Steele of My Innocence 5/7
Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Linda <>

Part 5

"Laura?! Laura!"

"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 convincing.

"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."

"Great view."

"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