Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Boy In Khaki, A Girl In Lace

Paris bustled around Sophie at Gare du Nord. The war had ended and the train station had become the busiest point in the city with supplies and refugees being sent far across France and into Europe. Yet the petite brunette stood on the platform transfixed as the wind whipped the reality of a postwar Paris beside her. Her captivating emerald eyes and silent, knowing smile hinted at sadness as she watched the man of her dreams board the last train to Caen. She couldn't bear to watch him go, knowing he had saved her life and promised her a future beyond mortar shells and occupation. But, as she repeated sullenly to herself, orders were orders. Patrick was going back to the United States, to his old, familiar life in Carolina. He mentioned more than once about bringing her home to that exotic state, but orders were orders she groaned again in dismay.

She would never get over him. Never get over their candlelit dinner on the famed parquet floors of the Louvre he had arranged by bribing another serviceman to let them in at midnight. Never get over jumping into the Seine from the Pont de l'Archevêché bridge and sealing their love with a padlock from a motor pool inscribed with their names. Never get over watching the Eiffel Tower lit up for the first time since the war ended as fireworks exploded around them and Patrick stealing his first kiss moments later. Every moment since that fateful day they had met in Montmarte had been magical and she wanted it all back so badly. But at that moment, the boards in Gare du Nord flipped. She stared at the board until the last line near Caen read Départs. Sophie turned to the exit as the train began to leave, tears staining her white linen dress, Patrick's favorite. Their goodbye had been curt, a single kiss and a lifetime of questions left to be unanswered. 

Sophie wandered the streets of Paris aimlessly for hours after that. She had long resisted the advances of her suitors, choosing to fall in love with Paris. She was angry at her native city for not protecting her. She was angry she let an American into her heart knowing it wouldn't last. But most of all, Sophie felt a deep betrayal of herself. Every place in Paris, every cafe, every street corner, every arrondissement, was sacred to her. It had been like this since her childhood, an orphan adopted by Paris to be loved and cherished unconditionally. But now every secret pocket of Paris she knew was tinged with sadness. She had bared her heart to Patrick, and her heart was unequivocally parisienne. As she round the corner near Notre Dame to the Pont de l'Archevêché she stopped to look at their lock. She didn't need this city anymore. She needed Patrick. Overcome by a fit of sadness, she wished she could jump into the Seine and never come back up. 

She found herself in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was here Patrick had brought her into the Luxembourg Palace and they had run through the corridors like children, darting in and out of rooms and startling many high-ranking Allied commanders who used the Palace as an office. He brought her to the balcony of the library and wrapped his arms around her waist as the beauty of Paris was spread among them amidst a smoky sunset. Patrick told Sophie he would be happy for the rest of his life if he was to gaze at this sunset every day with her in his arms. Another broken promise, another tear, thought Sophie. 

But at that moment a door to the Palace creaked open and all the lights went dark. Except for one: the library balcony. An aide hurried out of the door and ushered Sophie into the dark palace. Candles lit up the corridors as she walked up the stairs and faced the enormous doors to the library. A single white shiny ribbon tied the doors together and the aide requested Sophie pull the ribbon apart. As she did, the doors slid open to reveal two people on the balcony: a priest from her childhood orphanage and Patrick, resplendent in dress whites. She rushed over to Patrick and embraced him in a tearful, joyous hug. As she turned around she could see the highest ranking military officers in Europe loudly applauding the couple, many holding back tears of their own. Patrick then knelt down on one knee and pulled out a diamond ring. Before he could say a word she knelt down and offered her own, 

"Patrice, you promised me Paris. Paris is no longer what I desire. I desire to be with you. Forever."

The couple kissed still on their knees and it took the priest several minutes to calm the effervescent pair down before beginning their wedding ceremony. At the moment the ring was to be presented, a four star general approached the couple and presented Sophie with an emerald tiara, one of the French royal jewels hidden safely after the occupation of Paris by the Nazis. "Princesse Sophie," the priest playfully recanted, echoing a tease from her childhood when she believed herself royalty. As the priest finished the wedding blessing, he invited the newlywed couple onto the balcony for their first kiss. Patrick brought himself nose to nose with his new bride and whispered a lovestruck sentence to a giggling Sophie as her City of Lights gleamed around them. She wrapped his arms around her neck and kissed him with the love of an orphan behind her, love of a city in front of her, and love of a millennia ahead of her. 

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