A French Connection Tale
By Allan G Fenech
The sand imprinted off their feet as they walked, the breeze lifted the ocean smell to their senses. She turned to face the setting sun to take in all the natural beauty before her. Walking a little into the splashing waves as her toes sunk in wet sand and raising her hands to the heavens with a deep breath, she yelled with pleasure ‘I love you!’ Her American accent carried out over the waves.
He watched as he took in her beauty, there stood the woman he loved. Her short dark hair was a curly mess. The crimson sarong she wore waved gently in the breeze, mimicking the cape of a brilliant battle ready super hero. In his confident deep voice ‘I love you too’ resonating in his heart after all these years.
She turned to him, her silhouette engulfing him by the last glimpses of sun, glistening off the crests of the waves. Her deep dark eyes lit up and widened with her smiling pursed lips. His smile hiding the uneasiness of his mind, his heart beat faster knowing he would not see her for some time.
She leaped towards him with arms open for an embrace, falling into him. He took her in full and they fell to the sands. She smelt of island summer, he of sweet sweat. The softness of each other’s lips, enticed their familiar animal instincts, with kisses long and supple. They rose into each other’s souls as they rolled on the soft white sands underneath.
She arched her back, head to the now darkening twilight of night. In the last glimpse of light, a petite stone caught her eye. Reaching over his head she plucked it from the sand, holding it to his blue eyes, the winds carelessly caressing his sun bleached shoulder length hair. His eyes drawn to her hand, nursing within her palm, a small blue pebble. It’s vivid blue, like the coral seas before them. Curiously he looked closer, its unique shape saying it all. At a certain angle, a heart, a blue coral heart. Their eyes met, he reached for their now blue heart, carefully placing it in his pocket. As the moon replaced the sun, the stars watched that isolated Brazilian beach, where two souls meshed as one.
* * *
The Paris streets were cold, a slight breeze chilled his ears and brought with it the sweet smells of croissants and coffee. His stomach growled, but it would have to wait.
He pulled his trench coat in closer to his neck hugging his body through coat pockets; a small shiver ran down his spine as he tried to take in the extra warmth the tightness provided. He walked the cobbled streets, the skies were clear, the late afternoon sun providing a shimmer to his wet path. The snow had been piled to the sidewalk edges, cars driving rapidly through the slush.
He looked to the blueness above him, Paris winter sun, nothing could be better for such a day, and a smile crossed his full red lips. His hands fiddled in his trench pockets, a small card in one side, and a metal trinket in the other. He pulled out the card, business in size. It was an old photograph of the Eiffel tower in summer, his thoughts turned to when she had given it to him.
They had been travelling the world for almost a year by then. Years of saving between them sent them off to see the vastness of the globe. Sixteen countries together, and they agreed on a few, just on their own. Afterwards they would meet again.
He knew it would be hard, her rejection of modern technology was so entwined in her, and he couldn’t change that. There would be no emails, Facebook, not even a bloody phone call, just a set time and place to be. So he had hesitantly agreed. But they would always stay true to each other.
They had finished a night of sangria; moonlight salsa and heavy heart felt love. Their bodies’ beaded sweat from the Brazilian humidity, as they had lain in twisted sheets. She leant to her side table pulling out the small card. ‘For when we meet in Paris… a small reminder of our love’ her soft voice calming his beating heart, his fingers nervously rolling the blue stone they had found that same day. He gently kissed her forehead; with the slight taste of salt on her skin he whispered ‘be sure to come home to my heart’. Rolling into his chest, listening to her home pounding within. A thought of wether there truly was a home, sent her to sleep.
A large truck sped past in the street slush, its clunky engine snapping him from his memories. The streets buzzed with people, tourists and Parisians alike. The cafes with their chairs facing the street filled with, most with coffee and a pastry. He quickened his steps, his body heating up as his pace increased.
As he navigated the streets, shops changed in style, from café precinct to shopping district. Christmas carols swooning passers by into the warmth of their stores. One shop stood out, F C U K. He had always loved their play on the English expletive, clever marketing, wether they meant it or not.
He shook his head back into his current mission. A large church bell sounded in the distance. A tower from an ancient church displayed proudly to its high almighty. With centuries of weathering, and years of modern pollution, it was left grey and cold. Its gargoyles looked down to the streets in rapture. He listened, one… two… that was it, two P.M! Time was evading him; his heart a flutter, he moved his feet faster. Catching a glimpse of his reflection in shop windows, he straightened his short blond hair. His posture tightened as to emphasize his broad shoulders.
He crossed tight roads, dodging small cars. He ran through a square where flocks of pigeons roamed stupidly in circles. As he rushed pass they flew to heavens above and circled a statue. Some fighting for the sparse real estate on whatever poor immortalised sod had been covered in poop all these years.
He exited the square as another chime of church bells sang out. One… Two… Three… he had half an hour. Soon she would be standing before him again. Her heart finally home, with his.
In the distance he could see the agreed spot. A small café that looked over one of Paris’s many small parks. Protected by a wrought iron fence, mounds of snow covered the areas that would have bright green grass in the other months, small paths webbed through the park and around the central kidney shaped pond. It had frozen with the winter, the local children annually turning it into a small skate rink. A small patch of the pond had been fenced off. Yellow taping indicating the ice too thin.
He stopped from his intending pace to take in the serene view of the park. With the afternoon setting sun, the park was doused in straw-coloured rays. The central statue casting a shadow over the frozen pond. A silhouette of man raising one hand high, holding what looks like a goblet. With several pigeons defecating down his sides, he looked like a drunken street dweller cheering his moonshine to any passer by that would listen. In the distance the Eiffel tower watching over the city. Beyond, clouds were approaching, grey and bulgy, the type that carries a storm.
He pulled out his card, flipped it over from the picture and on the back scribbled elegantly in cursive black pen was ‘À Paris Mon amour’.
‘I’ll see you in Paris my love’ he muttered the words, as he so frequently had these past months. Now after all this time, he would. His heart a flutter, he made his way to the café.
* * *
She was late! She looked to her watch, fuck! She had spent hours on this coach, the seat, once mild plush had become like stone on her arse. The view had not changed outside the window, she could see the distant city of Paris and it was no closer than it had been only a few hours before.
Due to the nature of the delay, no one was allowed off the coach. The police were searching vehicle to vehicle, apparently someone had escaped from a local prison - they wouldn’t give any other information. So they just waited, plodding along the highway till they were allowed to move forward.
She sat crunched up in her seat, knees to her chest and head resting on the window, her thick nest of hair protecting her from the constant vibrations the window. Her thoughts broken by a static announcement on the coach speakers, the driver speaking in French, it was their turn.
An armed French officer stepped up into view at the front of the coach, he announced in French then English, all travellers to have their identification ready for inspection. A team of officers then walked down the narrow coach corridor, demanding each persons ID, whilst double and triple checking the photo matched. Some needed to produce more forms of ID, she hoped her passport would suffice. She didn’t think her American drivers license would quite cut it. Her turn came with out incident, after the rest of the coach was checked, they were allowed to move forward, there was a relief in the air, everyone on the coach just wanted to get on with their day. The coach now travelled as fast as it could, making up time that was stolen by the local authorities. The city was now getting closer. She crept into her crunch position, her thoughts brought back to him, she had left him in Brazil, she didn’t know if it was the right thing at the time, so that night she leant over and gave him her heart on a piece of paper. Now after all this time, hesitation had seeped into her heart. She pushed it aside; she was on her way, no matter.
* * *
The café table was slightly off centre, it wobbled with every lift of his coffee. Three coffees down, the waiter kept him fuelled the last few hours. His hands shook with every sip. Thoughts circled in his mind ‘was she coming? Maybe there was just a small delay. Maybe she had fallen out of love?’ His last thought made his stomach lurch into his heart. He muttered to himself ‘where the fuck are you?’
The communication ban was the worst thing they could’ve put in place. The idea of them being stronger alone to fuse the full strength of their relationship was pointless. He wanted to pick up a phone and call her, what is the point of not sharing their story with each other?
He frowned as he pulled out the trinket from his pocket. He laid it on the table before him, the metal made a small clink. It was a ring of gold, with a blue stone setting. His heart ached at the prospect of her never wearing it. All the times he had pictured her wearing it. His mind often clouded on how he would ask her. His face sinking to his chest he took another sip from his cappuccino.
‘She is an alluring mistress’ an accented voice came from the side.
‘Beg your pardon?’ he responded twisting his gold ring in hand.
‘She is an alluring mistress…coffee… she gets most of us,’ the man repeated from just behind him. He turned a little to see an older man. His skin tanned and leathered, thick hair, grey in colour, seemed sun bleached at the same time. The older man cheered him with his own coffee. ‘However after this one, I am moving on to something a little harder.’ This was a statement rather than anything else. He turned back to face the pond, its tranquillity calming an edging beast in his heart, and he certainly did not need the confusing conversations of an old man.
The darkness had set in, the park lit up by Christmas lights and the hysterical cheer of children. Couples held hands as they skated, clumsily gathering their feet on the thin blades that glided over the ice. The sight of happy couples had him looking away in disbelief. Was this a punishment of some sort? What had he done to deserve such treatment? He had only ever shown her love. He had only ever been patient for her. He had only been understanding… FOR HER!
His heart felt heavier. An iron weight was pulling it down. His mind clouded with anger. His body felt the pull of a drowning abyss. He hated that they chose not to contact each. He hated that she rejected modern technology. He heard the distant chimes of a church, seven P.M.
What a load of shit, she was not coming.
His skin was hot and flushed, the burning hatred reached boiling point. Screaming ‘Fuck Paris!’ He rose abruptly throwing the ring into the streets. Silence. There was only the small sound of a metal tink in the darkness. The crowd at the café simply staring in disbelief, not a word was said.
* * *
The darkness had seeped in by the time she got there. Her toes frozen by the quick path she took through the snow. There in the luminance of streetlights she saw the café. She took a deep breath and stepped forward.
She couldn’t. Her were frozen to the snow. She looked to the café. There he was, sitting nervously in his seat. Body engulfed in warm attire. She stepped into the shadows of some trees. She watched.
Her heart skipped faster with excitement. Her mind questioned her heart’s anticipation. Was she really going to run back into this life? After all she had seen and done? The world had become so much bigger now. She had grown without him. She had changed. But had her love dwindled for him? Her will to run up to him had stalled.
In the shadows was a park bench. She sat with her thoughts. So many at one time it was overwhelming. Tears fell from cold, burning eyes and kept coming. The surrounding park ringing with cheer. In the darkness of the bench she sat. Not a soul in the world aware of her heavy sadness.
Lifting the hem of her dress to wipe away tears. She looked to the café where he still sat. Church bells sung in the distance, her watch echoing a small beep… seven PM. Her heart welled with empathy for her man in waiting; but she just couldn’t make her way to him. Her heart urging towards the café, like a magnet to her home. Her mind, a broken fragment of all she had seen, and all she could become. Something told her ‘alone is the way’.
Her thoughts broken suddenly. He rose from his chair. Had he seen her? She watched in silence, with just the echo of her now fast beating heart. In the light of the café he threw something to the streets. Then he was off in to the darkness.
What had he thrown? Her heart stopped, pushing her off the bench and into the streets. A streetlight reflected off a small item laying patiently in the gutter. She stood over the small glint of the trinket. Her heart sunk. It was all too much, her knee’s collapsing, she fell to a teary mess. Through the blur of tears she reached over for the trinket, plucking it from the gutter. Her memories flashed back to the Brazilian beach. He had kept it, all this time. She stared at that blue heart, gently encased on a ring of gold. She held it tightly to her heart. For the first time in a long time, she felt home.
With a quick stance, she looked beyond the café. To the distance she saw his coat flying behind him, he was walking fast. The chase was on.
Her body frozen, her bones had a damp chill, she ploughed her way towards him. She was desperate to catch up, her heart warming her core, to push past bodily pain. From a distance her view of him was decent and she maintained his pace. She tried to call to him, but after hours of tears her voice was broken. All that came out was a quiet scream, sounding more like a gasp for air.
She ran and ran her dress flowing behind. Snow had started to fall, obscuring her vision. The streets were recognisable; they were the same ones she had taken from the coach depot. Was he headed towards the station? As he reached closer to the depot, she watched him turn. Towards the train station he marched. He was going somewhere - he was going to escape Paris. She ran faster determined, she would not lose him!
She entered the train station. The crowds came out of nowhere. She passed the lockers, jumped ticket barriers and climbed a bench. Her head popped as high as it could, her neck straining to elongate. Through the swarm of people – she had lost him. The panic was real; she screamed out his name. A crack and a screech was all she could muster. Tears returned streaming down her face. Determination pushed her to the platforms.
She stumbled and knocked her way through the crowds. Her feet were in pain, her blood pumping hard. Her steps were unbalanced and misplaced. From her inner cold and broken body the real pain was surfacing. At a platform she collapsed onto the closest bench. An overwhelming convulsing of emotions hit her body. The breathing was hard through the tightness in her chest. She held her ring tightly and placed it on her left finger. Holding her hand out to take in her lost future, she looked up. Through her fingers on the opposite platform, there he stood with his face towards the earth, a sunken soul. She went towards him; at the same time he stepped down off the platform. Was he coming over, had he seen her?
A smile started on her lips, but quickly diminished into nothing. He stopped on the tracks, head to his chest. The sound of large whistle echoed through the station; she looked to the oncoming train.
Oh my god.
She just yelled, as hard as she could. Her voice breaking past its broken point to let out one word, ‘YES!’
Over the panicking crowds… over the oncoming train… over everything! He heard. He looked up to where she was standing. Her crimson dress, wet tattered and torn, like a super hero post battle. He could see the blue heart on her finger. He smiled as his life had just been given back to him. He quickly stepped onto the opposite track. The large train that had no chance of stopping screeched past. He stood mesmerized on the empty track. All these months apart his heart still beat out of his chest for her. With his smile infectious, she smiled as she lent her hand down to his. He raised his to connect for a lift up to the platform, just as the ceilings of the Sistine chapel. Then he was gone.
The unforgiving express that was due took him right before her eyes. Her body knocked to the platform by the tons of forced metal. Watching the carriages pass one by one in disbelief of the loss of her beloved.