“answered questions”, paris, may, 2004 by jmforceton

14 Mar

“Answered Questions”

A slender young woman with short, straight, black hair stood, arms crossed, and wearing a Bowdoin sweatshirt, is framed in the second floor window of her apartment looking out at the park across the street. She was thinking about their time together, that week here in Berlin, the most incredible of her life.

They planned to meet again in Paris in three weeks time and talking to her grandfather Alfred, days later, Lisa learned that he too would be in Paris. He was promoting a book and would be staying at the Hotel Crillon the month of May. Because she had the quickest mind of any of his six grandchildren, she had always been his favorite and he offered her the gift of a room there. She accepted and it was decided she would arrive three days earlier than she had originally planned so that her grandfather could show her some of the city. She told him she was meeting friends. He didn’t press for details.

It had been four days before the trip that she had become concerned. She had never been three days late. She couldn’t be pregnant. To anyone watching her, her life was normal as she made the final arrangements for her holiday. She followed through with her plan to buy the red strapless evening gown. She tried to finish her book about Amelia Earhart but couldn’t bear to read the ending. She changed her picture on her Facebook profile from, her reading on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale, to, her reading in a leather chair in a dimly lit corner of her den. None of her friends asked why. She had enough vacation time accumulated in her position at the U.S. embassy in Berlin to allow her to take more days off than she originally requested and she did.

For her, the world had changed. Inescapable thoughts kept running through her mind, questions that she had never thought she would have to deal with. A baby, her baby, his baby, all the ways her life could change. What would he say, what would he do? She learned that she should wait until day seven to take the test. She couldn’t stop her mind, options, questions, and thoughts drifted through uncontrolled. Never in her past had she spent time thinking about pregnancy, her unexpected pregnancy. She had never considered it might happen this way.

The trip itself and the first days in Paris quickly passed. Her grandfather Alfred took more pleasure in presenting the city to her than anything in his life. She loved the twinkle in his eye when he saw or heard anything that pleased him. It was an amazing three-day tour, Pantheon, Sorbonne, Luxemburg Gardens, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge. It was exuberant spring. The sky was clear, bright. He was happy and she would do nothing to distract or disappoint her grandfather, yet her mind, for those three days, grew more restive.

She had delayed as long as she could. Her mind remained in turmoil as she took the test kit into her small bathroom at the Hotel Crillon. Ten minutes and a lifetime later she emerged.

Relieved, invigorated, perhaps exhilarated, Lisa left the bathroom ready to restart her life. In that room she had realized and resolved that pregnant or not she must and would move on in her life. She would not look back but forward. If she had been pregnant her grandfather, Alfred, would have been one of the first to find out and, without thinking, she knew he would have supported her in everyway he could.

Her meeting with her new friend, her lover, was not for another hour. He was not the father of their child, not yet anyway. She decided to clear her head, take in the fresh spring air, and walk in the Tuileries Garden that her grandfather loved so much and had twice taken her in the last three days. There was a bench she liked, near the pond where the young children sailed their lifelike toy sailboats. New blossoms were everywhere. There was no place she knew that was better to just sit, relax, and gather one’s self. “Merci” she said to the doorman as she glided through the front door of the hotel and turned in the direction of the gardens.

Walking around the outside of the Place it occurred to her that there was more than the usual noise and congestion, particularly on the other side of the Obelisk. See looked over but it obscured her view. She also thought that her grandfather had told her he was going in that direction when he left the hotel some time ago. With a hint of anxiety she hurried past the entrance to the gardens to get a clear view of whatever was happening on the other side of the Place. She saw a cab and a Mini. Apparently there had been an accident. She felt momentary relief, then she noticed the man and two women, one a striking, young blond, taller than she was, walking together, away from her towards the Champs Elysée. “Was that him?” Now she hesitated, confused and a touch disoriented, perhaps it was just recent emotions catching up with her. Without thinking, she moved to have a closer look and weaved through traffic, cutting across to the center island. “That can’t be him, but it looked like him.” She was too far away to be sure.

She crossed again to the opposite side of the Place. Snarled traffic, horns, and angry cabbies assaulted her already heightened senses. She reached the curb walking briskly now and turned onto the granite-paved walk of the Champs. Still a good distance away, she saw the three stop at a red-canopied café. As they moved to a sidewalk table they walked past, Alfred?

The man she was following turned slightly as he sat. It was Jimmy. He was smiling and his hand was on the blond girl’s shoulder.

At that point she stopped and walked over to a nearby empty bench and sat, no longer following, not aware of the gentle spring breeze and the strolling cheerful people filling the broad, tree lined, walk.

After a short time, she stood up, walking slowly now in the direction of the hotel, passing the Obelisk, remembering her grandfather telling her that the name, “Place de la Concorde”, was chosen “symbolizing the end of a troubled era and the hope for a better future.”

Her cell phone chirped, it was a text message from Jimmy. “I was going to surprise you and get there early but got tied up. I’ll be a little late. See you soon.”

She would not cry. Instead she thought, “another test”. Lisa knew more questions would be answered before this day would end. She also thought, “Amelia would have walked over to the table”.

Links – week 9  “Pregnant? Thoughts” , week 8  “Number Talk” , week 7  “Monolithic” , week 6  “Committed?”

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4 Responses to ““answered questions”, paris, may, 2004 by jmforceton”

  1. J Adamthwaite March 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    I’m so impressed that you’ve managed to link up so many of the characters over the last few weeks. The more I read, the more I feel like I’m waiting for something big to unfold, which is particularly impressive since you don’t know what the prompts are until they’re posted!

  2. ingrid March 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    I think that the inner dialog is great. This particular story of yours had great pace… somehow it matched the mood of her mental space in a really wonderful way. I too am incredibly impressed with the story links! Did you plot it out beforehand?

  3. jmforceton March 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Thanks you both for your comments. I think at this point I would like to make these characters part of a short story. I have vague visions but no set plot yet. So far I just feel like I’m following these guys around reporting.

  4. juleshg March 16, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    I think you definitely have the makings of a short story here. The characters are strong and the plot is weaving itself together tightly. I wonder if Alfred ever finds out about the link between Jimmy and his grand-daughter as he was the one who got it in his head that Jimmy and Amy become a couple.

    I hope we see these characters again!

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