Honeymoon in paris, p.4
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       Honeymoon in Paris, p.4

           Jojo Moyes
 
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  'What do you do, Olivia?' He has called her Olivia since she introduced herself. From anyone else it might sound like an affectation, but from him it sounds like old-fashioned courtesy.

  She is hauled from her reverie, blushes a little when she acknowledges what she has been thinking. 'I ... I'm sort of between jobs at the moment. I finished my degree and did a bit of office work, a bit of waitressing. The usual middle-class-girl stuff. I suppose I haven't quite worked out what to do either.' She fiddles with her hair.

  'Plenty of time for that. Children?' He looks meaningfully at her wedding ring.

  'Oh. No. Not for ages.' She laughs awkwardly. She can barely look after herself; the idea of having some mewling infant dependent on her is unthinkable. She can feel him studying her.

  'Quite right. Plenty of time for all that.' He doesn't take his eyes from her face. 'If you don't mind me saying, you're very young to be married. In this day and age, I mean.'

  She doesn't know what to say to this, so she takes a sip of her coffee.

  'I know I shouldn't ask a woman her age, but what are you - twenty-three? Twenty-four?'

  'Not bad. Twenty-three.'

  He nods. 'You have good bones. I should imagine you'll look twenty-three for a decade. No, don't blush. I'm just stating a fact ... Childhood sweetheart?'

  'No - more of a whirlwind romance.' She looks up from her coffee. 'Actually, I'm - I'm just married.'

  'Just married?' His eyes open just a fraction wider.The question is there within them. 'You're on honeymoon?' He says it without drama, but his expression is so bemused, his sudden pity so inadequately disguised, that she can't bear it. She sees Wife, out of sorts, turning away defeatedly, a lifetime of other people's faint embarrassment. Oh, you're married? Your husband is where?

  What has she done?

  'I'm so sorry,' she says, her head down, gathering up her things from the table. 'I have to go now.'

  'Olivia. Please don't rush off. I'm -'

  Blood is thumping in her ears. 'No. Really. I probably shouldn't be here anyway. It was very nice to meet you. Thank you so much for the coffee. And ... you know ...'

  She does not look at him. She raises a smile, throws it somewhere in his direction, and then she flees, half walking, half running, along the Seine back towards Notre Dame.

  Chapter Four

  1912

  The Marche Monge was packed with shoppers, despite the cool winds and miserable spit of rain. I walked half a step behind Mimi Einsbacher, who made her way around the stalls with a determined sway to her hips and had kept up a constant commentary from the moment we entered the market.

  'Oh, you must buy some of these. Edouard does love Spanish peaches. Look, they're so perfectly ripe.'

  'Have you cooked him langoustines? Oh! How that man can eat langoustines ...'

  'Cabbage? Red onions? Are you sure? Those ingredients are very ... rustic. You know, I do believe he might enjoy something a little more sophisticated. He is a great gourmand, Edouard, you know. Why, once we went to Le Petit Fils and he ate the entire degustation menu of fourteen courses. Can you imagine? I thought he was going to burst by the time the petits fours arrived. But he was so happy ...' She shook her head, as if lost in a reverie. 'He is a man of such appetites ...'

  I picked up a bunch of carrots, and inspected them closely, trying to look as if I was interested in them. Somewhere at the back of my head a distant thumping pulse had started up and I detected the beginnings of a headache.

  Mimi Einsbacher stopped in front of a stall stacked with meat products. She exchanged a few words with the stallholder before picking up a small jar and holding it up to the light. She gave me a sideways look, from under her hat. 'Oh, you do not wish to hear such remembrances ... Sophia. I must suggest the foie gras, though. A lovely treat for Edouard. If you are a little ... light on housekeeping, I would be delighted to purchase it as a small gift for him. As an old friend. I know how erratic he can be with these things.'

  'We are quite capable of supporting ourselves, thank you.' I took the jar from her hand and popped it into my basket, handing the stallholder his money. Half of our remaining food budget, I noted, with mute fury.

  She slowed her pace so that I had no choice but to walk alongside her. 'So ... Gagnaire tells me that Edouard has painted nothing for weeks. Rather a pity.'

  Why should you talk to Edouard's dealer? I wanted to ask, but I let it pass. 'We are only just married. He has been ... distracted.'

  'He is a great talent. He should not lose focus.'

  'Edouard says he will paint when he is ready.'

  It was as if she hadn't heard me. Mimi had headed over to the patisserie stall, and was gazing at a tarte framboise. 'Framboises! At this time of year! I cannot imagine what the world is coming to.'

  Please do not offer to buy this for Edouard too, I said silently. I barely have enough money left for bread. But Mimi had other things on her mind. She bought a small baguette, waited while the stallholder wrapped it in paper, then turned halfway towards me, lowering her voice.

  'You cannot imagine how surprised we all were to hear he had married. A man like Edouard.' She placed the baguette carefully through the handle of her basket. 'So I wondered ... are congratulations in order?'

  I looked at her, at her bright, blank smile. And then saw she was gazing pointedly at my waist. 'No!'

  It took me several minutes to grasp how she had insulted me.

  I wanted to say to her: Edouard begged me to marry him. It was he who insisted on it. He could not bear the thought of any other man even looking at me. He could not bear the possibility that they would see in me what he saw.

  But I did not want to give her anything of us at all. Faced with her smiling enmity, I wanted to keep every part of Edouard's and my marriage to myself, where she could not puncture it or skew it or make it resemble something it did not. I felt my face flush with colour.

  She stood, staring at me. 'Oh you mustn't be sensitive, Sophia.'

  'Sophie. My name is Sophie.'

  She turned away. 'Of course. Sophie. But my question cannot be entirely unexpected. It is only natural that those who have known Edouard longest will feel a little proprietorial towards him. After all, we know so little about you ... . other than ... You are a shop girl, yes?'

  'I was. Until I married him.'

  'And, of course, then you had to leave your ... shop. What a pity. How you must miss your shop friends. I know only too well how comforting it is to be immersed in one's own social circle, among one's own kind.'

  'I'm quite happy in Edouard's circle.'

  'I'm sure you are. Although it can be so terribly difficult to make proper friends when everybody else has known each other for years. So hard to penetrate those shared amusements, all that history.' She smiled. 'Still, I'm sure you're doing quite well.'

  'Edouard and I are happiest alone.'

  'Of course. But you cannot imagine he will want to stay that way for long, Sophia. He is, after all, the most gregarious of creatures. A man like Edouard needs to be allowed the utmost freedom.'

  I was struggling to keep my composure. 'You speak as if I have become his gaoler. I have never wanted Edouard to do other than what pleased him.'

  'Oh, I'm sure you haven't. And I'm sure you are quite aware of your good fortune in marrying someone like him. I just thought it politic to offer some advice.'

  When I did not reply, she added, 'Perhaps you believe me to be terribly presumptuous, advising you on your own husband. But you know that Edouard does not follow the rules of the bourgeoisie, so I felt that I might also be allowed to step outside the constraints of normal conversation.'

  'I'm sure I am most grateful, Madame.' I wondered whether I could just turn and leave her then, invent some forgotten appointment. Surely I had endured this for long enough.

  She lowered her voice, took a step away from the stall and gestured for me to do the same. 'Well, then, if we are speaking frankly, I feel it my duty to advise you on another front.
Woman to woman, if you will. As you will be aware, Edouard is a man of great ... appetites.' She looked meaningfully at me. 'I'm sure he is delighted to be married now, but as he begins painting other women again, you must be prepared to ... allow him certain freedoms.'

  'I'm sorry?'

  'You wish me to spell it out, Sophia?'

  'Sophie.' My jaw had become so tight. 'My name is Sophie. And, yes, please do spell it out, Madame.'

  'I'm so sorry if this is indelicate.' She smiled prettily. 'But ... you must know that you are not the first of Edouard's models he ... has had relations with.'

  'I don't understand.'

  She looked at me as if I were stupid. 'The women on his canvases ... There is a reason Edouard gets the images he does, of such delicacy and power, the reason he is able to portray such ... intimacy.'

  I think I knew then what she was about to say, but I stood there and let the words fall around me, like the blades of little guillotines.

  'Edouard is a man of swift and unpredictable passions. When he tires of the novelty of being married, Sophia, he will return to his old ways. If you are a sensible girl, and I'm sure you are, given your ... shall we say practical? - background, I would advise you to look the other way. A man like that cannot be confined. It is against his artistic spirit.'

  I swallowed. 'Madame, I have prevailed upon your time long enough. I'm afraid we must part company here. Thank you for your ... advice.'

  I turned and walked away, her words ringing in my ears, my knuckles white with the effort of not hitting something. I was halfway to rue Soufflot before I discovered I had left the bag that contained the onions, cabbage and cheese sitting on the ground by the stall.

  Edouard was out when I returned. It was no great surprise: he and his dealer would generally retreat to a nearby bar and conduct their business over glasses of pastis, or if it grew late, perhaps even absinthe. I dropped the basket with my purse and the jar of foie gras in the kitchen area and walked through to the washstand, where I splashed my flushed cheeks with cold water. The girl who gazed back at me from the looking-glass was a sombre creature, her mouth set in a thin line of anger, her pale cheeks lit with colour. I tried to smile, to make myself the woman Edouard saw, but she wouldn't come. I could see only this thin, watchful woman, whose happiness felt suddenly as if it were built on shifting sands.

  I poured myself a glass of sweet wine, and drank it swiftly. And then I had another. I had never in my life drunk in the daytime before. Having grown up around my father and his excesses, I had had little appetite for drink until I met Edouard.

  As I sat there in the silence I kept hearing her words: He will return to his old ways. The women on his canvases ... there is a reason Edouard gets the images he does ...

  And then I hurled the glass at the wall, my cry of anguish carrying over the sound of the splintering glass.

  I cannot say how long I lay on our bed, lost in silent misery. I did not want to get up. My home, Edouard's studio, no longer felt like our little haven. I felt as if it had been invaded by the ghosts of his past liaisons, was coloured with their talk, their looks, their kisses.

  You must not think like this, I scolded myself. But my mind careered around like a runaway horse, headed in new and terrible directions, and I could not rein it in.

  It had begun to grow dark, and outside I could hear the man who lit the streetlamps singing softly under his breath. It was a sound I used to find comforting. I got up, vaguely planning to clear up the broken glass before Edouard returned. But instead I found myself walking towards his canvases, which were stacked along the far wall. I hesitated in front of them, then began to pull them out, gazing at each one. There was Laure Le Comte, the fille de rue, wearing a green serge dress, another of her naked, leaning against a pillar like a Greek statue, her breasts small and upright like halves of Spanish peaches; Emmeline, the English girl from the Bar Brun, her bare legs twisted under her on the chair, her arm trailing along its back. There was an unnamed dark-haired woman, her corkscrew curls cascading over her bare shoulder as she reclined upon a chaise-longue, her eyes drooping as if from sleep. Had he lain with her too? Had her slightly parted lips, painted so lovingly, been awaiting his? How could I have thought him immune to that silky, exposed flesh, those artfully crumpled petticoats?

  Oh, God, I had been such a fool. Such a provincial fool.

  And there, finally, was Mimi Einsbacher, leaning towards a looking-glass, the curve of her bare back perfectly outlined by the unforgiving corset below it, the slope of her shoulder a pale invitation. It was lovingly drawn, his charcoal line a flowing, sympathetic thing. And it was unfinished. What had he done after he had drawn this far? Had he walked up behind her, placed those great hands on her shoulders and lowered his lips to the place where her shoulder met her neck? The place that always made me shiver with longing? Had he laid her gently on that bed - our bed - murmured soft words and pushed her skirts up until she -

  I balled my fists in my eyes. I felt unhinged, a madwoman. I had never even noticed these paintings before. Now each one felt like a silent betrayal, a threat to my future happiness. Had he lain with them all? How long before he did it again?

  I sat staring at them, hating each one and yet unable to tear away my eyes, inventing whole lives of secrets and pleasures and betrayals and whispered nothings for each of them, until the skies outside were as black as my thoughts.

  I heard him before I saw him, whistling as he came up the stairs.

  'Wife!' he cried, as he opened the door. 'Why are you sitting in the dark?'

  He dropped his great coat on the bed and made his way around the studio, lighting the acetylene lamps, the candles that were wedged in empty wine bottles, wedging his cigarette into the corner of his mouth as he adjusted the drapes. And then he walked up to me and wrapped his arms around me, squinting in the half-light better to see my face.

  'It is only five o'clock. I was not expecting you yet,' I felt as if I had woken from a dream.

  'So soon after we are married? I couldn't leave you for long. Besides, I missed you. Jules Gagnaire is no substitute for your charms.' He pulled my face gently to his and tenderly kissed my ear. He smelt of cigarette smoke and pastis. 'I cannot bear to be away from you, my little shop girl.'

  'Don't call me that.'

  I stood up and walked away from him, through to the kitchen area. I felt his gaze, faintly bemused, after me. In truth I didn't know what I was doing. The bottle of sweet wine was long empty. 'You must be hungry.'

  'I'm always hungry.'

  He is a man of great appetites.

  'I ... left my bag at the market.'

  'Hah! 'Tis of little importance. I, too, was barely conscious for most of the morning. It was a fine night, last night, wasn't it?' He chuckled, lost in reminiscence.

  I didn't answer. I fetched two plates and two knives, and the remnants of that morning's bread. Then I stared at the jar of foie gras. I had nothing much else to give him.

  'I had the most excellent meeting with Gagnaire. He says the Galerie Berthoud in the sixteenth wishes to exhibit those early landscapes. The work I did in Cazouls? He says he has a buyer for the two larger ones already.' I heard him uncork a bottle of wine, the clink of two glasses as he placed them on the table.

  'I also told him of our new system for collecting my money. He was most impressed when I told him of last night's efforts. Now I have both him and you working alongside me, cherie, I'm sure we will live in the grand style.'

  'I'm glad to hear it.' I said, and placed the bread basket in front of him.

  I don't know what had happened to me. I couldn't look at him. I sat down opposite and proffered the foie gras and some butter. I cut an orange into quarters and put two pieces on his plate.

  'Foie gras!' he unscrewed the lid. 'How you do spoil me, my love.' He broke off a piece of bread and smeared it with a slice of the pale pink pate. I watched him eat it, his eyes on mine, and just for a moment I wished desperately that he had never liked foie gr
as, that he hated it. But he blew me a kiss and smacked his lips with delighted relish. 'What a life we lead, you and I, eh?'

  'I did not choose the foie gras, Edouard. Mimi Einsbacher selected it for you.'

  'Mimi, eh?' His eyes rested on mine for a moment. 'Well ... she's a good judge of food.'

  'And other things?'

  'Mmm?'

  'What else is Mimi good at?'

  My food lay untouched on my plate. I could not eat. I had never liked foie gras, anyway, the bitter knowledge of that forced feeding, those geese gorged until their very organs were swollen. The pain that could be caused by too much of what you loved.

  Edouard put his knife on his plate. He looked at me. 'What is the matter, Sophie?'

  I could not answer him.

  'You seem out of sorts.'

  'Out of sorts.'

  'Is this because of what I told you before? I told you, my darling, it was before I met you. I have never lied to you.'

  'And will you lie with her again?'

  'What?'

  'When you are bored with the novelty of your marriage? Will you revert to your old ways?'

  'What is this?'

  'Oh, eat your food, Edouard. Devour your beloved foie gras.'

  He stared at me for the longest time. When he spoke, his voice was soft. 'What have I done to deserve this? Have I ever given you the slightest reason to doubt me? Have I ever shown you anything but utter devotion?'

  'That is not the point.'

  'Well, what is the point?'

  'How did you get them to look at you like that?' My voice lifted.

  'Who?'

  'Those women. The Mimis and the Laures. The bar girls and the street girls and every wretched girl who seems to pass by our door. How did you get them to pose for you like that? '

  Edouard was dumbstruck. When he spoke, his mouth set in an unfamiliar line. 'The same way I got you to pose for me. I asked them.'

  'And afterwards? Did you do to them what you did to me?'

  Edouard looked down at his plate before he answered. 'If I remember correctly, Sophie, it was you who seduced me that first time. Or does that not suit your newly remembered version of events?'

 
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