Authors: Cara McKenna
“Maybe once you get home you’ll be able to relax, with this behind you.”
He nodded. “I haven’t been to my mother’s grave since her funeral, and I thought after I saw you, I would try to do that. Then I suspect I’ll take a taxi home and have a nervous breakdown. And after that, maybe sleep for a day or two.” He smiled sheepishly.
“That sounds like a good plan. I wish I could come up with some excuse and get the afternoon off, but I have to help host a cocktail party for some of our donors. A new exhibit opened today.”
“Yes, you said.”
“You’re more than welcome to come, of course.”
Another smile, deeper and more reminiscent of the man I’ve come to know. “You’re kind, but I’m not there yet.”
“I didn’t think so. Just wanted to show you off.”
“I’ll settle for a coffee this weekend. Maybe the river. Whatever you’re up for.”
Didier tossed his crust to the pigeons and stowed our wax paper and bottle. “Lie down with me.”
We reclined side by side on the grass and he laced his fingers with mine. I stared up at the sky. I was holding hands with the most beautiful man alive, watching the clouds drift past miles above Paris.
In a few days he’ll greet me at his door, take me to bed…maybe to breakfast. Perhaps in a couple weeks’ time I’ll arrive and find him waiting for me on his stoop. At a bistro down the block. On my own doorstep.
We lay there for an hour at least, until I knew I was really pushing it. I squeezed his hand and sat up.
“Back to work?” he asked.
We stood and brushed the grass from each other’s backs.
“Are you taking a cab to see your mother?” I asked.
“I was going to, but now I think maybe I’ll try to walk. It’s not far.” Didier dug a map from the bag and consulted it, murmuring street names to himself. The cemetery he traced a route to wasn’t far at all. I was tempted to offer to escort him, but he must have felt naked enough already. After three years, he deserved to revisit his grief in private.
I walked him to the far end of the park.
As we reached the curb, he smiled down at me. “Here I go.”
“You’ll be fine. Three blocks straight, two blocks left. Three blocks straight, two blocks left.” I repeated it a few times, making up a cheesy little tune and pumping my fists as if I were marching in a musical.
He laughed. “You tease, but I will use that.”
I picked a stray blade of grass from his collar. “There’s a florist’s on the next corner. For your mom.”
A slow, thoughtful nod. “That’s a nice idea.”
For a long moment we both stalled, then I took hold of Didier’s shoulders and turned him toward the crosswalk. “Well, off you go.”
“Off I go. I’ll see you this weekend? Friday?”
I nodded. “You will. Thank you so much for lunch. You know, and for coming out to see me. It means an awful lot. Way more than I can say.” And if I tried any harder to explain it, I’d surely start crying.
“Thank you for making me willing to. Really…” He trailed off. I could tell he wanted to say more as well, but it was too much on top of whatever crazy adrenaline high or anxiety attack he must have been mired in.
I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek, stepping away as a large group of tourists began to cross en masse. With my gentle push, he merged into the safety of the throng.
He stopped and waved from the far sidewalk. I waved back. I watched him turn away. I watched him walk all the way down the block, until his sweater was just a dot of gray in the crowd. The most extraordinary man in a city of two million. In all of Europe or the rest of the wide world.
I hoped he’d stop at the flower shop, maybe do as I always do and spend far too long there, sniffing all the blossoms. All those scents and colors he’d left behind until today. I hoped they’d feel new to him all over again, as new as the excitement swelling in my middle.
A beautiful young clerk might flirt with him as he browsed, but she’d never see what I did. She’d see only his shiny shell, snapped shut to hide a jumble of secondhand parts, ticking not quite as they should, but ticking nonetheless. A bit rusty. A bit erratic, like my heartbeat in the moments before I press his buzzer.
As I aimed myself back toward the museum, I pondered what I’d wear on Friday. What I might bring as an offering, for our date.
I wished I didn’t have to go to the party that afternoon. I wanted the workday to be done so I could walk to the shops and get lost, browsing the aisles for treats. Something fancy and overpriced from far away, that Didier would never have tried before. Something to remind him of the places that lay beyond the bricks that made up sixteen Rue des Toits Rouges. He’d opened me up inside those walls, and now I prayed I might do him the favor of helping knock them down.
The sun was hot on my hair, bright in my eyes. The breeze was cool with no promise of rain. The sky was blue as hydrangea, wide and high and limitless, and all of Paris belonged to me.
Cara McKenna writes smart erotica: a little dark, a little funny, definitely sexy and always emotional. She lives north of Boston with her extremely good-natured and permissive husband. When she’s not trapped inside her own head, Cara can usually be found in the kitchen, the coffee shop or the nearest duck-filled pond.
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