Potatoes, Ponds, and Paradise in Paris

"How can you say that?" The girl gazed down at the rain-saturated pavement from the Parisian terrace. Fresh morning voices glided to her ear from the laid-back café across the boulevard. Below her came sweet, syrupy, plump notes a minstrel cellist had been playing since they'd been there two weeks ago, the same song as yesterday, and the day before that. Her shaggy and unkempt russet brown hair was clipped just above her chin line and her wiry teenage frame was hardly cute. Her sixteen-year-old eyes had a twenty-five-year olds glare and within those grey globes were trapped last night's gleaming moonlight beams. Her bare feet were curled slightly from the cold hardwood flooring. Her nose was sharp and her face a little dried out, her mouth a tad broody, her hips a bit petite, but she had grace. That was what he supposed had first attracted him to her. And then it was her seductive charm, her wit, and her openness that secured the arrow through his heart.

He sat at the room's mahogany table sipping his coffee, leaving his croissant untouched. He brushed a few strands of short muddy blonde hair from his cheek. His eyes were light green, like a foggy lagoon, and his eyebrows were sharp, rigid, lightning bolts splashed across his forehead. His thirty-two-year-old body was an average build, garnished with black slacks and an undershirt. From across the room he stared at the shadowy figure on the terrace that was gazing onto the street.

"What did I say?" He asked languorously.

 She sighed, turned, and shuffled into the warmth of the hotel. It's white robe thrashing slightly in the breeze. She wore her grey pleated skirt and green, white, and black sweater. She shivered, wrapped the robe tighter around herself, and plopped onto the cranberry coloured Parisian chaise longue in front of the fire. "Last night, you said you couldn't see why we shouldn't just keep our…well…us a secret."

 He nodded and slid from his seat; carrying his half empty coffee cup and uneaten croissant to the adjacent kitchen area and placing them on the counter. He crossed the room, closed and latched the big glass terrace doors and leaned on the mantel place across from her. "I did say that, yes." His 'say' dipping into his British accent, a heavy contrast to her Canadian one.

She ran her hand through her hair, "Well, how can you say that? Do you mean you don't want anyone to know? Sean, am I an embarrassment to you?"

He glanced up a little nervously at the mention of his name. If anyone heard them together… If anyone found out… He reached for the pack of cigarettes behind the candlesticks where he'd always hidden them. They weren't there. He looked up, surprised.

She grinned and produced the pack from the robe's pocket, "Looking for these?"

"Hand them over, Clare." He sighed and held out his hand.

 She arched her thin eyebrow and smirked, "Come and get them."

He smiled and stepped lightly towards the chaise longue. She scrambled off it and ran into the bedroom. Sean took off after her. With his long stride he caught up quickly and tackled her onto the bed. She screamed in glee and held the pack out of his reach. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her gently. She tossed the cigarettes across the room. The issue had been forgotten…

In just two weeks Clare's life had been entirely turned around. She had been a senior attending a large public school in Calgary taking advanced French classes. The trip had been in the works for more than two years. She had raised the money herself, with her job at the library. She wasn't at all excited about having to spend the entire three weeks in Paris with her class but it was worth it. To see the city of lights, to experience the culture, three weeks with imbeciles would be worth it. The plane ride was uneventful and the in flight movie was terrible but when they landed nothing mattered but seeing the sights. She was often the one in the back of the group when the class left the hotel. No one really noticed if she was there or not.

On the third day, a Tuesday, she met him. He had been sitting at a small roadside café desperately trying to order a cup of coffee, his sharp British accent painfully evident in his simple French. She offered to help when she passed by and he gratefully accepted. In fluent French she joked with the maitre d' and ordered him a cup of coffee. "I must have made a fool of myself. How can I possibly thank you?"

She smiled, "It was nothing, really."

"Why don't you join me?" He pulled back the chair opposite him.

"Oh, I couldn't." She said politely.

"I insist. Please join me."

Clare hastily glanced at her school group that was moving steadily away down the street. "All right. I'll join you."

After she was seated he held out his hand, "I'm Sean by the way."

She shook it gracefully, "Clare. It's a pleasure to meet you."

He smiled simply and she was enthralled. He was extraordinarily striking not exactly handsome, just striking. And he had this way about him, so powerful, and old-fashioned, yet gentle and amazingly kind. He sipped his newly arrived coffee and after placing it on it's saucer flicked his eyes in her direction, "What brings you to Paris? You're obviously not from around here."

"I could say the same to you." She grinned, "I'm here on a school trip. You?"

"Business trip. I'm doing research."

She nodded, "Research."

"Yeah, I write screenplays."

"Screenplays? That's interesting."

He lazily added another sugar packet to his coffee and nodded his head, "It is."

A few metres away the cellist began his tune, lethargic, heavy, jazz, her favourite. She placed her elbows on the table, rested her head in her hands, and closed her eyes. A few minutes later she opened them. Sean had done the same. "You like jazz?"

He opened his eyes with a start, "Is there anything better?"

"No I suppose not." She smiled.

He signalled the maitre d' and ordered her a cup of coffee. His French was a little better, not perfect, but it was getting there.

Clare snatched a napkin from the table and began to sketch, "You're from Yorkshire, right?"

He gaped at her, "How'd you know?"

"Well, the accent is a dead giveaway and plus, your suit has a Sheffield shipping logo on the cuff."

Sean twisted his sleeve around, "Hmm, so it does." He paused and looked at her sketching away. A chunky strand of hair had fallen across her face and her hands were sprightly and graceful. She'd make a great character.

Her coffee came and she downed it in three gulps. She checked her watch and gasped, "I have to get going. I'll be late."

His eyebrows furrowed, "Late? For what?"

She looked at him as if she just noticed his presence, "School thing."

He nodded, "Oh."

She gathered her backpack and sweater, "It was great meeting you. Maybe I'll see you around town. How long are you going to be in Paris?"

"Three weeks."

"Three weeks," she repeated, "If we do meet again, maybe you could show me one of your screenplays. I'd love to read one."

He was startled and intrigued. She was actually interested, she wasn't kidding. His jaw dropped slightly but he quickly recovered, "Sure. I'd like you to."

"I haven't got anything better to do. I'd hate it if my classmates ruined this trip for me. You, on the other hand, are almost the complete opposite of them. Maybe we could do something tomorrow?" She blushed a little and looked down at her feet, hoping he wouldn't say no.

Sean looked at her, studying her, trying to discern whether it was a joke or not. Realizing quickly that it was not he stuttered, "Tomorrow is great. I'll meet you here and then I can show you all the places I fell in love with when I first visited."

" Great. See you tomorrow." She grinned and hurried off around the corner.

He sat back in his chair and smiled. 'What a cool kid.' He thought, as he leaned over the table to take the napkin she had drawn on. He smiled. She had done an amazingly accurate portrait of him, with a stubby pencil on a wrinkled napkin. She had some talent.

He gathered his things, placed some money on the table, and walked onto the boulevard. He was looking forward to breaking the monotony of his daily life with a day of sightseeing with a stranger.

Clare walked briskly to catch up with her French class; the same class that hadn't noticed that she was gone; the class that didn't care about her; the class of imbeciles. The day passed like any other for her. Except that she was in Paris and she had met this marvellous person.

The next day and the next day and the next were spent in museums, cafés, boutiques, libraries, and art galleries with Sean her new friend. They immediately discovered that besides their common love for jazz they were also both amateur painters.

          On Wednesday, while strolling the exhibits in the museum, he asked her, "Does your class mind that you're not with them?"

          She shrugged and walked slightly faster to the next display.

          "Your class doesn't know."

          She smiled wryly, "No."

          "And they're not worried?"

          She turned to face him, "They don't notice that I'm gone."

          He didn't look confused or worried. He only seemed to understand exactly what she was saying. For that reason, he was pleasant company.

          They began walking, side by side, slowly to the next display. He glanced at her quickly, "So, no boyfriend?"

          She blushed faintly, "No. None seem mature enough to date."

          "No friends in this class?"

          "No. No friends." She slipped her hands into her faded brown jeans and hung them there.

          He was not once sympathetic or pitying in his questions.

          "So, no wife?"

          He smiled with her parallel question then grimaced a little, "Ex."

          "Where are your friends?"

          "Too involved in their careers to remember a starving writer." He ran his hands through his hair and ruffled it.

          On Thursday, they went shopping. Stopping in every incredibly expensive boutique to try on clothes. They couldn't afford it but it was fun.

          A hallway separated the two change rooms. "What kind of movies do you write?" She raised her voice to cover the distance.

          A rely echoed back, much to the nerve of the chic saleswoman at the counter, "Mostly drama. Some tragedy, some satire."