Honeymoon in paris, p.5
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       Honeymoon in Paris, p.5

           Jojo Moyes
 
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  'This is meant to make me feel better? That I was the only one of your models you didn't try to make love to?'

  His voice exploded into the quiet studio. 'What is wrong, Sophie? Why do you wish to torture yourself like this? We are happy, you and I. You know I have not so much as looked at another woman since we met!'

  I began to applaud, each sharp clap breaking into the silent studio. 'Well done, Edouard! You have remained faithful all the way to our honeymoon! Oh, how admirable!'

  'For God's sake!' He threw down his napkin. 'Where is my wife? My happy, glowing, loving wife? And who is this woman I get in her place? This suspicious misery? This pinch-faced accuser?'

  'Oh, so that is how you truly see me?'

  'Well, is this whom you have become, now we are actually married?'

  We stared at each other. The silence expanded, filled the room. Outside a child burst into noisy tears and a mother's voice could be heard, scolding and comforting.

  Edouard ran a hand over his face. He took a deep breath and stared out of the window, then turned back to me. 'You know that is not how I see you. You know I - Oh, Sophie, I don't understand the genesis of this fury. I don't understand what I've done to deserve such ...'

  'Well, why don't you ask them?' I thrust my hand out towards his canvases. My voice emerged as a sob. 'For what can a provincial shop girl like me hope to understand about your life, after all?'

  'Oh, you're impossible,' he said, and threw down his napkin.

  'It's being married to you that is the impossibility. And I'm starting to wonder why you ever bothered.'

  'Well, Sophie, you are not alone in that at least.' My husband fixed me with a look, whipped his coat off our bed, then turned and walked out of the door.

  Chapter Five

  2012

  When he calls, she is on the bridge. She cannot say how long she has sat there. Its wire sides are almost obscured with padlocks on which people have inscribed their initials, and all along it tourists stoop, reading the initials on the little pieces of metal, scrawled in permanent pen or engraved by those with forethought. Some take pictures of each other, pointing to the padlocks they think are particularly beautiful, or have just placed there themselves.

  She remembers David telling her about this place before they came here, about how lovers would secure the padlocks and throw the keys into the Seine as a mark of their enduring love, and of how when the padlocks were painstakingly removed by the city authorities they simply reappeared within days, engraved with everlasting love, the initials of lovers who, two years on, might still be together or might by now have moved to different continents rather than breathe the same air. He had told her how the riverbed under the bridge had to be dredged regularly, harvesting the rusting mass of keys.

  Now she sits on the bench, trying not to look at them too closely, beyond the simple spectacle of them, their shimmering surfaces. She does not want to think about what they mean.

  'Meet me at the Pont des Arts,' she had said to him. Nothing more.

  Perhaps there was something in her voice.

  'I'll be twenty minutes,' he'd said.

  She sees him coming from the Musee du Louvre, his blue shirt becoming more vivid as he gets closer. He is wearing khaki-coloured trousers and she thinks, with a pang, how much she loves the sight of him. How familiar his shape is to her, even after such a short time. She looks at his soft, ruffled hair, and the planes of his face, and the way his walk always has a touch of impatience, as if he's keen to get to the next thing. And then she sees that over his shoulder he has the leather bag in which he carries his plans.

  What have I done?

  He doesn't smile as he approaches, even though it's clear he has seen her. He walks up to her, slowing his pace, then drops his bag and sits down beside her.

  They are silent for some minutes, watching the tourist boats glide past.

  And finally Liv says, 'I can't do this.'

  She looks down the route of the Seine, squinting at the people who, even now, are stooping to examine the padlocks.

  'I think we've made the most awful mistake. I've made a mistake.'

  'A mistake?'

  'I know I'm impulsive. I see now we should have slowed things down. We should have ... got to know each other a little better. So I've been thinking. It's not like we had a big wedding, or anything. It's not like all our friends even know. We can just ... . We can just pretend like it didn't happen. We're both young.'

  'What are you talking about, Liv?'

  She looks at him. 'David - it all became clear as you walked towards me. You brought your plans with you.'

  The smallest flinch. But she sees it.

  'You knew you were going to meet the Goldsteins. You packed your bag of plans and you brought it on your honeymoon.'

  He looks down at his feet. 'I didn't know. I hoped.'

  'And that's supposed to make it better?'

  They are silent again. David leans forward, clasping his hands together above his knees. Then he looks sideways at her, his face troubled. 'I love you, Liv. Don't you love me any more?'

  'Yes. So much. But I can't ... I can't do this. I can't be the woman this makes me.'

  He shakes his head. 'I don't understand. This is crazy. I was only gone for a couple of hours.'

  'It's not about the couple of hours. This was our honeymoon. It's a template for how we're going to be.'

  'How is a honeymoon ever a template for a marriage? Most people go and lie on a beach for two weeks, for Christ's sake. You think that's how the rest of their lives is going to run?'

  'Don't twist my words! You know what I mean. This is meant to be the one time you -'

  'It's just this building -'

  'Oh, this building. This building. This fucking building. There's always going to be a building, isn't there?'

  'No. This is special. They -'

  'They want you to meet them again.'

  He lets out a breath, and his jaw tightens. 'It's not a meeting as such,' he says. 'It's lunch. Tomorrow. At one of Paris's best restaurants. And you're invited too.'

  She would laugh if she wasn't so close to tears. When she finally speaks, her voice is oddly calm. 'I'm sorry, David. I'm not even blaming you for this. It's my own fault. I was so besotted with you that I couldn't see beyond it. I couldn't see that being married to someone who was so consumed by his work would make me ...' Her voice thickens.

  'Make you what? I still love you, Liv. I don't understand.'

  She rubs her eyes. 'I'm not explaining myself very well. Look ... come with me. I want to show you something.'

  It's a short walk back to the Musee d'Orsay. The queue has died down and they move forward in silence for the ten minutes it takes to gain entry. She is acutely conscious of him beside her, of the new awkwardness between them. A little part of her still cannot believe that this is how her honeymoon is ending.

  She summons the lift, confident of where she is headed this time, and David follows. They walk through the rooms of Impressionists on the top floor, dodging the clumps of people who stand and stare. Another school party sits in front of Dejeuner sur l'herbe and the same enthusiastic attendant talks them through the scandal of the naked woman. She thinks how ironic it is that she now has her husband here, where she had wanted him this morning, and it is too late. It is all too late.

  And eventually there they are, in front of the little picture.

  She looks at it, and he steps forward.

  '"Wife, out of sorts",' he reads. '"By Edouard Lefevre".' He studies it for a moment, then turns to her, waiting for an explanation.

  'So ... I saw it this morning ... this miserable, neglected wife. And it just hit me. That's not how I want to be. I felt suddenly as if the whole of our marriage was going to be like this - me wanting your attention, and you not being able to give it. And it scared me.'

  'Our marriage isn't going to be like that.'

  'I don't want to be a wife who feels ignored, even on her honeymoon.'

>   'I wasn't ignoring you, Liv -'

  'But you made me feel unimportant, and on the one occasion I might have reasonably expected you to just enjoy us being together, to just want to be with me.' Her voice lifts, becomes impassioned. 'I wanted to stroll around the little bars of Paris and sit down and drink glasses of wine for no reason, my hand in yours. I wanted to hear about who you were before we met, and what you wanted. I wanted to tell you all the things I'd planned for our life together. I wanted to have lots of sex. Lots of sex. I didn't want to walk around galleries alone and have coffee with men I don't even know - just to kill time.'

  She can't help but be a tiny bit gratified by his sharp sideways look.

  'And when I saw this painting it all made sense to me. This is me, David. This is how I will be. This is what's going to happen. Because, even now, you can't see that there's anything wrong in spending two days - three days - of a five-day honeymoon pitching for business to a couple of rich businessmen.'

  She swallows. And her voice breaks. 'I'm sorry. I ... I can't be this woman. I just - can't. It's who my mother was and it terrifies me.' She wipes her eyes, ducking her head to avoid the curious glances of people passing.

  David stares at the painting. He doesn't speak for several minutes. And then he turns to her, his face drawn. 'Okay, I get it.' He runs a hand through his hair. 'And you're right. About all of it. I've - I've been unbelievably stupid. And selfish. I'm sorry.'

  They fall silent as a German couple pauses in front of the painting, exchanging a few words before moving on.

  'But ... but you're wrong about this painting.'

  She looks up at him.

  'She's not ignored. She's not symptomatic of a failing relationship.' He moves a step closer, gently takes her by the arm as he gestures. 'Look at how he's painted her, Liv. He doesn't want her to be angry. He's still looking at her. Look at the tenderness of his brushstrokes, the way he's coloured her skin there. He adores her. He can't bear that she's angry. He can't stop looking at her even when she's furious with him.' He takes a breath. 'He's there, and he's not going away, no matter how much he's enraged her.'

  Her eyes have filled with tears. 'What are you saying?'

  'I don't believe this painting should mean the end of our marriage.' He reaches out, takes her hand and holds it until her fingers relax around his. 'Because I look at it and I see the opposite from you. Yes, something's gone wrong. Yes, she's unhappy right then, in that moment. But when I look at her, at them, at this, Liv, I just see a picture full of love.'

  Chapter Six

  1912

  A thin rain had started as I began walking the streets around the Latin Quarter shortly after midnight. Now, hours later, it had soaked my felt hat so that the drops seeped down the back of my collar, but I barely felt them, so steeped was I in my misery.

  Some part of me had wanted to wait for Edouard to return, but I could not sit in our home, not with those women, with the prospect of my husband's future infidelities hanging over me. I kept seeing the hurt in his eyes, hearing the rage in his voice. Who is this pinch-faced accuser? He no longer saw me as the best of myself, and who could blame him? He had seen me as I truly knew myself to be: plain, provincial, an invisible shop girl. He had been trapped into marriage by a fit of jealousy, his fleeting conviction that he needed to secure my love. Now he was regretting his haste. And I had made him conscious of it.

  I wondered briefly if I should simply pack my case and leave. But every time that thought flickered through my feverish mind, the answer came back immediately: I loved him. The thought of life without him was unbearable. How could I return to St Peronne and live the life of a spinster, knowing what I knew of how love could feel? How could I bear the thought that he lived, somewhere, miles away from me? Even when he left the room I felt his absence like an aching limb. My physical need for him still overwhelmed me. And I could hardly return home a matter of weeks after our wedding.

  But there was the problem: I would always be provincial. I could not share my husband, as the Parisiennes apparently did, turning a blind eye to their indiscretions. How could I live with Edouard and face the possibility of him returning home smelling of another woman's scent? Even if I could not be sure of his faithlessness, how could I walk into our home and see Mimi Einsbacher, or any of these women, naked on our bed as she posed for him? What was I supposed to do? Simply disappear into a back room? Go for a walk? Sit and watch over them? He would hate me. He would see me as the gaoler that Mimi Einsbacher already considered me.

  I understood now that I had not thought at all about what marriage would mean for us. I could not see further than his voice, his hands, his kisses. I could not see further than my own vanity - dazzled as I was by the reflection of me I had seen in his paintings, and in his eyes.

  And now his magic dust had blown away, and I was left - a wife: this pinch-faced accuser. And I did not like this version of myself.

  I walked the length of Paris, along the rue de Rivoli, up to avenue Foch and down the backstreets of Invalides, ignoring the curious glances of the men, the catcalls of the drunks, my feet growing sore on the cobbles, my face turned away from passers-by so they did not see the tears that brimmed in my eyes. I grieved for the marriage I had already lost. I grieved for the Edouard who had seen only the best in me. I missed our intense happiness together, the sense that we had been impenetrable, immune to the rest of the world. How could we have come to this so soon? I walked, so lost in my thoughts that I barely noticed it had begun to grow light.

  'Madame Lefevre?'

  I turned as a woman stepped out of the shadows. When she stood under the guttering streetlight, I saw it was the girl to whom Edouard had introduced me on the night of the fight in the Bar Tripoli - I struggled to recall her name: Lisette? Laure?

  'It is no hour for a lady to be out here, Madame,' she said, glancing back up the street.

  I had no answer for her. I wasn't sure I could actually speak. I recalled one of the girls at La Femme Marche nudging me as he approached: He consorts with the street girls of Pigalle.

  'I had no idea of the hour.' I glanced up at the clock. A quarter to five. I had been walking the whole night.

  Her face was in shadow, but I felt her studying me. 'Are you quite well?'

  'I'm fine. Thank you.'

  She kept looking at me. Then she took a step forwards and touched my elbow lightly. 'I'm not sure this is a good place for a married woman to walk alone. Would you like to join me for a drink? I know a warm bar not far from here.'

  When I hesitated she released my arm, took the smallest of steps backwards. 'Of course, if you have other plans I quite understand.'

  'No. It is kind of you to ask. I would relish an excuse to get out of the cold. I ... I don't think I'd noticed how chilled I am until just now.'

  We walked in silence down two narrow streets, turning towards a window lit from within. A Chinese man stepped back from a heavy door to let us in, and she exchanged a quiet word with him. The bar was indeed warm and the windows fugged with steam, a handful of men still drinking. Carriage drivers, mostly, she told me, as she shepherded me towards the back. Laure Le Comte ordered something at the bar and I took a seat at a table at the rear. I peeled my damp cape from my shoulders. The little room was noisy and cheerful; the men had gathered around a card game that was going on in the corner. I could see my face in the mirror that ran along the wall, pale and damp, my hair plastered to my head. Why would he love only me? I wondered, then tried to push away the thought.

  An elderly waiter arrived with a tray, and Laure handed me a small goblet of cognac. Now we were sitting there, I could think of nothing to say to her.

  'It's good we came inside when we did,' she said, glancing towards the doorway. The rain had started up properly now, running down the pavements in woven rivers, gurgling in the gutters.

  'I think so.'

  'Is Monsieur Lefevre at home?'

  She had used the formal version of his name, even though she had kno
wn him longer than I had.

  'I have no idea.' I took a sip of my drink. It slid down my throat like fire. And then suddenly I began to talk. Perhaps it was desperation. Perhaps it was the knowledge that a woman such as Laure had seen so many kinds of bad behaviour that she could not be shocked by anything I had to tell her. Perhaps I simply wanted to see her reaction. I was unsure whether, after all, she, too, was among those women I now had to view as a threat.

  'I found myself in an ill temper. I thought it better ... to walk.'

  She nodded, and allowed a small smile. Her hair, I noted, was pulled into a neat twist at her collar, more like a schoolteacher than a woman of the night. 'I have never been married. But I can imagine that it changes one's life beyond all recognition.'

  'It is hard to adjust. I had thought myself well suited to it. Now ... I'm not sure I have the right temperament for its challenges.' Even as I spoke I was surprised at myself. I was not the kind of woman given to confidences. The only person I had ever confided in was my sister, and in her absence, I had only really wanted to talk to Edouard.

  'You are finding Edouard ... challenging?'

  I saw now that she was older than I had first thought: clever application of rouge and lipstick had given her a bloom of youth. But there was something about her that made you want to keep talking; a suggestion that what you told her would go no further. I wondered absently what she had done that evening, what other secrets she heard each day.

  'Yes. No. Not Edouard exactly.' I could not explain. 'I don't know. I'm - sorry. I should not have burdened you with my thoughts.'

  She ordered a second cognac for me. And then she sat and sipped her own, as if considering how much to say. Finally, she leant forwards and spoke softly. 'It will be no surprise to you, Madame, that I think myself something of an expert in the psyche of the married gentleman.'

  I found myself blushing slightly.

  'I know nothing of what brought you here this evening, and I believe nobody outside can speak with any authority on what happens within the confines of a marriage. But I can tell you this: Edouard adores you. I can say so with some confidence, having seen many men, and a few, too, who were on honeymoon.'

 
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