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That weekend, every inch of the Earth crawled with people, like worker ants on vacation. There were children screaming, laughing, running after each other, and into their parents’ arms. There were groups of teenagers, finally out from school, lamenting on how slow time is, and how much they want to be free from the grasp of their parents. There were lovers — she especially hated lovers — cuddling on the benches, holding hands, kissing at every turn and every corner.

It was a quarter to eleven when they met for lunch at the small, cramped Italian place, between Arnold and Forrest, built at least fifty years ago, and not much has changed since. The chairs were designed to last, but not for comfort, and the tables rocked back and forth on the stone laid floor. The waiters — which consisted of the owner’s three sons — were particularly bad, constantly spilling food and drinks. If it weren’t for him — for memories of him, she would never come here.

She sat next to the white picket fence surrounding the restaurant and stared through the menu. The daily special was not a matter of concern.

A man in dark navy suit crept up behind her. His shoes were nicely polished, shining from the reflection of the sun. His tie, a floral piece, was neatly tucked under his jacket. He stopped behind her, chuckled as he landed his warm hand on her shoulder; the inside of his palm sweated through the thin satin. She felt his breath on the back of her neck as he planted a wet kiss on her painted cheeks.

 

He sat down and asked for an order of lobster ravioli.

“And for the lady?”

“Just a glass of pinot noir rouge please.”

“Great, and may I recommend our dessert of the day –”

“That won’t be necessary, would it?” He winked at her, pulled out his fattened wallet, and stole a quick glance at her chest. Then, he reached out his left arm and pointed his index finger at her:

“You should’ve ordered pinot noir. You always used to order thatWhat’s pinot noir rouge anyway?”

 

She shrugged, and turned to observe the streets. People looked at her with searching eyes, and she glared.

He adjusted the tail of his blazer, undid the last button on his shirt, pulled at his tie and continued, “You got the check?”

Continue reading “2.”

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In an apartment on the second floor overlooking the seacoast, Emilie Simon is singing her Desert song as the ceiling fan hummed along. There is one pink lamp, casting on the floor a singular shadow. A woman curls up in the corner of her bed. Her nest of hair is resting on the belly of her pillow. A book, L’Étranger by French philosopher Albert Camus, lays open to pg. 113.

***

The phone buzzed on Friday while she was wearing her favorite two-piece dress, blanc et noir. She was squatting on the kitchen floor, next to a pair of pumps, peeling a bag of red onions. When the layers of onion came off their plump round bodies the stinging sensation always drove her on the verge of tears, but she never cried. She blinked twice, hard, and placed the phone between her left cheek and shoulder with ease. Years of work as a secretary in a high-end fashion boutique have made it an easy thing to do.

Bonjour?

“Hey! It’s me.”

Upon hearing his voice, she picked up a raw onion, examined it in her hand, and took a bite. A drop of onion juice trickled down the curve of the vegetable and onto her arm as the instant burning shot up her nose and left her with a bitter foulness in her mouth. She paused, and then said:

“I didn’t expect you back in town so soon.”

Continue reading “1.”

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