Sundresses and Tuxedos underneath the Parisian Sky
"You are in Paris! The city of romance – it doesn't bode well that you're sitting here moping." My best friend told me as she twirled about, soaking in the sun with her eyes closed.
"Shut up." I moodily groaned as I let my head fall into my hands.
We had just arrived in the innermost part of the city by bus half an hour ago. While everyone was getting acquainted with the neighbourhood, I was sitting here staring lifelessly in front of me.
"Well, you are!" My best friend sighed exasperatedly. "If you hadn't broken up with him, you wouldn't be sitting here glaring those poor trees to death."
I redirected my glare to Bree. "Do you think I wanted to break up with him?"
"If you didn't want to break up with him, then why did you?" Bree asked. She had asked the question countless times before during their bus ride.
"Because I had to." I mumbled. I knew it was ridiculous. I knew I was the one who ended things between us. I knew I was the cause of my own pain. His pain. I knew all of this and I felt like a huge jerk. But that didn't mean that I had any other choice. Because I knew that if I hadn't done it as soon as possible, then there would've been more heartbreak, more pain and more hurt.
"You are pathetic." My best friend said without contempt.
"I know!" I wailed. "You have to punish me! Don't let me lose this feeling of indescribable pain."
"Oh Maddie," Bree sighed as she slung an arm around my shoulder and pulling me against her side. "Why did you 'have' to break up with him? You two were good together. Really good. And happy. You know that's important, right? Being happy?"
I could only nod against her shoulder as I squeezed my eyes shut, not willing to let the tears spill over yet. I had been good about it. Only one tear had slipped down these past two days. It didn't help that he was the one who saw it though. I had rather made it a clean break for him, so that he didn't have to dwell on it. "He's a contender for this huge case," I started as my heart clenched.
"That's wonderful." Bree commented.
"I know, it's amazing and I'm really happy for him. And I know he's going to get it, because he's such a hard worker and he's good at what he does and he's nice and he has people skills and–,"
"Oh. Right." My cheeks turned warm and I tried my hardest not to let out a sob. I missed him so much. "... he'll have to move." I finally whispered. He'll have to move to the other side of the world for an indefinite amount of time and where would that leave us? This was the only option. I couldn't let him turn down this opportunity for me. He had to go for it.
So, that was why I was now sitting on a street curb in Paris with my best friend. After I ended things with Henry, and broken both our hearts in the process, I fled to a different country. What a coward I was.
After Bree and I checked into our hotel later that evening, we didn't leave our room. Instead, we ordered in and caught up on our sleep. Spending hours and hours in that bus was too tiring and neither of us had gotten any rest. On top of that, my heart still clenched whenever I saw Henry's face in my mind. The way his eyes fell and the turn of his lips as I told him that I couldn't be with him anymore. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. I didn't deserve to cry over this.
The following day, I woke up around noon. Even though my slumber had been without any dreams or nightmares, I still felt exhausted. I turned to stare at Bree's bed. According to the made bed, she had woken up sometime before me.
"Oh, you're up." Bree said as she emerged from the small bathroom. Her auburn hair was swept up in a high ponytail. She wore a pretty red top paired with some formfitting jeans. "I'm thinking of going exploring the city today. Hit some shops. Want to come along?"
I shook my head as I ran a hand through my dishevelled blonde hair. "I don't think I'm up for that. I might take a stroll to the Seine river." After I managed to drag myself out of bed that was.
"The Seine river? That sounds calming." Bree nodded in approval. Her phone beeped and she quickly typed a reply.
I rolled out of my bed and onto the floor.
"What's wrong with your legs?" Bree frowned as she looked at me with worry.
"I don't know." I said as I laid there on the carpeted floor. I think it might've had to do with the fact that my body was unwilling to cooperate without Henry. This was not something I should be dwelling on, I miserably scolded myself.
Bree offered her hand to me and I took it. After she pulled me to my feet, she plopped down on one of the recliners.
"I feel awful." I groaned as I flipped my suitcase open. I grabbed my toiletries bag and rummaged through my clothes. Dread filled me as my eyes registered the pieces in front of me. "Bree? What happened to all my normal clothes?" I scratched the back of my head as I peered into my suitcase. From what I could see, the only things that were in there were cute summer dresses. And I was feeling anything but cute.
Bree looked up from her cell phone and her gaze flickered from my suitcase to me. "You're in Paris."
"What does that mean?" I couldn't help the little growl from appearing.
"It's the city of romance, of love." Bree elaborated as she waved with one of her hands in the air. "So you'll be wearing nothing but romantic stuff while we're here. It'll make you feel better. I promise."
"I have to disagree. Sweatpants and a hoodie would've surely sufficed." Not cute summer dresses.
"No they would not." Bree said. She got up from where she was sitting and rummaged through my suitcase. "Wear this." She thrust an admittedly pretty white dress into my hands and returned to her cell phone.
I got the message and sighed. This discussion was over, and I had lost.
My long blonde hair hung loose around me and my dress swayed as I slowly ventured to the river. The weather was admittedly lovely, but I felt like drowning in sorrow. Henry, adorable Henry, with his dark brown hair sticking in odd directions whenever I visited him at the library when he was studying. I could still vividly remember the smile that lit up his face whenever he saw me join him for an all-nighter, with a cup of coffee in my hand. Café au Lait. His favourite. With lots of sugar added.
I let out a sigh as I plopped down on the concrete floor, not caring about the other people around me. I stretched my legs and closed my eyes, letting myself remember how it felt whenever he held me in his arms or kissed me sweetly. It hurt to realize that I would never have that again.
I stared gloomily ahead of me, watching the river sway lazily against the walls. I was certain that if circumstances were different, I would be enthralled by the beauty of it all.
My looked up startled. The person who spoke to me seemed a couple of years older and was dressed smartly. A supposedly friendly smile played on his lips, but it only served to make the warning bells go off in my head. Fear shot through my veins. His eyes held an almost predatory gleam.
I quickly scrambled up from the floor and took a few steps back.
"Le temps fait beau, non?" He said.
Thankfully, with my basic high school French, I knew he made a comment about the weather. I just gave him a short nod and glanced around me. There were a few people around, which set me slightly at ease.
"Are you American?" He asked in an accented voice. Again, the creepy smile returned.
I shook my head frantically, unsure of how to get away from him. Did I just run?
"Would you like to go for some coffee?"
Again I shook my head, the words stuck in my throat. I took another few steps back.
Apparently, his patience had worn out for he grabbed my upper arm, his smile gone.
More fear shot through me as my heart thudded in my ears. I jerked back, but his grip was painfully tight on my arm. He tried to drag me along, but I resisted as hard as I could, unwilling to let my feet move. Finally, I found my voice and screamed out at the top of my lungs. "LET GO!" For good measure I aimed a kick at his shin. As my foot collided with his leg he let me go out of surprise. I immediately backed up more and looked around me frantically.
"Hey!" An elderly couple came towards me. The woman put a comforting arm around my shoulders as the man confronted the creeper.
As the creeper turned away, he sneered in my direction.
I shivered at the hatred and evil in his eyes. I averted my gaze, hoping I would never have to run across him ever again.
"Are you alright?" The woman asked me.
I nodded, "Thank you so much." I was grateful for their help and assured them that I was fine. A little bit shaken up, but nothing serious. Soon, they were on their way again, and I stood there, numbly. I couldn't believe what had just almost happened.
My heart thumped loudly against my chest as I whirled around in shock at the familiar voice. My eyes widened as I took in the sight before me. Henry. He was standing there, not twenty metres away. His suit was crumpled and his dark brown hair was sticking out in odd directions. He looked tired and worn and his cheeks were flushed as if he spent the last couple of minutes running a marathon, but it was also the handsomest I had ever seen him. And it hurt my heart because I was reminded of all my feelings towards him and how we couldn't be.
Henry walked over to me in determined steps as I stood there, frozen. What was he doing here in Paris? How had he found me?
"Thank God you're alright." He said the minute he pulled me into his arms. He squeezed me tight, as if he was afraid that I would disappear the minute he got a hold of me. "I was so scared when I saw that bastard grab you. I tried to come over as fast as I could, but I was too far away. I'm so sorry Madeline."
The pain in his voice made my heart ache. I tried to take a small step back, just to see his face, but his hold around me tightened.
"Please." He breathed, "Let me just hold you for a moment." He burrowed his head in the hollow of my neck.
My heart hammered against my chest as I remembered the familiarity of his embrace. Not even 48 hours had passed and I was already missing him like crazy. The moment from before had scared me to death. I realized that if something had happened, I probably would've never seen Henry again. I shivered at that thought. I loved Henry so much. I knew that I would always love him, no matter what. Henry and his sweet smiles, Henry and his wonderful laughs, Henry and his thoughtfulness... Just Henry.
"When I get a hold of that bastard…," Henry trailed off with a growl.
I gently rubbed his back, trying to soothe him. "I'm fine. Thankfully nothing happened." I was ready to put the whole ordeal behind me. I would not let the creeper get the satisfaction of frightening me any longer.
Henry pulled back to look at my face, but kept his arms firmly wrapped around me. "Are you sure you're alright?"
I nodded as I stared into his warm eyes. A moment of silence passed as I stared at his handsome face. After a while, I saw a glimmer of hurt in his eyes and I was reminded of our goodbye a few days back.
"Why did you run off to an entirely different country?" He asked softly.
"I don't know." I answered honestly as I looked into his hazel eyes. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. But it was just me running away. Scared of facing the truth. I reluctantly tell him this.
"Why did you run away from me?" Henry asked, obviously hurt.
I hated that I was the one who made him feel that. I hated that I was the one causing him pain. "...Because it would've hurt more if I was the one watching you leave. I'm sorry." There it was. It was all about me. God, I was such a selfish jerk. Henry deserved someone so much better than me. "I'm such a bitch." I spat out in contempt at myself.
"Don't say that." Henry gritted his teeth. I could feel his body stiffen around me.
"It's the truth." I laughed without humour. "I'd rather hurt you first than waiting for it to hit me."
"I'd rather you do so than that you hurt because of me." He said determinedly. "But I know that you're hurting just as much as I am, Madeline." He whispered. "And nothing's going to hit you. If-," he started, "and that's a huge 'if', by any chance I do get the job, I'll turn it down."
I shook my head, "Don't you get it, Henry? That's exactly the problem. You would give up everything for me. It's stupid and foolish. I can't let you throw away the biggest opportunity of your career out of the window for me." The girl who would just end up hurting him and proving that she wasn't worth it. Me.
"Don't you get it, Madeline?" He said as he held my eyes determinedly, "I would give up everything for you. Everything. Why? Because you are the best thing that's ever happened to me and I'll be damned if I let you slip away just because of a job."
"Don't say that." I mumbled as I shook my head. "Don't say something that you'll regret. I'll disappoint you." I always end up disappointing everybody.
"I don't think you're going to disappoint me, Madeline." He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and my skin tingled where his fingers made contact. "And, not to sound overly confident, I happen to know that I'm also the best thing that's ever happened to you." He spoke softly now.
"You are." I affirmed. I couldn't, wouldn't, deny that.
"And I also know that if you were the one who received a once in a lifetime opportunity halfway across the world, you would turn it down. For me."
I couldn't disagree with that. I knew I would do it in a heartbeat. "And you wouldn't let me."
Henry nodded, "Exactly. Which brings me to my next point: we're similar, Madeline." He gently stroked my cheek. "We would give up everything for one another, but we wouldn't let each other."
"So where does that leave us?" I asked, my voice small. Seeing him here in person would make another goodbye unbearable. Of that much, I was sure.
"Come with me." Henry said as he stared into my eyes, showing me exactly what he was feeling. "If I get the job, come with me."
I stared at him, my eyes wide.
"I bet that was one option you hadn't considered, right?" He asked kindly.
I gave him a jerky nod. How did he know?
"You probably would've seen it as being clingy, or tagging along." He supplied.
Henry was absolutely right. I hadn't considered that option before, because it just seemed so... demanding of me. I didn't want to smother him with my presence, or force my company upon him.
"But can't you see, Madeline? I would love to have you there with me. To see you every day and to get to kiss you hello." He pulled his arms away from me and took a hold of both my hands instead. "I would love to explore a new country together with you. Create new memories and spend more time together."
My heart lifted at that. "I would love that too," I breathed.
"I love you Madeline." Henry's smile filled me with warmth. He squeezed my hands gently and lowered his head. Slowly, he pressed his lips against mine.
I let out a tiny gasp, because up until now, I hadn't realized how much I had missed his touch. How much I needed him close to me. I fervently returned his kiss.
When he pulled back he rested his forehead against mine, breathing heavily. "God, I missed you so much." He let go of one of my hands to run his hand through my blonde locks.
"I love you Henry." I looked up at him.
His ministrations stopped and he stared into my eyes. A breathtaking smile appeared that lit up his entire face. "I love hearing you say that." His voice sounded husky.
I reached up and ran my free hand through his soft hair. "I love you." I said again.
His lips descended on mine once more as his arms wrapped around me and I couldn't help a tiny giggle from escaping.
I love Henry. I love Henry so much. My fingers played with the short hair at the nape of his neck as we kissed.
When we pulled back this time, he kissed the tip of my nose. "It feels good to hold you like this."
My cheeks coloured and I buried my face in his chest. "Henry?"
"Hmm?" He pulled away slightly and tilted his head sideways as he looked at me with those amazing hazel eyes of his.
"Do you want to spend the rest of the day with me?" I asked nervously. "Explore the city?"
His lips quirked and he kissed my cheek, "I would love to. I do recall that time where we talked about visiting Paris, just the two of us. We could do all the things we discussed."
I smiled. "I'd like that."
Henry put an arm around my shoulder and we started walking. It really did make a difference having him around. Suddenly our surroundings seemed so much richer, so much more magical. The air felt fresher and even the river seemed to glisten more.
Remembering his dishevelled suit I asked, "When did you get here?"
"Maybe an hour ago." Henry shrugged, "I came right after my presentation. I wanted to come find you yesterday, but Bree wouldn't tell me until after."
My heart warmed as I thought of my best friend, "So she was the little birdy that told you where I was?"
Henry nodded. "I thought I was going crazy, not knowing how you were or whether you were safe or not – and if she weren't so intimidating, I would've hopped on the first train yesterday to follow you. But she told me how upset you would've been if I missed my presentation."
"She's right." I answered softly. "I would've blamed myself if you had to miss it to come after me."
"I don't want to you to think like that." Henry said as he pulled me closer to his side. "Don't blame yourself for anything, especially if I was the one who made the decision. I would never blame you."
"…I'll try." I said as I bit my lip.
Henry smiled, "That's the best I'm going to get, right?"
I playfully punched his shoulder, "Get used to it, buddy."
He shook his head, but couldn't stop from grinning, "You know what, Madeline? I'm starting to work up an appetite. What do you say about finding something to eat?"
"Great idea." I said, rubbing my stomach, "I couldn't really eat earlier." All the different emotions these past few days had made it difficult to work up an appetite.
We stopped at a small quaint bakery and bought some pastries. It wasn't a gourmet meal, but it was delicious. I stifled a giggle as Henry took a big bite out of his cream puff and managed to get some cream on the tip of his nose. I reached out to wipe it away for him.
Henry grinned at me, his eyes twinkling.
"You are such a sweet tooth." It was adorable really, how he got excited whenever there was sugar involved.
He shrugged as he finished up his first pastry. "It's yummy, what's not to like? Although…," he said, sending me a wink, "It's not as sweet as you."
I rolled my eyes at his corny line, but couldn't help grinning myself as he pecked me lightly on the lips.
We wandered around the small cobblestone streets, marvelling in the architecture and just the plain atmosphere.
"Can I interest you in a boat ride?" Henry asked after a while.
I stared at him with wide eyes. "Are you sure?" I asked, remembering that he got seasick pretty easily. He once went on a fishing trip with Dad and my two older brothers but spent the majority of the time emptying his stomach apparently.
Henry nodded, "I know you've always wanted to go on a boat ride on the Seine."
Joy filled me at the thought that he would sacrifice himself for me. "Thank you, Henry. I appreciate the thought, but I can't let you get sick." I couldn't let him do that.
Henry rolled his eyes, "We're still going. I even bought those special patches that you stick behind your ear."
"I see." I conceded. He probably wasn't going to let this one go. "You're totally prepared." I said, impressed.
Henry grabbed my hand and pulled me along, "That I am. Now, come along little petal, or we're risking running behind schedule."
I raised my eyebrow at that, "Did you plan this beforehand?"
Henry shot me a sheepish grin, "That two and a half hour train ride gave me plenty to do."
"I'm really glad you're here." I said earnestly as I squeezed his hand.
He squeezed right back, "So am I."
Henry and I boarded one of those tourist boats and spent an hour just leisurely taking in our surroundings. Paris was absolutely lovely. There was so much history, so much culture that I was eager to soak up. I almost wished I had my camera with me, though my cell phone would have to do for now. Thankfully those patches helped Henry curb his seasickness and he was able to enjoy the ride alongside me.
"Hungry?" Henry asked as we stepped on land once again. It was close to seven o'clock in the evening. This had to be one of the best days in my life. I got to spend it with Henry by my side, in a beautiful city. My heart felt like it could burst right now.
"Starving." I answered him with a grin.
"All those chocolates didn't spoil your appetite?"
I rolled my eyes, "You know they didn't. And as I recall, you gobbled up most of it."
Henry gave me a bashful grin as he ushered me along. "Well, let's get my girl fed then."
"Good idea. My treat!" I called out excitedly.
Henry started to protest but I held up a hand.
"It's the least that I could do," I said to him, "after all, you practically planned the whole afternoon for us already."
Henry still didn't look quite convinced.
I stood on my tiptoes, put my hands on his shoulders to keep my balance and gently kissed his smooth jaw since I couldn't quite reach his cheek.
"Alright. I'll let you buy this time." He grudgingly gave in. Hah! My kiss must've softened him.
"Thank you for your generosity, kind sir." I gave him a curtsy.
Henry laughed, shaking his head as he took my hand in his, threading our fingers together. "Where do you want to eat?"
"Well, since I'm not really in the mood for any escargots, foie gras or boudin noir, how about a big juicy pizza?" My mouth already salivated at the thought of food.
"That sounds absolutely delicious." He said in agreement.
We found a pizzeria soon thereafter and ordered a large pepperoni and cheese pizza.
"We're lucky you know some French. Bonne appétit." I said as I took a bite from my pizza slice. I closed my eyes as I savoured the taste. "This is heaven."
"It's not that impressive, reading fromage and pepperoni from a menu." Henry teased as his eyes twinkled.
I stuck out my tongue. "It's not my fault most of my French has escaped me." I finished my slice of pizza, "Perhaps I should've picked a different country to flee too. What do you think of Ireland?"
"I would love to explore Ireland with you." Henry said earnestly. "I hear their landscape is beautiful."
I nodded in agreement, "I imagine wild waters, beautiful hills, old castles and green. So much green." I let out a wistful sigh. Perhaps a visit to Ireland with Henry wasn't such a bad idea.
"We should go soon." Henry said as he made small circles with his thumb on the back of my hand.
"I'd like that."
"Though I'm not sure if you could understand their accent."
I huffed, but couldn't help a smile from appearing, "Stop making fun of me."
"You're cute when you're all riled up." Henry admitted. "I can't help it."
I rolled my eyes in mock desperation. "What am I going to do with you? If you're not careful, I might even accidentally inflict bodily harm on you, you know? My foot is itching to connect with your ankle."
Henry laughed freely. The sound was beautiful and warm and it soothed my soul.
After dinner we started walking back towards the hotel.
"What do you say we go watch the Eiffel Tower for a bit?" Henry suggested as he slid off his blazer. He gently covered my shoulders with it. I snuck my arms through the sleeves, revelling in the warmth of his body. It had gotten chillier outside.
"Thanks." I murmured, my cheeks flushing. "Where do you want to go?"
"Not far." He answered. Soon we were standing in a small open field with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
My mouth fell as lights flickered, lighting up the construction. "Wow, I didn't know they did that." I said in awe. "It's so… magical."
"It's a really magical view." Henry murmured his gaze on me.
I blushed and lightly punched his shoulder, "Don't go cheesy on me."
"But you like cheese." He grinned as he tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
"True. Cheddar, brie, gouda…," I trailed off as my heart hammered wildly against my chest.
"Cheeky." Henry said before he pulled me in for a heart-stopping kiss.
Dazed as I was by the kiss, I barely registered Henry running a hand through his hair after we broke apart and fall to the ground. Panicked, I put a hand on his shoulder, "What's wrong? Are you hurt? Did you drop something?"
"Calm down, Madeline." Henry said, sounding amused.
"Why are you smiling?" I asked, still an edge of panic in my voice.
He took a deep breath. "I've been walking 'round with this thing for about two months– ,"
"You've been sick for two months?! Why didn't you tell me?" My eyes were wide as I stared at him with worry.
Henry grasped my trembling hand in his strong one. "I'm not sick Madeline." He said patiently. "I was walking around with this over here. I've never found the right moment… until now."
My heart stopped as I stared at his hand. With all the worrying about his health I had a hard time registering the sight in front of me. Henry was kneeling on one knee before me.
"I love you, Madeline Fleur. I have loved you ever since you shared your last chocolate bar with me in the library corner two years ago. You make me happy and I would do anything to make you happy. It would be an honour to spend the rest of my life with you." Henry flipped the little velvet box open and within nestled a beautiful, simple, ring. "Will you marry me?"
I stood there, stunned, "A-are you sure?"
Henry grinned up at me, "Not the answer I was hoping for, but yes, I'm sure. With all my heart."
My body slightly trembled as I nodded, "I would love to marry you, Henry."
Henry's eyes twinkled as he slipped the ring onto my ring finger and pulled me against him. "You've just made me the happiest man on earth." He whispered against my ear, his hot breath tickling my skin.
I wrapped my arms around his neck, "I love you, Henry Prince."
"I love you, Madeline Fleur."
And as he kissed me tenderly against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, I knew that I had found my forever.
A/N: More fluff! Lol. Thanks for reading! Have a nice weekend :)