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A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol.... Part 10
We went to the tea room where Chantal loaded her pictures of the day into her laptop computer. She showed me some of them, including one of me looking up as if asking myself "What am I doing here?". She was laughing, proud of herself for having caught me in a moment of distraction.
- "Okay, Chantal, we have to make a decision. Your work is done here, and so is mine. Ideally, I would like to visit a couple of extra places on the way to Dover, so here's my plan : tomorrow is Thursday, and I suggest we allow the day for shopping and then, I think Friday morning we should leisurely head back to Paris. Unless there is something else you want to do or see here ?"
- " You haven't heard from Audrey, have you?"
- "No, and for some obscure reason, I don't think she wants to talk to me right now".
- "She called me!"
- "Yes, about an hour ago, she wanted to know how the interview went!? Good old Audrey, always work before life, I thought. "She asked me how you were doing but honestly, she sounded in a foul mood".
- "Were you ever going to tell me she called?"
- "Absolutely, yes, and I just did. I just needed a little time to organise my thoughts around this"
- "you didn't want to hurt my feelings?"
- "Yes, something like that!"
- "Well, no matter what's going on, we'll get to the bottom of this".
- "That's why you want to go back to Paris early, isn't it?"
The evening meeting with Cara was quite pleasant. Chantal showed her some of the pictures she took since we had arrived in England and Cara commented ;
- "Seems like the two of you guys are having a mighty good time". She insisted on taking a look at the Sunbeam Chantal kept raving about, so the three of us went to the garage to see it. I felt funny discussing horsepower and gear ratios with two girls from the fashion world, but I was secretely delighted with their interest.
Thursday was an exhausting day of brutal shopping, but quite productive. I found the toys I wanted for my sister's boys and other gifts for all of my family.I debated about getting something for Audrey and in the end decided against it. There would be enough time to get her something in Paris. By the time I was done shopping, I was ready to sit down on the floor of any booktore for at least two hours. So, Chantal and I just did so, thoughts lost in books one can only find in London. I even purchased a couple of them on my favorite subject, automobile history, which I would later relish reading in the comfort of my Paris appartment.
And suddenly, without further warning, it was Friday morning and time to leave. I had mixed feelings and emotions. As much as I wanted to go back and figure out what happened to Audrey, I was also well aware that what I had just experienced in London was something that would probably never be duplicated. So, let's call a cat a cat, I had a serious case of the blues and it wasn't your traditional Christmas blues. But so is life. One day, you feel you're in heaven, and sometimes you are, the next day you're free falling out of the sky without a parachute...
The drive to Dover was uneventful and Chantal and I didn't have much to say. She didn't look so happy to go home either and none of us wanted to address our emotions. While I was fast driving on the motorway M20, she laid her hand on my forearm on several occasions as to make sure l was real and she wasn't dreaming. I didn't know for sure what she was trying to communicate, but whatever it was, it sure felt nice. The English Channel crossing between Dover and Calais is only an hour and a half affair, the perfect break for a quick lunch. We also had enough time to tour the duty free shop where I purchased a jumbo bottle of forty years old malt whisky for my father while Chantal indulged herself on some perfume. By the time we reached Calais, the Sunbeam was really getting full and our regular lugagge had disappeared under a collection of colorful shopping bags.
Before we got on the highway to Paris , I asked Chantal something I had never asked anyone else before :
- "Would you like to drive?" She looked at me in disbelief.
- "I would never have thought you would trust anybody to drive that car!"
- "I don't! But I do trust you!"
- "Sure, I'd like to give it a try since you made the offer, but I sure never would have dared to ask. Any special trick I should know about?"
- "Nope! The car is just like me, what you see is what you get: She gave me a side look I didn't care to know the meaning of. "But you know, sometimes in life, if you don;t ask, you don't get!"
- "Oh, really? Is that supposed to be the case for everything?" She was now looking at me with an ambiguous smile and it made me realize what I had just said. The only way to go was back!
- "Well, no, not really, not for everything!" She had a triumphant smile on her face. She just had me where she wanted and she was relishing the moment. Without further words spoken on that subject, she got behind the wheel and we got on our way..
It was my first time as a passenger in my own car and I got to appreciate the relative comfort of the seat, for a sportscar that is! Chantal drove quickly, faster than me actually on occasion, but I completely trusted her. Shortly before we reached Paris, she pulled into a rest area, parked into a quiet area far away from any other vehicle and turned off the ignition.
- "Bertrand, before we go home our separate ways, I want to thank you for driving me around for most of this past week. I know I wasn't overly nice to you in the beginning but you see, the minute I met you in Audrey's office, I found you very cute and attractive. So, I had to find a way to fight my own growing feelings for you, until I couldn't anymore. You are attached to someone else and, as much as I don't want to, I have to respect that, but it is not the easiest thing to do. And I have to say, I admire your loyalty to Audrey, she's a lucky woman, I'm telling you. So, if nothing else, let's be friends, all right? I mean real friends, the kind who lunch together once a week, go see a movie or a play together sometimes, and why not, spend a week-end somewhere given the opportunity. I mean, we almost shared a room for a week, so you know you'll always be as safe as you want to be around me". As she said that, she turned sideways to face me and took my left hand between both of hers. "So, what do you say, Bertrand?"
- "Well, since we're having open heart surgery,here, I'll be honest with you too. At first, I litteraly hated your guts, but for some strange reasons, you grew on me and I realized you have qualities that make up for your darker side. And I enjoyed every minute of my time spent with you once we reached London. I'm afraid no matter how hard we could try, we will never be able to live again what we just had.". She leaned towards me and rested her head against my shoulder. I could smell her hair and the fragrance of her discreet perfume. I closed my eyes to take it all in. Then, she kissed me on the cheek!
I wanted to reciprocate, something I had not done before, but seating in a car is not the ideal way of hugging someone, and as I lowered my head towards hers, I ended up kissing her neck, right in the small cavity formed by her collarbone. She shivered and said :
- "Could you please never stop doing that?" I pulled back some.
- "You're right, Chantal, let's be real friends as you suggested. I think you have come to realize I find you attractive and adorable, and I think you're just waiting for the moment of weakness where I'll be unable to resist you". She pulled her head away.
- "All right, she said, but for the record, I want you to know that the stupid center armrest of your car saved your butt!" We both bursted laughing as she started the car.
It was late afternoon and already dark when we reached the outskirts of Paris, and heavy traffic!. There were only eight days left before Christmas and the whole city had become frantic.
I asked Chantal if she wanted to stop by the office and she said she'd rather not. So, I drove her directly to her appartment on the left bank of the River Seine. She lived on the second floor of a seventeeth century building. I helped her carry her stuff upstairs, which took three seaprate trips, mind you. And then we said good-bye...
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