Monday March 25, 2019. This day will remain in their annals as their first romantic dinner and the beginning of their story. A date that this endearing young couple now celebrates every year.
Hélène was then 23 years old and little time for a meeting. Graduated from a business school, she was recruited on a permanent contract a year earlier with a global giant of mass distribution and sent to the field in Nantes. “I was working a lot. I got up at 5 a.m. and finished at 10 p.m., she recalls. Suddenly, I hardly knew anyone in this city. “
Arthur, 22, is studying engineering at a school where he created an association to raise students and teachers’ awareness of environmental issues. “I wanted to build a romantic relationship, but I was about to leave for a six-month internship in Aix-en-Provence.“
Under the sign of “Rox and Rouky”
Four months earlier, they had crossed paths briefly. Arthur was walking in Nantes with Amélie, a childhood friend, with whom Hélène had shared a roommate during an internship in Warsaw. Such a small world… Young people like each other, which they confide separately to their mutual friend.
Reunited for his birthday, they spend the evening talking and laughing. Seeing each other again in a bar confirms the happiness of being together and reveals a common sensitivity with, touching detail, the confession of having both cried in front of the same animated film of their childhood, Rox and Rouky.
On Sunday, after returning from a week away from Arthur, Hélène offers him a dinner at home the next day to watch this cartoon together. But where to find the film and the preparation time in its busy schedule? As a good fairy, Marion, a friend who came to spend the weekend at her place, is responsible for downloading Rox and Rouky and tidy up his apartment. She even pushes the attention to the point of spreading a pretty black dress on Helene’s bed that she lends her for the occasion.
A small round white table
“I had planned to welcome Arthur like a king, with a steaming mushroom risotto on which I would only have had to sprinkle the Parmesan, remembers Hélène. But I didn’t have time to prepare it when I got back from my work day. “
Which rather relieves Arthur: “Already stressed, I would have been even more stressed to sit down immediately face-to-face with Hélène. Cooking risotto together allowed me to joke. Humor brings people together, relaxes. Even if I was going to let myself be carried away by dinner, I also knew that I was going to analyze Hélène to assess who I was in front of me and to know her better. “ The young woman already has her idea: “I immediately felt in Arthur a kind, gentle, caring boy, unlike other boys I had been with. “
The risotto concocted together finally ready, the two sit on either side of a small round and white dining table. Two elements make it possible to reduce the tension of the face-to-face meeting: a large window overlooking the center of the city where Arthur draws material for jokes that make Hélène laugh and music videos, the common thread of the dinner which attests to a similar sensitivity.
He believes it. She doubts it
“Two musics marked the evening, Arthur remembers. Hélène made me discover Taro by Alt-J, a masterpiece about the death of photographer Capa. I had tears in my eyes. And I made him discover Mandela Day of Simple Minds on the liberation of the South African leader.“ Among the other songs listened to, the Gymnopedies of Satie dear to Hélène. Did she play the transverse flute since that dinner? He believes it. She doubts it.
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The conversation turns to what both call “Banalities” yet constitutive of their personality: the places where they grew up, their studies, the sports practiced in competition – tennis for Hélène and swimming for Arthur. The dialogue also slips on more personal subjects such as family and friends, with the reassuring common point of appreciating both Amélie.
A click at Arthur
Yet Arthur voluntarily kept certain subjects: “At the time, I spoke little of a one-month stay in Madagascar when I was 13 years old as a volunteer with an association for the defense of cetaceans, an experience that changed my life. Likewise, I have silenced my often stigmatized ecological commitment. “
“On paper, we were poles apart since I worked for a giant in mass distribution, spending my days convincing my customers to buy more and pushing towards overconsumption, continues Hélène. I was realizing from the reactions of my friends and family that I was talking too much about my job, but it was hard to stop myself that night as well. “
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The young woman also evokes her grandmother to whom she is very attached, the landscapes she loves in Finistère, her stay of several months in Italy for an internship and a trip to Vietnam, alone with a backpack, including she is proud. “For a month, I, who am not a great adventurer, visited the country by traveling by bus, sleeping in youth hostels and with people. I loved ! “
This story creates a click in Arthur: “I thought she was “natural” and loved simplicity like me. I felt her sales posture like a mask that didn’t fit her. I thought this job was not for her and that she would quit it. But I didn’t tell her that until she wondered about the meaning of her job.“
Hélène takes out the handkerchiefs
After the risotto, what’s the dessert? Maybe cottage cheese with honey served in coconut bowls that Hélène really likes. Despite the liberating red wine, stress reappears when leaving the table for the sofa.
” Going from face-to-face to side-to-side prompted questions in me about how to sit, where to take and how far, explains Arthur. I was afraid to rush Hélène. “ A concern that prevents him from being moved by Rox and Rouky, while Hélène quickly takes out the handkerchiefs. “Since I wasn’t crying, I was worried that she might think I wanted to pass myself off as a sensitive boy without being.“ But Hélène is not mistaken.
From that dinner, that evening and that night, they spend all their free time together until Arthur leaves for Aix, only parting ways for lessons and work. “This is where, for the first time, I showed myself a little rebellious in relation to my company., specifies Hélène. I wanted so much to take advantage of Arthur’s presence that I started to detach myself a little from my professional activity.“
“We lived this week intensely, without asking any questions or knowing what would happen afterwards, as if time had stood still.“Arthur adds.
“A dish that suits us well”
More than two years have passed since that first romantic evening. Witness to commercial practices that shocked her, Hélène left her company after her management offered her a promotion at headquarters. Since then, she has had a series of professional experiences which place at their center the concern of reducing the environmental impact.
Arthur made a documentary, Breaks, on young graduates like Hélène, got off the beaten track to take action in the face of the climate emergency. Both are wondering about common projects.
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From this founding dinner, the couple still keeps alive the memory of shared music and mushroom risotto. ” Delicious ! It’s a recipe made with simple ingredients that everyone can make their own by adding their personal touch., they confide. This dish that requires time and attention, emblematic of our love story, looks good on us. “