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Episode Two: Be Careful What You Wish For

So sat Theresa, marooned on an isle in the middle of the lobby, alone with her Blackberry and her wishes, without a back-up plan in sight.

The old man mopped the last area around Theresa's feet, but she was too absorbed in her Blackberry to notice.  He finally stopped, leaned on his mop and stared down at her, in a not unfriendly fashion.  Theresa felt his gaze and looked up.  She said, "Yes?" and he continued to look at her.  Theresa said again, "Yes?" and then realized he might not speak English.  She scrolled quickly through some phrases on the Blackberry.  She said, "Que....voulez...vous? There!" and she looked up at him, proudly.  

The old man said, "Que voulez-vous, madam?"  She said, "What I voulez is to get the hell out of here and to Angers somehow."  He smiled at her.  She smiled back.  He looked so....so grandfatherly.  She peeked around him and said to the concierge, "He doesn't know what I'm saying, does he?" and the concierge shrugged his shoulders.  

The janitor said to Theresa, "I do ze clean, okay?"  She said, "Okay, but I have to find the way out of here?"  He pointed outside and said, "Go, un verre, a drink in the café.  I clean."  She said, "A drink's not a bad idea."  He smiled and said, "Go, go."  

Theresa smiled back and said, "My luggage?"  and the concierge said, "I will take it madam. He need to finish up.  Please go to the café." Her smile disappeared.  "I'm going, I'm going!"

The janitor walked her carefully across the wet lobby and pointed to a  café just across the street.  Theresa didn't recall seeing it before, but maybe she had been too focused on her meeting.  She crossed the cobble-stoned street.  

The café earlier seemed pretty crowded for 11:30 on a weeknight, Theresa thought, but maybe the French always stayed up late drinking.  Maybe that's why they never had breakfast meetings before 9 a.m.  She shrugged and then realized what she'd done.  "Good god," she muttered to herself.  

Theresa found a small table on the sidewalk.  Around her couple and small groups leaned into each other, talking rapidly, incessantly.  She slid into the chair and pulled out the Blackberry.  She [Link Removed] "Café in Paris.  These French never seem to shut up."  

A waiter materialized at her side, a long white apron wrapped around and folded over at his waist.  She scrolled quickly through her phrases on her Blackberry.  She said, "seal vu plaid, un verre? Vin rouge".  She eyed the waiter to see if any of that had gotten through.  He said, "Un red wine madam?".  Theresa was relieved, "Yes, thank you, uh mercy."  

He was back quickly with her glass and a small carafe on wine on his tray. He poured the wine with a grand gesture and then pulled out a chair and sat down next to her.  Theresa almost choked on her wine.  He leaned in and said, "Americaine, yes?"  Theresa said, "Yes".  He said, "New York? You know New York?"  Theresa rolled her eyes.  "NO" she said emphatically, "NOT New York.  Chicago!"  

The group at the next table leaned over and started speaking in rapid fire French to the waiter, who responded with equal passion. She heard, "Shee-cog-o" and "L'Americaine" and then "George Bush", which elicited disgusted moues from several of the participants.   It was like watching a championship tennis match between the Williams' Sisters—except they volleyed with words instead of balls.  But it was the same passionate, hard-hitting back and forth, over some invisible net.    

They kept gesturing to her as if she were part of the conversation but she couldn't understand a word.  Suddenly Theresa suddenly felt very isolated.  She looked around and said to herself, "I wish I understood them—I wish they understood me."  

A man at one of the conversation tables stood up, catching Theresa's eye.  She hadn't noticed him before either, but with all this talking it was hard to see.  He seemed younger than her, but it was hard to say for sure.  He was rather square and somewhat short, certainly under 5'8, Theresa's minimum height for a romantic contender.  He was ugly enough, Theresa thought, despite his broad shoulders and blonde hair.  

The man  turned to greet someone and Theresa saw it was the janitor.  They spoke as if they knew each other well.  The man gestured to the janitor to sit, but the old man pointed to Theresa.  The man listened, nodded, and stood up as the janitor left his table.  Then he sat back down in his chair and stared openly and interestedly at Theresa.

The janitor was clearly headed to Theresa, but was waylaid by the waiter and his group, who also seemed to know him.  He was pulled down into a chair, without too much dissent, and given a welcome beer.  Theresa watched him for awhile and then glanced back over at the blond man, who was still watching her.  She looked down and pulled out her Blackberry, on reflex.  She had begun to compose a post for her [Link Removed] on the rudeness of French men when a young woman from the janitor's table leaned over and spoke to her.  The woman said, "Claude say you miss your train, eh? You need a ride?"  

Theresa asked, "Who is Claude?"  and the young woman said, "Who eez Claude? Voila Claude!" and she put her hand on the janitor's shoulder.

"Yes, I desperately need a ride!"

"Claude say he will drive you, eh? He has, how you say, volunteered?"  She turned back to the group at her table, who seemed to be hanging on every word and they burst into excited French.  Then they all paused and looked back at Theresa.  She said, "The janitor will drive me?"

"You have a problem with janitors?"  It was the blonde man, at her elbow and no better looking close up.  She said hurriedly, "No, no, not at all.  He just seems, well, he seems a bit old to be heading out at midnight for a road trip."

The blonde man studied her.  He said, "I would not worry about Claude.  He is an excellent driver.  But here, I will come with you also, in case he needs a rest."

Theresa wasn't so sure about this.  She said, "Well, I can spell him, it's not necessary for you to...put yourself out."  The blonde man smiled.  It transformed his face in a way that made him, if not passably good-looking then somewhat less threatening. He said, "Yes, you do not trust me, of course, because you do not know me."  He stuck out his hand.  "My name is Jin."  

Theresa took it.  She said,  "I am Theresa, but really it's not—-"  "Ah, Terese, such a beautiful name!" and still holding her hand he turned to the group and introduced her.  Everyone started saying "Salut Terese" and "Bon soir Terese" and she said several times, "Thanks, it's Theresa"  but it was like trying to tell them that not every American came from New York, so she gave up.

The janitor smiled at her and said, "Okay, eets okay.  My wife, she come, okay?" and turned to Jin and spoke passionately for a minute.  Jinn said to her, "Claude's wife is a housekeeper in [Link Removed]  We will pick her up first before we go."  Theresa tried to dissuade them but the young French woman said, "Why not? They give you a ride, it is safe.  It is rude to turn them down, you know?"  

Claude patted her hand gently.  He said, "You are safe, yes? With me, you are safe.  Eets okay" and he patted her hand gently.  Theresa looked at him and thought, yes, eets okay.  

After much kissing—Theresa thought they cheek kissed everyone in the place—Claude walked her out of the café and across the street to the hotel.  

As they arrived, Jin came out of the hotel with her baggage.  Theresa looked at him, surprised.  She said, "How did you get there? You were still in the café when I left" and Jin shrugged.  "What kind of name is Jin anyway?" she asked, "It sounds, I don't know, it doesn't sound French."  He shrugged again.  The French must keep their chiropractors busy, Theresa thought, all that shoulder work.  

Jin said, "I am from [Link Removed] in the East of France.  It is part French, part German, as am I.  Jinn is my, you call it, nickname."  

"Is that why you speak English so well?"  Jin looked amused.  He said, "You mean do I speak English well because I am Alsatian?"  Theresa was defensive.  She said, "Well, you have no accent you know."  Jinn said, "I speak many languages, even Alsatian."  Theresa kept quiet.  She had no idea if that was a real language or if he was making it up to torture her.

A horn sounded and Claude pulled up alongside the curb in a midnight blue Citroen CX. Theresa said, "My dad had one of these when I was little! I love these cars!" Claude smiled and opened the door.  She slid in.  God it was a gorgeous car. It was old, she could tell, but beautifully maintained.  This could be an okay trip after all.  She sighed and leaned back into the seat.

Jinn slid in next to her and he and Claude spoke rapidly, then Jinn switched back to English and said, "So, we are on our way to Angers.  And what takes you there?"  Theresa said, "Work".  

"What work?"  

"Why do you want to know?"  

Jinn eyed her.  He said,  "If we are going to travel together for several hours, what is the harm of knowing?"  She didn't respond.  Jin said, "Most Americans, they make friends very quickly.  Warm people, you are.  But then, the next day, poof! You completely forget.  In France, we take a long time to make friends.  But when a person is our friend, it is for life."  

Theresa waited politely until he was finished speaking and then she turned away and pulled out her Blackberry and sent a text to one of her teammates, letting him know she was en route.  Jinn laughed.  He said, "I think maybe you are like Madonna".  Theresa was annoyed.  She said, "I don't sleep with it under my pillow!  It stays on my night stand" and even Claude laughed at this.  

Jinn slid forward and hit the radio and a song drifted out—"[Link Removed]  Theresa recognized it—she'd seen the movie.  Jinn and Claude began to sing, and Theresa wondered if this would keep up for the entire 5 hour trip.  If so, it could be a long night.

Claude wound the car through the streets of Paris and as they got to Montmartre, the streets became narrower and more congested.  The national holiday had already started in this neighborhood, thought Theresa.  Someone tapped on Claude's window and handed him a glass of champagne, which he took and toasted the stranger with.  He downed it and began singing "Allons enfants de la patrie!"  Jinn joined him, then said, "We must teach you the words to the [Link Removed]  Come, it is Bastille Day! You should know this!  

Claude and Jinn sang lustily while Theresa tried to follow, but she got lost in the language and they kept singing, unaware that she had clammed up.

The Citroen pulled to a stop at a traffic light and the front door opened by a gendarme.  He said, "Bon soir! Here she is!" and an older woman climbed heavily into the front sweet and gave Claude a long kiss.  The kiss lasted through two traffic lights, while car horns blared behind them, Jinn clapped enthusiastically and Theresa sunk further and further into her seat. Still the woman kissed Claude.

Theresa hoped it was his wife.    

But strangely she did not wish to be kissed herself.  Which was just as well.  After all, why waste a wish?

To be continued.

Miss the first episode? You can find it at [Link Removed]


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