Ed. Note: Whenever I re-introduce you to Elizabeth Smith, author of our summer fiction (below), I can never seem to find sufficient superlatives. How about I simply say, that in my opinion — and I know untold numbers of you agree — she is one of the best writers the blog world has ever seen. I feel it is now our job to get her back into the blog world on a regular basis. You may remember her from her former, unfortunately that’s the operative word, blog Mon Avis, Mes Amis.
Here then is the third episode in our summer saga. If you missed the first and second, please click here and here.
Elizabeth L. Smith
Alexis’s building was so modern it made Caroline gasp.The pale brick and jade glass façade was beautiful even on this overcast day.A brushed steel elevator deposited Caroline on a glass walkway from which she could look, vertiginously, into the plant- and light-filled lobby many floors below.
Clacking heels rang off the glass floor.
“Mme Williamson?” asked a dark-eyed girl with a tumble of messy hair escaping artfully from the twist on the op of her head.
“Oui,” affirmed Caroline and followed the slender figure into an empty meeting room, frosted glass walls dominated by a startling blue and orange abstract canvas.Silently, the girl poured coffee from a black flask shaped like a duck, placed the cup on the table and left.
Caroline picked up the small cup and raised it to her lips.As she did so, the door opened and a man entered; steel-coloured vigorous curls and an expensive-looking charcoal suit.
“Attention,”he barked.Then his eyes creased into a warm smile.“Don’t spill it, you clumsy bugger.”
“Alexis!” Caroline got carefully to her feet and stood facing him.He took her hands and kissed her on each cheek, then stood back, head to the side, looking at her.
“Ma chere, has it really been so long?You are very kind to come after all this time.I didn’t know if you would even still remember me.”His English was fluent, lightly accented in American.
“I did rack my brains, couldn’t quite place you to start with, I must say.The modesty threw me.”He looked at her quizzically and she took a deep, steadying breath. “Just kidding, I’d hardly forget you, would I?”
She looked back at him, breathing in his dry elegant scent, seeing the younger man in the smiling, lightly tanned face and trying with every fibre of her being not to finish the sentence out loud.
I’d hardly forget you; she contained the thought behind a professionally friendly smile, because on Bastille Day 1982, you became my first and most memorable lover.And I remember you, just as I promised to, all those decades ago, every single July 14th.
She dropped her eyes as they both sat down, grateful for the chance to collect herself and to banish the shameful memories she had of those early, eager years, toasting him with metronomic regularity every year on the same day.Raising a glass of rough red wine, of Pastis, sometimes both, sometimes with tears, progressing over the years to a glass of single malt, of decent Champagne, a mug of herbal tea.Every year she remembered and wondered where he was, if he remembered too.
His email had referred, very obliquely, to the dizzy, cross-eyed promise she’d made to remember him forever.To remember him with especial fondness every year on Bastille Day.And that, should he ever need her, for whatever reason, big or small, he had only to ask and she would come running, wherever she was and whatever she was doing.
And then suddenly, when he had become a faded memory, a lovely thing that had happened to someone else, many years ago, his email had arrived.Four simple sentences.And now here she was, drinking expensive coffee in his mad glass building, and hoping with all her heart that her hair wasn’t frizzy and her trousers didn’t smell of dog.
“Alors,” he began, and their eyes, creased about with decades of laughter and life, met across the gleaming table.