Emma Williams


Hugo reaches his hand out to mine. Our fingers touch and stay like that. It may be the happiest moment of my life, if M. Clément hadn’t just stormed in the room.

“You lied to me!” I snarl at M. Clément.

Watch out!” he yells.

Just then, something very large hits my head, and I black out.

Chapter One: M. Clément’s Bakery

On my walk to school, I always pass M. Clément’s bakery on the corner. 

“Hello!” I say and wave.

M. Clément waves back, and I smile.

“Come for your usual?” he asks me.

“Sorry,” I say. “I’m a little late for school.”

He shrugs. “Next time.”

I look back at him one last time and make my way to school.

Chapter Two: The Hourglass

The next day, Mr. Clément motions to me to come inside his bakery. It is the weekend, so I have time to spend with him. I give a little tug on Daisy, my dog’s leash, and we cross the street.

When I walk in the door, Penny, M. Clément’s cat, greets me with her usual rub on the leg.

“Bonjour! Mon petit assistant,” he says, grabbing a croissant de chocolat for me.

He passes it to me, and I sit down in one of his boutique coffee tables. I munch away vigorously, and when I am done, M. Clément sweeps my crumbs off the table with one graceful motion of his little broom.

“Merci, M. Clément,” I say to him. I love how it is now, like old times.

“Always,” he smiles. Then he pauses and adds, “Emma, I have to talk to you about something.” That’s weird, he never uses my first name, I think it’s because he doesn’t think it’s classic French.

“Yeah, about what?” I ask, suddenly getting very interested.

“Come, I will show you something.” M. Clément leads me to the back of his bakery. 

I see Hugo Bergeron kneading the dough for a croissant — or maybe an éclair, I can’t tell. 

I wave to him, and he gives me a toothy smile. I silently laugh.

“Hey,” Hugo says to me and goes back to kneading his piece of dough, and when M. Clément pulls me along with him even further back, Hugo replaces his “hey” with “ou, au revoir!”

M. Clément leads me further than I have been before, and we enter a small room with the label M. Clément on the door. 

It is very cozy in here, with furniture lining most of the walls, except for the wall with the door and the one with the fireplace. I do not know how M. Clément manages to get the fireplace in his little suite he rented for his boutique bakery. It just grows and grows every time he shows me a little more of what I had thought to be un petit boulangerie.

M. Clément motions for me to sit down, so I find myself seated in the most comfortable sofa I have ever sat on and with peppermint tea (my favorite type).

“Emma Williams,” he says, rummaging through a knapsack he has lying on the floor. “Do you know what this is?” M. Clément finally finds what he is looking for and brings it out, so I can examine it carefully. 

In his hands sits an hourglass with two oiseaux winding around it. The birds look like white swans but with red stripes forming around their necks. 

“They look to me like regular oiseaux, swans, M. Clément,” I say. 

“Emma, look closer, look inside!” M. Clément says with much enthusiasm.

Inside there is clean, white sand flowing forever toward… the top? Okay, I admit, that’s a bit odd but otherwise… I don’t know.

“Well, the sand’s going toward the top — is that what you’re getting at?” I ask M. Clément.

“Yes yes, but don’t you feel it?” I have no idea what M. Clément is talking about.

I rack my brain for anything I might feel and surprisingly, I feel something. I just have this feeling that something is getting low. I don’t know why, but I feel like I need to refill the thing or else… I trail off. 

“Is… is something getting low?” I ask, feeling very stupid in doing so. 

“Yes yes, now you’re getting it,” M. Clément says. “We have one more minute.”

“Sorry?” I ask him, getting confused.

“Emma, do you notice the draining feeling?”

“Yes,” I do actually feel it.

“When it feels this depressing… there is only one more minute,” M. Clément pronounces minute like minuuuuuuuuuuute. Well, I guess everyone here does.

I think M. Clément sees my puzzled face because he says, “When someone spreads a bad rumor around about me, the hourglass will slowly start losing its sand, and if not stopped, will cause mass destruction. An old friend gave it to me as a gift, but over the years, I have started to question if it is really a gift or a curse in disguise.”

“What kind of destruction will it cause?” I ask.

“Well, the sand will start slipping out of ze hourglass, and then I do not know. Anything could happen from there!”

“Like what?”

“The ‘ole city of Paris could be consumed by sand for all I know!”

“Is there any way to stop it?” I ask in my very American accent.

“Well I do not know! I would guess you could somehow prove the rumor wrong,” M. Clément says with a sigh. “It has never worked.”

“But — but every problem has multiple solutions, if you are thinking! Being creative!” I pause. No one says anything for a few moments. “Isn’t that what you always tell me?”

“Yeah, yeah… I guess.” 

“Um, M. Clément? Are you okay?” 

“Yes, of course,” he says quickly. “Why don’t you go back to your house and spend some time with your papa?”

Well that was the end of our little discussion. I head home for dinner.

Chapter Three: Family

Mama has dinner ready for me. It is pasta and potatoes. Matthew, my brother, is already sitting at the table. We don’t talk much, and that is when I get lost in thought. 

I realize now that I haven’t yet told you that my family are immigrants from the United States. Well, my papa went to university here in Paris and met my mama — and he stayed. I guess we are originally from Africa ‘cause we’re African American, but you get the idea, anyway. 

I have frizzy dark brown hair like milk chocolate. I have the same bright sky-blue eyes as my Mama — very much unlike my Papa’s hazelnut eyes. And of course my caramel skin. I love caramel. It is my favourite thing in the world.

Now back to dinner. Mama is already washing the dishes. Wait — dinner is done? I look at my plate. I have eaten a half a potato, nothing else.

“Yes, that’s right Emma,” Mama says. “You have a lot more eating to do.”

Chapter Four: The Bergerons

I, yes, you’ve already guessed it, stop by M. Clément’s Bakery this morning. I rub Penny’s tummy, say hello to Hugo, and follow M. Clément to the back.

He tells me almost exactly what he told me yesterday, but with one more thing that catches my eye — or wait no, my ears?

After the part where he tells me about proving the rumor wrong, and the “It has never worked” part, he says, “Unless … no, never mind.”

Of course, I say, “What? Please tell me, M. Clément!” 

“No no, it wouldn’t work.”

“Just tell me,” I urge. 

I think he gives up on my obstinate attitude, because he says, “Oh, okay. If we must.” He pauses to clear his throat. “Well, I’ve tried and so has most of the generations of people here in Paris, but never has anyone else. So, I thought partly because your father is originally from the United States, well maybe you would be able to help me?”

“Yes, yes, M. Clément! Of course I’ll help you!” I say in excitement. “So, what is the rumor, and who spread it?” 

“Well, I believe one of my old friends from school still holds a very nasty grudge on me. His name: Monsieur Thomas Bergeron.”

“You mean Hugo’s father?” I say very loudly. 

“Yes, I do indeed. And that is why I would like Hugo to come with you on your little adventure. I think he will be key. Do you agree?”

I blush almost as red as a tomato. I have a crush on Hugo Bergeron. There, I said it to you. Yes! Now it feels so much better. I have so many secrets. And sometimes it’s hard to keep them totally sucked inside. So they come out in emotions. 

And here’s what I say to M. Clément: “Yes.” And then all of my emotions I have been trying to keep in come rushing out, all right in front of M. Clément. 

Anger. Guilt. Fury. Joy. And something in between all of them. And I start crying. 

M. Clément just sits there. Then he walks out of the room. He comes back carrying a little brown bag. He holds it out to me, and I open it. Inside is a croissant de chocolat. 

“Go home, Emma. We can get started whenever you feel ready.”

“Thank you, M. Clément.”

“Of course.” He smiles mega-big.

Chapter Five: Thoughts

When I get home, I lie down on my bed and just think. I think about my whole big life. All the years I’ve passed, all the years to come.

In French, we say, instead of I am (how old you are), I have (your age) years.

I like it better that way. (No offense, English.)

I have so much longer to come, and I’ve only lived a tiny bit of my life. 

I have honestly considered saying no to M. Clément, and just ignoring him. Never going into his bakery again. But he’s the only true friend I have. I mean, I have some friends from school and other places, but none of them really understand me, and how hard it was to leave New York. And not just the city, but all my friends, my family, and my apartment. 

We moved to Paris because Papa found a spot in a big law firm here. We were all so happy for him at the time, but I didn’t realize then what it would mean in the long term. 

So, on the weekend, I will go to M. Clément’s bakery and be ready to confess. 

Chapter Six: My Confession

He sits me down in one of his awesomely comfortable armchairs, and I tell him everything. I don’t even miss the part about New York. And I tell him about my crush on Hugo. 

“Emma,” he says once I am done. “I will go get Hugo now, and we can keep your little crush a secret.”

“I will if you will.”

“Deal.” The few minutes of waiting for M. Clément to come feel like hours. 

Finally, M. Clément comes back with Hugo trailing behind him. 

“Oh, hey, Emma,” Hugo says. “I didn’t realize you were here, too.”

M. Clément saves me from a very embarrassing answer by saying, “Yes. We want you to help us.”

“Help you with what?”

M. Clément tells Hugo our plan. While he is talking, Hugo just nods. “I know it’s a lot to ask you, Hugo. You know, asking you to believe your father spread this horrible rumor and then getting you to work against him,” M. Clément finishes. 

“I know,” Hugo says.

I am suddenly all confused. “You know? What?”

“My father. He hated when I told him that I had been going to M. Clément’s bakery.”

“Then how do you still go?”

“I sneak away after school.”

“But you have after school, right?” I ask. “With Madam Dejardin.” I know that because my older brother is in grade eight with Hugo. 

“I sneak away from that.”

“But my brother said you’re always at after school.” This will go on forever: me asking something, Hugo proving me wrong, me trying to prove him wrong, etc.

“That our little secret,” Hugo says with a hint of a smile. “Now anyway, Emma, are you free next Saturday?” 


“Okay, cool. You can meet at my place, then.”

And that was it. Hugo walked out of the room leaving me and M. Clément alone in the room.

“Okay then,” I say and walk out.

Chapter Seven: Papa and Me/Our Sleepover

Friday night, I cannot sleep. I stay up all night wondering what will happen. I don’t understand. It just seems so vague. 

Papa knocks on my door at 3:43. 

“I don’t hear you snoring,” he says. 

“You’re back?”

“Yep.” He sits on my bed. “Fill me in on what’s happening in your life. School. Friends.”

“Can we pinky promise you won’t tell Mama, Matthew especially, or anyone?”

“Promise.” We latch pinkies. And shake. “Now you tell me.”

I spill. Everything.

“Wow,” Papa says when I’m done. “No kidding you’re having trouble sleeping.” He pauses. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we have a dad-daughter sleepover?”

“Sure!” We talk about things the rest of the night. And I kind of just drift to sleep, listening to my father’s soothing drawl.

Chapter Eight: Waking Up

Papa is shaking me in my dream — wait no, not a dream. I bolt awake. 

“Hey, kiddo,” he says. “Time to have breakfast.”

Chapter Nine: The Bergeron’s House/Mansion

I arrive at Hugo’s place at exactly 11:26. I’ve never realized how big it is. 

There is a gateway in which I open and follow a stone path with lamps along it surrounded with trees. 

I finally get to the big wooden door. I ring the bell. Hugo greets me with his classic toothy grin. 

He leads me through a living room and to another, smaller living room. M. Bergeron is sitting there. 

M. Bergeron has teal eyes, quite like Hugo’s, which compliments his jet black hair. 

“Are you Matthew’s sister?” he asks. 


M. Bergeron opens his mouth to speak again, but is cut off by Hugo. 

“So, getting to the point, we were wondering if we could go up to my room.”

A woman, I’m guessing to be Hugo’s mother, walks into the room. 

She has a bob in her perfect dirty blond hair, just like her son. 

“Sure,” she says. “I’ll make you guys a snack.” She smiles.

Chapter Ten: The Diary

Hugo leads me to what I’m guessing to be his room. It is so big. One wall is covered with windows from ceiling to floor with long ornate drapes covering the view. Dirty clothes line the floor, and his shelf is covered with photos of him, Matthew, and Oliver. 

“So, I snuck into my dad’s office, and here’s what I found,” Hugo says. He is about to bring out a piece of paper when I cut him off.

“Wait — you snuck into your dad’s office?!” I smile really big now. 

“Yup,” Hugo shoves a battered black leather book into my face. “My dad’s diary from 19 years ago. I figured out that’s when the person, my dad, as you’ll see, gave M. Clément the hourglass.”

 I open up the diary, very curious. Curly cursive covers the pages in French, but I will translate it for you. Here’s what it says:


Dear Diary,

I gave my old friend the hourglass today. It feels like such a big weight lifted off my shoulders. M. Clément will pay for what he did to our family. Tomorrow I will spread the rumor. He was the rich, famous one. I had to fight for my position. Not him. Now everyone will think he lied. He will be fired, and I will be the next mayor. My son will be happy. We can live as a family. Not a broken family because of Hugo Clément, but a real, happy family. 

M. Bergeron

“Wow, Hugo,” is all I can say. 


“That changes everything.”

“We have to tell M. Clément!” I yell. 

“No, but I think he already knows. The rumor makes him look really bad.”

“Hey, you’re right!” I say. “Am I ever mad at him. I trusted him!” I start pacing. 

“Hey, Emma. Don’t get so upset. Just face it. One o’clock tomorrow in front of my house.”


Chapter Eleven: Back To the Unfamiliar Yet Familiar Bakery

I get to his house at 1:02. Two minutes late. Whatever.

I ring the doorbell, and Hugo emerges.

“You ready?”

“Yup,” he says.

We walk to the bus stop near Hugo’s house and take it seven stops. We get out exactly two blocks from M. Clément’s bakery.

When we get there, I open the door and take a deep breath. M. Clément is nowhere in sight.

Hugo reaches his hand out to mine. Our fingers touch and stay like that. It may be the happiest moment of my life, if M. Clément hadn’t just stormed in the room.

“You lied to me!” I snarl at M. Clément.

Watch out!” he yells.

Just then, something very large hits my head, and I black out.

Chapter Twelve: At the Hospital

I wake up in a bed that is not mine. I realize I am in a hospital because a nurse comes up to me.

“You have lots of visitors,” she says in French. 

“Who?” I ask.

“Do you want your family to come in?”


The nurse opens a door and Mama, Papa, and Matthew rush in. They hug me super tight. 

“You have a concussion,” says Matthew. “Apparently it’s really bad and could cause severe brain damage if not treated properly.” 

“Don’t just say it like that,” Mama scolds. 


“Are you okay?” Papa asks. “We’ll always be here for you.”

“I know. I love you.”

“We love you too, always.”

I smile.

The nurse enters the room again. She says, “You have more visitors. Hugo Bergeron, and M. Clément.”

“You can let them in.”

She opens the door again, and Hugo rushes to my side. “Are you okay?” he asks. “That was a really big piece of concrete that hit your head!”

“Wait — that’s what gave me the concussion?”

“Yup, and you’re lucky you survived!” 

M. Clément pushes past Hugo. He says, “I am so sorry, Emma. I guess there isn’t anything that can make up for it.”

“What about a croissant au chocolat every day?”

“Sure. And hey, you should really get your ceiling fixed!”

M. Clément smiles. I smile even bigger. 

The End!

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