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Authors: Katharine Davis

Capturing Paris

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Capturing Paris

Capturing Paris

KATHARINE DAVIS

ST. MARTIN'S GRIFFIN

NEW YORK

 

CAPTURING PARIS
. Copyright © 2006 by Katharine Davis. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.stmartins.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Davis, Katharine.

Capturing Paris : a novel / by Katharine Davis.—1st ed.

p. cm.

ISBN-10: 0-312-34098-2 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-34098-8

1. Women poets—Fiction. 2. Americans—France—Paris—Fiction.

3. Spouses—Fiction. 4. Triangles (Interpersonal relations)—Fiction.

5. Paris (France)—Fiction. I. Title

PS3604.A5557C37 2006

813'.6—dc22

2006040804

First Edition: May 2006

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 

For RPD

Acknowledgments

Thank you to all my friends and family for their love and support. A special
thank-you to Terry Carstensen, who insisted that I needed my own laptop and encouraged me from the beginning, and to my dear friend Anne Edwards for her careful reading with a poet's eye. I am grateful to Jane Drewry for her good advice when I decided to become a writer. Thanks also to Lisa Tucker, Gretchen Ramsay, and Kathy Richards, who read early drafts of the novel.

Many thanks to the fine teachers I've had, especially Sigrid Nunez, Roxana Robinson, Lee Smith, Richard Peabody, Mark Farrington, and Elly Williams. Their advice has been invaluable, and their writing is an inspiration.

I will be forever grateful to Meredith Blum, who directed me to my agent, Katherine Fausset, and to Katherine for her enthusiasm and excellent advice. Many thanks to Linda McFall, an excellent and insightful editor and fellow lover of Paris.

I wish to thank my parents, who gave me the wonderful years in Europe, especially Paris. Most of all my deepest thanks to my husband, Bob, and my children, Brooke and Andrew, for their unfailing love.

Capturing Paris

ONE

La Crépuscule

Annie Reed walked along the rue de Rennes wondering if her husband still
loved her. Paris was colder than usual that fall. She loved this time of day,
la crépuscule
, the nebulous period that floats between day and night. Her heels clicked as they struck the cold pavement. She wished that she had gone to the basement storage in her apartment building to take out her boots. The approach of winter had crept up on her. Gone were the golden dry October days, like those you saw in movies, where couples strolled along the Seine, pausing to look at old prints and books in open carts. The damp November air had already settled into her bones.

Dreary, dark, dusk
—words she was trying to put into a poem on the seasonal shifts that changed the mood and tempo of the city. She admired the French poets who were able to capture the feel of the tight, cold air, the closing down and pulling in particular to this time of year. The French language had a musical quality, a natural lyricism, that belied the darker message within. Annie wanted to capture this feeling in English. She wished she could breathe in this poignant beauty and exhale the words and images onto the page. She could hear the words, like puzzle pieces floating in her head, but she struggled to find the flow, the thread that would order the images and bring them to life.

Why did she bother? She tried not to think of the envelope in her briefcase. Stopped at a red light, she drew her shoulders up and released them, trying to get rid of the tension in her neck. Her job at the Liberal Arts Abroad program had kept her cooped up in an overheated office all afternoon. She had published only a few poems in the last few
years. She wanted her poetry to take precedence again, not easy after years of being busy with other things. Wesley certainly didn't seem to care. A thin sheet of ice had formed between them.

Annie arrived at the subway station and descended toward the rumbling trains. She pushed open the steel-and-glass door at the bottom of the steps, trying not to inhale the warm, dirty air rising from the tunnels below. Annie disliked crowds and walked toward the far end of the platform hoping to find a less busy spot to wait. She longed to be home; being with people all day tired her. The dark tunnels hummed with the possibility of approaching trains.

On the opposite platform Annie noticed an unusually tall young woman in a brilliant blue cape. She had to be foreign. When Annie moved to Paris over twenty years ago with Wesley and baby daughter Sophie in tow, she'd wanted to fit in, to look French. She loved the way French women dressed; understated, discreetly fashionable, they wore their clothes confidently, hinting at sexiness, suggesting the unexpected. Most of the women here on the subway platforms wore coats in subtle colors—brown, gray, or black—with perhaps a bright scarf arranged artfully at the neck. The first thing Annie had noticed when she moved from New York was the French addiction to scarves.

The woman across the platform looked like an exotic bird, unafraid to flaunt its colorful plumage. The theatrical-looking cape had a black velvet collar and could have been from a vintage clothing shop had it been more worn and faded. Her honey-colored hair fell heavily, just reaching her broad shoulders. She was more handsome than beautiful, with wide-set eyes and a full mouth. Annie thought of Baudelaire's words,
“Luxe, calme, et volupté.”
She knew she shouldn't stare, but her eyes kept going back to the woman. There was something disconnected about her. She looked calm, almost dreamy. While probably in her thirties, the age of a young mother, she didn't have the intense fixed look of a mother eager to get to the school or day care center to find her children.

Moments later a train pulled up to the opposite platform, stirring up the odor of wet clothing, tired bodies, and stale air. Passengers jostled their way into the full cars, and Annie lost sight of the woman. The train pulled out of the station, and she experienced a momentary
feeling of loss when she looked back at the empty place where the woman had stood. Why had this woman caught her attention? Lately she found herself contemplating other women's lives. Studying the faces around her, particularly women close to her own age, Annie wondered if they too felt the ache of an empty nest, or faced unhappy husbands at the end of the day. Her own train arrived and screeched to a halt. The doors slid open. Annie clutched her briefcase and got ready to board the crowded car.

Darkness blanketed the city when Annie emerged at her Métro stop, Hôtel de Ville, in the Fourth Arrondissement. City of Lights, she thought, what a misnomer in November. A cold mist, not quite a drizzle, gave the streets an oily sheen. Drivers blew their horns impatiently in the heavy traffic. Annie looked at the closed shutters of the apartments above the street. She loved the sight of lamplight seeping out between the louvers. At the end of the afternoon, she relished going from room to room in her own apartment closing the outside shutters and drawing the curtains. The sense of warmth and enclosure of a home tucked in for the evening filled her with pleasure.

She used to love coming home and having an hour or two alone when she would putter, look at the mail that the concierge had slipped under the door, and start to put dinner together. She might take out her poems and revise work that she had started that morning. Late afternoon, with its dense quiet, was a productive time of day for her. Now Wesley would be there, awaiting her return.

The fierce noise of a motorbike revving its engine at the next corner jarred Annie back to the present. The rue des Archives teemed with small cars, motorbikes, and pedestrians carrying parcels from neighborhood food shops along with the necessary baguettes. She made a quick stop at the greengrocer to buy haricots verts. Heavy woven baskets overflowed with tender carrots and fat bundles of broccoli; robust purple cabbages glowed in the evening mist. She smelled chickens roasting on a spit in the butcher shop next door. She went in and selected one, which the butcher, a pasty-faced man with multiple chins, wrapped and added to her shopping bag.

Almost home. Annie imagined the exotic woman she'd seen in the subway entering a quiet, dark apartment, throwing the blue cape over the back of a chair, pouring a glass of wine and nibbling on a slice of pâté left over from the night before. She wouldn't have to face a disgruntled husband or worry about a daughter living on her own far from home. Annie arrived at the heavy wooden door of her own building, number 38, pressed the digits of her code, releasing the lock, and stepped into the quiet courtyard.

“You're late today,” Wesley said. “Where've you been?”

Annie didn't answer. Asking about her whereabouts had become a habit since he'd started working at home. She'd been out all day, but he didn't come over and pull her into his arms for a kiss, not even a quick brushing of lips on her cheek.

“Did you hear from Hal today?” She pulled the chicken out of the bag, set it next to the stove, and turned on the tap. The water was slow to warm up, and she shuddered as the cool stream splashed over her hands. Her delicate wedding band glimmered through the water. She wished she were heating the kettle to make a solitary cup of tea. But it was time to start dinner.

“The phone hasn't rung all day,” he said flatly.

“Well, it's early in Washington. He could still call tonight.” Annie closed the curtains and turned on the kitchen-table lamp, casting a cozy glow on the yellow plaster walls and high ceiling. She'd painted the kitchen that golden color to remind her of Provence with its lavender-scented fields and sunny days. Her polished copper pots hung from a rack above the stove. She placed a colander into the sink and dumped the green beans into it.

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