Storytime, Paris edition
Enjoy this little excerpt from my book of short stories.
Maggie gazed out the window of her hotel. Yes, her life was truly charmed. The fresh, bright, spring sunshine of Paris flooded her opulent room, and she fairly pinched herself that it was all real. From the window, which she had propped open, she could see the Eiffel Tower. That great, powerful symbol of all things romantic, posh and quintessentially Parisian. She giggled to herself, and dipped her hand into the soft green box and came out clutching two pale green pistachio macarons. They were Gerard’s choice, and although they weren’t her particular favorite, the flavor reminded her of him.
Where was he? She hadn’t heard him get up out of bed this morning. He must have gone out to fetch them breakfasts or to pick her up some little thing that caught his eye that he knew she’d like. He was clever at that. He always knew what she wanted, even before she did. She smiled to herself, realizing that her style was probably easy to identify--she liked things shiny and expensive. He had left her the most darling little note. It read, “Do not be angry, mon cher. I have gone. Will you miss me? xx Gerard”
What a little devil he was! Her mind easily drifted back to the day they had met. She had come to Europe on holiday with her sorority sisters, they were making the European tour during the summer after graduating from college. Their last free summer before they would be forced to settle down and become perfectly boring adults, a role that Maggie was blissfully happy to put on hold. She was the family favorite, and she could really do no wrong. Her parents were completely proud of her brother Simon, but as fond as he was of her, he had been a terrible bore about her “being less selfish”. He had admonished her right before she left about “being more appreciative for all that Mother and Father had given her”. Well, that was very well for him, he seemed to like hard work, but no, the universe held something different for Maggie. She could feel it. Nowhere had she felt it more than on the bridge in Prague where she met Gerard.
Her friends had begun to get on her nerves. None of them had hardly any money, not compared to Maggie anyway. She didn’t understand why they would beg her to stay in hostels. Was it her fault that their pathetic parents didn’t have the cash to help them see Europe “the right way?” She couldn’t begin to understand their reluctance to spend their money on lavish nights out, or fancy new clothes. The way they were set on traveling seemed squalid to her. Dreadful. But when she and Gerard made eye contact on that windy day in the Czech Republic, she knew she’d found a kindred spirit.
He’d walked right up to her, brazenly. From the moment their eyes had met, he didn’t break contact. He approached her, and in his marvelous French had begun speaking rapidly. She had giggled, and it must have been an American laugh, because he instantly switched to a delightful, lilting, heavily-accented English. Her friends had found him attractive, it was impossible to find him anything else. But they were also wary. Why was he so forward? Maggie was glad they had been shocked when she reciprocated his intensity. She had been more than happy to prove to Gerard that she was a cut above her silly friends. It hadn’t taken long after that. She had left the unsuitable 3 star hotel in Prague that she had compromised on, and soon they were staying at only the best. Gerard had shared her belief in “doing things the right way”, which of course had translated into sparing no expense. What was wrong with that? After all, she deserved it.
From Prague they had gone on through Vienna, then Berlin, and now Paris. She was so happy they were finally here. She dipped her hand back into the pale green box next to her, her eyes never leaving the sturdy form of the tower. Her hand emerged clutching a white macaron. She couldn’t recall if it was coconut or vanilla flavored, and honestly didn’t mind which it was. Wasn’t life a beautiful dream?
She had been looking forward to Paris for many reasons. It wasn’t just that the city of love was the perfect place for her and her beloved Gerard. That of course, went without saying. But it was also the location of Gerard’s bank. Poor Gerard. He’d had such trouble throughout their time on the continent accessing his money. It was the only time she’d seen him upset. He would try to access his funds, have an issue, angrily call his bank and then reappear upset and tense. She would calm him down and console him. She would cover his face with soft kisses until he smiled again. Ahh, she loved the drama of it. It was almost like a movie, they would have a scene and then they’d embrace and declare their feelings, and hold on to each other tighter. He had plenty of money. It was obvious by his clothes, his watches, his mode of traveling. It was apparent in his tastes and attitude. She wasn’t worried about it. Now that they were in Paris, he would be repaying her for all of the trinkets and gifts he had picked out for her on the tour. Even though it was her card, and her money that had actually paid for them, it was only temporary. He would be reimbursing her. He’d said she needed those things. That a princess like her should have all of the baubles and diamonds they could find. He’d been so upset when his bank had declined the purchase. No, he was right, she did deserve it. And now that he finally had access to his money, all of the gifts he had bought with her money would be repaid. Gosh, but he was wonderful. And handsome. And generous.
He was always so cool. So careless. His clothes hung off of his lean, muscular frame as if they had been designed for him alone, (and perhaps they were!) His dark hair was worn shaggy and it smelled like lavender. His facial hair was scruffy, yet well groomed. As if he had planned for it to look that way. Yes, indeed, he was handsome. Effortless. His eyes lit up into an easy smile. A European smile. Not the wide cheesy grins of American boys. No, this was the easy, seductive, sultry lift of the corners of the mouth that only someone who is acutely aware of his own powers of seduction is able to manage. A man’s smile. Ahh, she could picture it perfectly. She could see that same smile as he had undressed her every night for their lovemaking.
And she? She had always considered herself brash and bold, but with him she felt like a ingenue. She felt like a perfect porcelain doll in his hands. She’d always been short, and petite with dark curls and a creamy complexion. In college she’d gone as “Sexy Snow White” every year for Halloween, but now she truly felt like she had been a sleeping maid in the forest, awakened now by the attentions of this amazing man. Yes, sleeping. Dozing from the tedium of a mediocre life with subpar expectations. It turned her stomach to think of all of sorority sisters she’d come on this trip with. They were all excited about their careers, and talked incessantly about their boring boyfriends, pathetic families and “making a difference in the world”. Ugh. She felt nauseated.
Now she’d never need to be ordinary. They would all be (even more) jealous of her. They would all lament that their lives didn’t hold more for them. She’d show her stupid brother Simon with his dreary job. She’d flaunt her happiness in front of her overworked parents. She couldn’t wait for everyone’s reaction when she, Margaret Ashley O’Shea, brought the world to its knees.
She smirked inwardly, she so loved to indulge these wicked plans. She was special and wonderful and she couldn’t help but be excited to throw it in everyone’s face. Turning away from the dizzying beauty of the sun glinting off the strong arms of the tower, she gazed back into the opulence of her room. The satin sheets, the thousand or so pillows, the remnants of the pink champagne they’d celebrated with the night before.
They were always celebrating. Their one week anniversary, their love, their first night in a new country, their last night in a country. Everything was a celebration to Gerard. Last night he’d been in an especially good mood. He had toasted her over and over and drank the cotton-candy colored champagne out of her hot pink pump. She dropped her head back and laughed aloud at the memory. Silly boy. Where was he? It seemed like she had been sitting here, looking out this window and reminiscing for quite some time now.
Her phone beeped, and she looked down to find yet another text from her mother. Her parents were in a frenzy about the amount of money she’d been spending. She clicked through and found another text from her old roommate, Tess. She hadn’t spoken with her since she left her in Prague. She felt a short, violent pang of guilt, which she quickly dismissed. Tess had messaged her to ask if there was any way she would be interested in meeting them for the last leg of their trip in London. She felt another stab of guilt and dropped the phone back to the bed . Quickly, she picked it back up. Flipping back to her mother’s text, she saw that in all caps, she had written, “CALL HOME NOW. EMERGENCY”. It was strange. It couldn’t be a real emergency? Her curiosity got the better of her though. She quickly dialed home, making sure she had the country code. Her mother answered on the first ring. “HELLO? Maggie?! Darling, where’s the money? Where is all of your money?!”
She knew immediately what the problem was. With the life they had been enjoying, she and Gerard had fairly drained her account. She took a deep exasperated breath in, and sighed loudly. She wanted her mother to know how annoyed she was. She calmly explained she had loaned it to a trusted friend, but that it should be back in her account today. “But, Maggie, how could your friend spend that much money? It was a small fortune. Are you in some kind of trouble?” Maggie shook her head, and clicked her tongue on the roof of her mouth. She ran her fingers through her curls, and remembered how ignorant her parents were. Speaking as if to a small child, (since that was probably just about the understanding her mother had of the world) she decided to begin explaining about Gerard and all of the beautiful gifts he had bought her. As she was describing the purses, heels, earrings, watches, pendants and bangles. Her hand danced over her jewelry box, and she was suddenly seized with a feeling not unlike a King in his treasure room, to see and touch all of her delightful accoutrements. But when she opened the lid, it was empty. Her controlled, nasal voice faltered for a minute on the phone.
She feverishly ran over to her train case where she had put some of the other items, but they too, were gone. She grabbed for her wallet—empty. She slowly pulled the phone down from her cheek, and pushed the button to end the call. Her mother’s voice could still be heard as her finger found the button. All at once she crumpled into a seated position on what now seemed like an overly large, ridiculous bed. Her lace nightgown seemed insubstantial. She was cold. Cold everywhere. The freshness of the breeze outside, the golden fingers of the sun’s rays, even the Eiffel Tower itself, they all seemed to mock her. For, Maggie had realized that not only were her treasures missing, but all of Gerard’s things were gone as well. His bags, his shoes, his aftershave. His hair brush, his cologne, his favorite sweater. Gone. Only his musky lavender scent remained.
She picked the note up, once again, and read it. “Do not be angry, mon cher. I have gone. Will you miss me? xx Gerard”. It sounded different in her mind this time. A goodbye. She knew then. She knew that she wasn’t special. She was just Maggie. She picked the phone back up and calmly asked for the police, all the while knowing he was too good and she was too stupid. Even if they ever recovered her things, she’d never recover all that she’d lost.