At this time of year, Paris shows off in shades of gray.
From mid-November to mid-March, Paris is one long season of gray days with the occasional breakthrough of a mild blue sky. None of those brilliant blue skies of a snappy, cold January day in New York, darlings. Instead, Paris cloaks us in somber, reflective gray that drives us inside to warm cafes and cozy corners where we keep company with a good book and let our imaginations wander.
An excerpt from Paris Adieu a coming-of-age tale of Ava’s journey to self-discovery in the City of Light. Christmas stocking stuffer? Yes, darlings. The season quickly sizzles between the pages of Paris Adieu.
Soon cloudless, warm October days gave way to iron-gray, rainy, cold November ones. The memory of Paris’s long, drab winter the year I’d turned twenty returned to me. Paris was nowhere near as cold as New York, but its skies were unrelentingly gray during the winter season, unlike the azure-blue brilliance of certain New York days in early winter. November to March in Paris was like one long month of February in New York.
Almost every day, I walked in Père Lachaise, where Arnaud and I had frequently strolled the month before. I began to notice the regulars who frequented the area: dog-walkers, couples, and lone walkers. All of us seemed shrouded in private thoughts – the cemetery a perfect backdrop for our self-reflection.
Upon entering the main gates late one gloomy, gray Friday morning I spotted a notice affixed to the lamppost next to the entrance. A print of a painting of a sharp-faced, aristocratic looking man announced an artist’s opening exhibit at a local gallery the following day, Saturday, November fifteenth. Startled, I realized a month had already passed since Arnaud had left. Even more shocked, I realized I hadn’t thought about him very much over the past few days.
I examined the poster more closely. The man’s petulant expression was similar to the way Arnaud looked at times. Almost guiltily, I admitted to myself I didn’t like that side of him at all. It reminded me of the sharp-featured, beautiful woman in the photo in his country home. I didn’t like her either. Suddenly, it made sense to me why he’d spoken of her as his mentor. They were most likely two of a kind – all angles, questions, and sharp edges. For the first time, I gave myself permission to accept how very different Arnaud was from me. I loved learning from him. But I wasn’t like him at all. Why was I trying so hard to fit into the image of a woman he might fall in love with?
I continued on my way into the cemetery, where I passed the next hour deep in self-examination. À chacun son goût, to each his own taste, Arnaud had said. On my own, without him around, I was free to explore what my own tastes were.
I picked my way among the monuments and gravestones, mulling over the possibility that my own choices might differ from the man I was involved with. My thoughts were subversive. My mind tingled and raced. I was falling in love with a new person.
As I made my way down the main boulevard toward the exit, a tall, lean-faced man walked toward me. His gait was awkward, as if he was just renting space in his own body and wasn’t quite familiar with it.
As he passed, his eyes briefly made contact with mine. They were warm, strangely reassuring. Instantly, I felt a connection. Whoever he was, he wasn’t polished, smooth, one hundred per cent self-sufficient and perfectly packaged like most Parisians appeared to be, foremost among them – Arnaud. This stranger seemed a bit out of his element, interested to reach out. He hadn’t yet arrived, I’d guess. Just like me.
I shivered, hurrying on to escape my illicit thoughts. I was crazy about Arnaud’s blue-green eyes. Why had I even noticed for a moment the warm, brown eyes of a stranger? Shaking my head to clear it from conjecture’s cobwebs, I berated myself. Yet the thought remained. Arnaud’s glance didn’t reassure me. It was exciting, electrifying – but rarely reassuring. Was that what I really wanted out of a relationship with a man?
From Paris Adieu, chptr. 14, by Rozsa Gaston. A sizzling tale to lose yourself in when the season cloaks you in shades of gray.