Saturday, 6 February 2010
Message from Helen
As Jim and Helen had some enthusiastic admirers last time in the DARE post, I thought this prompt might bring them back just once!
Jim went to look out of the window. He loved Paris. There was something about the city that satisfied all his senses. The sights, the smells, the language, he felt that in this city he could really live.
He drew up a chair and reversed it, sat down with his elbows on the back, his hands supporting his chin. The full length window was open and the curtains moved quietly in the late afternoon breeze. He gazed with admiration at the view.
In front and above him were the buildings opposite, with windows like his own, slated roofs, dormers, chimneys and in the distance the suburbs of Paris stretching out, with apartment blocks, church domes and patches of green breaking up the landscape.
Below him, activity. The noise of the street welled up, wooing him; the insistent call of the traffic: car horns: the bustle and shout of shoppers; the drone of lifts and clang of gates from the entrance to the Metro; and wafting up the seductive smells of the patisseries, coffee machines and the scent of French cigarettes. Jim was entranced; he was glad Helen was there to share it with him.
He watched the commuters enter and leave the Metro. There were those that hurried with furious intent to catch the next train at all costs, there were those that dawdled and yet others again that stopped as they emerged as though shocked to find a different world outside. A man in a raincoat stood still for several seconds, looking around him before daring to enter that underworld.
Over everything was laid a blanket of Gallic babble, conversations, arguments, pleas and pardons that made the whole scene make sense. Paul leaned out to enter that world.
He noticed one couple, young, eager, loving, sad, walk up with reluctant steps towards the entrance staircase. They clung to each other, let go and touched again, fingers entwined, then the man, tall, fair and curly haired, reached out and held her by the back of her neck. She leaned back into his touch, turned, smiled, her auburn locks shook and covered his hand. Petite, pert, shirt tied at the waist, jeans, she looked deep into his face, they stopped, he drew her to him and there with the crowded street milling round them, kissed, fondled and held tight.
Lovers. They had to part, but clearly it hurt, she drew away, yet he held her by both hands, not daring to let her go. Again he pulled her back to him. His hands stroked her back, curled around her bottom. Her hands reached for his face, traced his eyes, his nose, his lips. She tucked her fingers into his shirt and caressed his chest.
A woman selling flowers not two steps away, ignored them but tried to interest others with her roses and carnations. A gush of air from the Metro caught a scrap of paper. Up, up and around them it went, then whoosh it was gone.
Jim had received a message a message from Helen that she was travelling to Paris on business. Did he want to meet her there? After the abrupt parting in the London restaurant a week ago he leapt at the chance. Two days alone with Helen after all those years!
Jim looked out the window again. The lovers had parted, the young man had gone half way down the steps to the Metro, stopped, looked up at his lover, then came rushing back again to gain one last kiss. She was upset, crying now, her fingers went to each eye in turn to wipe away the tears. He fondled her again. Now she touched him, overtly, arousing him. He wrapped her up in his arms, kissed her neck, her eyes, her nose, finally a most gentle kiss to the lips. They broke, he rushed down the cavernous mouth of the Metro and was gone. She waited until he had disappeared, then she too, turned, walked back the way they had come and was lost in the crowd.
"Jim, what are you staring at?"
"One last look at the street," he turned toward her, she had just finished her packing. Bent over her case her hair had fallen down across her face and all he could see was the tip of her nose and her lips.
"I love you."
"I know," she replied.
"Do you like Paris?"
"Mm," came the affirmative reply. "Help me with this, we haven't got long before the taxi."
"Shall we come back?"
She glanced up at him again. She looked perplexed with her head tilted to one side as though the question was not easy to answer. He knew she came over regularly on business.
Jim went across to her. Put his arms around her waist and squeezed possessively. Helen released herself, kissed Jim on the cheek with affection but without passion, and laid her head on his shoulder for a few seconds.
"We have put right something that needed to be put right. Now I have you in my heart forever. Hold onto that Jim." She whispered.
The phone rang; their taxi was waiting.
They held hands on the plane, spoke little, made no plans. The silence was not confident, warm, comforting; it was uncertain, cheerless, and strange. They collected their cases at the carousel. Lined up quietly at immigration and then free to enter the arrival's hall turned at last to each other.
"Will Graham be here to meet you?"
It was with a very small voice that Helen said, "Yes."
There was a pause, then in her turn she said, "And Brenda?"
Paul shook his head, "I'm getting the bus to Woking, then the train from there."
They nodded at each other, awkwardly, not smiling.
Finally putting their cases down they touched each other's hands for the last time and as if only acquaintances, kissed each other on the cheek.
Helen, turned purposefully, strode through the doors without looking back and was gone.
Jim sighed, waited some time before lifting his own case. Some minutes later he sat looking at the drizzly rain, grey and cheerless waiting for his transfer bus. He knew there wouldn't be another message.
Photo of rooftops from the Hotel Roma , a short walk from Montmartre, Paris, by the author