This is an altered book I created based on a backstory I wrote about the two main characters.
Here are spreads from the book accompanied by the story.
Barbara Elizabeth LaVette was born in 1900 in
. Her parents Edward Stephan and Elizabeth
Marie were living abroad for a period of twenty years while Edward ran the Paris division of the
world-wide Nagrom Bank. Barbara’s
brother Stephen, four years older, was also born in Paris . He and Barbara were very close and his
death, by gas, in the trenches of Paris Ypres in
1915 was devastating to his younger sister.
The family had returned to New York
entered the war, but Stephen had remained to fight for the only country he had
ever known. France
Barbara’s ancestors on her father’s side had left
in the 1820’s during economic unrest to try and reverse their fortunes in the
bustling streets of 19th century .
By the time of the Civil War the LaVettes owned a shipping line and two
iron foundries. At the end of the war
their worth had trebled and Edward’s grandfather moved into banking. Edward, born in 1870, took to the financial
life like a cat to cream and by the time he was sent abroad to handle the
Parisian affairs he had been in the family business for seven years
already. He took with him his youth,
intelligence, zest for life, and his new bride Elizabeth Marie Beauregard of
the New York Charleston Beauregards – a family who traced their
residency in American back to 1695. South Carolina
The LaVettes lived in the 5th Arrondisement near the Panthenon and the
. Stephen attended the nearby Henri 4th
Ecole des Garcons. Barbara went to the Luxembourg Gardens Covent School
of the sisters of St. Agnes d’ Angneau. It was here, in 1910, that she first met
Blanche-Rose La Chapelle when Barbara was ten and Blanche-Rose eight. Even then Blanche-Rose was painting and
drawing and Barbara loved to write. They
became fast friends and it was a sad day for both when war broke out and the
LaVettes made the decision to return to the safety of . New York
Blanche-Rose LaChapelle was born in 1902 in the apartment above her parent’s café on the Blvd. St. Michel, Café ChouChou. She was the third child, having an older sister Camille, and a brother Claude who was killed in WWI a scant few months before the November Armistice. Though not as close as Barbara and Stephen, still Claude’s death affected Blanche-Rose deeply. Always a shy child, she withdrew even more. Her father Paul Henri, and her mother Hannah Louise, married in 1896. Claude was born a year later and her sister Camille in 1899. Their father ran the family café that was his father’s before him, Hannah at his side. Hannah’s aunt Adrienne had made Blanche-Rose her favourite great niece. Who knows why, who can say? When she died in 1907 she left money for Blanche-Rose to attend the nearby convent school.
It was here she met Barbara. The girls were inseparable and spent afternoons at the café or the
home. They played childish games.
Blanche-Rose painted, Barbara wrote stories, they made plans for a future that
changed abruptly in August of 1914. The
afternoon before the LaVettes left for Luxembourg
Gardens the two girls shared a last
meal on the terrace of Café Chou-Chou.
Barbara’s sadness at leaving not only her friend, but the only home she
had ever known was made even greater due to the fact that Stephen was staying
behind to fight the Germans, had, in fact, already enlisted. Blanche-Rose’s brother Claude had gone with
him three days before and both would be leaving soon for training camp. America
The usual promises to write and keep in touch were made through shaky tears. Barbara, with all the drama of her fourteen years, clasped Blanche-Rose’s hand and said “I vow to return to
and to you ma
petite. When this is over, when the world is sane once more, I will come
back!” And little Blanche-Rose replied
“I believe you ma amie, c’est vrais.”
The LaVettes took the train from Gare St. Lazar the next morning and the
following day were on a ship out of Le Harve for Paris . New York
The war drug on for four merciless years,
finally joining the fray, long after Stephen had given his life. Barbara and Blanche-Rose wrote, but mail was
uncertain and eventually no more letters came from America . France
Barbara attended high school in
Manhattan and then
majoring in journalism. Her father’s
contacts and her talent got her a job on the Columbia University Daily Herald in 1920. By 1922 she had made a name for herself and
decided to take some time off to write a novel.
And where better than in New York ? Paris
Blanche-Rose spent the war helping her parents in the Café and finishing her years at school. Great Aunt Adrienne’s money stretched to cover a painting teacher for Blanche-Rose in the years after the war. Now in 1922 she has had a few shows in local galleries on the
Left Bank and is beginning to
be noticed in artistic circles. And now the stage set for Barbara and Blanche Rose to meet once again under Parisian skies. The writer and the painter, now grown and reunited.