Honeymoon in paris, p.3
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       Honeymoon in Paris, p.3

           Jojo Moyes
 
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  'Why, good morning!' Mimi was dressed in a mint green cape and fur stole. Her waist was pulled in so tightly that I suspected her lips were blue under the red stain. 'What a happy surprise!'

  'Madame Einsbacher. How fortunate we are to see again you so soon.' My hat felt suddenly skewed and ridiculous on my head.

  'Mimi! How delightful.' Edouard released my shoulder, bent his head and kissed her gloved hand. I protested inwardly at the sight, and then chided myself: Don't be childish. Edouard chose you, after all.

  'And where are you off to this brisk morning? Back to the post office?' She held her bag neatly in front of her. It was crocodile skin.

  'I have an appointment in Montmartre with my dealer. My wife is off to buy us some food.' I turned the hat around on my head, wishing suddenly I had worn my black one. 'Well, I might,' I said. 'If you behave yourself.'

  'See what I endure?' Edouard leant forwards to kiss my cheek.

  'Goodness. She's very hard on you, I am sure.' Mimi's smile was unreadable.

  Edouard wrapped his muffler around his neck, surveying the two of us for a moment. 'You know, you two should get to know each other. It would be good for Sophie to have a friend here.'

  'I am not without friends, Edouard,' I protested.

  'But all your shop friends are busy during the day. And they live over in the ninth. Mimi is someone you could meet for coffee when I'm busy. I hate to think of you alone.'

  'Really.' I smiled at him. 'I'm quite content in my own company.'

  'Oh, Edouard is quite right. You don't want to be a drain on him, after all. And you are hardly familiar with his circle. Why don't I accompany you? As a favour to Edouard. I'd be delighted.'

  Edouard beamed. 'Marvellous!' he said. 'My two favourite ladies, taking a jaunt. I'll wish you both good day then. Sophie, cherie, I'll be home for dinner.'

  He turned and walked off in the direction of rue St Jacques.

  Mimi and I gazed at each other and, just for a moment, I thought I detected something glacial in her eyes.

  'How lovely,' she said. 'Shall we walk?'

  Chapter Three

  2002

  They'd had the morning planned: a lazy start, breakfast at Cafe Hugo on place des Vosges, a wander around the little shops and boutiques of the second, perhaps a walk along the Seine, stopping off to look at the second-hand-book stalls. David would disappear after lunch to his meeting for perhaps two hours; Liv would use the magnificent spa at the Royal Monceaux while he discussed business. They would meet in the bar for an afternoon cocktail, have a relaxed dinner at a local brasserie. The day had been salvaged. She would be nice. She would be understanding. This was what marriage was about, after all: the great art of compromise. She had told herself this several times since waking up.

  And then, during breakfast, David's phone rings.

  'The Goldsteins,' she says, when he finally stops talking. Her tartine sits untouched in front of her.

  'Change of plan. They want to meet me this morning, at their offices near the Champs-Elysees.'

  When she doesn't say anything, he puts his hand over hers and says, 'I'm really sorry. I'll be gone for a couple of hours at most.'

  She cannot speak. Great fat salty tears of disappointment are building behind her eyes.

  'I know. I'll make it up to you. It's just '

  'that this is more important.'

  'This is our future, Liv.'

  Liv looks at him, and she knows her frustration must be clear in her expression. She feels perversely angry with him for making her behave like this.

  He squeezes her hand. 'Come on, sweetheart. You can do something I didn't particularly want to do, and I'll come and meet you. It's not like it's hard to kill a couple of hours here. It's Paris.'

  'Sure. I just hadn't realized my honeymoon was going to be five days in Paris thinking up ways to kill time.'

  There is a slight edge to his voice: 'I'm sorry. I don't have a job that I can just switch off.'

  'No. You've made that very clear.'

  It had been like this all the previous evening at La Coupole. They had struggled to find safe subjects to talk about, smiled stiltedly, an unacknowledged conversation running underneath their too-polite spoken one. When he did speak she had winced at his obvious discomfort. When he didn't, she had wondered if he was thinking about work.

  When they returned to their suite, Liv had turned away from him on the bed, somehow too angry to want him to touch her - then lain there panicking when he didn't even try.

  In the six months they had been together she wasn't sure they had ever argued with each other until they'd come to Paris. The honeymoon was slipping away, she could feel it.

  David breaks the silence first. He refuses to let go of her hand. He leans over the table and pushes a strand of hair back from her face tenderly. 'I'm sorry. This really will be it. Just give me a couple of hours and I promise I'll be all yours. Maybe we'll extend the trip, and I'll ... make up the hours.' He tries to smile.

  She turns to him then, disarmed, wanting them to feel normal again, wanting them to feel like themselves. She stares down at her hand in his, the brassy shine of her new wedding ring, still unfamiliar on her finger.

  The last forty-eight hours have left her completely unbalanced. The happiness she has felt for the last few months seems suddenly fragile, as if it is built on shakier foundations than they had realized.

  She searches his eyes. 'I do love you, you know.'

  'And I love you.'

  'I'm a horrible, needy, grumpy girlfriend.'

  'Wife.'

  A reluctant smile spreads across her face. 'I'm a horrible, needy, grumpy wife.'

  He grins and kisses her, and they sit on the edge of the place des Vosges, listening to the roar of the mopeds outside, the traffic crawling up towards rue Beaumarchais. 'Luckily, I happen to find horrible and grumpy desperately attractive traits in a woman.'

  'You forgot needy.'

  'That's my favourite.'

  'Go,' she said, pulling away from him gently. 'Go now, you smooth-talking architect, before I drag you back to that hotel bed and make sure you don't get to your very annoying meeting at all.'

  The air between them expands and relaxes. She lets out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.

  'What will you do?'

  She watches him collect up his belongings: keys, wallet, jacket, phone. 'Go and look at some art, probably.'

  'I'll text you the moment we're through. I'll come and meet you.' He blows a kiss. 'And then we can continue this pinning-to-the-bed discussion.'

  He's halfway up the road when he turns and lifts a hand. 'A bientot, Mrs Halston!'

  Her smile lasts until he disappears from view.

  The concierge had warned her that the queue for the Louvre would be hours long at this time, so she heads to the Musee d'Orsay instead. David had told her the architecture of the building was almost as impressive as the art it housed. But even at ten o'clock in the morning the queue here stretches backwards and forwards around the front of the building, like a coiled snake. The sun is fierce already, and she has forgotten to bring a hat.

  'Oh, great,' she mutters to herself, as she takes her place at the back. She wonders whether she will even make it into the building before David has finished his meeting.

  'It shouldn't take too long. They shift people through pretty quickly.' The man in front of her turns and nods towards the front of the queue. 'They do free entry sometimes. Now that's a queue.' He wears a crisp linen jacket and the air of the independently wealthy.

  When he smiles at her, she wonders if the fact that she's English is actually writ large all over her. 'I'm not sure all these people will even fit inside.'

  'Oh, they will. It's like the Tardis in there.' When she smiles, he holds out a hand. 'Tim Freeland.'

  'Liv Worth - Halston. Liv Halston.' The change of name still wrongfoots her.

  'Ah. That poster says there's a big Matisse exhibition on. I suspect that's the reason for
our queue. Here. Let me put up my umbrella. That will protect you from the worst of the sun.'

  He comes over for the tennis every year, he tells her, as they shuffle forwards a few paces at a time, zigzagging their way towards the front of the queue. And then fills his non-tennis time with a few of his favourite places. He much prefers this gallery to the Louvre, which is too full of tourists to see the paintings. He half smiles as he says this, apparently aware of the irony.

  He is tall and tanned with dark blond hair, which is swept back in a way she imagines it has been since his teens. The way he talks about his life suggests freedom from financial concerns. His reference to children and the lack of a wedding ring suggest some distant divorce.

  He is attentive and charming. They discuss restaurants in Paris, tennis, the unpredictability of Parisian taxi drivers. It is a relief to have a conversation that is not loaded with unspoken resentment or littered with traps. By the time they reach the front of the queue she is oddly cheerful.

  'Well, you made the time pass wonderfully quickly.' Tim Freeland folds up his umbrella and holds out his hand. 'It was lovely to meet you, Olivia Halston. And I'd recommend the Impressionists on the top floor. You should get the best views now, before the crowds get too unbearable.'

  He smiles at her, his eyes crinkling, and then he is gone, striding off into the cavernous interior of the museum as if he is already sure where he is headed. And Liv, who knows that even if you are on your honeymoon you're allowed to feel cheered by twenty minutes' conversation with an attentive, handsome man, who may or may not have been flirting with you, walks with a slightly perkier stride towards the lifts.

  She takes her time, walks slowly along the Impressionists, studying each painting carefully. She has time to kill, after all. She is slightly ashamed to calculate she has not set foot in a gallery since finishing her degree two years previously. She decides, on reflection, that she loves the Monets and the Morisots, and dislikes the Renoirs. Or perhaps they have just been overused on chocolate boxes and it's hard to disassociate the two things.

  She sits down, and then she stands up again. She wishes David was here. It's odd to stand in front of the paintings and have nobody to discuss them with. She finds herself looking surreptitiously at other people who might be alone, checking them for signs of freakishness. She wonders whether to call Jasmine, just to talk to someone, but realizes this will signal publicly the failure of her honeymoon. Who calls anyone from their honeymoon, after all? She feels briefly cross with David again and has silently to argue herself out of it.

  The gallery fills steadily around her; a group of schoolchildren is led past by a theatrically engaged museum attendant. They stop in front of Dejeuner sur l'herbe, and he motions to them to sit down as he speaks. 'Look!' he exclaims in French. 'They placed wet paint on wet paint - the first artists to do so! - so that they could move the colours like this ...' He gesticulates wildly. The children are rapt. A cluster of adults stops to listen too.

  'And this painting caused a huge scandal when it was shown! Enormous! Why was the lady wearing no clothes, and the gentlemen were dressed? Why do you think, young sir?'

  She loves the fact that eight-year-old French children are expected to debate public nudity. She loves the respect with which the attendant addresses them. Again, she wishes David were here because she knows he would have felt like this too.

  It is several minutes before she realizes how many people have poured into the series of rooms and that it has now become stiflingly crowded. She keeps hearing English and American accents. For some reason they annoy her. She finds herself irritated suddenly by small things.

  Keen to escape, Liv ducks away, through one, two rooms, past a series of landscapes, until she reaches the less popular artists, where the visitors are sparse. She slows now, trying to give these lesser artists the same attention she gave the big names, although there is not much that draws the eye. She is about to look for the way out when she finds herself in front of a small oil painting, and there, almost despite herself, she stops. A red-haired woman stands beside a table, laden with the remains of a meal, wearing a white dress that may be some kind of undergarment; Liv can't tell. Her body is half turned away from view, but the side of her face is unobscured. Her gaze slides towards the artist but will not meet it. Her shoulders are hunched forward with displeasure, or tension.

  The title of the painting reads: 'Wife, out of sorts'.

  She gazes at it, taking in the exquisite limpid quality of the woman's eye, the points of colour on her cheeks, the way her body seems to suggest barely suppressed rage, and yet a kind of defeat too. And Liv thinks suddenly: Oh, God. That's me.

  Once this thought has popped into her head it will not be dislodged. She wants to look away but she cannot. She feels almost winded, as if she has been punched. The painting is so strangely intimate, so unsettling. I'm twenty-three years old, she thinks. And I have married a man who has already put me firmly in the background of his life. I'm going to be that sad, quietly furious woman in the kitchen whom nobody notices, desperate for his attention, sulking when she doesn't get it. Doing things alone and 'making the best of it'.

  She sees future trips with David: herself, flicking through guidebooks of local attractions, trying not to show her disappointment when, yet again, there is some important work thing he cannot miss. I'm going to end up like my mother. She left it too late to remember who she actually was before she became a wife.

  Wifey.

  The Musee d'Orsay is suddenly too crowded, too noisy. She finds herself pushing her way downstairs, going the wrong way through the advancing crowds, muttering apologies as she meets the resistance of shoulders, elbows, bags. She slips sideways down a flight of stairs, and weaves her way along a corridor, but instead of heading towards the exit, she finds herself beside a grand dining room, where a queue has started to build for tables. Where are the bloody exits? The place is suddenly ridiculously full of people. Liv fights her way through the art-deco section - the huge pieces of organic furniture grotesque, overly flamboyant, and realizes she is at the wrong end. She lets out a great sob of something she can't quite articulate.

  'Are you all right?'

  She spins round. Tim Freeland is staring at her, a brochure in his hand. She wipes briskly at her face, tries to smile. 'I - I can't find my way out.'

  His eyes travel over her face - is she actually crying? - and she's mortified. 'I'm sorry. I just - I really need to get out of here.'

  'The crowds,' he says quietly. 'They can be a bit much at this time of year. Come on.' He touches her elbow, and steers her along the length of the museum, keeping to the darker rooms at the edges where fewer people seem to congregate. Within minutes they are down a flight of stairs and exiting onto the bright concourse outside, where the queue to enter has grown even longer.

  They stop a short distance away. Liv pulls her breathing back under control. 'I'm so sorry,' she says, looking back. 'I don't think you'll be able to get back in.'

  He shakes his head. 'I was done for the day. When you reach the stage where you can't see anything for the backs of people's heads, it's probably time to leave anyway.'

  They stand there for a moment on the bright, wide pavement. The traffic crawls along the side of the river, a moped weaving noisily in and out of the stationary cars. The sun casts the buildings in the blue-white light that seems peculiar to the city.

  'Would you like a coffee? I think it might be a good idea if you sat down for a few minutes.'

  'Oh - I can't. I'm meant to be meeting -' She looks down at her phone. There are no messages. She stares at it, taking this in. Digesting the fact that it is now almost an hour later than when he'd said he'd be through. 'Um ... can you give me a minute?'

  She turns away, dials David's number, squinting as she peers at the traffic crawling along the quai Voltaire. It goes straight to voicemail. She wonders, fleetingly, what to say to him. And then she decides not to say anything at all.

  She closes her phone
and turns back to Tim Freeland. 'Actually, I'd love a coffee. Thank you.'

  Un cafe, et une grande creme. Even when she employs her best French accent the waiters invariably answer her in English. After the morning's various humiliations it is a minor enough embarrassment. She drinks a coffee, orders a second, breathes in the warm city air and deflects any further attention from herself.

  'You ask a lot of questions,' Tim Freeland says, at one point. 'Either you're a journalist, or you've been to a very good finishing school.'

  'Or I'm an expert in industrial espionage. And I've heard all about your new widget.'

  He laughs. 'Ah ... unfortunately I'm a widget-free zone. I'm retired.'

  'Really? You don't look old enough.'

  'I'm not old enough. I sold my business nine months ago. I'm still trying to work out what to do with my time.'

  The way he says this suggests he is not particularly worried about this at all. Why would you be, she thinks, if you could spend your days wandering your favourite cities, taking in art or offering random strangers coffee? 'So where do you live?'

  'Oh ... all over the place. I do a couple of months here in the early summer. I have a place in London. I spend some time in South America too - my ex-wife lives in Buenos Aires with my two eldest children.'

  'That sounds complicated.'

  'When you're as old as I am, life is invariably complicated.' He smiles, as if he is well used to complication. 'For a while I was one of those rather daft men who found it impossible to fall in love without getting married.'

  'How gentlemanly.'

  'Hardly. Who was it who said, "Every time I fall in love I lose a house"?' He stirs his coffee. 'Actually, it's all fairly civil, as these things go. I have two ex-wives, both of whom are pretty wonderful women. It's just rather a shame I never worked that out while I was with them.'

  He speaks softly, his cadences measured and his words careful, a man who is used to being heard. She gazes at him, at his tanned hands, his immaculate shirt cuffs, and imagines a serviced apartment in the first arondissement, a housekeeper, an upmarket restaurant where the proprietor knows his name. Tim Freeland is not her type, and at least twenty-five years older than she is, but she wonders, briefly, what it would be like to be with a man like him. She wonders whether, to a casual onlooker, they look like husband and wife.

 
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