My Writing · The Arts

New Story

After some time, I am posting that story I wrote about on here a little while back. It was partially inspired by this post on Tumblr. It runs 28 pages (even after editing out the part I didn’t want my baby sister reading–she’s read 50 Shades of Grey, but I still don’t want her reading the passage I removed), so it’s after the cut. I will post the translation part in a following post.

Adrien approached me at a party for work, at a publishing company in London. I’d worked for the company for eight months, and I had never seen Adrien before that evening. I was instantly drawn to the tall, dark-haired man mingling with people at the party. He was in a suit: black dress pants that clung to him nicely, a white dress shirt with a black silk tie, and a black double-breasted suit jacket. I couldn’t stop stealing a glance when I got the chance.

“Who is that?” I asked Lenore, who had become my lifeline in the company, the one I could go to with questions and not be judged. She turned in the direction of my eye-line, and smiled.

“That is Adrien Bouchard. He works on the top floor … he’s the Chief Editor.”

“He’s awfully young to be a Chief Editor,” I said, noticing he couldn’t have been older than thirty-two.

“His family founded the company, Melissa. He took over the company when his uncle passed away two years ago. He rarely attends such functions, so there has to be a reason for him to be here.” Adrien looked my direction, and started walking toward me. Lenore squeezed my arm reassuringly, and quickly departed. I took a big gulp of the wine I was holding, and was cringing at the taste of it when Adrien stopped in front of me.

“Is the wine that the company purchased for the event not to your liking?”

“Not really,” I said, still out of breath from taking the gulp. “Red wines are not really my favorite wine, but they seem to be the only wine available tonight.” He smiled, sipping at his drink.

“Maybe it’s the type of wine you’re drinking,” he said, moving his hair out of his face. “May I?” I hand him my glass, and watch as he sips the wine. “That is a terrible Cabernet Sauvignon,” he said, making a disgusted face. “Here, try my Merlot, and tell me what you think.”

“I’m not much of a connoisseur–“

“Just try it. There won’t be a test afterward,” he said with a teasing smile. I take the glass from his hand, and sip the wine. It was much lovelier than the stuff I had been given. “Que pensez-vous?”

C’est bien mieux. I don’t even like Merlot usually, but that is excellent-tasting.”

“I know,” he said with a smile. “It helps if you have friends who make wine. I brought my own wine tonight; let me get you a glass. The barman and I have an understanding.”

“I don’t want to trouble you,” I said, not wanting to sound like some high-maintenance woman. “I will gladly drink water, or a soda. I don’t want to use your personal cache of wine.”

“It’s not a problem. Stay right there, and I will be right back.” I watched him at the bar, conversing with the bartender, and laughing at whatever the person standing beside him was saying. He took the glass of wine the bartender gave him, and slipped him some money. When he came back, he smiled as he handed me the glass. “Voici, votre vin. Do you want to go outside onto the terrace, and talk? I can barely hear myself think in here.”

“Sure,” I said, picking up my clutch, and following him. We were the only people outside, and the moon was shining brightly. From a distance, I could see some of the London skyline, and the Thames flowing through the city. Adrien took his seat, and undid the buttons of his suit jacket.

“So what brings you here tonight?”

“Well, it’s a funny story: I work for Bouchard Press.”

“What an interesting coincidence…so do I!” He laughs. “I’m Adrien Bouchard, Chief Editor of Bouchard Press. I am sure you know my father, who is the publisher.”

“I am acquainted with him, yes,” I said with a chuckle. “I am Melissa Richardson, a proof-reader for the company,” I said, taking the hand Adrien just offered out to me.

“You’re the new proof-reader? I’ve heard great things about you,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m sorry I didn’t meet you until now, but I have been working out of the Paris office for the last few months.”

“Well, it’s nice to finally meet you. The Paris office—what must that be like? I haven’t been to France yet, but it’s on my list of things to do in the next year or two.” Adrien smiled, and sipped his wine.

“Well, the office is not too far from this café that serves the best tea—at least to me, it’s the best. And from certain angles, you can see the Eiffel Tower.” As he continued talking about the Paris office, I noticed a glimmer of joy in his light blue eyes.

Adrien walked me out to a cab, kissing both of my cheeks before putting me into the cab. I looked behind me as it drove off, to see him waving goodbye. My phone chimed with an email, and it was my best friend in Boston checking up on me. I had about ten minutes in the cab before it reached where I lived, so I sent her a text.

Tonight was very interesting. I went to one of the parties, and I met the chief editor, who isn’t much older than we are.

Thirty seconds later, I received:

From the tone of your text, you think he’s attractive. Is he attractive, Mel?

Very much so, yes.

Don’t leave me hanging, Melissa! What does he look like? Or do you have pics?

No pictures…just a description.

He’s about six-foot-one, with dark brown hair that has been lightened by the sun. Light-blue eyes, fair-skinned, and he has a really lovely smile. He’s also French!

French? You might as well marry him, Melissa. But, I need a picture to really seal the deal, babe. You make that happen, and I’ll let you take me to the Tower of London when I come out in two months.

Incentive…I like it. Did I also mention the man dresses nicely. Like, really nice.

Honestly, stop. Until you show me pics, I want to hear no more of this man.

I am almost home; Gen. I’ll call you or Skype this weekend. Maybe I’ll have a picture before then.

I’m holding you to it, Melissa. Sleep well.

I went to work the next day, pretty sure I wouldn’t see Adrien, since I hadn’t seen or heard about him for the eight months I’d been working for the company. I was reading a very compelling line in a mystery novel, when someone spoke to me.

“Good morning.” I popped up suddenly, causing my chair to fly back from my desk. “Sorry about that,” Adrien said with an amused laugh.

“Good morning, Mr. Bouchard. How can I help you?”

“Please, call me Adrien. Mr. Bouchard is my father. I was just introducing myself to all of the new employees, and I wanted to make sure everything is going well for you here.”

“Adrien, you introduced yourself to me last night.” I closed the book, and put down my correcting pen. “Do you have an ulterior motive for coming to my cubicle?” Adrien looked shocked at my statement, and then he smiled.

“Okay, you have caught me. I wanted to see you again, and see if the company has been treating you okay since you started working here.” I raised my eyebrow; pretty sure he was still lying. “Okay, I wanted to see you again…no pretense. How is your morning going?”

“It’s been going pretty great, actually. I am in the middle of reading this really engaging mystery novel, and something was about to happen when you arrived.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I will let you get back to work, then.” He backed away from my cubicle. “Wait a minute, Adrien.” He popped his head back over the top of the cubicle. “This might sound like an odd request, but could I have a photo of you? My friend and I were talking last night, and she wanted a picture of the ‘handsome chief editor’.”

“So, you think I am handsome?” He asks, smiling brightly.

“I didn’t say that! You’re technically my boss, and I can’t think of you like that.” (Even though I had been thinking of him like that all night).

“Sure, I’ll take the picture for your ‘friend’.” He disappears, and is suddenly standing in the entryway of my cubicle, in a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up and dark trousers. He steps inside, and I pull out my phone. He takes the phone, and crouches down beside me. “We will take the picture together, so that she knows it’s a real photograph, okay?” I simply nod, taking my glasses off and fixing my hair. The first photo he takes, he made a silly face, which made me laugh. The second one, which I sent her, we both had our mouths closed. In reality, we were both fighting the urge to laugh. Adrien left afterward, and I went back to reading the novel I was proofing.

I received a text later that evening from Gen, telling me that Adrien was very attractive, and how could I possibly concentrate on working with him around. I replied that he worked on an entirely different floor, and we didn’t see much of each other outside of an impromptu meeting or during lunch. And when I Skyped her the next day, the topic was pretty much the same. On Sunday, I decided to go to Kensington Garden for a walk. I had taken refuge on a shaded bench, when I heard someone shouting to me in French. I thought I had dropped my scarf or something, until I saw Adrien round the corner. He stopped, bending over in exhaustion.

“Hi,” I said, laughing at him. He simply waved, too out of breath to talk. I smiled, looking around at the trees while he caught his breath.

“I chased you through the park,” he said, taking a seat beside me. “You must have thought I was a jogger, because you never turned around.” He exhaled, and turned to look at me. “What brings you to the park?”

“I just wanted to get out and walk in the park. I walked for thirty minutes to get here, but it was worth it. Let me turn your question onto you: why are you in the park?”

“I come here when I am homesick for France. I spent much of my childhood in parks, hiding amongst the trees and daydreaming in the grass.” I burst out laughing, and Adrien looked at me, not sure why.

“I am not sure I believe you. If I were born and raised in Paris, I think I’d spend all my time in the art museums, and at the cafés.”

“I did that too,” he added, “But I hung out in the parks, reading. And when it rained, I would go to the museums or the cinema. Essentially, I come to the park to clear my head.”

We sat there for a few minutes, talking about our childhoods in France and America, and how similar they seemed. We then decided to continue our walk through the park.

“Have you ever been in love before, Melissa?”

“That’s an odd question, but yes, I have. Right after college, I met an incredibly good-looking Irishman who swept me off my feet.”

“What happened?” Adrien adjusted his jacket, looking intently at me.

“He broke my heart. He slept with a close friend, and they got engaged a right before I left for London.”

Ce trou du cul. I am so sorry that happened to you. What was he like, or is that too painful to ask?”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, pulling up the sleeve of my sweater. “I’m well over him. James was incredibly handsome, with dark hair and dark eyes. His hair actually fell into his eyes, which was one of the most endearing things about him. He also had facial hair that defined his jawline, and made me putty in his hands. He was a kind man, who spoke very softly to me, but he had a roving eye.”

“Was he muscular?”

“He was, but not overly so. He had some muscles, but he didn’t make a habit of working out like a lot guys in the United States do.”

“Do you miss him?”

“I only miss him when it’s cold outside. He would wrap his arm around my shoulders, and warm me up.” I stop, and look at him. “What about you, monsieur? Have you ever loved a woman?”

“I have. Her name was Céline, and she had the darkest hair. It offset her deep blue eyes, and her porcelain skin. Although she was beautiful, she was incredibly cruel. I cannot explain why I loved her when she treated me so terribly, but I must have been blind to her cruelty. She ended the relationship, insulting me and accusing me of such terrible things. It was at that moment I finally snapped out of the stupor I’d been in, and told her how evil she was. It’s been a year since that ended.”

“And you haven’t seen anyone since?”

“I chose to take a break from seeing women, to find myself first.”

“And why a lot of the people at the company haven’t seen you at parties for some time.” He nodded solemnly. “So you’re ready to get back out into the world, and begin dating again.”

Exactement. I saw you at the party Thursday night, and I haven’t been the same since.” I smiled, feeling my cheeks blush.

“Adrien, you know we cannot date. It’s against company policy. At least, I think it is.”

“It’s not looked upon with joy, but it’s not against the rules. We just have to inform Human Resources, which might have us sign a contract stating we cannot show favoritism or display our romance while in the office.”

“Oh,” I said nonchalantly. “But this is crazy, Adrien! We’ve known one another three days, and now we’re discussing an interoffice romance?”

“Why prolong it? I like you…a lot, and I think you like me as well. Why should we drag this out, and have co-workers secretly discussing our possible feelings for each other? I want to ask you out, for dinner next Saturday, if you’re available. Would that be okay, or do you want to wait?”

“Saturday is fine,” I said almost immediately. Adrien chuckled, and started walking again. “Do you have an idea of what we’ll be doing, so I can dress appropriately?”

“I’ll let you know closer to the date, okay?” I nodded, continuing to walk with him.

After we parted ways, I texted Gen.

Adrien and I are going out.

Who is Adrien? Not the handsome chief editor guy? JHF, I am jealous!

What the hell does JHF mean?

Jesus H. Fuck

Oh, of course. Yeah, we’re going out on Saturday. He asked me out in the park, and explained the office dating policy to me.

He really likes you, Mel. Good luck, I hope he’s a good man. After James, you need a good man.

Yeah, thanks.

******

On Wednesday, Adrien pops his head into my cubicle, asking me if having fish and chips followed by seeing a play would be a nice date.

“Of course it is,” I said, spinning aimlessly in my chair. “I adore the theatre, and I haven’t tried fish and chips yet, despite living here eight months.”

“Great. I’ll pick you up for dinner at five o’clock, and then the play starts at seven-thirty.”

“Sounds like a plan. See you on Saturday.”

******

On Saturday, I dressed like I would to go see a play, only elevated. I used a certain member of the Royal Family as a guide for styling, and dressed along those same lines. I soothed my nerves with some tea and a YouTube clip of Colin Firth (don’t ask, it works!), cleaning out my teacup just as Adrien knocked at the door. We went to dinner at a fish and chips place his friends recommended, which had really good food. It looked sketchy from outside, but was an excellent place. After dinner, we went to the theatre and saw Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus. Thankfully, Adrien and I conversed during dinner, because we were absolutely captivated during the play. I find Tom Hiddleston extremely handsome, and I was captivated by his performance he was so amazing. After the play, we went and got coffee. Adrien talked about how much he enjoyed the play, while I was still speechless. By the time we reached the coffee shop, I was able to form coherent thoughts, which covered Tom Hiddleston’s amazing performance as Caius Martius.

“I’m sorry; I am a big fan of Tom Hiddleston’s. This is a date, so I won’t talk about him anymore.” Adrien laughed.

“It’s okay. I find your enthusiasm for his performance charming. Did you happen to catch his performance as King Henry V in The Hollow Crown?” I nodded. “And what did you think?” I held up my thumb. “You’re really not going to talk about him anymore?” I nodded.

“I don’t think it would be fair to have you listen to me go on and on about what a great actor he is. This is supposed to be about us, not Tom Hiddleston. How is your coffee?”

Ce n’est pas si mal que ça, en fait. Café français a meilleur goût, mais cela se rapproche.” He sips his coffee, and then realizes what he said. “I’m sorry, you probably don’t understand French, and here I am just going on in it.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, reaching across the table and patting his hand. “I speak French, so I understood what you said.” He sits there a moment, and then realizes he and I had a short conversation in French when we first met.

“So, if I randomly one afternoon at work started talking to you in French, you would know what I am saying?”

Oui, c’est exact. I wouldn’t suggest you do that, since who knows who else in the office understands French and would report us to your father. But between us, it’s fine.”

After we had coffee, he walked me home from the Tube station.

“This is my little home,” I said outside the door.

“Thank you for going out with me tonight. I hope you enjoyed yourself.”

“I did, thank you,” I said, pulling my keys from my purse. “Notwithstanding my prattle about Tom Hiddleston, I hope you enjoyed yourself too.”

“I did. And like I said in the café, I enjoyed your enthusiasm for Tom Hiddleston. It was nice to see you so excited about Coriolanus.” I simply smiled. Adrien moved in closer to me, his eyes darting from my eyes to my lips. The silence was deafening, and the energy flowing between was even more unbearable. He leaned in, softly pressing his lips to mine. My brain was a million different places, not wholly focused on what was happening.

You need to be in the moment, Melissa. Honestly, this man thinks your excitement in the face of Hiddleston is adorable, and you think the way he says your name is cute. Turn off your brain, and this inner monologue, and just kiss the man!

I grabbed the lapels of his coat, and pulled him even closer to me. I could hear him laugh as he wrapped his arms around my waist. I could smell his aftershave and feel the stubble on his face growing in against my lips. He backed me into my door, taking my face into his hands. His lips pulled gently at mine, creating a vacuum-like effect that caused me to softly sigh. He pulled away, and softly kissed my forehead.

Bonne nuit, Melissa. Doux rêves.” He walked down the walkway, and disappeared around the corner. I think I stood at my door for two minutes, thinking he might come back. I finally went inside, and slept better than I had in weeks.

The next day at work was very interesting. Adrien was texting me for the first couple of hours after I had come in, pleading with me to sneak off with him for a few minutes.

Meet me someplace, so I can kiss you.

No way. We discussed this before coming in to work this morning. You have to wait until lunch.

Slip out like you need a smoke.

I’m not pretending to smoke so you can kiss me.

I need a fix.

I’m not your drug dealer, ready at your disposal, lol. Be patient, and wait until lunch. I have to get back to work, because I can get fired, unlike you.

At lunch, I managed to slip away, meeting Adrien at his car. We climbed into the backseat, and began kissing.

“Don’t touch my hair. Everything else I can fix, but my hair took forever to put together this morning, and I can’t have it messed up.”

“I won’t touch your hair. Your lips and your legs, those I cannot say will be safe.”

******

And for two weeks, we managed to keep our budding relationship a secret.

Until the New Year’s Eve party for the office happened.

Adrien and I kept our distance throughout the evening, not raising any eyebrows when we would exchange words or be near each other. But then it came time to countdown to the New Year, and it all fell apart. As soon as midnight rang in, we were what the English call “snogging”. We happened to be outside, away from everyone at midnight, but that didn’t prevent people from seeing us. The following week, we were having a meeting with Mr. Bouchard and Human Resources, and signing a form that acknowledged our (now) public relationship.

In February, my best friend Gen came to visit. I took a week off of work to spend time with her, and she got to meet Adrien that first night she arrived. He came to bring me a sweater I left at his flat that I wanted, and Gen opened the door. I came down the stairs to find her completely speechless, and Adrien asking her if she was okay.

“I think she’s stunned, is all,” I said, looking in her eyes. “Gen, are you okay? It’s just Adrien, not Justin Timberlake.” I turned to Adrien. “She loves Justin Timberlake and had a similar reaction when he said hello to her once in a Starbucks in New York.”

“I could be Justin, you know.”

“No, mon cher. You are so much more attractive.”

“That’s bullshit! Adrien is just as handsome as JT.” Gen had recovered.

“And now you’re insulting my boyfriend, Genevieve. Adrien is far handsomer than that tool bag.” Despite the odd meeting, Gen and Adrien became fast friends.

By May, Adrien and I were very serious. We were getting ready to take our first holiday together, in Paris for a week. Adrien was going to show all of his favorite places, and indulge me with a trip to Versailles. For this history-loving book nerd, I was on Cloud Nine. I was also going to meet his little brother, Julien on this trip.

The morning we were flying to Paris, I found out I had received a promotion. I was called into work for twenty minutes, during which time I found out I had been promoted to editor. When I got home, Adrien was waiting with a bottle of champagne. Our flight to Paris went smoothly, and I was instantly in love with the city, even before we had landed. We were meeting Julien for dinner, so we had a few hours to ourselves to walk around the city. Adrien took me to Luxembourg Garden, where we walked around for two hours.

“I need to know something, Adrien.”

“And that would be?”

“Does your brother know any English? I just need to know if I have to be in full French mode, or Franglish.” He started laughing the moment I said ‘Franglish’, and didn’t stop for two minutes. “Stop laughing! I really need to know.”

“Julien doesn’t speak English—at all, so when you start talking, remember your French lessons. Are you really fluent in French or do you just pretend to comprehend the things I say?”

“I am fully bilingual. It’s one of the reasons I was hired at the company, since I would be able to proof French novels and speak with French clients. Trust me; I know every word you say to me when you think I can’t understand it.” He smiled nervously, and kept walking.

My first thoughts upon seeing Julien were that he looked a lot like Adrien, but you had to be looking at the two of them side-by-side to notice. Also, Julien adored his older brother a lot. When he’d get the chance, he’d lay his head playfully on Adrien’s shoulder, or lean in to kiss his cheek. I also was left out of some conversations, but it didn’t upset me, since it was interesting to watch them interact and become annoyed with each other. Other times, Julien and I became so involved in talking, that Adrien ceased to exist.

“Can I ask you a question, Melissa?”

“Of course, Julien, go ahead.”

“Have you and my brother had sex?”

“Julien Alexandre Bouchard!” Adrien turned bright pink. “You don’t have to answer that,” he said directly to me.

“I’ll ask you later, then,” Julien said with a wink. True to his word, he did. We went for a walk the next morning while Adrien was still asleep, and he asked me then.

“Adrien and I have not had sex yet,” I said. It felt weird saying that, since we’d been together five months. “I think your brother is being a gentleman, and holding himself back on purpose.”

“He must really like you,” Julien said, pulling a flower out of the grass. “He usually fucks a girl by the third date, and he’s not done that with you.”

“What about Céline? Was it the same way?”

“Yes. He and Céline had sex on the third date, even before they went on the date. He showed up, and they had sex in the living room.” Julien twirls the flower in his hand, and hands it to me. I must have looked upset, because he told me I shouldn’t worry.

“I’m sorry for making you worry. You have had an impact on Adrien, if that helps. He was an emotional wreck after Céline broke his heart, and I didn’t know if he would recover. I finally see the light in his eyes that has been gone since Céline broke up with him. I also want to apologize for ignoring you last night at dinner.”

“Don’t apologize for that. You and Adrien were catching up, and I enjoyed watching you two interact with each other. It gave me a break from having to hold a conversation in French.” Julien laughed, and chastely kissed my cheek.

Julien went out of town that afternoon, and Adrien and I went to the Musée d’Orsay. Something happened between the Van Gogh and Monet exhibits, because we ended up back at Adrien’s apartment thirty-minutes later. The moment he unlocked the door, we fell through the door. He slammed the door behind him, backing me into the sofa, which I fell onto. He came crashing down on top of me, and I started laughing hysterically.

“Are you okay? That was quite a distance to fall, and then fall onto me.”

“I should be asking if you’re okay, mon petite fleur. It had to have hurt for a bony man like me to fall onto you.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I said between laughs. I calmed myself, and then pulled Adrien back to me. He pushed himself onto me, and I sunk into the cushions of the sofa. He pulled back, and stood up from the sofa, stretching his hand out to me.

“I think we will be more comfortable on the bed, if that’s okay?” I nodded, taking his hand. Somehow, the bedroom seemed different. We had slept in the same bed together the night before, but there was nothing remotely intimate about it, beyond the two of us snuggling in the night.

I think he sensed my hesitation, because he pulled me toward him, and softly kissed my lips. Unlike the sofa, I fell softly onto the bed, and Adrien dropped beside me. He stroked my face softly, and kissed my knuckles. I initiated everything, straddling his waist, and cupping his face in my hands. Adrien responded quickly, flipping me over, and pressing himself to me. It became frenzied, and then it went back to being incredibly intimate. Without trying to sound saccharine, it was worth waiting five months.

The next day we went to the Tuileries Garden. Compared to the Luxembourg Garden, it was just as beautiful, but I liked the Luxembourg Garden much more. We walked through the garden for over an hour, before stopping someplace where no one was around. I was looking around at the trees and bushes, focusing on a statue not too far ahead of us. When I turned back around, Adrien was on one knee.

“Melissa, I know we have only known each other five months, but I know you’re the one I want to share the rest of my days with. Will you marry me?” He opened a little box, and pulled out the ring, a sapphire surrounded by little diamonds. “I know your favorite color is blue, and I happened to pass a shop while you were out with Julien, and saw this ring in the window.”

“Of course I will marry you,” I said, wiping an errant tear off my cheek. He slipped the ring on my finger, and kissed my hand. He then stood up, kissed my lips, and spun me around in the garden.

The next day, we drove out to Versailles, where I got lost in all of the history around me. I wandered away from Adrien, and I didn’t see him again until I walked out into the palace gardens. And for another hour, I wandered around the palace grounds, looking at the old architecture.

“Are you here right now, or somewhere else?”

“I am here, somewhat. I am absolutely captivated by the history here, you know? Bad things happened here, and the grounds echo of it.” I touched a pink flower in the garden, wondering if Marie Antoinette once touched its predecessors. We left a little while later, with me profoundly moved by the experience. I went to bed that night feeling extremely contented.

That feeling wouldn’t last.

*******

Adrien and I got up early the next morning, deciding to have breakfast at a neighborhood café he grew up around. After breakfast, we separated. I was going to walk around the city and go to the Louvre to look at some sculptures, while Adrien went to visit some old friends.

While inside the Louvre, I looked at the Winged Victory of Samothrace, taking in her magnificence. I’d learned about the statue in college, and was eager to see it in person. I circled it, taking in every inch of the marble and all its imperfections. As it neared noon, I left the museum and took the Métro out to the Eiffel Tower. Adrien and I were supposed to meet in the Champ de Mars near Le Mur de la Paix (Wall of Peace). As I walked toward the monument, I saw a couple kissing against a tree. I smiled, feeling the romance of being that close to the Eiffel Tower myself. As I got closer to the tree, I realized that was exactly what Adrien was wearing when I last saw him. I felt the tears stinging my eyes, my stomach suddenly sore as if someone punched me, and I couldn’t say anything. I just stood there, watching my fiancé kissing some skinny raven-haired woman. His head turned in my direction, and I bolted as soon as he saw me.

I could hear him shouting at me as he passed through the tourists gathering to take photos of the Eiffel Tower, but I wasn’t about to face him. He finally caught up with me, three minutes later.

“Melissa, stop!” I turn around, my face all red and damp.

“What? What can you possibly have to say?”

“What you saw was a mistake-“

“Who is she, Adrien?”

“That was Céline.”

“You mean, the Céline who broke your heart a year ago?” Adrien looked down bashfully, and nodded his head. Merde!” Adrien walked towards me. “Arrêtez-vous là! Ne pas s’approcher de moi. How could you do this to me? You knew I had been cheated on before, and you do this? It’s unforgivable.” Adrien reached out, and grabbed my arm.

“Nothing happened. She was the one who grabbed me, shoved me up against a tree and started kissing me. It was the last thing I wanted.” I started laughing crazily.

Rien ne s’est passé … Ne baise mensonge!” I dried my face with a sleeve of my coat, working up the nerve to continue. “Tu embrassé cette pute qui a brisé le cœur. Et ne restez pas là en disant qu’il était contre votre volonté, parce que vous étiez rien pour l’arrêter faites.” I took a breath, and finished what I was saying. “I’m done, Adrien. Take this damn ring back; I don’t want it any longer. Return it, give it to that putain, I don’t care. I am going back to the apartment, packing up my things, and going home. Don’t bother following me any further; I can make it back to the Métro by myself.” I handed him the ring, and walked away.

Adrien didn’t follow me to the Métro station, and I didn’t return to his apartment to find that he was waiting there, either. I packed up my things, and flew out a few hours later. After landing in London, I was walking out of the International lounge when I ran into my ex-boyfriend, James. He hadn’t changed, except he was dressed impeccably, and his hair had grown longer.

“What are you doing here, James?”

“I just arrived to visit some mates before going out to Dublin to visit my family. Where are you coming from?”

“Paris,” I said with a depressed sigh.

“Paris? If you’re coming from there, why aren’t you smiling? It’s been your dream since I can’t remember to go there.”

“My fiancé and I had a horribly public break-up, and I flew back without him.” James nodded, adjusting his bag on his shoulder.

“I know that look, Melissa. It’s the same look you gave me when I cheated on you … that asshole! He cheated on you?”

“Don’t be calling him bad names, James O’Donoghue. You were just as guilty as he is. Where is Kylie, anyway?” James looked down at his shoes.

“We … erm, broke up. She cheated on me with some muppet while in New York.” I looked at him pityingly.

“I’m so sorry, James. Forgive my attitude. How are you? You look okay, despite that terrible news.” James smiled, and a light laugh escaped his throat.

“It’s been six months since it happened, and I am well rid of her. Do you want to grab some coffee or something? You can tell me all about your relationship, if you want. Unload on your old boyfriend, since I assume you have no girlfriends in London.”

“I haven’t made any outside of work yet, James.” He laughed, and took my bag from me. “Well, I guess you’ve made my mind up for me, like usual.”

James drove me to my house, allowing me to freshen up and unload my bags. In the process, I invited him to stay on my sofa, which he graciously accepted. He then drove me to a nearby Starbucks, where we discussed our relationships and how they fell apart. He let me cry on his shoulder when I started talking about what I saw Adrien doing in Paris, and he said we were going for a walk in the park nearby my house. After our walk in the park, he helped me upstairs to my bedroom, since I was worn out and emotionally drained.

“You’re a good person, you know that, right? Bad shit just seems to find you. Someday, everything will work out for you. You’ve just got to hold on until that happens.”

“I know,” I said, kicking off my shoes. “Thank you, James, for being here. You were horrible to me, but you were also one of my closest friends.” And then, I kissed him square on the lips. Immediately realizing what I did, I apologized. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m so sorry, Jamie.”

“It’s fine.” And then, I kissed him again. But instead of being awkward, James melted into the kiss, pulling me close to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck, remembering the soothing effect his hold and scent had on me. He picked me up, carrying me over to the bed. We fell onto it together, and had mind-numbing sex.

I awoke the next morning to find James wasn’t in bed. I slowly came down the stairs to find he was in the kitchen, cooking an Irish breakfast. He had to have left early in the morning to get the sausage and other items he needed, because I hated that stuff. I sat down at the dining table, and he brought me a caramel macchiato. I smiled up at him, and immediately began drinking it.

“I have to tell you something,” James said, plating his food.

“And what would that be?”

“Your ex-fiancé showed up at the door an hour ago.” I nearly spit out my coffee.

“Adrien was here? What did he say?”

“Not much, to be honest. I think the sight of me at the door was enough to make him forget what he was here for.”

“Please tell me you were dressed,” I said, looking at him pleadingly.

“I’d just returned from the market, so yes, I was.” He sits down across from me, immediately diving into his food. “He told me to tell you that he returned, and if you could call him, he’d be grateful. And before you ask me why I didn’t wake you, he didn’t want me to.”

“Did he look penitent?”

“I suppose he did, a little. More than anything, he looked like he hadn’t slept in several hours. I need to ask you a question, Mel.” He drank his coffee. “Do you have any regrets about what happened yesterday?” I took a deep breath, contemplating his question.

“No. I should be, but I feel nothing but contentment. Is that wrong?”

“I am the wrong person to ask that question,” he said with a laugh, getting up from the table. “I am heading out to Jonathan’s. Did you want to come?”

“No, you go hang with your mates. You guys are going to pub crawl, and I want no part of that. I’ll just clean up the house and unpack. Have fun, and call me if you need a ride home. Here, take my extra keys in case you need to get inside and I am asleep.”

“Will do,” he said, saluting me. “Don’t go too insane. And if you feel like you’re about lose it, go to a movie. Get out of the house. But, do not call or talk to Adrien.” He bent down and kissed my head.

I didn’t follow James’ advice. I read my emails, which seemed full of nothing but apologies and poems addressed to me in French and English from Adrien. I turned off the computer, and started dusting. The phone rang, and it was him. I blocked his number. Finally, taking James’ advice, I went into the city and saw a marathon of The Lord of the Rings. When I came out of the cinema, it was time for dinner. I walked to a sushi restaurant I loved for some takeaway, and then went home. I went to bed around ten o’clock, with the phone beside me, in case James called to be picked up.

James came in three hours later, stumbling inside, but then shutting the door quietly behind him. I saw the light downstairs turn on, and the familiar noise of his shoes hitting the floor. The next thing I knew, James was standing at the foot of my bed, shirtless and in his jeans.

“What’s wrong, James?”

“I missed you tonight,” he said, sounding not the least bit drunk. I sat up in the bed, trying to see if his face betrayed the tone of his voice.

“Well, here I am. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Can I lie beside you? It’s lonely downstairs.” I laughed.

“I don’t know, James. I’m not sure I want to have sex with you again, however much my body wants me to.”

“We can just talk and cuddle. Sometimes that’s nicer than ‘sins of the flesh’, as my priest would say when I was in school.”

“That’s hilarious, coming from Captain Libido himself,” I said with a laugh. He gave me the puppy eyes, and I caved. “Go turn out the lights, and make sure the doors are locked.” He returned a couple of minutes later, and flopped down in the bed beside me. “Did you have fun with Jonathan and all those other guys?”

“I did, thank you. We spent the whole night playing darts or table football. It was fantastic. How was your night?”

“I should have taken your advice. He started calling me, and left me so many emails. I went out into the city and saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and got sushi takeaway. I then spent the rest of the night up here, because you can’t see if the light is on unless you’re in the back garden.”

“Mel, what did you do after we broke up?”

“I ate a lot of ice cream, watched sad-ass chick flicks, and listened to music involving strong hatred. I also spent a lot of time annoying the shit out of Gen by crying over the tiniest things, and talking about you incessantly. If she knew we had sex last night, and are lying in bed together right now, she’d book a flight to kick my ass.”

“Speaking of Gen, she’s forgiven me. About a month ago, she called me up, and said I was forgiven. She then called me jerk-ass, and hung up.” I started cackling, causing James to prop himself up on one arm.

“Yep, she forgave you. Calling someone a ‘jerk-ass’ is her code for ‘You’re awesome in my book.’ She’s a gem, that one.” I turned to look at James, and I propped myself up on one arm too. “What did you do after we broke up, except schtupping Kylie?”

“I fucked Kylie senseless, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was feeling incredible remorse for breaking your heart like I did. Let me reiterate that I never meant to hurt you.”

“Stop right there. I don’t need to hear this, since it’s all in the past.”

“Okay,” he said quickly. “Can I sleep in here?”

“All right, if you promise to behave yourself, James O’Donoghue. Strip down to your boxer briefs, since I know you’re dying to do so.” He hops off of the bed, and drops his pants. I tried to not look, but he was wearing black Calvin Klein underwear that hugged his hips. I turned over in the bed so I couldn’t see him anymore. He chuckled, and then crawled beneath the covers.

He groaned, and sighed heavily once he got comfortable. Suddenly, his hand is stroking the top of mine. I ignore him, and then he’s lightly running his finger up my arm, resting his hand on my collarbone.

“You’re not behaving yourself, James.” I throw my arm across his body, which briefly stops him. He pulls my hand up to his mouth, softly kissing it, and putting it back onto my chest. He snuggles in next me, and I keep my eyes closed, trying to fall asleep. He strokes my hand, and I turn my head slightly in his direction. He turns my head towards his with his finger, and starts softly kissing me.

He rolls on top of me, his kisses deepening and lowering my resolve.

“Is this okay?” He asks, cupping my face in his hands. All I can do is nod, since my brain apparently shut off at some point. He starts kissing me in the way he knows I like, parting my lips with his, and gently pulling at them as he teasingly pulls back. My head follows his up, trying to bring them back. He wedges his leg between mine, and my leg instinctively wraps around his leg, my foot massaging his calf. Things went from zero-to-sixty pretty quickly.

“Jesus, that was great.” He turned to look at me. “Your foreign languages in bed are an aphrodisiac.”

“I do what I can,” I said breathily.

 

******

James left four days later, going to Dublin to visit with his family. I went back to work the day after he left, and it was awkward. I knew I couldn’t avoid Adrien like I had the week before, so I waited for him to pop into my cubicle. Just as I was cleaning up before going to lunch, Adrien walked up to my cubicle.

“Can we talk, Melissa?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Do you want to go to Hyde Park, so we have some privacy?”

“If that’s what you want, that’s fine. We’ll grab sandwiches, and talk at the park.”

The drive to Hyde Park was the longest ten minutes of my life. He didn’t say anything, unless he was cursing out drivers on the road. When we finally reached the park, I changed into my flats, and walked a few steps behind him. We found a secluded area, and sat down on a bench.

“I want to apologize for what happened in Paris,” he said, as he opened his sandwich. “After you left, I asked Céline why she did that. She saw us having breakfast, and became jealous. She saw an opportunity, since she followed me all over Paris, and took it. She wanted you to see that happen. Do you forgive me?”

“It still doesn’t explain why you weren’t fighting the kiss, Adrien. If I were receiving an unwanted kiss, I’d look like I was trying to get the person off of me. You were accepting that kiss.”

“I don’t know how to answer that, except that maybe you have a point.” I took a bite of my sandwich. “Besides, it looks like you’ve moved on.”

“Maybe I have, I don’t know.”

“Who was that man that answered your door?”

“That was James. We ran into one another in the airport, and decided to grab a coffee.”

“So the James that broke your heart was in your house, making breakfast. What happened there?”

“It started off innocently, Adrien. He invited me to get coffee, and I ended up crying. He brought me home, and put me into bed. And we ended up having sex. I don’t know what else to say.”

“Do you regret it?” He sipped his tea, and looked at me sadly.

“Not really, no. I also wish I could say it only happened the one time, but over the course of the week, we had sex a few times.”

“Are you two getting back together?”

“I honestly don’t know, Adrien. He was familiar, and the old magic was still there. But he works in Boston, and I work here. He may end up moving back to Europe, but I am in no position to be asking him such questions.”

“Why shouldn’t you be able to?” His tone was changing; he was starting to become angry. “You two fucked incessantly last week, and I don’t think that question is out of order.” He stood up from the bench, pacing in front of me.

“First things first, Adrien: calm down. I realize you’re upset, but don’t lose your temper.” He stands up from the bench, and looks down at me.

“Why shouldn’t I lose my temper? You left me, in Paris. You ignored my phone calls and emails, and when I came to talk to you, the guy who you caught cheating on you answers the fucking door. And now you don’t know if you’re getting back together.”

“What else do you want me to say, Adrien? That I’m sorry? Okay, I am sorry.”

“So, we’re officially over?” I nod solemnly. “Okay, that clears everything up.” I stand up, and hug Adrien.

“I am really sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen any more than you did the whole thing with Céline. I don’t know what’s going to happen with James. He’s going back to Boston at the end of the week, and I guess we’ll sort things out then. Maybe I’ll take a step back, and not date for a while.”

“I forgive you,” he said, kissing the top of my head. “But, I have to ask a question.” I smile, and look up at him. “What makes you think he won’t cheat on you again?”

“I don’t. I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever cheat on me again, but I guess that’s a chance I’m willing to take. I wouldn’t know if you’d cheat on me again, but I’d have been willing to find out. But here’s a little friendly advice for when you’re ready to date again: don’t sleep with the girls so quickly. I know you waited five months with me, but Julien tells me it was quicker with other girls. And if you need my help finding a lady friend, I am more than happy to help.”

Merci,” he said with a smile.

******

  • In the end, James and I ended up back together. He moved to London, not because of me, but because he wanted to be closer to his family. We’ve been dating a few months now, and things are looking good for us.
  • Adrien met a woman a few days after we had our talk in the park, and they’re engaged to be married. She is a great woman, and she will make Adrien very happy.
  • In an unusual circumstance, Julien and Genevieve met, and have fallen in love. They’re doing a long-distance relationship, and Julien is contemplating moving to America for Gen.
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