He had arrived very early because he didn’t want to leave anything to chance. The clock hanging on the facade of the main terminal at London’s St. Pancras railway station read 9:20am. Excited to be returning to the States, yes… but he was more excited about his future with her. He hadn’t seen her in 10 days. His summer trip to Europe was planned so it would end here in London, but now he longed to be with her in LaRochelle. She promised to meet him here, but would she change her mind?
She had finished organizing her already tidy little room and paused for a moment to take one last look around. Yes, this was a crazy adventure, but other than a few close friends in LaRochelle no one would really miss her. When her parents died, her spinster aunt gave her a place to stay but little more. She was now 19 and the aunt had been very clear – your schooling is complete, be out by the fall.
She spoke simple English and his French was terrible, but somehow they connected. They met while running in the park and were inseparable for the rest of the summer. He shortened his trip to Italy and cancelled the excursion to Spain, instead renting a little studio near the Vieux Port. Afternoons biking and sunning at the beach on Ile de Re, quiet candlelit dinners at his apartment followed by long evening walks on the Promenade had strengthened their bond.
They were in love!
The station clock read 10:05am. He bought a croissant and opened his paperback copy of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (he was trying very hard to learn her language). The bags were at his side, and inside his backpack were two plane tickets to New York with connection to St. Louis. He chuckled to himself – how ironic her new home was named for a Frenchman!
Her best friend Marie had agreed to walk with her to the LaRochelle Ville station. She would take the TGV to Paris, hike across Paris to the Gare du Nord and then ride the Eurostar through the Chunnel to meet him in London. The girls giggled as they walked arm in arm. Marie was giddy with excitement for her friend. They exchanged farewells and Marie was off so as not to be late for her job at the cafe.
A glance at the station clock told her it was 10:59am. Good! She had completed the long overnight journey with time to spare. She did not want to be even a second late lest he think she had changed her mind. They had already discussed what faced them in St. Louis. He was a recent college graduate with no place to live and no job. She was a young French girl in America for the first time and she did not speak much English. The road was uphill, but together they agreed it would work!
She spied him sitting on a bench near the wall. As much as she wanted to run up and hug him, she decided to freshen up in the ladies room first. She wanted him to remember the moment!
The station was a buzz of activity, but it was no match for the buzz in his chest. He turned to look at the station clock for the 27th time… and there she was! She appeared next to him seemingly out of thin air. The beige sundress framed her petite figure perfectly. She carried all she owned in a large leather bag.
“I am ready to go to St. Louis Mr. American boy,” (was it his imagination or did she just say that without a French accent?) “but first I need a kiss!”
He smiled, took her bag and put it next to his and embraced his beautiful young French girl in a long slow hug. As he kissed her cheek, he saw the clock one more time.
It read 11:30.
© Doug Fish, 2011