By: Cara McKenna

A slow, thoughtful nod. “That’s a nice idea.”

For a long moment we both stalled, then I took hold of Didier’s shoulders and turned him toward the crosswalk. “Well, off you go.”

“Off I go. I’ll see you this weekend? Friday?”

I nodded. “You will. Thank you so much for lunch. You know, and for coming out to see me. It means an awful lot. Way more than I can say.” And if I tried any harder to explain it, I’d surely start crying.

“Thank you for making me willing to. Really…” He trailed off. I could tell he wanted to say more as well, but it was too much on top of whatever crazy adrenaline high or anxiety attack he must have been mired in.

I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek, stepping away as a large group of tourists began to cross en masse. With my gentle push, he merged into the safety of the throng.

He stopped and waved from the far sidewalk. I waved back. I watched him turn away. I watched him walk all the way down the block, until his sweater was just a dot of gray in the crowd. The most extraordinary man in a city of two million. In all of Europe or the rest of the wide world.

I hoped he’d stop at the flower shop, maybe do as I always do and spend far too long there, sniffing all the blossoms. All those scents and colors he’d left behind until today. I hoped they’d feel new to him all over again, as new as the excitement swelling in my middle.

A beautiful young clerk might flirt with him as he browsed, but she’d never see what I did. She’d see only his shiny shell, snapped shut to hide a jumble of secondhand parts, ticking not quite as they should, but ticking nonetheless. A bit rusty. A bit erratic, like my heartbeat in the moments before I press his buzzer.

As I aimed myself back toward the museum, I pondered what I’d wear on Friday. What I might bring as an offering, for our date.

I wished I didn’t have to go to the party that afternoon. I wanted the workday to be done so I could walk to the shops and get lost, browsing the aisles for treats. Something fancy and overpriced from far away, that Didier would never have tried before. Something to remind him of the places that lay beyond the bricks that made up sixteen Rue des Toits Rouges. He’d opened me up inside those walls, and now I prayed I might do him the favor of helping knock them down.

The sun was hot on my hair, bright in my eyes. The breeze was cool with no promise of rain. The sky was blue as hydrangea, wide and high and limitless, and all of Paris belonged to me.

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