A Parisian Adventure

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl of nineteen who longs to see a wider world travels to Paris to search for love, happiness and delight.

Submitted: December 30, 2010

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Submitted: December 30, 2010

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It was my first and only time in Paris, France. I was nineteen, terribly young and stubborn, eager to see more of the world. I left England after my mother passed away, leaving my stricken father with a short letter explaining my disappearance. As I have said, I was stubborn. Enveloped in my selfish thoughts, I packed two small suitcases with my best clothes, determined to find love, happiness and excitement in Paris. I had lived a sheltered life in England. My father brought my mother and me to Sweden once a year, to visit my grandparents. Throughout the years, I began to feel sickeningly bored of English life. I remember a girl at school who boasted of fantastic trips after every break. She would open a velvet box that was filled with photographs of her adventures. She told us how the gondolier in Venice sang, how the coffee in Parisian cafes taste, how Amsterdam’s nightlife excites…I was so envious, even though sometimes her stories seem to stretch farther from the truth. It was those moments in the classroom, looking out of the window, watching the trees sway and dance in the wind, imagining a wholly different scene, cobbled stone streets, a palette of colored lights, the Eiffel Tower and all Parisian wonders, that my desire for Paris ignited.
It was 1927. In my opinion, it was the golden era of Paris. I arrived by ship, two suitcases in hand. I was almost giddy with delight at knowing I succeeded. I had feared my father would find out sooner than I expected, and that he would bring me home. That fear was washed away when I strolled along the streets, watching people afar, sitting gracefully while holding cups of tea and coffee. The smell of freshly grounded coffee had wafted over to me, a smell that I wasn’t familiar with, because my father would not let me drink anything stronger than tea. Whispers of French gossip reached my ears as I passed by the ladies in the café. I remembered rubbing the sole of my shoe onto the shinning cobbled stone roads, delighting myself at the heaven and earth difference between Paris and England. I checked into Hotel de Crillon, paying with the money I had stolen from my father.
Looking out of my hotel window, I could see Place de la Concorde. I had excitedly bathed and changed a new set of clothes before going out. I had consulted a friendly doorman of directions. From him, I learned of the octagonal shape of Place de la Concorde, situated between the Champ-Élysées and the Tuileries Gardens. I bounded west for Champ- Élysées. The prestigious avenue was crowded with people. I managed to find a café and ordered the most expensive coffee available. It was the beginning of my outrageous money-spending. I paid more to sit outside, so that I could watch the crowds. I sat alone, my eyes wandering to and fro among the people in front of me. The coffee tasted absolutely revolting, its bitterness lingered on my tongue. However, I still continued to drink it. It was, after all the pride and joy of all Parisians, to be able to catch some time gossiping among friends with a cup of steaming hot coffee. I pretended to look the part of a Frenchwoman, hoping no one would know my true identity as an English girl who ran away.
I spent my days wandering the streets of Paris, shopping, drinking coffee and relaxing. It was almost a week when I met a girl, about the same age as I. She had come to Hotel de Crillon with her mother to welcome a family member. As I was about to go out, I noticed her. She was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Her hair was straight, as dark as a raven. Underneath a hat, I could see her green eyes. Her face was very pale, but not sickly. It suited her well, with long lashes and pink, healthy lips. She suddenly became aware of me. I summoned my courage and introduced myself. ‘Bonjour, mon nom est Adèle Laurent.’ As soon as I said that, I was horrified. I was never clever at socializing; I preferred to be the listener, instead of the speaker. It was even more disastrous that I lied about my name. I was certain she would undercover my lies. Instead, she smiled graciously and introduced herself. Her name was Mireille de Gaulle.
We exchanged more information; most of it consists of inquisitive questions. She asked of my family. I replied that my mother was a singer while my father was dead. My web of lies expanded with every question she asked. I questioned her back. She lived in Paris Ouest, western Paris where the wealthy and famous lived. She was a high society girl. Her mother interrupted our conversation by inquiring the whereabouts of my parents. Mireille explained that my father died and my mother’s career as a singer. Madame de Gaulle spoke in French, ‘Now then, where is your mother?’ I replied that I was journeying alone, with my mother’s consent. Madme de Gaulle exclaimed at my bravery and asked where I lived. Nervously, I told her the first place that popped in my mind, ‘Franche-Comte.’ She seemed satisfied. I turned away from her to talk with Mireille. Even then, I felt her eyes staring down at me, sizing me up. She noticed my expensive branded clothes and must have felt that I was a suitable friend for her daughter, because she treated me more warmly afterwards.
I chatted with mother and daughter for a few more minutes before Madame de Gaulle’s attention averted to someone coming down the stairs of the hotel. She smiled and kissed the man’s cheeks. Mireille soon followed. The man was twenty seven, dashingly handsome, possessing a smile that melted my heart. I noticed he had Mireille’s eyes. Madame de Gaulle introduced me to her only son, Basile. We greeted each other politely. After pleasantries ended, Madame de Gaulle asked if I was too busy to join them. I hurriedly replied no. We spent the afternoon roaming France’s most exclusive places. Madame de Gaulle treated me like her own daughter, suggesting which dresses suited me and which pastries were the best. It was extremely satisfying to feel belonged into their little group. The next ten days, I was invited to their home; I had tea with them and spent more of my time with them. However, my stolen money was running out. I started to object whenever Madame de Gaulle suggested a shopping trip, for fear and embarrassment of not being able to pay for it.
One evening, when I was worrying about the money, I received a visitor. It was Basile. I welcomed him at the lobby. He complemented my looks. I said the same to him and kissed him on the cheeks. I never spent much time with Basile, because he always politely declined whenever Madame de Gaulle invited him to join us. During the evenings when I joined Mireille for dinner at her home, I could hear Basile playing the piano. Madame de Gaulle would swell with pride and tell me how Basile was musically gifted. He had attended a music school abroad for two years, before returning home. There was even a time when I took a wrong turn in their home and found him sitting by the piano, manuscripts scattered over the floors. I saw the look in his eyes, focused and determined. I watched him write down key signatures, the sharps and flats and all the in-betweens. He had realized my presence and invited me to join him. I had heard Mireille’s faint voice calling out to me. So I apologized for the intrusion and closed the door to find Mireille.
Basile courteously took my hand and asked if I would accompany him to the Tuileries Garden. I agreed. It was near to three o’clock. Winter was approaching. The sky had already begun to darken. I shared my worries with him. He laughed and said there was no need to be worried. We walked side by side, my shoulder occasionally brushed his. I pretended not to notice it. We strolled along the Garden with a comfortable silenced atmosphere. He suddenly took my hand and led me to the Jeu de Paume.
‘I must show you this. It is very beautiful, a masterpiece.’ He told me. We went inside the gallery. Led by Basile, I went into the western part of Jeu de Paume, where the walls were covered with a series of paintings. ‘This is the Water Lilies.’ Basile said. I was struck by awe. Claude Monet’s Water Lilies were spread out before my eyes, a mixture of greens and blues. It looked graceful, a few lily pads floating on the pond. I half expected to see a swan emerging out of the tall grass, to dance among the lilies. Regretfully, after I returned from Paris, another war struck. The Water Lilies were badly damaged. So that was the last time I seen them.
I walked out of Jeu de Paume, wide eyed and expressive. Seeing one’s incredible artwork, I had a desire to become an artist as well. It changed my whole perspective of how to view the world. Paris was beautiful, but it had blossomed in my mind after I left Jeu de Paume. Everything looked like a piece of moving artwork. I had almost forgotten about Basile. He suddenly appeared in front of me, his face a rosy red from the cold. He took my hand and we went back to Hotel de Crillion. He had seemed reluctant to leave. I was too. I felt my fingers hold onto his for a moment longer, before withdrawing my hand. He kissed my cheeks and bid me goodbye. I remembered excitedly awaiting the next day, to see Mireille and Basile again.
I turned around to head up to my room when I felt someone looking at me. I looked around and saw him. He looked terribly grim. I felt rooted to the ground, caught by the hunter, or whatever phrase you choose to use. He pulled my arm and dragged me out of the hotel, where I saw my suitcases awaiting me by a car. I left Paris that night, boarding a ship back to England. I remembered my tears hot on my cheeks, leaning my head against the window of the cab, watching the familiar neighborhood form in front of my eyes. My father had walked into our house silently, slamming the door of his study. He refused to see me for the next few days. It was only after four days did he come to my room and announced that he appointed a guardian for me.
After a few years, World War II happened. It was a terrible time. I no longer had contact with Mireille or Basile anymore. My father had died in the war. It was after the war, when I made a promise to myself, to never leave England. Secretly, I knew Paris would never be what I had seen in 1927 again. The blood of soldiers splattered on the walls of Paris, a stain that would never be removed. The screams of the women and young that echoed in the nights would forever live on. Those beautiful buildings I had once entered in Paris would be battered and bruised by the remains of bullets. I had a wonderful time in Paris. I told myself that it would change, after the war. All I wanted was to preserve my memory of it.
I had gotten married and had a family. I raised my children in my England home, which I inherited from my father. Now, I am old in age, ripe in wisdom. My husband died long ago. I now only have an occasional visit from the grandchildren. Every night, I think of Paris in 1927. I had seen many wonders and delights. I picture my own Paris, where Mireille, Madame de Gaulle and Basile live on with youth that never died. Sometimes, I would reminisce about my day with Basile, the day I realized that I had harbored feelings for him. The day that I found my first love, the day I never returned.


© Copyright 2018 Daniella C . All rights reserved.

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