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I always knew that one day I would travel to France and find or be found by the forces of love. Not at the same time, though. That was a surprise.

Humor / Romance
Joe England
Age Rating:

A Parisian Narrative

I will never forget any impression, any sensation, any moment of the time I spent coming to know Annalite. Concordantly, I will never forget the early days of my initial journey into the storied land of Paris, for that was the backdrop of our first encounter. The two are as one in my mind, Paris and Annalite, inextricably linked, the one the soul of the other. I'm still not sure which is which.

The city was exactly as I had imagined it would be. There were picturesque shops filled with flowers everywhere I turned. The botanical parade was interrupted here and there by quaint bakeries from which wafted the intoxicating aromas of croissants, baguettes, cheese, and genuine alcohol. I had never known that wine could have an aroma perceptible from a distance. The shopkeepers were plump, cheerful old ladies greeting me with exclamations of "Bonjour!" and "Oui, oui monsieur!" People rode on bikes by the hundreds, weaving between antique taxi cabs which were driven by friendly bon vivants with whimsical anecdotes regarding the curious nature of life. Most of the pedestrians wore black and white striped clothing and berets. The men stroked gigantic black mustaches and read poetry, and the thin young women all smoked cigarettes perched on the ends of foot-long cigarette holders while walking their poodles. Little children played in the parks and sang Frere Jacques and drank Claret. The atmosphere was complemented at all times by omnipresent accordion music interspersed with the warbling of Edith Piaf. The Eiffel Tower loomed overhead no matter where I went. I could almost swear it was following me.

I had traveled to Paris for various reasons common to all who choose to make such a pilgrimage. To live, to love, to learn... so forth. To this end I had managed to procure a cramped but relatively comfortable artist's studio in which to bed. I was not an artist, of course, but every apartment in the city was an artist's studio.

To pay my way I soon found work for myself as a waiter in a cafe named "La Ratatouille," a lovely street-side establishment built in an art nouveau fashion. I asked the owner (a fine portly gentleman named Francois) if he had so titled the place to capitalize upon the popularity of the equally monikered animated film. He replied that his establishment had had its name since the Revolution.

In the kitchen I met Annalite.

She was a brunette… in fact, thinking back, all the girls in France were brunettes. I might have seen a redhead once or twice. Not Annalite, though. There was something deep in that black, a kind of dense, impenetrable absence. And yet, her eyes were what truly caught my attention. The very second I passed through the swinging double-doors, the orders from my first customers in hand, she snapped to attention and locked her gaze to mine. She had dispassionate, calculating eyes, the mildly curious orbs of a noble beast set in a statuesque face. Her lips, thin and midnight black, betrayed no emotion. The steam from the hot dish she was preparing danced around her, granting her a supernatural air. Her svelte form was absolutely still, frozen in the act of shuffling diced vegetables from off of a cutting board with the edge of a great knife, and for a moment I was reminded of a feral cat caught in a beam of light cast into an alleyway at night.

Similarly, I too felt compelled to motionlessness. We stayed that way for some time, embedded in each others' line of sight. It may have been hours. I grew afraid that I had committed some unknown French taboo, or had otherwise offended her with my presence, so finally I allowed myself to approach her. "Look," I said, " I didn't mean to intrude. My name's--"

I didn't get to tell her my name because she swiftly closed the distance between us and rammed the knife into my gut. She held it there for a good twelve seconds, too, twisting it slowly around and around in a consistent counter-clockwise motion. After she withdrew the blade I had planned to collapse to the floor in an agonized boneless heap, but she immediately repeated the motion. Again, and again, and again, for a good four minutes Annalite shoved it into various parts of my torso. She never uttered so much as a grunt of exertion, and it was only after she had finished impaling me for the eleventh time that she finally returned to work preparing the meal while I arranged myself in that agonized heap I mentioned earlier. I don't even know if she cleaned the knife. On second thought, I'm sure she didn't. She was like that.

My memory grows admittedly vague at this point, no doubt due to the massive loss of blood, but thankfully an ambulance soon arrived and I was taken to a hospital staffed entirely by nuns. Francois was there (not the owner of the cafe, mind you, but rather a different Francois whose acquaintance I had made as a roommate in our artist's studio), and he informed me that I was due to make a miraculous recovery. Luckily a donor had been found to grant me a transfusion. His name had also been Francois.

For the most part my stay at the hospital was spent staring out the window at the foundations of the Eiffel Tower and trying in vain to find the nuns sexy. The television showed nothing but various clips of Jerry Lewis acting like a monkey. As soon as I had enough blood back in my body, though, I took to screaming.

"What do you mean she hasn't been arrested??" I screamed. "She damn well stabbed me in the gut, are you crazy!? She's a madwoman!"

"Monsieur," replied Francois (this time it was the owner of the cafe), "Of course she eez mad. For she eez een love! The madness of love! Ha ha! You lucky hound, you 'ave captured the heart of Annalite!" This was how I learned her name.

I stared blankly at him for a while, my mouth flapping impotently. When I finally recovered my voice I asked him to elaborate. I did so in that kind of faux-calm that some people adopt when they're really incredibly frustrated and confused and they want to seem intense or something. I don't know.

"Monsieur!" said Francois (this time it was my roommate, who was also in the room with us), "You must understand. Een France we do not hide our emotions. For us, being in love is as plain as a knife to the gut! Ha ha!"

The whole situation had begun to feel quite surreal to me by then and I determined simply to tune myself out for the duration of my convalescence. I would return to La Ratatouille later and confront Annalite myself.

Now, during this period, my mind had been given free rein. I began to question whether or not my interpretation of events hadn't been somehow mistaken. Though I doubted the "love" theory that the various Francoises insisted upon, it also seemed unbelievable to me at the time that someone I didn't even know could just up and stab me like that. I hadn't spit on her or anything.

Maybe it really had been some kind of misunderstanding. Accidental stabbings are not unheard of. Or it could have been the result of a temporary psychotic episode. My face might have reminded her of some guy who killed her puppy when she was eight. Perhaps she was a robot from the future who had been programmed to kill me, in which case she certainly couldn't be blamed for her reaction. No robot can help what its creators programmed into it, and I even began to feel rather flattered at the thought that I was considered important enough to have been targeted for death by future scientists. At any rate, I decided to hear her side of the story before passing judgment on Annalite. My philosophy has always been that it is better to forgive, if at all possible.

After my recuperation (an arduous process only exacerbated by the accordions), I went back and found the cafe much as I had left it. In fact the couple whose order I had taken were still at their table waiting for me. They seemed desperately emaciated and haggard, having lived off of nothing but complimentary bread and water in the weeks that I had been away, but they remained nonchalant as I apologized profusely. I hurried into my uniform and back into the kitchen to get their vegetables. And there was Annalite.

Her back was turned to me and I was uncertain as to whether she had sensed my presence. She was occupied with stirring a large pot of hot soup. I kept my distance this time and began to speak in low, soothing tones so as not to startle her.

"Annalite?" I said. "It's me. I don't know if you remember, but you almost killed me a few weeks ago."

She gave no indication that she had heard me, which I took as a potential sign of guilt. I muttered quietly to myself, "Perhaps she's embarrassed by her earlier behavior."

For all that I was deathly afraid of her, I hated to see a woman distraught, especially one so admittedly beautiful as her. I came up behind her and gently placed my hand on her shoulder, as if to say, "It's all right, Annalite. I forgive you for your attack on me, and I would happily wish for nothing more than for us to continue on in this world as, if not friends, then allies in the art of culinary service." I prided myself on the sophistication of my hand-placing technique. Indeed, Francois had once told me that I was a superb placer of hands. I mention this only as a matter of ego. I should also mention that said Francois was my landlord. I know it can be confusing, my knowing so many people named "Francois." I had heard rumors that there were also men named "Pierre" and "Antoine" and occasionally "Jean-Luc" in France. But every one I ever met there was named Francois. Every damn one.

Yet I digress. I return to my second encounter with Annalite. My hand had just left her shoulder. And, to my relative surprise, she ceased her stirring and turned to face me! It was so much easier to be forgiving while we were eye to eye. Ah, and what eyes. She raised a delicate hand to the back of my head and captured me with those eyes of hers, those steady, unchanging eyes, so like precious stones. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her delicate knee rushed to my groin with astonishing force, fully inverting my delicate penis like a sock with a ball thrown in to turn it inside out. I felt something slap my hip bone. Vomit rushed up my throat. I doubled over in agony and she used this opportunity to dump the scalding hot soup over my back, where it soaked through my shirt and invited the skin to blister and fuse with the fabric (to this day I smell of onions). She followed this up by shoving the pot over my head and furiously banging on it with her petite fists, which I assure you was more disconcerting than you might imagine it to have been when measured against the pain of my melting flesh. Annalite then grabbed me by the neck with one hand and the seat of my pants with the other and, with strength I could not help but marvel at even as my nerves punished me with excruciating sensations pumped to my brain, lifted me up over her head and threw me through the wall separating the kitchen from the main dining area. The partition exploded with disintegrated masonry. As I passed out in a mess of plaster, fleur-de-lis patterned wallpaper, and soup, I was certain that I heard someone say "Sacre bleu! Annalite eez een love again, ha ha! Mais oui!"

Needless to say, I was less inclined to overlook the assault a second time. I would brook no argument from my friends. The hospital nuns could not calm me. My mind was made up that this "Annalite," if that was her real name, was nothing more or less than a beautiful but violent sociopath who had to be contained for the good of humanity. I was certain that she wasn't a robot. Her hands were too delightfully soft.

Around this time Francois (I forget which one) confessed to me that France didn't really have a police force per se. The highest degree of law enforcement consisted mostly of traffic officers in blue capes whose only function was to give candy to small children. They did occasionally graduate to the rank of inspector, but then their duties were restricted to chasing jewel thieves and narrowly saving the life of President de Gaulle. Spies were not unheard of, but admitting their existence was illegal. The legionnaires primarily wore berets. Different kinds of berets than most men wore.

So it seemed I was on my own. My entreaties to my mononomenclatured friends were simply met with further enthusiastic endorsements regarding the intensity of Annalite's supposed infatuation with me. Fallen in love? Her? All I knew was that I had fallen into the fight of my life. Of course, you might say that about any relationship. But it was true. I could scarcely survive many other such assaults.

So you could suppose that I was quite foolish to return to the restaurant. Upon discharging me once again the medical nuns remarked that I had gathered quite a rugged collection of lasting disfigurements across my figure, and I felt little desire to appear any more manly. Surely it would have been safer simply to find employment elsewhere (provided that beautiful, psychotic young ladies were not a common occurrence in the French workplace, a possibility which I did not dismiss). But I really did want to see that order delivered. The thought of retiring from my career as a food host with my only mission unfulfilled felt like nothing more than the most cowardly form of retreat. Especially since I had grown convinced that my customers would go on waiting for their food until they died. I don't even want to mention the state that I found them in when I got back. Broken lips curled in the pitiful effort of shaping kindly expressions of patience and understanding as raspy voices sent friendly greetings. I knew that their lives depended on my delivering to them their vegetables.

I set about forming a strategy. It seemed to me that my best hope was to dash into the kitchen, retrieve their food, and escape before meeting Annalite. It then occurred to me to simply ask Francois (my manager) when Annalite was not "on duty," as it were. He revealed to me that she was not seen in the kitchen during the evening hours. I found his choice of words vaguely unsettling, but decided that that would be my best avenue towards success. So I chose a day, did a few jumping jacks and a sit-up, mentally prepared myself for the task ahead, and waited outside of La Ratatouille as the sun drifted inexorably behind the Tower and across the horizon, accompanied by the jaunty melody of L'Accordeoniste.

At last the subfusc reality of twilight consumed the city and I made my way back into the restaurant.

The silence would have been eerie if it weren't for Edith Piaf's voice trilling from all points in space. But even that was subdued, as though further from me than usual. In fact, thinking back, that may have made it eerier than it otherwise would have been. Edith Piaf always gave me the creeps, a little. It may have been that my concentration on the work at hand enhanced the mood still further, since I always feel theatrical when I'm taking things seriously.

Carefully, so carefully, I crept towards the kitchen. My keen eyes took note of the skill with which the French laborers had repaired the gaping hole in the wall which my body had made when last I was there. You could barely see the outlines of the broken plaster beneath the fresh wallpaper. It seemed appropriate to take a few moments to really appreciate a job well done. Then it was back to business. I glanced behind to see my customers winking their crusty eyelids at me by way of encouragement. Then I stole across the carpet and deftly threw my hand towards the double doors.

Annalite was nowhere to be seen.

The kitchen was silent, a solemn landscape of mystery and wonder. I advanced slowly onto the pale tiled floor, between aisles of copper colored stoves, making my way by the scarce light from Paris and the French Moon filtering in through the generous windows, vaguely multiplied by the various hanging pots and pans, patterned between the Eiffel Tower's silhouette. Though the lair seemed to be deserted I willed my pupils to dilate to their fullest. My confidence gradually began to grow like a frail flower in a frigid wilderness heroically climbing to life against all odds. Then I realized that I had met a stumbling block in my plan... I had no idea how to procure the vegetable dish that had been ordered! I considered quickly training myself as a chef and creating it with my own hands, but I dismissed this as a fool's errand. Even if I had all the resources of the Cordon Bleu at my disposal, I simply had no interest in cooking! I always found it to be a tedious bore, and it would be a sin to attempt to create art without soul. All seemed lost until I saw, on a nearby countertop, the very same dish after which I was questing! It had been neatly prepared and set inside one of the more convenient circles of light cast by a particularly reflective frying pan. It seemed that the fates were smiling upon me at last. Fully relaxing, I abandoned my wary attitude and sauntered over to seize the prize for my weary clients. My progress was interrupted with a resounding metallic snap. A bear trap had caught my leg.

I felt quite the fool, as you may well imagine. My father had warned me long ago to watch for bear traps during one of our hikes into the woods by our home. In my youthful naivete I had assumed that he meant only to do so within a woodland setting. Semantics! Still, my embarrassment was greatly outweighed by the mindless panic brought on by the throbbing pain of my splintered Tibia. But before I could gather the air to emit a requisite shriek my ears met a wet, bone-chilling hissing noise emanating from somewhere overhead.

Of course, there was Annalite, as beautiful as ever. The moonlight caught her eyes and her skin and for a moment she seemed to be made of finest porcelain, like an exquisite doll brought to life by some stray wish. She was clinging to the ceiling, her elegant fingers plunged inches deep into the sheer wood like mighty industrial nails. I could not say whether crawling up there constituted her usual nightly routine or if she had merely done so earlier that evening in anticipation of my arrival. It flatters me to hope for the latter.

At any rate, she stared at me with those captivating eyes and I felt locked in place (even more so than might be owed to the bear trap). Her hissing became a guttural, inhuman growl. She performed an impressive flipping maneuver, contorting her lithe body in mid-air to alight before me on the ground. Then she made to grab at me - I assume she intended to tear my heart out of my chest and eat it in front of me while I yet lived - but suddenly I was struck by a strange inspiration.

My hands shot out to either side of her head. I grasped her silken ebony hair and pulled myself forward. My world tilted on an axis ruled by the steel trap as I fell towards Annalite. Her face rushed to fill my vision and I succeeded in delivering to her flawless mouth the tiniest of kisses.

Time slowed. Years seemed to pass before we landed together on the starlit floor of the kitchen of La Ratatouille, and for a moment she and I were still, our positions reversed as I looked down at her, an unreadable expression etched in her angelic features.

I would like to say that she did not immediately proceed to beat me to within an inch of my life. But that would be a lie, and lies are beneath me. Indeed, she flipped me over and proceeded to fracture my ribs one by one, her thumb probing my scarred torso and pressing here and there with monstrous force. I attempted to bat her away but her other hand held my right arm while my left was caught in her brilliant white teeth. When she ran out of ribs she tore my shirt off and clawed at my flesh with her nails which, I was surprised to note, remained perfectly manicured even after being embedded in the ceiling. Then, after exposing the tissue of my pectoral muscles and dumping cupfuls of salt onto me, she began repeatedly ramming her head into mine. My nose shattered and my lips split and I very nearly blacked out before she hooked her fingers into my nostrils, lifted me up, and clenched my recently reconstructed crotch with an iron grip. My feet kicked out and struck cauldrons to the floor. With a reverberating cacophony I was thrown into a metal cabinet, at the foot of which I gathered my wits just in time to see her advancing like a gorgeous facehugger towards a colonial marine. However, it was here that I finally hit a stroke of luck.

She tore the bear trap off of my leg and began indiscriminately pummeling me with it. But I cannily reached up and opened the dented cabinet door, and, sure enough, the assorted instruments stored inside clattered out, all having been upset from their resting places by my impact. Annalite took pause, distracted for a precious instant (I assume she was considering which of the scattered cooking devices she might use to facilitate some new form of torture), just long enough for me to lurch to my feet. My leg hadn't quite been broken and I pushed aside the various pains to stumble over to the vegetable dish.

I was glad to find that it was a genuine thing, rather than a cardboard cutout or hologram or some other mere simulacrum. For whatever reason, Annalite had made the dish to every specification. At least, I assume that she was the one who made it. I never did see any other chefs at that restaurant. Perhaps she killed them all. But I had my prize now, and with it I ran for the doors with the last of my strength. I heard Annalite's dainty heels scramble in my direction. It's possible I spilled a few of the vegetables in my haste to escape. Perhaps I even threw some of them over my shoulder in a crude attempt to slow her down. I was in no mood to care how disrespectful I was being to the integrity of the meal. For God's sake, they're just vegetables.

But I must have done something right because by some miracle I made it across the threshold and back into the open air. I overturned a table and desperately held it against the double doors for fear that Annalite would attempt to pursue me, but all I felt were a few terrifying jolts of pressure from the other side before she apparently gave up the chase.

So at last I delivered the order to my beleaguered customers with as much dignity as I could muster. I made no attempt at fanfare. I was just happy to be done with it all. And they were certainly happy to receive their food, which they immediately tore into with ravenous abandon, hurling their heads into the plates and inhaling their cuisine like a black hole sucking doomed planets from space.

I reveled in the noises of their feasting as I applied gauze to my wounds (thankfully I had had the foresight to prepare a first-aid kit for myself prior to entering La Ratatouille that night). When I felt well enough to leave I began to make my way tiredly to the hospital once again, down the lantern-lit cobblestone streets, leaving the mad kitchen far behind. I didn't feel quite so anxious as I had in the aftermath of my previous beatings. In fact I felt rather relaxed, all things considered. It occurred to me that my pain threshold had been considerably heightened throughout my recent trials. The sweet, soft wind of Paris soothed my salt-covered wounds, and I enjoyed the sights and sounds with a renewed sense of optimism. The neo-classical buildings seemed gay and harmless, like an amusement park. I considered stopping by the Louvre for a cigarette and having a dip in the Seine to further ease my pains.

Paris really wasn't a bad place, I decided. Aside from the odd maniac, it had so very much to offer. I could begin my affair with the city anew. All its most reputable features would invite me, a parade of wonders in my mind. The Cathedral of Notre Dame. The Arc de Triomphe. The Palace of Versailles.

And her face. Her perfect face, with skin so pure and clean, glowing like fluorescence against her midnight hair. I thought of her, that face, those nostrils flared, those teeth so lovely, even framed within a snarl, one or two just askew or chipped… a few imperfections here and there which somehow made my heart ache. Those unblinking eyes. I realized that I was sorrowful at the thought of never seeing that face again.

I exited my reverie and looked to the Tower. Mrs. Piaf sang a lullaby.

God damn it.

When I finally limped back to the kitchen an hour or so later I found that in that time she had singlehandedly dug a deep hole in the floor, through metal, concrete, and cement. The air was clouded with dust kicked up from the excavation, the various dishes and cooking implements now badly in need of cleaning. I couldn't help but wonder how she had managed to hold on to her job with such little consideration for the workplace. But then, it may have been within her power to clean and rebuild the kitchen with ease, any time she wanted to. Or perhaps no one had the nerve to try and get rid of her. For all I knew, she may have been here before the restaurant. I was gradually learning that it was best to estimate her by Lovecraftian standards.

The pit she had made was roughly six feet deep and at least as many across. She was huddled in a fetal position at the bottom, caked with debris, water from the broken pipes pouring over her and causing her achromic chef's uniform to become alluringly transparent as she curled into a growing puddle. The harsh breathing coming through her Greek nose reminded me of some heavy woodland mammal attempting to slow its heart. She had stuffed one of her hands entirely into her mouth, her dark lips sucking at the wrist, while with the other she idly clawed deep grooves into a cast-iron frying pan.

Tiny rivulets made paths down her face. They weren't tears in the traditional sense, though her eyes were nonetheless red, her cheeks just slightly puffy, just as any crying face should be. But when they met the dirty water they sizzled and solidified into bits of metal. Possibly steel. I started to think what a feather in my cap it was to know a girl who could weep liquid steel. Though if it were some other kind of metal, I wouldn't terribly mind. All metals are worthy of admiration to me.

In any case, slowly, and with as much care as I could muster given my injuries at the time, I crawled into her nest and laid myself down next to her. I wrapped my arms around her slender frame and began stroking her hair. You may think this an act of bravery, or, more likely, foolishness, but I would say it was neither. It was instinct, pure and simple, the animal knowing which comes upon those who have crossed a profound threshold. Was this her intent? To drive me to this state of being, so that a hand might reach out to whatever strange place she looked out from?

I believe that she finally slipped her hand around mine with significant trepidation, some chore of will. Yes, I had made her afraid. Of me! The irony was a profound revelation, and my perception of all things shifted to accommodate her capacity for emotion like a prism moving to cast a new configuration of light. Annalite was afraid! Of me! What was I, now, that I could instill fear in one such as she? What sort of thing had she made me, that I should have such power? I could never even scare mice away. I once spent hours locked in a closet, screaming for help while my cheese and peanut butter were attacked. But that's another story, and this is no time to segue.

No, at the time there were no mice. There was only me and her in our womb of rubble. What would be born from it, I wondered? Did the power to strike fear make me strong? Or would I be stronger to banish it? My hand went to her shoulder, as if to say, "Be comforted, Annalite. If you don't tear me to pieces with your awesome brutality, I should very much like to continue holding you. I should like to hold you with me forever, if possible."

Then, very cautiously, I maneuvered my head to within whispering distance of her ear. "Je t'aime," I whispered. "Je t'aime."

It was the only French word I knew at the time, though when I say that I knew it I mean only that I knew how to say it correctly, not that I knew what it meant. It was a ludicrously risky gamble, of course, since by my limited understanding I might have been insinuating something untoward regarding a dead relative. But she didn't explode with animalistic rage. If anything, she only seemed to... melt, a little.

That is to say, her body relaxed into me ever so slightly. She didn't really melt. She wasn't ice, or chocolate, or butter. She only reminded me of those things. And many other things, brought to my imagination by the act of touching her, of seeing her, of smelling her. I breathed her in, the scent of flowers, dirt, metal, and bleach (but mostly flowers). She slipped her other hand from deep within her throat, coated in saliva. Then we had sex.

I'm not good at describing intimate physical relations with any degree of poetry. I apologize for this. But it was pretty good sex.

In time we did emerge from the hole, a new life begun hand in hand, the ghost of a smile on her lips, the echo of one struggling through my puffy, bruised face, both of us appropriately wet and sticky as we left the kitchen forever. In fact she tore the restaurant down with her bare hands. Francois just laughed jauntily, his cheeks rosy, blowing dry kisses across the street with pinched fingers brought to his lips and exclaiming simply "Ah! L'amour!" Indeed.

I would like to go on describing my subsequent life with Annalite, our various adventures in romance… giving her my engagement ring, which she inhaled through her nose after crushing it into a fine powder between her fingers… taking her into my home and introducing her to my family as she bashed her head into our dining room table over and over again, shattering it into pieces while my mother awkwardly offered her cookies and my father became visibly aroused… meeting her family in turn, though I suspect she merely took me to a random point at the foot of a mountain and punched crude faces into various boulders in an attempt to emulate the custom… traveling the width and breadth of Western Europe, sailing the Mediterranean, watching her summon, kill, and eat whole herds of sharks, eventually finding a place to call our own in Bordeaux, a surprisingly straightforward affair absent of any notable strangeness… and our wedding, at last, I in black and she in my mother's flowing white dress, my extended family and seven men named Francois on one side of the aisle and many rocks and stones weighing down the pews on the other. But to tell it all, the wondrous nuances of a life well lived with another, every impression, every sensation, every moment in time, would itself take a lifetime of its own, and I am certain that you have your own to which you must tend. I can simply attempt to convey a few scattered pieces, thrown from across the void which must separate us, to tell you a little of my soul. And I can simply hope that you have found, or will one day find, a place and a person that you may care for as deeply.

The sun now glows upon the little cottage where we sometimes shelter fleeing members of some Resistance or other. Edith sings us to sleep each evening while the Tower's shadow blankets our home. I breathe my wife in and look forward to tomorrow, to the comfortable routine into which we have settled, when she will bake croissants and vegetables and I will sip wine at all hours, occasionally fighting for my life. A votre sante, my friend. Au revoir, good night. Remember me fondly, with my love, Annalite.

I later learned that she was Irish.

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