There were moments of doubt, and of unease. Should I be in this space? Something about the way my body displaced the air felt like an intrusion. But the music swirled around me and the piano maestro kept playing, unperturbed.
The melody was unknown, but fast and playful. The maestro’s fingers danced and twirled over the black and ivory keys. The room was a tinderbox, all old wood and pages of vintage tales. The piano stood in the corner. I was sitting across the room in a dark green velvet chair, facing the maestro’s back. In the corner adjacent from me sat a young woman, blonde, naturally pretty, with a distinctly French profile. Her head was buried in a small green book, not big enough to obscure her quiet sniffles and light tears.
Suddenly, a loud finale and silence. The maestro turned suddenly. His eyes passed over me and rested on the French woman.
“Would you like me to play a happy song or a sad song?” he asked in English. He smiled softly at her tears.
“A happy song, please,” she responded in French, looking up and blushing.
“All right, then!” And he resumed playing another happy melody.
I sat in my corner, taking it all in. He blissfully flung his fingers about, making the song look effortless, like liquid. While I listened, I absently noted the titles of the masterpieces shelved around me. Titles referencing Bastille Day, William the Conqueror, and Marie Antoinette lined the walls, mixed with narratives bound in dark hues—midnight blue, forest green, rich maroon. I had wandered into this bookstore in search of shelter and a good hideaway, and I had found it among these tomes of French history.
It was my first time in Paris and I had heard tales of this expatriate haunt along the Seine. The bookstore carried both new titles and old wonders, and its passages remained a mystery even to the locals. I had refused the draw of the contemporary titles downstairs in favor of ascending the narrow staircase that groaned with the weight of secrets. At the top, I had found myself in the company of books aged like fine wine and vibrant music that drifted down the corridor and sent the dust dancing.
The music stopped. The maestro again turned to the French woman.
“Parlez-vous français?” he asked politely.
“Oui.” She smiled as he moved to the chair next to her.
They began to speak in hushed tones as a beginner took the maestro’s vacated bench and tapped the keys with hesitancy. I tuned out the noise in hopes of catching their conversation, struggling to recall the French I’d learned in years long past.
“Where do you go to school? What do you go for? Have I seen you here before? No? How do I know you?”
Little by little I pieced together their introductory conversation. The two seemed to have met at university, working on a project. I was ecstatic that I remembered enough to interpret this much.
They seemed so in tune with each other, I found myself hoping that they would leave with each other’s phone numbers. This is the city of love, no? I smiled to myself.
There was a momentary lull in their soft conversation when the maestro’s phone buzzed, reminding them of reality, time, and obligations.
The maestro checked his phone; the woman started to pack her bags. I felt hope stirring—that the maestro would decide to walk her out, or steal a quick kiss as she left the shop.
Don’t you dare leave without her number. I almost whispered it out loud.
She stood to leave and slipped a piece of scratch paper his way. I had been so focused on willing him to make a move that I almost missed her nimble fingers boldly scribbling.
The maestro stood to bid her goodbye.
“Merci beaucoup,” he whispered. He kissed her cheeks and lingered.
“Au revoir, mon amie,” she whispered delicately in his ear.
She kissed him back.
Devon spends the majority of her time procrastinating writing. While she procrastinates she likes to get other people to help her publish magazines, go to concerts with her, and generally just find joie de vivre, this is her first publication in Whilst. You can find more of her work on instagram or just keep up with Whilst to see her general shenanigans.