I told them, “18 hours.”  LOL

The men then asked me to list every American town and foreign country that I had lived in . . . what year or years . . . and for how many years.   They said that they had some questions about my time in Europe, but would get back to them.  They asked me if I had served in the US military.  I said, “Yes, but only an Inactive Reserve Navy officer.” 

They apologetically asked me if I had ever been a member of an insurgent organization that advocated the military overthrow of a national government.  I said, “No.”  They asked me if I had been in direct contact with such an organization.  I said, ”Hmm, it has been 20 years, so I can tell you . . . yes.”   Vivi looked at me with surprise and said, “Ree-shard? I am in love with a James Bond?”   Both of the security officers looked surprised too.

I explained that in the summer of 1970, per request of a Naval Intelligence, I posed as a college student reporter for the Great Speckled Bird Newspaper, located near the Georgia Tech campus.  I interviewed senior officers of the FLN in Cancun, Yucatan, the FLN in Guatemala and the Movimiento Octobre Segundo in Michoacan State, Mexico.  I was to determine their political loyalties and ideologies.  The FLN de Mexico became the Zapatistas, which now peacefully control much of Chiapas. The FLN de Guatemala became the Ejercito de Jesucristo and essentially became a militia to protect Christian Mayas and missions from Marxists and rogue government troops. The Movimiento Oct. 2, was pretty much exterminated by government troops in late 1970 and early 1971.

I also wrote a report to Naval Intelligence and the NSA on the attitude of the Maya people toward the United States, after having lived in their guest homes, eaten with their families . . . yes, kissed some of their daughters, and even known my female guide through central Yucatan in a Biblical Way.

The Mayas loved Americans . . . especially, its Native Americans. Three times in the past Yucatan had petitioned to be annexed by the United States. The Mayas hated the Spanish language and preferred that their children speak English or French as a second language. Someone listened to me. Despite enormous pressure on President Nixon by the military-industrial complex, he did not start another Vietnam War in Guatemala and Yucatan. * In 2012, some very stupid staff members of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina sent out a national press release stating “Mr. Thornton knows nothing about the Aztecs or Mayas. He never even met a Maya.”

Getting much more curious now,  the interviewer first wanted to know what I was doing in Europe in the latter half of 1972.  I told them that I was employed by the Landskrona, Sweden Town Architect’s Office.  They then asked me why I entered the Federal Republic of Germany on Sept 5, 1972 during the Black September Terrorist Attack on the Israeli Athlete Compound and stayed in Munchen on September 6 and 7.  They also asked me where I visited in Munchen.

I told them that I mingled with the crowds just outside the police line during the Munchen Olympics Massacre, but could not tell them anything else for two more years.  They then asked me why I returned to Munchen in October 1970. I told them to attend to Octoberfest and steal a Lowenbrau mug. Vivi was still staring at me dumbfounded.  She thought that she had fallen in love with a simple goat farmer. 

The men talked back and forth then Pierre said, “C’est bon. You are listed with NATO as an asset in Landskrona, Sweden that year. Thank you for your time.”

Vivi was still pondering the fact that I had a much more complex “history” than she had assumed, but she was “on Cloud Nine” as she toured the history museum with a real live man, not alone.  She was hesitant to mention this, but told me that she felt that part of my soul had joined with hers.  She was relieved when I told her that I had the same feeling and hoped that her soul could teach me to speak better French. 

We got back to the Alexandria house about 5 PM.   I told her that I had to leave before the roads froze again.  She tried some ultra-passionate kisses to persuade me to stay, but my three dogs had been cooped up in the house for 24 hours, plus the goats and sheep had not been fed hay in 24 hours.

We kissed again as I was leaving.  I assumed that we would never see each other again, but would work with Vivi to make things happen, if they could.

Snow still covered my farm when I arrived late Sunday afternoon.

Back at the farm

All 154 of my goats and 54 Barbados sheep raced up to the white plank fence when they heard my truck arrive at the farm. They were hungry and also glad to see me again.  My wife was still not home.   I opened the kitchen door to let the three herd dogs out.  They were also elated to see me, but also about to bust from holding back their biological needs.  They raced to the woods at the edge of Toms Brook to release massive poops then ran back to me to accompany me to the barn.   Everything was fine.

I went back to the house with my attention-starved dogs.  There were four phone calls.  My wife had called at 10 PM Saturday to say that the roads were too bad for home to come home . . . the next message was from Liz!

At 10:30 PM Liz called my wife to tell her that Richard had not been interested in any of their sisters, but there was good news.  Richard had paired off with a French prostitute and had left for her room at the Willard Hotel midway through the party.    Debbie and Ryan, their two sisters with the Washington Post, were going to get photos of them when they came down into the hotel lobby on Sunday morning.  Liz, ended with the exclamation,  <anti-wife’s name> we’ve done it.  You’re going to get everything in the divorce.  I told the readers that nothing was as it seemed!   I quickly erased that message. 

Even if my wife called Liz and then called Sara, the events of the previous 24 hours would remain covert. Sara could honestly say that I never left their house all night and slept in their guest bedroom. I did watch National Geo videos in the guest room and eat brunch with them at the Indigo Hotel. Sara would have been “deeply offended” by the accusation from Liz that there was a French prostitute working her party.

The next call just before 11 PM was from Sara.  It re-rang and was picked up by a man, whose voice I didn’t recognize. 

The final call was from my wife around 5:15 PM on Sunday.  She said that she had just talked with Sara, who told her that I had left for home.  My wife said that she was going to eat dinner with her friends then come home, so just fix something for yourself.

My wife arrived home around 8:15 PM, in a pleasant, but regal mood.  She had completely pulled the wool over my eyes and now would be able to do it over and over again.  She asked me about the party and what I did on Sunday.  I told her that I was the only man there without his wife or girlfriend, so was asked to function as the butler.  It was really awkward being by myself, so during the latter part of the party, I watched National Geo videos.  I had been carried out to eat by my hosts for a huge buffet brunch this morning at the Indigo Hotel and then went to the Smithsonian in the afternoon.  This all confirmed my wife’s delusion that I was a loser.

It was my mother’s birthday, so I called her to give her my good wishes.  I wanted so badly to tell her that I had just met the love of my life, who even looked like her at age 27 . . . but that statement would be rather awkward to explain. There had never been a divorce in my family and my current anti-wife was in the same room.  Remember, nothing in this story is as it first seems!

I was tired,  so soon thereafter went to my assigned bedroom and lay down.  I lay in the bed for awhile looking at the ceiling.  Twenty-four hours earlier, I had been giving communion to French actress, who was compulsively being driven by chemical demons to kill herself.  The past 24 hours had been surrealistic . . . so surrealistic that no one would have believed me if I told them, especially my wife. 

Well,  I probably will never see Vivi again, but I do feel her soul with me.  I also feel different inside.  I feel like a man again.  No longer am I beaten down, cuckolded husband, who thinks that no other woman would want me.  Maybe that was God’s intent for bringing us together for 22 hours.

Next chapter . . . as Gomer Pyle would say, “Shezam . . . Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

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