This was triggered at La Noisette with a woman sitting among several empty coffee cups looking at her mobile phone. Another woman joined her.
Helen checked her mobile. Nothing! While her friends were still there, drinking coffee and complaining about their husbands, she hadn't thought about it at all, a welcome break.
The waiter had not cleared the empty cups.
Aurelie returned from the toilet. Of the three women she met every morning, Aurelie was Helen's favorite.
The four women hadn't started as friends.
About two years ago, Helen had developed the habit of going to the tea room every morning for a coffee and sometimes a croissant.
Marie was usually there, reading The Independent. One morning Helen asked if she'd finished with the paper. They'd talked about the photo of the mayor and how often he managed to get his picture into the paper.
The same with Suzanne, another regular. Soon they never bothered to sit at different tables.
Aurelie was the last to join the group. She was a newcomer to the village. When she was there, they laughed more.
Helen looked at the phone. Still no message from her father at the hospital an ocean away.
Aurelie put her hand on Helen's. "Your mother is in a good hospital with good doctors. What will be, will be."