AMERICAN TOURIST

by Jenifer Nipps

“Cherchez-vous d’amour?”

“What?” Lydia Green asked, looking up from the Bistro menu. Oh, but he was nice to look at. Green eyes, brown hair, goatee.

“Cherchez-vous d’amour?” he repeated. At her look, he tried a different route. “Parlez-vous français?”

There was a word she understood. Français. “No.”

“Ah.” He sat down, uninvited. “I said, ‘are you looking for love?’”

“Why would you ask that?” Lydia looked back down at the menu, wishing that the garçon would return.

“An American tourist, beautiful, alone.”

Before he said anything more, the waiter did return for Lydia’s order. “And will monsieur have anything?” he asked.

“Merci, mais non.”

He nodded and left.

“Let me start over.”

“By leaving?” Lydia retorted.

“Non. I am Philippe Gautier. And I must apologize.”

Lydia looked out the window, watching the people go by, umbrellas shielding them from the April rain. “For what?”

“I am not usually so … crude.”

“Is that so?” She smiled her thanks to the waiter who brought the hot tea and soup.

“It is,” Philippe insisted. “I could think of no other way to approach. So I decided on a lame line that I knew would get your attention. It would have worked, had you known French.”

“No,” Lydia said, shaking her head. She poured a cup of tea and added a splash of cream, but no sugar. “It would not.”

“You are entirely too certain.”

“You are entirely too rude.” She was rapidly losing her patience. Philippe took that as his cue to go. “I will see you tomorrow, oui?”

“No.”

“I think I will,” he said with a knowing smile. “You have been here every day for a week. Tomorrow will be no different.” Lydia’s stomach turned to steel as he left. She had done that which she said she would not. She had been predictable. Developed a pattern. She would not be here tomorrow. She finished her tea and soup. She stood and placed a franc on the table for the tip. She went to pay the tab.

“It is already paid, mademoiselle, the cashier informed her.

“That is not possible. I only just….”

“Non, mademoiselle. The monsieur with you, he paid.”

“I see. Thank you.” Lydia lifted her purse onto her shoulder and left the bistro.

How could she have been so dense? It was a cute little bistro. There was a good view of the Place de la Concord. The staff was friendly. She shook her head. That would definitely be the last time she went to that bistro for the rest of her stay.

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© 2003 Jenifer Nipps