“It’s your first time in Paris, isn’t it?” Somehow they’d never talked about it. 

“And I love it already. I can understand the enthusiasm in your letters.”

“Oh, so you did receive them.” 

“I’m sorry I didn’t reply to any of them. I wanted to, but I’m useless at putting words on paper, and I’m sure you can appreciate there wasn’t much to tell. Even growing up in Diemen held more excitement.”

“I understand.”

“I did send you a birthday card.”

“Still to arrive.”

“And I called you on Monday.”

“I was out most of the day.”  

“I didn’t bring you a present, but I know what I want to give you.”

“Yer, and…?”

“You’ll know soon enough, and you must come with me to buy it.” 

“I’m intrigued. When can we go?” They both laughed.  

“Are you hungry?”

“I ate a sandwich on the train.”

“I’ve cheese, bread and wine at home.”

“Sounds like heaven.” 

Lex turned left at Rue Doudeauville, and the heavily loaded car reacted to the street’s incline. He managed to shift the manual transmission into a lower gear with some difficulty. “Sorry about that; I’m a little out of practice.” She ignored it by asking him for a cigarette. “I’ve promised my uncle we won’t smoke in the car.” 

“I can wait.”

“We’ll be home in five minutes.”

LEX DREW the curtains, and the bright afternoon light streamed into the bedroom. He opened the window and felt a mild breeze against his naked body. He jumped back into bed, where Linda lay on her side with one hand under her head. He kissed one of her erect nipples. 

“That’s the best fuck I’ve had in almost a year,” she said 

“Me too. The best and the first.”

They giggled like naughty teenagers as he lifted two cigarettes from a packet on the bedside table, lit them, and handed her one. He placed the ashtray between them, and they smoked for a while in silence. 

“How’s your business going?” 

“To be honest, I haven’t got much going.”

“Now that we’re in this together, I want you to know that you don’t have to worry as I do have some savings.”

It surprised Lex to hear her say she had money, as he believed she was skint. 

“That’s sweet of you, but I’m alright for the moment. I did a bit of work for my uncle.”

“Something you can talk about?”

“I could, but I rather wait until I’ve presented the results of my investigation to Jules tomorrow. Right now, I’d prefer to pay my beautiful fiancée some attention.” Lex removed the ashtray and pulled Linda back down to the bed. 

THEY ATE dinner at a small local restaurant. Linda surprised him when she, in decent French, asked the waitress for the ladies’ restroom. 

“I’m impressed,” Lex said when she returned to the table. You told me you didn’t speak any French?”

“That’s some time ago, dummy,” she laughed, “but I’m glad you’re impressed. For the past few months, I’ve been self-studying the lingo. God knows I had the time.” 

Lex reached across the table and took her hand. After his pregnant fiancée was killed in a car accident with him behind the wheel a few years back, sitting across from this beautiful woman reminded him that God had given him a second chance for a happy relationship. Don’t fuck this one up, Lex told himself. He thought of his life in Amsterdam over the past few years, when he’d lived in a small, rundown apartment on the Rembrandtplein and worked as a private detective after quitting the police force. It was a period in his life when he had used any excuse to feed the demons—too much booze, self-pity, and too many nights sleeping fully dressed on the couch. It had culminated in his irrational intoxication with the girl across the table landing him in some nasty business and wreaking havoc on his mental state and physical well-being.  

With the move to Paris and turning thirty, it was time to limit hungover Sunday mornings, self-pity, and behaving like an irresponsible bachelor. 

He felt Linda’s warm hand on his arm. 

“Ground Control to Major Tom.”

“Sorry, I got lost on a trip down memory lane.” 

“Would you care to enlighten me?”

“Maybe later. Would you mind if we strolled past the Sacré-Cœur?” At that moment, Lex could think of no better way to show his gratitude than to light a few candles.

“Lead the way.”

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