The third and final part in this year’s Christmas tale. In the first instalment we saw George and Sophia arrive in Paris, and last week we left our couple at the top of the Eiffel Tower, a diamond ring on the table between them. Will Sophia say yes to George? Should she spend the rest of her life with him?
Thank you for your enthusiastic reception for my little tale, I hope you are enjoying the lead up to the holidays, and this little romantic interlude has added to your pleasure!
“But George ….!!”
Come on Sophia honey, I can give you everything you dream of. We’ll have a great life together, we can come to Europe whenever you wish, we can buy your art work. We’d make one hell of a show …. so what do you say honey? Will you make me the happiest man in Paris tonight?”
He was holding her hand again now, the people at the table closest to them had seen the ring box slide across the table, and they were smiling and watching expectantly. Even the waiter seemed to be aware of what was happening as he watched from across the room.
“Thank you George, I am so very flattered …”
“Great, that’s fantastic, oh this is wonderful”, George looked across at the waiter and said loudly “bring us more champagne, the best you have .. she said yes!” By now the whole restaurant seemed to have their eyes trained on Sophia and, as George stood and lent across the table to kiss her, she heard the other guests clapping and calling out “bravo, congratulations!”
The rest of their meal was a blur. Sophia was conscious of making George very happy, but was so confused about her own feelings. Had she really said yes? Could she really marry someone without being completely sure? In this romantic decor, with George talking non-stop about their future, and his beautiful ring on her finger, it was simply impossible to think straight.
Luckily George did all the talking and didn’t seem to notice how quiet she was. He talked through the meal, he talked in the car on the way back to the hotel and in the sanctuary of their suite, he didn’t go quiet until they kissed good night “Here’s to a lifetime of good night embraces” he said as he turned out the lights.
The next morning it was Christmas Day and Sophia found herself unwrapping more gifts from George, while she in return had just two little parcels for him to open, a beautiful cachemire sweater …. and a beginners guide to french
“But I don’t need a French book honey, I’ve got you now!”
She took refuge in a long warm bath, she needed time to straighten out her mind. Maybe she should just marry George; she enjoyed his company, he was caring and affectionate, he could certainly look after her well. But what about love?! What about that crazy, all-invading love that she had always thought would come one day?
And what about Sébastien? Did she still love him, as she had done while she lived in Paris, or was that just a passing thing. “Oh, it’s all such a muddle”, she sighed as a small tear formed at the corner of her eye.
They had two more days in Paris, and she decided not to spoil their holiday and make George unhappy. She hoped that it would become clear to her, which path she should take. If she was going to return the ring, she would do so once they were home. It would still be hurtful, but less painful than doing so here in Paris.
They spent Christmas morning in the Jardin de Luxembourg. It was stunningly beautiful, with fresh snow on the ground, and bright sunshine. They walked along the alleys, strangely calm and empty. George asked a couple of times where she would like to get married, but she remained vague in her answers and brought the conversation back to the beauty of Paris. After a delicious and lazy lunch in the plush salons of l’Hotel, rue des Beaux Arts, they found a taxi to take them back to the hotel.
As they walked into the lobby, George was joking about how much he had eaten since they arrived in the capital, and pretending that his coat was getting too tight.
“Excusez-moi Madame” , the concierge at the hotel reception had spotted Sophia returning to the hotel “We have a message for you”.
He disappeared from view for a few minutes and reappeared with a huge bunch of red roses. “Voilà Madame, these were delivered for you while you were out today”
Sophia smiled and turned to George, “Really George darling, you are spoiling me rotten”. But George looked surprised. “They aren’t from me, I gave you your gifts this morning!”
Sophia opened the envelope pinned to the bouquet “Pour ma chère Sophia, I need to see you before you leave, S”.
George read the note over her shoulder “What the …..?! Who’s this S, and why’s he sending you red roses?”
Sophia hardly heard his questions. Her own head was spinning, what did this mean? Was Sebastien as touched to see her again as she had been to see him?
She became aware of George’s hand on her shoulder, he didn’t look pleased. “Sophia, could you please tell me just who is sending you red roses on Christmas Day?!”
“Well George, it is just signed ‘S’, but the only S that I know in Paris, is Sébastien, the guy we saw at the gallery yesterday”
“And why would he send you red roses? Is he just after your business, or does he have something else in mind? In fact you never told me how you two already knew each other”
Sophia turned to him, suddenly calm inside. “George, let’s go to our suite, we need to talk”
They were silent in the elevator, but once inside their suite, George sat down and looked at her expectantly.
“George, I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful Christmas in Paris. It has been magical and you have treated me like a princess. Sébastien is a figure from my past when I lived here for a while. I didn’t know I was going to meet him yesterday, and nothing was said, but seeing him again, reminded me of the love and passion that I once felt for him. I don’t know yet what I feel for him today, but seeing him again has shown me that real love is worth waiting for.”
George sat silent, and rather pale.
“George, I love your company, I love you as a friend and as a companion, but I cannot say for sure that I can love you for the rest of my life. I should not have accepted your ring yesterday evening, in fact I probably shouldn’t have accepted this trip with you. You have whisked me along on a merry-go-round of emotions, and it is has been hard to find the suitable moment to step back down to firm ground.”
She slipped the diamond ring from her finger, and bent over to kiss George on the cheek as she pressed the ring into the palm of his hand.
“What are you going to do now? Run out of the hotel into his arms?” George sounded sullen.
“No, I’m not. In fact I don’t know what I’ll do yet. But when we leave the hotel tomorrow, I shan’t be coming to the airport with you. I have to stay here for a while, sort myself out, and work out the next step in my life”
The next morning saw George and Sophia stepping out of the hotel and heading towards taxis, waiting at the kerb. They hugged goodbye, Sophia reached up and whispered, “Thank you George, I am so sorry to have hurt you”.
George climbed in to a taxi for the airport, and Sophia got into the following one and said confidently to the driver “Place des Vosges s’il vous plait”. Sitting in the cab, she put her hand in her pocket and found a small piece of folded paper. She pulled it out of the pocket and read the words
“You were my dream, baby, but I understand that you have to follow yours. I’ll always be here if you need me. G.” She smiled, and mouthed “Merci George”, before sliding the paper carefully inside her bag.
Once in the Marais, she walked into a small hotel that she had noticed while out walking with George. She felt slightly nervous, but very excited, like someone standing in front of a tall imposing door, wondering what awaits on the other side.
A young woman, happy in the knowledge that she was in control of her own life, and that whatever may happen in the months and years to come, she would have the strength to make the right decisions.
All that money could buy – a Christmas tale