As I rounded the third flight of stairs to my apartment, a woman, balancing groceries on one knee, stood fidgeting with her keys, trying to unlock her door.
“Here, let me help you.” I reached out and took the bags.
“Merci, Madame.” She unlocked the door and ushered me in. “Just set them on the table, s’il vous plait.” She extended her hand, I am Peggy Windsor. “You are American, Oui?”
“Yes, I am. My name is Kate Hamilton.”
“I gathered as much from your accent; I’m an expat from the UK. Stay and let me fix you a cup of tea to show my appreciation.” She gestured toward a small sofa. “Please, hand me your coat and, have a seat.”
“That sounds lovely. It’s quite chilly in the hallway.”
A furry yellow cat, lay grooming himself on the windowsill. He stopped long enough to glance my way as if to say, ‘You have my permission to sit on the sofa, just don’t forget who it belongs to,’ and then continued on with his bath.
Peggy returned with a tray ladened with everything needed for a proper tea. She carefully set it on the ornate coffee table and then sat down on one of two matching side chairs.
“Cream and sugar,” She asked as she poured the tea into delicate bone china cups. The kinds of cups that make your hands shake for fear of dropping, and thus breaking one.
Steam rose from the cup, fogging her glasses. “Oh, my,” her blue eyes crinkled when she smiled. “Would you care for a raspberry biscuit? I bought them fresh at the Boulangeries this morning.”
“Oh yum, yes, please.”
I make it my mission to never turn down a sweet. Life is short, eat dessert fist is my favorite motto.
We carried on with the usual banter that you do when you meet someone for the time, the trivial chitchat. The cat jumped up in my lap, rubbing his head on my stomach, and began to purr.
“Ah, Louis likes you; he doesn’t take to strangers often. Do you have pets, Kate?”
“I have two cats back home, but I left them with my daughter, Emma. I’m thinking about adopting a small dog when I find an apartment of my own.”
“Dogs are the preferred pet in Paris, but cats are my favorite. They think they are royalty, Oui? Peggy was a rather large lady, not overweight, more like big boned. In her mid-fifties I guessed. After a time the conversation warmed and became more personal; I felt comfortable with her and knew we were going to be great friends. I told her about my divorce and why I moved to P
Paris and then she told me what brought her here from London.
“After my husband passed away, I was offered a job with the British Embassy in Paris. I accepted and moved here with my son William.”
She paused, dabbed at her lips with her napkin, and offered to refill my cup.
“That was thirty years ago. William moved back to London as a young man to go to school, and decided to make his home there. After he finished university, he went on to become a prominent antique appraiser.” Her face beamed with pride. “My William always has had a taste for the finer things in life.”
Judging from what I observed in her apartment, I was quite sure he had inherited that love from his mother.
Not wanting to overstay my first visit, I thanked her for her hospitality, gave Louis a scratch behind his ears and agreed to meet later for coffee at the café downstairs.
Instead of going home I decided to rent a bicycle from the bike shop near my apartment, ride around Paris and try not to get hit by a car!