A Story about a girl's first try at life on her own.
Have you ever had one of those impulsive moments, where you want to just dive head first into a situation, without thought or contemplation? Some part of your brain goes on strike and decides to give you a nagging little idea that festers till you absolutely have to do it, no matter how stupid it actually is.
Most of the time, another part of you, the part called your conscience, your moral center and guide, says “hold up”. Then just before you throw that egg or jump off that bridge for recreational sport, you stop. And you think. You think about the pros and cons to the deed you are about to do: would it really be smart to jump of a bridge just because it’s “wicked sweet”? Would throwing that egg at your old Geometry teacher’s house really justify all her torturous indirect proofs in senior school?
After you realize what you were about to do was bloody idiotic, you stop. You calmly put the egg down, or even better, give it to a homeless shelter. This rational contemplation of your actions is called reason. Sometimes reason kicks in later than would be useful. Sometimes it doesn’t kick in at all. Sometimes you are soo far off the edge of sanity that reason abandon’s the ship before it sinks. These times don’t occur very often but when they do they are generally on the police blotter or the extraordinarily gruesome late night news. If you’re lucky these moments happen in the privacy of your home or at least not in a public venue. Ninety percent of the time, people are lucky in this respect. I was not lucky.
Generally, I controlled my rebellious urges rather well, limiting myself to small pranks and an acerbic sense of humour that has sent small children running for the hills. Though, occasionally, like that one time in London, I would go a little overboard, I was mostly good.
The thought process behind these rebellions was completely beyond me. There was no rhyme or reason to their planning besides the fact that they always had me running away from my home. I was searching for something, for some raison d'être to live with some sort of passion. Inside me, my soul was longing for a purpose. Though to many people my life would have been considered charmed, or entitled, I knew better: it was stifling. I had to act as others expected me to act. I had to do what was expected of me. There was no freedom in my life and I was uneasy in it.
It was to me, an address, a place to which I was associated with, but not a home, not someplace I belonged. That’s really what I was looking for: a home. I was looking for a world where people didn’t have pre-determined lives and weren’t forced to have a sort of caste system in their own little social circles.
It had to exist, this place because I’d read about it. I’ve read about Pemberely and the calm streets of Helstone. I’ve pictured the haunted heaths of Wuthering Heights and the balcony in Verona. It existed, somewhere out in that big world and I knew I had to find it before one day, I woke up in a life planned out for me, where I could see my end and couldn’t care enough to try and change it.
So, I ran, and most of the time, reason told me if I was about to go too far. It would be safe if I stayed where I was, and secure. But this time I didn’t want to be safe and I couldn’t give a damn about security. I wanted to know: if you give life a run for its money, will it give you one back?
This time, somewhere deep in my mangled head, I realized that the way people achieve happiness is not to be safe, to be someplace they are used to. The way people find that ever elusive feeling of satisfaction is to jump off the edge and take a chance. You have to ignore the scared little voice in your head and do something so ridiculous that it makes shivers race down your spine. This time I did something so big it registered like a grade eight earthquake on my sense of reason: sent it into shock and left it like that until it was to late to do anything but run around screaming for help and hoping some would show up before I died.
1. Hide and Seek
Just be calm, the rational side of me said, as the taxi swerved through the late afternoon traffic.
I was in Paris, the city I had been dreaming of seeing since I was a little girl. It seemed like a place where people would actually break into song on the streets. It was one of those magical places; I could just feel it, as I watched the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Chopin had lived here, with George Sand and Liszt and all those other brilliant people. There was something special about it, as the sun streaked red and orange over the buildings.
History seeped out of the buildings and each person walking the streets seemed more fashionable than the last. Cafes and little restaurants cluttered the city with their tables and enormous umbrellas. The sun was just about overhead, the hour nearly lunchtime. Each stoplight we reached gave me a chance to gape at the world I had fallen into. There had to be a reason I was here, besides the fact I was insane. People didn’t just end up in places like this without fortune on their side. Those who walked the streets of Paris, both today and throughout history, couldn’t just happen along here; kismet was with them.
The driver was expertly navigating the streets, speeding much too fast through places I would have liked to spend some time drooling over. The address in my hand was just about as heavy as an anvil as I thought over my situation for the twentieth time. It had been purely by luck that I had managed to find some place that would even consider taking me on such short notice with such a sketchy background. The girl I had spoken to over the phone seemed overjoyed to find someone in need of a flat to rent and had asked absolutely zero question, which both worried and relieved me. She had proceeded to give me directions and to tell me she couldn’t wait to meet me. I was already unsure as to what this person would be like. Not many people were eager to meet me.
The streets became closer together and more residential as the time passed. A rock song whined in the cab of the car but it was low enough that it didn’t block out my racing heartbeat. Soon I saw the park the landlady had referred too. It was nice, for a city park, with gravel paths weaved through the grass and large trees shading wooden benches and water fountains. Shaped like a rectangle, with roads surrounding it on all sides, it was bordered on both sides by apartment buildings and I noticed a laundry mat and some quaint speciality stores. At the end of the park I saw the café I was looking for.
It was on the corner, this old looking building and was directly opposite a giant oak tree. The street was made of old cobblestone. Lights were brightly shining through the windows and it looked very comfortable inside. It was a little bit boho and a little bit prim around the edges. There was that nice old well worn at ease feeling. The pictures I had so hastily looked over on my laptop had more than lived up to expectations. It was a whimsical little place, with what appeared to be a cult like following. Not the fashionable people so much as the people who waited for their laundry every week or the one’s who passed by here every day. There was a funny little happiness about it.
From the website, the café boasted good food, despite its out of the way location and odd locals. The owner was a mere little slip of a thing from the pictures. It seemed odd to me that she should be in control of the whole operation when the waiters she commanded seemed only a few years younger than herself.
The lorry stopped. I gulped and paid the man, who seemed to know I didn’t belong with my current surroundings. He pulled my two extremely large bags out of the trunk. Looking at their impressive bulk and then to the stairs leading up to what would be my flat instantly exhausted me. I didn’t imagine they had a lift.
I looked over the street and watched the taxi whiz away taking my last tie to sanity with it. Something in me was suddenly getting cold feet as I stood with my two enormous bags and laptop, backpack, and address in hand. Now that rationality had caught up to foolishness, it was balking.
Someone noticed my appearance and rushed out. It was a small, I wanted to call her a girl, but she was a woman, with a black apron tied around her thin waist. Wild corkscrews blonde curls inhabited every spare inch of her head, roughly kept back in a ribbon or hair tie. She had hazel green eyes which were vaguely cat-like and enormous. Freckles fell recklessly over her pert nose and curved cheeks.
“Are you Catherine?”, said the woman in a high lilting voice. I could tell that this was the owner, Marie Vernond.
“Yes, Catherine Gray. Pleased to meet you Miss Vernond.” I extended a hand, which she took in her own and shook vigorously. She looked uncomfortable and it was totally at odds with my current mental picture of her.
“Is something the matter?” I queried cautiously, while my eyes darted around for any unwelcome familiar faces.
“No. The papers are all ready for you to sign.”. She smiled quickly and I felt the oddest urge to smile back. Very uncharacteristic. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Already?”, my voice squeaked a tad at the end.
The girl nodded at me. “He’s a friend, a close friend, and he’s rather anxious to meet you. You’re quite the talk of the breakfast table. It’s been a while since there’s been a new face in the mix, Catherine.”
“Kat” I amended automatically, as she led me in the direction of the door.
Marie had been extraordinarily lucky to find herself in possession of an entire corner building opposite a park quite near the heart of Paris. She had taken full advantage. Bay windows lined three of the four walls, and the dreamlike sun streamed through. Laughably colourful flowers showed off in the window boxes and the chimes in the open windows added to the uproarious display of café-coffeehouse-teahouse-warm fire- cool breeze-bakery- heaven. The inside surpassed expectations as well.
Prim tea tables were set up against two of the corner walls, on the side where the sun rose. The wall whose windows faced the west had leather couches, comfortable recliners and coffee tables, none of which matched. But yet they did match, somehow. The only other wall without windows was parallel to the alley underneath the staircase where Marie’s pristine garbage was lined up. That wall was red brick with a piano in the corner by the non matching matching couches.
A bar was on most of the back wall, leading back to the kitchen and was complete with antique register. The piano corner had a few armchairs around it in roughly a semicircle. Faded red carpet covered this one section of the usually bare wood floor and next to the instrument there was a bookcase filled with every manner of thing to read.
Books, you will find, are my weakness. Ever since I was little, I loved the pictures and the stories of princesses and evil stepmothers. There was something refreshing about reading about things that were totally unbelievable in my life. I liked reading stuff about pirates and fairies and things that I could imagine, instead of comparing to my own life.
The middle of the room had regular tables of dark wood carved with the initials of what was probably the world at large. The bar was actually something like one of the bars in Casablanca where Bogey’s drinking all the champagne, calling Ingrid Bergman a “kid” and listening to the Nazi’s storm Paris while Sam sings. Unfortunately Bogie wasn’t waiting but I didn’t feel to bad cuz “We’ll always have Paris ". Here I have also inserted my love of movies. I like spending a few hours in a world other than my own. Casablanca is by far one of my favourites. Lethal Weapon is the other one.
My new home, or temporary one, was scaring me with its perfection. It was like I’d had it mail ordered and I know from experience when things seem to good to be true, they usually are. I shivered and pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t part of some cruel joke. I looked around the room with a sense of awe and disbelief.
A figure leaning casually against the bar stopped my gaze and froze it. He wasn’t the average, tall dark handsome man you would expect, though he was definitely capable of causing a few heart palpitations. He had pale skin, but not pasty. His dark, slightly wet hair was just long enough to touch his ears and completely out of control, while his eyes were a shade of blue that the glaciers and the Caribbean share. I would have labelled him as the type of wicked soul the French had perfected but something in his face prevented me from following through with my quick judgement.
“It’ll be fine,” Marie Vernond was saying as she led me over to the man and I tried not to dig my feet in and run for the other direction.
“Christien!” said the petite woman with a smile, “This is the tenant. This is Catherine Gray.”
“Kat”, I said automatically, reaching for his hand when he extended it. He held my small fingers in his large ones for a second longer than necessary as he tried to catch my eyes. I evaded him and he released my hand.
“Christien Mark” said the man, still trying to meet my eyes. Regretfully I met his and was disconcerted by the pure colour of his. The blue was startlingly bright in comparison with his dark hair and the dark circles underneath his eyes.
“Would you like something to drink or eat, Kat?” Marie asked chirrupy tone intact.
“Coffee would be lovely, thank you.” My voice was nervous and unsure.
Christien gestured to a chair. “ Please sit.”
He turned back to me with a smile. “So you’re new to Paris?”. I gritted my teeth and prepared for the careful evasions of truth and lies I would have to tell to get myself out of this mess and into the flat upstairs.
“Yes.” My smile felt forced.
“Do you plan on working here?” His voice was inquisitive and his eyes tried to hold on to mine. The man was overwhelming me.
“No. Well, yes. If I can get work yes, but I haven’t a work visa yet.”
He nodded. “So you plan on staying for a while?”.
“Yes”, I looked back at him, trying to appear confident.
“How old are you exactly?”. He glanced over me quickly and I blushed. Not many attractive me gave me a second glance.
“Nineteen.” I winced at his amazed reaction.
“And your parents warranted this little excursion across the pond?”. It was hard to concentrate at his quick barrage of questions. I bit my lip again and he caught on.
“Your parents do know you’re here, right?”. Christien glanced at Marie.
“I don’t have any parents.” My tone was sadly lacking in poise.
Christien smiled, oddly enough. “I’ve none either. How did your’s die?”.
I smiled back, glad that he hadn’t said something about how sorry he was. “My father had a brain tumor and I was the cause of my mother’s death.”
A light flickered in his eyes. “Let’s hope its not something you do on a regular basis. I have no desire, not yet at least.”
“What about you?”. My tone was timid.
“My mother died about eight years ago, of what people would call stress or something stupid, like a severe chill, but it was really a broken heart. Believe me, it’s not half as romantic as it seems.” He neglected to mention his father, but I didn’t want to pry.
Marie walked to us on the opposite side of the bar and grinned at me. “It’s nice to have another girl in the mix, Kat. Between Abbe, Christien, and Guillermo Canet, it’s quite a man’s world around here.”
Christien groaned and I glanced at him quickly, before turning to the blonde. “Guillermo Canet comes here?”.
She sighed, pulling a strand of her hair through two fingers. “Well, not exactly. In my mind he does. And he’s madly in love with me.”
“Ignore her,” said her friend. “She’s terribly unbalanced.”
“Oh.” I said.
Marie stuck her tongue out at Christien before returning her attention to me. “I’ll have the papers to sign whenever is convenient. Oh, and please be nice to the alley cats. Especially Mopsy, she has a very shy nature. I’ve just been able to get her to eat out of my hand.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t dream of not being nice to alley cats. One seems always to be reminded of the ones in that Disney movie.” I hid a smile behind my cup.
“Oh, please tell me you won’t be an enabler. It’s bad enough already.” Christien winked at his friend. “I’m afraid, I’ll have to go now though, Kat. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He took my hand and kissed it, mocking me almost with the glitter in his eyes. Needless to say I watched him leave the building and start to cross the street.
“My schedule is quite hectic, I’m afraid. So I won’t be able to help you out too much.” Marie frowned at me. “I work here all day and night, most of the time. It’s closed on holidays but not many other days. Feel free to eat here whenever you’d like. It would by my pleasure to have you here. I would have liked to show you around a bit, but I’m afraid table eight is sending me evil looks.”
I laughed. “Oh, that’s fine. I hadn’t expected a tour guide.” I bit my lip and then added, “I would like to look around a bit. It is Paris after all. Do you think it would be alright to open up the flat later?”.
“Of course! Anytime you want. I’ll be here and Abbe is here and just ask if you need anything.” Smiling, I pulled my heavy bags behind the bar and then walked out, a feeling of euphoria catching on throughout my body.
I followed the street down to a small courtyard. A man had a stall full of flowers, which caught the small droplets of rain on their petals. The puddles in the pavement reflected the city in a riot of mixed colours and distorted images. Pacing a bit to catch my breath, embarrassment and aggravation washed over me anew. That was possibly the most awkward conversation I had ever had, even though I wasn’t actually a very active participant. The arrogant way that man had tried to placate me played over and over in my head and became perpetually annoying. He probably was planning on sweet talking me into leaving.
It was so much like my uncle and I had always had a weak spot for being told what to do or how to act. It didn’t matter if he were so devilishly good to look at or that his voice sounded like something between Toby Stephens and a tall drink of water. I severely didn’t like him. The fact that secretly I did like him, or at least the looks of him, made me dislike him all the more.
He couldn’t have just said hello and kept his feelings to himself. Maybe he could have privately addressed his reservations with Miss Vernond later but no. No, it’s Kat, let’s just ruin everything. Don’t consider her feelings, just trample all over them. It was like I had some sort of curse forbidding me to meet a nice person. Where people would normally be considerate, they took one look at me and thought screw it.
Marie was a nice person, I told myself and I had to agree. Less than twenty four hours and I already felt oddly comfortable with her. There was none of the usual awkwardness that came to me with making new acquaintances. She was nice now, but Christien would persuade her over to his way of thinking.
The other shoe was about to drop. Living with Deresford gave you that sort of feeling: the feeling that if your life was going along alright there had to be something wrong. Or something was about to go wrong. I grunted in distaste.
Looking up eventually, my love of art took over and I wandered addressing the city respectfully. The rain had stopped so I kept walking towards what I thought was the centre of the city. Following the winding path to wherever it felt like taking me, I saw a bigger main street ahead.
The city got busier as I neared the hectic shopping and tourist districts. More people crossed my path as I walked onto a street lined with stores. They were mostly tourists. A woman from America was exclaiming at “Channel!” while two Spaniards argued over a map in Greek. No wonder no one had ever heard of their hotel.
I was pushed from behind as a stick thin girl in stilettos raced into Cartier. I wondered if she worked for Anna Wintour or someone. I pictured myself wearing gigantic glasses and frowning.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance, I drifted in that direction. Lorries beeped and mopeds swept by as the crowd and I migrated. Business men and the residents of Paris were easy to notice by the way they walked purposely and didn’t gawk at every single thing. I smiled as one man reluctantly took a picture for a group of Polish grandmothers. No matter how long I lived here, I didn’t think I could dismiss it as they did. Eventually, I sat on a park bench and fed the pigeons because I mean who doesn’t? I did look for the skinniest ones around though.
Mostly I took pictures, glad to have bought a disposable camera at a store on the way. I had no idea if I was any good at taking pictures but I liked doing it. Pictures of the people and the buildings.
Of flowers and more not so skinny birds.
I liked to try to capture the person’s character with the picture. The way the birds tilted their heads just so or that way men in a hurry had of walking. It had always fascinated me, the world, and I had always wanted to explore it. I had started taking pictures so I could remember the outside world, since I didn’t often get a chance to see much of it. Usually when I was little, the only way to do this was to sneak out. It only took Fitzwilliam, my uncle’s butler, about three hours to find me and then he would drag me back by my ear for a scolding and punishment.
Though it seemed less likely that the ear pulling would be a factor, the returning to England would be inevitable, once my guardian, Duke Deresford, found me. So it was only a question of how long I could cheat fate. Therefore, I took pictures. To remember the dream I had found myself in. So when I woke up, I would remember. Because everyone knows you forget the good dreams. The horrific nightmares you remembered forever but the good ones, the really good ones, were gone the moment you woke up.
Walking home was different. Quickly, I discovered that it is easy to get yourself lost but not as easy to get un-lost. Most of the tourists were gone, as I searched for the right direction, somewhat daunted by the task. The dark streets were slightly foreboding and suddenly thoughts of kidnappers and psychopaths ran through my head. Of course my brain would pick this moment to supply my overactive imagination with those particularly disturbing images.
Great smells drifted out of the restaurants and occasionally a car would pass, with its lights on, blinding me momentarily. My imagination had horrible images of dramatic murders and petrifying weapons floating through my head as I wandered, trying to look like I knew the streets like the back of my hand.
In my head, my funeral was already taking place, on a dark rainy day, with the heads of the five families dropping lilies on my…………..wait, somehow my subconscious was retreating to gangster movies. Now I thought about the gruesome murders of men who had said too much. Maybe my guardian was really the head of the Irish mob and was planning on killing me………That would explain the way he thought everyone should just bow down to him.
Eventually, after walking for what seemed like months, I found something familiar. Thanking God and quickly hurrying towards the flower stall, relief flooded through me.
The stall was dark and the flowers were gone when I finally reached a familiar street, despite the man who was still sitting with a cigar. The rest of the way was somewhat straightforward, a few easily recognizable turns and finally the park was in view. The lights from the street flashed off the puddles in the street, and the road was somewhat deserted. The cars were either parked or away for the night, I supposed since there were still a good number of people out.
When I finally reached the little café , most diners were onto the dessert menu. It had occurred to me that that man, as he was now called, was probably Marie’s significant other. He hadn’t been dressed for work, so he couldn’t have a job nearby.
Not a good job, I corrected myself. He could have a job in a weird New Age bookstore or in a specialty store. It didn’t appear he lived nearby, but he had walked so I couldn’t be sure.
Once the hand had dragged me into the restaurant, it flicked blond, disobedient, curly hair out of Marie’s eyes, and she said “WHERE WERE YOU? It is nearly 10:30!”. I was surprised at the concern in her voice. Marie had only known me for a day or so now, hardly reason for her to worry about me. Something about her, however struck me as extremely compassionate and giving. I changed my mind.
Marie would be worried about someone she had only just met, with her obviously giving and kind heart. It struck me that she was a genuinely good person; a rare find. That somehow comforted me, knowing there was someone I could trust.
The diners were happy, ensconced in dessert, eagerly talking and eating.
A small girl tinkled at the piano.
One old man was sitting in an armchair, reading.
The bar was also full, barman busy. With the increase of customers, the barman, and several waiters had appeared since this afternoon. One waitress passing with a torte, smiled at me.
“Come on. Back here,”. She yanked me toward the kitchen, lifting the gate on the bar and leading me into untamed territory. “You are going to eat.” She forced me down on a stool, in the midst of culinary, stainless steel, and dirty dishes.
“Why?” I responded to Marie, truly confused.
She raised an eyebrow, “Did you eat?”
I couldn’t really remember.
“No?” I said cautiously.
Marie nodded, “My point exactly, you are the type of person who will completely forget about eating until you are the size of a pea.” I nodded meekly at Marie in a somewhat cowed agreement.
“Good,” she said, satisfied with my response.
Then Marie called, “Abbe?”. He was the chef apparently; I saw a middle aged man, with shoulder length silver hair, held in a ponytail, walk to us. He wore all black just like everyone else, did, including Marie, but his shoes were bright pink. Grey eyes looked me over as he clasped his hands together in front of him. There was a frankness that would have radiated from him, even if he hadn’t opened his mouth.
“Good Lord, my cherie! Have you heard of a mirror?”. His French was quick but also finely enunciated. Marie sighed and I looked shiftily down at my ensemble.
“I am getting tired of this,” she mumbled. It appeared, thankfully, I wasn’t the first person he had berated.
Then, in a louder voice Marie moaned, “The food. Abelard!”.
He looked the slightest bit annoyed, “Right here, darling, but if you ask me she’s in need of more help than food. Who cares if you eat or not when you dress like that?” he half whispered as he eyed my jacket. Another nice honest person. Wonderful. And he couldn’t even claim that he didn’t think I knew what he was saying.
“Thank you, Abbe. I’m sure Kat loves hearing she looks horrid.” Horrid? This just kept getting better and better.
Abbe threw his hands up in the air in disgust, “Oh you are welcome, darling!” He waved a ladle, spraying some sort of white sauce, “and lovely to meet you, Kat! Just ignore me. I don’t know what I am talking about! No just go on living in the capitol of fashion and completely ignore any semblance of style whatsoever!” He stormed towards the ovens, pink shoes stomping. I was really causing some great waves with my appearance. Even Duncan was beginning to look in some form comforting. At least I knew what I was dealing with there. Here there was a majority of new people with new personalities all of which were nearly as foreign to me as the country I was now living in.
“What’s wrong with my jumper?”. My hands fiddled with my hair as I tried to make it look better.
She set a hand on my shoulder and dismissed him, “Don’t worry about Abbe. He does that to everyone. He’s French.” She said this as if this excused all behavior, no matter how odd.
Marie pushed a mess of chicken and asparagus, and homemade bread at me. It looked good and my stomach agreed as I immediately scarfed down the hot food. All the while, she watched me, as her restaurant slowly closed down. It seemed to work like a well oiled machine, though considering who the engineer was I wasn’t surprised. One got the distinct feeling that Marie Vernond could do just about anything. I watched her as I ate, blond hair once again tumbling out of its clip. She looked a little tired and it occurred to me again that she was not very old. I wondered what her life had been like to lead her to this point.
“How did you know I hadn’t eaten?”, I mused through a mouthful. It wasn’t like I looked like I was wasting away in front of her eyes.
Abbe interrupted, “Miss Vernond is a compassionate soul. She has a gift you might say, for finding out what people need or want. She couldn’t leave a mangy cat in the gutter unless she was forcefully restrained.” His smile was warm and knowing. Marie pushed him on the shoulder and he set off back to his soufflé. There was a warm feeling between them that I could feel but couldn’t quite understand. Despite his bluntness and her profaned irritation towards him, she liked him and trusted him.
“Better?” Marie asked.
“Much”, I said between bites. The girl reached for a soda from the fridge and sat down next to me.
“So why have you come here? I mean, why would you not just stay at home and try to make a living there”.
I studied my plate, reminding myself that I had to tell the truth. I couldn’t deceive anyone. I wanted to have people like me for who I was, no matter what that entailed.
“My guardian wanted me to become someone I’m not. I want to live life for myself and back home, his influence is everywhere.”
“What does he want you to do?”. Marie reached a hand out and covered mine momentarily. “Is it something romantic? Like join a convent or become a trauma surgeon.”
I chuckled slightly. “Not really. I wish it were. He wants me to get married, become a housewife and live my whole life as some sort of cliché. I suppose I could have been happy doing that, I don’t really know for sure, but I don’t want to regret something later in life.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. Who would? Wake up one morning twenty years from now with unfulfilled hopes and horrible things eating away in the dark caverns of your mind.”
Her melodramatic tendencies were oddly endearing. “What did he say when you came here?”.
I bit my lip hard before continuing. “I don’t know. I haven’t the slightest idea what he said. I left in the early morning from London, while he was still at home in the country. He didn’t know I was leaving and he doesn’t know where I’ve gone. Yet.”
Her eyes became huge as she took another sip of soda. “You ran away?”.
I hunched my shoulders. “I guess. I mean, I am legal but I suppose I shouldn’t have done it.”
“That’s the most romantic thing I have ever heard. Of course you should have done it. There’s no question there. It’s like striking a chord for all imprisoned imaginative souls the world has. I would like to think that I would have run away too.”
My face proclaimed the shock that rang through me. “So you don’t mind?”.
“Of course not.” She smiled at me. “Sometimes, in life, we are faced with situations that change our place in life, for either better or worse. Just because you have done some things that aren’t traditionally smiled upon, doesn’t mean all of you is like that.” This blatant understanding of hers was proof, she hadn’t the slightest idea of the worlds vices. She would have “understood” if Sadaam Hussein had asked for her help. Marie believed what someone told her, which was not a very good thing, in today’s world.
Abbe flung something on the ceiling. Was it pasta? “Yes! You girls should take a lesson from Christien on matters of fashion.” He said thoughtfully, totally changing the direction of a conversation. “A man can be as stuck up as he wants if he looks like that all the time.” He punctuated his statement by flipping something in a frying pan. “The man can wear a pair of jeans,” he punctuated this sentence with a whistle. I had to give Christien that. Marie groaned, clearing my plate as I stood up, “I forgot who I was talking to.”
To me she added, “Abbe adores Christien, because he was born with the effortless gift of being able to color coordinate. It apparently excuses his other problems. Of which he has many.”
“Thank you” I said, already wondering at how my life had managed to change so drastically in three days. I always used to be considered as someone who didn’t understand the world around her, though in fact, I did and now I was the one with the knowledge. “Thank you for being so understanding.”
Marie shrugged, placing my dishes in the sink as I stood up. “When I was your age, I would have liked to run away as well. My mother was not all I would have liked.”
“Why?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t sounding to forward.
“She didn’t realize what was good for her.” Marie smiled wanly.
“Not many people do”, I commented. “I may wake up one morning realizing everything I’ve lost by being so rebellious.”
“I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Reaching the door Marie surprised me by pulling me into a hug, “Goodnight, Kat. The papers are in your flat to sign. See you tomorrow.”
I smiled, staggered by how easy it was to get along with her, “Ditto, Marie,”.
I looked up into the sky. The moon peeked out through the overhead foliage. The dark blue of the sky looking almost like velvet as the stars twinkled and a slight wind whispered past the leaves making a sound like laughing. The street was dark but not yet deserted as some very drunk people wandered out of the pub down the way. Voices and footsteps echoed across the walk as I drifted slowly to the stairs. An alley cat purred below me while it availed itself of the café’s garbage as another rubbed itself against the bricks of the wall, which were damp and rough. I climbed the stairs to my new flat slowly, lazily, soaking in the surroundings. I passed Marie’s red painted door on the way to my own. The park was dark when I looked at my corner. The balcony stopped midway along the wall of my flat and though it looked odd, like it had abruptly ended, it did give me the advantage of a full length window on the other side. The door was chipped green paint and I nearly tripped on the jam. It was somewhat oddly put together I noticed for the first time.
The kitchen was directly to the left of the door with a partition leading to its entryway. I got the feeling that all my post, sunglasses, hats, scarves, and anything else would end up right there and the thought made me sigh. To the right was the living room, with a sofa, loveseat, and recliner all around a coffee table, centering around the floor- length window, whose drapes I closed. The other side of the kitchen had a space, around six feet long, of plain wall. On the right of the wall was, facing the door, the office space, which was open, leading through to my bedroom. I walked back to my room, and saw a plain bed and drawers and a television. This room also had a window which opened up onto an extremely small balcony overlooking the street above the door to the cafe. It didn’t look particularly safe, so I just poked my head out to see Marie had an identical one by her door. Convenient for spying on the street. The bathroom was adjacent to my bedroom.
Done investigating, I sat on the bed and thought about my situation. It was either extremely stupid or extremely daring and brave. I couldn’t really tell if I was thinking about running away from my uncle to avoid marrying some wanker with a fortune and love of biology, or about giving the impression I was some sort of con artist to a complete stranger. They seemed somewhat intertwined.
My uncle’s big plan was to marry me off respectably into society giving him one more connection in the world. It made sense to him, to make me at least of some use, despite the trouble I’d caused him. The trouble I was still causing him.
The very idea of marrying someone, most likely of his choice, had me gagging and running in the other direction. His friends all had children who both played large amounts of sports and paid their way into schools or children whose only interest was in school and later bought a sports team. Neither of those choices was at all appealing.
Unfortunately, there were parts of me which disagreed with my decision to run to Paris. The idea had been so appealing earlier and now, I was stupidly wishing I weren’t in so far over my head. The timid side of me was wringing its hands in worry and I pictured various characters in my head, each representing different parts of my psyche. One couldn’t rebel halfway, my rebellious side announced. I liked to think my rebellious side looked something like Lily Allen, and had a nose piercing. It would be like participating in satanic rituals, continued rebellious me, (the kind where you did weird things with chickens) and saying you still were a Catholic. It was like pussyfooting around the fact. You either had to man up or step down. There was no halfway point. Especially since I was already here. It was a little late to be changing my mind.
I started up in the middle of the night. Part of me refused to comprehend what was before me. I was obviously still dreaming. There were no stone walls in front of me. No loose brick eight stones to the left of the door, where I hid my cash and any other interesting little titbits. There was no rain soaked window with the old fashioned glass panes, which were almost opaque. It was an uncommonly large window, for a castle whose windows were mostly used for archers, and looked out over the wide wide sea of grass and the occasional bush. The cold large bed was absent as well.
I wasn’t in at Falsonhead. Where was I? It wasn’t London either, since there wasn’t a red thing in sight. Duncan’s London townhouse was infamous for the colour red and the oriental flair one of his more eccentric ancestors had given it. The rooms were rather narrow and often didn’t have any windows whatsoever. You could hear the hum of machinery from the kitchen from my room and the place where I was was deadly silent.
I remember being sent to London and then coming up with the idea. That was it, I thought. I had had the idea. The idea to leave and go to Paris. Usually my ideas didn’t work. Usually, there was much too much involved in my plans to make them rationally feasible.
Then why was I sitting on a mattress in a plain blue room, with a balcony to the left of me? I didn’t really recognize this room. There was a TV across from me and end tables on either side. There was a wardrobe of white in the corner, with a tilting door. The entrance to the room was on the far right corner and it was open. I climbed off the bed and noticed a small little area with a desk and empty shelves, leading to another bigger room with more windows.
I jumped up and ran to the window. There was a rather dark street, with a park and it really looked like that picture of ……………Paris. I was in Paris. This wasn’t a dream. My nefarious plan had actually worked. Remarkable, I thought as I stumbled back into bed. I was in Paris. I should really get a medal for pulling that off.
There was a dim feeling of achievement, as I drifted back to sleep. The feeling of accomplishment one would feel when you finally complete that Rubix cube you got when you were five or when you finish reading the book you used to hate. It was an odd feeling, not quite elation but more…..relief.