The smell of the cake, still in the oven, had filled the kitchen and was spreading through the rest of the house, like a subtle, scented and invisible fog. It was only eight in the morning, and the sun had just found its way out behind the curtain of the Alps. The lake glittered further down, beyond the tidy vineyards. Ceuzinha opened the door with her key, and, putting down her large handbag on a stool in the entry hall, she sniffed with a pleased expression that made her look like a chubby rabbit. "Good morning, Mrs Dixon." Nobody was in sight, but Ceuzinha knew that Jill Dixon was somewhere in the big house, and was listening to her greeting. "Which cake did you bake today? From the smell I'd say it might be an apple pie with cinnamon…" Ceuzinha added, taking off her jacket. "You are right, Ceuzinha. It's an apple pie inspired by Grandma Duck's pies. I have always wondered what they might taste like, just looking at the cartoon. But I imagined that they must be delicious. You'll take it home, and then, tomorrow, you'll tell me if it was really good." Mrs Dixon's voice floated down from the first floor, with her peculiar way of speaking French, in a more than simply correct manner, but still spiced with traces of English. Jill Dixon liked baking cakes and biscuits, but she never tasted any of them. She was not too fond of sweets, although she loved their smell straight out of the oven. She found kneading dough and mixing cake batter extremely relaxing. She enjoyed offering her pastry masterpieces to every neighbour, who showed an interest in them, although the main beneficiary of this opportunity was Ceuzinha, her maid, who had an endless family, composed, it seemed, of sweet-toothed relatives. Jill Dixon entered the kitchen and took the pie out of the oven with precise gestures. She transferred it on to a pastry grid to let it cool. Then, following their little morning ritual, she started making coffee for Ceuzinha and herself. Mrs Dixon liked serving coffee to her maid, before the beginning of Ceuzinha's working day. Ceuzinha let her do it, even though, at first, she felt a little embarrassed to be served by her employer. Ceuzinha had already been working for Mrs Dixon for six years. At the beginning of their acquaintance, she had become used to considering that her employer had a series of inexplicable eccentricities. Ceuzinha considered herself lucky for finding such a good job with such a kind lady. She arrived at Mrs Dixon's home every morning at eight; she left at half past eleven, and then she came back again at two pm. She remained there for another four hours in the afternoon. During the noon break, Ceuzinha could return to her home, which was only ten minutes walk away; so she had all the time needed to do her housework and to cook the meals for Manuel and Carlos. The salary was good, and she didn't spend anything on transport, since she lived in the same village as Mrs Dixon. Definitely Ceuzinha was grateful to destiny for crossing her path with that of Mrs Dixon. Ceuzinha was 48 years old; she was short and plump, with very long hair, as black and shining as the feathers of a blackbird, that she kept in a thick braid, rolled around her head. She was affected by a certain piliferous exuberance that provoked the suspicion of a light moustache under her round, little nose. Ceuzinha was Portuguese and, as had many compatriots, she had moved to Switzerland several years before to find more remunerative opportunities of work. Her full name was a bit complicated, as is normal for Portuguese. Maria do Céu Gabriela Ferreira Almeida sounded too cumbersome for a small woman like Ceuzinha, but no Portuguese would find it excessive. Her first name, Maria do Céu, meant Virgin Mary of the Sky, but it was usually shortened as Céu. Mrs Dixon, once that Ceuzinha had explained to her the genesis of her name, considered it very charming for a woman to be called 'Sky', leaving aside the too challenging Virgin Mary. Nevertheless Portuguese loved diminutives, so she was called Ceuzinha (little sky) by everybody. Ceuzinha and Mrs Dixon lived in houses in different parts of Saint-Benoît, a village of French Switzerland on the slopes of Jura Mountains. Ceuzinha shared a rather modern, comfortable flat with her son Carlos and her partner Manuel, located in a building, in the lower part of the village. Mrs Dixon owned a restored, ancient farm overlooking the vineyards. Ceuzinha wondered if the woman didn't feel awfully lonely in that house, too big for only one person. On the other hand, she admitted that Mrs Dixon didn't look depressed at all. On the contrary she seemed to be happy with her life and at peace with the whole world. 'It's not my business. If she likes living in such a big house on her own, she has her good reasons.' Ceuzinha thought, while she looked at Mrs Dixon washing the coffee cups. It was part of their little morning ritual too; Ceuzinha let her do it. After that the Portuguese maid started her work. There was not that much to do, since Mrs Dixon lived alone and was neat by nature and kept her rooms very orderly. But she liked having everything perfectly clean and dusted, both indoors and outdoors. The property was large, and Ceuzinha had her daily dose of tasks to fulfil. Saint-Benoît was a tiny village. There were a few simple houses, in the lower part, snuggled to each other like cold puppies. There was the town hall building, which, not uncommonly in similar Swiss villages, hosted also a coffee bar and a greengrocer's shop, which was the only shop of the village and where it was possible to find all the essential goods, fresh bread included. In the small square, behind the local old stone fountain of laundresses, which was a characteristic of every Swiss small village, one could see "The Arms of Vaud", a small and unpretentious restaurant with a flowered façade. That was more or less all that the village offered, although the main feature of Saint-Benoît, like the other villages nearby, was the presence of wineries, which produced many of the renowned wines of the region. Nearly all the territory of the municipality of Saint-Benoît was occupied by vineyards, which were elegantly terraced down almost to the lake shore, all well exposed to the sun. Saint-Benoît was one of the villages connected by the Route du Vignoble (the vineyard road), a scenic country road, about fifty kilometres long, winding along the foot of the Jura Mountains. In the whole area, cellars and wine domains bloomed. Wineries were the villages business. The Château de Saint-Benoît, a 15th century rural castle, was tucked away in the heart of a 20-hectare wine-growing estate, which had been run by the Perrachon family for 4 generations. Jean-Pierre Perrachon, a hot-blooded man, totally passionate about his work, which he considered to be his mission, was the current wine maker and grower. He ran the vineyard domain with his daughter, a decisive young woman, who had taken after her father. Together they were also responsible for selling the wine to an extended market. Mrs Dixon's property bordered the Perrachons' domain. Probably, once it belonged to the castle, but no one could say when the estates were separated. Mrs Dixon had fallen in love with the old farm at the first sight and, she had immediately decided that she would spend her second life there. Not many people have the chance to have two lives. She did. Her closest neighbours, the Perrachons, had been very friendly and patient, during all the relatively long and often noisy works of renovation. They had shown the typical reserved courtesy of the Swiss, who may be amicable, without being intrusive. Ten years ago, when the farm was finally fully redecorated, Mrs Dixon had organized an informal housewarming party to introduce herself to the villagers, now being by one of them. She invited all the 987 inhabitants of Saint-Benoît—small children and very old senior citizens included—. Because very young and very old ones could not accept her invitation, the number of guests was definitely lower. The unwritten behaviour code in a Swiss small village allows that inhabitants can speak about each other, without asking any too direct questions that would be considered indelicate. For this reason the arrival of the new villager had been wrapped in a veil of intriguing mystery. It was known that she was of English origin, but she had obtained Swiss nationality, and, before landing at Saint-Benoît, she had lived somewhere else in Switzerland, for several years. Besides that, no one could quibble with her. She had managed to fit in with elegant discretion and sympathetic spontaneity. A few ladies had privately discussed her dress style, which was not necessarily very conventional, but then it was accepted as a sort of physical feature. Although Ceuzinha had lived and worked in Switzerland for over twenty years, she had remained Portuguese to the core. Paradoxically she didn't consider moving back to Portugal when she would reach retirement age. Many of her expatriated compatriots saved money to build a house in Portugal where they could spend their old age. Ceuzinha was happy in Switzerland, and she disliked the idea of the inevitable discussions with Manuel when the time to make a definitive decision was at hand. Ceuzinha had been gifted by nature with a nearly inalterable optimism. She told herself that, in any case, many years had still to pass, and then also it was not absolutely certain she would still be with Manuel forever. Therefor it was useless for her to worry in advance about something that might not necessarily happen. She was thinking about what to cook for lunch. Carlos always came back home for lunch, since he had a one-hour break and worked very close to home, but everything had to be ready, because he was on borrowed time. During the same time, she energetically polished all the fittings of the three bathrooms, which were already polished, since Mrs. Dixon could not use three bathrooms all by herself. 'Mrs Dixon will give me the apple pie and I have in the fridge all the necessary ingredients to prepare a 'Francesinha' for Carlos.' Ceuzinha was recapping her plans in her mind. Her son ate like a horse, but that was normal; he was young and strong. She was so proud of her Carlos, the light of her life who had helped her to go safely through the tempests and the vicissitudes of her destiny. But the dark clouds in Ceuzinha's sky had faded away after her divorce, and the sun made its return when she met Manuel. Mrs Dixon appeared at the door of the second bathroom on the first floor. Her thick grey hair, cut very short, looked like a solid, silver helmet on her head. "Ceuzinha, it's such a beautiful day. When you come back this afternoon, let's take the car and go down to the lake. You can leave, as soon as you finish here. That way you can do the necessary things at your home without feeling in a hurry." And she smiled. She had rather deep wrinkles around her eyes and her lips, which emphasized her smile. There were only good aspects in working for that lady. Ceuzinha was sure of that. She was generous and understanding and never put any pressure on anyone. Ceuzinha had developed a sincere affection for her. But she was definitely eccentric her own way.