He shuddered inwardly. What was it about clown folk that freaked him out so much? Perhaps it was the weird face paint or the fact that a grown man chooses to entertain small children every day; any man who wants that has got to be mentally deranged. Or maybe it's the smiling, they never stop smiling...
Even when they try to blow you up...
No, he'd disliked them long before Paris, what happened that day just gave it a violent shove from dislike into pure loathing.
His thoughts were snatched away from him by a silky female voice, with a rather thick accent.
He looked at the woman behind his right shoulder with half attempted twist of his head; she was breathtakingly beautiful. He decided to turn around and give the lady his full attention.
"Do you 'ave a problem with clowns M'sieur?"
She looked at him sternly, yet her posture and tone of voice suggested a playful quality. He decided to engage.
"Ahhh, it’s a long story miss, I didn't mean to bother you."
"Oh, but you didn't bother me M'sieur, I am agreeing with you. I cannot understand why people gazer round to watch a grown man wear makeup and baggy pants and juggle balls all day. And now you mention it, I would love to 'ear this long story you mentioned."
"You would? I mean, really?"
"Of course, nothing personal, just I would love to get away from my family for a while, they are driving me crazy!"
He chanced a quick glance around them and noticed two kids and a set of parents at the front of the crowd, cheering and clapping along with enchanted stares and huge grins on their faces. Well, who was he to dent the damsel in distress her knight in shining armour? After all, it was what he did best.
With a cheeky wink, he placed a hand on her shoulder and guided her away from the building crowd.
"In that case perhaps we can get a drink? It is such a hot day and all."
"Merci beaucoup, M'sieur...?"
"Oh, uh the names George, George Stobbart. Two bees and two tees. Pleased to meet'cha miss...?"
"Theresa Beaumont, one bee and two tees. I do 'ate that name though, so just call me Tess."
They strolled down the flat cobbled street, taking a left turn at the corner and crossing the road to arrive at a cosy little cafe in the shade. They sat under the awning on the first table they came to. He took off his sunglasses so he could fully admire what a beauty she was. Long blonde hair rested delicately on her chest, her large, almost feline green eyes glinted with intelligence. Her full lips painted a pale pink to match her fingernails, her long artistic fingers wrapping themselves around a drink’s menu. She was fairly tall, almost the same height as him. She wore a long, silk skirt that billowed slightly when she sat, her long legs ending with a pair of sandal heels as she crossed her legs.
She faced him directly, leaning over the table, taking him in with every blink of her fluttering eyelashes - but he wasn't looking at her anymore. He was looking at the man who walked past them in the business suit, plonking a briefcase down on a barstool next to him. He barked his order at the barman, taking off his sunglasses and burying his head in his hands. George wiped a small sheen of sweat from his brow and glanced around nervously, trying to take in descriptions, find the nearest exit, locating the restrooms and staff doors as possible hiding spots.
"Is everything alright George?"
"Err, yeah, fine, I’m just a little hot is all" He muttered with a quick upturn of the corner of his mouth.
But it's not okay, It's similar - it's too damn similar. The clown, the cafe, the French girl – can one day really happen to the same guy twice?
She gave him a cautious look, then flashed him a smile.
"So what brings you 'ere George?"
She even pronounces my name in that purr of a French accent, softening the G's just like...
"Oh err, just a well-needed vacation. I travel a lot as it is and I felt like coming back to my favourite city in the world"
"Hmm, sounds like your job is stressful, travelling beautiful cities and chatting up girls for a living?"
Her tone was playful and mocking, but there was honest concern behind it, that he might turn out to be a sleaze bag out to screw her over.
"Oh no, it's nothing like that! I'm a Lawyer from LA you see, a patent lawyer, so I have to travel a lot to meet with clients and..."
"Relax cowboy, I was just kidding. I'm just wondering what makes Paris such a perfect getaway when you live around the corner from Hollywood?"
He considered telling her about his other exploits, the real reason he was back here, why he wanted so badly not to remember and at the same time, to never forget.
"Let's just say I have had some good and bad memories of this city, and the good far outweighs the bad."
The waiter brought their drinks over, setting them down gently on the table. He could smell the cheap cologne as his arm snaked over his right shoulder. A glance lingered a few seconds too long at his companion, and he flashed a confident smirk when she smiled back.
"I met a girl"
Her eyes suddenly flashed with interest and disappointment. Exactly the reaction he had hoped for.
I knew I picked up something good in lawyer school
"Ooohh, a girrrrl, did you love this girl?"
He spoke honestly and without hesitation.
"I still do. Just not in the way I used to"
"I see, this is a true romance we are speaking of is it not?"
"Something like that. I don't know how to describe it really"
Her gaze lingered on his as he fed her the old puppy dog eyes.
"I think she 'urt you George. She must 'ave broken your heart to cause that much pain in your eyes"
Lady, you don't know how right you are
"Right as rain Senorita. Good news is that was a long time ago and I'm back on the market. Plenty more fish and all that junk huh?"
She gulped half her drink down, setting it heavily on the table and licking her luscious lips seductively.
"Are you looking for another French girl perhaps?"
She smiled at him through her eyes, a naughty smile that said: "if you want me, come get me". George wanted something alright.
But not her.
He took slow sips of his drink as he thought, the condensation wetting his hands. He wiped them nervously, tutting at the wet patches it left on the thigh of his pants.
"You uh, you wanna get outta here Tess? I kinda have a bad omen for French cafe's"
"Sure, do you want to go somewhere a little more private?"
She swung her hair back with a suggestive tilt of her head, fluttering her long eyelashes at him.
"How about my hotel? About a mile yonder?" He nodded back the way they came.
"Lead on, George"
They downed their drinks and he extended his arm with an exaggerated bow – she took it with a small courtesy and a giggle, and they set off down the high street. They passed a few high-end fashion retailers. Plum coloured heels decorated the shop window.
She would love those...
Before he realised what he was doing, his feet had stopped.
"Mind if I just grab something quickly?"
Her eyes were a little uneasy, her pause speaking louder than her answer ever did.
"Okay, I'll wait here, just don't be too long"
The shop assistant wrapped them lovingly as he paid, not once glancing through the shop window to check on his companion. He expected her not to be there when he stepped back onto the cobbled streets of Paris.
Minutes later, he was pleasantly surprised.
"Listen, I think I know what you're going to say. I've heard a million and one excuses, so just don't say anything. If you want to go, I won't stop you, but I don't want you to leave."
Her shoes suddenly became massively interesting to her, her eyes fixed to the floor for what felt like an eternity. Finally, after a heavy sigh, she lifted her head with a consoling smile.
"You're buying this woman a pair of very pretty, very expensive shoes. You bought me a drink. I think you are the one who has already chosen, mon amis."
The bluntness of her words hit him hard. The truth always did sting. He'd known it for a long time, had never forgotten it, but had chosen to live on the razor's edge. Sooner or later, someone was going to hurt him; whether it was another French girl, some floozy in a bar back home, or even himself. It was time he stopped living dangerously.
"I think you should call her, let her know how you feel. You never know what she might say"
"Yeah, you're probably right"
"Besides, if she breaks your heart again... plenty of fish, right cowboy?"
She planted a small but meaningful kiss on his left cheek.
She slinked off on her way with a wink and a smile. He said nothing and watched her walk away.
She threw on her robe and rubbed a towel through her damp hair, almost tripping over the hairdryer whilst she scurried about the living room like a mad march hare.
"Merde! Where is that damned key?
*knock knock knock*
"Une moment s'il vous plait!"
There it sat, cheekily hidden under a pile of unread newspapers. She threw the key in the lock, unlatched the chain and heaved the door open with a sigh, apologising.
The mailman certainly looked a little pissed as he thrust the electronic clipboard under her nose.
"Ah, oui... desolé."
She scribbled her initials and grabbed the package, apologising once more to an un-amused postal worker. She nudged the door shut with her heel and ripped open the parcel, taking care not to trip over the hairdryer once again as she sat back down on her bed.
"What have we here? A shoebox?"
She gently pried it open, gasping at the brand new plum coloured designer heels that lay inside. They were beautiful, and very overpriced...who on Earth would send here something like this for no reason?
She spotted a note attached to the lid – a piece of paper that came from the desk of the Hotel Ubu. It simply read: "From Paris, with love." A large X marked the bottom of the page.
A smile spread across her face as she felt her heart warm at the thought of him.
She jumped at the sudden high-pitched ring of her cell phone. Fumbling through her jacket pocket, she answered the call, expecting one voice on the other end. Instead, she got another.
"Nico? It's Andre"
"Oh, hi Andre, how are you?"
Her disappointment was a little too hard to hide.
"I'm distressed, to say the least Nico, I'm in need of a date to a party tonight, I know it's short notice but I cannot go to this party alone! I don't even know how to behave at one of those dreadful things... are you free tonight?"
"Tonight?... I'm afraid not Andre, I have plans."
"Bah! Since when do you have plans? Your social life's as alive as Elvis Presley!"
"I happen to have an old friend in town tonight, I'm expecting a call any minute actually"
"Oh Nico, not again? Surely it can't be that idiot Stobbart?"
"Shut up Andre"
With that, she hung up and threw her phone onto her desk. She dressed in a pair of black jeans and a silk blouse. She took her new shoes out of their box and tried them on. They looked stunning, far too nice for lazing about in her messy apartment.
I'd better finish getting ready she thought. After all, I want to look nice when I thank my good friend for the gift.
He has great taste.