We get back to Paris in the morning and, once we’re through immigration and pick up our bags and we’re in another taxi on the way through traffic to our apartment in the city, I can be back to being Rosie, little Rosie, li’l ol’ me, again, and kiss Louise Patterson with two “t”s good-bye, once and for all.
“Au revoir, Louise. Have a nice life!”
I actually think that once we’re on our way out of the airport. It’s always a relief coming back from one of these trips, knowing I’m still alive and not busted in some god-forsaken country or held hostage or whatever. I’d pinch myself to make sure it’s real if I didn’t know it was real and that didn’t seem like such a stupid thing to do, anyway. But it’s Paris, we’re back, and I exist again. Yeah, I’m happy.
What do you think I’m thinking of the most? Starting school on Monday and learning all those intricate new pastry techniques? Getting it on in the walk-in with chef, who’s probably seriously missed my company and, even more, my tight young pussy these weeks? Sitting leisurely in sidewalk cafes over the weekend and drinking coffees and watching people scurry about? Going to Chantal’s and hugging her like there’s no tomorrow and looking deeply into her green eyes and kissing her delicious lips and making sweet love with her for hours and then playing the piano naked for her clients and getting phone numbers and 100 euro notes slipped into my hand? Those all sound like some pretty good things. They do.
But no, I’m thinking I want a nice hot bath, to luxuriate in the bubbles for about two hours when we get to the apartment, to wash away all the mental grime and grit of this trip, all by myself in the tub, and then to dry off and primp and tweak and whatever else I do after a bath like that, and then just take a nice nap for a couple hours, and then when I wake up, no fucking or sucking or anything, just me time, when I wake up feeling like my head is clear and I can go back to being me. And then deciding what I’ll do next. Today, tonight, this weekend. Not the rest of my life, if that’s what you were expecting. Hey, it’s a bath and a nap, not some magic elixir brought by a genie.
Anyway, that’s what I do, and I’d be lying like a rug if I didn’t tell you it was simply marvelous. Merveilleux, as the French would say. Simplement merveilleux.
It’s almost 4 on the bedside clock when I finally stretch wonderfully under the stiff white sheets and get out of bed and wander out and find Sid at the dining room table doing what Sid does to unwind from a trip like that. Which is snorting lines, right off the wood of the table.
He asks without lifting his head from the task at hand.
“Uh-huh. I needed that. I feel like a new Rosie.”
“Not Louise any more?”
He snorts in another line.
“Funny man. No, not Louise. Never again Louise. No more Uncle Oscar for you any more, either, huh?”
“Nope. Back to being Sid. Want some?”
Sometimes I’m tempted to take some when Sid asks, but I’m feeling too refreshed and relieved to be inside my own head and body at this moment to spoil it by getting fucked-up.
“Thanks, but I’m good. What’s the plan?”
Other than a quick sideways glance when he offered me the hit, he’s still not looking at me and he takes the line he would have let me have. In this case, the coke is more attractive to Sid than a naked girl.
“I suppose you’re going to want to run over and fuck Chantal, am I right?”
“I don’t know. It’s Friday. I’m sure she has customers. And I’m not ready to play the piano tonight. I would like to see her, though.”
“Well, go on then. I’m too out of it right now to do anything and probably will just rack out early. I’d just wind up beating on you, so go have a good time. You earned it.”
I’m almost beside myself hearing this. Sid giving me such an unsolicited compliment? Forgoing a session beating me so he can go to bed early? Letting me go see my lover without me even begging or fabricating a story or taking crap for it? What the fuck is in that coke, I wonder? Maybe I should take a snort.
“Really, Sid? Can I? And I did? Earn it, I mean?”
“Yeah. You did good. I know it was hard on you. But don’t push your luck. I’m letting you go, so take it and run.”
“Can I stay overnight with Chantal, Sid, if she wants me to? Please?”
I am pushing my luck now, but am going for it, as is my way.
“Yeah. I’ll be passed-out, anyway. So stay if you want. I’ll see you tomorrow when you’re back. Unless I’m out by then. Call me if you’re going to be late getting back and I can tell you where to meet me.”
Now I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I’m still asleep and this is all a dream. Or maybe the body snatchers came when I was napping and switched Sid out for some other guy. I mean, I haven’t heard him being so accommodating since probably the day I met him and he picked me up and took me to lunch by the harbor and brought me to his place in Malibu. I’m wondering, too, if maybe I just got a promotion in his hierarchy and no one told me.
“Are you sure, Sid? You won’t be mad or anything?”
“Probably not. But you know me. I could be anything by tomorrow. So take it while you can.”
“Thank you, baby. I will.”
I pull his head from the stuff on the table and give him a big kiss. Now he earned it. And he takes what I offer but keeps his hands off my body, probably knowing if he touches me it will be all over and then he’d want me, and then that would be the end of the generous, good-guy Sid, and Sid, the angry motherfucker Sid, the Rosie-fucker Sid, the Mr. Hyde Sid, would be back. It’s not like Sid doesn’t know how he is. He totally does. Just like I do. I think that’s what makes it even harder being with him. Neither of us has any excuses to make.
I break the kiss, thank him again, with words and my eyes, and head to the bedroom to put on some clothes. I pick out something dark and slinky and sexy, nothing underneath other than some sweet perfume and soft lotion, not so much that I want to create a scandal on the street getting to Chantal’s, if that’s even possible, just that I want to look good for her. Really good. To show her I survived the trip well, that I’m not the prodigal lover coming back because I have to and have nowhere else to go, but I’m coming back because I want to, that she is the person I am coming to, first before all others, and to make her want me as much as I want her. Which, in case you can’t tell, is a lot.
I don’t call first. I want this to be a surprise. And it is. She’s expecting a client when she opens the door, and when she sees it’s me, she actually lets out a little cry. A little cry accompanied by a look of unconcealed astonishment, both so un-Chantal, so unlike her, unlike the woman who is always so much in control of herself.
“Chérie. Mon dieu! Mon petit oiseau est revenu. Come in, come in, my sweetheart. I am so happy to see you.”
I step inside and hold out the gift I bought Chantal at duty-free in Dubai, while we were waiting for our flight to Amsterdam. It’s just a little box of bubble bath, nothing much, but nice, a little box wrapped in shiny blue foil with a bow. I didn’t want to come back empty-handed to her.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est, chérie?”
“Just a little something for you, Chantal. Hope you like it. I didn’t know what to get you, but I figured a girl can never have enough bubble bath.”
“Oh, you are so sweet, chérie. And so right about bubble bath. Merci, merci, ma chère!”
She takes the box in her hands, admiring it, and then she takes me in her arms, still holding the box in one hand, and she holds me tight, as tight as Aunt Carol did. Chantal’s arms and body are much thinner than Aunt Carol’s, though, and there is an ardor and a tenderness in her embrace that wasn’t in my aunt’s as she runs her free hand, the one not holding the box, luxuriously, sensually, over my back, part bare skin, part covered by my dress.
Chantal moves her face in front of mine and the next thing I know her lips are on mine and we’re kissing, not the double cheek kiss Chantal would give me before, but kissing now as two lovers, kissing as we did that first night after La Mexicaine de la Perforation, kissing now so deeply even without the absinthe to lubricate our lips or our passions. We’re sharing a kiss that burns of the separation of nearly three weeks, burns through to my sex like a hot Thai curry burns through to my stomach. I don’t want it to end. Not now. Not ever.
I don’t think Chantal wants it to end, either, but she knows her first client will be here any second. She breaks the kiss and looks around the room. Her girls, when they saw our embrace, scurried off and cleared out of the salon, and Chantal steps back and looks me up and down. I can see approval in those bottomless green eyes of hers.
“Chérie, you are too hot. If the clients see you they will want you and not my other girls. So go now, go to my bedroom, and wait there and I’ll come once I’ve settled things here. Please take your gift there for me. D’accord?”
She hands me back the blue box to bring to her bedroom.
“D’accord, Chantal. I will. Will you be long?”
“No, not long. You know it’s the end of July and in France everyone is preparing for their summer holiday. So I only have two clients coming now and only have two girls in the house, the two the men asked for. I’ll get things settled and then come to you. And I do want to hear all about this trip of yours.”
“Do we have to, Chantal? I just want to be with you.”
“We shall see, chérie. There will be time for all of it.”
“Sid said I can stay overnight.”
“Oh là là, chérie. Now we do have time for everything. Go now and I’ll come soon.”