The trip came as a surprise, but not many other people Cosima's age had the chance to spend an entire summer in France. She hardly knew any of the language, but Europe was exotic, and interesting, and a far cry from Mexico or the occasional trip up to Canada. John dropped it on her a week after school ended. She'd gotten home to a suitcase on her bed with a ticket sat on top of it. Cosima rushed downstairs, excited and giddy.
“Where are we going?” she asked, bouncing on her heels. John leaned back into the sofa, grinning at his daughter.
“Cavalaire-sur-Mer,” he responded. “We're leaving Monday morning, so start getting your stuff packed up to leave. I left a list of the things you'll need on the table by your bed.”
“You're basically the coolest dad ever,” Cosima told him.
“I try,” John said, gently shooing Cosima away. “It'll be educational. Now go start getting ready; you know you're likely to forget something and I want to make sure that we minimize the amount of things you leave behind.” Cosima darted away, hurrying up the stairs. She replaced the list on her side table with her ticket and looked it over. Her dad hadn't forgotten anything. Written down in his neat print were all the things Cosima knew she would have left behind otherwise. She snatched a pen up from her desk and began pulling her clothes out of her wardrobe.
Airport security always made Cosima nervous, but having her dad around made it better. Flights, on the other hand, offered a never-ending source of boredom. Despite logically knowing that travelling by plane was the safest way to do so, being stuck in a flying metal box several hundred feet up in the air always made her feel uneasy. John slept through most of it, but the noise from the engines kept waking Cosima up, and whoever was behind her kept grabbing her seat whenever they needed to stand. She read through the entirety of The French Lieutenant's Woman before they reached NYC for their layover, finally catching a couple hours sleep while waiting for the flight across to Paris to begin boarding.
“We can spend some time in Paris, right, Dad?” Cosima asked when they were somewhere over the Atlantic.
“We most certainly can, Cos,” John said. “I have us booked for a week in the city before we head down South. Can I trust you to get around on your own?” Cosima raised a brow, giving her father the best “seriously?” look she could muster.
“Do I look like the kind of teenager who gets themselves into trouble?” she asked. John shrugged and pulled a face.
“Oh, I don't know...” he said.
“Yeah, I'm totally going to smoke a lot of drugs and have tons of sex with hot French boys,” Cosima dead panned. “You know how those museum lovers are.” John chuckled and ruffled Cosima's hair. She pulled away with a grimace, then knocked her dad's hand away, smiling.
“You know the rules, Cos. Keep your phone on you, let me know where you're going and you can do what you want. I still expect to have some father/daughter bonding time, though.”
“You'll get it, jeeze.”
“Don't wanna spend time with your old man?” John asked.
“Shut up,” Cosima replied, rolling her eyes. “I'm trying to read.” John chuckled and pulled his hand away, settling in his seat to sleep.
The first thing that Cosima felt when they stepped out of Charles de Gaulle was an almost overwhelming desire to explore. She rolled her suitcase along the floor behind her, trailing after her father to the rows of cabs lined up waiting to take travellers through the city, while her mind struggled to take in all the sights and smells and sounds that assaulted it. All around her people greeted and parted, shouting loudly in French to be heard over the noise of so many other voices in one place. Here and there she caught a word or a phrase, but most of it flew into one ear and circulated as a nonsensical mess in her brain before she instantly forgot it to latch onto the next snippet of conversation.
John snagged a cab, chatting to the driver in quick-paced French while Cosima struggled to get her suitcase into the back, her arms and shoulders straining under its weight. She shouldn't have packed so many books. It was halfway in before John noticed, and laughed at her even while he nudged her out of the way to finish the job.
“We need to work on your French, kiddo,” he said as they got in the back of the car. Cosima rolled her eyes.
“I can ask if someone speaks English and where the bathroom is, do I really need to know anything else?” John chuckled.
“How do you expect to be able to get around the city on your own when you hardly know the language?” he asked. Cosima shrugged.
“I'm a fast learner,” she said, and shot her father a quick smile. He nodded in agreement.
“Now, Cos, I know I snore, but you'll only have to put up with it while we're here. I rented us a house for the rest of the trip.” Cosima groaned, throwing herself next to her suitcase on one of the beds in their hotel room.
“But you're so loud,” she complained, throwing an arm over her face. “At least give me some earplugs or something.” John laughed.
“If I find some, I'll let you know,” he said, patting her leg as he walked past. “Get up, we need to head out for dinner. I made reservations.”
“Good, I'm starving,” Cosima replied and swung to her feet.
She spent a good few minutes staring at her menu trying to figure out what she wanted to eat, continuously asking her father what things meant. Eventually, she gave up, and set her menu down with a groan, leaning back in her seat.
“You order for me,” she said, “you know what I'll eat. Not. Snails. Or frog legs. And I want some wine.” John raised a brow. “What?” Cosima asked. “I'm old enough to have a drink and I want one.”
“Yeah, yeah,” John said, shaking his head. “Brat.”
“Says the man who raised me,” Cosima countered.
“Fine, fine. One glass.”
“One and a half.”
“Deal.” John collected their menus and set them to the side while they waited, steepling his fingers on top of the table.
“So, where do you want to go first?” he asked. “I know you were looking at places before we left. You're not going to the Louvre without me.”
“I wouldn't,” Cosima said. “I was thinking about going to the uh... how do you say it, the uh, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie.”
“Good pronunciation,” John told her, smiling. “That'll take you a while to get through.”
“Yeah, I figured I would make it a two day adventure, if that's cool.”
“You're free to do what you want, Cos,” John said. “Like I said, just make sure I know where you're at. I think I'll spend some time enjoying the sights. Sip a hot drink outside a café, take a walk along the winding city streets...” He laughed at the look on Cosima's face. “What?”
“Lame,” she teased, and stuck her tongue out.
“Cooler than spending all day at a science museum,” her father shot back. Cosima resisted the urge to throw her napkin at him.
“Two glasses of wine,” she said instead, crossing her arms over her chest.
Her alarm went off bright and early the next day. Cosima yawned, stretching her arm out and fumbling for her glasses so she could see to find her phone and shut the noise off. John was already awake, sat up in bed watching TV. He looked over briefly.
“Morning, sleepyhead. Snoring didn't seem to bother you too much last night.”
“Yeah, well,” Cosima grumbled, yawning again, “I didn't exactly sleep much on the way over, did I?”
“All right, all right, don't be so grumpy.” Cosima grunted, standing and stretching her arms over her head.
“Shower,” she said, padding past her father and into the bathroom.
He had coffee ready for her when she finished, patting her hair dry, and hoping that it didn't decide to frizz up. She poured herself a cup gratefully, and even though it wasn't the best she'd had, the taste was familiar and comforting, and the scent banished the traces of sleep that her shower hadn't managed to wash away.
“Museum today?” John asked. Cosima hummed. “You know how to get there?” Another hum. “Are you going to give me an actual answer?”
“Be lucky you're getting anything out of me before I have the right amount of caffeine in my system,” Cosima mumbled. John barked a soft laugh.
“I'll get you a cab, make sure you don't get lost on the way there.” He handed her her share of cash. “Do not lose that.”
“I know how to keep cash, Dad,” Cosima said, rolling her eyes. She set her coffee on the bedside table and hauled her suitcase onto the bed. The top hit the duvet with a soft thump, the lingering scent of Cosima's room and her perfume wafting into the air. She rummaged through her clothes, yanking a skirt and a tank top out of the tight stack of garments and books and electronics, then looked over her shoulder to give her dad a pointed glare. “Are you going to turn around or something?”
“I'm going, I'm going,” John said, patting his hands against the air. “Don't wait too long, there'll be a cab for you soon. Meet back here before dinner?”
“Yeah,” Cosima agreed, holding her clothes to her chest.
“Good. See you then, kiddo.” Cosima smiled, and waited for the door to shut before pulling off her pyjamas to change.
Cosima managed to tell the driver her destination in mostly accurate French, apologizing immediately after. Settled in the back seat, she watched the city go buy outside the window, excitement fizzling in her blood. The radio droned in the background, voices softly talking and singing. The noise was a comforting filling for the silence, despite Cosima's poor grasp of the language.
The museum was a wonder. Cosima lingered outside in the crowd of people arriving and leaving and stared, unable to stop a large grin from spreading across her face. The largest science museum in Europe, she thought, and tried not to dance with happiness. An entire day all to herself to explore. No being rushed along by a school group, no strict time limit to meet. Just the absolute freedom to take her time and absorb an entire school year's worth of knowledge.
Her breath left her in a rush when she stepped inside. She could have spent her entire life there. It was loud, full of shouting children and parents scolding them for running off. Cosima followed behind a group of elderly women taking their time meandering through the halls, following through the exhibits in the order that she found them, in a constant state of awe and wonder. There was almost too much for her to take in. Many of the people who passed her only glanced at what they were walking by, though a few lingered and showed the same amount of interest.
She was killing time waiting for the next showing at The Planetarium to start in the Cité des enfants, when she almost walked into someone. Blushing profusely, Cosima began to apologize, first in English before remembering where she was. Her brain whirred, trying to remember the right way to apologize, backing up a few steps to a safe distance away. The person she'd hit, a girl her own age, stared at her, then looked away, turning back to the station she was at. The brief glimpse was enough to rocket her heart into her throat. Cosima tried to ignore the warmth in her face and moved off, her chest tight. She glanced a look over her shoulder, watching the girl again. Her hair, straight and blonde and far nicer than her own, blocked her face from Cosima's view. She sighed, stepping to the side and out of the way of two children and their parents to let them use the station. A voice caught her attention over the noise of children shouting.
“Delphine, c’est un truc d’enfants ça. On peut y aller, maintenant? ”
“Dans une minute, laisse moi finir.” Cosima feigned indifference, feeling bad for eavesdropping, but she was curious, and even though she couldn't understand what they were saying, the blonde sounded reluctant to do whatever it was her friend wanted.
“Claude t’attend dehors avec Alex et Christine. ”
“Cinq minutes!” the girl, Delphine, replied.
“Si tu viens pas maintenant, on part sans toi et tu devras te débrouiller pour rentrer ce soir. On va prendre un verre, Alex connaît ce bar trop cool. ” Cosima watched out of the corner of her eye. Delphine's shoulders rose in a sigh that Cosima couldn't hear, and she stepped away, hands falling to her sides.
“D'accord.” Cosima watched them leave. Delphine paused at the door and glanced over her shoulder, her face covered in disappointment. Her eyes caught Cosima's in their journey across the room. Cosima looked away first, blushing again.