"I think I had too much of the peanuts…" Louie rubbed his stomach thoughtfully.
Julie gave him a look that was party bemused, partly contemplative. "Would you like to go to the bathroom? I could tell everyone to wait while you go potty."
He shook his head ruefully as they descended the plane and on to French ground.
Wind whipped at their clothes and blew Julie's hair all over her face as she surveyed the scene before her. Surprisingly, the air didn't smell of croissants and there wasn't even a trace of the music that always popped up in movies that featured France.
It was like directors hoped to convince movie goers that the studio they shot the scene in was really a place in France and not just a cheap reproduction of the real thing. As a result, most Americans associated that bit of music with the country along with mimes, berets and croissants. Also, most Americans now think that the Eiffel tower is visible from any place in France, no matter where you are standing as long as you look out the window, you can see the landmark.
Julie's face fell. No matter much how you think these movie quirks are stupid, you can't seem to associate the place with anything else and you start to think that France really looks, sounds and smells (or is supposed to smell) like it does in the movies.
"Not what you expected?" Matt asked her as he saw the look on her face.
Julie wasn't even aware of him standing there until that moment and turned to him with a start.
"Oh! Oh, yeah. The sun's not shining for a start." She gestured vaguely towards the sky. "The sun's always out in the movies, not that I believe everything I see in the movies because that would be really stupid." She huffed.
Louie chortled beside her.
Julie mock punched her cousin and dragged her eyes away from the sky. The said eyes then promptly zeroed in on a dimple as Matt smiled at her.
The insides of the said girl then promptly tried to imitate a chocolate exposed to the blinding, beautiful and energizing rays of the sun. Note that the adjectives referring to the sun can also be used to refer to a certain person's smile.
She hurriedly swallowed and rolled her eyes at him. Eye rolling is good right? That's what unaffected girls do when people from the opposite sex smile at them, right? Right?
She willed herself to snap out of it and hurriedly turned around towards their grandmothers who were busy talking about their plans for the day.
"So, where to next?" She asked as she walked towards them.
"It's still quite early… You three have enough time to sightsee." The dowager duchess looked inquiringly towards her grandmother.
"You have enough time!" The old woman positively beemed. "Do tell Lawrence to show you around."
Julie sneaked a look towards her cousin and Matt, they were talking animatedly and generally getting along quite well. She sighed.
"I could come along with you." She said pleadingly. She could just imagine how out of place she would be in the company of the two as they roamed the streets of Paris. "Er, please?"
"Oh nonsense! Go and enjoy yourself!" Her grandmother insisted and made shooing motions with her hands. "Louie will make sure you will not get lost. Just remember to keep your bag near you at all times. You never know with people these days…" She shook her head.
"Besides my dear, Matthew's quite familiar with the city. Between the two of them, nothing bad can happen to you." She said and seemed to congratulate herself and my grandmother with their words of assurance.
They just didn't know that they were throwing Julie out to the wolves. Hypothetically speaking.
"Well, if you're sure…" Julie resigned herself to a morning of uncomfortable silences and awkward attempts of conversation.
"The three of us are going to have so much fun!" Louie shouted at her ear and rubbed his hands gleefully.
Julie groaned and slapped a hand to her forehead. She wasn't even aware that he had sneaked up on thm. "That sounds so…."
Matt laughed somewhere to her left. "We'd better get going then. The car's waiting outside." Someone jiggled something that sounded like a key on a keychain.
Louie took hold of her elbow and started pulling her towards the gate as she stared suspiciously at the two. "Who's going to drive?"
Matt, who was walking along beside them, grinned and wiggled a key in front of her face. He looked at her curiously as he saw her expression relax.
"You should see him drive." She stage whispered and jerked her head towards her cousin as he dodged a running toddler and his mother.
"Oy! Don't diss my driving!" Louie said in mock outrage and waggled a finger towards her. "That's what you get when you volunteer to drive her from the airport." He said at Matt who was busy looking around for what Julie assumed was his car.
She crossed her arms and looked around her. Everything was really quite similar to airports from home and even in London. From the bustling tourists to the bored looking locals who were either just coming home or waiting for a flight. Even the smell was the same.
"Do any of you know that guy?" Louie asked ask he engaged in something that was a cross between sign language and hand gestures probably used by the Boy Scouts.
"Ah, there he is." Matt clapped his hand at Louie's back and motioned for us to follow him.
The two was in time to hear a very enthusiastic welcome as they neared Matt and what looked to be a very excited Englishman. "...staying at the house Sir?" He asked.
"I don't think so. It all depends with grandmother." Matt grinned as he pulled the old man into a hug. The old man patted his back and looked suspiciously red around the eyes.
Matt's smile was contagious and pretty soon she and her cousin we smiling as they surveyed the scene before them. The old man coughed and hurriedly dabbed at the corner of his eye with a snowy white handkerchief.
"How's Martha?" Matt asked as they pulled out from their man hug. Heaven knows what will happen if Julie deigned to call it anything but that.
"My wife's doing well Sir. As a matter of fact, I am visiting her later today at the hospital." He answered and patted his handkerchief back into place.
"Send her my love will you? I'll make sure to visit her before I fly back to London."
"I'm sure she'll love that Sir." The old man beamed at him and then seemed to remember what he came here for as he caught sight of Julie and Louie. "I parked the car just outside Sir, at the usual place."
"Thank you Smiths." Matt gestured at the two. "Well we should get going; we only have the morning to show Julie around."
"Of course Sir. Goodbye." Smiths beamed at them all this time and waved them off.
They heard a groan as they strode to the parking lot. "I forgot to introduce you." Matt looked back from where they came from and smiled guiltily at his companions.
"He might think I was being rude…" He sighed. "That was Smiths, one of our butlers."
Julie brushed an errant hair away and gaped at him. "How many butlers do you even have?"
"Don't mind the American." Her cousin murmured.
"We have quite a lot of butlers but Smiths was my favorite." He gave a satisfied moan as he stopped in front of a sleek black car. "Used to sneak me treats from the kitchens."
Julie was a bit waylaid by the moan despite it being uttered due to having set eyes on a land transportation vehicle.
"You own this?" Louie all but drooled on the car's hood as he stroked it.
Matt joined him as he caressed a car door. "I missed you." It was said in tones so lovingly that Julie couldn't help but stare enviously at a car.
She, Julie Marc was jealous of a car. A fucking car.
Boys and their toys yadda, yadda, yadda. But really, it was getting quite ridiculous. They were now referring to the car as 'she' and progressed to alternately smile at it and give a list of all its qualities which were numerous.
A particularly strong gust of wind blew at them and distracted Julie as it attempted to flash her underwear to the world.
"I think we should go now." A hesitant voice suggested.
Julie looked up from swatting her skirt and gave the two a sarcastic look.
After that, it was just a matter of time after the group finally settled their seating arrangements which ended with Louie riding shotgun, Julie at the backseat and Matt on the driver's seat. Mind you, this was settled only after Louie tried to beg him to let him drive, a debate on whether Julie should ride shotgun and Julie threatening to go rabid feminist on them if they continued the conversation.
Julie stretched at the feel of the leather seat and made herself comfortable. She really was lucky to have the backseat all to herself.
"So, where to?" The two boys simultaneously turned around and looked at her just as she was patting the leather fondly.
To anyone caught in an act that is pretty much weird, it goes without saying that embarrassment is a bitch.
"Er, I don't know." She shifted her eyes to the window. "You guys pick."
Just as the stares were getting her twitchy, Louie cleared his throat. "I don't know about you guys but I am hungry. I need food and I know just the place to fill my stomach." He patted his, unfairly flat, stomach.
The two up front jumped.
"As a matter of fact, I am hungry." Julie leaned back contentedly and smiled at her companions through the rearview mirror.
"Find by me, to a café then!" Matt gave the car horn an overly enthusiastic hit as a pedestrian crossed the road in front of them.
Ten minutes and one surprisingly uneventful car ride later, the trio was seated in what Julie thought was the quintessential Parisian café complete with the spindly chairs on the sidewalk, the chalkboard sign and the boxes of colorful flowers hemming in everything from the street.
She couldn't help but smile at everything she saw and was pretty sure the couple on the next table was talking about her and that recent escape from a certain asylum. She smiled at them and was glad the other two were looking quite at home with the menu because she, on the other hand, had no idea what it said.
"I'm guessing from that smile, which is getting quite disturbing and those two are right." Matt raised his eyebrow at the couple from the next table and Julie hurriedly wiped the smile from her face. Of course, it popped right back up. "You don't understand a thing in this." He shook the menu in front of his face.
"Nope, not a thing."
"And you're happy about that because?"
Julie rolled her eyes. "Because," She said slowly as if she was talking to a two year old. "It's in French!"
Louie looked up from his menu. "And that is good because?"
"I don't know, it just is." Julie laughed at the two as they gave her bemused looks.
"Come on, we're in Paris AND I'm with you two! I thought my only chance of getting here was if I did a dissertation on the French Revolution which I tell you, is not happening." She said all in one breath.
Her cousin and Matt gave her identical looks of smugness.
"What?" Her eyes switched back and forth between the two. "What did I say?" Her voice had taken on a warning note.
"It was only just that you said you're happy to be with us." Louie answered as a grin spread across his face. "Practically falling over your own feet with happiness."
"Practically." Matt added with a crooked smile of his own. "And here I thought you disliked me."
Her reaction was not what they expected next based on the incredulous looks they shot at her as she laughed outright at their faces.
Julie struggled to form words, so amusing was the situation that she was finding it hard to breathe from laughing. "Don't be too sure of that." She told Matt as she clutched at her stomach and laughed some more.
"The look on your faces!" She sobered up some at this point. "You'd think you two are demi gods who deigned me good enough to converse with. Get over yourselves." She wiped tears from her eyes.
"You two are ridiculous, I swear. I only meant that I'm lucky enough to be with people my age and not the hypothetical research buddies who will most assuredly be boring and middle aged." She snorted and picked up the menu.
Matt placed a hand over his heart. "Juls, you wound me, you really do."
Julie froze and dragged her eyes to Matt.
"Julie, Julie!" Louie waved a hand over her face. "Are you okay?"
Julie shook her head and forced her eyes back to the menu. "Y-yes, I'm fine. So, tell me what's good in here." She smiled at her cousin who promptly enumerated everything from sandwiches to marzipan pigs.
She risked another look at Matt and wasn't met with a stare as blue as the sky to her chagrin. Was that a twinge of disappointment or relief?
Julie mentally slapped herself and just managed to catch the last of what her cousin was saying. "A pig sounds good right now, what do you say?" She asked gamely and gulped as he started gesturing to the waitress for something that looked to be as big as a football.