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The Sound of a Breaking Heart

By Florentina All Rights Reserved ©

Poetry / Drama

Blurb

Dalilah Victoria Siariacov is a 23 year old young lady from Constanta, Romania. A student in the first year of her Masters at Ovidius University. She decided to go through a scholarship program, and spend a semester in Paris. Recently broken up with her boyfriend, she takes this decision without thinking too much about it. Her desire is to escape from her daily routine, because everything was reminding her of him. She has a broken heart and thinks that she will never be in love ever again, that is until she meets Gerard, a mature man who messes her up. Next to him Dalilah discovers and understands the true mystery of love, even though she fully tastes the art of seduction, sacrifice and last but not least the art of suffering...

Jasmine Flavoured Mornings

“A new day has...come...

I was waiting for so long

For a miracle to come...

Everyone told me to be strong,

Hold on and don’t shed a tear.

Through the darkness and good times

I knew I’d make it through,

And the world thought I had it all

But I was waiting for you…

Let the rain come down and wash away my tears,

Let it feel my soul and drown my fears…”

Celine’s lyrics are all that I could hear in my head right now…Why must we keep the people in our hearts who have caused us to drown in tears and have sleepless nights?! How I missed the days when the only hero in my life was my dad! I loved putting my headphones on and just running, blowing off steam, using up the very last drop of energy I had …I ran in order to forget, it would be great if it were exhausting for my brain as well, but as soon as I sat down on a bench I immediately got flooded with thoughts. I was far away from home and missed the gentle touch of the sea breeze, I missed my special places where I could go and listen to the sound of waves breaking when gently hitting the tetrapods. I terribly missed my only friend and accomplice to all my successes and failures. Looking at her was enough to make me feel like I was being listened to, being indulged and even feeling sorry for me, the sound of her smooth waves was like a BandAid for my broken heart. Sad or happy, calm or sad, we were always in tune. I hadn’t been away for a long time, just two weeks but it seemed like ages. I missed home, the Black Sea and in a totally bizarre way, I even missed the last bastard I offered my time, my space, my trust, my heart, myself to…for about two years. Obviously, that wasn’t enough for him, quite the opposite actually, given that one beautiful January morning, on my birthday to be more precise, I found him in bed with a political science freshman that I was helping out with some project! It was my fault apparently for dropping by unannounced! I loved him so much, I was in love, I wanted us to grow old together, I dreamt of having two children, I couldn’t get enough of him, I always wanted more, until, all of a sudden I just wanted to disappear. That’s why when our Erasmus teacher told us about a new scholarship program for exchange students I was the first to sign up and like that I was in France. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to visit the palace of Versailles and all the castles of the Loire valley, to step on the beloved land of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, whose stories enchanted me during my history classes in secondary school and more. To visit Tours, to see, to touch and to breathe in the place wherein 1799 a future master of the realist novel was born – Honoré de Balzac; to visit Paris, the place where the works of naturalist writer Emile Zola came to life, or Rouen, the town of Gustave Flaubert, writer of the famous novel Madame Bovary, which I had read as a child and whose ending had made me see another side of literature than the happily ever after. After reading that novel I promised myself I would never read another book in which things could end badly, but I didn’t keep my promise! I especially want to visit Place du VieuMarché in Rouen, wherein the 15th Century the Maid of Orléans, as the French call her, was burned alive.

Now I was watching the Seine…It soothed me, I would have preferred the wide horizon of my beloved sea, losing myself while gazing far away where the water and the clear blue sky became one. Celine’s lyrics

There were nights when the wind was so cold

That my body froze in bed

If I just listened to it

Right outside the window

woke me up, as it was a little below 0 degrees outside. Although there was no more snow, it was still officially winter, and my halt ran a little long. Looking at my watch, I noticed that it was quite late and I had to get home right away. I searched for Roy Jones’s song Can’t be touched and I started jogging back home.

I was going with a cousin on my mother’s side to a wedding later that night, so I had a lot of things to do until 8 o’clock in the evening when we were supposed to leave. My cousin was going through a rough time too because a few months ago his wifetobe had left him. They had a beautiful 7year relationship well worth envying, which came to a sudden end…although some time had passed he hadn’t fully recovered. He loved her very much and I think he still does. He thinks he will never meet someone like her again. I kept trying to explain to him that he doesn’t need anyone like her, but the heart wants what it wants and I, Oh God, don’t I understand him!

I didn’t know anyone at this French wedding except my cousin and my French wasn’t fluent enough either, especially when I interacted with them facetoface. The accent as well as the fact that they spoke so quickly make me get lost halfway, but I hope I can manage. One of my cousin’s good friends was getting married, the HR manager. I was well aware that such an event will stir up his memories…We don’t always get happy events in this short life. But this is why I was here, to make sure that he didn’t have time to get carried away by longlost memories, as I would be keeping an eye on him each and every second.

As I was climbing the stairs, the idea of a hot chocolate started sounding better and better. As soon as I got inside I headed to the kitchen, I simply adored the luxurious apartment in which Darius spends the spare time he had. I couldn’t complain about my dorm room either, but this was the kind of place where you could lay around all day in your pyjamas, with your hair tied up in a messy bun on the top of your head and why not, enjoying a good movie in front of the TV or reading a good book by the window. Darius was in the shower, I didn’t know what to do, should I make a hot chocolate for him as well or…I’d better wait for him to come out of the shower because he’s not a great fan of sweet things in general. In the meantime, he came in the kitchen.

You’re back already, crazy one? He asked while giving me a fatherly kiss on the forehead.

You’re the crazy one! Why are you taking a shower at this hour, although we only leave at 8 pm? I’m making myself a hot chocolate, want one?

As I was saying, you’re not in your right mind to go jogging when it’s 8 degrees outside. I thought that with age comes wisdom but I was wrong in your case, he teased me, bursting into laughter.

Dary, you know very well that I couldn’t get up this morning to go jogging and that’s because for more than two weeks I have been postponing taking things as they come and resuming my daily activities. Want one or not?

No, my dear, I don’t want hot chocolate but since you’re so kind, you can make me a green tea, I saw you brought some with you yesterday. I have to leave early, I have to work on that last file, but I’ll be here at half past seven. Be ready on time, please don’t keep me waiting like you usually do, ok? At least this time!

Don’t worry, I’ll be ready in time!

Darius left after drinking his tea, so I was left alone again, just me and my thoughts. I went into the bathroom, I had to take a bath, wax, do my manicure and pedicure, pluck and dye my eyebrows, straighten my hair, and I only had four hours to do it. Thank God the dress was clean and ironed. I was not in the mood to do anything else for myself. I didn’t want to go to this wedding, where I didn’t know anyone, but I had to go with Darius and I didn’t want him to be embarrassed with me, so I was going to do my best to raise up to his level.

I watched myself in the mirror as I got undressed. All I could see is a scared and lost soul, with long black hair and green eyes now that some tears were fighting their way into them. I felt alone, I wished my sister were here with me, the best parties were the ones to where we went together…the tub was full of water, so I poured some vanilla bath foam in the water and got in. It felt so good! I would have stood in there forever, but didn’t have a second to waste. I got out of the tub sooner than I would have wanted. I was ready by quarter to seven, which was a record for me even if I don’t usually waste a lot of time on every small detail. Despite this, I never seem to be ready in time, and don’t even dream about being ready earlier. I had finally done it and so I surprised my cousin by me being the one waiting for him at half past seven.

Wow, cous’ you’re gorgeousss! That dress looks great on you, I mean it looked great at the store when you tried it on too, God only knows how patient I had to be in those four hours that we looked for your dress and shoes, but it was sure worth the effort. You look like a goddess! May I? He asked me while elegantly offering his arm to walk me to the elevator.

Darius, let me give you a kiss! Thanks a lot, you’re as sweet as always! The one who gets you will be the luckiest girl in the whole wide world! I hope that you’re planning on having fun tonight not thinking about the past and casting a shadow on the whole evening, because that would ruin it for me and for you, ok?! I for one plan on having fun and getting a break from my daily routine. We’ll assume that nothing happens without a reason and that this night will be crucial in our lives, ok?

Cous’, my little hopeless romantic, it’s time for you to land, because we’re almost at the restaurant and I need you to back here on Earth! I’m sorry for being the one who has to remind you that we live on a planet called Earth, where the world is governed by indolence, ingratitude, vanity, money and promiscuity and where if you are honest and think about others you always end up losing. For instance, where the divorce rates this year, was way, way higher than that of marriages and where if you are so naïve like you are, for example, it’s very hard to survive my dear!

Oh, how sad but true! You know, it would have been better if we lived back when marriages were arranged by the parents to serve political or financial interests, at least physically a marriage lasted for the whole life, one could afford to live a financially decent life and even if you didn’t love your husband you could find a lover, or you could simply love someone else in silence, at least the heart was free to love how who and how much it wanted. Today we can choose our future spouse ourselves even if neither have the financial means, we are happy that we are free to do what, when and with whom we want but it’s a shortlived feeling, then the mundane worries and troubles of everyday life suddenly turn what once seemed a dream into a nightmare and we want to seek refuge in the arms of another destiny, in another soul’s bed, again and again, until we think we found what we really wanted.

Hmmm….

But sometimes we wake up and realize that it’s been too long and what we did was just run the other way our whole life, the lines which we’re not familiar with started appearing on our face, that our joy of life has diminished, that we are tired and that in the garret there is no child like we dreamt there would be, always standing next to the couch, playing with a car or a doll. We wake up old and amnesic Darius, we never again remember the passing happy moments of our life, because all we ever did was spend it deceiving ourselves with just mere facets of happiness. We realize that we have no concrete events to feed our tired soul.

It seems that I was wrong about you, cous’, I felt like I was listening to a speech held by someone who has been through life already and has tried a lot of things on the way. What made you become so mature so soon, my angel? You’re only 23 years old, for you, real life is just starting. You have to have fun, be optimistic, screw that guy, there will be much more who would stand in line for just the slightest chance to go out for coffee with you.

Yes Darius, but the thing is, I don’t want guys to stand in line for a chance to go out with me, I just want one guy, my guy…

I know cous’, we need to talk some more about this someday, but another day because we’ve arrived at Le Meurice already. Are you nervous?

Why would I be nervous? I know it’s an annoyingly famous and luxurious restaurant, the rest is history I believe I’m dressed appropriately, even my hair although I didn’t do anything extravagant with it, I just straightened it with my hairbrush and hairdryer, but I think it looks quite well, given that I had it cut last week and it cost me 50 euros. If dad knew, he’d block my account.

I think he charged you that much for the extra bonus, not everyone gets such a stimulating hair massage when they go to the salon with the mere intention of having their hair cut, my cousin added in an amused voice as we arrived in front of the famous building.

We were greeted at the entrance by the happy couple. They were both superb! She was wearing a princess ball gown. The ideal dress for any bride in my opinion...we wished them well, saying what people usually say in these circumstances and then a hostess showed us to our table. Before accepting my cousin’s invitation to this wedding, I asked for a few details about how it was going to be, where it would be held and so on, so I googled some images of the restaurant and the hotel, and what I found impressed me a lot, but now I was utterly speechless. While heading to our table I caught a glimpse of the peerless beauty of the place. We had entered a fairy tale, the aristocratic world of the past century. Breathtakingly beautiful crystal chandeliers were imposingly hanging from the ceiling of the salon, there was a marble fireplace, antique mirrors in each corner of the room, huge windows decorated with marble on the sides. In another part of the room, there was a beautiful ice sculpture of the newlywed couple, surrounded by white sofas, round tables, and ivory Louis XVI armchairs. I slowly stepped on the mosaic floor heading to our table and felt how I was losing myself in another world step by step, a marvelous world with a sweet vintage scent. Once we arrived at our table we introduced ourselves to the ones we were supposed to spend the rest of the night with. It was a round table with a chic bouquet of red and white roses in the middle. There were also three small scented candles, and if I was not mistaken a hint of vanilla scent which I for one adore as well as six pieces of cutlery, napkins and four more people: three gentlemen and a lady. They introduced themselves and we found out that we were in the company of two brothers: Filip and Gérard, a cousin of theirs and a good friend of the latter. I hadn’t even gotten into the mood yet when Filip, who seemed to be the bold one from the group started questioning me.

So Dalilah, what brings you here? He was questioning me in a curious and malicious way. Taken by surprise, I affably asked him what he meant with that sort of question. Realizing how his question sounded, he rephrased it:

Sorry, I was talking about what brought you here to France, was it this event or do you live here?

Oh, no, it wasn’t this event. I’m studying here for a few months and I came to this particular event due to some favorable circumstances so to say, I had to accompany my cousin, I complacently told the curious freckled guy.

Interesting, what are you studying, here in town?

I’m studying management as part of a bilateral exchange program, at Pantheon Assas University I answered, trying to sound more serious this time, hoping to leave the impression that he’d better change either the subject or his conversation partner.

Nice, it means you like to be in charge! The freckled guy exclaimed.

Not necessarily, I believe that in order to make it in life you must be a realistic and perfectible person, I’m just starting out.

Did you come here alone? And there was finally a slight change of subject.

If you’re asking if I’m the only one in my class, then yes, I’m alone.

No, that’s not what I meant, you know what I mean, he said smiling a little too ostentatiously.

I do know what you mean. I came here alone, but I’m not available, I’m engaged and if there are no further questions I’d rather we changed the subject because I feel like I’m being questioned by the Spanish Inquisition, not like a guest at a wedding, I told him smiling ironically hoping that he would give up. Wanting to make sure that he would do so, I turned to Darius who was mesmerized by the girl next to him and didn’t even notice the torture I had been subjected to.

So, what do you think? Are you going to have fun? my cousin asked me distractedly.

At least one of us seems to be doing just that, I told him throwing his possible partner a meaningful look. I think it will be an incomparably boring night, it doesn’t do this place justice…

Why are you so pessimistic now? That’s not what you said on the way here. Look, I think the guy with the oldfashioned haircut kind of likes you, Darius went on saying, what did you say his name was?

Ohhh no, no, no, you’re wrong, and I think it’s something with a G. but don’t ask me what because I forgot already and yes, this kind of haircut is no longer in fashion, that’s the kind of haircut dad used to wear when he was young, and still does actually…

We should stop whispering, it’s not nice. Let’s enjoy this thing, I said discretely stirring the drink in my glass, what did you say this is?

It’s a long drink, my dear, a Campari tonic, Darius replied with a slightly malicious smile.

Oh, yeah? This wedding is great…I would have preferred a very long vermouth, a red martini and a good night’s sleep in a huge canopy bed next to that fireplace instead of this…gracious company, I confessed to my cousin, with a smile on my face.

Why cous’ don’t you like it even a little bit? He asked visibly worried.

No, don’t worry, I’m overreacting a little, I can’t wait to see what’s on the menu.

I heard the bride went with something special, a little exotic, instead of a traditional menu.

Oh God, that sounds…delicious, what can I say, I can’t wait to be surprised.

Look, they started serving the food, pumpkin, don’t worry, you’ll like something for sure, we’re at Le Meurice, for God’s sake, Darius whispered in my ear trying to soothe me.

In the meantime, the guy in front of me was trying to start a conversation either out of complacency or boredom, because his brother and cousin seemed so be caught up in a very heated debate, that he was not made part of.

Dalilah, right? He asked clumsily and I said quickly prayed in my mind that he would be concise.

Exactly, I finally answered, trying to fake an affable grimace, and your name is?

Gérard, Gérard le Vernière, he replied, this time with a little more confidence. So you’re Romanian, I spent my vacation there about four years ago, nice country, I spent some special days there, monsieur Gérard confessed.

Really? I asked, genuinely curious this time around. And where exactly did you go?

I went to Bucharest, then the mountainside, Brafov I think it was called and then to the seaside, the Black Sea in a pretty nice resort, it was the largest in the country.

Wow, I couldn’t help but be surprised, finally something to talk about; you went to Brasov, that is the name of the town and the resort is called Mamaia and it’s in the city where I’m from, Constanța, I started rambling, forgetting that my fluency in Moliere’s language was not quite up to par. My thunder was stolen by the entrées being served. They consisted of seafood salad with olive oil and lemon, caviar and a selection of cheese with pineapple, focaccia, olives, salmon rolls with raw vegetable stuffing, oh God at least the latter was more welcome than the first ones and at least I was sure that I wasn’t going to starve to death. So everybody started eating or tasting the entrées. Darius seemed to be having fun with this cousin of Gérard’s friend who had slowly started to grow on me. And still, if he wouldn’t keep drooling so visibly I might even take a certain interest in him. The way in which he had been looking at me since I sat down at the table was a little, actually, it was much too obvious. The fact that he was staring at me the whole time despite some beautiful girls wondering around still trying to find their seats, sort of amused me, it’s that kind of look you want to get from your boyfriend or husband, not some guy you’ve met less than an hour ago. God, I might even take him for a psycho, the kind who rapes his victim then cuts her into small pieces and keeps her in the freezer for about a week, then decides to throw the remains in the Seine and move on to his next victim. My whole body was shaken by a light shiver which gave me goosebumps, so I shook my head a little to make my dark thoughts go away. He obviously saw what I did since he wouldn’t stop staring, he asked me in a surprisingly warm voice, just like a coldblooded assassin:

Are you ok, are you cold? You seemed a little lost and even looked like you were shaking at one point.

Oh no, thanks, it’s fine, it’s quite warm in here, tell me did you like Romania, how did you find the sea, the food, our girls? I was trying to change the topic in order not to have to make up some dumb excuse.

Yes, it’s quite a nice country and it’s interesting, there’s no doubt about that, I liked the sea, the beach, the resort, of course it’s miles away from what we have here but nice nevertheless, he threw me a subtle smile as if he was telling me God knows what personal secret. I couldn’t believe that he just said that, I mean I was aware that Romania has a lot to work on in every aspect to reach the level of development of the French but still, we were at a wedding, not a congress about the touristic progress or regress of the two states…I smile like a faithful accomplice as if I hadn’t just noticed his irony, and he went on saying that even our traditional food was a little heavy and that he usually preferred going to French restaurants, although there were not many. After hearing this last confession I was convinced that the dude was either trying to tell me something or he really was the snobbish kind raised by the kind of woman who was way too busy to spend time with him because of her career and hired a nanny for the little prince, to read him bedtime stories and tuck him in at night as well as a cook from a long line of cooks who, instead of a cooking book, has a board on one of the kitchen walls with the days of the week on it and the master’s menu for each day to make sure that he ate all the right meals. I kept all of these thoughts to myself but I couldn’t help telling him:

And here I was thinking that when you visit a new place it’s only natural to be interested in its culture, tradition, culinary art, everything about it, its history, I mean I get that you went to Romania but preferred eating French cuisine and think that it was just a whim and threw him the same smile he threw me earlier, at least I hope he understood that I wanted to show how ingrate and indolent he was. I mean the man gets to spend his vacation in another country and when he gets there he isn’t even the slightest bit enthusiastic about having the opportunity to explore another world but rather irritated by the fact that he can’t find more restaurants where he can eat what he ate at home anyway. Oh, God, where do I find them? Or maybe I was overreacting, I took it personally…anyway. He didn’t seem offended by my remark but rather agreed with it.

I never thought about it that way, I’ll do just that from now on if I visit another country I should take advantage and try something else other than French cuisine, he said, leaving me the impression that he would do just that from now on.

We were interrupted for a moment by the waitresses serving the first plate, breaded calamari with sweet mustard sauce and my favorite: coconut, vegetable sauté, rosemary and lemon. But because I was almost full, I only tasted it a little to see what it was like. A few moments later another plate was served: chicken livers with mushrooms and white wine sauce with a side of buttered potatoes, mozzarella and cream, and I had to settle for admiring the charmingly delicious plating because I couldn’t eat another bite. It looked and smelled amazingly well but I was full. Everyone around me was enjoying their plates and I was pretending to take a sip every once in a while, a sip of… God knows what from the glass Darius offered me as a sign that I was now part of their group, we were at a wedding so it was only appropriate for me to drink a glass of alcohol given that I was not 15 anymore. Speaking of weddings, I just noticed that nobody was dancing, at the beginning a group of friends who I think were on the bride’s side adventured themselves into some sort of group dance but it was just an attempt and it seemed like the night was going to end this way, back home at this late hour people would have been in an advanced state of euphoria, and I’m not talking about the kind of euphoria induced by Bacchus but the one induced by the event itself. The steak seemed to be made up of grilled veal fillet with a side of boiled potatoes and ooh, God, asparagus, garlic sauce, mushrooms and red wine, olive oil, I couldn’t believe what combination they managed to make, leaving aside the fact that my stomach couldn’t have tolerated another culinary invasion, I still believed I could have fooled it with a little asparagus. However, I preferred to stay in the clear and asked the lady serving the plates to spare me and take the steak away.

After he finished his steak, only leaving some leftovers on his plate, I wonder how in God’s name he could eat all that food, he hadn’t skipped any plates, whatever, Gérard asked me if I had a Facebook account but not being able to find me he handed me his phone to find my profile myself. It was quite a daunting task for me because his touchscreen only worked if you pressed with all your finger on it and I had long nails so I wasn’t able to type. I, therefore, gave him back the phone and spelled my name and he found me immediately.

You’ll accept my request, he ordered me smiling.

Of course, as soon as I log in, I’ll accept your request, don’t worry.

For dessert, we had lemon sorbet and cake of course, which had the consistency of vanilla icecream, so I made an exception and took a bite, I could never say no to a little icecream be it summer or winter, it gave me a feeling of comfort. I felt like I had eaten too much already, I hoped I wouldn’t have any problems later on. After the cake was served I asked Darius if we should leave.

Sure, I have a lot of things to do today anyway, I could use a little nap. I’ll go get your coat ok?

I’ll wait here.

Once we got dressed, the evening came to an end. We said goodbye to those we shared the table with. Filip warned me before I got up that I shouldn’t leave without kissing him goodbye, but as we left it was his brother Gérard and his cousin who stood up, while he was outside smoking a cigarette. I kissed his cousin and Gérard who put his hands around my waist and gave me a gentle yet long kiss on the cheek and whispered in my ear:

It was an honor and a privilege to meet you tonight and one more thing, I love women who wear Chanel, and especially Chance.

I was impressed and even astounded by the fact that he recognized my perfume I left my guard down for a couple of seconds but then I replied, almost whispering, as I leaned to kiss him on the other cheek:

The pleasure…was all mine, and I turned to my cousin who was just saying goodbye to the girl he had socialized the entire evening with. And so we left the famous building together. On the way to his apartment, Darius tried to find out how I had felt that night, as he had been too busy with that mysterious lady to pay attention to my conversations with the others.

I woke up home alone at about half past ten the next morning, but I didn’t get out of bed yet, it felt so good, so warm, so comforting. I started thinking about the previous night and, curious to see the profile of the guy who just a few hours ago has recognized the scent of perfume I love although we had never met before, I went online and logged on Facebook to accept his friend request. Hmm, I hadn’t intended to accept it so soon so I didn’t seem desperate, but his profile was private so I had to accept it in order to see it. Someone was at the door. Who on earth could it be at this hour? I put something on and went out to see who it was. A delivery boy asked if I was Dalilah, asked me to sign a paper and handed me a huge bouquet of flowers. They were lilies, mostly red but some were white and pink, 23 in total, with some mint and rosemary in the middle. What a nice, colorful bouquet of flowers, I told myself. No note, though. What a divine smell! I knew that white lilies symbolized purity. There was something else about their stems, which could be broken but not bent just like proud, vain people. In the past, this flower was offered to sovereigns as a symbol of trust and unconditional love. When offered to a woman it symbolizes trust and unconditional love, it is a way of telling your loved one you are my queen. I was really curious what the intentions of the one who sent these flowers were…I put them in water and went back to what I was doing. I loved receiving flowers. I went back to the bedroom and resumed what I was doing before the delivery boy came.

What the…? Does it say here that the guy was born in 1976? I guessed I was still sleepy and couldn’t see well, so I rubbed my eyes a little, like I usually do in the morning, hoping that when I reopen them the figures would change. It didn’t work, 1976 was still in front of my eyes in all its might and splendor just like the first time. Holy cow, so that guy, that guy with the slightly messy hair and that attitude is no more and no less than 36 years old? Ooh, no, no, no it can’t be true, there must be some mistake. I checked out his profile picture and he looked so sweet to me, he had big dark brown eyes, and a wide smile, he seemed so young, I wouldn’t expect him to be more than 25 and yet he was a man out of his prime. It didn’t say that he was in a relationship, that was weird, at his age I was expecting to find pictures of his wife and two kids but it seemed that he was single, or maybe he was in a relationship but being the mature and serious 36yearold man that he was he wanted to keep these things private.

The account was not quite up to date, it seemed that he doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media, I guess at 36 I won’t be spending so much time on Facebook either, I’ll be doing something far more important and interesting with my time so I don’t find that to be out of the ordinary, there are some photos of motorcycles, it seems like a hobby, and that’s about it with monsieur Gérard and his Facebook page. Putting my phone aside I found the courage to descend from my little piece of heaven and go to the bathroom. I washed my hands, face and teeth but I chose to stay in my pyjamas. Although it was quite hot in the apartment I put on my light pink robe and went to the kitchen where I warmed up some milk and cereal and poured myself a little coffee, with milk of course, because Darius had already made it. I turned on the TV and switch the channel to MTV so while listening to Pink’s new song Try I served myself my 2 in 1 breakfast and lunch. I loved this part of the song:

Funny how the heart can be deceiving

More than just a couple times

Why do we fall in love so easy

Even when it’s not right

After I was done I got up, I washed my cereal bowl, I cleared the table and made myself a green tea with a slice of lemon to take with me in my room, where my laptop was. Enough with the fun, so to say, it was high time I went back to my daily routine.

Darius would be out of town on business for a few days, so I’d be staying at his place this week instead of going back to my dorm room. Maybe I’d ask my roommate Monique, a French girl from Bordeaux, to keep me company. I really liked this girl, she helped me get used to this new place. I left that for later and went back to bed with my laptop, logged on Skype first to see if my folks or Cassandra were online. We hadn’t spoken in two days and I wanted to make sure that everything was ok, but they weren’t online, neither the girls nor my brother Sorin, or my dad so I gave up and opened a file with a course on financial management and the implementation of public acquisition procedures of the French state. I read the first two phrases of the course with interest and dedication, but after less than 2 minutes my mind checked out. I was clearly not paying attention to what I was reading so I closed the document and I opened another folder with pictures which I hadn’t deleted yet but at that very moment, my phone rang so I abandoned this front as well.

Hello, good morning pumpkin, are you up? My cousin asked.

Hellooo cous’, yes, of course, do you think you have a lazy cousin who likes to sleep a lot or spend all her day indoors, in her pyjamas, because I don’t know that cousin of yours. How are you, did you manage to get any sleep, I haven’t heard you leave the house this morning.

Well…let’s say I don’t know her either, but don’t worry about me, I’m a big boy, I’ve been taking care of myself for a while now, remember, did you eat?

Yes, of course, milk and cereal as usual.

Milk and cereal he said, sounding surprised, but I made you breakfast, I left it in the fridge, he said, sounding disappointed.

Ohh God, how nice of you, sorry I was so sleepy when I opened the fridge to grab the milk that I didn’t notice, but don’t worry I’ll eat it tomorrow morning, so your efforts were not in vain, I said trying to make him feel better.

Ok, Vic you do that, don’t lie to me, ok, you make sure you eat, and not just on Wednesdays and Fridays like you seem to do now, auntie told me that you don’t eat enough. You’re under my care now and I don’t want her to say that I’m not taking care of you ok, he said in a firm voice.

Ok, sir, yes sir, you take care of yourself, ok? I love you. Kisses.

I looked at my watch and was surprised to see it was already 7 pm, it was dark outside. I was alone and not in the mood for anything, I hadn’t read much for tomorrow’s courses either and yet I felt tired. I thought it would be best to watch a movie and go to bed because I had a course at 8 o’clock the next morning and had to get up early. I preferred watching the movie on TV so I turned off my laptop.

But before closing everything I had opened I noticed that I had 3 new messages besides my notifications. I opened them hoping that one of them was from Cassy. But it was not my sister who was looking for me, it was monsieur, and now that I knew his age this way of addressing him sounded appropriate, it was no longer ironic, Monsieur Gérard Le Vernière who wanted to see how I was. The message had been sent an hour and a half ago. I replied although I knew he was probably no longer online, which I was happy about because I was not a great conversation partner at the moment. But I barely even pressed enter that he already replied.

What movie are you going to watch?

A Martin Lawrence comedy.

I like how he plays his parts.

Yes, me too, I like how he plays any part, his face when he is amazed, disgusted or having fun makes me laugh all the time.

You didn’t give me the chance to tell you how beautiful you are last night. You’re very beautiful!

Wow, what a surprise…he likes me…the way he was looking at me last night was not obvious at all. Still, the way in which he said it now, I mean the word he used was beautiful, he even used the superlative, he didn’t say I was sexy or hot like most Casanovas do nowadays. I appreciated that, it made me smile, or maybe he’s a little anachronic, given his age…

Thank you very much Gérard, that’s very nice of you to say, I replied in an equally affable manner.

I hope I’m not bothering you. If you want to watch the movie let me know and I’ll leave you to it, ok?

Don’t worry G, you’re not bothering me, in fact, I was only watching it because I’m not in the mood for anything else.

I’m glad to hear I’m not a bother, he said also adding two emoticons.

Don’t worry, you’re not, I hope you won’t become one, later on, I said sending him an emoticon as well.

That’s a relief

By the way, did you like the flowers?

What flowers? You mean it was you who sent those superb flowers? How did you know my address?

If you really want something, you get it.

Sorry, I might sound ignorant, but why this particular choice?

What do you mean?

Usually, men send…roses?! And then that mix of colors…and no note.

I thought that no words were needed because the flowers spoke for themselves, Dalilah.

Do they?

I really want to take you out to dinner and spend some time with you. I’ll explain the meaning of the flowers the first chance I get to see you. We might even go sightseeing on a weekend, I was born and raised here so I know a lot of places you would be thrilled to visit, given what you said, that you love places which have a history.

Hmmm, he wants us to fool around for a weekend and has no problem saying it. The nerve on this guy! Spending a weekend visiting old places, I mean it’s obvious he doesn’t want us to stay in separate rooms. I sent him an equally enthusiastic reply as if I hadn’t understood what he was hinting at.

It sounds very promising and I have no doubt that I would be charmed by the history and places you wish to show me (and no, I don’t mean a canopy bed with silk sheets, although I love these as well I said just for myself to hear) but I’m here with a purpose and I’m afraid I don’t have enough spare time for such long getaways.

I understand the master’s program is taking most of your time but you have to eat sometime right? It’s only a couple of minutes for a dinner. The trip we can postpone until the end of the semester when you have more time, what do you say?

That sounds doable. I’ll think about it and let you know when I have the time, ok?

That’s perfect but it would be phenomenal if you could let me know the day before to make sure that I’m in town because sometimes I travel for work.

I don’t know if I can plan it in such detail but I’ll try to let you know as soon as possible, we’ll just have to see if it’s meant for us to see each other or not. Where did you say you worked?

I own my own advertising company, it took me some time to decide what I wanted to do.

Wow, that sounds great. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you, is it true that you were born in 1976 or did you just put that on Facebook?

No, why would I lie? That’s when I was born. Why?

Oh God, for a moment I had hoped that it was just a strategy or a mistake, but my last grain of hope was now shattered.

Is there a problem about my age? He went on, seeing that I hadn’t replied immediately.

Oh, no, it was just a surprise for me (actually more of a shock) when I saw your birth year because you seemed younger to me, that’s all, I said trying to fix things.

Well, that’s a good thing, it means I’m in good shape, but the truth is I’ve been around for a while. Just out of curiosity, how old did you think I was? He asked me, slightly flattered.

To be honest, not more than 25, I answered honestly, because that’s what I really thought when I met him.

It would be great to be 25 again, but I’m well past that age, time flies, it doesn’t wait for anyone and doesn’t forgive anyone. What about you Dalilah, how old are you?

I turned 23 a few weeks ago.

At this age the world should be at your feet, with your looks, you should be having as much fun as possible, not be buried in books, just saying that’s a nice age.

Yeah, it’s our first conversation and he’s already talking about my looks…what was he going to talk about? My soul? He is a man after all and actually this is our second conversation because the first one took place last night, and still what does it matter that he says what he thinks, I’m not interested in him that way, so he can say whatever he wants.

You might say that I’m buried in books now, but I’m not one of those bookworms like you think I am. I like having fun too and I never think twice when I have the chance to go to a wild party but this is not a good time for that Gérard.

I understand. Don’t worry, you’re not some bookworm, I never thought you were, sweetie. It’s getting late, I guess you won’t be watching the movie tonight if you have to go to class tomorrow, right?

Yes, tomorrow I start early and it’s getting kind of late, I think I should let you go to sleep too, I’m guessing that being the boss you have to set an example for the rest, and not be late. It was nice talking to you, as for the movie I can watch it online anytime.

Maybe we can watch it tomorrow, what do you say? Tomorrow I’ll be out of town, I have to meet with a client, boring stuff…Here’s my number, give me a call when you can and I’ll call you back. And, Victoria, the pleasure was all mine, I hope to see you again soon, good night sweetie.

Oh God, that was so sweet…

I will. Good night Gérard, have a good day at work tomorrow.

And so our little conversation which took quite a lot of my time came to an end. I must confess that I did like talking to him, at least this night my mind didn’t wander through places full of memories and gestures long forgotten by time but not by me, it was an unusually pleasant distraction.

The next morning I woke up as soon as the alarm went off and got out of bed, without procrastinating the moment like I usually do. Although I slept less than usual, I felt unusually rested and I had the weird sensation that for the first time, after many days of drowned regrets my soul finally got some rest as well, I felt like new, I felt different, I finally felt good and in control of myself. I opened the window to breathe in the fresh air for 2 minutes, then headed to the bathroom to take a shower, which I had enough time for. I went to the kitchen wearing only my robe. I made myself breakfast, which I ate alone again but that didn’t make me sad, on the contrary, it was good for me because I was smiling again even if I didn’t have a good reason. I said a quick hello to my flowers. It was so cold outside that I thought about what I should wear. But since I was at Darius’s place and didn’t have a lot of clothes with me, I didn’t really have a lot of options, so after I finished eating I headed to my room where I decided to put on a red dress with a light brown belt, black stockings and black boots which also had a brown line along the ankles and over the dress I was going to wear my black coat and my warm, generous light brown scarf with white flowers. I took my bag, my laptop, I made sure once again that I had my phone and keys and left the house, heading to the subway station to go to class. While I was in the subway I called Monique to make sure that she had woken up and that she was coming as well. We met at the entrance, I waited for her to smoke her cigarette while we talked about the weekend and then we went inside.

It was a normal day, after class, I went to the library to get a book that I needed to in order to prepare for a management seminar but because I was not a resident I could only read the books there instead of taking them home. I had to make a copy of the chapters I was interested in and then headed home where I was planning to read the material in my pyjamas while drinking a cup of hot tea. François, the guy who registered the books I loaned finally dared to ask for my phone number, although I’m sure he wanted to do it ever since the first day when I asked him to help me with some books. When giving him the number I had to promise that as soon as I had some spare time I would go out for coffee with him. He was nice and I don’t think he was more than 5 years older than me.

As soon as I arrived home I headed to the bathroom to take a hot shower. It was quite cold outside so I was freezing by the time I got home. Since I had nothing urgent to do I turned on the water to take a longer bath, poured my favorite vanilla scented bath foam in the tub and used some of my cousin’s scented candles stash. I lit up some vanilla and coconut ones and added some bath salt to the water. In order to completely relax, I could have used a book to read a few phrases, so I headed to the guestroom where Darius kept a small book collection. As I was expecting, I was not exactly thrilled with what I found, knowing that he preferred sciencefiction, mystery, and thrillers which were not my cup of tea. I looked around some more and found Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which I was amazed to find in his collection until I remembered that I had given it to him as a birthday present about 6 years ago. I was glad to see that he had kept it. Although I had read and reread this book I took it with me in the bathroom because I could use some company from Elizabeth and Mister Darcy, but especially a little escape to a land so dear to me, always so green and full of life, Derbyshire. After this treat I was in no mood for studying as the bed was drawing me in like a magnet, I could almost hear it calling me to keep it company. This time, I had to resist it because I had to prepare for an important seminar and didn’t want to disappoint my teacher but I especially didn’t want to disappoint myself, so I started reading. I must admit that it was not what I wanted to do as a little girl. Management was one of my options, at first I wanted to be a police officer, then I realized that I was way too sensitive and feminine to spend so many years of my life dressed in that uniform which was what fascinated me in the first place and deal with all sorts of more or less lawabiding people. Growing up I realized that I was made for acting, for playing different parts, for living different lives through the characters I would have brought to life, this was my dream, it was what I wanted and I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone who asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated that I was going to become an actress. When I had to make a list of the universities that I wanted to get into, the university of theatre and film was not on it, because in Romania, unfortunately, an artist must either be financially supported by his family or his spouse because he would never receive a salary which could enable the whole family to have a decent life. The thought that there would come a day when I couldn’t pay my electrical bill made me change my mind so I went into a completely different direction, because on the stage I was about to go on, the political one, being a good speaker and honest, responsible and selfless citizen is not viable, it’s quite the opposite, you just have to leave the impression of being one. In fact, you must use any means to climb up the ladder. I liked the three years of university, they were interesting, at least in theory, politics is an art, another form, another sort of art, but in this case delicacy, grace and responsibility acquire a different meaning. After graduating I made another change and went for something more practical, management. I wonder what destiny had in store for me after I got my master’s degree as well. I hoped it was a wellpaid job, a home and a calm life.

After I was done writing my report I turned on all the devices which could have distracted me from studying, to see if there was anything new. As expected, I had a text from Cassy, telling me that she had tried to reach me all day, with no success. She wanted to see how I was, if I was ok and if I had fun at the wedding of course. And another one from Gérard, sent not long ago, which sounded like this: How are you sweetie, how was your day, is everything ok? I went out for dinner with some friends, if you keep turning me down I had to find some company in order not to dine alone. It will be late when I get home if you’re not asleep and you’re online maybe we can chat a little before bed, ok?! Kisses, take care!

Ohhh God, he just doesn’t give up… hasn’t he noticed how old I was and how old he was? Still, I could use a little escape from my daily routine so I was thinking that I might go out for lunch or dinner with him when the time was right.

I replied: Hi G, I had the most normal day, I went to class, I had an assignment to do for a seminar so after I got back home I dedicated the rest of my time to that report, which I finished not long ago. You can try, I might still be online. Tonight I’m going to watch a historical movie which is quite long so I might still be awake, Have fun and enjoy your dinner! I ended my message with Take care. Kisses. Then started writing another one to my dear sister whom I missed more than words could express. First of all I told her that I was fine, then gave her a few details about the university, the dorm, the colleagues and what I had been doing since I arrived then I told her everything about the wedding which was quite boring and dull, but telling each other every little detail about the events in our life was some sort of family tradition, so I pressed send.

Before sitting comfortably in bed in front of my laptop I went to the kitchen and heated up a glass of milk to which I added a teaspoon of honey to help me sleep better.

Halfway through the movie I received a new message: I just got back are you still here?

I always am. How was your dinner, did you have fun?

Yes, it was all right, we ate and drank a bottle of wine, nothing interesting, but enough about me, let’s talk about you or better yet, about us, would you like that?

Us, you’re so sweet and yet so funny or have you forgotten that I’m engaged?

Technicalities…I’d rather you weren’t…you know I have in fact checked your ring finger and that ring does indeed seem special but it’s not a typical engagement ring, but if you say it is then I believe you.

I’m not a typical woman and my ring is a special one, just like the person wearing it, Monsieur Gérard. And so I realized that he believed the ring thing so I had to keep on pretending I was engaged and wear that ring that I wore at the wedding. In fact, it was a ring I had bought myself during a family vacation in Italy, from a flea market, it was an extremely interesting model and it was dear to me. When I bought it I was already picturing it being worn centuries ago by some princess, duchess or marquise, I wouldn’t have imagined it would serve as my engagement ring, but life is unpredictable so I’ll be more than happy to wear it every day as a symbol which brings happiness into my life.

Tell me something about you, whatever you like, whatever you think I should know.

I’m not going to make my selfportrait now Gérard, if you’re interested in me you’ll have to find out by yourself how I really am. Our opinions might not coincide so I wouldn’t want you to see my spiritual portrait through my eyes, I can’t do that for you, I wouldn’t want you to think that I was responsible of having influenced you in any way later on.

I like challenges and mystery, all I ask is a little cooperation! For instance, you could begin by telling me what you like doing most, every day and in your spare time.

This I can tell you. I like reading a lot, especially novels, and history books and I like travelling. I love those places which are full of history which can pass some of their energy and emotions on to me, I love old buildings, castles, mansions. I love being surrounded by people or sometimes just by animals, I love puppies and fish, I have a fish tank back home. I hate, or better yet I despise solitude, breakups, and shallow, vile people. I’ll leave the rest to you!

Perfect! France is where history was born, Paris and its surroundings are full of it, all you have to do is say yes and I’ll take you on a tour full of history and who knows maybe we can create our own history this way.

I appreciate perseverant, tenacious people but I have to remind you that I’m here to study and I don’t have any spare time, unfortunately. However, I’m not going to return home without at least visiting Versailles, Rouen, and Disneyland. What do you like doing, how do you spend your free time?

I was a restless child, I was quite a handful for my mom, I always had to have bruises, I started with cycling, then I was fascinated with motorbikes, rallies, drifting, karting, that’s what I do in my spare time. Do you practice any sport, any particular one you might like?

Not really, I’m quite sedentary, although I plan to do something about it in the future. I saw on your Facebook account a lot of pictures with such activities, so I guessed you were a diehard fan of dangerous sports? because that’s how I see them. How come you didn’t go for such a career and chose advertising?

I really wanted to but my future plans didn’t match what my parents had planned for me. I had an uncle who died in a car crash in a rally and ever since my parents decided that it was high time I changed my priorities.

Oh, I’m sorry for your uncle, G, your parents did what they thought was better for you and your safety.

Don’t worry, it was a long time ago, thanks anyway, you’re right.

By the way, could you please help and correct me when I make a mistake, my French is not as good as it used to be in high school unfortunately.

It will be my pleasure.

Ok then, Gérard, I have to go, it’s late already and tomorrow I have to go to class early, kisses, good night.

I don’t want you to go, I hate being dumped, why can’t you tell me instead that you could use some company and I’ll be more than thrilled to make this wish or necessity, call it as a wish, come true.

Of course I feel better when I know there’s someone else home, like I said I hate solitude too. I must admit that there are times when a little solitude, or better yet a little recollection far away from curious eyes is good for me. So thanks for the suggestion, or selfinvite but no thanks!

Ok, ok I understand that you just don’t want to see me… maybe I’ll get luckier tomorrow because today I’m clearly not. Kisses Dalilah, good night.

Oh, Dalilah, I think you forgot to give me a call so I could save your number, or have you deleted my number already?

Oh, dammit, I really didn’t intend to save that number and I deleted our previous conversation because it was pretty long and made my chat load slowly…so what the hell am I supposed to tell him now to make him give me his number again and seem like I deleted it by mistake???

I was just about to Gérard but our previous conversation is loading so slowly, could you please write it again please?

Oh, this damn internet, whatever, here it is.

I’ll give you a call right now, ok?

Ok

I turned everything off and let myself sink into my soft pillow. I tucked myself in, it felt so warm and so good, I felt so good after talking to him, he made me smile and so I went to sleep thinking about our little conversation.

This week proved to be a pretty busy one so I didn’t even realize how time flew by, I had classes every day, I presented three seminar projects which my teachers were thrilled with and I talked to Gérard every night, he would come home at various times of the night, because he usually ate out with friends, clients or God knows who, given that he got home so late sometimes… but that was none of my business so I’ll pretend I haven’t just said that – as I was saying it didn’t matter what hour he got home, he would write and let me know about it.

Today was Friday so Darius was coming home tonight, which is why I was spending a few extra hours in the kitchen this afternoon. I wanted him to eat a home cooked meal when he got home, I knew he loved Greek chicken soup just like I did, and I also made baked chicken with asparagus and crème brulée for dessert. I turned the music on and the first song which came up was Fort Minor’s Remember the name, a song I love to jog to rather than cook to, but I got started, I was not an exceptional cook but the few things I knew how to cook, I cooked well. I hadn’t even cleaned up the kitchen yet when my phone rang. My roommate Monique told me that we had to go to class tonight from 6 to 8. The professor who was supposed to teach the management seminar on Monday evening couldn’t make it and wanted to make up for it that evening. Dammit, it was already half past four and I smelled like crème brulée, chicken and asparagus, oh God. All I could do was finish cleaning up as fast as I could and then have a shower. After I took a shower, I threw on a pair of jeans, some boots, and a baby pink blouse. I tied my hair in a ponytail because I didn’t have time to wash it and I didn’t wear anything on my head while I was in the kitchen because I was planning to have a bath after I was done with the cooking. Anyway, here I was at the station heading to the university, where Monique and Mélanie were waiting for me.

On the way, I called my cousin to let him know that I wouldn’t be home when he arrives and why. Because it would be dark at that hour he decided to come pick me up and get me home safe. He ignored my protests so we decided to meet in the hallway at 7:50 pm.

The teacher told us from the beginning of the seminar that it will only last one hour and we would make up for the other hour later on, so for a second I thought about taking advantage of this free hour to see Gérard. I immediately sent him a text message to tell him that I had a free hour and that if he was available we could spend a little time together. 2 minutes later I received a reply:

Are you kidding? Of course I’m available for you, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing. Where should I come pick you up?

In front of the university at 18:55, ok?

It’s settled then, see you then sweetie!

And that’s how I just planned our first date. I found the way I planned it very funny. Maybe I should be honest with him and tell him that I was as free as a bird, I was not engaged, and that I only said it because of the insolent curious way in which his brother questioned me at the wedding. I’d give that a serious thought later because now I was falling behind with my notes. For another half hour, I focused only on the teacher who was speaking quite rapidly so I had to use a lot of abbreviations which I was afraid I wouldn’t understand when I would use my notes to learn. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, for now I was officially going on a date. Before leaving I said goodbye to the girls, I wished them a nice weekend and promised that I’d come back to the dorm as soon as I could. I headed to the bathroom to see if I looked ok. I wiped my lips with a makeup removal napkin and then put on a little coconut lip balm. I put a little perfume on, put on my gloves and went out. As I went down the stairs a black car stopped in front of me. I’m not great with cars but I think I saw this one in one of my brother’s magazines and it was a Rolls Royce Phantom. Gérard came out of the car wearing a pair of jeans, a white shirt, and a light gray sweater. Oh, he was so beautiful and tall, I’ve always wanted a man who was as tall as my dad. He came up to me and gave me a hug. He kissed me on the cheek and then invited me to get in the car in before I got cold. Finally a gentleman, I shouted in my mind, because I was impressed by his gesture to come out of the car although it was cold outside. Once we were in the car he took my hand in his and held it so tightly that in other circumstances I would have thought that he missed me a lot and he was holding me so tightly because he was afraid to lose me again. I noticed that I liked feeling him, touching him, although the fact that his hand was moving showed that he was tense.

Where do you want to go? Do you want to grab a drink? I guess you haven’t had dinner yet, do you want to go eat?

I haven’t eaten yet but I don’t want to eat now. My cousin is coming back home today so I cooked something especially for him and I’m going to dine with him, but thanks. I don’t think we have time for drinks either, I can’t stay long, my cousin is waiting for me. He knows my class finishes at 8, speaking of which I’ll send him a text not to come pick me up, I’ll tell him that a colleague will bring me home.

Then we’ll take a tour of the city, tell me where I’m supposed to drop you afterward, ok?

Perfect, like you don’t already know my address ? What have you been up to today?

Nothing special, just the usual, he answered smiling. Why are you looking at me like that? He asked circumspectly.

Nothing, I just can’t believe how well conserved you are, I mean I look at you and can’t believe that you’re as old as you say.

It’s genetic I guess, being evergreen, he replied visibly thrilled by the fact that he doesn’t show his true age.

Now can you tell me what the flowers you sent to me mean?

Fleurdelis, especially the red ones, are the symbol of a burning passion, fire, passionate love and the number 23 means I see something special in you, in floral language.

Wow! And the mint?

Feelings…ardent feelings! He told me smiling with his perfectly white teeth, which made a shiver go through my whole body.

Interesting…I confessed amazed and confused at the same time because I didn’t know how to take in all this information. Gérard was either the dream of any sensitive woman or the nightmare induced by a coldblooded psychopath.

In the meantime, I noticed that we were going on a less circulated route to an unknown destination so I grew more and more impatient. All sorts of lugubrious scenarios crossed my mind, I don’t even know if I did the right thing by going out with him, his age and the fact that judging by his car he seems rich are not things I like. I don’t think this kind of men would waste their time with girls like me. A cold shiver shook my whole body. I asked him in a feeble voice where we were heading, and, noticing my impatience he laughed, but tried to calm me down.

Don’t worry Dalilah, you’re safe with me, I’m not going to kidnap you, although I won’t deny that I would like that.

Hmmm, you’re not funny at all Gérard, I replied in a serious voice.

Look, we’ll stop here a little! He said, parking somewhere and stopping the engine, leaving the music on.

He took his hands off the wheel and then he kissed me, all of a sudden, without me having the chance to even realize what was going on, I mean it was more or less obvious that he would try to get there, but I never thought it would be this way. He leaned towards me and grabbed my mouth in a quite brutal way, like a magnet. My first reaction was to draw my head back but he was already pushing me with his in the headrest of my chair. I closed my eyes and didn’t kiss him back at first because for a moment I felt like I was sinking into an abyss filled with rainbowcolored air bubbles that I couldn’t touch the bottom of, because it brought me back up with the same speed. In such circumstances, I would have usually yelled at him, slapped him and shouted at him who do you think you are to do something like this to me? and I would have ran from the car slamming the door. But here I was kissing him back with the same intensity, same passion… I felt like we had done this before, like it was something we had left unfinished and had decided to finish now. How pleasant, how sweet, how intense, how breathtaking he can be with just one gesture. He pushed my chair back making more room and climbed on top of me, with swift sudden movements he took off his belt and tried to take off my blouse but I stopped him, making him understand that he was crossing the line and I didn’t have to do more, because the way he moaned I could realize that he…finished. We got ourselves together after this little incident, me still trying to figure out what was going on, him a little tired and embarrassed but with a satisfied grin on his face (literally). I told him that we’d better head home soon because my cousin might already be worried, since it was well past 8 p.m. already. When we arrived, I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before getting out of the car. When I was in the elevator I leaned on the wall and hugged myself tightly. I felt his perfume on me, I smelled like him, my hands smelled like him…I didn’t know what that was but I didn’t want to think about the consequences right now, I just knew I wanted to do it at least once more. I went inside and was greeted by Darius:

Hey, college girl, where have you been at this late hour, huh?

Where do you think I was at this hour in this cold weather? Haven’t I told you about the seminar mister Darius? Who’s wondering around all day anyway huh??? I justified myself trying to sound as natural as possible.

With high school girls, right? He added laughing. I’d wish, I worked like a mule this week and I’m only here for the weekend, I leave again on Sunday.

Noooo, you’re leaving me alone again? And I thought that you finally came home and I won’t be alone anymore, do you really have to go back, can’t you just work from home?

I can’t Vicky, and I’m sorry that we’re not spending more time together. Let’s not think about that, ok, we have the whole weekend in front of us so let’s enjoy the time we have left. I saw that you cooked, let’s eat, I’m starving, he said rubbing his stomach.

Ok, I’ll go to the bathroom and then we can set the table, ok? I headed to the bathroom. After I closed the door I looked at myself in the mirror and gently touched my lips with the tips of my fingers, I still felt his lips on mine. I smiled at the thought of his volcanic attitude. He climbed on top of me like a hyena jumps on its prey. He behaved childishly, like an innocent teenager, and I really couldn’t put a label on him but I washed my hands and promised myself to think about this aspect when I’d be in bed, because at the moment I had something else to do.

Ohhhh you weren’t joking when you said that you were hungry, I exclaimed, thrilled that Darius had already sat at the table and was ready to eat.

I thought that if I waited for you to come out of the bathroom, I had zero chances of eating tonight, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re in love by the way you’re acting. Or are you? Did I miss anything this week? A guy from school?

I’d wish…And what makes you say that, I’m just tired, stressed out because of the seminars, the courses, nothing more. I kept on eating calmly, happy with the excuse I made up, actually if I think about it, it’s not an excuse, it’s the truth.

Yeah, right, he said ironically. That’s the point, you don’t look stressed, on the contrary, you seem very positive, relaxed, I could swear that there’s someone new in your life who’s making you smile again.

You say it like I’d really need a man in my life to smile, I feel offended, I mean if you didn’t know me I’d understand but you do, I told him putting on a sad face.

Hey don’t get me wrong, you know the kind of smile I was talking about, but don’t worry, as long as he’s not Korean it’s ok, he tried to fix things throwing me a wink.

So on top of it all, you’re xenophobic too, who would have thought? Korean, I said bursting into laughter and covering my mouth. And even if he were Korean, what’s the problem? You know I like oriental men.

God forbid. Noo I was talking about this Erasmus thing, since there are students from all around the world, I wouldn’t want him to take you far away, I’d prefer someone close by here in Europe, maybe even one of ours.

You’re something else, don’t worry, first of all, there are no Koreans in our group and second of all I’m not interested in any guy at the moment. A guy just came into my life I guess…

I got up and starting clearing the table, putting the dirty plates in the dishwasher. After I finished we headed to our rooms and after giving me a goodnight kiss on the forehead, Darius went to the bedroom leaving me all alone. I was not in the mood to take a shower but I finally did, with the regret of washing away his scent.

I put on my pyjamas and finally climbed into bed. This day was indeed long and full so the warm touch of my bedsheets was all I needed to feel relaxed and safe. I put on my sleeping mask and tried to fall asleep, but as expected I started reflecting on the little incident from the car which I didn’t know if I should call happy or on the contrary, unhappy. At least the immediate effect was a clear one and without a shade of a doubt a happy and exciting one, but now that I thought about it I wasn’t quite impressed with the way things went, I was actually disappointed and deceived. Even if something would have happened between us I would have planned a totally different kind of first date. We said that I would send him a text when I went to bed and he would send me one when he got home so I opened my laptop to check my chat because there was nothing on my phone. There was nothing on my chat either so I decided to write to him first.

Gérard I’m going to be honest with you about what happened between us tonight. I think you misunderstood the kind of relationship I wanted to have with you, or maybe I wasn’t clear. As you well know, I’m engaged and all you did was assault me tonight. I won’t deny that I liked it, I liked it surprisingly much, but the way in which things happened was exaggerated and blamable. We don’t know each other at all, it was the first time we saw each other if you don’t count the wedding, and you literally jumped on me. Honestly, I felt used, I mean I guess this is the sort of treatment girls who get paid for a few minutes of company receive, if you know what I mean. I’m well aware that at your age you don’t feel like wasting your time courting a girl or getting to know her, discover her successively, and what you’re looking for now is just sex, but I’m not looking for that. I wanted us to be friends, I wanted to get to know you before getting intimate in such a way. I’m sorry things happened this way and I left you God knows what impression about me which made you treat me this way. It was a pleasure meeting you but I don’t want to see you again. Take care G. Kisses, good night. Victoria Dalilah Siriccov!!!

I pressed send and told myself that this relationship attempt was over, it was better that it happened this way from the beginning, at least I was just disappointed not hurt, he just hurt my ego. Which is somewhat more bearable compared to hurting me and making me suffer again.

I immediately received a text from him

I just got home sweetie. How are you? I went out with some friends, we had dinner, but before that, I spent some time in the company of the sweetest and most beautiful woman in my life.

Wow…he’s surprisingly…fine, so to say, he probably hasn’t seen what I wrote because his reaction doesn’t seem natural. And how can he call me sweetie after just one kiss, well a first kiss in more than one step, but even so, it sounds like an old fashioned cliché. I keep this impression for myself and in order not to complicate things more I just reminded him about my message, in case he hadn’t read it yet.

Gérard, I sent you a message, haven’t you seen it?

I did Vy, in fact I just saw it, you’re right, what can I say in my defense, I messed up, I’m a jerk, forgive me…

I don’t know what to say, it’s quite embarrassing…

I know, I understand, I was a moron, I’m sorry…

Why did you react so impulsively? Do you treat all the girls like that, is that your own style Gérard?

I was sure you’d ask that, God no, of course not

Then why did you do it tonight, with me?

Victoria I don’t know what happened, I understand you very well and I think you have every right to be upset, I wanted to see you so much after that wedding, I thought about you all the time, and now everything happened so fast, that I didn’t even realize if it was real or not…having you next to me and feeling you so close, it was a cocktail of feelings, sensations…I just exploded…

Hmmm and still I like the socalled cocktail of feelings excuse, he might be honest.

Please give me the chance to make it up to you and I’ll prove to you that I’m not the monster you imagined I was tonight.

Maybe I jumped to conclusions, maybe you’re not like that. I hope I was wrong. I won’t promise anything but I’ll try to make time for another date.

You’re just like I thought you were: sweet, nice and apparently selfless too. You won’t regret it Victoria, that’s a promise, and I rarely make promises, I hope to see you again as soon as possible.

I’m also naïve Gérard, and I hope that you won’t figure that out soon, because everyone who becomes aware of it only take advantage of my naiveté. Most of the time, all the time actually I only get disappointed. Although I always say: that’s it! Next time I’ll be more careful or I’ll teach the jerk a lesson, so he or she can see that things are not exactly like they seem, I never find the strength to do that, I give up and move on. In the end I’m better that way, and I comfort myself with the thought that one thing is certain, I didn’t lose anything, they were just garbage which now stands where it belongs, which is in the container that has GARBAGE written on it in capitals.

I hope I’ll be able to sing Edith Piaf’s lyrics after this promise of yours Gérard. Good night, kisses, I finally replied.

You’re talking about regrets, right? You’ll still be able to sing it good night my dear, I’ll hug my pillow tight thinking about you…kisses.

Yeah…I really hope I haven’t run into some weirdo. I turned everything off and hid in my welcoming bed, thinking at the day’s events, him, my sister and fell asleep promising myself that tomorrow I’d call her on Skype, talk to her and tell her everything. I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to say, her opinion mattered a lot to me.

The next morning my cousin woke me up just like in the old days. He stormed into my room screaming wake up while pulling the comforter off me leaving me dizzy and grumpy.

Are you’re out of your mind, were you saying something about how I haven’t grown up??? Look at you, you’re acting like a teenager, give me my comforter back or I’ll wake up all your neighbors, I warned you. I was trying to sound serious and even menacing, but I talked in such a low voice that I was the only one who heard and understood what I was saying, I was obviously still asleep.

Was the young lady saying something about waking up neighbors? I’d me more than thrilled if you could wake yourself up, in fact that would be enough, come on lazy girl, come on I made breakfast, it’s 10 o’clock , come on, you’re tea is getting cold, come on!!!

What time is it? Ten o’clock? Oh God, how the night flew by, it felt like I went to bed 10 minutes ago and woke up with you storming in here, were you saying something about some tea? I asked while I was getting up and rubbing my eyes in an attempt to wake up.

Yes, come on, there’s some bread in the toaster right now, come on, I’ll wait for you in the kitchen, promise you won’t go back to bed, ok? In fact I want to see you get up and head to the bathroom because I don’t trust you when it comes to sleep. Ah, and I forgot to tell you that someone sent you flowers…again…who sent you fleurdelis miss Dalilah – Victoria? You know what that means right?

Oh, I thinks it’s a guy from the library, I said smiling.

Yes, yes!!! The librarian…right…

Go ahead, I’ll be right behind you.

So I put on my robe and slippers and headed to the bathroom first although I was anxious to see what flowers I received. There were 13 peonies decorated with rosemary. I wonder where on earth he found these flowers this time of the year. There was no card of course, I would have to google their meaning. I couldn’t wait to finish eating. We were having an apparently calm breakfast and among other things Darius also told me that a colleague of his who saw me at the wedding would like to ask me out but he was a little shy and that was why he had asked him for help, to put in a good word for him. Namely, to tell me that he’s 28 years old, he had a promising job, he came from a very good family with an extremely fortunate financial position so if I’d agree to marry him money would never be an issue and I’d never have to work to support my family. Ohh God, from going out to thinking he would marry me was a little too much. Dammit we haven’t even said hello to each other, how could he go so far? Not to mention that that’s exactly why I’ve been studying for so many years, to get married, have children, cook and maybe clean the house, or I’d probably have a maid since he has such a fortunate financial situation. Damn this guys who don’t have anything else to say about themselves except that they’re rich. I suggested to Darius that he tell him that I already got married and don’t intend to get a lover, but I’ll let him know if I change my mind. Visibly amused by my consternation Darius tried to fix things a little by admitting that he exaggerated a little and the marriage thing came from him and that I was a little too harsh on poor Christian, because that was the guy’s name. That I should give him a chance because he’s not some fancy retard, he’s a very normal and interesting person, who was just a little shy. I had to promise that I would consider it before we could go on with our day and watch a teen movie, remembering the old days, eating popcorn and ice cream. In the meantime I googled the meaning of the flowers and found the following: Be mine! I’m in love! Remember! I was…happy, I guess. For dinner we ordered a Hawaiin pizza and we ended the day remembering the good old days and talking about the other members of our family.

On Sunday evening Darius left again, telling me that this time he might come back sooner, but he didn’t know for sure, so he would let me know when he found out. Seeing that I was alone again, I called Monique and asked her to drop by that evening and in less than one hour Monique and Mélanie were at my door. I was thrilled that they could and wanted to come and keep me company, I don’t like being alone at night, but I couldn’t force anyone to be around me at all times. After all, I was no longer a child. Initially we were planning on watching a movie and eating popcorn and icecream but my girls didn’t come empty handed, they brought a little alcohol. Mélanie was not having a good day because her boyfriend had just left her last week and she wasn’t over it yet. I understood her very well, my wound hadn’t healed either. It’s incredible how attached you can get to a person and even more incredible is the fact that in spite of him deeply hurting you, practically sinking the whole symbol of eternal love, you kept hurting yourself by reliving the beautiful moments from back when you were in love and keep wondering why me? So for Mélanie’s sake we decided not to watch a movie like A walk to remember or Titanic and turned on the music, making sure that it’s not loud enough for the neighbors to call the police because it was not really an appropriate hour for listening to music. Monique made us some cocktails only she knew how to make and we started dancing. After we got tired of dancing to Next Episode we all sat on the couch for a session of analyzing the common activities we had been doing together for some time, as well as the other subjects which took part in them, so for a gossip session. That’s how I found out that the university and dorm, teachers and students were the same as the ones I was familiar with, there were only subtle differences, the same that you basically see everywhere. The wine worked its magic on us so we ended up having a pillow fight and running after each other through the whole house. We only stopped when Monique, pushed by Mélanie who strongly hit her with a pillow, slammed her face on the kitchen door while try to run away. She didn’t have the time to realize that the door was actually closed so we had to pick her up and put some ice on her nose which was all swollen. After this happened we all calmed down. It was late anyway and we had classes in the morning, the alarm was supposed to wake us up in 4 hours and we were supposed to conceal our sleepless night and pose as model students. But none of us heard the alarm so we finally woke up because my phone was ringing but it was not the alarm, it was my beloved sister Cassandra. I picked up the phone and went to the kitchen to take the call in order not to disturb the girls.

Sis, you’re quite the early bird, how are you? What’s so urgent that you called at this hour? I asked in a sleepy voice but she immediately burst into laughter and said:

I am an early bird…it was indeed early at 6:30 a.m. when I woke up but now, that you’re awake thanks to me, it’s not early any more. It’s 11:10 a.m., it’s almost lunch airhead, tell me, what did you do last night?

Are you kidding me? I was screaming like I had just broken a nail, and yet I was at peace with the thought because with the headache I had, I was in no mood for class. Ohh God, madame LeFleur will give us two extra assignments for skipping class today…anyway, I have to sit down a little, the whole house is spinning, I can swear it’s spinning round and round sis.

Victoria are you trying to tell me that you’re hungover by any chance?

Hmmm no, I was just trying to tell you that I called a friend over at Darius’s last night and she brought a friend, they’re both from the dorm, one is my roommate, I told you about her, and yes we partied a little because they brought 2 bottles of alcohol, whiskey…We didn’t intend to drink it all but we probably got carried away, I set my alarm for this morning but I didn’t hear it at all.

Are you sure you set your alarm? She asked me in an equally amused voice. She probably found my unfortunate situation funny.

Of course, I was sober when I set it, it was before the girls showed up, sis my head feels so heavy, my whole body actually, and I feel awful, I have stomach burns, ohh God I’m going to die, I went on whining.

Vicky, sweetie calm down, you’re just hungover, you’re fine, you’re going to be ok, make yourself a lemonade, it might help, I don’t know what to tell you to do, I know this is what my boyfriend does, you can try it too. What were you thinking? You barely drink two drops of champagne for Christmas and you’re already tipsy, I can’t believe that you drank whiskey, Cassie ended her lecture. She always took care of me and was interested in everything that concerned me.

I’ll try taking an ibuprofen for the moment, I hope it will make the pain go away. If not I know from one of my mom’s friends that for headaches you should drink coffee with lemon juice. I never tried it but I think now’s the time to see if it works, it would help me a lot.

The reason why Cassi called was to find out more about the wedding I wrote to her about so I briefly told her how the evening went but I also gave her all the details about our little adventure from Friday night and asked what she thought about him. Surprisingly, my sister was quite objective and put herself in Gérard’s shoes. She found his behavior quite natural, considering that sitting next to someone like me made it impossible for him to restrain himself. She even found an excuse for him, saying that I confused him by lying that I was still engaged even though I wasn’t any more and that I refused to go out with him in public preferring to hide in the car, implying that I’d want something short and clear instead of wasting my time in a café.

Then she activated her subjective side and advised me, ordered me actually, to be more careful and not give any more bastards the privilege of entering too deeply into my life, because she wouldn’t bear to know that I was heartbroken and confused again. Although I had the impression that my head weighted a ton and the kitchen was moving I was very peaceful, I needed to hear from her that things aren’t that blamable so the fact that I skipped madame LeFleur’s course didn’t seem like such a crime any longer. I slowly went to the girls’ room to wake them up and let them know that we were immature and irresponsible slackers. We made breakfast, all grumpy, but thank God Monique’s nose was ok, it wasn’t swollen. We made jokes about the previous night and about Monique risking to go out on the street with that swollen nose. Even worse, she could have been seen by that teacher from the seminar she fancies, which is no surprise since he is around 30 and works out. We had a class from 5 p.m. so we went to the dorm in the room where I usually live with Monique, but now that I’m spending more time at Darius’s Mélanie had taken my place. We made another coffee and went on Facebook to spy on our new colleagues and make fun of their pictures and faces without any compassion, being aware that they probably do the same themselves.

In the meantime Darius called me to let me know that he was coming home that night accompanied by none other than his new best friend Christian. During the class I realized that I hadn’t checked my email or personal Facebook account that day, where I usually have a text from my dear Gérard every morning and evening, who seems to have made a habit of it because I indeed found a series of offline messages in which he asked me how I was and if I was still angry with him. To show him that I was not angry anymore I sent him another message telling him that to make my anger go away he had one hour and 15 minutes to come in front of the university. I left the phone on silent mode and tried to pay attention to the course but I was with one eye on the phone because I was waiting to see if he would reply and if his answer would be a positive one. Time went by slowly and Gérard didn’t seem to have received my message. At the end of the course I left the auditorium visibly sad and disappointed by the fact that he didn’t reply. I was about to get out the phone to call Darius and see if he had arrived home because being caught in the moment I didn’t think about the fact that the apartment was a mess due to our little party last light, when someone suddenly hugged me and I screamed, dropping the phone without realizing what I was doing, because I was scared to death. After I took a deep breath and explained to the four people around me who had heard me screaming that I was ok and there was no need to call an ambulance, I saw Gérard who was livid, leaving me the impression that in the end he was the scared one, not me. We climbed into the car apologizing to each other for the situation.

I’m very sorry I scared you in that way, I only wanted to surprise you, I never thought it would have such an impact on you, here’s your phone he said giving it back to me. In his other hand he had a big bouquet of red, white, pink and blue camellias. There were 19.

Don’t worry Gérard, it wasn’t your fault, I’m just hypersensitive in situations like this, you know my grandma was killed when I was little and ever since I get scared easily, it’s pretty nasty. One summer when I was working in Costineşti, a resort in my county where teenagers spend their summers, a friend played a joke like this on me and I fainted. She hasn’t dared to do anything similar ever since because I also explained to her that in fact I have a serious problem.

Ohh God, thank God you didn’t lose consciousness, I promise I’ll never do something like this again, he promised while delicately kissing my hand.

Why didn’t you tell me you’d come?

Well, I wanted to surprise you, this time we’ll spend our time together like I say we do, ok mademoiselle, he informed me while starting the engine.

In fact, Gérard, I wanted to tell you that my cousin called earlier and told me that he’d be back tonight and he’s bringing a friend over so I have to get home before he does and tidy up a little because I had a little party last night and the house is not exactly clean and tidy.

I can’t believe you, you threw a party last night and I wasn’t invited?

It was just three girls, G., it was nothing like you imagine. It was quite a calm night…

Ok, ok, if you say so, how much time do we have?

I should be home in half an hour, I told hims, waiting for him to burst out, but he answered in a surprisingly calm way, stopping the engine.

You’re the one who’s torturing me with half measures and half hours and then you are upset by my attitude. He ended his phrase by castly kissing me on the lips and then laying back on his chair. Hmm, why was it so short? I don’t think it would have been the end of the world if he had reacted more intensely. In fact the very next moment I found myself taking the initiative and giving him a passionate and lustful kiss leaving myself speechless as I wasn’t aware that I could be capable of such a reaction, after all the prejudices I had made after our first date of this sort. He wasn’t indifferent to my reaction and responded the same way, ravishingly excited. Slowly but surely he climbed on top of me, touching me in a sweet, determined and erotic way, kissing my neck, my chest, my breasts, slowly and pleasantly torturing my nipples while pushing his erection towards my intimate parts, over and over again, stronger and bigger each time. It was weird how he knew and controlled my body with such commitment that I easily gave in and asked if he had a condom because I wanted him so much that I couldn’t think about anything else than how sweet his penetration must be. I wanted him! The answer was no and although I was in ecstasy I could tell what effect that question had over him. Accusing himself of ignorance he took revenge on my breast trying to fit it all in his mouth, which ended with an orgasm from my side. Wow how…pleasant, comforting and sweet such a release could be. After my breath came back to normal I got up to help him finish but I didn’t need more than a minute because he finished in my palm, with soft, heavy moans.

I closed the door behind me and leaned on it, dropping my purse next to me. I couldn’t even remember how the way home was, I only knew that I could still feel the weight of his body on top of mine. I could still feel his sweet kiss and hear his breath in my ear as if he was next to me. Ohh God, are those butterflies in my stomach, is this what’s making my whole body tremble, I feel my knees shaking, it was like I was 17 all over again and I just had my first French kiss. In this period of my life the only thing that should make me tremble would be waiting for my exam results, not some eccentric Frenchman. I put the flowers in water, it was so pleasant to have flowers all around the house. I put them in my room to avoid any questions my cousin might ask, at least for the time being. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, then put my pyjamas on to be more comfortable and clean the house faster. I couldn’t help googling the meaning of the flowers. The number meant he adored me, the rest: you are a flame in my heart, admiration, luck…ohhh Gérard, mon amour…

If you saw the house you could swear that it wasn’t just three people and especially not girls who were there the night before. I tried to do as much and as quickly as possible just so everything seemed clean when they arrived and I promised myself that tomorrow I’d clean everything properly, but now I didn’t have enough time. I especially cleaned the kitchen and bathroom because those would be the places Darius and his mascot would spend the most time in. And here they were. In fact, mascot was the impression I had about him because my cousin was trying to shove him up my throat a few days ago. The guy who was just coming in looked like one of the “ Bad boys” from “Flamingo Boys” who I watched dance and striptease in the clubs of Costineşti, last summer, only he was the suited up and more decent version. I on the other hand was wearing my baby pink pyjamas, bunny slippers and a scarf on my head to keep the hair out of my face. In an attempt to make the house look good I forgot to make what was important look good, namely myself. Confused about what had happened earlier I put my pyjamas on without thinking that Christian and Darius were coming and so there I was in front of them looking like a little girl who hadn’t even hit puberty yet and the contrast was even bigger because this stranger was so surprisingly beautiful, so if a hole would have opened in front of me I wouldn’t have hesitated a single second to hide in it as quickly as possible. But since there was no hole I had to shake hands in that unimaginably embarrassing outfit and Darius didn’t help at all, on the contrary, he made things worse, as they weren’t bad enough as they were.

Cous’ are you going out or something cause I can see that you did your make up and your hair but you’re wearing your pyjamas? As if it wasn’t obvious enough, but he had to say something of course, I swore he’d pay for it.

Hmmm, I’m not going anywhere, I just got home and I was a little cold. I didn’t want to get into the shower before you came, but I forgot that we had company so I must apologize for receiving you like this. I tried to somehow get out of that embarrassing situation, but I didn’t even recognize my own voice god dammit, that’s how hoarse it sounded, making even more obvious how embarrassed I felt. Knowing me, Darius finally came to my rescue and after he introduced us he sent me to my room to change. We were going to go out for dinner and in the meantime they waited in the kitchen having a glass of something in advance but my cousin was amazed to notice that there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in the entire house. I hqe cleaned up and threw everything because it was supposedly expired. Now that I think about the fact that I told Darius that I was cold when I got home I find it funny because God only knows that I was not cold at all, on the contrary I was burning with ecstasy. I was thinking what to wear that could wash away the shame I had just experienced. I chose my red dress and hated the fact that I couldn’t take a shower and that I had to fix my makeup. The fast pace at which I had lived the last hours of that day had exhausted me, which is why I was more and more passive. On the way to the restaurant I turned on my phone and saw a message from Gérard: Do you know where I and my friends are having dinner right now? The very place I met you. I miss you, I miss you a lot. Take care my love. He ended his message with three hearts and a kiss.

God this day won’t stop surprising me, he told me he missed me, he missed me a lot, if only he knew that I was dying to hold him in my arms at least for a moment. I answered: I’m on my way to the restaurant, I’m going with Darius and his friend Christian out for dinner because I was held up by a gentleman tonight and didn’t have time to cook anything. P.s. drink to “Chance” and one more thing, my heartbeats become irregular when I think that less than three hours ago you were on top of me trying to fit all my breast in your mouth.

I already drank to it. P.s. I hope this Christian fellow will realize that your heartbeats become irregular just for me and when I’m around, before it’s too late.

Ha, how much pride and selfesteem, I didn’t answer this time and put my phone back in my bag, looking out the window, it was a very quiet night, the sky was clear and full of silvery stars.

At the restaurant I only ate a salad, the truth was I wasn’t even hungry but I couldn’t have possibly refused since Christian had come especially to see me. It turned out to be an interesting evening because he had a sense of humor which made him a more than agreeable company and time flew by. After dinner we all went to Darius’s although if I was not mistaken I heard Darius and his friend talk about a certain apartment his father had there…but since he came to spend the night at our place I must have misunderstood. It was very late, so I chose to go to bed because I had classes in the morning. When the alarm went off I wanted to throw the phone out the window. I found the courage to get up and rub my little eyes, then checked if I had anything from Gérard. But there was nothing, not even the good morning text he sent every day since I had given him my number. I found it awkward so I started asking myself questions about what could have happened. Since I didn’t have much time to lose I got out of bed to take a shower as soon as possible in order not to be late. I went out of my room and opened the bathroom door without checking if there was anyone inside, because I thought the boys were still asleep. The door slowly opened and I saw Christian in front of me, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, a view my friend Alexandra would have paid heavy money to see. It was a pretty embarrassing moment, we almost ran into each other. He had just come out of the shower with his perfectly defined pects on display while I was in my pyjamas, not wearing any makeup, with dark circles under my ayes and my hair all messy, oh God weren’t our meetings just perfect. We both apologized, he tried to get out of my way but was not in a hurry to do so and I tried to keep looking down in order not to stare at him and disappear into the bathroom as quickly as possible. After I was ready to leave I went to the kitchen to wish them a good day at work. I barely managed to get rid of my cousin who insisted to make me a green tea or drive me to the university. I for one didn’t know how to get out of there as soon as possible because I felt pretty embarrassed after what had happened that morning and Christian wouldn’t stop staring at me in the most obvious way. When I got to the station I decided to call Gérard to see if he was ok but I got his voicemail, his phone was turned off. I left him a voice message asking him if he was ok because I was worried for him, hoping that I’ll see him soon and he’ll answer. After the first course I had some free time so I went out with the girls for tea. I wasn’t present at all, which is why the girls told me that I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. The truth was that I was thinking about him and what made him turn off his phone. He finally turned on his phone later that afternoon and tried to call me so I went out of the auditorium, supposedly to go to the bathroom, and I answered:

Thank god you’re alive, I said before he got to say anything.

Of course I am, did you stay out late and have fun last night? He asked in a cold, distant voice.

I didn’t have fun last night, we went out for dinner, in a regular restaurant, not a club, I answered in an equally concise and cold voice.

Then you must have had fun after you went home, he said.

I didn’t like his tone at all, nor the rhythm of our conversation. His last words hurt me so I answered in the same manner.

What are you insinuating Gerad? How can you say that? I’ve been trying to reach you all morning, thinking about the worst and you answer after half a day? And using this tone? What do you care what I did last night? What’s wrong with you?

What do I care? You’re my first thought every morning, I don’t even get out of bed until I send you a text, I don’t go to sleep at night until I hear your voice or until I know that you’re ok and you ask me what’s wrong with me?

You proved today what your first thought every morning is, I don’t need this, I told you loud and clear that today I’m here, tomorrow who knows? I don’t need you to look out for me, we’re not together so don’t act like it or like you care. You said you wanted to be single, but don’t worry about me, I’d rather be single too than be in a relationship with you, I mean come on, you’re 37, you’re 14 years older than me.

He was quiet for a few seconds. I couldn’t believe I just had said all those things to him.

You’re right, sorry for getting carried away or for caring…a little too much, maybe.

Take care…and bam, he hung up.

It took me almost a minute to put my phone down. I couldn’t believe the conversation we just had, it was like a first fight between lovers, harsh words were said, I don’t know if it was out of jealousy or spite, but I didn’t like it at all. I was sorry, but what could I do now? What was done was done. I went back to class looking pale apparently, because Monique asked me if everything was ok. I didn’t want to talk or explain myself so I told her I was well, just a little indisposed maybe, nothing more.

What had just happened messed me up, I couldn’t focus. Apparently I cared enough about Gérard and our relationship or whatever it was we had. I couldn’t wait to get home and hug my soft pillow, the only ‘’shoulder’’ available for me to cry on in peace in order to get rid of this lump in my throat which was suffocating me more rapidly and more intensely with every breath. When I got home I didn’t want anything, I just made myself a cup of linden tea with honey and tried to sleep all night. The thought of having lost something I probably never had, wouldn’t stop haunting me. I had a huge hole in my soul. It was like that feeling you have when you’re in a bus and you’re leaving the place where you spent your summer holiday and you feel sad, you want to go back, the thought of never again stepping there torments you and hurts you more than you expected. The thought of never again seeing that place that enchanted your eyes and soul makes you want to go back take a look, at least one, one last time, to fill your soul with the emotion and the peace that guided you that whole time which was gone already. I had to see Gérard, I wanted to see his face when he was talking to me. I had to tell if I was wrong about him or not. This decision finally helped me fall asleep. The next morning I woke up with a splitting headache and small eyes. I was determined to see Gérard at all cost so I sent him a text as soon as I woke up to make sure that he sees it by the end of the day. I just wrote that I wanted to see him that night and asked to let me know if he could see me or not, nothing more, although my fingers were burning with desire to write at least “I miss you’’ or “kisses”. While I was at class I got a text from him asking me when he should come pick me up. I was so happy that he answered and that his answer was a positive one that I couldn’t help smiling, which lead to a series of detailed questions about the course that made my amusement disappear, because Madame Lefleur was talking about a serious and important topic. That evening he showed up in the same spot as usual. He was quite warm and happy, which calmed me down because I was expecting the exact opposite. He took my hand, looked me in the eyes and told me:

This time, please, I insist we do things my way. If you won’t like it we’ll do only what you say, ok! In the car there was another bouquet of flowers for me, this time there were red tulips, 17 of them.

How calm he could be, how gentle his touch could be although his hands were big and firm. For a couple of seconds I thought about the long night I spent thinking that it was over and I would never see or touch him again. Here we were back in each other’s arms again so while I gave in to his embrace I told him that we’d do what he thought was best for us, because I didn’t like being mad at each other. I left my prejudices aside and fully enjoyed his presence. Our brief moment of “togetherness” was interrupted by my ringtone. I took the phone out of my purse and saw that it was my cousin so I answered to make sure that everything was ok. Darius had called me to ask if he should pick me up from class because he was heading home. He wasn’t alone, he was with his good friend and wanted to go out for dinner. Gérard didn’t like hearing that at all, because he wanted to take me to dinner as well and to spend the rest of the evening with me, and that ruined his whole plan. I solemnly promised to make it up to him and convinced him to spend another half hour in the place where we had been twice before. This time Gérard was prepared, sort of, because at one point he tried to put on a condom which turned out to be too small or he didn’t manage to put it on right, because it broke. I offered to help him with the next one but at that very moment a car was heading our way, and since it was already dark outside and the headlights of that car were getting closer and closer we quickly got dressed. I was scared and embarrassed by the whole situation. I just put on my leggings and an undershirt I was wearing underneath my cashmere sweater. That car left and we started joking about it. We each sat on his chair and started passionately kissing each other, wanting more with each touch until he came next to me again and we started undressing once more. He tried to put on a condom but it broke just like the first one. After he calmed down a little and swore at them, as if it were their fault that he didn’t know what size was right for him, he lay down and sat me on top of him. We were just about to have unprotected sex and I was so turned on that I didn’t protest, I climbed on top of him and let myself be penetrated. I didn’t get to realize what was really going on because from the very first seconds of direct contact of our sexual organs, Gérard lifted me up. He was about to ejaculate again. Visibly agitated and tense he got dressed and withdrew next to the wheel, asking if he could light up a cigarette. He was clearly not feeling well although he had ejaculated because he never smoked when he was with me, out of respect for me because I was a nonsmoker. While he was smoking his cigarette as if it were his last he told me that it never happened to him before and that we needed space because we couldn’t do it otherwise. I tried to calm him down telling him that it was ok and he didn’t have to feel embarrassed, that it could have happened to anyone. Then I tried lightening up the mood by making a joke about how it happened because of his age. He started asking me personal things again, like my age, what I wanted to do after I graduated and other such things which we had discussed before, more than once actually. Things which he apparently forgot or was too distracted now to remember. Given the situation, the fact that he knew my name amazed me. Before I got out of the car I gave him a kiss on the cheek and ran away. Everything was so cold between us that my heart was frozen and nothing I felt when he picked me up was there anymore, just meaningless words. I felt like the way home took hours, I wanted to get away from him, I couldn’t bear the sound of his voice a second more. When I finally got home I felt empty and cold. What the hell had just happened?

I took off my coat and headed to my room, I needed some peace and quiet to think and find myself, but the door opened behind me and I heard Darius and Christian calling my name. It was the last straw, they were the last thing I needed. I quickly sneaked into the bathroom in order not to face them immediately and told them that I’d be right there. I looked at myself in the mirror. I saw a wilted happiness, I could look into my soul and read disappointment, he couldn’t even remember my age. I washed my hands and although I felt the need to take a long bubble bath I settled for promising myself that tomorrow night I would take that long bath, and then went out to greet the boys, not before leaving the flowers in my room. They wanted to go out again, but I didn’t care how I looked. I went into the salon and Darius tackled me just like he used to when we were kids, forgetting that we were not kids anymore and there was another person with us. He spinned me around three times before letting me fall all dizzy in Christian’s arms, who took advantage to delicately kiss me. Oh, God, what a weird feeling, less than an hour ago I was in Gérard’s arms and felt like I was home, now here I am in this guy’s arms, who by his mere appearance could turn any woman on. I don’t know why, maybe because Gérard turned me on but had left the job unfinished, or just pheromones, the way in which Christian looked at me and touched me, turned me on so hard that I was embarrassed with myself. How could I be so slutty? I let go of his arms and told him that I was fine, that I wasn’t dizzy anymore and turned towards Darius to slap him, as punishment for what he did.

At dinner we talked about their new projects from work, some of my courses as well as a possible skiing minibreak in ChamonixMontBlanc, in Haute Savoie. Because I didn’t know how to ski Christian was more than happy to teach me. I couldn’t help myself and went to the bathroom to google the significance of red tulips “I’m sorry, forgive me”…that night turned out to be reassuring in the end, although there was a storm in my soul. The next morning only Darius stood for breakfast, his friend had an emergency to handle and left early. That was perfect because I could pick on my dear cousin a little, who it seems had caught the taste of sabotage.

Thank God, a little privacy, I said after asking him if he wanted tea.

Come on cous’ admit it, you like him, if I were a girl I’d go for that in a second, he confessed.

But you’re not a girl, crazy! And yes, I can’t deny he’s…attractive, ok, really attractive, but I’m not interested in him the way he’s interested in me, you know very well that it’s not a good time.

The fact that you find him attractive is a good start, if there’s chemistry between you you’ll sure be able to love each other, he went on. .

You’re not in your right mind, speaking of chemistry, instead of covering for me when I was in my pyjamas you made things worse and then spinning me around and what was that about when you let me fall in his arms when I was all dizzy, what were you thinking? I asked in a moreseriousthanusual yet sad voice.

After he was done laughing he took a sip of his tea and answered my question quite amused and proud of himself.

I’ll let you know I did you a favor, you looked awesome in those good girl pyjamas and wearing that bow or scarf or whatever it was you had in your hair. That part of your abdomen which you let see by tying the side of your pyjamas in a knot made my good friend who was already drooling when he saw you at the wedding go crazy for good. After the pyjama thing he told me he’d make you his no matter what it took. And believe me, you shouldn’t underestimate him, the guys knows what he wants from life and gets his way most of the time.

I couldn’t help laughing myself after what my cousin told me, although I must say I was flattered. The moments I spent in his toned arms came back to me, but I immediately snapped out of it because I couldn’t afford falling in love with someone else. The only thing I cared about now was my situation with Gérard who hadn’t sent me any messages this morning either. I hurried to leave for class and left the conversation for another day, telling him that things are not exactly like he thought and then leaving. This week seemed like it would never end, I went to class but I didn’t pay attention to anything, I hadn’t talked to him in days. I left home precisely to get away from such feelings. Here I was now far away from home, friends and family swimming in the same deep ocean of profound disappointment unable to ever reach the shore of happiness and beloved serenity. I tried to contact him to no avail, I hadn’t heard from him after that night. I talked to my sister and reached the conclusion that maybe he felt bad and frustrated that he couldn’t satisfy me and maybe my attitude upset him…who knows...Alexandra, my friend who loved life advised me to sleep with Christian as soon as possible because it was the only way to get that bastard Gérard out of my head. On the other hand, Ioana, who was quite the opposite of Alexandra, advised me to stay alone indoors as little as possible, to go out, or to go back to the dorm because the girls’ company would keep me distracted and help me forget. When the weekend came I decided to go out for a jog, watch a romantic movie and drink a vanilla cappuccino. Darius wasn’t home and he told me that he wouldn’t make it back that weekend. He suggested that I take care of myself and not study too much or I’d go crazy. I must admit I had been neglecting this aspect lately, and there was just one month left until exams started. I decided that from Monday on I’d only focus on studying and decided to lay in front of the TV doing nothing that weekend. On Saturday morning I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize, which turned out to be Christian’s. He had the day off and was in town so he thought he’d ask me if I could make him the honor of going out for dinner with him that evening. Without giving it much thought I said yes, why stay home all alone and feel sorry for myself? I called Monique to see if I could find any stores open at that hour and ask her if she’d go shopping for an evening dress with me. I had already gone out with him a couple of times not caring how I looked and he still insisted on seeing me again so I thought I’d surprise him that night.

I went with Monique to an evening attire store and started trying on dresses: long, short, colored, serious but I didn’t like how any of them looked on me. Monique was curious who I was going out with and wouldn’t stop asking questions like: “how does he look; where do I know him; how old is he; do you really like him or are you just going out with him because he’s friends with your cousin and so on”. When I was about to decide on a long black dress Monique gave me a short red one to try on, which was quite daring and sensual. After putting it on I went out to see what she thought.

You look awesome!!! Monique said euphorically in a loud voice, forgetting that there were people around, who were now all looking at us, which made me want to strangle her that very moment.

It’s a shame that I won’t be the one to rip that off you tonight! A guy from the next fitting room confessed, while I hurried to sneak back into mine. I ignored him and went back to the fitting room from where Monique immediately took me out, to remind me that I had to try on shoes dressed like that to see if they really matched or not. A fashion adviser working there advised me to choose a pair of golden shoes and a clutch in the same color, which is what I did, but then on the way home I started thinking about poor dad and the face he’d make when he saw that month’s expenses. Despite all that, my purchase was worth every penny and I was very thrilled with it. Right around the corner I saw a sports store. They sold Fila products and I couldn’t resist the outfit the mannequin was wearing so we went in and I bought a sweatsuit, a white beanie with the name of the brand subtly written in one side and a pair of sneakers which fit me perfectly, because when I came to France I only packed a pair of Lee snickers and some leggings I’d wear from time to time when I went out for a jog. Now I was fully equipped. I still had to decide what to do with my hair because I didn’t want to straighten it anymore, my hair straightener and blow drier being the only utensils I had available lately. I was getting sick of them to be honest. I decided to go to a salon and Monique said she’d go as well. We took a cab and headed to the first salon, where I asked the hairstylist to curl my hair and then make a loose evening bun, leaving out a few strains of hair to frame my face, advice which I had received from a friend. Then I asked for a discreet but daring makeup for my look to be complete.

After making me promise again that I’d stay at the dorm for a few days the first chance I get, Monique left and I went home where I took a shower and got ready to go out. I didn’t need a lot of time, since my hair and makeup were ready, I just had to put on perfume, the same Gérard was used to but it was his choice so I tried to get him out of my mind. I wasn’t going out with Christian to hook up with him. It was just a distraction, that was all. When Christian arrived I was already ready, his first reaction when I opened the door a sort of “Oh my God” which was the reaction I was waiting for and after asking him to wait up for a minute so I can put on my coat I got dressed and we left. He didn’t look bad himself, he was wearing a black suit and a blue shirt. He was more and more beautiful. The shirt brought out his eyes, an aqua blue, he did his hair and he smelled so darn well.

Are you serious, you have a Ferrari? I asked when we got to his car, a gorgeous red Ferrari.

Yes, it’s a 458, why, don’t you like it? He answered, all disappointed.

Oh, no, it’s not that, it’s great, or at least I guess it is, I was just saying, I haven’t seen many of these in Romania and to be honest on the streets of Paris either. That was stupid of me to say, I then told myself. In my mind the reaction was something like “Are you kidding me, god dammit? I mean this is supposed to be just another race…”

When we arrived at the restaurant a lady walked us to our table, which he had reserved, I was holding his arm and in spite of everyone staring at us and the extremely high heels I was wearing I managed to walk impeccably straight to the table where he was kind enough to pull my chair and help me sit down.

The lady gave us the menus so we could decide what we wanted to order and walked away. I took advantage of the fact that we were alone to ask he if he had noticed that most of the people in the restaurant were staring at us when we came in.

Of course they did, who wouldn’t, I told you when you left that you’re ravishing, you’re very beautiful Victoria! He told me while he took my hand into his. I didn’t feel comfortable with it and wanted to pull back my hand but didn’t. He probably read my mind because he immediately pulled back his, and opened the menu to ask me what I wanted to drink.

I thanked him for the compliment and told him that he looked just as nice and that I had no idea what to drink.

I propose that we celebrate with a classic wine, after all it’s our first date, I finally managed to have you all for myself for a few hours so we won’t drink coke, he suggested with a warm smile.

Ok, if you say so, but I have no experience with alcohol whatsoever, and I’m not a fan either, but I guess if it’s sweet enough I can have a glass myself so that we can toast.

He ordered a Chardonnay and told the waitress that we hadn’t decided on the rest yet. Then we talked about what we should eat and when the waitress came with the wine we ordered grilled hake. I skeptically took the glass to my mouth and took a sip of wine, unsure if I’d like it. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the scent and then took another sip because a fruity taste simply exploded in my mouth, delighting my taste buds. I had tasted wine made by my grandparents at the countryside when I was little or wines that my parents bought from the stores but I was never thrilled enough to take a second sip. One thing was certain, Chardonnay was the best choice, although it sounds a little exaggerated taking into account my lack of experience with wines, from now on this would be my favorite white wine. Seeing my reaction, Christian asked if I liked it.

Are you kidding? It’s extraordinary, I wasn’t expecting it, I felt invaded by this fruity savor, is it pears, pineapples, citrus, I have no idea but it’s awesome, I don’t think I’ll settle for just one glass I said with a naughty smile.

I’m glad, I was sure you’d like it, that’s why I chose it, it’s light, he said, winking at me.

Dinner was served. Christian was trying to get to know me better, asking me all sorts of personal questions and I felt a little dizzy, or better yet a little euphoric and stopped drinking wine, settling for dessert: a slice of banana bread. In the mean time the same waitress who served us before came to our table with another bottle of wine which we hadn’t ordered. This one came with a note that said: “Cheers to the new couple?” She pointed to the table it was sent from. At the other end of the restaurant I saw Gérard raised up his glass of red wine. He was at a table not far from ours, with another two couple, he seemed calm and relaxed and in the state in which I was I found his gesture ironic and outrageous, how could the jerk do something like this, after all that time in which I desperately tried to reach him and he didn’t bother to answer. Poor Christian responded by raising his glass as well in a very kind and innocent way, then asked me if I knew him. Pretending to be affable, I barely faked a smile and told him that he was also a friend of my cousin’s who had worked with him in the past. Oh God, that was the worst excuse I could have found. I asked the waitress for a pen and wrote on the back of the note monsieur Gérard sent “GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!” as a reply to his curiosity then asked her to give him back the note.

What did you write? Chris asked.

I thanked him for the nice gesture he just made. But to be honest I don’t want any more wine, I’d rather drink some whiskey cream, I told in a sweet but serious voice the guy who I found even cuter after the two glasses of wine.

Are you sure?

Yes, I drank whiskey cream on a summer night with some friends in Costineşti and remember liking it very much.

Of course my dear, whatever you wish, and he ordered a whiskey cream for me and a dry wine for himself.

I was quite discreet the next half hour because I had the feeling that I was being watched, either it the alcohol was to blame and I had become paranoid or he was indeed overtly watching us from his table. When I had to get up to go home I was one step away from making a fool of myself. Luckily my knight in shining armor was right behind me and helped me get up from my chair, Otherwise I would have fallen. While I was sitting down I only felt like I was slightly “floating” so to say but when I had to get up and walk on my beautiful and generous heels I suddenly felt how my knees were melting. Holding on to his hips a little I found my balance and then took his arm as we headed to the exit. Christian asked me if I was fine and what I wanted to do with that bottle of wine.

I’m ok my dear, you won’t need to carry me, as for the bottle, there’s a saying in Romania that Charity covers a multitude of sins, so I say let’s give it to the waitress and so we left the bottle to the hostess to give it to her and left the restaurant.

We got to the car without any incidents, he made sure I got in first then did the same. I was resting my head on the headrest, because I felt like the car was spinning with me in it. He saw that I gave up the fight and leaned towards me to put on my seatbelt. Surprising him in this position I caught his head in my hands and gave him a delicate yet brutal kiss, as if I was thirsty and he was the only way I could quench my thirst. He was playing with my hair, slowly massaging the back of my neck stirring up all my senses and kissed me back. I let him guide me and we ended up in a slow and passionate kiss. Ohh God how different, how forbidden and yet delicious it could be. But he stopped, made sure that I rested my head on the headrest and started the car. Just…like that.

Why didn’t you make the first step, why didn’t you continue, didn’t you like it, don’t you find me attractive enough for you? What’s wrong with you? Isn’t this what you really want from me? I started shouting as loud as I could, infuriated by his calm and the fact that he didn’t shout back.

While I calmed myself and started slowly migrating to my dream world I heard him whisper from afar, as if he was in a tunnel “I don’t want to take advantage of you, you’re a little tipsy and no, this isn’t what I really want from you, I want more than this, I want you to be mine and just mine Victoria”. That’s was all I heard, followed by a horrible and alarming noise, was it the horn, were we in an accident? Oh God, I don’t want to die now, but the sound wouldn’t stop and all of a sudden I saw a bright light in front of my eyes, it was the sun which was unusually bright for this time of day and the sound was the doorbell, there was someone at the door. I rushed to the door but had to lean on the hallway walls because I felt like my head was about to explode. I looked through the peephole and saw a guy holding a bouquet of flowers, he seemed harmless so I decided to open the door.

Hello, miss Dalilah Victoria Siriacov? He asked smiling.

Yes, this is her, I said like I had just woken up after a month of staying in bed with the flu.

Sign here please! He handed me a clipboard and showed me where to sign then handed me the flowers and a package.

I took them to the kitchen and dived my head right in the generous bouquet of jasmine, their unique scent cheered the cookies of my heart and fed my spirit. For a moment it took me back to the beloved garden of my childhood, in my maternal grandparents’ home. Home, where I was safe, in an innocent piece of heaven. How come someone sent me jasmines? They’re my favorite flowers, that’s odd. I opened the package and found a bottle of mineral water, some bananas, a bottle of hot lemon tea and nothing else, not even a note. I checked the flowers again and found a card: “Are you up yet? Considering your present condition I decided to send the other things along with the flowers. I guess that not being familiar with this type of situation you didn’t know that alcohol causes the human body to dehydrate, my dear. Given the amount you drank last night, it would be best for you to drink some glasses of mineral water or lemon tea sweetened with honey. Bananas are also great to eat after drinking alcohol excessively because they contain potassium, substance which our body eliminates when we consume alcohol. You can choose what you like. I hope that today you’ll see what happened tonight in a different light. I really want to feel your irregular breath resulting from a similar kiss again. Have a great day Victoria! Christian Dominique Garnien, at your service”

Oh my God, Christian I was with him, how did I end up in bed, the last thing I remember was being in his car and now I’m dressed in my pyjama but don’t remember putting it on. I headed to the bathroom to look in the mirror, I looked horrible, I slept with my make up on, that almost never happens to me, my hair was a mess, I looked like a human wreck. No wonder the delivery guy made that face when he saw me. I went directly to the shower and tried to remember the events which had taken place. One thing was certain, I fell asleep in the car and he brought me home and put my pyjamas on, leaving my bra on, if I had taken my clothes off I’m sure I wouldn’t have left my bra on, I never sleep with my bra on. He was so sweet last night, so attentive, a true gentleman, I don’t even want to imagine how I would have ended up if he hadn’t helped me get up from my chair at the end…and the way I treated him in the car…god, I was so rude, I can’t believe I reacted that way and that I practically hit on him. I’d be a hypocrite to say that I didn’t like what I felt, it was something…innocent…dammit it’s the first time in my life when I made the first move, he was the first guy who didn’t jump on me, another guy would have probably taken advantage of that situation. I admired him for the way he handled things but I was embarrassed to see him again, he was so gentle and kind while I….

Gérard was there the whole night, we were so close to each other, what was he thinking to send me the bottle of wine? And how could I write such a thing? What on earth happened to me last night? That’s not how I think, that’s not how I act! What was wrong with me? I had to clarify things and mind my own business, exams were almost here and I was wasting my time with such stupidities. I’d send Christian a message and thank him for the flowers and dinner and tell him that we can no longer see each other, at least for a while until I’m done with my exams because I’m very busy. I’ll even drop by the dorm for a few nights, maybe the atmosphere there, the girls’ company and spirit will help me study.

I went out of the bathroom and headed to the kitchen where I poured the lemon tea I received in a cup and put it in the microwave. In the mean time I looked for my phone in the clutch I wore last night and saw it was turned off. I plugged it in and turned it on to call my sister. Once it turned on I saw I had seven messages and 15 missed calls. Wow, and I thought nobody thinks about me. I took my tea out of the microwave and tried to take sip but god dammit, I ended up burning the tip of my tongue. It seems it was a little more than hot. I took a napkin and took the tea with me in my room, put it on the table and checked the phone to see who the messages and calls were from. The first one was sent at 2:15 a.m. and it was from Gérard “You look charming in red and yet I find such an outfit too much too wear when you’re not with me.” Ha…hahaha the nerve and arrogance on that man. What does he care what I wear and who I go out with, the nerve to say I’m not with him…he who didn’t answer my calls for a week. What did he expect? For me to feel sorry for myself until he decides not to ignore me anymore? Dammit, I did go out just to take him off my mind, because I’m well aware that my relationship with me can only cause me pain and contempt. The second message was from him as well: “Are you drinking to forget something in particular? What’s wrong with you? You don’t drink at all so you’d better stop before you make a fool of yourself. I can’t be replaced Victoria and the effect I have over you cannot be drowned in alcohol. The only reason why I don’t come at your table right now to take you away from this gentleman whose butt I’d kick in a second is because I respect you, not the way you’re acting and because I expect more from you. You’d better check that damn phone that you carry with you for nothing every once in a while, my dear Victoria!!!” Wow, the guy is clearly a psycho. Hmm, he knows I don’t drink but he still sent me that bottle of wine…

The third message was from my dear cousin: “How are you pumpkin? A little bird told me that you’re going out tonight, it is true? I’m coming home today, I’ll see you this evening, turn that phone on every once in a while, will you? Kiss u!” I answered: “Hmm a little bird you say? Are you sure it wasn’t a big bird with pecs? Ok, see you. Kisses.

The fourth message was from mom: “How’s my girl? I haven’t heard from you for a week, I hope you’re ok. I’m home alone, the house is empty without you, Sorin drops by every once in a while but he doesn’t stay a lot. I miss you Vicky, I can’t wait to see you, mommy loves you, take care of yourself. I tried to call you but your phone was turned off as usual…turn it on, will you, daddy tried to call too, you know we’re worried. We love you, honey! Oh how I missed them…I sent her a brief message to tell her that I was well, that I was a little busy these days because the exams were coming, that I missed them a lot and couldn’t wait to see them and hug them.

The next message was from my friend back home: “Be honest! Did you sleep with that hot guy or not? I hope you learned a little something from me and didn’t let him get away I’m not really getting along with mine, I think I’m going to find someone else, please turn on that phone or log in to Skype or I’ll be very upset with you. You know I love you, call me”. My crazy friend, I missed her, as promiscuous as she was at least she wasn’t suffering, when she felt she couldn’t stand it anymore she just went for another guy. I never agreed with her behavior, especially because she choose men who were way older than her, look who’s talking…Gérard wasn’t young either…but at least she didn’t wait to be trampled on, I don’t blame her, every person knows what’s best for them. I sent her a short reply, disappointing her by telling her that I didn’t listen to her advice to screw the hell out of prince charming.

The next one was from Monique who asked how my evening was, she asked for details, which she’d be more than happy to hear face to face tonight, because she’d be alone at the dorm and counting on me not to let her spend her night alone.

The last message was from my best friend: “Nothing is the same since you left, I miss you a lot, I hope you’re better and that you and Gérard are getting along now. Good luck with your exams, when you have some time I’d love to talk. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me or replaced me with some French girl. Love you! God, how I missed her too! I also sent her a short message reassuring her that nobody could ever replace her in my heart as for Gérard I couldn’t assure her of anything. I then checked my calls. I had six missed calls from Gérard, one from my dad, as well as from my brother and sister. I tried to call my sister but I just received another message from Gérard: “I know you got my texts, you can’t ignore me forever. We have to talk! Stop acting like a child! Answer my texts! This time I couldn’t help myself and I sent him a reply:

“It seems like not even you, Gérard Le Vernière are immune to the bitter taste of ignorance and it also seems it is not one your favorites. I’m glad to see that at least it has an effect on you. You talk about childish behavior? You of all people? How dare you? I tried to reach you for an entire week and you didn’t even have the courtesy to answer, at least once! I would have preferred to receive a text saying “leave me the hell alone” than talking to myself. How did you suddenly remember me now? What do you want from me? Please, leave me alone. I like to think that I didn’t lose much anyway, given our encounters” Now I said it! I immediately received another text

“What do you mean you don’t think you lost much?”

“I’m talking about your willy, it seemed quite small so I figured that I didn’t lose much!”

“Oh yeah? Is that why you always refuse to spend more than a couple of minutes with me? Why don’t you try it again, maybe you were wrong. Agree to spend a night with me and we’ll see then if you still feel the same”

“For a man who has the skill and ability a couple of minutes are enough. You had your chance and lost it, maybe last week you could have gotten another, now the time is up, I moved on. It’s true, we’re not compatible my dear! I’d rather be left alone. Please don’t bother me again. I wouldn’t want to have to change my number to get rid of you. Accept that it’s better this way, separated, each with his own way, in fact we were never together. I prefer to forget that I ever met you!”

I pressed send then turned off my phone and opened Skype to talk to my sister. I felt the need to talk to her about yesterday’s events. Unfortunately, she wasn’t online so I went to the kitchen to make myself a green tea, thinking that maybe I’d be luckier when I get back. While the water was boiling I took out a cup and a napkin and saw that a drop of water fell on it, in fact I realized it was a tear, without knowing it, my soul was crying, my eyes were also crying, I felt like a stranger, estranged from myself, from everything around me. I missed home, I missed mom, my friends, the sea, my room and my normal, settled life. Here I felt alone, my cousin was away most of the time, I knew very little about the girls although I was attached to them, I was afraid I already knew the ending of such relationships. Gérard…Gérard could make me smile, float, feel the classical butterflies in my stomach, but like everyone else it turned out he could only leave a storm, deception and suffering behind. I left my tea to infuse and took it in my room to see if Cassy was online. It was so quiet inside, a smooth, scary silence and in my head there was a resignation which took over my whole body. I checked the list and saw that sis was online thank God, so I called her that very second. I called her a couple of times and in the end she answered:

Here’s my dear, beloved French lady. She thought about calling finally. Hi Vicky her boyfriend said, her fiancée actually, who would soon become my brother in law because they had already set their wedding date.

I would have preferred being alone, talking only to my sister, not having to smile after saying each phrase, because my heart was pulsing too slowly now to be able to fake positive energy and being well. I smiled a little apathetically and said hi too.

What’s wrong with you, I don’t like how you look, I know you, is something wrong? Honey can you excuse us for a moment? She kindly asked her boyfriend, turning around.

He left the room and so we were left alone to be able to talk in peace.

Sis I couldn’t wait to see you and talk, I miss you so much, I feel so lonely here, I can’t take it anymore, I burst all of a sudden and told her everything I had to say, crying. What happened with Gérard and Christian, that I missed home, that I was sad, confused and didn’t know what decisions to make and especially that I couldn’t focus on studying.

I wish I could be closer and know I’m giving you the right advice sis but you know best what you’re feeling about this relationship with Gérard. Although to be honest the way you talked about Christian and what you said about him make me think it would be best to keep in touch with him, he’s the kind of person you need to have in your life and I think he’d complete you. That’s what I think but I’m sure you’ll make the right decisions at the right time dear. And it’s a good idea to spend some time with the girls, I’m sure they’ll have a positive influence over you.

I feel so good when I talk to mom and you, with dad, you soothe me, you make me feel more optimistic, I love you very, very much.

The feeling is mutual my dear, you know that very well, are you eating anything there because I hope I’m wrong but you look like you lost some weight.

Ah, of course I eat, I ate this morning and again just earlier, I have my plate right here, I smiled a little irritated but amused at the same time that I fooled her.

Miss Victoria Dalilah Siriacov, who do you think I am to fool me? And what have you been eating, exactly? Show me the plate!

Taken by surprise by her reaction, I held the plate for just a second in front of the camera then put it down so she didn’t have enough time to study it, and prove that she was wrong, but it didn’t work, she realized it was a small plate, probably from a coffee cup. So before we hung up I had to promise that I’d immediately go to the kitchen and make myself a soup. Said and done. While I sat down to eat, I turned on my phone to send Monique a text and let her know that I’d be going to the dorm that evening. There was nothing from Gérard, that was odd, he seemed like a tenacious, perseverant guy but turned out to be an infatuated coward. I finished eating my soup, cleared the table then got ready to leave. After packing a sort of bag, with clothes for about a week, I called Darius, who hadn’t arrived home yet, to let him know that I’d be staying with the girls for a while, starting that very night.

Hello, party girl, he answered in a kind voice.

What’s up? Where are you, you said you’d be home tonight.

Well, we’re almost there, we’ll be there in about an hour I think, why?

We’re almost there? You and who else? I asked praying that we didn’t mean what I think it meant.

Christian and I, who else do you think? Look, he wants to say hi.

Wait, hold on a little, don’t put him on the phone yet, I called to tell you that I’m going to be at the dorm for a few days, exams are about to start and I want to spend more time with the girls, you know for brainstorming and stuff, and I’m just about to leave I don’t think you’ll catch me home.

Hey, what’s the rush? Why tonight, you knew we were coming over.

Monique is alone and asked me to stop by, I already promised her, I can’t change my mind now, I’ve been promising I’d go for quite some time and I never did anyway.

Ok, ok, but wait up, we’ll drive you.

I’ll take a cab, don’t worry, I’ll call you when I get there so you know I’m fine, ok? Please!

Ok, ok, have it your way, I’ll put Chris on the phone now, take care of yourself or I’ll kill you, got it!!! You know I love you! He said in a sweeter voice, putting Christian on the phone.

Oh, this was it, what in God’s name was I supposed to tell him, I was so embarrassed, oh God I said I’d send him a text today but I totally forgot. But my trail of thoughts was interrupted by his warm, calm voice, so calm that sometimes it sounded more like a whisper:

Hello Victoria, how are you?

Ohhh, Hi Christian, I’m fine, thank you, I actually wanted to talk to you about what happened last night so please listen without interrupting me. First of all, I wanted to thank you for dinner and for being a true gentleman. Second of all I wanted to apologize for my unusual and somewhat sordid behavior, I know it sounds like a cliché, but believe me I have no idea what I was thinking, I’m not usually like that, I’m aware that I left you a different impression so I’m sorry I disappointed you. I enjoyed spending time with you and that makes me feel sorry for screwing up even more. I don’t even want to imagine how I got to bed and how I ended dressed up in my pyjamas. Thank you for the wonderful jasmines as well, I love those flowers, and for your concern for my physical condition. I’m sure that you’re a special person. I have a lot on my mind right now, exams are about to start and I have a lot to study so for a while I won’t have time for anything else, I’ll fully dedicate myself to studying and I don’t want any distractions. So if you’ll take the chance to ever spend time with me again, it would have to be after exams are over. I’m done!

Wow, you sure know how to hold a speech, you sound determined so I won’t try to change your mind telling you that we could have coffee on one of your study breaks. I’ll respect your wish and you don’t have to worry at all about tonight, with small exceptions or even without, I can say that it was one of the most charming of my life, and that’s because you were part of it, so please never excuse yourself again. I’m done too.

Ohh God, why did he make things even harder for me, I would have preferred that he criticized me, at least a little, to make me not feel sorry that I’m pushing him out of my life, and instead what he does…

I’m glad you understand Christian, then we’ll see each other the first chance I get, I finally managed to articulate and wanted to hang up.

For nothing, sweetie, kisses, see you soon. And he hung up before I got to say anything.

I called a cab, took my bag and my coat and went to the dorm. On the way, I rested my head on the window and looked at the sky and the neverending string of cars on the road. I took a deep breath, thinking that life nature and time follow their natural course no matter what color feelings overwhelm us, and often no matter the happy or less happy events which guide these feelings. As I entered the room, Monique greeted me. She was so happy to see me that she gave me a strong hug, almost leaving me breathless. Although it was tight, her hug cheered the cookies of my heart, I needed something like that.

I didn’t believe you when you said you were coming, she said, slowly letting me go and kissing me three times on the cheek at the same time.

How could you not believe me, I wrote in the text that I’d come for sure, didn’t I? I answered smiling.

Yes, I know, but you promised a few times before that you’d do your best to come and never showed up so I thought you’d do the same this time as well, she defended herself as she was putting my coat in her closet. These are Jean and Josephine, Mélanie’s friends, they’re staying here tonight so you and I will share a bed, she said while I was shaking hands with them, smiling affably.

Nice to meet you, and I thought you were going to be all alone tonight, I said turning to Monique, as the two lovers already started kissing passionately, not paying any attention to the two of us. Yeah, I was afraid I’d have to sleep all by myself but here I am stuck with this two, she said quietly with a face that made you feel sorry for her, making sure that they didn’t hear her, not that they cared we were there anyway.

How did they get here?

They were supposed to stay in one of his friends’ room, but they had a fight and he didn’t want to let them stay there any more so since she knew Mélanie she asked her to let them stay here, and now here we are.

But where is Mélanie?

She has a new boyfriend and she’s been staying there the last couple of days, she barely ever passes by. Do you want a drink? Beer, red wine, tea?

I’d drink a glass of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey, what do you think?

Are you sure? She asked with a puzzled look on her face.

Very sure.

Then I’ll make one for me two, I won’t even ask these two, they have a bottle of wine in bed with them, god they’re such jerks, just look at them.

The two did indeed not have any inhibitions, they were acting like two lovers would in intimacy, just the two of them, and besides the very tender gestures they made they also moaned and groaned suggestively, this was clearly not the environment I was hoping to find here.

Tell me everything, how was your dinner last night, but especially the guy, she asked giggling while we got comfortable in her bed.

Dinner was delicious, more than delicious even, because I ended up getting more than tipsy, the guy is just like I described him, he was so beautiful, I had a great time with him.

That’s nice, anything else? Come on, I want all the details, not just the synopsis, she cornered me smiling avidly for information.

Monique, I have to confess this is the kind of guy you put your hands on and never let go, unless you’re as stupid as I am. The truth is I’m in love with someone else, someone a little more mature, he’s from here too, I met him at that wedding I went with my cousin to. Then we met alone about three times and it was enough for me to fall asleep each night thinking about him but things didn’t work out and now we’re not talking to each other. In fact, ironically, he was at the same restaurant where we had dinner last night, with a group of friends. He sent me some texts I only replied to today, he wanted to see me, but we ended up offending each other. He insists on having a proper date because so far we only saw each other in secret, a couple of minutes in his car. You see, I lied to him that I was engaged and left it that way, the truth is I was never engaged, that was just how it happened. I miss him a lot, I think I’m attached to him, I just know that it’s not a healthy relationship.

Wow, that’s some story! I don’t know what to say, it’s pretty complicated, in fact it doesn’t sound that bad and if there’s love and you were meant to be together I’m sure you’ll be happily ever after she said with a warm smile, while she was holding my left hand in her hands.

Do you believe in people who are meant to be together, Monique, I asked skeptically. I then remembered that being overwhelmed by Monique’s greeting I forgot to call my cousin so I tiptoed up to my bag and took out my phone to send him a text. I turned it on and saw that I already have a text, it from Darius for sure, so I opened it quickly to see what it said, but the message was from Gérard. I didn’t read it immediately although I was anxious to see what it said. I quickly sent Darius a text to let him know that I was ok and I was caught up with the girls up until then. I then opened and read the message from Gérard: “I knew that you’d play a crucial role in my life the moment I saw you graciously heading to my table, you were walking slowly but firmly, you seemed sure of yourself and the situation, with a simple innocent smile on your angelic face you made me go crazy. I wanted you from the very first moment you looked into my eyes and whispered your name. I made inhumanly efforts to look away from your face and look at other things in order not to look like a psycho. One thing is certain, from that night on my behavior was chaotic, my life took an unknown course which messed up my inner peace, making me act rashly. Seeing you and being in your priceless company only with halfmeasures was even more confusing and made me act like an insecure teenager. Seeing you with another man made me lose my mind. You must be mine Victoria, only mine, nobody has the right look at you or touch you the way I do. Nobody has the right to sit less than 1 meter away from you except me and nobody has the right to steal a smile from you which is meant for me. It’s true that I treated you badly not taking your calls and not calling you after our last night, I’m really sorry. It’s just that the fact that I couldn’t satisfy you made me become frustrated, something like this never happened to me before, it was even more humiliating because I like you a lot and I would have wanted everything to be perfect. And it was the other way around. Victoria, words have never been my best friends, which is why I often avoid saying what I feel because I’m scared I might not be able to express what I want to. I just want to ask you one thing, give me a little time and let me coordinate at least our first date, give me a chance to prove that I’m different than you think I am right now. I miss your pure smile which caresses my soul like a ray of sunshine on my face on a cold winter day. Now that you’re aware that you hold the torch to light the darkness of my soul you can decide if you want to light it up or let it die in the darkness of grey, dusty memories? Don’t answer now, I know you’re still mad at me, take all the time you need to think about it. I’ll be waiting for as long as it takes because I’m sure it’s worth it. Have a good night and sweet dreams my dear.”

Wow, is it really written by the same Gérard I know, this message left me in awe. I gave it to Monique to read as well to make sure that it wasn’t just a dream, that it was real, and that I hadn’t fallen asleep in the meantime. He was so deep, his words touched a deep chord in my heart and wiped away any shred of doubt and contempt that governed my entire being up till that moment. I went to the bathroom to take my makeup off and put my pyjamas on, although the two guests had fallen asleep already I preferred to be cautious. I spent more than half that night thinking about what he wrote and what I should do. I wished everything would be simpler and at least once my mind and heart would cooperate to get a unanimous vote. One thing was certain, I wanted him with all of my being, with every cell and heartbeat. The next morning, we woke up early and although I was in no mood to get out of bed we preferred to leave as soon as possible because the two had woken up and resumed their affectionate gestures. I mean I understand they were in love but to express their love that way in front of everyone, without a shade a decency? We ate breakfast out and then headed to class where we were hoping to see Mélanie and ask her to get rid of them because we had to study and it was impossible to focus on anything while they were around. But Mélanie didn’t show up to class, she was apparently caught up in other matters of the same sort…love! I couldn’t say I was paying much attention to class either, because I kept thinking about the message I got from Gérard. I decided to answer as soon as I got home and hand a little peace and quiet to express exactly what I thought and felt about him at that very moment. After class Monique and I stopped at a supermarket to buy some things. I was planning on spending some time with them and I didn’t want to eat out all the time. After we got home, we had the same old problem. I put down the groceries and told Monique that I was going out for some fresh air because I had to think about the whole situation and in those circumstances it was practically impossible for me to do so. I put my headphones on and went out to see the Seine, I took a cab and stopped close to the river, sat on a bench and opened my texts on my phone. I had been trying to write something since I got in the cab but I couldn’t find my words. For starters I wrote “my dear Gérard”, no, I couldn’t write that, it sounded like an outdated cliché, I’d simply start with: “Gérard, you’re so unpredictable, did I ever tell you I like certainty? Maybe it sounds old fashioned and uninteresting but that’s the way I am, I’m the kind of person who can look at a museum display case and say it was a delight, who can finish reading a good book today and feel richer than yesterday. I don’t like going to fancy restaurants like you do, I’m more than happy to go to McDonald’s. I think my last public appearance only stirred your male pride and nothing more. You should know I’m not always like that, I feel truly beautiful and at ease when I’m at home, without any makeup on and dressed with my dad or brother’s tshirts and shorts. You don’t know me at all, you know nothing about me, absolutely nothing, how can you say that I must be yours. I don’t want to be just a whim of yours Gérard, I get too involved and I always end up hurt. I’m not ready to face new challenges and I don’t know why but I have a hunch that a life with you wouldn’t be at all easy or calm but full of a high degree of adrenaline and uncertainty. I prefer a simple life, but that doesn’t mean I’m not complicated, I don’t want and would never accept in my life to be someone’s second choice, and you, given your situation and age, don’t think would like to stop at me…don’t get me wrong, I’m usually the one to choose the path less travelled but this time I prefer choosing the most travelled one. What scares me more is the fact that I like you alarmingly much Gérard. I’ll be honest with you now that I know I’ll probably never see you again, I’m already in love with you, all the attention and tenderness that you treated me which from the very beginning have won me over slowly but steadily…I suffered a lot all this time that you ignored me, but I went too far and I think that’s what I’ll do now too. Our paths have crossed because of my cousin’s misfortune, because I wasn’t supposed to be his plus one that night, so our ending couldn’t have been a happy one. I’d rather stop now, when thinking of you still brings a slightly nostalgic smile to the corner of my mouth than cry cursing the day I met you and hate you. Take care, Gérard”. I sent it, but from the bottom of my heart I would have preferred not to, because my heart was screaming that I was stupid and a coward, that I risked missing on that great love you are only meant to meet once in a lifetime. I felt that this way a new but also old chapter of the surprising book of my agitated life had ended. Maybe it was my fate to love but not be rewarded with the same measure, but the opposite. I closed my eyes and focused all my attention on my smell, took a deep breath of subtle but cold air passed off by my own faith. I wanted him so much, I wanted to feel and love, just like in the classical love stories where love can govern you completely, where money, power, humiliation, submission and fame all spun around the woman’s corset and crinoline. Where giving your word was a promise which you had to keep even at the cost of your life. Where a woman’s virtue was defended with a man’s own honor, who is ready at any time to sacrifice even his very life, in the blink of an eye, just for one of her smiles, or a simple movement of her gentle hand as she takes her pin out of her hair letting it fall in waves on her bare shoulders. I dream of such an era, the era of longlost but honest love stories. Today I breathe in an era where numbers count, where patronizing just one love is a longgone unconceivable myth. That’s where I’d like to be now, I whispered by allowing my eyes to sink again into the cruel panorama of life, today’s reality and I do it all of a sudden as someone takes my hand whispering that he could take me anywhere I wanted, I just had to tell him. I twitched when he touched me, because I got really scared, a few seconds ago I was alone on the bench and now here he was.

It’s me, don’t worry, you’re safe he assured me seeing me so confused while he came closer, slowly taking my hand. We sat back on the bench, close enough to each other that I could feel his breath, ohhh God what a bittersweet torture, how I’d like to bite his perfect lips a little, but I controlled myself and tried to get away from him slowly, looking the other way.

Look at me, he told me, taking my head into his warm hands. What’s with this pessimism? You’re a strong woman, what made you treat me this way?

That’s the point, maybe I’m not a woman yet, not in the sense you want me to be, Gérard.

Victoria I am fully aware of your sensibility, your fragility and your femininity, believe me I know you better than you know yourself, I want to protect you, complete you and love you like you deserve.

Can you protect me from yourself Gérard? Because I see danger when I look into your eyes, not love, could you please stop, if you really say you care about me leave me alone, don’t try to get to my heart because you’re in no condition to do so. You only love yourself, all I am to you right now is a whim and nothing more, you’re no longer a child, so mommy can grant your every wish, could you leave me be alone in peace, if not happy? I don’t want to be just a number or an initial on your long list which feeds your male ego. Maybe I don’t have enough life experience Gérard, but my heart has a special radar for people like you and right now, next to you it’s going crazy, it’s messed up, which is good enough reason for me to get away from here as soon as possible. I said all this in quite a loud voice because I was about to betray myself and shed some tears that I’d be embarrassed about later. Tears which could make him accuse me of weakness, he’d be able to tell that he was my weakness. After this confession I suddenly got up and wanted to leave, but he grabbed my arm so hard that I had the impression he wanted to rip it from my body. He turned me around and grabbed the back of my neck with his other hand. He looked me in the eyes for a second and told me that if I couldn’t shut up already he would help me. I couldn’t argue with him because he suddenly kissed me, he was pressing his soft lips so hard and intensely against mine as if he was afraid that I was going to get away, I ended up by kissing him back with the same passion and intensity, because I had been wanting him for too long with too much passion. He then hugged me in his strong arms and I let myself get lost in the paradise I had just stepped into, although just a few minutes ago I was shouting at him that he is dangerous for me. Here in his arms I finally took a calm breath and felt like home, I felt safe.

What were you doing here alone on this cold weather?

How did you find me here, how did you know I was here? I asked totally confused.

I have my sources. Can I take you out for coffee?

I usually don’t drink coffee but I guess this time I’ll make an exception, I said smiling.

You can order what you usually have, the important thing is that I have you next to me, he said also smiling.

He took my hand and we headed to the car just like a couple in love who knew each other for a long time, holding each other tight. He sometimes grabbed my waist and stole a short kiss from me. I felt like I was floating, it was incredible but I had him here, just for me, willing to spend time with me…who would have believed it a few days ago? Right across the road from where he parked his car was a small restaurant called “Le coup de foudre”.

Let’s go in here. I really like their logo, I said enthusiastically.

I’ve never been here before, that’s weird, I’ve been to almost every café here in our old Paris. It must be new, but the logo is indeed great, it represents us, or you at least. We were sat at a table in a discreet cubby from where you could see the Seine. We knew exactly what we wanted to order: I wanted a hot green tea and surprisingly, so did he.

You don’t have to have what I’m having Gérard, I told him visibly amused by what he had ordered.

Seriously now, I really do drink green or black tea, I’m not trying to copy or impress you pretending to be someone I’m not. I want you to know me like I truly am, at least from now on, he gave me a warm smile and took my hand into his.

That’s very nice and healthy of you Gérard!

How do we want me to stay in shape? You sure know how to keep a person guessing, he said after he took a sip of his tea.

You’re no different my dear.

I suggest we start over, properly this time, what do you say? We could start now, let’s say we met for the first time here.

I don’t know what to say, actually I don’t think it’s a bad idea Gérard, I said smiling. I was caught in a sort of trance, things were moving in slow motion around me, I was almost under the impression that time had stopped, I saw him in front of me, I saw that his lips were moving trying to say something but I was so mesmerized by his face that I couldn’t hear a thing, until a physical contact brought me back to life.

Victoria are you ok? What’s wrong with you, you scared me earlier, I was talking to you but you seemed absent.

Ohhh, sorry Gérard, the truth is last night I slept at the dorm where we had some unexpected guests and I didn’t manage to rest really well, I’m a little tired, that’s all.

What? What do you mean unexpected guests?

A couple, some friends of my roommate’s, a very sweet girl, but they’re kind of indecent so I hope they leave as soon as possible, if they don’t I’ll move back in with my cousin.

Victoria if you agree I can offer you a place to stay: a house or an apartment. I don’t want to be misunderstood, please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m only thinking about your comfort and wellbeing, I wouldn’t want to rush things this way.

You’re very kind, but no, thanks, I can manage Gérard.

Whatever you think is best, sweetie but if you ever need a place to stay, don’t hesitate to tell me ok!!!

Got it, hope it won’t be necessary though.

Do you have any plans for tomorrow?

Why, do you have something in mind? I asked curiously.

I was thinking to kidnap you for a few hours and go someplace I’m sure you’d love visiting.

Where exactly? I asked even more curious.

I can’t tell you, I want it to be a surprise and I really hope you can manage your time in such a way that you can accompany me for a few hours.

Oh, I’ll tell you tonight, I’m sure I will enjoy it if there’s something to visit.

I was expecting you to say that you’ll do all that you can to spend time with me, that you enjoy my company, but that’s ok too, it’s a start, he said more or less seriously, with a sad face.

Heyyy, if I didn’t enjoy your company I wouldn’t be here now, I said with a meaningful smile. I should get going Gérard, I’ve been away for a long time and I feel bad for having to leave Monique alone with the two. We were planning on cooking together but I saw that the two hadn’t left yet so I went out, I needed a little fresh air and space.

Whatever you say, let’s go, I’ll drive you. A few minutes later I arrived at the dorm and said goodbye to my sweetheart, I had such a great time with him. I was so sorry I had to leave, I felt like I’d never see him again, but I got rid of all my bad thoughts and kissed him a couple of times to charge my batteries with enough energy to suffice until I see him again. I stormed into the room and looked for Monique. I had to tell her everything that just happened to me since I went out. So I ignored the others and told her everything in detail, giggling just like a little girl who Santa just brought a new Barbie doll to. We then started cooking and, thrilled as I was, I offered to take the initiative and make some carbonara. The four of us ate the pasta and then continued with ice cream and popcorn while we watched a romantic movie. I was so happy that I wasn’t paying attention to the gestures and exaggerated affection of our two guests. The two lovers from the film didn’t get their happy ending: she left the house running after a fight about commitment and took the first cab she found. He went after her to try to explain or better yet to apologize for being such a coward and trying to push her away from his life just because he wasn’t ready to get involved in an official relationship although they had been seeing each other for two years, but it was too late, he saw her get in the cab and watched the car drive away. At the first crossroad it was hit by a truck and turned to pieces, it didn’t stand a chance against the giant, the two victims, the cab driver and the love of his life died on the spot. I couldn’t help crying, the image of the guy holding his dead girlfriend’s bloody silhouette made me shiver. I missed him a lot, I wanted to hold him, I wanted him to hold me now. I wanted to see him, I would try having a relationship with him, I would regret it in the end but it would be better than living with the doubt for the rest of my life. If it was meant for us to be happy that was great, if he broke my heart…I know I would somehow find the way and strength to get up, but now I wanted to live the moment, I wanted to love sympathetically a day, two, a month, nine rather than deceive myself for my whole life with an artificial love.

I picked up the phone, wiped away my tears, took a deep breath and called him.

Victoria, is something wrong?

Hi Gérard, I’m fine, I just wanted to know if you’re free now and if you already had dinner?

I grabbed a bite a little earlier, but if you’re considering accepting my neverending invitation to dinner, then you’ll be happy to hear I’m as hungry as a wolf, he said quite enthusiastically.

That’s exactly what I had in mind, in fact I want to see you but since I have nothing to wear for a proper dinner in a fancy restaurant, like the ones you usually go to I thought I should let you know, maybe you could make reservations somewhere more private. I just want to spend some time with you.

I have the perfect place in mind, I can’t wait to see you, when can I come pick you up?

I can be ready in about an hour, is that ok for you? Perfect, I’ll see you in an hour sweetie, kisses, and he hung up.

I took a shower, because I smelled like pasta, washed my hair too and then dried it using Monique’s hair dryer. She straightened my hair while I was putting on eyeliner, mascara and lipgloss. I then put on my red dress, the casual one, not the one I wore when I went out with Christian and managed to be almost ready when I got a text from Gérard: “I’m downstairs, I’ll wait for you in the parking lot, you can come down whenever you’re ready, take your time, I’ll wait as long as it takes”. I put on my coat, took my purse, checked if I had my wallet and my phone on me then kissed Monique, who hugged me and wished me a beautiful evening. I left without saying goodbye to the other two, who were already under the covers anyway. I found him in the parking lot, waiting for me next to the car. He took me in his arms, kissed me, then opened the door for me, got in the car and here we were heading to our destination.

I’m very thrilled that you chose to go out with me, to be honest I was starting to lose hope, what made you say yes, he asked while caressing my hand.

To be honest I missed you and decided to give it a try, to give you, to give us actually a chance, too see how it works out, I couldn’t tell him about the movie, he would have ended making fun of me probably, so it was better to avoid it. Seeing that we were going out of the city and entering some sort of highway I became a little alarmed and asked him:

Gérard where are you taking me? Why did we go out of the city?

Don’t worry, trust me, I’m taking you somewhere private and classic, I’m sure you’ll like it, don’t worry I’m not kidnapping you, although I would be tempted to, he ended his phrase slightly relaxed.

I’d like to point out that Monique knows with whom I am with, when and how I went out so if she doesn’t hear from me in the next 24 hours she’ll call the police, I answered giggling and more relaxed. After two hours of driving we stopped in front of a huge gate which opened after Gérard entered a code on some sort of access remote control. In front of us was a garden and a castle in all its splendor and grander.

Gérard where are we? Are you sure we’re allowed to go in? I asked with a slight frown and visibly confused by the situation but literally fascinated by the whole panorama.

Of course we’re allowed to go in, we’re at Fierra, it’s my house, or anyway my family’s house, my grandma’s residence. We’re on the northern coast of France in Honfleur, Normandy. You can see the English Channel from the window.

Are you sure? This looks like a castle Gérard, I insisted. A palace, a baroque palace, neobaroque actually, I have to see it better in daylight.

Just how you like them my princess, I told you you’d like it, wait to see the inside, it was preserved as well as possible in its initial state. You’ll fall in love with this place.

We stopped at the entrance and climbed out of the car, before us a giant door stood open, like an entrance gate. We were greeted by eight people, four ladies, two gentlemen and two children. Gérard elegantly introduced me and I tried to be kind, but my look was just stolen by the view behind them. The interior looked like an immense empty space, it was built on massive imposing double columns, and wide, romantic arcades, the ceiling was festively decorated with various dramatic scenes populated by multiple characters, it was an amazingly tall room. A majestic marble ivory staircase which split into two sections halfway connected the ground floor to the next floors of the building. Gérard shook hands with an older man to whom he gave the car keys to park the car, and the lady, who was also older, he kissed on both cheeks then hugged, which he also did with the two children, a girl who was around ten and a boy of the same age. They seem like they were 5060 years old, and based on their accent they seemed to be foreign too, Spanish if I was not mistaken. One of the younger women looked at me with a shade of regret, fury, I had no idea what was in her eyes, but she didn’t seem thrilled by our arrival at all, or maybe not this kind of arrival. Could it be one of Gérard’s comfortless mistresses? Oh God, could this be Gérard’s family? Are these his children from some previous marriage? At his age it was normal, to be expected…Oh God, what had I done again? I got carried away and we climbed up the stairs, turned right and entered a reception room that I went into turning around and being amazed about what I could see, the interior was Victorian, a style which was harmoniously combined with the neobaroque, gothic, Egyptian and oriental ones. As big, empty and cold the entrance seemed, as warm and cozy I found this room. Its size was almost normal. The floor was from lacquered mahogany and in the middle there was an oriental carpet with floral prints. On the carpet there was an ivory marble and gold round table for 12 people, with two massive central feet which ended in a lion’s paw, thus evoking the style of the English Regency. Around it there were 12 slightly oval velvet chairs of the same light color. The silver curtains were made of silk and gold fabric with floral motives. You could see the three tall windows through them, 2 meters high, their sides made of gold marble. Three majestic crystal chandeliers came down from the ivory – white ceiling. On the right side of the room there was a table which looked like the rest of the furniture. Above it was a Venetian mirror, typical of the 18th century. The tapestries were in a slightly more dark colors. On the left side of the room there was a glass case with different artifacts, expensive antique dishes, most of them from ceramic, silver, portraits with straight heavy frames of leaves of different shapes, flowers or fruit. At the back of the room there was a fireplace with hard iron detailing, which simply invited me to relax and made me think of Christmas and the image of the whole family reunited. I was told that this was the room where lunch was served. Then we moved on to the next room, the dining room. Here the atmosphere was even cozier. The floor was made out of walnut hardwood, also lacquered. Another round table for 12 people also made of walnut wood, this time in black dominated the room, sitting on a monochromatic French carpet, a faithful reproduction of the classical Aubusson tapestries. These chairs had a golden tapestry. I liked the black and gold combination very much. A majestic crystal and black pearl chandelier was hanging down from the ceiling. On the left side of the table, somewhere in the back was a large clock and on the right side there was a black lamp with golden fringes and a red glass foot, about 2 meters long, also nicely finished. The tapestries on the wall left the impression of empty paintings or even doors. The curtains of this room were from red Damascus and took up all the left wall. Gérard accompanied me to the living room, which was a rococo style room. The tapestries were lively colored with floral motives. In the back of the room there was a silk violet divan with five places, with silver leafs on the margins. Its feet were short and sculpted. In front of it, on an African carpet of Moroccan origin with various geometrical forms on a white font was a small silver table, beautifully sculpted. On the table there were a candy holder and a triangular bouquet of flowers. The floors were made out of mahogany and the lilac curtains were made out of silk, with floral prints on them. Another vanity table was at the entrance. Next to it was a onemetertall vase in which you could admire a fresh bouquet of red roses. On that table there were two Louis the 16th chandeliers with four flames each. The room in which tea was usually back in Gérard’s grandmother’s time was all green. Here you could treat your heart and eyes with a Louis the 15th atmosphere. At the back of the room there was a divan with three places and on each side of it there were two armchairs, in the typical bergere shape, all silken, green and with various bird prints on them. The legs were taller and more arched, defying the weight they had to sustain. The pillows were decorated with various smaller pillows of the same color and fabric. In the middle, on another French carped there was a mediumsized table. The walls were wooden and the floor was made out of lacquered mahogany. In the corners of the room there were large vases with green plants and other fringed lamps. The velvet curtains were of the same green color. There was a sofa next to the window, with a book on it. It was indeed the ideal place where you could spend some time reading because to the left there was a window through which you could see a gorgeous view of the sea and enjoy the sound of its waves and from your right side you could hear the sound of wood burning in the fireplace. I found out from Madame Irene Manoli, that she was Gérard’s nanny and she was from Peru, and the old man from earlier that evening was her husband. They came to France more than three decades ago, the children were their nephews and the blond girl was their daughter. The other man was her husband. One of the other women was the cook and the one who seemed unhappy was the maid. At a certain point Madame Irene excused herself and left the room to make sure that dinner would be served on time.

Gérard’s touch woke me up.

My love, the house is quite big, you will need a few days to take your time and admire everything.

Really? I could do it in one night, I confessed, like in a dream, barely whispering. I would have done anything to make sure that it wouldn’t all go away the next morning.

I’m sure you will, but you’ll be doing it in the bedroom, he assured me with a naughty smile. Oh, I can’t wait to see the bedroom.

You will, as for visiting, seriously Dalilah, it’s a 25yard property, there are five floors, about 25 bedrooms plus guest rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, there’s even an indoor pool in the basement, a cinema, a sauna, a gym, a massage room, a bowling room, a squash field, three safety rooms…

Safety rooms? What are those for Gérard? You said the building was preserved in its initial state.

I said almost, my love, he excused himself, hugging me. There were improvements which had to be made as technology advanced. The whole building has antibullet window and heated floors, there are even retinal scan devices at the entrance.

This place is starting to seem like a fortress. It seems impossible for just one family to own all this, the world is so unjust…there are so many homeless people and here there are so many bedrooms nobody uses. Gérard, does the whole family live here? How come I haven’t met anyone?

My folks prefer the noisy and dynamic life of Paris.

Hmmm, so this place is empty then? What do you do with it Gérard? Why don’t you sell it, you could donate the money for a noble cause.

Dalilah, it’s a family legacy, it was my grandmother’s home. How could I conquer a princess if I lost my own castle? Besides, we always do charity, we’re not as insensitive as we probably seem. Not to mention that by its mere existence it provides jobs for 30 people. The people you met earlier are not the only ones living here. The property is quite large so its maintenance requires an equally large number of workers.

Really? I’m glad to hear that.

It’s open for the public twice a week too, Gérard informed me hugging me again. He gave me a short kiss first on the forehead, then on the lips. I couldn’t believe how tender he could be and also how calm I could feel now in his arms when only a couple dozen days ago he was just a stranger whose table I sat at. I looked him in the eye attentively for a few seconds, it was him, there were the same dark brown eyes which I unfortunately couldn’t read through and I couldn’t see what was in his heart. It’s the same guy who I was attracted to like a magnet, more and more, so much that I felt that I was about to give in. His confident attitude made me crazy. It’s the same guy whose confident steps on the cold ground sound like the melody of a shattered window out of which thousands of crystals fall seeming to be rushing to touch the same ground he walks on, a slow song, a sweet torture, a bittersweet catharsis. For a second I thought it could actually be the sound of his steps as he walked out of my life and those crystals might as well be the remains of a broken heart, kneeled by the infamous myth of eternal love, which I was quite familiar with as I felt its pulse to the marrow of my bones. It might as well be the shattered glass pieces of pointless dreams…but I quickly shook my head and sent away all these dark thoughts, why on earth was I so pessimistic and negative? I was abandoning or giving up the race which could win me his heart, which could comfort my entire existence. Impossible! I would fight because I was sure that life wouldn’t give me anything for free on a silver platter, I’d have to get what I find useful myself, what I’d need, what I’d love and what I’d want.

Madame Irene told us that we could go to the eastern apartment because dinner was served. We left that amazingly beautiful salon and went on a corridor full of various lifesize paintings which represented family members probably and we headed to the apartment, climbing some neverending wide stairs covered with a carminered rug. We finally arrived in an equally tall and spacious room which didn’t have electrical lighting, it was lit by some classical chandeliers and some vases with colored candles. On the left wall there was a huge antique fireplace where a fire was burning, a table for two was sat close to the window. I was breathless, when entering the room and seeing a real canopy bed in all its splendor. I went closer to it, like in a dream and touched it carefully, afraid that it might dissolve when I touched its silk silver curtains. I circled around it, gently touching it with the tips of my fingers, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was so beautiful and so romantic! On it there were a lot of red rose petals and, to my amazement, also white petals of my priceless jasmine, making a true fresh and live bedsheet. Gérard was looking at me distracted from a corner of the room, making sure that dinner was ok, then came close to me, took me in his arms and whispered:

Do you like it princess?

Are you kidding? I love it, it’s superb, I can’t believe you have something like this, why haven’t you told me? You had to torture me in that small car when you had such a masterpiece? Gérard what were you thinking? Now in the diffuse light of the room I found him even more beautiful.

I couldn’t get you in my bed from the first date Victoria, what would you have thought about me, you would have said that I wanted to take advantage of you.

And what were you planning to do to me in the car? I asked slightly amused.

Considering your young age and how teenagers nowadays are I thought you wanted some adrenaline, he tried to excuse himself while he pulled my chair out so I could sit at the table.

Oh, yes, adrenaline you say, Gérard I’m not a teenager anymore, unfortunately time passes for me too. To be honest I’m not hungry, I had some pasta before I left. To be honest me neither, I ate too, but we can drink a glass of wine. To be honest, I don’t get along with alcohol Gérard.

Are you sure? A few nights ago you sure seemed like a fan of Chardonnay, mademoiselle Victoria.

Don’t be ironic Gérard, it was an exception, I was trying to forget about the monotony of everyday life, so to say.

Were you trying to forget about me, by any chance, he asked?

You were no longer part of the monotony of my everyday life then, or have you forgotten my dear?

How could I forget, do you want me to get you some juice from downstairs? He tried to change the subject.

Don’t bother, I don’t think a glass of wine will make me tipsy, I smiled winking at him.

I won’t take advantage of you, if you’ll want a second glass, don’t worry my lady, he assured me while staring at me. Sometimes I could have sworn he was picturing me naked, by the way he looked at me. We took a sip of wine, then I took the glass in my hand and headed to the giant window on the right side of the room. The frame had an impressive design and the curtains seem to be made out of the same classical garnet Damascus. It was a peaceful night in perfect communion with my state of mind, a wide, bright, starry sky sat on the large horizon of the equally calm sea. He joined me, he stopped in front of me, got my hair out of the way and kissed the left part of my neck slowly. It was a delicate, yet electrifying touch which woke me up immediately as I felt his touch from head to toes. I slowly hid in my shell, I was not yet used to such tender, passionate touches. Although I’ve had a long term relationship and I was not a virgin anymore, sexually I couldn’t say that I was very…experienced in controlling myself or my partner. Still he felt me and took the glass from my hand, putting it down on the window case, then took me in his arms all of a sudden and headed to the bed of my dreams. He sat me like a trophy on its trophy case and got my hair out of the way, took my head in one hand pulling me towards his face and slowly touched my lips with the other. I loved feeling the firm touch of his fingers on the back of my neck. I was just breathless, he was sure of himself and what he was doing, he gave me a light passionate kiss, then gently touching my tongue with his. Our kiss accelerated slowly and our hands cooperating by mutually undressing us. He took off my dress leaving me in my bra, underwear and girdles and I opened each button of his shirt at the time, then pulled out his belt and left him without his jeans. We got rid of our shoes and climbed into bed together, I slowly laid on my back, making room in the little paradise of my beloved jasmine scent and he climbed on top of me kissing me on my tights, around my belly button, walking his delicate lips and at times the tip of his tongue slowly on my skin, making me want him more and more with each second. I made an effort to stand still although his touch would normally make me burst into laughter by now, because I usually don’t let anybody touch me like that in those places. With him things took an awkward twist. He released my breasts from the cups of my bra, each at a time, then tortured my nipples slowly but pleasantly, by slowly walking the tip of his tongue over them. I walked my hands through his hair and when he took by breast into his mouth I pulled his hair guiding his face towards me, because I was more than turned on and I was burning with desire to feel him more intensely. He leaned over the bed and looked in the pocket of his jeans taking out a condom and putting it on with success this time. He turned to me, climbed on top of me again and looked to see if I was ready, then penetrated me slowly but steadily with his generous erection that I had obviously underestimated. I closed my eyes and let his delicate but manly, passionate, tender and ecstatic touches possess me. I grabbed his soft hair and pulled him towards my wanting chest. I held on to the sheets to make sure that I stood in that bed because I felt I was about to lose myself in a universe of synesthetic delight. He gave me a long kiss breathing more and more heavily and I thrust my nails in his sculpted back and ohhh yes we finally both had an orgasm at the same time.

I finally felt satisfied and I wasn’t talking about what I just felt physically but spiritually, this scent, this aspect, this feeling of plenitude determined me to believe that I had become a woman for the first time. It was more that I wanted and imagined when I was planning to become one of my friends, the “experienced” girls. Now I was in a canopy bed, with my head on his chest, surrounded by his warm hands, the feeble rays which still come out of the fireplace looked like they were waltzing on the tapestries of this room, and my nostrils were delighted by the magical essence of jasmine. It was the perfect night and it was the first time in my life that I wanted a night not to end, I wanted us to stay like this forever, never again having to share our attention, love and time with anyone. I felt light like a feather heading to the sky helped by a guiding wind. Although I didn’t want it to end I felt like I was surrounded by the chains which marked the way of reality in the endless secret world of dreams.

I woke up in front of a castle guarded by two members of the imperial guard. They didn’t seem to notice that I got so close to the gate. I was riding a white horse with a black cross on its forehead and in its ridge besides the white hair you could easily see a couple of black hairs. I was dressed in a long light white dress with long, wide sleeves and over it I was wearing an equally long silvery pearlcolored cape. My hair seemed longer but it had the same black color and it was curled. I asked for the ladder to be lowered so that I may enter the castle, because it was surrounded by a ditch filled with water, dug probably for security reasons. Nobody answered so I insisted to be let in but it was like I was invisible, nobody listened to me. Disappointed that nobody helped me I circled around it a few times and my attention was drawn by the forest in front of the castle where you could hear gunshots and the screams of desperate animals, so I headed that way. I rushed the horse into the forest but my horse got up on his back feet, frightened and I fell down. A knight dressed in black dismounted his horse of the same color, came close to me and asked if I was ok. His face, his eyes were familiar, it was Gérard, I closed my eyes for a second and then opened them again to look at my prince but I had to close them again because they were hurt by a strong, unbearable light which I couldn’t face. The wish to look at his face once more made me open the again. This time the light was gentler with my eyes, the warm rays of sunshine bathed my face as they snuck in the large room where I was through the huge window. It was morning and I was in an eastern apartment, which as I noticed lived up to its name. I stood like that looking at that marvelous window for a few seconds, then realizing that I was alone in bed I stuck my head between the warm pillows to hide from the sun, from the new day which was just starting, to the reality I had come back to by opening my eyes. I wondered where Gérard was, why he had left me alone, was he downstairs or had he just left me here all alone and left? I decided to get out of bed and see what was happening; I wondered what time it was? I had classes this morning but I didn’t think I had any chance to get there in time. I found our clothes and found it weird that his shirt was still there although he had left, what did he wear? He didn’t leave naked I assume. I took his shirt to breathe in its unmistakable scent, put it on and headed to the window through which the rays that woke me up came into the room. I looked outside; it seemed like a sunny but chilly day, the wide horizon of the sea made me think I was still dreaming, I couldn’t wait for those days when the constant temperature was of 25 degrees to come. I turned back to the bed and stopped next to the nightstand where I found a folded note which I impatiently unfolded:

In case you wake up before I get back: Good morning my princess! Waking up next to you, in your tender arms and starting my day by looking at your angelic face was to me like a drop of dew for a flower in a dry summer morning. I hate that I have to go, it’s an emergency, I wouldn’t have left otherwise, I hope you’ll forgive me and still hope to find you sleeping. Kisses, my princess!

Someone knocked on the door so I immediately jumped back into bed, because I was still almost naked and I said that they could come in, in a low voice.

Good Morning milady, Madame Irene said entering prudently.

Good Morning Madame Irene, I answered smiling. She came towards me slowly, stopping about a meter and a half from the bed.

I came to let you know that breakfast was ready, I can serve it whenever you wish, is it alright if I bring it now? She asked discretely.

Oh no, for the love of God, I’ll come down in the kitchen when I’m ready, there’s no need to bother to bring it up here, please, I smiled with an honest sympathy.

Coming down to the kitchen, that’s impossible milady, then why am I for here in this house? She asked a little confused by the whole situation.

Madame Irene, first of all I’d be grateful if you called me Victoria not milady, I’m just 23 years old. As for breakfast, I’ll have it in the kitchen like any normal human being, that’s how I’m used to, that’s how I’ve eaten my breakfast since I can remember, my mom only let me have breakfast in bed when I was too sick to get out of it. I wasn’t raised in a castle like this one, I was raised in a 4 room apartment on the third floor, that was my palace, the palace of my childhood and adolescence, my universe. Don’t stand so straight in front of me, you make me feel uncomfortable, come here and sit on the bed.

Please don’t take this the wrong way milady but this is how things work around here and besides that’s how I was taught since I can remember, she shyly replied while she came closer and sat on the bed. It makes me feel a little confused.

The old problem of social inequity, I know exactly what you mean, or at least I guess I do and as I said earlier I’m Victoria, or Vicky as my friends call me, so don’t call me milady, I said again smiling.

I understand Vicky, but it doesn’t feel natural to do so, I only talk like this to my husband and Gérard but only when we’re not in public, otherwise I talk to him in the way someone holding his noble title should be addressed, she confessed.

Noble title?! I asked visibly surprised.

Didn’t you know Gérard is a marquis? She asked curiously.

Yeah right, a marquis, you do have a sense of humor Madame Irene, I answered quite amused, bursting in a loud laughter even.

I’m serious, why are you laughing, don’t you believe me?

Come on Madame Irene, I know you worship him so to say and love him because you’ve known him since he was a baby but still, it’s the 21st century, such titles are history, sort of, I answered, a little more serious this time.

You don’t have to believe me Victoria, but why would I lie? Trust me, these title are still attentively preserved in the French high society, they know and respect each other.

Hmmm, marquis, interesting, I just didn’t know about it at all, you took me by surprise. And still, I said just for myself, I guess it’s obvious this woman hasn’t left this house for decades.

Oh, sorry, I hope I didn’t do something wrong by saying this, please don’t tell Gérard, maybe he was planning to tell you in different circumstances.

Don’t worry, I won’t say anything, ok? I smiled and winked at her, this will be a little secret, ok! But tell me, does he bring girls here often?

Often? In 37 years since I’ve been here he didn’t bring any girls, you’re the first Victoria, when he told me he was bringing a girl I was speechless, I couldn’t believe it.

Really, the first? How is that possible, he’s 37 years old, are you saying he hasn’t been in an official relationship until this age?

Oh no, he was, but he didn’t bring them here. You see, he lived here for most of his childhood and adolescence with me and his grandma who died a decade ago, God bless her, she was a lady from every point of view. Gérard was raised by her more than he was raised by his mother. Since she died he started coming here less and less often, he still goes to the family crypt every Sunday and takes a fresh bouquet of jasmine, her favorite flowers.

Jasmine is my favorite too, what a coincidence, I exclaimed! Tell me one thing, did he tell you what flowers to spread on the bed?

No my dear, he bought them and spread them on the bed himself, he came by shortly before bringing you here too.

But that’s practically impossible, I said more to myself because Madame Irene didn’t seem to pay much attention to me.

Yes, as I was saying, you know he dated someone for almost 6 years; she was so…different, I could already see me spending my life serving her, God forbid. To see the kind of person she was, imagine that when Gérard went to the USA, where he spent more than 6 months for business, she slept with his father, and probably it would have remained a secret but she got pregnant and betrayed herself this way, God was not on her side of course and she lost the pregnancy. Gérard was heartbroken, he really loved her, he was going to propose when he came back, but when he came back home she was pregnant…with his father. You can imagine how ugly it got. He hasn’t introduced anyone to the family ever since and never went out with women in public; it’s been so many years that we had already lost hope that he’d ever settle down. But seeing you tonight, how you looked at each other, I was happy, it seems he will settle down before he’s 40.

Wow, that’s some story, he lived in the USA for so long and yet he claims he doesn’t speak English and the girl…God, what a tart.

Don’t tell me, you obviously didn’t know this either? She asked a little scared.

I knew but not in detail, I mean he told me that he was in a longterm relationship and that it ended but he didn’t tell me why.

Oh God, I cracked the bell again, she said while covering her mouth with her hand.

This lady was very nice and interesting, it was like she was my granny, I had a feeling that we’d be very good friends, she probably had more secrets than all the walls of this castle, I said to myself smiling.

Don’t worry, everything will stay between us, I won’t say anything you told me, you’re safe ok, I tried to calm her down with a warm smile.

Ok, I believe you Victoria, I might seem indiscreet and untrustworthy but I assure you that I’m not this old for nothing; I’m pretty good with people. I know I can trust you, I’ll go down to see what’s going on, I’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready, if you want to take a shower or a bath, the first door on the right as you go out of the bedroom is a bathroom, where you have a shower and a tub. You can use whichever you want, they’re both in perfect state, she informed me and then left, closing the door behind her, not before offering me a bathrobe and some towels.

I got up and went to the bathroom which was actually another room, as big and tall as the rest of the rooms. There was a tub next to the window, it seemed unusable, so I got closer to get a better look. The shape and material of which it was made, as well as the color, were so unusual, it was clearly as old as the whole house. Next to it there was a table on which you could find all sorts of dry but still perfumed flower petals and various nicely shaped jars full of perfumed bath salts, God I could take such a divine bath here if I only knew how it worked. I didn’t have much time either, because I wanted to go to the courses I had that afternoon, so I headed to the shower which was in the corner of the room, which also had a classical look. Inside there was a Palmolive olive oil shower gel, which was one of the few shower gels I used that left my skin soft enough, so, satisfied by another favorable coincidence I quickly took a shower, dried my hair with a towel, let it loose and left the bathroom, going back to the bedroom, where I took my clothes to get dressed and go eat. I closed the door behind me, I loved that double door which you could easily take for an entrance door, that’s how tall and majestic it was, with its décor, material, its locks and doorknobs so classical and priceless. I headed to the bed to make it but it was already made, Irene was probably here while I was in the shower. On the bed I found my dress, clean and ironed although I could have sworn it was left a little tousled after the previous night, Madame Irene probably got experienced with time…I got my hair out of the way and ran my fingers through it a little because it was still wet, then I walked in and noticed Gérard who was watching me a little distracted, leaning on one of the pillars of the canopy bed. He was so beautiful, his hair on one side, wearing a pair of light – colored jeans, with a belt matching his baby blue shirt around his waist and his shirt tucked in. He was so tall with a toned body and still such a young, lively face, his beautiful white skin contrasting with the perfect brunet color of his hair, it almost made me jealous considering his age. The perfect shape of his eyebrows as well as his long, curved eyelashes made his unusually young face look even more serene.

Remembering how tender, passionate and virile he was with me last night in this bed which was in front of us now made me blush a little and look down.

Hey, sweetie, you’re up, he greeted me, slowly coming close to me and raising my chin he leaned in and gave me a short kiss on the lips. He stood like that for a second and looking me right in the eyes he whispered that he missed me.

Where were you Gérard?

I’m sorry, I was hoping to be back before you woke up, it was something really urgent or I wouldn’t have missed the first time these divine eyes open for nothing in the world, he said kissing me slowly on both of them.

Oh I hope it’s not something bad…

Everything is ok, don’t worry! Are you hungry? Should I tell Irene to bring breakfast?

No, no Gérard, I already talked with Madame Irene and decided that I’ll go down to the kitchen, I mean we’ll go down now that you’re here.

The kitchen, imagine that, but that’s not necessary my love, really.

Gérard come on now, what’s with this commodity, I’ll assure you it’s not necessary, ok!

Your wish is my command Dalilah, I don’t want to upset you in any way, we’ll do it your way sweetie, he said hugging me again kissing me on the forehead.

Don’t get me wrong Gérard, but I’m not used to your lifestyle, I mean my mom only let me eat in bed only when I was too sick to get up and she had to take time off work to take care of me.

I want to take care of you, protect you and coddle you like you deserve from now on my princess, that’s all I want and all I ask is that you let me do that for you.

If I learned something from life so far it’s that nobody gives you anything for free, so what do you want in exchange, I asked with a warm smile while I touched his nose with the tip of my finger.

And still you’re only 23 years old…

23 on the birth certificate, but spiritually I feel much more mature…Maybe you’re right, in fact in this case you’re right for sure, I do want something in exchange…

And what exactly is it that you want? I asked heading to the bed to put on my dress.

Your unconditional love, your full commitment and…basically your hand mademoiselle Dalilah, he said with a serious face.

Ha ha ha, I burst into laughter. Gérard, wake up, I heard that people who are starving hallucinate, they see and say bizarre things like you are now. Let’s eat because you’re hungrier than I am as far as I can see. I was trying to save the appearances because I had no idea what he was really thinking, but one thing was certain, I didn’t like the fact that he was trying to make jokes about these kinds of things at all. A sane human being wouldn’t propose after the first night. I took his hand and dragged him down the stairs without giving him the chance to say another word about the previous discussion.

Gérard, is anybody else having breakfast with us, I asked surprised?

In the salon there was a table for at least 20 people there waiting was a quarter of which was full of what seemed more like a royal feast than a simple breakfast. On the table you could find ham and cheese muffins, dried tomatoes, goat cheese and basil, chocolate pancakes, strawberry ice cream, spinach and zucchini frittata, Turkish eggs and vegetables, milk and cereal, fruit yoghurt, coffee, mint tea, honey, salad, boiled eggs with mushrooms and parmesan sauce, ham and ruccola tartines but also other types of food I had never seen before, all nicely served on ceramic, porcelain and silver plates.

No, my love, just the two of us, he said while he helped me sit down.

Are you sure? Then for whom did Irene cook so much? I asked confused.

Dalilah, because I didn’t know what you preferred for breakfast I told Irene to prepare more things, hoping that at least some will be to your liking, he explained while he sat in front of me.

You’re not in your right mind and Madame Irene… I’m so embarrassed now. A green tea and two slices of toast with honey would have been perfect.

Ah, I should have known, of course, we had tea together.

Don’t worry Gérard, you know, I wanted to ask you something, I’m really curious, why did you choose to put jasmine petals on the bed next to those red rose petals?

Because I know you like jasmine very much, he answered while taking a sip of coffee.

How do you know I like it? Why do you say it with such conviction, who told you might have been wrong, I suggested trying to shake that solid confidence he had.

Impossible my dear!

Is it, my dear?

Nobody told me, I’ve known since that night when I touched your hand and smelled your perfume for the first time Dalilah.

Incredible, I can’t believe it! You know, I really found it strange that you could guess what perfume I was wearing so easily, given that it’s a lady’s perfume; did your exgirlfriend use to wear it, or maybe your mom?

Neither, but my grandma was crazy about Channel No. 5, she only used this perfume her whole life although she had an impressive collection of rare and expensive perfumes, I can show it to you whenever you like, they’re upstairs. In 2002 I went with her to the launch of Chance by Channel, it was the last public event we went to together, she passed away only a couple of months later, but she was very thrilled with the new floral mix which gave life to this perfume.

I’m sorry Gérard!

You don’t have to be, I appreciate it anyway, he told me while slowly squeezing my right hand, then went on.

She confessed that if she were still 20, she would have dedicated her loyalty to this essence, which seems to be characteristic to tender, sophisticated but tenacious ladies who aim high. The kind of girls who never give up even if they hit a brick wall. She also told me that, that was what I wanted and what would complete me, that I’d have to wait but I should never lose hope because it would be worth it. That I’d feel it at the right time. There was always hidden meaning in her words. I later started believing it was a sort of curse, I searched desperately for the first three years, ladies who used this perfume, but five years ago someone came close to me, I spent so much time smelling the Chance perfume that I could smell it from miles away, and when I looked at her, I saw a 6070 years old lady, then I completely gave up…

Hahhaha, I’m sorry G! I apologized for my inappropriate outburst, but I really found the last part with the old lady really funny.

Ok, but I still don’t see the connection with our jasmine, I said in the end with a shade of regret.

I must disagree Dalilah! By looking at you any man can tell that you’re the kind of woman who uses a perfume which has musk as a base note, pepper as a top note and jasmine as a middle note.

Wow, that’s impressive, how do you know all this? I asked somewhat overwhelmed, thinking about the fact that although he knew what flowers I liked, he offered me others as well. Still, I was happy so I kept this remark to myself.

I told you I know you Dalilah, I’ve been waiting for you for more than a decade, maybe even two if I think about it, he answered in the same firm voice.

I wanted it to be you since I saw you walk towards me, ever since my eyes started to crave transcending physical love, I felt you immediately, I literally smelled you and knew that I was done waiting.

Gérard you can’t love a woman based on the essence of the perfume she uses, or the brand, I understand you perfectly, but I find it hard to tolerate that you can be so deep and honest with yourself first of all…

Why can’t you believe it? He asked me not letting me finish my phrase.

I don’t know, maybe because you are what you are…And what exactly am I?

You’re a man first of all Gérard, I’m starting to know your character, your nature and your attitude.

I’m a man in love first of all Dalilah, don’t you forget that! And I don’t love you for your perfume, I love you for what you managed to wake up in me, ever since you first said hello. I was reborn watching your face; I know best what’s in my heart! Tell me what your favorite color is!

What? I asked, surprised that I didn’t understand where he was going, and still he said he loved me…

What color jasmine do you prefer?

Ahh, I love the white one, I adore the red one and like the yellow one.

Hmmm, just like I thought, a jovial soul, as your eternal smile that stole my heart explains, who loves to be happy and make those around her happy and does it in a shy and modest way, to go off topic.

Gérard, you amaze me, to go off topic myself I said with a sweet smile.

An entire world around jasmine, he said with an equally sweet smile.

Yes, did you know there are countries who have jasmine as their national flower, I wish I could visit all of them someday.

Yes, I know, in Syria, Damascus is called the city of jasmines, I was there with my grandma one summer.

That’s so beautiful, yes and also the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan; it’s the symbol for mothers in Thailand, and for feminine delicacy or sweetness in China. In the Muslim and Hindu tradition jasmine is considered the perfume of love.

I’m the impressed one now, Miss Dalilah. Do you know how your beloved flower is called in Sanskrit?

I can tell you how it’s called in Hindi too monsieur Gérard. It’s “Mallika” and in Hindi it’s “Chameli”, I ended, winking that he lost.

It seems you did your research!

Whatever sparks my interest, anything if it conquers my heart, but how do you know all of this, or do you have an affinity?

Ah no, I…I have a friend who has a business in this field. From him, I know that in aromatherapy jasmine is called “The king of essential oils”, it’s also characterized as having an “almost animalistic quality” being predominantly masculine through its nature and fragrance, unlike the rose who is “The Queen of essential oils”.

Though its perfume maybe, I agree, its smell can easily be associated with invincible physical dominance, typical of the male genre, but regarding its nature you cannot contradict the fact that its composition and structure is 100% fragile which is typical of the female genre. If I may, I think it’s the same in the life of rational beings, strong men have always had and still have around them the touch and support of some true jasmine petals, if I may say so. They find their strength and drown their existence in their arms every night, arms in which they sometimes are just harmless boys, to be able to go back into the world with their head held high and shine once more, thus crushing the myth of the invincibility of male strength.

A true feminist, it seems, I won’t go into a fight over principles now. Although I hate to admit it, you might be right.

I’d like to tell you a secret, you might be disappointed but I’ll take the risk. I love “Chance” a lot and I’ve been using it since I was 15, but for 2 years I’ve also been using “Givenchy Organza Indian Jasmine” which renders a silky, delicate and tender note of jasmine, I got it from my father as well as Channel no. 5 that I received from my mom.

Don’t be silly, how could you disappoint me? So you like Givenchy, so do I, the more time I spend with you the more I discover I like you even more Dalilah!

I’m more of a fan of Channel, of Gabrielle Bonheur also known as “Coco Chanel”. I admire her although sometimes I consider her to be among the ones responsible for the disappearance of true feminine attire, which spun around corsets. Her creations revolutionized haute couture fashion. The typical corseted silhouette was replaced by the simple, long, light dresses we wear today, especially the famous deuxpiece I confidently use sometimes. I have all the respect for this huge name from the history of international elegance.

Why do you consider her responsible for the disappearance of true feminine attire?

I’m not sure that’s exactly what I meant, I’m aware that she was inspired and also forced by the circumstances to create something useful and pleasant for that transition period. She even helped women who were working in factories instead of men, because at that time the coal industry was quite unstable. I can imagine that it wasn’t easy for them to work in a corset and crinoline, although crinolines were not in use anymore. Anyway, she still receives media attention but the one who lived her fashion American dream in the 20th century was without doubt the Italian Elsa Schiaparelli, she was the one who designed the first blazer for women, inspired by the male attire of course.

So you’re a fan of corsets and crinolines, that’s very nice for a young lady, he said while staring at me, listening like an obedient puppy.

I love that age full of corsets, crinolines and extravagant hairstyles, tiaras and pearls, the predominant attire of the 19th century. I especially love the Victorian era, and I must admit I also like the exaggerated Rococo age to a certain extent, that age when 50 kg of powder were said to be used each year, and the makeup was so exaggerated and excessive that they sometimes didn’t recognize each other, if you can imagine. Paradoxally, in a book by Carolly Erickson about Queen Victoria’s life it is stated that she hated crinolines, considering them a dangerous and horrible object rather than a delicate one. Ok, I guess what made her feel that way because her first daughter, the socalled Vicky, the apple in her husband Albert’s eye, almost died burned alive because her dress accidentally caught fire. And because such accidents really happened, unfortunately, I can’t blame her for hating that object which I still find graceful.

That’s impressive, we annually have balls here like the ones from centuries ago, for charity, to raise funds for noble causes and it’s also an opportunity to savor the color, the life and the style of the long – gone French nobility. This year’s ball is less than two weeks away. I’m more than honored to find out that you love this kind of outfit because that’s exactly what you’ll have to wear.

Did you just invite me to a ball? Exactly, will you do me the honor?

It would be a dream come true for me, but I can’t give you an answer right now.

Why not?

Well, I don’t know, first of all, where I could find such a dress, and many other things.

Oh, that’s simple, all you have to do is try some on and choose the one you like, I’ll handle the rest, we’re doing things my way, remember?

Oh, whatever you say, we’ll see how you can find a Victorian dress in just a week, oh, sorry, I meant several, so I can choose, and I burst into laughter unable to hide my amusement.

Ok, we’ll see about that, you shouldn’t underestimate me though, when I say I’ll do something I make sure that I’m capable to do it, miss Dalilah.

Oh, excuse me Monsieur Gérard, I tried to fix things becoming a little more serious this time.

But tell me, how do you have this passion for an age and a style which are so dated, considering the age, rhythm and pattern of life the century you live in?

Hmm, it’s a long story, it’s all about mentality and the way in which I want things to happen in my life, in that longgone classical lifestyle.

I have all the time in the world to listen to it, or if it’s just an image of what you’d want, even better, that sounds shorter.

Maybe, but it’s already midday and I already skipped my first class, I really have to go to the next one and see Monique too, I told you that she’d call the police if I was missing for more than 24h.

You don’t mean that!!!

Oh yes, I mean it Gérard, it was a very nice evening and I’d love to spend as much time with you as possible but I have responsibilities, one of which is school, which I just neglected a little.

Ok, I’ll let you go, I’ll even drive you myself, but you have to promise me something! What would that be?

Promise me you’ll spend tonight in my arms.

If that’s the only way to get out now, then so be it, monsieur! Could you please get my bag from upstairs, I’ll find Irene to thank her for breakfast, ok?!

While he took the elevator to get my bag from upstairs, I went to the kitchen where I suspected poor Irene was, to thank her for breakfast and say goodbye. I found her in the kitchen, doing this and that, as I expected.

Madame Irene I wanted to thank you for breakfast, it was delicious but far too opulent, I can’t believe you went through so much trouble for a simple breakfast. If there’s a next time, a green tea and 23 slices of toast with butter would be perfect! I understand Gérard may exaggerate sometimes but I expect more from you, I tried to tell her sounding upset, while I gave her a warm kiss on both her cheeks.

You’re welcome my little girl, she told me while she hugged me, kissing me on the forehead. Don’t worry, for me it was a huge joy to know I could be of help, anytime and with the utmost pleasure for a delicate flower like you. I’m sure you’ll be the new mistress here, you’re the one, I can feel it and I’m as sure about that as I’m sure there’s a full moon tonight. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time, rotting in here, you have to give me work to do, I can’t wait to hear children laughing in this place again.

Ohh God, such big words Madame Irene, I think you went a little too far with your imagination though, I said trying to wake her up and shaking her hands a little. Then I kissed her on the forehead and before leaving I suggested that we let fate and the Lord decide. And if her words come true I’ll be more than happy to have her close.

Outside Gérard was waiting for me in front of the car. Now, in daylight I could admire the beauty of the garden and the park. In the air you could feel the cold breeze of the sea. He gallantly helped me get in the car, like usual, and we headed to the dorm, because I had to change clothes. On the way I told him how sorry I was that I didn’t have time to visit everything, but he comforted me saying that I’d have enough time in the future, because that would be our home one day. When we got to the dorm he gave me a long kiss and advised me to take an extra set of clothes with me for tomorrow, preferably sporty clothes, because we would visit something. Nobody was home, they were all gone so I changed clothes and headed to the university, where Monique and Mélanie jumped in my arms as they were happy to see me. They were just getting ready to leave because the seminar was postponed for various reasons. We voted to go to a bar where we would have a drink and I’d tell them what I did the previous night. We went to a cute bar where you could see the Seine; we chose a more private table and ordered hot chocolate. Still caught in the balmy hands of beatitude, I told them all about my itinerary, except for the sordid details Mélanie kept insisting that I didn’t leave them out.

It’s obvious we lost you, you talk like you’re quoting those novels you’ve been reading, Mélanie said with a serious look on her face, taking a sip of her hot chocolate.

I think your head over heels in love with him my dear, and from what you tell us about him, I bet he’s already eating out of your palm. I’m very happy, that means you’ll marry him and stay here in France, which means after this year we’ll keep on seeing each other as often, she said, giggling with Mélanie and literally rubbing her hands.

Oh we’ll have so much fun, especially after we’re done with school, which has already taken up so many years of my life, Mélanie added a little more cheerful, at the thought of the nights that would follow after graduation.

I guess so, you’re right, I’m in love, I have fallen in love again, I approved in a lower, pensive voice. I’d be thrilled to see you as often as possible girls but I think you’re jumping to conclusions when it comes to marriage Monique, it’s too soon, I said with a warm smile.

Haha, too soon for whom? For you? Let’s be serious, you’re almost 24 as for him, trust me, he has the proper age, he’s certainly at the age when he’s mature enough to start a family, Monique tried to convince me.

I barely turned 23, I still have some time until I turn 24, I protested with a scared face, unable not to burst into laughter though. Come on, let’s go home and cook something, because I’ll be leaving you again tonight. By the way, have your friends left, Mélanie?

Don’t remind me…yes they left today; she answered taking her palm to her forehead as a sign of gratitude that she finally got rid of something so exhausting. I for one want to eat some breadcrumb fish with Mexican vegetable mix. Oh, how I’d eat some of that!

Yummy it doesn’t sound bad at all, let’s not waste any more time, let’s go shopping and start cooking.

Pistachio icecream for dessert? Monique asked.

Pistachio for you and lemon and caramel for us, I added.

We went to the supermarket together and bought all we needed to make dinner, being together made shopping fun, like it always does. After we got home we split into groups to make everything simple and efficient and managed to cook an unforgettable dinner. The girl said that we were celebrating my new relationship this way, which is why it was only normal to drink champagne, not peach juice, which is what I suggested that we buy. Mélanie made sure to buy the bottle while she made us wait in the cab to supposedly recover her scarf which she had forgotten inside. I must admit they had me this time, but it was a very nice thing of them to do, and they made me like them even more and be even more loyal to them because of it. After we were done eating I was the first to shower, rushed by the girls, because I was the one who had plans for that evening. I made my bag, where I put my red and white Fila jumpsuit, my sneakers and my white beanie as well as a small sport bag Mélanie gave me, seeing that I had none. Although I tried to explain that I don’t need one because I’d keep my phone in my pocket and leave my wallet in the car, she insisted so much that I had to take it, especially after she showed me how many sports bags she had. Being the fan of a casual – sport style, she did have a few. A few minutes later I was already in Gérard’s car, heading to that apartment he offered me as refuge, in order not to share a room with Mélanie’s friends. We were alone in the elevator so Gérard couldn’t help touching me, pushing me in a corner of the elevator. We engaged in a wild kiss accompanied by erotic gestures, but the elevator stopped and a nice old couple joined us. The man was wearing a tie and a suit and the lady an elegant black deuxpieces and a hat, holding hands like a couple of nice children. I was so ashamed I wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide there, but I tried to tidy my clothes and hair instead and Gérard picked up my bag and put it back on my shoulder like nothing inappropriate had happened, holding my hand the whole time. Three floors later the couple got off and the old man came close to Gérard and whispered:

I was young once, you shouldn’t waste any chances because later you’ll want to but once dead, it’s dead forever, there’s nothing you can do, you can’t do it anymore…but he wasn’t as quiet as he thought, because actually everyone heard him. I think I was as red as a tomato and his wife was a little more serious and embarrassed but with a look that said “here we go again” he tried to literally pull him away seeing that he had no intention leaving.

Duly noted, Gérard answered in a serious tone.

Don’t listen to him, old people are like that, they become senile and restless after a certain age, his wife apologized, with a warm smile. While I was trying to make up a sentence which suggested that everything was ok the door started closing and from the hallway we could hear the voice of the old man who was shouting “ride her well while you still can young man” and that of the lady who shouted that he had gone mad.

Left alone, we gave each other a serious look then both burst into laughter, being amused by the funny pair earlier. We stopped at the 12th floor and went in the apartment. We turned on the light and left our clothes on the hanger at the entrance, then he slowly showed me the apartment, we went into each room until we got to the bedroom. The front wall was all made out of glass and offered an amazing panorama of the city of light’s nightlife. I was simply charmed by that nocturne rainbow. Hugging me, he asked if I liked it.

I could spend hours contemplating this view Gérard and still wouldn’t get enough of it, I’d want more and more, it’s just like pineapple juice, you take a sip, then one more, and one more, you drink the glass but want another one, drink that one too and still feels like you want more and that there’s room for one more glass.

Nothing and nobody is stopping you from coming here as often as you like my princess, what is mine is yours. I’ll leave you the key, although I know that I don’t have a canopy bed here that can be arranged, all you have to do is say the words and I’ll order one.

We slowly sat on the bed holding hands and continued or better yet finished what we had started in the elevator. We then decided to order dinner from an Italian restaurant. I was aware that Gérard wanted to eat dinner with me, so I tried to eat as little as possible with the girls to have some appetite left when I saw him. Not being able to decide between “pollo alla siciliana” and “cotoletta alla palermitana” Gérard ordered 2 of each. When we found ourselves in front of the boxes we tasted both of them. There was tiramisu for dessert. After this quick dinner we both climbed into bed and started talking about how we saw life or better yet what he wanted to find out at breakfast, namely my passion for the Victorian era.

I’ll try to explain in short the fact that I’m quite subjective when I think about that age because I never imagined myself as a commoner, for instance...

But how did you imagine yourself?

Gérard will you let me talk or will you interrupt me after each sentence? I tried to scold him using an imposing yet sweet tone.

Yes, yes, of course my princess, I’m sorry, go on, I’m all ears, actually I’m just ears now that you turned off the light and I can’t see that gentle face of yours, he cuddled me kissing me sweetly on the forehead.

My dear you’re so sweet I said hugging him, leaning my head on a pillow which was a little higher so I could hold his head on my chest.

As I was saying Gérard I don’t have any doubts that women who didn’t belong to illustrious social categories back then were also happy, because they appreciated what they had and what they lived a hundred times more. They enjoyed all the small joys of their apparently insignificant lives. They were raised with the bittersweet sense of resignation, as that was their fleeting role on that earth that was how they were born, they had commoner blood in their veins, instead of blue blood. They believed, served and honored one God or maybe several, were always thankful for what they received and barely ever asked themselves “why such a faith when others are drinking from silver goblets”. Their smiles were honest and they even laughed. The few lace dresses they had been decent and appreciated at their true worth. Not like girls today, myself included unfortunately, who although they have full closets can’t find anything to wear and start complaining instead of selecting. Another category that sorts and diminishes so much of what once was a party dress, because sometimes you wonder if it’s a dress or undergarment that they’re wearing. When I miss something, when I find it hard to go on, when I go to bed at night and turn around feeling out of place, my mind elopes to another world, another life, where there is a socalled seethrough hope, because that’s what often happens to us, the unknown attracts us, fascinates us and motivates us.

So it all starts with the image of a princess, queen, duchess, a noble woman anyway, who wears a crinoline and a corset which leaves her shoulders bare. Her hair is up in a bun, and there’s a red pendant around her neck. She’s sitting at the window, gazing, and waiting for an answer to her letter sent to a gentleman who was on the front. The ring which matched her pendant was sent as a sign of recognition; it’s been five days and…nothing, no damned answer. Waiting, the apparent inner peace she had to show each day culminated with despair, which you could read just by looking into her pure blue eyes, which were almost seethrough like the waves who hit the ever unpredictable ocean shore. You’d say that she would start crying in less than a second but she won’t, not publically at least, not in someone’s presence but in the intimacy and safety of her sheets, but why? Because she was educated that way, there are values and principles which you can’t give up no matter the circumstances, to which you come back with honor and loyalty and in which you always find yourself feeling reassured as life often tries to confuse you. Now we can go wherever we want guided by a GPS, but we always wonder in the darkness of our souls risking to die without ever finding the way out, or that spark which makes us understand, because we’re empty, many of us, unimaginably many.

Why do you think mankind got in such a state, Dalilah, because I feel it almost every day?

What can I tell you, what do I know Gérard? I can just give you my opinion, maybe because we’re hypocrites, egocentric, materialistic, ungrateful, vile and many more…I don’t know, maybe because, you know, children nowadays do inadequate things right in front of their responsible parents’ eyes, who are much too busy with their debauched lives or maybe have three jobs and a mortgage, can’t afford a baby sitter to read them bedtime stories, so they watch TV, where all sorts of obscenities and absurdities are promoted all the time, shows which promote stupidity and violence because they make the ratings go up…that’s how you end up seeing 12 year old girls who can use eyeliner more precisely than I could now, and who instead of learning good manners, literature, a foreign language, playing an instrument or standing straight and holding their head high stepping into the world with elegance and style pose as naked as possible and post their pictures on social media. What amuses me even more, or rather scares me and worries me is that I see posts like “my life is meaningless without you/I’ll never love anyone else like I loved you etc. etc.” and God knows it’s not some doll she received for her birthday from her parents/grandparents or favorite uncle or aunt, that she just lost or misplaced. I’ll always thank my mother for encouraging me to read. The truth is the only pleasure of my childhood except the existence and company of my brother and sister was reading, I feel like I’ve seen the whole world through the books I savored along the years. For me a book is like a ship which carries you across the unknown sea of mystery you just set out to find. Its veils are like the pages of life. When I take a book in my hand and open its cover I feel like a sailor who watches the shore getting smaller and smaller. Just like him, I abandon the port of dull reality and sail, thirsty for knowledge, sometimes reaching a new shore while other times I’m cast away with the characters I loved so much but didn’t get their happy ending. I feel very privileged because both my parents guided my steps on such a way.

Gérard!!!Sweetie, ohh God you fell asleep, no wonder, poor you, considering I did all the talking, oh I started from the unique palpable horizon of the royal court from previous centuries and got to others, I went on as if he could hear me, and then tried to get him off my chest lightly, in order not to wake him up.

I went to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to make myself a tea. I couldn’t find any teabags or plants I could use to make a tea so I gave up the idea but since I was in the kitchen I made myself lemonade and since I had heated the water I poured a little hot water over it. I took the cup with me in the bedroom. I could hear him slowly breathing but I didn’t go to bed yet. I headed to the doubleglazed wall, in order not to make any noise and I sat down, drawing the curtain just a little so I could see the image of a stronglylighted yet silent, calm and sleeping Paris. It was flowing through me like this hot lemonade, a new feeling, it wasn’t happiness or misplacement it was silence, a large, spacious silence, I felt like I was out at sea, I felt at ease, a starry sky was above me lighting up my soul, because I know that in his bed, in our bed, the androgenic half of my life was breathing calmly, I knew it, I felt it and I could even touch it, it was a unique feeling.

I was never a coffee lover, but I could recognize the smell of fresh coffee luring you in early in the morning immediately and associated it with the face of my dad docilely reading his paper in the kitchen, enjoying his eternal black coffee. And I wasn’t mistaken because I slowly opened one eye at a time and saw my prince setting a table with breakfast on it near the bed, turning around and closing the door, then sitting next to me and picking up three white jasmine flowers and slowly caressing my cheek with them and telling me:

Good morning my ray of hope!

Good morning to you too my early deserter! I answered trying to smile. Why do you call me a deserter, he asked, confused?

You still ask? Last night you made me tell you something and fell asleep when I was about to tell you the most interesting part, the plot, I tried to scold him.

Ohhh well it’s not my fault that you have such an angelic voice; your words seemed like the lyrics of a sonata which swayed me back and forth. I tried to resist but finally had to give in, he excused himself while he was dragging me up like a child you get up to put the table on his lap. I didn’t fight back and let his hands carry me because I was still sleepy.

Ohhh,no,no,no don’t you even try, what does that mean, you have no excuse, you fell asleep and that’s all, you left me all alone.

Ohh my love, my little one, I’m not joking when I say you have a unique voice, a special timber, divine, it really sounds like a soothing sound. As proof that I take care of your vocal chords, here’s a green tea I made for you, he said while handing me a cup of tea.

Ohh but where did you get it, or rather where was it hidden, because I looked for some last night and couldn’t find any so I made myself a lemonade.

Ohh that explains all that squeezed lemon in the kitchen.

Ohh you mean I didn’t throw it away? Oh sorry I must have been distracted and I forgot.

First of all there no need to apologize, you’re home here so you can do what you want, and when and how you want, I told you. And still, one thing torments me.

What?

Why were you distracted? What or who distracted you huh?

Oh, it was nothing of the sort, don’t worry, maybe the fact that the lemonade I made was…warm, slightly hot even, I confessed while slowly unveiling my teeth in a wide smile.

I don’t believe you.

And if I told you I was serious?

I’d say I believed you, my princess, he said while coming closer and giving me a kiss.

Come on, eat up, we have to go somewhere today and I’d like to get there early.

What’s with all this rush and mystery, why don’t you tell me, you know I like surprises but let’s make an exception this time, please.

No, no, please, don’t ask me so nicely with that face of yours or you know I won’t be able to resist you and give in, I told you you’ll like it, that’s all you’ll get out of me, consider the matter closed. Please eat this slice at least, he said while handing me a slice of toast with cheese and bacon on it.

Ohh my love it’s too early for bacon, I can’t eat it.

Please, just this one and then I’ll let you go take a shower, I promise.

Ok, so be it, I ate it just to please him, then went to the bathroom where I took a somewhat longer shower put on my jumpsuit and thanked Max Factor in my mind, I used a little makeup to be as natural as possible. I went out of the bathroom when Gérard scared me to death. He bumped into me right as I went out the door. He had a huge bouquet of white jasmine in his hands with three superb red rosebuds in the middle.

I can’t believe I have such an effect over you every time I try to surprise you, Dalilah…come on, sit down for a second, I’ll bring you a glass of water in a second. He took me to the kitchen where he made sure that I sat down safely and leaving the flowers on the table he poured me a glass of water and brought it to me. After I took a deep breath and took two sips of water I noticed that the kitchen was full of traditional baskets full of red and white jasmines.

Gérard, sweetie what have you done, when did you have time to do it, was I that long in the shower? I asked, amazed by his gesture. I loved having fresh flowers in the house.

In fact, this décor was supposed to greet you last night but one of my assistants proved to be useless, he answered visibly affected by the failure of his plan.

Oh God, it’s ok Gérard, you don’t have to be upset, don’t worry, better late than never.

I only hire capable, perfectible people, not any halfwit, which is why I fired her last night.

Oh God…I don’t believe it, how could you do that, for some flowers?

How can you of all people say something like that?! I gave her a task and she wasn’t capable of handling it. Through her incapacity she took this from me, he said taking my head into his hands and looking me in the eye as if he wanted to penetrate me as deep as possible – your satisfied look – he carried on, the image of jasmine in your warm iris which brightens up your whole face with a wide smile.

Ooh Gérard, promise me you’ll hire her back.

No!

Please, my dear, I won’t be able to live with the thought that someone lost their job because of me, please, I insisted.

Why are you making me do this? You know I can’t say no to you…ok, but under one condition.

What condition? Anything, tell me!

Go grab your purse and let’s go, we’re running late.

That I can do, you have a deal, I said kissing him and running like a schoolgirl to the bedroom to grab my purse. I was extremely surprised to see that the whole house was full of jasmine flowers, the bedroom, the living room, the hallway. My lungs, eyes and soul were in paradise.

In the parking lot we headed to a sports car, a Lamborghini Reventon, which Gérard opened and invited me to step into.

Gérard, whose car is this? Wow, it opens nicely.

Mine!

This one is also yours? You were driving a different one last night…

It’s also mine Dalilah, I asked Lucien to bring it this morning, we have a long way ahead of us and we could use a more practical car, he enlightened me as we fastened our seatbelts.

Wow, I must admit I like it.

I think you’ll like a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport Diamond even more.

You think? I don’t even know what it looks like.

I’ll show it to you next time we go to Honfleur, I have quite an equipped garage.

You have three cars just for yourself Gérard?

Not just three, I have more, cars are my passion, Dalilah.

Hmmm, I can imagine, I feel like an ignorant when it comes to cars.

You don’t have to, it’s normal, cars are typically a male hobby.

His phone rang and he answered. He talked on the phone for almost all the rest of the way and I took advantage of the situation to reflect on the cruelness of what he had done the previous night. I didn’t imagine he was so…drastic, or maybe I refused to open my eyes and only saw him through hopelessly romantic eyes. My trail of thoughts was interrupted by Gérard who decided to turn off his phone so we wouldn’t be bothered, especially since we were almost there. In order not to ruin the surprise he decided to stop along the way and blindfold me with a scarf. I didn’t protest a lot because I wanted to get to the destination as soon as possible, so I let him blindfold me. A few minutes later he finally stopped and parked the car, which meant we had arrived. You wanted to see a real palace so I brought you to the right place sweetie, you’re at Fontainebleau, the beloved residence of your beloved idol, who is lucky he’s just history now, he said smiling suggestively as he untied my blindfold.

Gérard!!! Fontainebleau??? I took my hand to my mouth and was left speechless; I felt my eyes being flooded by bizarre tears of happiness, ecstasy and amazement. I must have been dreaming of such a moment for 10 years, I must have been dreaming of it forever actually. All I ever wanted when I felt like I was suffocating was a place like this, a little piece of heaven, a stair from the long staircase of this castle on which to sit and rest my tired soul. And here I was in front of it now, and I had no idea that the next thing to do was to step, yes, just step slowly because there was just one thing at the end of the way, the entrance to the palace, although I stepped slowly, holding Gérard’s hand, I was under the impression that I had already been inside for 5 minutes because my heart and soul united and rushed into the home of my beloved Napoleon Bonaparte.

“Château de Fontainebleau” had a history of about 8 centuries and was the residence of several monarchs throughout the ages. Its current look is the result of the work of all these monarchs, but its actual aspect bears the mark of the famous emperor. Here the Italian mannerism caught a French look, thus establishing the “Fontainebleau style” which combined interior design, sculpture, painting and wooden decorations with the landscape architecture of the gardens. This is the place where the emperor signed his abdication in 1814, it is said that the table where he sat to sign this historical decision still exists. I had to see it, to touch it, that was the thought which crossed my mind as I walked inside. We went in a huge hall, all covered with various painted scenes. In the middle there was a huge globe, it was the library. I always wanted to have a library but this one just seemed surreal. What a feeling you must have while you look at yourself walking slowly through this world looking for a book to read, while being aware that you were the owner of that huge library and you weren’t in fact in a public space…wonderful…I had the honor to go in the famous throne room, the former chamber of the king. In the back, on the third step, was the throne, the chair he sat on when he ruled the world. Behind it was a blue curtain, an extraordinarily clear color, it was probably made out of silk and to the left and right were two high chandeliers and then along the room were some stools. A chandelier graciously hanged from the ceiling, in tone with all the greatness present in the room. I was overwhelmed by the architecture, by the opulent lively colored design. The room of the empress Josephine, worthy of such a title was a golden sea dominated by the scent of mayflowers.

In fact, it is said that from Queen Maria de Medici to the empress Eugenie all the sovereigns lived in this room. There are voices who claim that the bed was built for Marie – Antoinette but she never had the chance to enjoy it. The white salon, furnished in the spirit of the age was reserved to Empress Eugenie’s ladiesinwaiting; the main colors here were gold and a pale, emerald, green.

We finally arrived in the abdication salon, a predominantly red room; might it be that it was stained by the emperor’s blood, because with that forced abdication he unwillingly signed his death sentence? There’s still disagreement with respect to this.

April 11th 1814, a dream crumbles, a legend disappears…I walked with shy insecure steps up to the table, I imagined this room full of people in various uniforms, the air became heavy, I was having trouble breathing regularly. I could almost see him there, sitting down, defenseless. Standing around him were the representatives of the Austrian Empire, Russia and Prussia, cornering him, making him abdicate, they thought they were invincible now that they all came together, I wonder how they would have reacted if they had been on their own facing his Majesty…this time next year it will be 200 years since Napoleon stuck his knife in this table, as a sign of his anger, because the Emperor of the French Republic, was forced to agree to his abdication and exile to Elba Island. Like other hundreds of thousands of tourists who visited this place along the ages, I also put my hand on the mark left by the Emperor of France himself and feel like I had travelled back in time.

Did you know that this is also the place where Napoleon was crowned emperor of France in 1804, by Pope Pius the 7th and in fact when the moment came he put the crown on his head himself, wanting to show his contempt for the clergy this way?

I knew something along those lines, Gérard said, surprised by the fact that I finally broke the silence. I also know that eight years later he would return here, as the emperor’s prisoner. I’d say that you have French blood in your veins by how well you know our history.

Well…just this part, in which the main actor on the political scene bears the name Bonaparte.

Shall we go take a look at the gardens and the lake? Then we have to head to Versailles.

What??? I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it. You can’t even imagine how happy you made me my love, but do you think we still have enough time?

Why do you think I woke you up so early? Let’s go, he told me as we climbed into a carriage to visit the surroundings of the renowned castle, the huge park as well as the artificial lakes which had an aesthetic role, for the beautification of the place but also a strategic one, for the monarch to be able to watch simulation of various maritime battles.

Oh God, I think all these surprises will make me faint.

Oh no, don’t even think about it, I need you to be in a perfectly functional state my dear. Come on, what’s wrong with you, stop being so melodramatic and enjoy the occasion.

I’m not being melodramatic; I just still find it surreal, I mean I’ve been dreaming about these moments for so long that I settled for them being a dream and nothing more.

And I wish I had met you earlier, before you settled. I wish I would have had the opportunity to make your every wish, dream or whim come true.

You got here in time anyway Gérard, I’m very happy to have you in my life.

You have no idea how happy you make me saying these words Dalilah, he said looking at me and giving me an innocent kiss on the forehead.

In the meantime we ended our little getaway to Napoleon’s nest and headed to the palace whose shine he wanted to flaw by building it, or rather by renovating his beloved residence.

Are you hungry my love?

Oh no, in other circumstances I might have said that I was starving but no, I’m more than full right now. My soul is full, I feel satisfied although I must admit that there’s enough room for dessert, namely the symbol of Louis the 14th’s absolute monarchy, I said as if through a trance.

I hope we get to satisfy this little wish until closing time he said with an apparently malicious smile.

Versailles, the symbol of the absolute monarchy. A huge gate which could easily be associated with the gates of Heaven, was open to the public. On top of it you could admire the royal crown on which you could see the symbol of the Fleurdelis. I felt my whole being falling in a trance again. I could hear various voices around me, whispering voices, voices which said passionate words, words of desire, voices which screamed with terror, they all remained whispers. I looked at the balcony where in October 1789, Queen Marie Antoinette and her husband, king Louis the 16th showed their royal faces in front of the furious crowd. Responsible for this wonder of the world was the Sun King. I was left speechless by the opulence in front of me. It seemed like a dream, it was impossibly beautiful, majestic. I couldn’t believe I was stepping in the same chapel where centuries ago a young Marie Antoinette would marry her husband when she was only 15 years old. The famous hall of mirrors literally took my breath away. I had to hold on to Gérard with all my strength. I couldn’t stop my tears from coming out of my eyes. I put all prejudices aside and stepped like I would step on a thin crystal layer. Gérard asked me if I was ok. I assured him that they were tears of joy and didn’t pay any more attention to him. How many nights of such dreams, how many thoughts, how many scenarios! I couldn’t believe it was real, that I was really there. How many emotions, God, it was too much for my frail heart to take in just one day. I could hear the sound of ball gowns, the gracious spin of crinolines in the air and stirring fiery, platonic but also sinful looks. There was once a life here, a tumultuous, opulent, promiscuous life, a life of happiness, power, color and style. God, how beautifully women dressed back then! When a woman appeared in public it was a true ceremony. My heart vibrated so powerfully just at the thought of it. It was an axis for the entire world. The treaty which ended the First World War in 1919 was signed here. The king and queen’s private apartments…a world of sublime. Next to the queen’s canopy bed was a door, a secret passage through which she ran from the furious crowd in October 1789. Her whole life fascinated me and now I could finally see her house, her home, the scene of which she played her role in the history of France. In the park of the palace, in the small space where before Marie Antoinette had lived the one it was actually built for, King Louis the 15th’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who died four years before the construction was finished. It was therefore used by her successor Madame de Barry, I stepped into Angelina, a tea salon, where I drank a hot chocolate and ate a muffin. I was so happy and so grateful to the man in front of me who made these divine emotions happen that I wanted to float above the clouds, higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun.

We finally headed home and my soul was in tune with the whole universe. I was happy, what I just lived, touched and embraced with my eyes made me feel accomplished, I was picking up the laurels of a wish come true, which had been waiting for way too long in a dusty coffer for its turn to come. I was as happy as a newborn that just had his dinner. The next normal thing to do was for him to fall asleep, without any worries or thoughts, a good, restful sleep. I felt as light as a snowflake that didn’t care that once he hit the ground he would blend in with the others which had already fallen or just disappear. I wish I felt like this more often. Gérard was driving peacefully, with a visibly satisfied look on his face due to the success of his idea.

You’ll drop me off at the dorm ok?!

No way!

What do you mean no way? I practically skipped class today and have to make up for it Gérard.

You can study at home too. If you want to we can pass by so you can pack some clothes and ask the girls what materials you need, and tomorrow morning before you wake up you’ll have them on the table in the salon. Please spend some more time with me before exams, because I know that you will pay very, very little attention to me once they start.

Gérard, don’t try to emotionally blackmail me, please, you know when you’re around me I can’t think about studying I said, trying to get out of it.

But I promise I’ll give you all the space you need, even more, I assure you that I’ll be at the office, I’ll take care of my business so that you may have time and privacy to focus and make up for what you missed today. Although I doubt it’s much, but we’ll do it your way.

Oh how you make me go back every time…

Plus I don’t like it at all that you have to share a room with another girl, or even more people like it happened not long ago. The dorm is where you can say you have no privacy or space to focus on what your interested in. The alternative I’m offering is not bad at all, you have to admit; he ended in a milder voice, suggesting that he was objective, but also sure of himself.

Ok, maybe you’re right, we’ll do it your way, your last ideas have indeed made me unimaginably happy, I don’t see why this would end differently.

Perfect, he exclaimed in a short access of success and satisfaction. By the way, my love, in two days I’ll be having a reception, an inauguration. Actually my firm handled the publicity for a new modeling agency which opened in town and you know, it’s mostly a chance to interact with important people and amplify the publicity of it. I don’t take the slightest pleasure in taking part, the owner is not one of the dearest persons I know, but if you wish to accompany me I’d be thrilled to go.

First of all, I know what people do at an inauguration Gérard. Second of all, why are you going if you don’t like the person it’s all about? Third of all, yes, I would love to accompany you.

Hmmm, my love, always having all the answers prepared…certain conflicts of interests sometimes constrain us to build our hopes up. But I’m happy to see that you agree to go out with me in public, like a normal couple.

You have to learn to be patient Gérard and become aware of things from the very beginning, if at least in perspective, it’s worth picking up the fruit.

As usual I didn’t even realize how time flew by, so I realized we were at the dorm already. Although it was dark for some time already. I went up to the girls, where I didn’t waste much time because I knew he was waiting for me downstairs, so while Monique wrote on a paper what they had talked about in class that day, I briefly told them what I had done that wonderful memorable day. When we finally got home we stopped in the kitchen to make some tea and a little snack but we ended up serving a wild portion of love right on the kitchen table, which was a totally adequate and recommended way to end a long day spent outdoors and not only…

The next morning I woke up feeling like new. I felt so rested and serene as if I had slept for days in a row, not needing anything of this perene world. I was alone in bed, Gérard was gone. I got out of bed and headed straight to the bathroom, where I took a quick refreshing shower, put on my robe and then started looking for him through the whole house, but he wasn’t to be found, he was gone. I immediately felt a weird feeling, of fear, like a cruel feeling of separation. I was still aware that he could have left after breakfast or maybe he went to work like he said last night. I headed to the salon to see if the materials I needed were really there. Of course they were I just hadn’t noticed them, I didn’t have eyes for them; my eyes were hoping to see his face not a bouquet of papers. Next to them was a handwritten note, I immediately recognized his handwriting, his beautiful legible handwriting:

Good morning sunshine, I was sure that the first thing you would do as soon as you got out of bed would be to check if I kept my promise. Here is everything you wrote on that paper. I already ordered breakfast and lunch for you, they’re in the oven, we’ll have dinner together. Good luck studying, my dear. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again my wild kitten…you were like an angel who fell from the sky directly in my bed this morning, I was very sorry I had to leave you there and go out the door this morning…Ps: I love you Dalilah!

Hmmm kitten…cats are far from being my favorite animals, I preferred dogs a million times better, particularly the Maltese or Beagle ones, anyway…as for the angel who fell from the sky, oh dear Lord Lucifer was an angel too, I’d never want to have to act from that perspective, actually to be honest I don’t think I would be able to. I gathered that piece of paper in which he wrote he loved me in my arms as if it were God knows what precious object. I then got my purse to put it in a special compartment of my wallet, to be sure that I don’t misplace it and that I’ll always have it with me, like a lucky charm. I took advantage that I was holding my bag to turn on my phone and see what time it was. I was more than surprised to see that half the day had went by. I listened to the voice messages from my mom, dad, sister and Gérard, who wanted to know if I had woken up and if I needed anything else. I only answered my dad’s message, because I hadn’t talked to him in a long time, I briefly told him about my happiness. I then stormed into the salon where the papers and books were and took them with me in the kitchen. I made myself a green tea and hit the books with an avid thirst of knowledge which was probably generated by the physical hunger I should have normally felt. All the notions were so clear to me and so easy to remember that I could have sworn it was not the first time I was learning such things. I was so caught up in what I was reading and writing the abstract of that I had no idea when dinner time came and woke up with Gérard in front of the kitchen door. I actually rubbed my eyes to make sure that I was seeing straight and that I wasn’t hallucinating, because if I hadn’t checked the time I could have sworn that it’s only been about thirty minutes since I sat at that table, not that many hours. I hadn’t spent so much time studying for a while, since I used to read hundreds of pages in one day because I just couldn’t let the book down.

You mean you haven’t even touched the food and only drank a tea today? He questionned me in a harsh voice while observing me in an inquisitory way.

I made myself some toast with honey before I started reading my love, that’s why I haven’t eaten what you ordered, I was already full, I smile pedantically thinking that I had come up with an acceptable excuse.

Dalilah, we don’t have any toast in the house, either you made an order that I don’t know anything about or some toast fell from the sky, he answered in a firm voice, obviously irritated by the fact that I hadn’t eaten a thing all day.

There’s no need to be sarcastic Gérard, I simply didn’t realize how time went by, I woke up late anyway and had wasted a lot of time.

I’m not being sarcastic, I’m just worried about you, it’s not normal to do something like that, you could get sick. Right now, when you need so much energy, what do you do? Please be more careful, you have to understand that I also depend on you, your safety and security, I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you right before my eyes. I’ll call and ask Amelie to buy some groceries tonight so you can cook whatever you like if you don’t like what I order for you!

Oh God Gérard, you talk as if I almost starved to death, don’t be so dramatic, I’m ok. Look, how much energy I have, in fact, I’ll tell you a secret, the truth is I feel extremely well, like I never felt in my life and that’s thanks to your presence in my life. For the love of God, how can you ask someone else to buy groceries for you? That’s the least I can do, I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself.

The feeling is mutual my love, he answered in a kinder voice this time. As for going to the market, consider the matter closed, you don’t have time, at least these days. I’ll go take a shower while you get dressed and we’ll go out for dinner, this night we’ll be having fish ok?

Perfect, yummy I can’t wait.

I’ll bet you can’t; you haven’t eaten all day, he said, a little more cheerful this time.

Off to the shower you go!

The night went by quickly, we went to a restaurant close to home and Gérard made sure that I ate everything and more to make up for what I hadn’t eaten that day. He elusively talked about how he spent his day working, although he didn’t seem really exhausted and I held a speech about the theory of management as art, system, science and specific human activity as well as its functions and key concepts, when I noticed that he almost fell asleep, so we decided to go back home because we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow anyway. I had to go shopping because I didn’t have any suitable dress for such an event and then accessories and do my hair, which will also take time, so I was aware that I was about to dedicate half my day to this cause. It was in fact our first public appearance as a couple, which is why I had to be impeccable from every point of view. The next day I set my alarm at a reasonable hour and woke up before my love. It was so soothing to watch him sleep, so innocent and beautiful that it was hard for me to look away from his gentle face, I slowly kissed him on the eyes, I barely touched him, afraid not to wake him up. His vulnerability turned me on. I kept contemplating him, like an infinite landscape you are aware you can never separate from. I wanted to hold him tightly, never let him go, turn him into my prisoner if I had to and if it was the only way to have him just for myself, because I was aware that once I’d be separated from him I’d die, like a sick person who suddenly stopped receiving the insulin shot he or she needed. I gave him a warm fictive embrace before I got out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom. I took a warm shower and then rinsed with cold water to wake up completely and reinvigorate myself. I put on a fluffy robe, washed my teeth, put my hair up in a messy bun and went to the kitchen to make him breakfast. I opened the kitchen door and felt like I was struck by a new feeling, I foresaw a new responsibility, a new duty in my life, that of cooking for the one who could become my life partner and felt unexpectedly well because I saw it as a duty but felt it like an accomplishment. I opened the fridge and thanked the girl who shopped for us the night before in my mind, I took out of the fridge all I needed to make an omelet just the way he liked it, which was out of three eggs, with a few pieces of cheese, ham, pepper and mushrooms. I cut the ham into small little pieces, put them in a pan along with a spoon of olive oil then waited for them to roast a little and added the other ingredients mixed with the eggs and a pinch of salt. I let it roast a little on one side then carefully turned it on the other side like a pancake, making sure not to mess it up. I slowly put it on the plate, wrapping it up and adding a little parsley for plating, and put two slices of cherry tomatoes next to it. I also cut two slices of wholegrain bread for him, made him a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and put them all on the breakfast table. I then remembered that he preferred coffee in the morning so I made him some coffee while I made me a green tea and two slices of toast with butter and honey.

I put some cutlery and two napkins on the table for him, looked at my masterpiece again and took the tray in my hands, then headed to the room where my prince was still sleeping. I was happy to see that he wasn’t up yet so I left the tray next to the bed and headed to the glass wall where I drew the curtains to let some Parisian feeble yet warm sunlight inside.

Good morning my love, I greeted him affectionately while waking him up by slowly kissing him on the lips.

Dalilah, honey, what’s wrong? He woke up a little confused and scared.

Nothing Gérard, it’s morning that’s all, and I made you breakfast this morning.

Hmmm I’d love having a taste of you instead, he said, more lucid now but also avid, while he pulled me into bed next to him with a single move. I tried to fight him and make him understand that I wasn’t referring to this kind of breakfast, but it was useless, I was already the prisoner of his strong arms, and what I managed to articulate were just some unintelligible sounds. I gave in to his sensual touches, together with an uplifting feeling of dominance and possession at the same time. I felt him unleashed, thirsty and happy. And I was the one who was making him moan in such a thrilling way, which made me come at the same time with him. Ohhh I felt exhausted, it was amazing how such an activity could exhaust you. We were both breathing heavily, like we had just finished a race. After our breathing came back to normal, he hugged me tightly, slowly whispering in my ear that I made him go crazy every time I touched him, every time I looked at him, that there was something electrifying in me which simply turned him into something else and he hopes I won’t misunderstand and think that he’s some kind of pervert but he would spend the whole day inside me if that were possible.

Gérard did you come inside without having a condom on? I asked visibly worried in a serious voice, ignoring what he just declared, as if I hadn’t heard anything.

Yes, why? Why are you so scared? He asked surprisingly calm.

Why do you mean why, are you out of your mind? I answered even more panicked, standing up.

Dalilah, it’s not the first time I do it, I also did it two nights ago when we came back from Fontainebleau, he said, trying to calm me down.

Gérard for the love of God, I’m not on birth control, if that’s what you thought.

Honey, don’t worry, he said, amused by my outburst, while trying to hug me.

Gérard, react God dammit, what’s wrong with you, you’re acting as if you were drugged, can’t you hear what I’m saying? Don’t you realize how serious this problem is, do you think it’s a game, I burst all of a sudden and climbed out of bed trying to put on his shirt at the same time.

Dalilah! Come here, he ordered in a serious voice, dragging me back next to him. Let’s talk, let’s take it easy, with calm, I don’t like it when you’re mad at me. It’s not the first time we had unprotected sex, and I am aware that you’re not on birth control. Why not admit it, we love each other, we’re together, a child would only bring us together even more, it would even be the center of our flourished love.

Oh God, wait a minute Gérard, we didn’t say anything about a child, we barely know each other, we haven’t been together long enough to be thinking about a child, we’re still way too young, I fought back.

You may be young, but you’re not too young to be a mother. And why are you so against this, I almost feel like you don’t want to have a child with me. Dalilah, do you love me? He asked with a little uncertainty in his voice.

Of course I love you Gérard, what kind of question is that?

Then I don’t see why you would be so scared at the thought of having a child with me?

I’ll be honest with you my love, I’m not the problem, you are, I don’t see you settling down and having a wife and kids, I don’t know why but I’m still scared that one day I might end up alone, or worse, with a child I could only see when a judge allows, because given my financial situation I wouldn’t stand a chance against you in a custody trial.

Wow, I can’t believe something like that even crossed your mind, how did you go so far? What kind of monster do you think I am Dalilah? Do you even hear me when I say I love you? That I love you so much, that I’d do anything to see you smile? Look at me, he ordered, taking my chin in one hand while he was getting my hair out of my face with the other. Does that mean anything to you? Am I not enough for you, am I not what you want in a man?

Oh God, if you only knew, if you only suspected that I was actually crazy about you, that you’re the one I’d spend the rest of my days, minutes and seconds with. Locked away in his arms, looking at my last drop of life go away, seeing everything thorough his eyes, like a magical timeless mirror, where you couldn’t grow old, where you couldn’t end anything you started and everything, absolutely everything made you happy. Of course I wanted him, he was all I ever imagined when I projected my dream guy in fact. I wanted to have his children, I wanted to be the one to open the door each night when he came home after a long day at work, set the table for him, raise our grandchildren together…I was also partially realistic and what I saw around me made it almost impossible to believe in words such as “ever after”. I once again cast away the exaggerated spirit of my immediate conscience and told myself that we were special, we were unique, we truly loved each other and we’d be able to write history together within our family. In fact, he was the one who manifested his wish to have a child with me, not the other way around. At least I could be certain that he couldn’t blame me later for trying to trick him.

You’re my androgynous half, Gérard, you’re what I want when it comes to the man I’d spend the rest of my life with, the one I’d share the joys and sorrows of life with. I really want a child, I love children, but I would be happier if we could anticipate such an event one way or another. I want to be ready from every point of view when someone calls me mommy.

What are you missing Dalilah?

Don’t get this the wrong way Gérard, but I’d like to be more mature and financially independent.

Honey, you’re mature enough for your age, and the money we have are enough for even our great grandchildren to live a decent life.

Not everything is about money my love, although I must admit that they are practically indispensable. I just don’t want to depend on my husband my whole life, that’s not why I spent so many years studying, I don’t want to disappoint my parents either, they have such high hopes for me, but first of all I don’t want to betray myself. I could have gotten married and lived such a life for many years already, but it’s not the kind of life I want to live.

You could work in one of my companies, or if you don’t like any of the things I do you can open whatever business you wish my dear. And by the way, I made an account for you, the card is in the kitchen, that’s so you wouldn’t have to wait to get your scholarship or ask your parents for money.

You see, that’s the point, I don’t need this Gérard, I want to start from the bottom to make my way to the top and earn the laurels of success. Why all this effort if I accepted such an offer?

You don’t have to see things that way, Dalilah, you should consider yourself lucky. I’ve seen many such talents go to waste because of misfortune. Take advantage of the chances life gives you without regrets or premonitions and your life will be easier, believe me!

Gérard, I wasn’t lucky enough to be born in a bourgeois family, but the one I was born in gave me enough opportunities to follow my dream and make it in life. The fact that I’ll start from the bottom will make me even more aware and satisfied that what I achieved was well worth the effort. As for the card, thank you very much for the gesture Gérard, but it wasn’t necessary.

I insist Dalilah, you don’t have to be so proud, we’re a couple, we share the good and the bad things right? You said so, if I remember correctly.

Yes, Gérard, but I couldn’t accept it, maybe when we’re husband and wife things will be different but now it’s too early for such a step. Please understand! I’d rather take advantage of my parents a little longer, I confessed with a warm smile.

Ok, have it your way, but I would have been very happy if you said yes. And if it would be a girl I’d like to call her Nyssa.

You would? How do you write that?

With a y and double s and it means starting point in Greek. It could be the symbol of a new era in our life.

That’s nice, I like it. Although I’d prefer Calliope, the muse of song, dance and eloquence.

If you want to choose one of the muses why not Urania?

Gérard it will be your little girl; I won’t let you pick that name just because it’s the only muse who appears with her breasts uncovered!

Ok…If it’s a boy, we’ll call him Herman.

What does it mean?

Soldier, power, protector…

I’d call him Adonis, masculine beauty, the rebirth of nature, spring.

Hmmm, seems like we have some work to do about this.

Hey, breakfast is cold already, I noticed, a little disappointed, with the intent of changing the subject. And I made it with so much love, especially for you.

That’s ok my love, I started with desert which was extremely delicious and hot, now I can compensate with a cold omelet, that will be perfect. Sitting comfortably on the couch he took the tray and put it in his lap, then started to eat, but not before making sure that I ate my breakfast too.

What are you planning to do today? He asked while taking a sip of his orange juice.

I’ll go shopping with Monique, the inauguration is tonight and I don’t have anything appropriate to wear so I’ll go out a little, anyway I have more things to do. Tell me, what time should I be ready, so I know how to manage my time.

Well, it would be great if you could be ready by eight o’clock, is that ok for you?

Yes, why not?! I’ll be ready in time.

What will you wear? Will it be a dress, a skirt or trousers? He asked, visibly curious.

What a question, Gérard, I thought you knew me…I told you so much about my Victorian fantasies, if only I could go back in time…The dress, and I don’t mean the contemporary one unfortunately, represents feminism, elegance, grace and mystery for me. How would it be to discover a new, frail and perfumed body by slowly opening a corset…though the dresses women wear nowadays, you can see any imperfection or anything we’d like to hide from the curious and malicious eyes of men, but also from our own kind.

It will clearly be a dress!

But not the kind of dress I’d want; it won’t be a crinoline.

Come on don’t be sad, you’ll have the chance to wear a crinoline dress next week my princess; I hope you haven’t forgotten about the ball I told you about!

Oh no, how could I? I can’t wait Gérard, I answered, so excited that I gave him a strong hug, because I was aware that it was thanks to him that I’d have that honor, that another one of my wishes would be granted.

My love! He exclaimed while hugging me back thousands of times harder, all full of gratitude.

Let’s not waste anymore time my love; you’re going to the office today right? Oh, and tell me please what color will your suit be tonight?

Yes, I’ll take a shower and then I’ll leave. And the suit, to be honest I don’t know yet, I haven’t thought about it; tell me, what color do you want it to be?

Hmm don’t let me choose, for me a pulverized blue would be appropriate, it’s said it evokes the spirit of a dreamer, a creative artist, uninterested in the mundane aspects of life or material needs.

That’s interesting, I had no idea, but if you like it then pulverized blue it is my dear. Dalilah we’ll be a pair of misunderstood artists tonight, but united by a single creative spirit forever.

No, no my love, let’s choose something else, how about white?

Mmm well I’m not against it, my scented jasmine.

White is the color of purity and honesty, just like our love is reflected in the endless silvery white rays of the sun. It also means healing, new, calm, and untainted. Its effects are expansiveness, peace, sobriety, robustness, innocence. It creates a state of physical comfort, exhilaration and a general good mood. I say we go for white; it will look great on your toned body Gérard.

Oh, I feel flattered my love. We’ll do whatever you like; I just want you to be happy Dalilah.

Perfect then, although I must remind you that you have to tell me when you don’t like something, I don’t want you to tolerate something that you don’t like just for my sake, ok?

Sir, yes, sir he said in a military voice, then gave me a cast kiss on the lips and literally jumped out of bed, like a child, and headed to the shower.

I took advantage of the occasion and took the breakfast tray to the kitchen then picked up the phone and called Monique.

I know I don’t deserve it, but I need you Monique, I said as soon as she answered.

You little rascal you always do this to me. I can’t reach you for days and then you call all of a sudden when you need me, she answered in a severe voice.

Forgive me Monique, but don’t overreact, we last saw each other two days ago.

Yeah, whatever, it might seem little to you because you spend all your time with that handsome prince of yours whom I honestly hate, but time goes by slowly for me. You brought some color into my dull life, when you lived with your cousin at least you called, we talked every day and saw each other every day, now you don’t even come to class most of the time. I hate him; don’t try to shove him up my throat! What you were saying you wanted to do? She finally asked in a milder voice.

Oh Monique, I promise I’ll make it up to you, you know how relationships are in the beginning. I have to buy a special cocktail dress, shoes or sandals, do my hair and all that, you know the drill.

If that’s the only way to have you just for myself today, then Hallelujah, we have a course today but I’ll copy Mélanie’s notes, I’m sure she’ll be attending it.

Perfect, I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

I can’t wait to see you Dal. When and where do we meet?

Me too sweetie, is eleven o’clock ok for you?

Yes, that’s perfect, where?

Don’t worry I’ll take a cab to the dorm and pick you up, we’ll have lunch and then we can go wild.

Ok, I’ll be waiting for you, kisses, bye.

You don’t need to take a cab my dear, my chauffeur will be at your disposal, that way you won’t waste so much time and it will be easier for you, Gérard, who apparently heard our whole conversation, told me.

Chauffeur, since when do you have a chauffeur Gérard? I asked amused.

For as long as I can remember, he said a little confused but serious.

Hmm, really, ok then, what will you do without a car, won’t you need it? Not to mention your car only has two seats and there will be three of us if you count your chauffeur, I argued, still amused.

I’ll send another car Dalilah, I have more than one car, he insisted quite serious and a little more relaxed.

Oh, then so be it, my dear.

I’m glad that we solved this problem at least. I’ll go get dressed and go out.

Ok love, can I help you with anything?

No, don’t worry, thanks anyway.

He got dressed pretty quickly, wished me a nice day and left for work, but not before asking me to change my mind about the card he had left on the kitchen table. He called me a little later to tell me that Lucien, his chauffeur, was already waiting for me downstairs. I got dressed and went out a little earlier, because I was all alone and couldn’t wait to go out. I took the card Gérard had left for me, just in case. When it came to shopping I was very unpredictable so it was best to be covered. You never know how irresistible a love at first sight could be when it came to bags, shoes or my favorites, dresses. A true gentleman was waiting for me downstairs, a young, brunet, incredibly beautiful and…attractive young man. He told me his name and that he was at my service for the day, and then gallantly opened the door of a huge black MercedesBenz S class (if I wasn’t mistaken) for me, inviting me to get comfortable. As soon as I sat down I turned on my phone and sent Gérard a text: thank you very much for the handsome chauffeur you sent me, we just met, you should have introduced him earlier. You have such people in your staff and keep them only for yourself, my love? I pressed send and waited for his answer.

Answer which I received sooner than expected: Is it just my impression or do you want monsieur Lucien to lose his job, my princess?

Oh God, you know I was joking, right Gérard? Don’t be silly, you don’t have to worry, you have to know that I’m not interested in anyone else but you.

I think monsieur Lucien will be keeping his job after all. And he sent me a heart and three kisses at the end. Hmmm, I sensed jealousy, obviously, and yet it was just a joke, it was reassuring to feel him, like this, it showed that he cared to a certain extent. We arrived at the dorm and told Monique to come down. I stepped out of the car but didn’t go up because Mélanie had left already, so I waited for Monique in front of the car, with Lucien.

I finally see my deserting friend, Monique exclaimed while we hugged each other.

This is Lucien, Monique; he will be accompanying us today. Lucien, meet my dear friend Monique.

Enchantée, Monique answered, blushing as they shook hands. He then opened the door for us and we all got in the car; we were all set to go. Where did you get this one? Monique asked, whispering in my ear.

It’s Gérard’s chauffeur, he insisted, I wanted to take a cab. I couldn’t get rid of him, I tried to justify myself, I said with an innocent look.

Very well, he finally did something I agree with. Dal, this guy is awesome, she confessed, slightly blushing.

Ohhhh no, I don’t believe you, Monique, could this be the famous coup de foudre you French people talk about?

Where should we stop madame Vernière? The chauffeur asked.

Madame Vernière, how it sounds, I repeated enthusiastically but also confused at the same time. Why do you call me like that Lucien? I’m still mademoiselle Siriacov.

Monsieur Vernière told me, I thought…I’m sorry, I didn’t want to offend you, Lucien tried to apologize.

Listen to that Dal, he didn’t even propose and he’s already introducing you as Madame Vernière, or has he proposed and you didn’t have the time to tell me, Monique asked, all revolted?

No, he hasn’t proposed yet Moni, at least not with a ring, I mean he suggested that he’d like to but he didn’t make such a gesture. He told me he would like us to have a baby…

A baby? Monique said all shocked. Don’t even think about it Dal, it’s too soon, she tried to explain, worried.

We just talked about it Moni, don’t worry I’m not pregnant yet.

Thank God, she said, all relieved.

Where should we stop mademoiselle, the chauffeur whom I forgot to give an answer to insisted.

We’d like to have lunch Lucien, I don’t know where we are so could you please stop at a restaurant nearby where we can grab a bite?

Of course, we’re actually close to an Italian one, is that ok?

Hmm, I haven’t had pasta in a long time, Monique said.

That’s perfect Lucien, especially since Monique already sees a huge bowl of pasta or lasagna in front of her eyes. I’m thinking about some pasta al forno, yummy.

He parked and opened the door, then coughed suggestively to interrupt us in a gentle and respectful way and show us the way.

This way ladies, enjoy your meal, take all the time you need, there’s no problem; I’ll be right here waiting, ok?

Oh no, don’t even think about it, Lucien, I can call you Lucien, right? You’re having lunch with us, how could we have lunch while you wait for us in the parking lot?

Thank you very much, but I can’t. I’m not hungry.

Lucien, you don’t have a choice, you have to go with us and that’s it. It’s lunchtime for you too, it’s unacceptable! Monique, help me out!

Yes, you have to join us, Monique said a little lost and shy.

I’ll have a sandwich; he finally gave in seeing that we weren’t going to go inside that restaurant alone.

No, you’ll have a cooked meal with us, come on, let’s go! Seeing that he had nothing else to say, he came along obediently. At the table he pulled the chair for both of us like a gentleman and we all ordered pasta, I ordered lasagna, Lucien ordered Bolognese and Monique ordered Carbonara.

And what do you do besides being a chauffeur, are you married Lucien?

I hoped I wasn’t being indiscreet. I was trying to make conversation but also to find out more about him for my friend; with the thought that maybe I could play Cupid.

Oh, no, I’m not married yet and I also work as a bodyguard for a businessman, he answered shyly but virulently, suggesting that that would be the last information we’d receive. Only, he didn’t know me yet. If Monique wanted him, it was enough for me to know that he was single.

Great, I thought it had to be something of the sort; Monique woke up saying, then instantly blushed.

But I guess you’re already engaged or at least in a relationship, right? I went on.

No, unfortunately my work schedule lately didn’t leave enough time for such activities.

Oh, I see, and where do you intend to take us today Lucien? Because I for one have no idea where I should go.

If you tell me what exactly you’re looking for, maybe I can take you to the right place.

We want to go shopping, I need a cocktail dress.

Oh, I see, well we can go to the Lafayette Galeries on Haussmann boulevard or at the Merci Concept Store on Beaumarchais or Avenue Montaigne, wherever you’d like, there are many options.

I can imagine, I mean, this is Paris, right? I’ve heard about the Palais – Royal Galleries too and if I’m not mistaken Printemps is also on Haussmann Boulevard, right?

Yes, it is said that the Palais – Royal Galleries are one of the trendiest and romantic places in town, Monique, whose skin color had gone back to normal, said.

Yes, as I was saying, you just have to choose.

Ok, if you don’t want to have anything else let’s ask for the check and get going.

Ok, I would just like to ask you one thing, since you insisted that I have lunch with you, I insist to pay for everything and I won’t take no for an answer, Lucien said.

No, no, no, I invited you, it’s on me, moreover, I have Mr. Gérard’s credit card just in case. Not leaving him enough time to answer I took out my card and handed it to the waitress. Where would you rather stop, my dear, I asked Moni, taking her hand.

I say we go to Lafayette, this way we can also admire the architecture of the Art Nouveau and Belle Époque dome and the stairs, it is said to be a charming place.

Ok, whatever you say sweetie, you heard her Lucien, that’s where we’ll stop, I can’t wait to get there.

As soon as we arrived I realized Monique was right because I was under the impression that I was entering a completely new town, built in the spirit of lively colors such as gold and light blue, like an opera or huge Roman theatre.

Where do we start, Dal? Monique asked, caught by the view.

Hmmm, we could wander around for days and we still wouldn’t be able to explore every little corner, I could easily get lost here, I confessed.

I can’t argue with that, I thought you’d like it.

I say we go in and ask for short bellshaped evening gowns, but it has to be white.

Why bellshaped? You should get a tight clingy one; you have a very naughty tooshy which is worth emphasizing not camouflaging.

Monique, you naughty little girl, when did you have time to check out my tooshie? I asked amused, putting a hand around her neck. In the meantime Lucien, who had parked the car after dropping us off at the entrance caught up with us.

Lucien I’d appreciate if you could give me some honest advice when I ask you something about the outfits I’ll try on.

You should pick what you like, miss…

What did you call me, Lucien? God I thought we settled this, you call me Dalilah, ok! So, what did you want to say?

I was going to say that you should pick what you like Dalilah.

Ok, that’s better but I’d still need the advice of a representative of the strong sex. We went into the first store we saw and looked around a little but didn’t see what we were looking for so I asked if they had anything which matched our description. Tough luck though, they had enough dresses, most of them beautiful and expensive, but none that was white and short. We went into the next store, and Lucien sat down letting us look around at ease.

Dalilah, check this dress out a little, it’s just wow, awesome, Monique said all excited.

But it’s black Moni, can’t you see? I told you I wanted a white one, although I can’t deny it’s gorgeous.

Yes, I know you wanted a white one, but I thought you’d change your mind for sure when you saw how this one looks, she said, unable to take her eyes off the dress.

It is indeed worth considering, I like the cut and the material but I have a problem with the color, if only it were white. Why don’t you buy it if you like it, honey, I think it would look great on you.

I can’t afford it Dalilah, can’t you see how expensive it is?

I’ll pay it, come on, try it on.

No, that’s out of the question, we came here so you could buy a dress not me and besides can’t you see that the price is higher than our scholarship, she answered vehemently. But I didn’t pay attention to her and asked the shop assistant for a dress in Monique’s size.

Dalilah, let’s not make a scene here, stop it please, she insisted, almost begging me.

Did you forget that I have monsieur Gérard’s card with me? I smiled happily.

Oh no, definitely not, you may have it for yourself but not for me, ok? I told you I can’t stand him, I don’t want a dress from him, are you crazy? She answered trying to seem calm.

Thank you very much, I told the lady who had just brought me what I asked for. Moni, come on, at least try it on to see if it looks good on you, we don’t have to buy it, I tried to convince her as I was literally pushing her towards the fitting room. Assaulted in such a way, all she could do was try on the dress. In the meantime I sent Gérard a text message Honey what’s the limit on this card? The answer came right away: for you there’s no limit, you can buy whatever you want my love. I can’t wait to see you, I miss you. See you home, ok?

Thanks, I miss you too. I’ll call you when I’m done here. Kisses.

Wow, you’re gorgeous my dear, it looks great on you, as if it was especially made for your body, isn’t that right Lucien? I asked, studying his reaction carefully. He liked it, without a doubt.

Yes, it looks great on you Monique, he said, slightly puzzled. Dammit, he’s shy too, I told myself. These two will make a great couple, but given how shy they both are they will definitely need a little help to get things going.

Thank you very much, you’re just kind, Monique said slightly blushing.

After you take it off you can give it to me to put it back sweetie!

You can take it; I heard her say from the fitting room, I already took it off.

I took advantage of the fact that she was still in the fitting room and headed to the checkout to buy the dress. Less than two minutes later they caught up with me.

Don’t tell me you just did what I think you did, she said with a serious look on her face.

Moni, this is a gift from me ok, not anybody else, for your birthday, I bought it a little early, that’s all, it would have been a shame not to buy it, you saw how nice it looked on you.

You’re not in your right mind, paying this much for a gift, thank you very much anyway, come on; let me give you a kiss. After she kissed me full of gratitude, we went to other stores looking for the same kind of dress and leaving emptyhanded each time. It was already the 9th store we were going into when I saw something which caught my eye. On a mannequin there was a beautiful bellshaped white dress, with ¾ golden lace sleeves, it had a golden belt around the waist, it was a very pleasant golden color, and the dress itself was so special that I immediately said:

I want this one!

They took it off the mannequin because it was oneofakind and I went into the fitting room. I tried it on and came out to see what they thought, although I had already made my mind. That was the dress.

You look just like an angel with this white dress and those golden details and your long black hair, Monique said.

You like it, don’t you? Lucien what do you think, I asked holding my breath for a second.

I agree with her, he said smiling.

Thank you very much, I think we just solved one problem, now we need shoes, in fact I had in mind a pair of kneelength golden nude boots or some ankle boots, we’ll see what we can find. Then I went back to the fitting room to change.

We went into a store which only sold women’s shoes and started looking, just like boy scouts. If for the dress we had to look for about two hours, we got luckier with the shoes, which we found in the first store we checked out. Monique bought a pair of gorgeous black shoes and I, to my surprise, found a pair of stiletto ankle boots which were tight around my ankles, which was a real joy to me, because I usually have trouble finding something to fit me perfectly due to my ankles being thin. They were such a pleasant golden nude color and had such a delicate design that I couldn’t believe they fit me, you would have said they were rather made for an exhibit. We left the store very happy and full of gratitude towards Gérard’s card. It was weird how I didn’t feel bad about it, as if it was something absolutely normal.

What now, Daly?

We move on to accessories and hair my dear Moni.

Hmmm, as usual, full of surprises, I knew it would be an interesting and extremely warm day because you would be the one I would be spending it with.

Lucien took a little coffee break while we went to a jewelry store to choose our accessories.

What do you think about this ring Dalilah?

Oh the classical and at the same time muchdesired engagement ring. I still dream about the day when the love of my life will kneel in front of me and ask me the big question.

Have you thought about how it’s going to be, in what circumstances, what will happen? I for one have already projected and re projected the thought so now I’m confused, I don’t know exactly what I want anymore.

Yes, of course I thought about it, I played entire scenarios in my head. I want a classical ring, with a stone but in a unique shape or at least customized and I’d really want it to happen in a beautiful spring moment when the soul yearns for green, for life, for beauty, for the burning heat which would arrive with the coming of the next season…I’d also want it to happen on the shore of the Bosphorus strait, in the morning as I said, while I drink my tea.

How lovely, at least you know what you want.

I also know it might never happen given how romantic the men of this century are, I said, and we both started laughing sarcastically.

Dalilah, I don’t want anything else, thank you very much but it’s already more than I can accept, that’s enough, please don’t insist anymore.

Moni my dear, I insist that you keep your beautiful mouth shut and complete the look with this refined and elegant pearl necklace. Do you like it?

Wow, it’s great, but as I said, no thanks.

Please, can you help me, I would like to buy this necklace and something else to go with it, a bracelet or at least earrings and a ring, I told a shop assistant while ignoring Monique.

Yes of course, we have the bracelet, earrings and ring to complete the set, this way please, she said and showed me the rest of the set in another case.

They’re so beautiful; we’ll take them all, just a second to see if the ring fits.

Moniii come here for a second please, I shouted but she wanted to get even so she was completely ignoring me, pretending to pay attention to something in the other side of the store.

I’ll try it on, we’re almost the same size, I don’t think there’s any difference.

Give it to me, I know you’ll buy it anyway at least I want to make sure it fits well, she said slowly coming closer.

Ok, perfect, see how beautiful it is and how great it looks on you, it was made for this exact finger. Now it’s your turn to help me find something.

Let’s see.

Or better yet, let’s ask. Excuse me, do you have anything in the shape of jasmine, you know that little white flower? I asked the shop assistant.

Of course I know what you’re talking about, yes we do have something, a bracelet the size of a real flower crusted with rubies, I’ll show it to you immediately. She went to a corner of the store and took out a silver box from under a sort of desk. Out of the box she took a bracelet made of five jasmine flowers with such a perfect shape and aspect that you were tempted to smell them to see if they were freshly picked from the garden.

Gorgeous, it’s more than I was hoping to find, thank you very much, we’ll take this too.

That’s all? Don’t you want earrings or a necklace? My friend asked, curiously.

No sweetie, I don’t want to complete the look with anything else than jasmine, in fact I won’t need earrings because I’ll pick a hairstyle that covers my ears, I think the bracelet is enough.

If you say so. Let’s go to the salon.

Let’s not forget about the bags, we need bags or clutches too, let’s see what we can find. We should look for Lucien at the bar, drop off the dresses at the dry cleaner’s and then head to the salon, we have three or four hours left, I think we can make it. Let’s not waste any more time. This time I paid with my card although it was a considerable amount. At least Monique’s necklace was really a gift from me this way. As for my bracelet, I didn’t want to leave Gérard the impression that I wanted to use it at all cost.

Let’s go in here, Monique said pointing to a jewelry store where they also sold handbags.

Look, this would fit your look like a glove, she said while dragging me towards a red clutch with gold on the sides and a daisy in the center which was actually the magnet that opened and closed the clutch.

Wow, this will really be a colorful addition to my outfit. I would have bought it even without the golden details anyway because white and gold go with red. Moni, as usual, I can count on you. Speaking of which, let’s buy something for Mélanie too, poor thing, she went to the course while we were messing around shopping. Let’s buy her an elegant bag, she has so many bags but they’re all sporty, maybe she’ll go to an event one day which requires an elegant look.

As you wish, how about we buy the same clutch for all of us, this would match my black dress too, Monique suggested.

That’s a very good idea, I wouldn’t have thought about it. Let’s buy them. Now that our outfits were complete we could go get Lucien who was probably drinking his third coffee by now.

Are you bored Lucien? We asked, more out of politeness, to make conversation because we were aware that he probably “enjoyed the hell” out of waiting for us.

No, don’t worry, did you find everything you wanted? He asked, probably out of politeness too, I guess.

Thank God, yes, we both answered at the same time, and we both started rambling about what we had bought and what we had seen just like a couple of extremely enthusiastic schoolgirls. We talked one at a time then both at the same time so poor Lucien probably didn’t understand a thing.

Where do we stop now? He finally asked when we calmed down.

The dry cleaner’s, we need the dresses tonight, I said. Then to a salon.

You need the dress tonight Dalilah, I’m not going out tonight, Monique laconically corrected me.

Then you can stay here at the salon and in the meantime I’ll take the dresses to the dry cleaner’s and wait to pick them up, then come back to get you, ok?

Are you sure that’s ok?

Sure!

That’s perfect Lucien. I’ll give you some money, here! And I took out my wallet to give him some money.

No, there’s no need, I have a company card, I’ll put them on monsieur Le Vernière’s name, he assured me.

Ok then. You’ll find us at the Maniarif.

After we made sure that he didn’t have any problem carrying all the shopping bags to the car by himself, we each went our own way and the two of us headed to the salon where we got waxed, had our manicure and pedicure done, then had our hair trimmed a little and went on to the hair do’s, where Monique had something to object again.

Having my hair done is really not necessary, I’m going to bed in a short while not to a cocktail, she insisted.

At least have some loose curls done or have it straightened, I’m not saying you should go for a fancy bun, then we can take a picture and post it on Facebook, we don’t have enough pictures together anyway.

Ok then, having it straightened won’t do any harm; it’s one less thing I have to do tomorrow, she finally accepted.

What would you like? The hairstylist who was doing my hair me asked.

I’d like something sensual and voluminous, I thought about some full and somehow loose curls, free on one side and put up in a ponytail on the left side preferably because it suits me better. What do you say?

That’s an interesting choice, perfect for a memorable evening; it’s also easy to do because your hair has a texture which makes it easy to work it, especially because it’s long. I’m curious how the outfit looks, I guess it’s something sexy, the guy, who was in a visibly good mood and also a diehard metro sexual went on saying.

In fact it’s a bellshaped dress, white on the chest and bust and the ¾ sleeves are made of gold lace.

And you chose this hairstyle, but didn’t you say you were going to a cocktail? What shoes will you be wearing? He went on curiously, addressing me in the second person this time.

Yes, why? I’ll be wearing a pair of golden ankle boots. I looked at Monique but also an older lady who was waiting for her hair to dry, asking for her opinion through signs, because they heard our conversation too. The girl who was doing her hair wasn’t really talkative. They completed each other it seems, she was silent, he talked too much, it was a match made in heaven.

I’m trying to picture you looking like a pure maiden he went on while his hands produced a series of divine black curls and my hairstyle was slowly starting to catch shape.

What makes you think I just look like one, maybe I am one, I said, trying to get in his game.

Oh, I’m sorry if I offended you; he quickly apologized going back to a formal language.

No, don’t worry, I’d rather talk, tell me what did you want to say, exactly?

Nothing in particular, sometimes I have a rich imagination but also a big mouth he said defensively, refusing to say what he thought.

Don’t stop now, I insist.

I had an image in my head of that outfit, this hairstyle and this face, I’m determined to believe that you seem an innocent and shy girl but I could have a surprise if I met you in other circumstances I’d be sure I’d meet an unleashed feline, this profile often fits. But as I said it’s just an obsession I have, to always make scenarios. You’re ready, I hope you like it, you’re very beautiful, I envy the man who you will accompany tonight he ended, winking at me.

Thank you very much, I appreciate it, I know this sickness of yours very well, trust me, I said with a bittersweet smile, because I was as sick as he was. As for the other circumstances…hmmm life is so unpredictable that sometimes you surprise yourself by doing things that you could have sworn you were incapable of before.

You’re right, it was a pleasure, I’m Martin, he introduced himself.

Dalilah, the pleasure is all mine.

We then moved to another room to have our makeup done, not before that old lady intercepted me and asked me to get closer so she could see my hair do.

Magnificent, you’re very beautiful young lady, she said. She wanted to whisper something in my ear so I leaned in.

The boy wants something more from you, you keep your dignity intact young lady, because that’s all they want, all of them. Let me tell you something else, you’d better live your life, enjoy it, because in the end all that’s left are memories and some are like daggers, they can hurt you if they’re accompanied by regrets. Do everything that brings that angelic smile on your lips, without remorse, fight for him, never give up without a fight. God bless you!

Thank you very much Madame, God bless you too, I’ll keep this warm advice in mind. Have a nice evening, I told the lady and caught up with Monique in the makeup room.

What did the lady want? Moni asked curiously.

To give me some advice about the guy who did my hair and life in general, I said with a warm smile. Did you think about the make up, how do you want it?

To be honest, not yet, let’s see what the makeup artist says, what about you?

Yeah, I want something as natural as possible; I don’t want to have a lot of work to do in an hour when I have to take it off.

We sat down in front of the mirrors and waited for some very nice girls to take care of us. Monique went for something very natural while I chose an Arabic smokey eyes look because purple complimented the color of my eyes. Not long before we were done Lucien arrived and informed us that the dresses were ready.

Lucien, you said you were available right? I asked him, taking him aside. I mean, you’re not in a relationship right? I asked a little intrusively to prepare him for what I wanted to suggest.

Yes, why?

Look, I’m going to confess something but you have to promise to keep it out secret, I went on saying. In fact, why don’t you first tell me what you think about my friend, what first impression she left you.

She’s very nice and…but I interrupted him midsentence.

Perfect, that’s all I needed, you’ll see in time how wonderful she is. She broke up with her fiancé recently because he cheated on her, anyway, it’s a long story. The thing is she suffered a lot and doesn’t want to get involved in another relationship for anything in the world. What I want is not that you hook up with her, just that you ask her out to dinner tonight, because she thinks you’re really cute...it means a lot to me to see her smile again. It may be a new chance for her to get out of her shell where she has been hiding. What do you say?

To be honest it would be an honor but tonight it’s practically impossible, he said visibly disappointed.

What do you have to do tonight? I asked, even more disappointed.

I have to accompany Monsieur Vernière at the inauguration.

Oh, that was it? I asked, relieved.

Yes.

Don’t worry about it, you’re free tonight, I’ll talk to Monsieur Vernière. Here’s what we’ll do, you drop me off home and then drop off Monique, ok? In the meantime I’ll talk to him and tell him to call you and confirm that you have the night off. On your way to the dorm you’ll ask her out to dinner but please don’t mention her ex – fiancé, not even as a joke, she’s very sensitive about it.

Perfect, now let’s see if they say yes.

They will for sure, you’ll see, I tried to encourage him.

Hey, what are you whispering about? Monique asked curiously.

We weren’t whispering, I was telling Lucien to drop me off first and then you because I don’t have enough time to accompany you my dear, I said trying to distract her.

Oh Dalilah, don’t worry, I can manage by myself.

No, you won’t go by yourself; Lucien will take you to make sure that you get home safely.

If you insist, then so be it.

We hugged each other and she told me to have fun; we parted ways in front of the flat where Gérard lived. Assuring Lucien that I could manage carrying the bags, I quickly ran home, hoping that I had arrived before Gérard to go into the bathroom and change before he saw me only half – ready. But it wasn’t my lucky day – when I went inside I realized that not only was he home, but he was already in the shower. I took all the shopping bags to the bedroom and closed the door right before he opened the bathroom door.

Honey is that you are you home? He asked, surprised that I just closed the door in front of him.

Yes, honey it’s me, but I already have my hair done and I don’t want you to see me like this, I want to take a shower and get dressed and then come out so you can see me.

Come on sweetie, what’s wrong with you, are you superstitious? Wasn’t it bad luck only on your wedding day?

Tonight I am. And another thing, I have to ask you for a really, really big favor I said, sweetening the tone of my voice in an obvious way.

Tell me my love, what can I do for you? He asked from the other side of the door.

Lucien, your chauffeur was telling me that he had to accompany you to the inauguration tonight…

Accompany us, he interrupted me.

Ok, accompany us, but my friend Monique really likes him a lot, and tonight I told Lucien that he should ask her out to dinner. But he said that even though he’d love to, he’s busy with you, us...Whatever…

I see, so you want me to tell him that he can go to dinner?

One of the things I adore about you my love is that you always finish my sentences, yes, that’s what I want, even if I risk being the chauffeur myself tonight.

Hmmm, the image of you in a uniform really turns me on, a very short uniform of course.

Leaning in front of you because I’ve just dropped my keys, right? Come on, stop fantasizing and tell me if I can call him and tell him to go for it? He’s taking Monique home right now; he needs time to ask her out, please my love.

Consider it done princess, you can go take a shower, I’ll go to the salon and call him ok, I’ll wait for you there, take all the time you need, there’s no need to hurry my beautiful princess.

Thank you so much, I can barely stop myself from coming out of here and giving you a kiss on the cheek.

A kiss? He asked surprised. I was thinking I deserve a little more, he confessed, all disappointed.

Come on love, stop it with the selfpity, you’ll get the reward you deserve, you little pervert.

Oh, I like the sound of that, here I go, and I could indeed hear his footsteps as he was going away.

I took advantage to get all I needed and make sure that he wasn’t peeking, then went into the bathroom and locked the door. I carefully got my curls out of the way in order not to get them wet then took a short, refreshing shower. I dried myself carefully with a towel, put some black vanilla body lotion on all of my body then massaged it slowly to make sure that it was all absorbed. Then I put on my underwear which consisted of a Jolidon bra and thong set. I didn’t forget about the pièce de resistance from any woman’s wardrobe, namely the girdle, which seemed like a simple stocking, but Gérard would have a surprise because at the top it had a naughty red lace detail. I finally put on the dress, let my curls loose, put on my ankle boots, bracelet and my beloved perfume, which caught the olfactory attention of my prince and gave me the chance to have him in my life. Being sure that I was done I threw a last look in the mirror and realized that I was all radiating, I saw myself more mature and sure of myself. It was like seeing my mom when she was young and my heart trembled because I missed her all of a sudden. I miss her a lot and would be thrilled if she could be with me in these moments of absolute happiness. I went out of the bathroom and went to Gérard who had been waiting for me for some time in the salon.

Dalilah, my love you’re…simply…sublime, he exclaimed, taking long breaks while he was contemplating me with an avid look. He came close and took my left hand which he kissed elegantly, then hugged me tightly, leaving me breathless.

Gérard, you’re suffocating me, I drew his attention, breathing more and more heavily.

I’m sorry beautiful, he apologized slightly embarrassed by his attitude, while he let me go. I’m afraid of losing you he confessed in the end, almost whispering.

Oh stop messing around my love, I don’t want anyone else, I’ve told you already, you’re the only one. I can’t believe it, you have jasmine cufflinks, I exclaimed all of a sudden extremely surprised and enthusiastic.

Yes, they were a gift from my grandmother; I care about them a lot.

They’re gorgeous Gérard, I would have liked to have met your grandmother so much!

I’m sure she would have been thrilled to meet you, but that’s ok, tonight we’ll meet my mom, brother and other relatives. Hmmm, your bracelet is beautiful too my love, you really love jasmine, he said when he finally saw my jasmine bracelet.

Yes, it’s very beautiful; I can consider it to be a gift from my dad because I bought it with his card. I didn’t want to take advantage of your generosity. I used yours anyway to buy a little gift for Monique, I hope you don’t mind, I said with a wide smile, unveiling all my teeth.

Don’t worry, it’s yours, you can do whatever you want with it, please don’t hesitate to use it, and oh, yes, I forgot to tell you, that dinner is happening. I gave him the night off and let them use the car. Satisfied? He asked, with a warm smile.

Oh, thank you my love I’m always satisfied when it comes to you. By the way, you’re divine too my love, I’m very happy that you’re mine.

All yours remember that! He firmly assured me. Shall we?

Whenever you say monsieur.

It’s all up to you, Madame.

Mademoiselle, I rectified, looking at him with love.

We’ll make sure to change this status as soon as possible, he said, looking at me in the same candid and affectionate way.

Let’s go, stop fooling around, I said as I took his arm and headed to the exit.

We finally arrived at the happy event and appeared holding hands like the fresh couple we were. It wasn’t easy to get into the salon, because we were greeted at the entrance by an impressive group of reporters and camera operators, who assaulted us with various questions all asked at the same time, which made it impossible to understand any of them.

Please excuse us, a press conference will be held and all the information you require will be provided there, but until then please let us pass, Gérard asked them in a serious and intransigent way.

Is the lady only accompanying you tonight or have you finally decided to give up being one of the consecrated bachelors, a young and beautiful reporter asked loudly and clearly.

However, Gérard refused to answer although he was looking straight at her. He made sure that I passed safely through the narrow path that the reporters had left for us, and so we entered the salon which hosted the event. That incident didn’t make me feel great at all, to be honest it didn’t feel good at all, it was like someone unexpectedly slapped me. Gérard’s attitude confused me, why did he hesitate to answer if he keeps saying that he even wants me to be the mother of his children?

Anyway, I made an effort to hide the disappointment which could be seen on my face and smiled affably while Gérard introduced one of the managers of his advertising company to me:

This is monsieur Philippe, one of the key employees of the company, my dear. This is the lady whose slave I became Phil, he said introducing me to his employee and friend, with a smile.

It’s a pleasure to finally meet the lady whom monsieur Gérard’s full attention has been migrating towards during all our meetings these last months he said, while slowly kissing my hand like a true gentleman.

He then leaned towards Gérard and whispered a discreet “now I understand”, then excused himself respectfully and left. This made me feel better than the way in which the evening started. A waiter offered us an appetizer which I was more than happy to accept, because that way I could pretend that I was drinking, that I had something to do, because I felt naked while everyone was looking in an inquisitive and generous way. At least I could enjoy one thing, the only one which mattered to me in fact, which was my love’s full attention. A moment later, a woman who was accompanied by Gérard’s brother and two other ladies walked up to us. Gérard kissed all of them warmly on the cheek then introduced them to me.

My love, allow me to introduce my mother, Meredith. Mother this is the lady I’ve been telling you about, Dalilah.

Oh dammit, they’ve been talking about me and Gérard didn’t warn me in any way, he didn’t give me any clue about her personality, at least so I could have a vague idea about how I should approach her, I told myself while showing my eternal relentless and affable smile.

It’s an honor for me, Madame, was all I could say while I warmly shook her hand. However, Madame Meredith unexpectedly shortened my selftorture moment because I must confess I was nervous about this meeting, and, amazed by how beautiful I was she gave me a warm hug as if we had known each other forever, she even asked me to call her Meredith then whispered in my ear:

Thank God you woke the desire to live in him again, not to mention you’re stunningly beautiful, I was one step away from thinking my son had switched teams, she said while bursting into a contained laughter. His first cousin Ecaterina was the next one to introduce herself in a complacent manner and then adopted a calm and enthusiastic attitude towards me.

I’m thrilled Dalilah and even happy to see my cousin with such a beautiful and distinguished lady, his first cousin confessed smiling affectionately.

That’s very nice of you to say, thank you very much, the pleasure is all mine Ecaterina.

Please, call me Katy.

However, the other lady seemed quite glacial and malicious.

Antoinette, she said, shaking hands with me but looking the other way.

Nice to meet you, I replied equally laconic, barely touching her hand.

Katy came close to me and discretely whispered that she advised me not to pay attention to her because that’s how she was in general, a total shrew.

Oh, you don’t have to feel bad about her, that’s how she always is, a shrew, her plans with my cousin didn’t work out so she ended up tricking my brother into dating her, so now that he’s on a business trip I have to stand her unpleasant company as well as her face, Katy burst in an access of honesty and blistering fury. It seemed she disliked her even more than I did.

I feel sorry for you, sweetie I said and smiled suggestively. So this lady who is so full of herself had plans about Gérard, and he, as usual, didn’t warn me at all about it. I just wanted to kill him that very moment, but a simple affectionate smile was all that came up on my face when he surprised me again by wrapping his strong, sure hand on my waist, slowly dragging me closer to him.

Hmm, here comes this hypocrite, Gérard said almost rolling his eyes. I didn’t have time to ask for details about his reasons for disliking the gentleman whom he didn’t seem to tolerate, that he was already in front of us.

Gérard, how can you appear in public with such a jewel and not introduce her, he asked in a slightly ambiguous voice, which didn’t give me a clear idea about his true intentions. The way in which he smiled and showed his perfectly white teeth didn’t make me change that sort of smile but rather gave me goose bumps.

My dear, this is monsieur Louis, he is the owner of the new agency we are celebrating tonight, Gérard introduced him in a forcedly complacent voice.

Nice to meet you monsieur, good luck with the agency, I said with all the kindness which resulted from my good education, because if my boyfriend didn’t like him I obviously didn’t either.

It’s a true joy and honor to me, I was just looking for an image for our next catalogue. It would be a real pleasure to be the one who discovers you and launches your career; he went on sure of himself.

Why don’t you excuse us Louis, we’re a little busy, Gérard cut him off.

Here’s my business card. He opened his wallet and affably handed me a card, in case you change your mind mademoiselle, the repellent gentleman insisted staring directly at me and bluntly ignoring my beloved boyfriend.

Thank you but there’s no need, you‘d better keep it, maybe you’ll need it for something else, Gérard directly addressed him, not giving me the chance to refuse him personally. Seeing that he was treated in such a manner Louis excused himself with a smile which looked more like the grin of a hurt animal who is already planning his next attack.

Can you please tell me what this thing, which thank God just ended was? Gérard, my love, I asked, quite jovially but a little tense.

Oh, excuse me for a second my love, I forgot to do something, I’ll be back in a minute he said, and went to talk to a gentleman, leaving me alone midsentence in the middle of those people. My face must have been red with anger in that moment.

Did something happen sweetie, Katy asked me discretely, coming next to me.

No sweetie, he left because he forgot to do something, I said calming her down. Tell me, do you have any clue who that gentleman in the black suit we just spoke with is? I asked discretely but quite motivated.

Oh, Monsieur Louis, yes…I was really surprised that Gérard’s company is handling the advertising for his agency, she said, slightly lost, as if she was still surprised that very moment by the fact.

Why?

Oh, I can’t believe you didn’t know. It seems my cousin is either trying to protect you from all these stupid things or voluntarily left out the less pleasant things from his past. My current sisterinlaw was sleeping with my cousin and this guy at the same time, and Gérard finally found out and ended it. Only my brother was stupid enough to take her for a pure flower, she said in a frustrated and vulgar tone.

And I couldn’t believe Gérard had slept with that chick then made me shake hands with her and that gentleman, oh God my face was really turning red now.

Wow Katy, now I really understand and share your discontent regarding your “beloved” sisterinlaw I smiled, pretending to be peaceful inside although I was one step away from exploding on the inside.

What are you talking about girls? Gérard asked, when he finally came back after more than a minute, like he said he would.

Fashion, my dear, we were talking about the beautiful grey outfit a lady we saw across the room was wearing and we were trying to see if it matched the outfit of any of the gentlemen here, girl stuff I said winking at him joyfully while thinking about how I would like to throw my glass of wine in his face and storm out of there.

I have to leave you my dears, we’re leaving, Gérard’s mother greeted us accompanied by her younger son but also the lady whom I wanted to kill, that’s how jealous I was when I saw what a distinguished and highclass lady she acted like.

Come here my dear, let me give you a kiss, Gérard’s mother greeted me and gave me a warm hug while she kissed me. You must come over for dinner, or lunch, or breakfast one day, oh, God, how I’d love to see both of you come down for breakfast, she said smiling with all her love. It would be a blessing for the old and tired soul of your mother to exercise a little by running after her nephews through the house my dear, she told Gérard.

It won’t be long, mom, he said with an equally kind smile. Everyone around us was in fact frantically giggling about the topic, except the distinguished lady who had already slept with two of the people in the room and who, when hearing Gérard’s mother’s remark couldn’t even conceal the disgust on her face.

The hell it won’t be long, I told myself and yet remained unexpectedly pleasantly surprised by Gérard’s mother and her attitude towards me. She was unexpectedly nice; she was so kind to me that you could have thought we’ve known each other forever.

Where would you want to be now my love? He asked looking at me circumspectly.

Far away…

How far? Tell me a place, he insisted.

Halicarnassus. That’s where I’d like to go I said, remembering my discussion with Monique from earlier that evening about Turkey.

What? He asked a little confused.

The place of birth of the one called “the father of history” as a discipline, the famous Greek historian Herodotus, currently known as Bodrum. That’s how it was called back in ancient times, my love.

Oh, Bodrum, now I see, he said with a warm smile. Are you sure?

I’m positive.

Then Bodrum it is my love, he said, then grabbed my hand and took me slowly but surely to a back door, probably to avoid the herd of journalists which were in front of the main exit. We got in the car and headed home, or at least that’s what I thought. Although I was about to burst inside and bit my tongue while trying not to make a scene that very moment, I wanted to be able to save that for tomorrow or when we got home. We stopped in a place I didn’t know. He got out of the car and opened the door for me.

We’re here, come on my princess!

Gérard, please, I’m really tired and want to go home, where on Earth are we? I said, slightly bothered.

We’re going where you said you wanted to be tonight my love, he insisted, taking my hand and thus forcing me to get out of the car.

Honey, look, I’m really tired and I’m not in the mood for jokes, I insisted.

Who said I was joking? And taking me by the hand like you take a child you force to go to bed, he took me to a runway where a private plane was waiting.

Do you still think I’m joking?

Gérard what’s happening? I asked, with my eyes wide open as if I was just waking up.

Only what you want to happen my love, nothing more, he said, then said hello to the pilot and copilot and we sat down in the airplane. I obeyed his instructions like a puppet because I still couldn’t believe that it was real. Something I just randomly said was now happening.

My name is Maya and I will be at your disposal this evening, a flight attendant greeted us. What would you like to drink? She asked us in a very nice voice.

Nice to meet you Maya, my name is Dalilah I said while I got up from the relaxing cream leather armchair and respectfully shook her hand. Thank you, I’d like some water, I’ve had enough alcohol at the event we came from, I said.

Following my example, somehow forcefully but surprisingly affable, Gérard got up and shook her hand too. It seems they already knew each other.

I’d like a dry whiskey Maya, thank you.

After she left we were alone, in front of each other, looking at each other mysteriously. I would have wanted to know what he was thinking about that very moment because his whole face was smiling, like a man who was satisfied by what he had accomplished or was about to accomplish.

I for one was making an effort not to ruin that evening or better yet ruin it even more because to be honest, although his relatives treated me quite nicely, he had repeatedly disappointed me a lot. I was looking around and couldn’t believe how luxurious this plane could be. It looked nothing like the ones I had travelled with so far. In the meantime, Maya came with a tray on which she had our glasses and opening a folding table she put our glasses in front of us and excused herself, leaving us again.

Would you like to lie down a little honey? I can see you’re quite tired and it will take more than an hour and a half to get to the coast of the Aegean Sea.

Gérard I can’t believe you did this, I just said…

Do you mean you were bluffing; you didn’t really want to see Bodrum?

No, I did, I really did, but it’s absurd or better yet surreal, yes, that’s the word, it seems surreal, an hour ago we were at the inauguration, then on our way home and here we are now, do you find that normal?

As normal as possible. Dalilah, my love I never said we were going home, I asked you where you would like to be and you chose. I want to keep that irresistible smile of yours alive for as long as I live, and I’d be capable to do anything only to see it persist, he declared while he sat next to me, on one knee, holding my right hand in his warm hands.

Lie down a little so you can relax until we get there; and before I was able to protest I found myself lying down and I was immediately invaded by a soft, peaceful and comforting feeling.

Honey we’re here, honey, Dalilah, wake up he whispered in my ear. And I opened my eyes slowly and looked him in the eyes; still not seeing things clearly but the image slowly became clearer. He then kissed me on the lips wishing me a good morning and told me again that we were there.

I can’t believe it, we landed and I had no idea, I didn’t feel a thing, nothing, God I was clueless, I said while I slowly got up.

It was a smooth landing, stop talking about yourself that way my beautiful princess, he advised me while he gave me a long hug. Hey, don’t fall back asleep he said shaking me slowly while I was already migrating back to dreamland again.

Let’s go, we’re 40 km away from the hotel.

We’re here? We’re really here? I asked circumspectly but quite excited. Do you mean I’m on Turkish land now?

Yes, my love.

Well, let’s not waste a second more, let’s go. You already know what hotel we’re staying at? I asked, coming back to my senses a little.

Yes, my love, the Kempinski Hotel in Barbaros Bay, in Bodrum of course, it was the most recommended.

Oh yes? And who recommended it? I asked while we were getting off the plane.

My consultants, Dalilah.

Are you sure you haven’t stood there before with someone else, some acquaintance? I subtly attacked him.

No, it’s the first time, but what came over you? He asked, surprised.

Nothing, I was just saying. Luckily I didn’t have to say anything else because we were interrupted by Maya who wished us a pleasant stay.

You can take the luggage to the car Pierre, he told one of the two men who were apparently waiting for us.

What do you mean luggage, Gérard, I asked, amazed, I thought you said it was something spontaneous.

Bodrum was spontaneous but not Turkey.

What do you mean? I asked even more puzzled than before. You planned everything?

We were supposed to land in Istanbul but your choice was better, my dear.

Gérard!!!, I said his name all in awe while we got in the car, where our luggage was taken. We sat in the back because the two men were standing in front.

My love, why are they coming with us? I asked him, making sure that they couldn’t hear me.

They will ensure our safety, Dalilah.

What? I don’t think I understand what you mean my love; don’t you think we could manage without them? I asked, already tired of the neverending wave of news.

I’m sure we could manage my love but with them around we’ll manage even better, he tried to calm me down slowly caressing my left cheek.

No, my love, I don’t think you understand, or maybe I didn’t make myself understood, I really don’t want some strangers walking behind me or accompanying me, I need privacy, I answered in a more serious voice, also caressing the left side of his divine cheek.

Dalilah, they have been my bodyguards for more than eight years, they come with me everywhere, including in Paris.

No, I don’t believe you, why would you need bodyguards Gérard?

I’m a businessman my love, one always needs cover.

You run an advertising agency honey, I don’t see the connection, I fought back, feeling at the same time that I sank even deeper in an uncertain situation.

Why don’t you pretend like they’re not there, and that’s it, he suggested as a solution, wanting to kiss me on the lips but I subtly avoided him.

Gérard we’re not alone and besides how would you want me to pretend they’re not here, can’t you see how big they are? I said the last part in a sissy voice.

So, you never noticed them until now, that’s why you haven’t said anything?

Do you mean they were there when we were together Gérard?

From afar not close by but they were always there, doing their duty.

That’s impossible, I sometimes felt like we were being watched but I thought I was being paranoid and nothing more.

Honey, stop thinking about it, it’s for our own good, the world is full of untimely gestures; let me take care of your safety.

I hope you know what you’re doing because I already put my safety, so to say, in your hands my love.

You couldn’t have put it in better hands Dalilah, he confessed in a serious voice, putting his large arms around me and giving me a warm embrace.

It’s great here, I might pretend not to see these two giants after all, I concluded with a joke.

A few moments later we stopped in front of the hotel and were greeted by a very kind doorman who welcomed us in English.

We headed to the reception where a middleaged man dressed in a suit greeted us and presented our options kindly enough. Gérard asked me if I would agree to opt for an apartment, then asked for one on the fourth floor, which was the final one in fact. We were anxious to see it so we headed straight upstairs and once we got there we saw that it looked like a fivestar hotel it was expected to look. The luggage was immediately brought up by a hotel employee.

It’s gorgeous my love!

I’m glad you like it, it’s really beautiful. Shall we take a shower and go to bed honey? He asked, looking me in the eyes.

Are you kidding me? We came all this way to sleep? I’ll take advantage to take a quick shower and freshen up a little; I can’t wait get out of these heels. I’m so curious to see what you put in my suitcase. Then we can go out. I want to embrace everything I can see with my eyes, and maybe we can grab a bite, I’m hungry, aren’t you hungry sweetie?

Yes honey, you take a shower, I’ll call and see what we can serve at this hour, ok?

Ohhh is it ok? It’s perfect my dear. And now the big question, did my boyfriend think about the fact that I also need underwear? I asked sarcastically while trying to open my bag.

Oh, that small detail must have slipped my mind, he said, with a grin.

Small detail? I asked, raising my voice. It’s a good think we have robes, towels and slippers here at least, I said, feeling saved. I’ll head to the shower; see you in a couple of minutes ok? I gave him a short kiss and went to the bathroom. 15 minutes later I went out to look for my makeup removal pads and cleansing milk, not really expecting to find them. I was more than surprised to find an actual cosmetic bag containing the two things as well as others: hand cream, toner, makeup removal wipes, deodorant, my beloved perfume, they were all in a travel bag. I took the bag to the bathroom with me and used what I needed then came back to the salon to look for Gérard who had apparently disappeared.

Honey!!!, where are you? I shouted, looking for him everywhere, but I got no answer, so I went back to the salon. Gérard came in right after I did.

Where have you been? I asked, slightly worried, while I jumped in his arms and held him tight.

I went downstairs sweetie, I ordered a warm snack and something to drink.

But are we going to stay in? I want to see, to smell, to hear, to feel the gentle waves of the Aegean Sea.

You just took a shower my love and its pretty cold outside. Come with me! He took my hand and we went to a small terrace with glass walls. The view was just gorgeous. A view you rarely get to see, the kind you can only admire on postcards. A lively blue, almost violet color reigned over an equally blue insatiable color. On the left you could see the top of a slightly tall strip of land. On the skyline there were hundreds, thousands even of golden lights which came together in an unclear way. I untimely felt my soul break into thousands and thousands of independent parts which united in a huge embrace that went beyond the glass window and took over the whole majestic landscape. In the middle of the terrace there was a small intimate heart – shaped table, already set for our quite late dinner and two garnet – red armchairs In the four corners of the terrace there were five large bouquets of white jasmine which I hadn’t seen initially but the smell of which attracted me immediately.

Wow, my love, the view is just amazing, the jasmine, oh God what a happy coincidence, I confessed, full of gratitude for what I was just living.

It’s no coincidence my love.

What do you mean honey?

I mean they were ordered especially for you.

When on Earth did you have time to do this my love, I didn’t let you out of my sight for a second. I asked enthusiastic, but with a slightly nostalgic and disappointed look.

A second? He repeated, bursting into laughter, a second, except the 15 minutes you just spent in the bathroom, are you forgetting you slept a couple dozen minutes in the plane? Leaning towards me slowly while he lifted my head up, gave me a serious look, what is it, what’s wrong?

Nothing sweetie, honestly, come on let’s eat or it will get cold.

Dalilah you’re forgetting one thing, you’re forgetting I can read you, in your eyes your book of life is constantly showing and I think and hope I am the only one who can decipher it. I’m happy that I have this privilege but now honestly, I can see you’re sad, I thought you’d like it, I mean I’m sure you like it but there’s something bothering you, you know you can trust me right?

Yes honey you can read an unleashed hunger, I said trying to distract him from the subject. Let’s sit here, I said, and immediately sat down on one of the two chairs.

Whatever you say, let’s eat. They recommended that we serve this exotic fruit salad first to build up our appetites, but I told them that they were built up already and asked for something warm, so they brought us this seafood plate. I had to choose between pasta with olive oil and rice to have on the side, I hope you like rice; we’ll have pasta two days from now.

Oh yes? Why the day after tomorrow? Yes, honey I like it very much, I confirmed while taking a piece of a calamari from the plate because I wasn’t even thinking about touching the octopus. What are we celebrating, why did you get champagne G? Honey, the sun is rising!! I exclaimed enthusiastically. It’s our first sunrise together!

The first of many more to come…The fact that I met you Dalilah, my love, it’s been exactly three months since I intercepted your first look. Ever since I saw your beautiful mouth open in a smile my heart was yours forever. Today is also the day that I’d like to hear a positive answer from you to the question: Will you become my wife, lover and friend for the rest of your mornings, days and nights; can you find a place for me in your heart and the boudoir of your life? He got up from his chair and came closer with a box that contained a gorgeous engagement ring.

Trying not to choke when I heard this unexpected and quickly arrived proposal I took a sip of dry white wine and looking at him attentively I confessed:

Gérard you already have a special place in my life and my heart, but I’m already engaged I said, trying to keep him guessing for a second.

Nonsense, I checked, stop teasing me and answer the question!!!

You checked huh??? Yes, of course I want to marry you Gérard, of course I do, I answered while I gave him an affectionate hug. He then put the jasmine shaped ring on my finger. It was of a decent size, its welldefined petals incrusted with rubies and in the middle it had a pale pink diamond.

Now I can truly say I consider myself an accomplished man, you make my heart beat irregularly, you’re all a man could want Dalilah, I love you my fiancée.

And so we were engaged just three months into our relationship, or even less, considering the tension which followed our first date. We got up and he took me in his arms and to the bedroom where we continued to feed ourselves with love, passion and restless synesthetic dedication. The next morning, I was the first one to wake up, I’m usually the one who has to be catapulted out of bed but this time I woke up with no alarm going off or mom yelling at me countless times that I’d be late. This happened to me quite often when I sleep next to him, maybe it’s because I loved watching him like that, lying next to me with a hand around my waist or neck, his hair all messy and breathing softly.

He was the man of my dreams and he was all mine, I couldn’t share even one of his looks with another woman. I looked at the ring on my finger and still couldn’t believe it, one thing was certain, I wasn’t dreaming, he really did propose last night and I said yes without giving it much thought. He will be my husband and I his wife. Was I ready to take this step, to share everything with him all the time, to divide my life, my time and energy with him? I always looked at mom and couldn’t believe she managed to go through so many things in this difficult life and raise three children. She practically didn’t have a life of her own, her own privacy, because we were always around her and wouldn’t leave her alone even a few hours, so she could breathe, she always had to be at our disposal, God how selfish we could be. I only now realize it, but the truth was everything was paralyzed when she wasn’t home for a couple of minutes or hours, it was like there was no life, and nobody was in the mood for anything. Oh God how I missed her and my sister, not to mention my dear brother and my dad, I hadn’t talked to them in a week I think, they didn’t want to bother me because they knew exams were coming and I, well, here I was. I immediately felt that I missed them more than anything but also that I was scared, that I wasn’t ready for this step, he might be older but I still consider myself green.

Hey future Mrs. Le Vernière what are you doing, are you up? Gérard asked in a slightly sleepy and spoiled voice, while he came closer and closer to me until he was on top of me, giving me a generous good morning kiss.

Well, I am, unlike you, sleepy head, I answered in an equally spoiled but nevertheless sounding a little preoccupied, which he immediately noticed.

Honey what’s wrong, did you have a bad dream, he asked me while holding me in his arms.

I fell asleep so quickly and slept so well that I didn’t even have time to dream my love.]

Come on, admit it, what are you thinking about? You know you can’t fool me, I know you sweetie, he insisted.

Nothing, really.

Dalilah!

Ok, I was thinking about your proposal, I confessed, seeing that he wouldn’t let it go.

You haven’t changed your mind, have you? He immediately asked, becoming serious all of a sudden.

Oh, no my love, I haven’t changed my mind, I was just thinking if I was ready for this step, I mean I don’t know if I can handle having a career and being a wife and a mother at the same time, I don’t know if I can be what you want…

Oh my love, of course you can, you don’t have to think about it so much, your simple presence in my life means a lot, you’ll understand in time, stop worrying.

I hope so honey. Shall we grab a bite and go outside?

Of course, but it’s still early honey, don’t you want to spend a little more time in bed? He was trying to corrupt me, obviously.

No way, we’ll have all the time in the world after we’re married but we won’t have such mornings in Bodrum forever.

Why not? We can come back anytime we want; we can buy a beach house here if you want.

Really? Come on, let’s take a shower and head to breakfast, stop corrupting me, I said ruining his plan to lie in bed a little more.

But I want to spend time with you.

Of course you’ll spend time with me, we’ll go out together.

Yes, but I want you just for myself; you’ll be so caught up with the scenery you’ll forget about me if we go outside.

I can’t believe you’re jealous of the scenery I said, surprised and a little ironic.

I’m not jealous, I’m being realistic, I saw how you reacted when we visited the castles, I was just invisible.

Oh, my love, I tried to comfort him and make it up by giving him a warm hug. You can lie in bed for ten more minutes while I shower and then you can take a shower while I get dressed. Ok?

I’ll come with you, we’ll shower together.

No,no,no, I want to get ready quickly and go out and this way we won’t go out before lunch honey, I said and jumped out of bed as if I was trying to run.

Ok, ok, I see I don’t have any chance I heard him say while I went to the bathroom.

Half an hour later we were both dressed in sporty clothes and having breakfast on one of the open terraces of the hotel, the view was divine and the weather was on our side, it was sunny and quite warm outside. We ate in silence, breathing the clean, salty air of the Aegean Sea. Only a few tables away, the bodyguards were also discretely having breakfast. We hired a guide from the hotel and went to visit the ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was a marble museum made out of a podium, the room where the tomb and the sarcophagus were and the ionic columns which supported by a pyramidshaped roof. We then visited the huge ancient GrecoRoman theatre and Myndos gate through which in 334 B.C. Alexander the Great entered in the city, a city which he conquered without destroying. Our expedition continued with a castle built by the Johanniter Crusaders out of the ruins of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, destroyed by a strong earthquake in the XIIth century, namely Saint Peter’s castle. The view here was also breathtaking. I was so sorry I didn’t know about the plan so I could take a camera with me, but I took some pictures with my phone which looked quite ok, so the view was not completely lost, if I ever risked forgetting it, or not remembering that day clearly. We finally arrived at Herodotus’s famous bust where I also took a picture and then we decided to head back to the hotel. We were both tired and starving, but fully satisfied about having fed our spirits because I for one felt a million times richer thanks to what I managed to visit. When we returned to the hotel we were kindly greeted by the staff and spoiled with an opulent dinner full of traditional Turkish plates. We dined outside this time, it seemed like a milder evening, there were candles lit on the table which burned peacefully and next to our table there was a huge blue blanket with golden effects, namely the face of the Aegean Sea under the moonlight. When I returned to the room I had another pleasant surprise, an enormous bouquet of red rosebuds, 101 of them. It was a new proposal in floral language. I immediately fell asleep that night as well, it was a peaceful, restful sleep, I didn’t even feel when the night went by and when Gérard tried to wake me up by whispering in my ear that it was time to get up I believed that he couldn’t sleep and wanted me to keep him company, but the drapes were already opened and the room was invaded by the strong rays of sunlight and Gérard was already dressed and ready to go.

What time is it? I asked in a sleepy voice, hiding my head under the pillow in an attempt to protect myself the powerful rays of sunshine which hurt my eyes.

It’s late enough, which is why I ordered breakfast here my love. Let’s eat here and later we’ll pack.

We’re leaving already? I asked, amazed and sad at the same time, taking my head out from under the pillow.

Yes, honey, but just to head to another destination, don’t be so sad so early in the morning.

What do you mean?

I mean, what about a short or even longer visit to another continent, somewhere with sun, mountains, seaside but which is also intimate?

Like what? I asked, surprised and excited, forgetting that we had to leave Bodrum.

How do you feel about Brazil?

Wow, Brazil my love, do you still have to ask? I know it’s superb, it’s another lively paradise.

We both ate in the hotel room and packed our bags. Before heading to the airport we spent a few more minutes on the terrace of the hotel to say goodbye to such a sublime paradise. It was a long flight but it was worth the effort to spend all those hours waiting. If I ever dreamt about paradise I clearly didn’t have the slightest image about what this word really meant. We checked into a hotel in Angra dos Reis. This is how I discovered this town on the Costa Verde Fulminese between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. A magical place through definition, which had mountains covered by a virgin jungle. The road to the hotel itself was special, with no traffic signs, made out of small tiles and patches of green grass from place to place.

It looked more like a path, everything around us was green, such a special and pleasant exotic vegetation which gave the air a surplus of cleanness and freshness. Around us you could see the ridges of the green mountains. The service at the hotel was flawless; I was truly surprised by the fact that even though it was a luxurious fivestar hotel, it had something special, which made you feel at home rather than in a foreign place. The pièce de resistance of the whole apartment was of course a canopy bed, a simple one with white sheets and drapes of the same pure color. It was a wooden construction which reminded me of mountain cabins but with an air of comfort specific to seaside hotel rooms. The bathroom was extremely special, an unusually large room with a Jacuzzi placed on a massive wooden bed, all in warm, lively colors. There were large vases in every room with exotic flowers. The first course consisted in a traditional dish “feijoada”, a bean stew with pork meat like my mom makes but this one was served with cabbage and orange slices on the side, which made the digestion process easier and the second course consisted in breaded calamari served in bread baskets. For desert we enjoyed a consistent portion of pudding, the Brazilian kind of course and Brigadeiros. When it came to drinks, we wanted to try something traditional so we served a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail which seemed to contain a local alcoholic drink, a sort of brandy with lemon, sugar and of course ice.

We spent our time in the sun and tanning on the beach, where I could also enjoy Gérard’s childish side, as he wouldn’t stop surprising me with various spontaneous and affectionate gestures. We loved spending time in a special place behind the hotel, which looked like a grove full of greenery and freshness. Here we had, like everywhere else in fact, enough privacy. We could have stayed like that forever, sitting on those beach chairs in the sun which were covered by some protective umbrellas which could be used if needed. While we were talking or making future plans together, behind us I could hear the river which sprung from a large mountain flowing. Gérard taught me the steps of the minuet and allemande. He was an extremely skilled teacher and amused me a lot but it made me love him even more.

I had forgotten about everything, friends, school, family, time. We spent our time relaxing and strengthening our bond. There was no TV, no phone and no internet, just the two of us and the hotel staff that made sure that we were served with various traditional dishes such as fish stew or marinated chicken with tamarind. I asked recipes I asked for and they were kind enough to give them to me. The green coconut juice was also one of my favorites.

Some days went by this way, theoretically a just few, but practically these days made me feel even more attached to the boyfriend of my dreams which I felt I had known forever and I could vouch for with my very life. I felt empty inside the night when I had to open my suitcase to pack my things and unexpectedly started crying. It was a burning cry, they were burning tears which seemed to literally dig into my cheeks. Something inexplicable was happening in my soul, I couldn’t even define what I was feeling myself. I felt like I was leaving forever, which was true, but it felt like I was leaving my whole life this way, and everything remained there: feelings, memories, roots and I had to head another direction and start over. I felt my heart broken. Yes, this was the right word, because I had felt it before, shattered in thousands of crystal pieces which fell on the marble floor and made a sound which caused fright, terror.

Dalilah, what is it, why are you crying? Gérard asked me in an extremely worried voice as he came into the room and saw me crying in that way.

Tell me please, for the love of God, what’s wrong, what’s happening honey? He went on, seeing that I didn’t answer and just stared at him, with my eyes in tears and hugged him, sinking my head in his warm, firm chest where I spent a couple of moments to calm down. He understood it was what I needed so he left me alone and held me tightly.

Ok, now that you calmed down, can you tell me what it’s about? He asked in a warm, calm voice, seeing that I was breathing more calmly.

I had a weird feeling, all of a sudden.

What feeling?

I can’t explain it exactly, but anyway I felt like a melancholic feeling took me over, and one of separation as well, a final one, as if I knew that tomorrow everything would be different, absolutely different. And to be honest, I don’t want anything to change, I want us to always be like we were lately and I’m somehow aware that once we go home things won’t be the same.

Oh, my love, what stupid things cross your mind, it’s normal to feel nostalgic because it’s a truly divine place and we have to go. This doesn’t mean we won’t spend time together anymore, the wedding will take place soon and then we’ll go on our honeymoon, you have to think about a special place or a series of special places, we’ll go on a tour. You know that only by having you around I can feel truly happy, I’ll make sure that you never miss me my love, remember our love isn’t tied to a certain place, we carry it with us wherever we go, because it is in our hearts.

You promise?

I give you my word of honor, mademoiselle, of course I will!

I hope I’ll never have to remind you of these words.

You definitely won’t have to, but stop being so pessimistic, you’ll never get rid of me, not even if you write to Santa Clause, he said, trying to cheer me up. Should I call and ask for fresh tropical fruit before we go?

Good Idea!

That night I slept almost all the way and the next day before lunch we were already home. I had completely forgotten about the fundraiser gala for the Paris Oncology Center, which was held as a ball, each year in the Parisian capital. I needed a dress to accompany Gérard and the fact that I had to buy it within 24h seemed practically impossible to do. For starters I turned on my phone to let people know I was back and was assaulted by a ton of messages and missed calls, texts which let me know that people missed me but also threatened me and described what would happen to me because I hadn’t called. The truth was I was wrong but I just didn’t realize how time had passed. Gérard had to go to work right after lunch so I took advantage to see the girls who I had bought souvenirs for from Bodrum as well as Brazil. I couldn’t wait to tell them the great news. I went to the dorm to pick them up and then we went to a café. Unfortunately, Darius wasn’t home, he was at a conference, but I went to the apartment to see how it looked and left his gift there, as well as one for his seductive friend who I had treated so badly at our last date. I was home by dinner. When Gérard arrived home too he saw me worried.

What is it honey, are you still melancholic?

No my love, I’m ok, why?

I see you’re a little sad. If you’re not feeling well we can order in.

No, I want to go out, but I keep thinking about the ball tomorrow, I don’t have a dress you know…

Was that the problem honey? He asked, all relieved.

Does that seem unimportant to you?

Yes, it’s a very minor detail.

But also very important to me. You know I won’t come if I can’t find a dress I like.

Consider this problem solved my angel, tomorrow we’ll go check out my grandma’s wardrobe. I said I’d show you her perfume and jewelry collection anyway. I’m sure you’ll find something you like. There are even two century old dresses there which she had from her own grandmother.

I’m sure I’ll find something there, I answered, a little more confident this time.

We finally ordered in and decided to watch a movie together before we went to sleep. We chose a comedy which I had seen before. I pretended not to have seen it because I had seen it long ago and loved watching it again anyway. It was Norbit, so we ended the night with smiles, or better yet laughter. The next morning we showered together, I was starting not to feel embarrassed in his presence anymore. We had breakfast in a rush and anxiously headed to grandma’s castle. We were warmly greeted by Irène and her husband and told her why we were there, went upstairs together and walked into a huge room. She left me alone to choose what I wanted. I could have spent days admiring the clothes without feeling how time went by. It was as organized as it was spacious. Gérard’s grandmother’s wardrobe was a paradise every lady who started becoming aware of the complicated world of fashion yearned for. A lot of shelves on which there were dozens, even hundreds of bags were on the left side of the room. In the middle of the Lshaped room, a pretty long L to be honest there were countless dresses hanging, true jewels which represented various historical periods. I had definitely landed in heaven. How much satisfaction one must feel being aware that they have at their disposal such a generous space for their wardrobe. Not to mention you can fill it up with dresses, shoes, bags, accessories. I mostly knew the dresses, or at least had an impression, an idea about them, the generic beloved corset which unveiled your breasts or on the contrary, it covered them in an almost transparent veil of sensuality. The floorlength bellshaped dress, often worn with the famous crinoline or without it. What caught my eye like an irresistible magnet was a small pyramidal empire which consisted of a generous quantity of vintage jewelry. Next to it, on a vanity table there was also an impressive collection of rare perfumes that Gérard had told me about. I caressed each one with my look and thought for a second about my friend Alex and the face she’d make if she saw this paradise. On the right side of the room was a window which was as tall as I was, if not even taller. When I came in, Irène opened the drapes which is why the room was invaded by a pleasant endofthespring sun. I went closer and looked at the view from behind the castle. It literally filled me with positive energy, this scene I had only seen with the curious eyes of my juvenile imagination, through the books I read and thought once more about how privileged I was to have him in my life. I imagined him as a child, dressed in a bourgeois style running through this seemingly endless property. He must have been a very sweet child. I closed my eyes and gave in to the alluring rays of the sun and thought about his smile, his perfect face, his sweet eyes that he swept away my whole being with, turning me into a slave of his love. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath, relieved at the thought that life and destiny had finally smiled to me and the sun was shining on my street to, both literally and figuratively. The strong and warm rays of sunshine also brought back to life the gentle spark of the precious stones his grandmother once owned. As expected, given her passion for jasmine, in her generous jewelry collection there was also a complete set of accessories which had as reference my beloved flower. I admired a gold necklace which had a peculiar shape, as it started on the right side of the neck and didn’t close in a normal circle. Instead, it ended on the left side where there was a lifesize jasmine with three small rubies in the middle. The earrings represented the same adored flower of course, and the bracelet was a particularly beautiful one. On the wrist three medium jasmine flowers came together, each being the starting point for a fine gold necklace which came together on the middle finger, in a ring with the same predominant aspect which had a prominent solitary ruby in the middle. Being aware that my boyfriend had given me the green light, I decided to borrow this set for the night to follow, then focused on the dresses. I took some out and admired each of them, they were all amazingly beautiful. I looked at them with respect and admiration, they were each one of a kind and an etalon regarding grace and highclass feminine attire. This made my task of choosing one even more difficult, so I stopped for a second and looked at the remaining dresses. I felt anxious for a second because although I was fascinated by all of them I still couldn’t pick one. I didn’t have enough time to try on even half of them. I closed my eyes and let fate decide. I spun around three times by along that huge “L”, stopped and put my hand on a random dress, which I decided to wear no matter how it looked like. I slowly pulled it out and felt my heart shudder when I opened my eyes. My gaze fell on an adorable pale pink dress. I took it out of its transparent protective cover to take a better look at it and try it on. It had an open chest corset which closed in the back. On the left side, on the bust, three black jasmine flowers were knitted in the shape of a heart on the beautiful silky material. The skirt of the dress was double, and a crinoline could be worn underneath of course. Next to it I found a fan with the face of the great emperor Napoleon Bonaparte painted on the frail cloth but also a bag in the shape of a pale pink basket with black on the sides. It was the perfect dress; I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful one if I had designed it myself. Out of curiosity, I checked out his grandmother’s shoes for a few minutes as well and was overwhelmed by a panorama of lively colors and various flower prints. Most of them were highheels but they were too large for me, so I decided to wear the shoes I bought for my dinner with Christian. I called Gérard to ask him to go to his apartment and bring them along when he came back with the hairdresser. I then called downstairs using the famous antique bell and Irène came upstairs. I asked her to help me with my crinoline.

What do you think Irene? Do you like it?

Wow, princess, a true princess or countess, whatever you wish my love, Irène declared admiratively.

Come on Irene, stop exaggerating, I still look horrible, I have to see how it looks with the crinoline on and do my hair. You know, I have never worn a crinoline so far. I’m nervous, I thought I’d only get to wear this kind of dress for my wedding. Irène I’m so thrilled about this event, besides the charitable side of it it’s one of my dreams coming true. Have you ever gone to such an event Irène? Do you know how things work?

Don’t worry honey, don’t be nervous, it’s just a simple occasion to appear dressed up and wear overthetop wigs and hats, you know, the ones that are the size of an umbrella, it’s the charitable aspect that matters, the rest…

Really? They exaggerate that much? I asked, somehow worried that I might come in contrast with the usual scenery. However, I adored this kind of exaggeration, I couldn’t wait to see them.

Did Gérard tell you that once every three years they choose a queen of the ball? The last one was chosen three years ago so they’re going to pick again this year.

I can’t believe it!

You’d better believe it, they put a golden crown made out of jasmine flowers incrusted with diamonds and rubies on her head.

Wow, that’s impossible, Gérard didn’t say anything. I was sure…

But why? Why jasmine, that’s such a coincidence…

I wouldn’t say so, it was Madame Josephine, Gérard’s grandmother’s wish and idea. It was her initiative to organize this charity, 23 years ago, you didn’t know this either, did you?

No, Irene, Gérard didn’t have time to mention this either I said, smiling slightly embarrassed. That explains the jasmine.

Tonight’s crown will surely be yours, Irene predicted enthusiastically while finished putting on my crinoline.

Stop messing with me Irèneee!!!

Look at yourself for a second Dalilah, my gorgeous princess, she said while pointing to the mirror.

Irèneee, what did I tell you???

Fineee, we’ll talk about it in the morning, you’ll come back here anyway. I could bet on a litre of green tea that you’ll be queen!!!

Oh yes? What makes you think we’ll come back here Irene? And why green tea?

I just figured, I guess you will, I’m not sure, as for the tea, isn’t it your favorite?

Yes, but as long as we’re making a bet we’ll make a serious one. I suggest you tell me an important secret from Gérard’s life, being in his life for so many years I guess you know him better than his own mother, and I’ll do the same, or better yet if I lose I’ll owe you a bottle of champagne, what do you say?

Ok, but I’ll want to hear an important secret from your life!

You have a deal Irène!

What time does he get back?

Well, what time is it? Quarter past five.

He should get here any minute, he said he’d bring me a hair stylist and makeup artist here so I don’t have to waste time at the salon. Where do you think we could do that?

The guest salon would be best, or Madame Josephine’s bedroom would be even better, she has a very large mirror there.

You think? G won’t mind?

Mind you say? When it comes to you and your wishes? Impossible! I’ll go see if they’re here.

You sure like exaggerating Irène! If he’s here don’t let him come in please, just bring the two, I want him to see me at the end.

You’re beautiful anyway sweetie, but have it your way!

Before going downstairs she showed me the way to Gérard’s grandmother’s room. I opened the door and slowly walked towards the boudoir of the most important person of his whole life, his beloved grandmother who was a loving granny as well as a protective mother to him. A smile of old, antique pleasantly tickled my nostrils, like an old book you open up randomly and absorb the insatiable and unmistakable smell of, the so familiar and familial smell of my childhood, always alive in the depths of my soul. There was a canopy bed of unmatchable beauty in the back of the room which thrilled my sight. Everything was made of golden silk: the sheets, the drapes, the tablecloth and the cover of the chair which was in front of the table where she probably used to write her letters. The tapestry depicted roses and rosebuds. Next to the bed there was a vanity table where her personal things were still in perfect order, from the hairbrush to the bottle of perfume, which you could have thought she just used moments ago. I imagined her here, in front of this mirror, brushing her hair shortly before retiring behind the curtain in her wonderful canopy bed or powdering room before going downstairs for dinner or taking part in a ball. Such a ritual should be part of every woman’s everyday life. Being able to spend time contemplating yourself, appreciating and eventually improving your various physical and moral qualities. The way we do it today, the women of today, we lose the notion of time. If we take time for a more thorough look in the mirror we notice with amazement and consternation that we’ve grown old, maybe too soon. What we see doesn’t represent us because we forgot to look more often and more attentively and now we’re unrecognizable. Yesterday’s female routines have become history, because we have less and less time to dedicate to ourselves. We’re too hurried to get somewhere, probably at the finish line and in this crazy race for time we lose its true notion, we waste precious time. We’ve ran unconsciously to meet halfway the time that passed anyway and left severe signs on our face. Only then do we stop for a second and meditate about what we’ve done. We’ve gone through life but life just passed by, making us pay attention to its importance a little too late. In the end we’re left with the spiritual satisfaction but many of us are searching and what we find is an abyss full of regrets, failures and frustrations, because many of us act like we’ll live forever.

I sat down on the chair in front of the mirror and looked at my face carefully. I wasn’t a beautiful woman, at least not the natural kind with porcelain skin which was always at the center of the novels I read, but I had a pleasant appearance and felt extremely good in my skin.

I still have to admit God was generous with me when he decided my physical aspect but especially when he allowed that all the traits my Moirae invoked at my baptism come true. The door opened and Irène and the other two girls who would turn me into a true Victorian beauty came in. We introduced ourselves and they asked what I wanted, prepared their utensils and we started with the hair. All my hair was put up in a bun made of carefully chosen curls, while my face was framed by other curls left loose to give me a more natural look. The eyeliner, mascara and foundation were the main elements which made up my equally natural makeup. In less than an hour and a half I was ready. I put on my accessories and high heels which Irène had brought from downstairs and looked in the mirror again, actually admired myself because the reflection of the mirror in front of me was a special one, fairytalelike…and it was me, it was my face. I asked Irène to take a picture with my phone to make sure that I’d have this image to look at when I start forgetting. I went down the garnet – red stairs which lead to the salon. At the end of the stairs the prince of my dreams was waiting for me dressed in a black suit with a pale pink shirt and a black bowtie. Irène kept talking about the beauty and grace of an innate princess but I heard her from afar, I almost couldn’t understand a single word she articulated. I felt like I was floating on the crystal stairs of a frail, indecipherable dream. The warm touch of his firm hand made me aware of the fact the scene I was just taking part in was real.

Wow, Dalilah, my love you are breathtakingly beautiful, I must honestly confess I have fallen in love again.

That’s a very bad sign my love. This can suggest that you could forget about me at any time and easily get distracted by the charms of a younger and more beautiful lady.

Stop twisting my words Dalilah, I love you, honestly and unconditionally, he confessed while he pulled me towards him, my now generous bust, thanks to the corset which was as tightened as humanly possible pressed against his warm firm chest.

I want you, you’re irresistible my love, I can barely stop myself from pulling the strings of this corset and tasting every part of your delicate, fresh body he whispered in my ear.

That’s a perfect choice of cufflinks I said, trying to change the subject, because to be honest it turned me on too to feel him so close and hear him saying that he wanted me.

I had to match your accessories, right? I was sure you’d choose this set. My grandmother would have been proud to see you, my delicate jasmine.

And I would have been honored and thrilled to meet her Gérard, I feel so flattered that I’m wearing one of her dresses.

You’re an angel on earth, you deserve all the best, I hope I’ll be worthy and never disappoint you, not even with a simple gesture or word.

I hope so too Gérard, you’d break my heart, anyway I’m aware there will be small misunderstandings like in any normal couple but not disappointments because those hurt and end up withering the freshness of our love in time.

I’m aware of that…I’ll do my best to prevent that from happening. Shall we?

Yes, I’m ready. We said goodbye to Irene and her husband and headed to the exit.

At the door, one of Gérard’s employees was waiting for us. Lucien was our chauffeur for the night. He had officially become Monique’s boyfriend from that night I set them up. On the way we talked about the beginning of their relationship but also our vacation and engagement and time flew by because 45 minutes later we were dropped off in front of a majestic building. I was nervous but walking hand in hand with him made me feel sure of myself, I stepped firmly and elegantly, it was a night I intended to enjoy, to taste the magic and color of the event. There was a full team of reporters in front of this entrance too, but they were politer than the other ones and left a path so we could have room to walk even if we were blinded by the flashes and assaulted with dozens of questions. We climbed a couple of stairs and went into a true ballroom as we often see in historical movies. A sea of color, lively, shiny colors, dresses, hairdos, hats and faces which seemed historically appropriate. Time seemed to have stopped or maybe I seemed to be transposed in a fairytale time. At the entrance there was a butler wearing a white tail coat who announced our arrival saying loud and clear: “Marquis Gérard le Vernière and his fiancée Dalilah Victoria Siriacov!” We were greeted by an avalanche of curious, perplex, and even stupefied looks but also a lot of people who congratulated us on our engagement. It was official, our engagement was now a certain thing, so it was not a dream. Making room through the crowd which surrounded us, Gérard’s mother and cousin came up to us and scolded us in a serious voice for finding out this way but ended up by congratulating us and giving us their blessing.

Gérard’s cousin offered to be the maid of honor, letting us know that it was not negotiable. As expected, joining them was also the sisterinlaw Antoinette, who was in no hurry to congratulate us. Moreover, taking advantage of the fact that I was engaged in a conversation with Katy she put her hand on Gérard’s left arm, luring him into a seemingly intimate conversation, or at least that’s how it looked from the outside, which I couldn’t stomach, considering that Gérard didn’t protest. On the contrary, he let himself be lured by her in that dialogue. I was pretending to pay attention to Katy but in fact my full attention was focused on my fiancée who had been talking for a few minutes with the one who he once had in his bed, probably the same bed where I now sleep next to him. He seemed to play along, because at one point she put her hand on his shoulder and for a second he put his hand around her waist, or just touched her, anyway…the scene was so repulsive that I almost left his cousin alone midsentence. I excused myself and headed to the bathroom, almost running, when I relieved myself of all the venom my eyes had drank. I spent some time in the bathroom and the fact that Gérard wasn’t alarmed or looking for me made me even angrier. I washed my hands attentively and tried not to think about it anymore, I told myself I shouldn’t pay so much importance to some insignificant gestures. After wall, we were engaged, he loved me, he told me so many times, he made our relationship public that evening and besides…her of all women?

Impossible! He must already be waiting by the bathroom door, poor boy…God, how unjust I was towards him and yet my female intuition told me otherwise. I briefly shook my head as if this way all my suspicious thoughts would disappear and held my head high, going out a little more confident. The first face I was expecting to see was his, but there was no trace of him outside. I headed to our table and crossed paths with a waiter who was carrying a tray of full glasses so I took one without even asking if it was something I liked or not and drank it all. I felt that liquid forming a hot channel towards my stomach but didn’t pay attention to it.

Oh, mademoiselle Dalilah, right? Marquis de Vernière’s fiancée, why would you intend to get drunk before the evening even started? The guy whose inauguration we had gone to a few days ago and who Gérard couldn’t stand asked with no discretion at all.

Would I need a reason to drink a little alcohol at a ball?

A shot like the one I just saw is a gesture which comes in contrast with the elegance and fragility of a lady such as yourself Dalilah, if I may call you like this.

I don’t doubt for a second your perspicacity but it can sometimes fail, you must admit that. Amongst young people nowadays drinking is simply trendy, with no reason.

Maybe, here’s my card again, in case you lost the other one. I’d be more than thrilled if you would be the image of my new agency at least once. I assure you that you won’t regret it.

Oh, I’m sure I didn’t lose it, I said feeling embarrassed immediately as I remembered the moment when Gérard cut him off by saying I didn’t need it for anything, when he first tried to give it to me.

I must insist!

Ok, I finally said hoping that I’d be spared of prolonging the dialogue this way. I’m in a hurry, I’m expected.

Oh, take your time, your fiancée is where you left him before you went to the bathroom. Maybe we can go out for dinner sometime, so I can put my persuasion skills to use.

Your persuasion skills have no effect on me monsieur. If you want to have dinner I’d more than delighted. I’ll come with my fiancée, who will you bring? And a useful piece of advice, don’t waste any more of your time on him, he can take care of himself.

It’s a onetime invitation mademoiselle Dalilah.

Then no is my onetime answer monsieur! And if you don’t mind I’d like to be on my way, the way I was heading before you stopped me.

Please, at least a dance later on…and yet I have a feeling that our paths will cross one day, maybe for the same reason as today, he ended, getting out of my way. I slowly pulled up the front of my dress and walked to my table without giving him an answer. And yet, who was this gentleman and what did he want from me?

As I arrived at the table I found everyone except Gérard, who was in the same place and company but this time another gentleman had joined in. Maybe they wanted a threesome, the malicious side of my ego said. What on Earth could they be discussing for so long? How rude of him to leave me prey to strangers and entertain himself by talking to a whore. Katy introduced me to a good friend of hers, a med student.

So management…I understood correctly, right?

I see my dear Katy had time to tell you all about me. Gynecology right?

How did you know?

Your fingers. I’m kidding, just a guess. Yes, public affairs in general, I like working with people although I’m the most difficult manipulation “tool”, metaphorically speaking. I like offering services with a smile, I hate employees who have a long face and can’t even stand themselves, the kind who end up making you feel uncomfortable.

That’s nice. I’ll be working with people too, ladies in fact.

Yes, that’s a nice job.

What do you say mademoiselle Dalilah, will you do me the honor of giving me your first dance?

I’d love to, I hope not to disappoint you though, I must admit I admire old dances but I haven’t practiced any so far. So, I’m scared of stepping on your toes, or worse, stepping on my dress and falling in your arms or on the floor.

My arms wouldn’t be a problem; the floor would be worse he said in a tone which became instantaneously charming.

My Victorian princess, will you do me the honor of your first dance? Gérard, who apparently had finished his long conversation, interrupted us.

Oh, look who showed up, I’m sorry my dear, you’re a little late, I already gave my first dance to this young gentleman here, an honorable med student and future gynecologist.

I understand, but can’t it be revoked?

Impossible my dear!

But it’s your first dance, he insisted.

And my word, if you had given me a moment of your time a little earlier…but you didn’t, I insisted, putting an end to any of his attempts make me change my mind.

Five minutes later almost everyone was on the dancefloor and the pairs were already formed. As expected or unexpected, Gérard’s partner was not his mother or Katy as I was expecting but the one who he had spent his whole evening with, which made me feel disappointed and angry for a second. Was Gérard blind? Couldn’t he tell that the presence of this woman around him was bad for me? I was talking about her sheer presence and now they were also about to touch again, maybe in the same places or ways that they used to on their way to the same bed. I felt a smoldering fire inside, fire which became more and more intense as we danced. His hand around her waist, her hands around his neck, their bodies touching at times slowly, at times more violently depending on the rhythm of the dance made me sick. It was a suffocating sickness. At the end of this tormenting dance Gérard still had something to object because he came to us and told my dance partner that I was engaged and not to anyone but precisely to him, and that if he was ever allowed a second dance he should remember that he must keep his hands above my waist, which made me burst into a sarcastic laughter.

Shall we continue Gérard? The crowned prince of bitches interrupted us.

Really? Even centuries ago when people were considered to be less civilized, a dance proposal or invitation, however you may call it, was addressed by the man! I answered for him looking at her from head to toes ostentatiously and sketching a grimace of disgust, then picked up my dress slowly and turned my back on them not giving her the chance to reply. I sat at the table next to Katy and noticed that the others had followed.

I didn’t imagine my first and probably last Victorian ball this way, I confessed to Katy disappointed. I looked around, consternated by what had happened and my eyes fell on the gentlemen who I had stumbled across just a few minutes ago. He was observing me ostentatiously. I looked away, trying to ignore him.

You mean the intrigue, irony, envy and broken hearts hidden under perfect smiles? Desires which were suppressed through a simple caprice of society? Let me tell you you’re in the right place Dalilah, because that’s exactly how high society balls of the past centuries were.

I know, but still…

Stop looking at her, she’s a summer day’s fire which is put out by a bitter rain, a summer rain, because the fire is just burning in her mind. My brother doesn’t want her anymore either, her mask is starting to fall off, thank God my brother came to his senses.

Her mask is falling off because that imaginary fire is melting it, I concluded, amused. I wanted to go but Gérard was talking to his mother so I decided not to bother them.

Why didn’t you dance Katy?

No one asked me, these big events tend to bore me. I’d like to go.

To be honest, me too.

You can’t leave before midnight, that’s when they announce the future Queen of the ball.

But I don’t care about that Katy.

How’s come? I’m sure you’ll be the one, you’re shining like a star, you caught everyone’s eye when you came in. You have to stay a little more, come on it’s a quarter to midnight, she insisted, checking her watch.

Come on, Katyyy!

In the meantime I saw Gérard heading towards our table but he stopped halfway, being approached by Antoinette again. I felt that suffocating sickness again. I excused myself again and headed to the bathroom. On my way I literally stumbled on the same monsieur Louis.

Are you ok mademoiselle? Louis asked me preoccupied, catching me in his arms.

I’m sorry, I didn’t see you, I mumbled all embarrassed, looking him straight in the eye.

He was still holding me, I had him so close and from this position he seemed a whole other person.

Dalilah!!! He said, clenching his teeth and literally pulling me away from Louis’s arms. What’s going on here? Never touch her again, do you understand? He threatened Louis, defying him directly.

It was an accident Gérard, I tripped and he…

I don’t want to hear another word, he cut me midsentence, pulling me after him. We leave immediately after midnight and I have a surprise for you afterwards. He refused any kind of discussion about the small incident. He must think I’m a whore like his ex who actually slept with that man, but that didn’t seem to bother him now.

Thank you very much but I think I’ve had enough for just one night. Our attention then shifted to an elderly woman who started talking at the microphone.

It started, Gérard said.

The woman in question introduced herself as the manager of the oncology department from the Paris General Hospital. She thanked all those present for their generosity, for the fact that thanks to them the faces of sad children had lightened up and turned to wide smiles, because their fight against pain ended that way. After an emotional speech about the case of the boy who was spared from death just two days ago the lady called Gérard’s mother on stage to open the envelope with the name of the future queen of charity and to hand her the crown. Thanking all those present, she said: The future queen of charity will bear this title for the next three years and will be present during those three years at every charitable event in the country. Our attention was captured by a lady who distinguished herself through elegance, grace, feminism as well as an unique outfit. Ladies and gentlemen, with 98% of the votes the title goes to mademoiselle Dalilah Siriacov, an etalon of contemporary beauty, which I’d like to invite on stage.

Elegance, where was this elegance coming from when just two hours ago I was in the bathroom puking? When did they have time to look at me? I was speechless and suddenly realized that I was literally pushed by Katy and Gérard on stage to receive my crown. Irène was right, it was a wonderful crown. Gérard’s mother put the crown on my head and gave me the microphone to say a few words.

I tried to pull myself together and looking for a second at the silent crowd I remembered the plays we would act in at the end of each school year on the stage of the summer theatre.

I feel honored, thank you very much. Thank you for making time to think about the others. I’ve always believed in the positive side of humanity. I’m extremely happy for those, who thanks to you have a new chance at life, a normal life, and an honest wide smile which is not hampered by sadness. Because along with them you saved the grieving souls of their beloved ones. Almost three decades ago my aunt fell victim to this disease which was considered incurable at the time, I was too young back then to understand why my mother was crying. I quickly forgot her natural gesture to express her grief and pain, but I haven’t forgotten and will never forget her sad look. You could see in her eyes how torn she was because she had lost her sister. Please excuse me if I made any grammatical mistakes, I’m still learning French. And remember that each of us can really help! I ended my small speech this way, emotional about what I remembered. A team of photographers came to take my picture.

Tomorrow we’ll be on the first page of all the magazines my dear so don’t be scared to use that precious smile, G.’s mother advised me. We slowly headed to our table, always being interrupted by people who congratulated us.

Didn’t I tell you? Katy assaulted me as soon as I approached the table, giving me a hug and congratulating me at the same time. We decided to leave so, assuring Gérard mother that we’d come to that dinner we kept postponing for some time, we headed to Fierra, which looked like in the old days thanks to Irène’s husband and soninlaw.

Did you say you liked riding?

Did I ever say that? I asked, apparently surprised.

Yes.

That’s impossible!

Ok, then I thought that being a diehard fan of a longgone world and civilization you must like riding, that’s how princesses left their castles incognito back then.

Indeed and yes, I love riding Gérard, I used to do it quite often in my summer vacations when I was a child and went to see my grandparents in the countryside.

This is Thunder, an Arabian pure blood horse, he said introducing a black stallion with a gorgeous ridge. And this is Hope, he said, showing me a white mare of a rare beauty. I came close to it and patted her on her stomach, ridge and then caught her head and chastely kissed her on her nose, breathing in her wild scent.

Who picked their names?

I did, why?

I thought you didn’t speak English.

And if I’m not mistaken I told you before, I had to find a way to talk to you, at least through some English grammar lessons, he replied as he was putting the saddle on my mare. Can I help you mount? Come on!

Oh God, with this crinoline I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Wait a second so I can take off my crinoline. I got rid of it and then with his help I mounted the Hope of my future. He mounted as well and we went out of the stable.

Where are we going to go riding Gérard?

Behind the castle there are a couple dozen yards of land which we also own, there’s also a lake, a cliff, the forest where my ancestors used to go hunting and when my father was alive we used to go during our summer vacations. Don’t worry, there are enough places where we can go, follow me!

Gérard, you’ve never talked about your father before…

It’s a delicate subject for me, we’ll have time to talk. We went down a slightly abrupt valley where our horses slowly started galloping. How great I felt this way, the wind in my face caressing my body and soul. And now I had him only for myself, I finally didn’t have to share him with anyone. We got close to the cliff and walked along the seashore slowing down gradually.

Why did you let that guy touch you in front of my eyes? He burst into an access of contained jealousy.

What? I asked, amazed by the nerve he had.

You heard my question.

I was just thinking that maybe if you say it again you’d hear yourself and take it back. I’m really surprised that you noticed I was there too, and that I was someone else’s company, given how absorbed you were by the lady you spent three quarters of the evening with. It looked like only the two of you were there and everything around you stood still.

Dalilah, stop exaggerating and don’t turn the situation in your favor!

Gérard you were the one who exaggerated, you spent the whole evening together, I barely even existed for you tonight, I said as a reproach, letting the helms of the horse down since he had been spinning in a circle for some time anyway. And I ran, I literally and figuratively ran away leaving everything behind, jealousy, sadness, repulsion, disappointments and him. He caught up with me and asked me to slow down because we had to talk. He came close and put his hand on me, then grabbed the helms of my horse thus forcing him to stop.

Dalilah, we have to talk!

Yes Gérard, we do have to talk and you have to explain what it is with that woman and what part she still plays in your life.

She’s my cousin, that’s all.

Oh, yes and do you sleep with all your cousins?

Oh God, who told you that?

Why did you keep this from me Gérard? Did it seem unimportant to you? How do you think I felt seeing you around her the whole evening? Talking to her, smiling at her, dancing with her, touching her Gérard…what do you think was in my soul given your common past?

I’m sorry Dalilah, I didn’t think it was necessary since it was in the past.

The past you say Gérard? Hmmm, it sure looked damn near real and present to me Gérard. And I made my horse run once again, this time not stopping it or myself from crying until I reached the stables. I dismounted by myself and wiped away my tears. When I wanted to go out I saw him on his horse blocking my way. Seeing me like that, he quickly dismounted and hugged me tightly, asking me to stop crying, apologizing for being so ignorant, saying that he didn’t do it on purpose and it was a mistake which would never happen again.

We went up to our room and under the pretense that I wanted to take a shower I locked myself in the bathroom where I managed to finish what I had started earlier without being interrupted. When I went out of the bathroom he was waiting for me next to the fireplace. I hugged him and took a deep breath. He put his firm hands around my waist, snuck a hand under my nightgown and lasciviously touched me on the inner side of my tights, slowly waking up my desire. He whispered that he missed me and wanted me.

His hand went up until it reached my lingerie. He snuck his hand inside, moving more and more quickly. He slowly laid me down on the carpet in front of the fireplace and climbed on top of me, kissing me impatiently, while tearing up my lace dress and panties with violent moves. He kissed me on the neck and my breasts biting my nipples violently. He was so anxious to possess me…so sexy, so excited. He walked his tongue on my stomach with so much passion that it felt like a flame leaving deep marks. His head was between my legs and I felt my already wet vagina invaded by his burning tongue. Making sure I was wet he climbed on top of me and penetrated me with sudden, violent, rough movements again and again and…oh, how sweet he was unleashed in this way.

The next morning, I woke up alone, he had probably already left for work. In my room there were nine baskets full of jasmine flowers, going around the bed and forming a pathway to the bathroom door. On the nightstand next to the bed there was a note which said “good morning my princess: On one of the bouquets next to the bed there was another red note with another message through which he apologized once more for being so unfair towards me and also for being aggressive in our intimate moments. The truth was I could still feel his touch between my legs, a slightly aggressive recurrence. I felt the difference in age, style and experience. On the bathroom door there was another note which said, in capitals “JE T’AIME ĖNORMEMENT DALILAH SIRIACOV, MON AMOUR!!!” His gestures made me smile again and I started my day serene and full of optimism. I went down for breakfast where Irène greeted me, waiting for me to honor my deal. I shared an intimate moment of my life with her, then headed to see the girls at the dorm.

The next week was quite busy for me, I spent it with the girls at the dorm studying for exams together. I passed two of them with flying colors which made me feel satisfied. Things were going perfectly; I was on cloud nine. I missed Gérard, I hadn’t seen him for so long, it felt like years. On my way home I saw a tattoo parlor so I found the courage to go inside and ask them to tattoo on the side of my ring finger “I ♥ u G” and below the neck the symbol of our love, a fleurdelis. It hurt, but it was worth the effort, I couldn’t wait to show them to Gérard. One thing was sort of bothering me though, the excessive somnolent state I was in lately and the sickness which until then I had assumed were the results of the sleepless nights I had spent studying. To make sure I went to a drugstore and bought two pregnancy tests.

As soon as I arrived home, I headed straight to the bathroom and took one. Time seemed to have slowed down, I was nervous. I found the courage to check the device and saw the result was positive. I took the second one, sure that it was a mistake and I should get my period any day now. That’s impossible, I haven’t even graduated yet, I’m not married and I’m still young, I don’t feel ready for this step. I involuntarily massaged my stomach, which was quite flat, and thought again that it’s simply impossible for a new life to lie in there. I then remembered Gérard, I wasn’t alone. He wanted a child, yes, I heard him say it loud and clear. I decided not to tell him anything on the phone that night and to surprise him the next day by visiting him at the office. I didn’t even feel the night go by because I got very little sleep, spending my time planning, worrying and sometimes giggling with happiness.

I started the day so happy that I felt like I was floating, and unable to stop admiring my stomach, which I already looked at differently, because it seemed swollen to me. I put on a pale pink dress with floral prints, nude tights and a black trench which could be closed all the way up, with buttons in the style of old French military uniforms. I put on a pair of black shoes and called a cab. I finally got to the secretary’s desk which was outside of his, all nervous and hopeful. Because there was nobody there I waited for a while to ask for permission to enter, because I didn’t want to go in at the wrong time, such as a meeting. I waited for a couple of minutes but nobody showed up. That was weird, either time was passing very quickly for me or I had already waited for quite a while there without anyone showing up. Pushed by anxiety and the illfated hand of destiny I slowly opened the door, to be able to retreat unnoticed in case there were more people there. However, the door was open and at my touch it cracked wide open letting me see something which left me speechless. Gérard, who was standing up behind his desk and had his back at the door, from where his fiancée and future child could see him was engaged in a passionate kiss with none other than his famous cousin, which didn’t mean anything, absolutely anything for him just a week ago. I couldn’t feel my legs, nor my heart beating, I just stood there for a couple of seconds, hoping that that image would go away soon, proving to be a fruit of my imagination, but that had no chance of happening. They didn’t move at all or let each other go. I turned around and used my last drop of energy to run from that incredible scene which burned my soul, my eyes, my hope, my love…I felt so powerless I couldn’t even cry. I called a cab and asked to be taken as far from that place as possible. I wrote Gérard a text telling him that I got back with my exfiancée and returned to Romania. I asked to be dropped off at the Seine when the driver asked me again where exactly I wanted to go. I got off and when I saw the water, the green of May chestnuts and felt the gentle touch of the wind I burst into a bitter cry which burned my cheeks. I went down to the Seine to feel it closer to me. I went down the stairs, almost running, they seemed to move at the same time with myself and the tears in my eyes. Why?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy??????

My whole being was screaming. I tripped and rolled down the stairs. I stood still, prey to the physical pain I didn’t feel that moment anyway because what hurt me more was inside, inside my soul, my broken heart. I felt a warm shiver go through my whole body, becoming hotter and hotter, burning, flowing through me and leaving me too. I cried for help but my scream was silent and my lips stood still.

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