Sophia and George are in Paris for Christmas, she the artistic young woman, in love with the romance of France, he the sharp business man, willing to offer anything money can buy to the woman in his life.
The Second part of my Christmas Tale. If you missed the first part you are welcome to catch up HERE.
They had three days to enjoy until the opening at the gallery on Christmas Eve. George had only ever visited the capital on business trips; Sophia decided to educate him, to teach him a little French and show him a side of the city that he had never experienced. Each morning saw them leaving the hotel early. First stop a tiny little café. When the garçon came to their table she just smiled and winked at George. To begin with he hesitated but by the third day he turned confidently to the waiter and said “deux grands crèmes et deux croissants, s’il vous plait”
Each day they walked for miles in the snow, down the Champs Elysées, across Concorde, through the Tuilerie gardens and past the Louvre. They ice-skated outside the town hall, went to see the huge Christmas tree in front of the Notre Dame. When they were hungry they stopped to eat wherever they wished; crepes in the Marais; white wine and seafood at Bofinger at la Bastille.
The third day was Christmas eve, they crossed the river and headed to La Palette in the latin quarter, hoping to grab a table and eat a simple lunch of bread and cured ham, before the gallery event that evening.
It was cold outside and they lingered over their lunch, enjoying the warmth of the little bistro, watching the Parisians popping in and out, talking loudly, kissing hello and goodbye. Some had Christmas parcels with them, others a dog on the end of a lead dangling from their chair. At the end of the meal George ordered coffees, then some more, and before they knew it they had whiled away a couple of hours.
Sophia glanced at her watch. “What time is it? Five o’clock?! Come on George we have to go to the gallery, it’s not far from here. It is after all the reason I had to come to Paris!” She reached into her bag, and pulled out the sleek invitation card. ‘Vernissage, Our new Show opens, rue de Seine, le soir de Noel, à partir de 17h’.
George bowed his head, “Madame, your wish is my command”, he caught the waiters eye, and mouthed discreetly “L’addition s’il vous plait”. Sophia smiled to herself, George had mellowed over the past few days. Away from his home turf he was less brash, more attentive, more eager to fit in rather than just impress.
They paid the bill, thanked the waiter and donned their coats and scarves before stepping out of the restaurant and onto the little street. Sophia slipped her arm into the crook of Georges elbow, and they walked their way, ever so slowly, down the rue de Seine towards the gallery.
They felt like they were in a little bubble together, still cosy from the bistro atmosphere, walking so close they could feel each others warmth through their coats. They were alone in the world.
As they reached the gallery they were surprised to see that it was already packed and busy. The music was loud, clients were chatting and laughing, trays of champagne were circulating and the walls were adorned with large bright street-art style canvases.
George looked at Sophia “You sure we wanna do do this?”, Sophia puckered her lips, “I know George, but this is the reason for my boss sending me to Paris. I won’t be long, I just need to find the gallery owner and make the contact, we don’t need to stay longer than half an hour”. George smiled, “OK baby, half an hour then we get back to the hotel and relax before dinner”
The eased their way through the crowded gallery, stopping occasionally in front of a canvas. In the far corner of the room, Sophia could see a small group of journalists gathered around a tall man who was obviously explaining the theme of the show to them, pointing to different canvases and answering their questions.
She turned to George “That must be the guy. He’ll soon have finished, then I can go and introduce myself”. Sure enough, the journalists seemed to be saying goodbye, packing away their notepads and microphones.
“Sophia smoothed down her coat lapels, moistened her lips and turned to George “I’ll make this quick, promise!” George watched her walk confidently across the gallery , he loved to see her in her professional capacity. She took on an air of self confidence and authority that reminded him of what first drew him to her.
As she reached the gallery director George saw her lean forward slightly, smiling, to say bonjour. The director turned around, but instead of her usual firm handshake and quick presentation, George saw Sophia’s jaw drop. The director looked at her, surprised, and George could see him mouth her name “Sophia, qu’est ce que tu fais la??” George watched more closely. Evidently she knew this man, and evidently she was as pleased as him about this chance encounter. George observed them as they chatted for a few minutes. Their body language was limpid; they knew each other well, and were both happy to meet up again.
The man was very french looking, with slightly longer hair, swept back. He was well dressed, tall and slim. The archetype of the elegant French man. George hated him.
He had no time to observe longer, as Sophia and the man were now walking towards him. Sophia turned , laughing, “George, let me introduce you to Sébastien ”
The three of them chatted briefly, then Sophia said “I’m sorry Sébastien, but we have to go back to the hotel. It’s been lovely seeing you again, here is my card” she leaned forward, kissed Sébastien on the cheek, and turned to George “Shall we go?”
They were quiet in the taxi back to the hotel. Sophia was lost in her thoughts, it had been a shock to see Sébastien again after over two years. She had no idea the gallery belonged to him. He looked well, just as she remembered him, but although he seemed pleased to see her she saw no sign of rekindled affection. No, all that was behind them now, he probably had dozens of women running around paris after him, young artists, beautiful french women …. she was certainly long forgotten.
George was thoughtful too. He had been surprised to see Sophia so comfortable with another man, but she didn’t seem to mind saying goodbye so quickly, so he assumed it was just an acquaintance from back when she had lived here in paris
What was more pressing on him mind, were his plans for the dinner table that night
He had booked at the Jules Verne, the gourmet restaurant on the upper floor of the eiffel tower, a view to die for; champagne, a divine meal. Surely there could be no better moment to pop his question and present Sophia with the diamond ring.
They returned to the hotel where champagne was waiting for them in their room. Sophia ran a bath, then dressed carefully in the long black backless dress and high heeled pumps that George had insisted on buying for her when they walked down the Faubourg st Honoré the day before.
The chauffeured car whisked them across Paris, there was light snow falling, and as they drove down to the river at 8pm, the Eiffel Tower lit up in its flickering on-the-hour diamond lights. Pure magic.
Sophia was glad for her warm coat as they stepped into the lift and rose swiftly up to the second floor of the tower, Paris at their feet. The doors of the restaurant were opened to them and they were engulfed in the discreet elegance of the warm restaurant.
From their table they had a view over the Trocadero, and as they sipped their first glass of champagne, they picked out the places they had walked to over the past couple of days.
George reached across the table and took Sophia’s hand, “This has been a wonderful trip baby. Visiting this beautiful city with you at my side has made everything quite magical.”
Sophia giggled, “Well thank you George, but I think Paris will always be magical, especially at Christmas, and so pretty in the snow, we are blessed”
George looked a little more serious now. “What I mean Sophia, is that you have brought magic into my life. I don’t want that to stop.” He lifted his hand to reveal a small box on the table between them. With his fingertips he gently slid the box a few inches towards her. Sophia froze, she swallowed hard.
“What is this George?”
George took her hand again, and smiled as he looked into her eyes:
“Sophia, will you marry me?”
So what will she say?!
The third and last instalment will be with you this time next week.
Thank you for reading me.
All that money could buy – a Christmas tale
I’ve really enjoyed this–can’t wait for the last installment.
I am SO enjoying your story!!! The way you describe Paris is the way I fondly remember it. I have had dinner twice at the Jules Verne, an honor and experience! Can’t wait for part 3!
Dear Sharon and Readers,
All too obviously (I would hope), Our Heroine’s decision should be based upon prudence rather than mere avarice. It remains that the impulses deprived from both prudence and avarice would result in the same, yet beneficial, end. As I understand, she is a young lady of no particular birth or distinction (the “midwest”, indeed…), nor does she seem equipped with a portion accorded to her by either her father or some fond great-aunt (hence, her apparent disassociation from familial ties in her native America, one can assume? Why is she not at the family home for Christmas celebrations?). In short, she is a “working girl”, of no particular distinction, beyond youthful fresh looks and a pleasant “personality”. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with that, of course, these days….but it does leave her few options, particularly given that she will inevitably age with every single passing day, and the profession she has chosen (“Gallery consultant”?) will scarcely afford her an income commensurate to her obvious ambitions to become a Lady of both Fashion and Fortune. In short?……it is readily and unavoidably apparent that she must marry not only well, but SOON. Prudence and a due sense of proportion demand that she do so.
Once her youthful looks have faded , and those newly-bought shoes begin to scuff, she will find herself increasingly at “loose ends” and without access to those gentlemen who might provide her with a secure berth, both financially and in Society. She could very well end up nothing more than a withered, bitter governess (soon to be forgotten by any of the children, even should she manage to secure employment or their affections) or a dowdy shop-clerk, dressed in little more than a drab, “utility”-grade uniform. Merry Christmas Future, indeed!….
I wish more for Our Heroine. I hope that she instantly accepts this proposal (which she, given her background and circumstances, is so fortunate to be receiving), so that she might float on clouds of delightful and comforting expectations of future financial security and a solidified position in Town and County Society.
The gentleman’s age has not been cited in the story. May I assume that he is somewhat older? He could very well die after the marriage, in which case she would be free to pursue a “love-match”. I should think that we all agree that she would deserve that little reward after a proper marriage. Should he divorce her of his own accord, then she would be rewarded with an ample financial settlement and could, equally, pursue a “romantic” marriage (Although any second wedding would, mais bien sur, have to be conducted outside of the rites of the Anglican and/or Roman Catholic communions while she is still burdened with a surviving, former spouse).
All in all?…..her prospects look bright, but I do hope she does not act foolishly, as so many young girls do these days. This seems a good (and, indeed, fortuitous) match for Our Heroine.
Advisedly yours as ever,
The Rev. Dr. David Terry (Bachelor)
Quail Roost Farm
David, you are a mess! The mischievous Christmas elf! What are we going to do with you?!!
I do believe a collaboration is in order for you and Sharon….what a story it would be! Happy Holidays!
David, I love it when you channel your inner Jane Austen
Dear Sharon, you have awoken the wonderful memories from October 2015 that we enjoyed on our trip to Paris. Just hearing some of those place-names was so exciting. We stayed in a little 4th floor one bedroom apartment at Bastille Square on the corner of Rue de la Roquette. It was just minutes from the Metro and the Bus was outside our door. I remember walking through the large double timber doors into the courtyard and entering the smallest lift I had ever seen. It carried, first my partner, then our bags and then me we were hysterical when we finally got into the apartment, jet lag, excitement and the exhilaration of being in Paris. Your story of Sophia and Georges is even more magical and meaningful because we are reliving moments in our lives that contain the same thread that is being woven through the story. Thank you so very much.
I’m so enjoying this story, so romantic thank you I need to read a little romance.
David Terry’s “comment” is almost as entertaining as Sharon’s lovely story! . I hope our heroine does “act foolishly”. Cheers and thanks for a lovely romantic Christmas story Sharon.
I’d be lost without David in my comment box!
Loving the story Sharon can’t wait for the final episode hope it’s happy x
I love, love your story. I am looking forward to Part Three.
All I can say, I wish it was me
Delightfully romantic…exactly what we all need more of. xx
Until next week. This has been a great “lunch time story” for me. I hope there are more to come after this one ends.
Oh my, more please Sharon.
One can never have too much love or too much Paris!
Sending love from Napa.
What a beautiful story of two people having a memory that will last a life time. The warmth and comfortableness that your words reflect in these shared experiences are such an integral part of our living in and for this moment in time.
I was just thinking today how I would like to read another of your delightful stories…..and here it is.
Do you have links whereby we can re-read
your other stories? They were colorful, textured and delicious little reads. They would make for
nice reading on these cold winter evenings.
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