It was one of those historic buildings where some of Balzac’s better-to-do characters might have lived. In the high-ceilinged apartment a twenty-something crowd milling about its wood-paneled, Persian carpet-clad salon looked somewhat out of place. Fabienne, Laetitia’s new girlfriend, introduced them to several people, mostly loud government types; a couple of artsy characters who gave Melissa’s yellow cardigan a disapproving look; and a guy from McKinsey whose face went blank when she said she had quit her job to write. At any one time, half of them were texting, and it was not long before Melissa was completely bored.
She gazed around for Laetitia. They had come to Paris together less than a month ago, old college roommates on separate missions. Melissa was taking a few months off from her marketing job to finish the novel she had been working on for almost five years; and Laetitia, fresh from a breakup, returned home to seek solace amid the City of Light’s legendary nightlife. With her peachy skin, huge hazel eyes, and the readily deployable languid sensuality of her people, she’d had little problem finding balm for her bruised heart, in the form of Fabienne. But now the lovebirds were nowhere to be found.
Melissa considered slipping discreetly out, but the place was so posh she wanted to see more of it. There was a library nook off the salon whose arched windows gave onto the Luxembourg Garden in bloom, and she stopped there, mesmerized by the glittering May dusk, and let the voices in the adjoining room recede below the surface of her consciousness. When the last glimmer of the purple light had faded from the sky, she turned to find a man leaning against the doorframe, a glass in hand. His light complexion was set off by black hair that had begun to recede at the forehead, and his jaws were framed by a neatly trimmed beard. His face was lean without being gaunt, and the frank curiosity in his deep-set brown eyes provided an attractive counterpoint to his grave expression. Like her, he did not seem that impressed with the party.
“Quel ennui,” she nodded complicity in the direction of the salon, raising an eyebrow in mock desperation.
“It is,” he replied in French, and his mouth relaxed into a light smile. “If you’re not a Paris Saint-Germain fan or go to Amsterdam on weekends, you won’t have much luck starting a new conversation thread.”
Melissa liked his voice, deeper than that of a typical Frenchman, but still with that language’s soft timbre. “Are you waiting to make an exit, too?” she went on with the joke.
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