“Rangée 22, Sièges A et B,” said the woman with white hair and soft, blue eyes as she walked down the aisle of Flight 149 from London to Paris .

“Eh, bien,” said the little man behind her.

They stopped at Row 22.

“Siège près du hublot?” she asked.

“Oui,” he replied, and she stepped aside, but as he moved past, she gently touched the shoulder of his dark jacket. The old man, limping slightly, sat next to the window, and the old woman took the middle seat. Several other passengers walked by, then an attractive, dark-haired young woman, wearing an oversize white Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up halfway, put her travel bag in the overhead storage bin and sat in Seat C. She smiled at the older couple and said, “Good morning,” with an American inflection.

“Bonjour,” the old man replied cheerfully.

“Hello,” the old woman said, with a strong French accent.

“I assume you’re going home,” said the American.

“Yes,” said the Frenchwoman, “we came to London for the baptism of a great-granddaughter. When she is named after you, well, you must be there. But, at our age, four days is long enough to be away from home.”

“Do you live in Paris ?”

“No—in the north, in Vire, a little town.”

“Vire,” the young woman repeated the name, giving the pronunciation of “veer” just the slightest h at the end. “In Lower Normandy —where five roads come together. It is one of the most beautiful towns in France .”

“You know it! But, nobody knows Vire!”

“I’m a graduate student in history, at Columbia University , and Normandy is where American and European history came together again.”

“Is that where you’re traveling to?”

“Yes. This will be my fifth trip.”

“I do not wish to be impolite, but it is usually men who study war.”

The young woman’s smile was full and friendly. “You are absolutely right, but my grandfather was a soldier in World War II, he loved military history, and I loved being around my grandfather. I learned about it so that we’d have something in common. We talked about the tactics of Alexander the Great, of Napoleon, of Sherman , of all the great generals. I knew about the Battle of Agincourt before anyone told me that Shakespeare wrote a play about it.

“My grandfather studied World War II, especially June 6, 1944, and how Eisenhower and Rommel tried to out-guess each other. He said it was a chess match with two moves that would decide the world. History is fascinating. ...” Her words trailed off as she saw the old woman’s smile. “What?” the American asked uncertainly.

“It is history to you, but those are my memories. I was 20 years old in 1944.”

“Were you living in Vire then?”

“Yes, and I remember 6 June very well. We heard the planes that were dropping the American and British parachute soldiers. It was midnight, and Jacques was leaving Normandy .”

“At midnight?”

“Yes. He had to get away.”

“Why? What had he done?”

The old woman glanced at her husband, whose chin was on his chest, his eyes closed. She turned back to the American. “I can tell you in a sentence, or I can tell you in a story.”

 (End of excerpt)