Strangers 

“Describe it again, from here.”

“Well, think again of the ice cream cone upside down. The ribs that make up the wafer, imagine they are the iron girders. You can make out the sky through the hanging St Andrew crosses that slope up to the top.”

“I smell food,” she said, turning slightly towards an alleyway behind the street bench where they sat. He turned and looked towards the alley. “There’s a patisserie with a small café next to it. A couple of old men are sitting outside drinking coffee. Would you like me to get a croissant or something?” She thought. He saw his reflection in her dark glasses and quickly looked around the street. It was quiet. ‘Strange how some of these Parisian streets get so quiet in the afternoon,’ he thought to himself. ‘She’ll be fine here.’

“Can I have a baguette please? Cheese and ham.” She sensed a hesitancy in him. “I’ll be fine. I can tell it’s only a few feet away by the sounds of the men’s voices. Go, please!” He stood up, touched her shoulder and walked towards the café. ‘I didn’t hear the old men,’ he thought. ‘She constantly amazes me’.
Jacqueline sat there, the afternoon sun breathed hot air onto her face. ‘God is staring at me’ she thought. ‘Studying me’. 

“Êtes-vous aveugle?” A young voice suddenly asked. Jacqueline, startled, replied:

“Me suits désolé, me ne parle pas Français. Parles-tu Anglais?”

“Yes.” The young boy said. “Why do you not have a white stick? Or a guide-dog? Isn’t it dangerous, alone in the city?” Jacqueline smiled.

“I am not alone,”  she said. “What is your name?” She asked the boy, adjusting her dark glasses.

“Ryan.” The boy replied.

“Nice to meet you Ryan, I’m Jacqueline. Your English is perfect. How old are you?”

“9. My father is English. But he lives in London. My mother is at work. She sells tickets at the Eiffel Tower,” said Ryan, sitting on the bench next to Jacqueline. 

“Wow, what a great place to work! She must be a special mum!”

“Yes, she is,” said Ryan swinging his legs. “Who are you here with?” The boy asked.

“My father, he’s just buying me lunch,” said Jacqueline. “Would you like something to eat? I can call him and he will bring you back something?”

“Oh, no, thank you.” The boy replied, but then added, “is he in Andrés?” 

“I don’t know, he’s up the alley there where those old gentlemen are.”

“Yes, that’s Andrés. He makes the best ice creams in the world!” Jacqueline took her phone out from her bag, called her dad and requested a vanilla ice cream in a cone. Taylor, Jacqueline’s father, returned with the ice cream and introduced himself to Ryan. 

“My dad” said Jacqueline,  “says the Eiffel Tower looks like a large ice cream cone, turned upside down”. Ryan laughed. In fact, he laughed so much a large splat of vanilla ice cream dabbed itself upon his nose and clung to it like white syrup. Ryan then said, “My mum says it reminds her of my dad, although I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they went there once?” Taylor looked at the boy, who had recovered from his fit of laughter and was licking the ice cream with his eyes closed, savouring each mouthful. Jacqueline had smiled at what the boy had said, she understood, thought Taylor and smiled to himself.

The heat of the sun then seemed to intensify and as they ate their lunch the three fell silent. The boy day dreamed about his father.

 Taylor stared at the Eiffel Tower. It was bathed in an orange aura that faded down onto the sand coloured stone buildings that looked down upon this Parisian back street. ‘I’m not even sure how we got here? Maybe we took a wrong turn?’ He thought, then looked at the boy who had suddenly fallen asleep, leaning into Jacqueline. ‘Although maybe this wrong turn was a right one after all?’ He added.

 Jacqueline, was content. God laid his cheek upon hers. The heat filled her with an indescribable peace. Ryan was leaning against her. He was snoring. And somehow, she knew the universe was sharing this moment with her.
Taylor began thinking about the month ahead. He was travelling Europe with his daughter. He wished he could give her the gift of sight, but that wasn’t to be. But she would experience everything as much as possible, he would make certain of that. As he thought these things he noticed a woman walking up the street. She was struggling with several grocery bags. Her hair, which had been tied up, had worked loose and fallen in front of her face. “I won’t be a minute,” he said to Jacqueline, and walked down the sloping path to the woman, “Can I help you?” She stopped, set the bags down, pulled the lose hair from her face and smiled at him. She looked up the hill, “You already are helping me. That’s my son with you. He looks very content with your wife.”

“Oh she’s not my wife, she’s my daughter, Jacqueline. I think she has found a little soulmate with your boy though.” The woman looked again at Taylor and smiled.

“My name is Page,” she said as he picked up two of the bags from the pavement. 

“Taylor, I should have shaken your hand before I picked up these bags”, he nodded instead.

“Ive never been a fan of conventional formalities anyway. Carrying my bags is worth a thousand handshakes,” she said, slightly out of breath in the hot sun. “Ryan looks like he needs freshening up as well. Would you like some coffee or tea? Our apartment is there on Rue du coin.”

Taylor accepted the invitation and together they continued walking up the hill.
©DMM 

#inspirational_photograph by @si.cecile 

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