He had fallen from grace. So far, so hard.
Yet he couldn’t make himself feel as bad as he knew he should.
Despite going against the teachings of his church, against his professional ethics, against his own moral code, Carl knew that he would do it all again.
He stood there in the middle of Paris, looking at the girl who had upturned his entire world. What was he going to do?
Juliet smiled at him, looking strangely shy, and his heart overturned.
He had never felt like this about Rebecca or any other girl. It gave him a chill to think that he could have committed his entire life to his former fiancée when it was possible to feel like this about someone else.
“There’s no point having a conversation about how I shouldn’t have done that, is there?” he said.
“I guess not.” Juliet found it hard to speak.
So where did they go from here?
“It’s wrong on so many levels.” Carl was trying to convince himself that it must never happen again.
“It didn’t feel wrong. It felt anything but wrong.” Juliet was looking up at him and it was hard to resist the urge just to kiss her all over again.
“I know.” What had surprised Carl was that kissing her, even though she was his student, didn’t really feel wrong. While he wasn’t exactly expecting the heavens to crack open and punish him with a thunderbolt, he had expected to feel some kind of censure. Some Divine disapproval. Or had what he had done cut him off from God?
“I’ve been wanting you to do that for so long,” Juliet said.
“I know. You weren’t the only one,” Carl admitted.
She gave him a seductive smile that shook what was left of his composure. “I wish it was just us in Paris. No one else. So we could spend all this time together.”
The mention of the others brought Carl back from his thoughts with a jolt. The others - what was the time? He could only imagine the fallout if Anne Mead and the rest of the choir suddenly emerged from the museum to witness everything. He glanced at his watch and to his relief saw that they still had plenty of time before the group was due to finish their tour.
“Let’s head back towards the Louvre entrance,” he said.
Outside the museum they found a bench by a fountain and sat together. They could have just been any couple walking together in Paris, Juliet thought. No one around them knew that they were two people who had just crossed a massive line.
A street vendor came past with a basket of postcards and plastic trinkets in the shape of Paris monuments. He had a wire hoop strung with models of the Eiffel Tower around his neck. “You buy?” he asked Juliet. “Une tour Eiffel?” But she declined.
Carl however gave the man some Euros and handed Juliet a snow globe with the Louvre inside it. “You should have a souvenir,” he said.
She shook it, watching the snowflakes fall over the pyramid, and looked him directly in the eye. “What would you like me to remember?”
He returned her gaze. “I would like to remember all of this. But it still has to stop.” He saw the disappointment in her eyes.
“I don’t see why. We’re two free adults.”
It was true. At least here in Europe, they effectively were. If they never went back, if he got a job and a place here and they both stayed… he stopped his thoughts going in such an absurd direction. “You’re my student, Juliet, it’s considered an abuse of power.”
“It’s not like you ordered me to do anything.” She looked up at him again, a suggestive smile on her face. “Though I wouldn’t mind if you did.”
Carl wouldn’t even let himself go there. “I’m a lot older than you. You might be eighteen but that’s barely an adult.”
“It’s on the shelf by Roman standards.” They had learnt in class that girls in Ancient Rome married from as young as twelve, though usually between fourteen and sixteen.
“I don’t think those are the standards we want to live by today,” he said.
Juliet determined to break his resolve. “You won’t even be my teacher forever. It’s only a few months until graduation.”
“I’m well aware of that.” Carl was far too conscious of it. He was letting his thoughts wander to what might happen after that time, which was totally inappropriate. “Juliet, I need some time to think about all of this. Let’s talk about it when we get back.”
Her heart leapt in hope. “Do you mean…?”
“I don’t mean anything. I just need us to remain professional and not risk everything on an impulse,” he said.
“Is that what I am to you? An impulse?”
Even as she said this Carl realised that she was so much more. “No, you’re not. And that’s the problem, which is why we both need some time. I promise we’ll talk about this back home. For now let’s just concentrate on the choir trip.”
“If that’s what you really want.”
It wasn’t what he wanted. What he wanted was to take her in his arms and shut out the rest of the world. To kiss her and hold her and be with her, ignoring the consequences.
But the consequences would be disastrous. He would lose his job, Juliet would likely be expelled and might even be thrown out of home: Carl had no idea how her aunt would react but he doubted a red carpet would be rolled out for him. There was no way he wanted to put her through that kind of ordeal. She seemed tough but he had seen the fragility in her when she had confided in him about her past.
Most of all he wanted things to be right with God, for her sake more than his. She deserved that.
"Oh. My. God.” Margot fished in her purse and brought out a one hundred dollar bill. “Here you are.”
“What’s this for?”
“The bet. I never thought you’d wear him down.”
Juliet pushed the money back at her. “I haven’t. It was just a kiss. So you’ve won.”
Just a kiss… it was so much more than that. More than if she had slept with him, in fact.
“We’ll call it a draw then,” Margot said. “If we’d known he was such a devout Baptist we probably wouldn’t have made that bet.”
Juliet wouldn’t have wanted the money even if she had won. It was so much more than a game to her now.
Margot was adjusting her makeup in front of the mirror, trying to appear rested but still a little weak. She had spent the afternoon going crazy on the Champs Elysées and stashing all her purchases in her suitcase out of sight if Miss Mead visited their room. “Do I look like a recovered invalid?” she asked Juliet.
“Not wearing that jacket that you obviously just bought here,” Juliet said.
Looking annoyed but knowing Juliet was right, Margot removed it. “So what’s next for you?”
“As I mentioned, he wants to think about it.”
Margot groaned. “The pace this guy moves at he’s going to be retired and moving to Florida before he ever gets laid.”
Juliet sincerely hoped not. “The thing is I really like him.”
“What do you mean you like him?”
“I mean, I like him more than I thought I would,” Juliet said.
Margot, who had been applying make up, paused and looked at her. “Don’t tell me you’ve actually fallen for him. Seriously? This was just supposed to be fun.”
“He’s so religious,” Margot continued. “Imagine having to go to his church every night. Because if you were dating him, that’s what you’d have to do.”
The word “dating” gave Juliet a secret thrill. “They seemed like nice enough people.”
Margot raised her eyebrows. “I can just imagine how nice they’d be if they found out you were his student and it was all completely illegal.”
Time was running out for them to join the others downstairs so Juliet hurriedly fixed her own hair and she and Margot left their room. Miss Mead was relieved to see Margot looking well again and didn’t show any suspicion about her supposed illness that day.
“I’m sorry you missed the Pompidou, it was quite an experience. I’m sure the others can show you their photos.”
“That would be great,” Margot replied. She couldn’t imagine anything more dull.
True to his word Mr Spencer had arranged for them all to have dinner at Montmartre after their visit to Sacré-Cœur. This would allow them to spend some time looking at the artists and buying souvenirs.
Nuns were singing in the basilica as they entered, like a choir of angels. Juliet was entranced.
“I wish we sounded like that,” she said to Margot.
Even Margot was momentarily silenced by the beauty of the voices raised in song. “Is that French or Latin?” she whispered.
Juliet wasn’t sure.
Mr Spencer was standing away from her, deliberately she thought. He had greeted her but was studiously ensuring that he was always with a group of people. At least he wasn’t avoiding her. But it wasn’t safe to catch his eye, let alone to hope he might hold her hand.
Juliet would just have to be patient. It wasn’t the virtue that came easiest to her.
On the flight back, having managed to avoid further conflict with Cynthia, Juliet and Margot were able to sit together.
“I know you’d rather be sitting by holy boy but you’re stuck with me,” Margot told her. “Take care not to drool over me like you did over him.”
Juliet laughed. “I did not drool, I just fell asleep.”
“I meant it figuratively.”
They were both sad to leave Paris and determined to return one day. Margot was fantasising about studying at the Sorbonne and spending her university days hanging out at cafés with handsome French philosophy students.
Juliet joined her in imagining it, but knew that such a future would be completely impossible for her. Whatever she did after graduating high school was going to be limited by lack of money. There was no way that either she or her aunt could afford an expensive college, let alone living in Europe as a foreign student.
“Do you think your parents would let you do that?” she asked Margot. “Study in Paris”
“Probably, if I got the grades, and so long as I ended up doing international law or something my mom would consider worthwhile.” Margot’s mother was a corporate lawyer.
It would be good to just travel and live overseas for a year, Juliet thought. Take a round the world trip and work in bars or whatever to support herself. And figure out what she wanted to do longer term.
Margot had let Juliet take the window seat as flying was such a new experience for her, so when Mr Spencer came past them during the flight he leant on Margot’s seat to talk with them.
“Having a good flight?”
“It’s not so bad,” Margot said. “Except for the food.”
“It will be dawn US time when we land, so you should enjoy some good views,” he told Juliet. For a fraction of a second there was a connection between them but then he moved on, abruptly.
After he had gone Juliet felt subdued. “You know that he’s closer in age to Miss Mead than me?” she said to Margot.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about. He doesn’t look like the type to go for an older woman. And he looks even less like the type to go for Miss Mead,” Margot said.
This wasn’t quite what Juliet meant but she said nothing further. Was the age gap between her and Mr Spencer really absurd? It was nearly ten years. If only they were both Romans, no one would blink an eye.