It is such a joy to be back in Paris. Of all the cities she has visited in the world certainly the City of Light is by far her favourite, even when there are so many bittersweet memories attached to it. She tries to avoid thinking of these memories, maybe new nice memories are in the make. It is good to be here with her best friends. When they came with the suggestion of this trip, it did not take her a lot of thinking. The money is never a problem, Anthony’s divorce settlement gave plenty of room for pleasant things. And travelling is always a pleasure, the life with Anthony has made her accustomed to this. She is one of the few people known to herself to never suffer from jet lag.
Kate promised her friends to show them around and not limit them to the obligatory tourist sightseeing. Of course they wanted to see some of these things, but they have asked her to show some of the daily life of Paris as well. Two of the girls have never been out of Canada before, Melissa did visit New York but never went further than that. They started the trips through Paris enthusiastically but after two days the jet lag has hit Kate’s friends hard. So she asked them to stay in their hotel rooms today and take it very easy. Tomorrow things will feel a lot better to them.
On her own she can take a trip to memory lane, visit all the places that are so dear to her. So she goes to Pont Neuf, walks to the middle and looks into the Seine. She half dreams away, remembers the embraces and kisses shared on this spot, but the traffic prevents her to completely getting lost in her memory. The average Paris driver seems to think that you can speed things up by using their car horn. One that honks right behind her makes her almost jump and she decides to get off the bridge and go to the riverside. She wants to sit on their bench again, where she has felt as close to heaven as possible.
Kate is disappointed when she sees that the bench is taken by an international mixture of people, so typical for the city. When she passes it she hears all kind of languages but no French at all. She decides to walk on, only to see that the next two or completely occupied too. When she comes near to the next one she feels her heart skip a beat: he’s sitting there! Her mind tells her it’s not possible, but her eyes don’t lie. He looks up from his book and his mouth opens without words coming out. They both can’t speak while she sits next to him.
After minutes that seem ages he is the first to find his voice: “Is it really you? Am I getting crazy?” When she is able to answer her voice irritates her, she sounds like a kind of frog: “I’m crazy too, Justin. And I have been insane!”
They sit silently next to each other, the book seems to function as a borderline between them. She looks at it: Jean Paul Sartre’s “La Nausée”. He notices what she is looking at, tells her he wanted to reread the book and this is a proper place for it. She nods, her hand reaches out towards him. It takes a while, but then he takes it in his hand.
“I want to explain…”, she clears her throat. “Only if you want to”, he reacts. She nods, her eyes are full with tears. Her free hand wipes them from her eyes. Of course she wants to! This man gave her so much happiness in such a short time and yet she abandoned him like he was a stray dog that had followed her for some time. She starts about the sweet memories she has: the lovely days they shared in this area, the afternoons they spend in little hotels when they hardly left their room; ‘til the bitter end.
“I remember far too well waiting hours at the Gare du Nord for you. Sitting on a bench, my suitcase at my feet, glancing at my watch every few minutes. At eleven o’clock the reality of you not showing up hit me like a brick. Like a zombie I stumbled out of the station, took a taxi and went back to my hotel. I was lucky I could get my old room again.” She can hear the hurt in his voice. Even after more than three years has passed. “I loved you so much, trusted you so much. I would have done anything you wanted.”
She goes on: “When I got to the hotel that day Anthony was sitting on our bed. He was so excited, he told me not only the conference had been a success but he was going to be rewarded by the Minister. We had been invited by him to have dinner and Anthony would officially hear that he had been appointed as Undersecretary of the Delegation at the United Nations in New York. We had to fly back that evening. I realised that he would not get this job if he was going to the Minister on his own. These functions require people in so-called normal family situations. I could not get myself to hurt him and ruining his future at the same time. He had been so busy that week, hardly aware at all of my existence, let alone me having an affair. I know, it was more to us, but to him it would be like that. You have to realise that we were a couple since we were teenagers. I simply could not leave him.”
“Why didn’t you warn me in any way of this. Leaving me in this uncertainty was so cruel. I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for hurting me this much.” His expression is angry and sad at the same time though his hand fondles the hand he is holding. She is crying now, but he is not able at this moment to hold her, telling her everything will be alright.
When she is stable again, she tells him about the pain she caused to herself. She felt so guilty and sneaky towards him while he thought so highly of her. Months later she had confessed to Anthony what had happened in Paris. First he forgave her, seeing clearly that she had chosen him above her English lover. Their relationship was not the same after the confession and had caused their marriage to be wrecked after all. Anthony now was somewhere in Asia at an embassy with his new wife, his former secretary. When he informed Kate, he had told her that he trusted his new wife completely. She would never betray him.
Justin tells her that he stayed in Paris a few days longer, first hoping that Kate might pop up after all. Of course he knew better that that, he expected nothing else than that she had gone back to Canada with her husband. When boredom and loneliness crept up on him he had gone back to London and had picked up his old life at the bank. For months he had felt numb, just functioning like a sort of robot. The plans had been so nice: he would have showed Kate Europe. He had been waiting for her with the tickets to Brussels in his wallet. It would have been such a nice start.
“We could do things now, Justin. We can travel the world if you want.” There is hope in her heart and she thinks she sees a sparkle in his eyes. Can she restore what she once ruined?
“First I need to get to know you again. I need a clean start, need to forget my moments of misery.” She feels she might have a chance to win this love of her life once more. She nods, she understands what he needs. She suggests that they could start with having dinner together tonight. She will have to tell her friends they will have to spend the evening without her, but they certainly will understand. He tells her the name of a restaurant; it’s not familiar to her. According to him it’s new and quite cosy. She tells him she will dress up for it and he nods approvingly, telling her he needs to go now.
She is sad to see him go, but feels delighted to be able to see him again tonight. That really is a new thing, they always met in the afternoon.
Her friends are happy for her and when she is dressed, they have a good look and give her their approval. She orders a taxi, it arrives soon at the hotel; the restaurant is not very far, but part of the distance she has to walk. The taxi driver explains how she can reach the spot. He looks at her dress in a funny way but she tries to ignore him. When she gets near the restaurant she sees that there is something wrong: it is almost a hamburger joint. The people are mostly sitting outdoors and are noisy. It looks like they are all Americans.
Photo courtesy of Hera Bell, http://www.glamourmakeoverphotography.com/