found this great quote in A Moveable Feast this morning, Very fitting in the case of this story

Versailles

‘And which perfume do you think I should wear?’ As if a man would know.

His face lit up as he listed four or five that would be perfect for me. A pretty young woman with such beautiful hair should wear a sweet floral or fruity scent in summer, he explained. I blushed. I had been in Paris for around 24 hours and had already been called pretty or beautiful more times than I had in my whole adult life. I was not used to men having any idea about perfumes. And I certainly wasn’t used to the attention and actually found it uncomfortable. In Australia men only seemed interested in bosoms and I certainly wasn’t gifted in that department. The French seemed very interested in my long, strawberry-blonde hair and almost laughably, my freckles. Now that was a new one. No one in Australia likes freckles! He had also complimented my choice of Ray Ban sunglasses and my ‘smooth skin’. What? One of the perks of being young, I laughed, embarrassed.

He offered to take me shopping. We could grab some lunch, maybe he could show me his favourite building in Paris, the Pompidou Centre. Then we could get me 25% off at a Duty Free store near the Louvre. Downstairs from his daughter’s dentist.

A daughter. He was nice looking, sweet and complimented my freckles. Was it asking too much to meet just one guy without kids?

I asked him about her and his face lit up again as he launched into an animated story about how lovely and clever she was. Do I have children, he asked me. I just laughed and said ‘God, no.’

Then came the punchline. His wife, the mother of the perfect daughter, had just left him. For the personal trainer. Of course she did. What was it with these French guys and their wives?

Changing the subject, I asked him a few questions about museums in Paris, his favourites, which to focus on and which to miss. I told him I was thinking of changing my career. I’d trained as a teacher, but had recently thought about training as a window dresser. I was thinking of moving to Paris, I confessed, or London. After going on various tours around famous monuments in the UK, I was toying with the idea of studying languages and history and becoming a tour guide.

He laughed.

‘I hope you are independently wealthy. It’s not a career to make money.’ I wasn’t sure if he was telling me he was broke or that he was independently wealthy.

As we sat in the grass watching the ducks on the pond, he asked me why I was on his tour alone? You are Mrs, he said, a question mark in his voice.

Yes…and no, I said. I told him the quick version. We married. 9 weeks later…an accident. He was shocked. Everyone is. I still am all these years later.

Dragging ourselves away from the quiet spot in the garden, we wandered back towards the palace. We had a half hour before we had to meet the rest of the group.

‘Let’s get a drink,’ he said, steering me towards an exit in the garden, manned by a little guard’s booth.

The guard in the booth waved us over and came out of his little booth and shook hands with the guide. They carried on an animated conversation that seemed to involve me. They both turned and looked at me. The guard shook my hand and said something in rapid-fire French. I looked at the guide and he laughed. Again, with the blushing. {He told me later the guard had asked me if I had a sister.}

Leaving the guard and the gardens of the chateau behind we walked through a crowded coach carpark and into a bistro that seemed to serve coach drivers and tour guides exclusively. At least I knew where all the people in the chateau had come from. There must have been fifty coaches parked out there.

We stood at the bar and drank the rough red wine he had ordered. It set my teeth on edge. I felt uneasy. Here I was, again, with a strange man. What would mum say? What would everyone in my home town say? People already hated me enough…I had survivor’s guilt that I probably wouldn’t have had if so many people hadn’t somehow wished it was me that had died and not my lovely husband. They didn’t realise I wished that too, but for whatever reason, I was still there and they’d better get used to it. I’d already decided I wasn’t going anywhere. I had to live enough life for the both of us.

The guide gave me his phone number and flicked through my expensive guide book, folding down corners to show me must-see museums and monuments.

‘I have the day off tomorrow. What time shall I pick you up?’

I explained that I had plans. I intended going to the Louvre, to find Gilles, to see if I could get a backstage pass, so to speak.

‘It’s funny, you told me you didn’t know anyone here in Paris and you already have a date,’ he said, teasing me.

‘He’s married; he has a baby…it’s a funny story. I just want to see the museum…’

The guide teased me about it all the way back to the coach and I was annoyed at him by the time we boarded. Was he jealous? How bizarre.

On the return to Paris, I chatted to Jean who was very interested that I was seen walking back from the gardens with the guide. I rolled my eyes, just looking at the gardens, I explained. I offered to accompany her to dinner that night and oh, would she like to come to the Louvre with me, and hopefully get a tour from Gilles? We made a plan to meet up for breakfast at the hotel as she was dining with her family that night.

As we filed off the coach in the quiet leafy street in front of our hotel, I thanked the guide, handed my tip to the driver and kept walking with Jean. I had a very low tolerance for teasing after growing up with 5 brothers and certainly didn’t want anyone to insinuate that I was planning to meet with Gilles for any reason other than the chance to see the Louvre.

That was when I saw Marc waiting in the lobby. Was he waiting for me? That hadn’t been part of the plan. I stuck by Jean’s side and walked with her to the lift avoiding him. It wasn’t mum’s voice in my head. My gut told me to avoid the guy.

As I rode the lift with Jean, I wondered why I was attracting these strange men with fragile marriages? Why couldn’t I attract a nice normal man? I supposed that I’d already married the nicest man on the planet, so anyone was going to pale in significance to him, even a good looking, independently wealthy (or not as it turned out) French tour guide.

History tells me that I had to wait until I got home to Australia to meet a nice, uncomplicated man, where the idea to return to Paris to begin my new career as a tour guide would be put aside for bigger plans.


I’m going to leave this story here and move on to another memory. If you would like me to continue with the story, because there is a lot more…please let me know below in the comments and I’ll keep telling the story. ❤

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