By the time Renée returned, it was the height of lunch and the café was teeming with hungry Parisians. All the chairs were occupied, so she squeezed into the space beside me on the bench. “I’m sorry, it took longer than I had expected. I hope you weren’t too bored.”
“No, not bored at all. I’ve been eavesdropping on conversations; I know its cliché, but I love, love, love the accents. I just wish I knew what they were saying.”
I admired the cut of her hair and gave thought to finding a style to fit my new surroundings; maybe something très jeune and less matronly.
“By the way, your hair looks great; you’ll have to give me the name of your salon.”
“Merci pour la compliment.” Renée rifled through her bag, pulled out a pen and wrote something on the back of a napkin. “This is the name and address of the salon. Mention my name when you make an appointment. Now tell me, did you enjoy your breakfast?”
“Actually, I wasn’t very hungry, so I just ordered coffee, three cups to be exact, and people watched.”
“You must be ravenous then.” Renée motioned to an attractive young man. “I imagine you’ll spend a lot of time here, so let me introduce you to our waiter.” The young man approached. “Alex, this is Madame Davis. She is renting my apartment for a month, or so. Kate, this is Alex,” she smiled, “the best waiter in all of France.”
To my surprise, Alex bent and kissed me on both cheeks. “Renée is too kind. Welcome to Paris, Madame Davis.” He turned to Renée, “It is lunch time; I bring two menus, si?”
“Ouais, and two glasses of wine. Do you prefer red or white, Kate?”
“Red sounds good.”
Conversation with Renée was easy. She possessed a certain je ne sais quoi that set her apart from the average woman.
“What brings you to Paris, Kate? A long holiday, maybe?”
“No, it’s a little more complicated than that. My youngest child recently graduated from college and moved across the state for grad school and my ex-husband basically just used our home to have somewhere to hang his clothes. I grew tired of rambling around in a big empty house and decided I would be happier alone, so, long story short; I filed for divorce. He got the condo on Tampa Bay and I got the house in Savannah. I’m not getting any younger, so I chose to step out of my comfort zone, and follow my dreams of living the Parisian life.”
“Bravo, mon cher! I’m sorry to hear that, but being divorced myself, I understand. One must move on, Oui?”
“I’m curious, Renée, you speak English so well. Did you spend time in the states?”
“Yes, actually I attended the New York School of Interior Design for a time, married and lived the American dream. She chuckled, “It wasn’t for me. I was young and impulsive.” Her finger lightly traced the rim of her glass, “Let’s just say, it was a mutual divorce. I went on to travel the world, study different cultures and how it affects design.” She tilted her chin, “You’ll see part of my collections in the apartment.”
After a leisurely lunch and interesting tête-à-tête, she singled Alex and made a writing motion in the air. “L’addition, s’il vous plait.”
Renée paid the bill; we retrieved my suitcases and started the climb to the fourth floor.
Two flights up I leaned against the wall, my heart pounding. Renée laughed and kept climbing, “You’ll get used to it.”
I was pleasantly surprised at the size of my apartment, considering how small the ones were that I had seen in magazines and on TV. I noted there were only two apartments on each floor; maybe that was the reason for the extra space.
Renée showed me around the apartment and explained all she thought I needed to know. It was one long room, done in a contemporary, open style that she had designed herself. Floor to ceiling shuttered windows lined the front and back walls, flooding the apartment with sunlight. A small kitchen and bath were the only other walled rooms. Worn hardwood floors, loaded bookcases, art and sculptures added to the charm.
“I hope you enjoy your stay here, Kate. I will be at my house in the country if you need me. I usually come into the city once a week to check my mail and treat myself to dinner. I’ll drop off a few more towels and linens next week.”
She handed me the keys, “Au revoir.”
The wine I had at lunch, combined with the long flight, caught up with me. I decided to take a little nap before setting out to see the city. I didn’t want to sleep too long because I would then have to battle jet lag for days. I set my alarm for four o’clock, curled up on the bed and dozed off.