- Steele of My Innocence 5/7
Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000
"Frannie, stop pounding on the door," Donald muttered,
embarrassed, as he glanced up and down the hall.
"Just like her! Everything has to be on HER schedule, when
SHE'S ready. God forbid I'm ever late! Once or twice, and she
hits the roof!"
"Once or twice?"
"But now here we are, waiting for h-" Laura threw open
the door just as Frances readied her assault on it again. Through
gritted teeth Frances subdued her temper as much as she could.
"- Laura, dear, are you ready?"
A last-minute adjustment to one another's clothing, Laura fidgeting
with Harry's pocket handkerchief while he smoothed her blouse
collar, and the Steeles were
prepared to seize the night.
"What's the point? I mean, I just don't see the point."
"The French are people-watchers, to say the least, Frances,"
Steele explained with a bemused smile.
"But I mean really, this seems so ridiculous!" In a
streetside café, the four sat Parisian-style; that is,
all four sat on one side of the small circular table, facing
the sidewalk and the passers-by.
"I bet some people might find gin-soaked bridge games on
a Tuesday afternoon a bit unusual." Even sotto voce, Laura's
social commentary did not go unnoticed.
"I heard that. If you think my life is all about-- "
"I never said--"
You didn't have to! I can tell when--"
This time, Steele studiously examined his menu, all the while
pointedly averting his eyes. If Donald thought for one minute
he was going to break this up, he could forget it. Donald sighed.
He knew it. It was his turn, and there was no avoiding it.
"You know," Donald said in a conspiratorial tone of
voice, leaning in for emphasis, "the concierge told me there's
a Valrhona chocolate shop around the corner. I hear it's the
absolute best French chocolate there is."
"Really?" Frances was hooked, but Laura needed more
"And last I checked we can bring back $400 of anything,
per person, duty-free."
"Anything?" Laura weakened.
Steele flagged down a passing waiter. "Ah, garçon,
que recommandons-vous, s'il vous plait?"
"Qu'est-ce que vous en recommandez?" Laura corrected
absently. His glance told Laura that the French lesson went unappreciated.
Instead Steele welcomed their server with open arms. Even though
Donald's save under pressure was deft enough, Steele had the
feeling that World War III could break out between the siblings
at any turn. Dinner passed in relative peace, however.
"Let me see that address, Laura. I'll look it up on the
map the concierge gave me." Donald took the scrap of paper
Laura proffered. "Looks like it's near Nôtre Dame.
On the left bank of the Seine."
"Probably a swanky neighborhood."
"Big, fancy apartment."
"Lots of friends around."
"Who needs family when you've got Paris, huh?"
Laura and Frances were once again united in imagining the worst
possible scenario for the life their father had fashioned for
himself, once he left them behind.
"That woman. . . Dominique. . . said she'd meet us there
at 10 tomorrow morning."
Steele sprang from his chair, and with a flourish, paid the bill.
"Let's not waste any time, then." And so he dragged
them from the café, protesting all the way. But once they
were out they fell under its spell. Paris, that is. It was true,
the buildings were magnificent, the gardens superb, the museums
outstanding. Mais Paris, ca, c'est une ville des amoureux.
C'est une ville qui existe pour des amoureux. Everything
else was window-dressing.
To Part 6