In the Beginning, There Was Isis
It's funny how you automatically assume that certain things in other countries mirror the ones in your own. Their rules are the same as yours. Their ideas of what's taboo and what's not are exactly the same. They drink the same bottled water. None of those are true, especially the last one (I've quickly grown to love Perrier, let me tell you). Of course, there are things that are exactly the same, like emotions. Particularly embarrassment. Now, I am an expert when it comes to being embarrassed. I could write books, lead seminars, generally educate the entire free world about it, but even the grand knowledge I have of how to make a fool of myself cannot seem to keep me from… well, making a fool of myself.
I like jelly. Sometimes I like jam. Sometimes I call both of these preservatives. Plain and simple and seemingly harmless, yes? Not in France, apparently. The St. Johns eat breakfast together every morning (Marie says it's to be a family in case someone gets hit by a truck and dies before they all see each other again, Juliette says it's so they can keep tabs on Olivier and make sure he didn't sleep over at Audrey's and vice versa) and they have these amazing cracker… things that aren't really crackers at all. They look and taste exactly like toast only you don't have to toast them. Petit toast or something like that.
Anyway, at home I like butter and preservatives on my toast. I'm starting to think that everything I've done in New York should kind of stay there because it has a whole other meaning over here. I asked Juliette to pass the butter. She did. I asked her to pass the preservatives. She started giggling like mad and Olivier let out a laugh that really sounded like the bark of a seal but whatever. Marie stared at me in that "What the hell are you on, child?" kind of way and Pierre commenced a hearty laugh that made his coffee come out through his nose. When Olivier stopped sounding like Andre the Seal's third cousin, he asked me "Does your toast need protection from the butter?" and I just stared at him because I thought he'd gone mentally insane. Juliette was the only one who spoke up.
Apparently what I thought meant 'preservatives' in French really means 'condoms'. Leave it to me to ask for condoms for my toast. Typical.
- Eliot Marshall. Diary entry August 10, 2006.
"It'll be okay. I'll be fine. It'll be okay. I'll be fine." Eliot found herself chanting this for most of the day since she set foot on the campus of her new school. It wasn't that she was scared to be starting university. Actually, she'd been looking forward to this ever since she looked at her parents' college pictures when she was in the fourth grade. Aspiring to be a college student from that moment, she worked her butt off, making sure she'd get into a school that could both cater to her needs and give her the time of her life. La Sorbonne did that for her… until she actually went there. It was definitely giving her the time of her life. She loved it here: the atmosphere, the culture, the experience. Granted, she'd only been there a couple of hours but there was enough here to last a lifetime. The whole education aspect of it all, though? The poor thing hadn't been able to understand anything besides 'fromage' and 'bonjour' all day. She was slowly losing her mind.
That's why she was sitting in the back of the library, tucked away in a corner where no one could see her reading her high school French textbook. It was only slightly embarrassing for her. She figured she'd jumped into something she wasn't yet ready for instead of slowly lowering herself into a pit of destruction. She didn't want everyone to see her reading the textbook, it made her look like she came here without even considering the fact that everything was in French. She was in France, after all. She felt pretty hidden as well, figuring that no one would look back there.
"Uh… hi?" Okay, so she was wrong. Why was she always wrong? Looking up from her book, her gaze focused on a pair of grey eyes that she swore she could get lost in and a smile that almost stopped her heart. And, god, he was tall. From the one word and slightly confused sound he'd said to her, she could tell he was American, from the South maybe? Realizing she'd been gaping at him with a slightly open mouth, she remembered that she had indeed learned manners and stood up quickly, almost toppling over in the process. "Hi, sorry." What the hell was she apologizing for? He gave her a lopsided smile that she immediately thought of as adorable.
"No need to apologize. I'm Alex Johnson, by the way." He stuck his hand out for her to shake and she gave him a small smile, reaching out to take it. "Eliot Marshall. Nice to meet you." He let go of her hand as his eyes wandered down to her textbook, an arched eyebrow raising in a silent question. She followed his gaze for a moment like she had no idea what he was looking at before jumping slightly. He grinned at her. "Newbie?"
"No! No, no. I'm just… trying to get myself together."
"Get yourself together?"
"Yeah. I know all of this like the back of my hand but I can't really… it's hard to grasp once you're shoved in the middle of it all." He nodded as if he understood and she silently thanked god for giving her someone to talk to that wasn't twelve. "What state are you from?"
He grinned, leaning against the wall. "That obvious, huh? I'm from Ohio. You're from… let me guess, New York?"
She smiled brightly, probably the most genuine smile since she'd landed there. "Bingo, straight out of the city." He glanced at the clock over her head and swore under his breath. "I've got to run to class but can I walk you to yours? What do you have?" Eliot looked down at the chart she'd made in her palm pillow and bit her lip as she searched. Yes, she was that anal about organization. "Ancient and Medieval Civilizations."
Alex grinned and gently ushered her forward, following her out of the library. "Same here. You're a History major too?"
"Egyptian Mythology and Archaeology. It's a bit out there but I love it." She found it eerily easy to speak to Alex. It was as if they were old friends instead of new acquaintances. Of course, Eliot wasn't going to complain. She'd never had anyone this cute speak to her; they always bypassed her and made a beeline for Amy. It was nice having the attention for a change, she wasn't giving that up. They spoke animatedly as they made their way to their class, laughing about nothing in particular and comparing things they'd discovered were different so far: the condom machines outside were a huge example. That had started a whole conversation about condoms with him telling her how he bought a box instead of soda because he wasn't paying attention and Eliot recounting the 'preservatives/preservatifs' horror story from breakfast that morning with the St. Johns. When they reached their room, he held the door open for her and they stepped inside, making sure they sat next to each other. As the class started, she looked over at him and flashed a smile as they professor started speaking in rapid French. It was going to be a long class.
Eliot had been in a great mood ever since she got back to the house. The rest of her classes had gone somewhat smoothly and she found that Alex was in most of them, leading her to believe that maybe- just maybe- she was adjusting. She'd been attacked by Juliette as soon as she set foot in the house, pulled into the living room to watch TV with the younger girl. She had easily and quickly grown on Eliot, becoming the little sister she'd never had. As they watched shows and music videos, they told each other who they thought was cute, who was their favorite and why they wanted to be dancers in the music videos. Laughing as they tried to mimic the dance moves on the TV, they almost failed to hear the doorbell, catching it on the fourth ring. Juliette obediently opened the door, even though the expression on her face clearly said she didn't want to. That was a bad sign.
Legs for miles, a size two figure clad in the latest style, long blonde hair and the bluest eyes Eliot had ever seen… to say the girl in front of her was gorgeous would be an understatement. It wasn't fair. Her eyes locked on Eliot and her somewhat forced smile changed her face from amazing to slightly constipated. That was also a bad sign. Eliot tried to ignore the chill that ran up her spine as she was given a once over by the tall beauty, not even noticing when she had extended her hand. A handshake, Eliot thought. What happened to the kisses?
"Bonjour, je suis Audrey Bouvier. Olivier has told me so much about you." Eliot shook her hand slowly, throwing Olivier a blank look and ignoring the fact that Audrey had perfect English. Figures. That had to be a lie though, he didn't even talk to her, she doubted he'd bother talking about her. Unless… oh no. Eliot suddenly paled. Maybe he had told her about how she was a disappointing American girl who couldn't even get through the first day of classes without passing out like a dramatic freak. Or maybe he'd told her that she was a sneaky bitch who feigned stupidity when it came to a foreign language but could easily insult you when necessary. She smirked at that, looking back to Audrey. "It's nice to meet you."
Pierre ushered them all to the table where Juliette and Marie were setting up the last of the food. Eliot's eyes landed on the corn, rice and tomato salad and she almost had a heart attack. That was her favorite. Marie threw her a knowing smile as they all sat, engaging in their own individual dinner conversations: Olivier whispering in Audrey's ear about who knows what (it elicited sporadic giggles so it must've been something good), Pierre and Juliette talking about the latest book she'd read with her friends that day and Marie asking Eliot about her first day. It was all pleasant, calming in fact, and Eliot found herself finally feeling as if she were party of their family… her family.
When dinner was over, she offered to clear the table and get dessert, piling everyone's plates and carrying them along with the bowls on her arms. Oh yes, being a waitress for five years had definitely paid off. She walked into the kitchen, putting all of the dishes into the sink and reaching into the fridge to pull out the strawberry yogurt they were going to eat. "I am on to you." The voice scared the crap out of Eliot, making her jump and turn around. Audrey had followed her back into the house and her once beautiful features were contorted into a menacing glare. Eliot tilted her head in confusion, not understanding what this girl was talking about.
"I'm sorry?" Audrey just continued to glare at her, walking forward so she pinned Eliot against the wall. Placing a perfectly manicured hand onto her slender hip, she looked down on the girl whose height she topped by at least five inches. "Olivier is mine and I'll be damned if some American girl thinks that she can take him away with… simple looks and a stupid smile. You'd better watch your back because no one else will." Eliot silently yelled at herself for shrinking back against the wall. She should be standing up to this bitch not cowering like she'd always done. Marie called to them, causing Audrey to look up and smile sweetly, even though Marie couldn't see her from outside. "We're coming!" Back to French. Tossing one more glare over her shoulder, Audrey picked up a bowl of fruit and made her way back to the dining room. Eliot could only stare at the closed door with her mouth slightly open, the containers of yogurt being balanced in her hands. Her? Want to steal Olivier? Obviously Audrey had had too much wine at dinner. Either that or the girl had seen Mean Girls way too many times. Finally collecting herself, she walked back out to the table, shaking her head in bewilderment. That was one thing that never changed, no matter what country you went to: bitches.
Next Chapter: Thanks for My Clothes- Although she's adjusting to her classes and her new life, Eliot is still peeved that the airline lost her clothes and goes to get a job as a waitress at one of the restaurants near campus. Of course, right after she gets it her clothes are found. Perfect timing, as usual.
A/N: Sorry it took me so long to get this chapter up. I've been so busy with my internship and randomly getting laryngitis so it's been a tad difficult to write but I'm better now and back in action! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far, I love knowing what you think, it keeps me going. I promise to have the next chapter up within the next few days so I don't keep you waiting. And I think it's hilarious that I have the last five chapters of this already written.