The white porcelain cup was warm and as he sipped on the Café au Lait, he savored the steamy smoothness of the drink and the froth that stuck to his lips. It was perfect but in Paris all coffee is perfect.
In the afternoon light, the Rue Mouffetard bustled with locals and tourists alike and the air smelled of sugar, salty cheese, and ripe produce. Jacques Fornier had come here hoping to see her, the dark-haired girl he had courageously approached at the Musée du Louvre. He had never done that before, given his phone number to a stranger and at first meeting ask her out to dinner, but he had seen sadness and emptiness in her eyes.
Not that he felt sorry for her, his observations only made her more endearing. Here she was, obviously hurting, and still she was out and about, on her own. That took strength, he thought.
He had first seen her in front of the Mona Lisa. It was her red trench coat that caught his eye. She was petite and when she slipped out of the room he almost lost her in the crowded hallway, but that red coat was easy to detect so he followed her to the painting of Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau.
He wondered why she was interested in this particular piece and he stood there in the shadows studying her face – large eyes, small nose, heart-shaped lips, the slight furrow on her forehead. When he finally worked up the courage to speak to her, he decided to walk around so as to approach her from behind, thinking she may be startled had he emerged from the dark corner too quickly.
She didn’t say anything to him during their exchange but she did take the paper with his phone number. Jacques hoped that she would accept his invitation and call to join him and his friends that evening. That was two weeks ago and his phone had not rung with an unfamiliar number.
He wanted to put her out of his mind but he could not. He wanted to know her although, he was already aware of two things about her: that she was searching for something and that she was not from Paris. Her eyes told him of the first and from the way she looked at the Mona Lisa with such intensity and unfamiliarity, he had deduced the latter.
That’s why he thought to come to the Rue Mouffetard every afternoon since that day, to scour the sea of tourists. When in Paris, all visitors come to the Rue Mouffetard more than once, he reasoned. He picked the Café Elanette as his station because it had good coffee and outdoor seating. Jacques took his time searching the crowd and honed in on any petite mademoiselle with dark hair. Perhaps she was on holiday and had already returned home, he thought. He looked at his cup and forced that thought out of his mind. Instead, Jacques sipped slowly, holding on to optimism.
His cup was nearly empty.
Jacques took the last sip.
His phone rang and when he looked, he didn’t recognize the number.