Author’s note: This is a story I wrote before I’d ever been to Paris. It’s a short-short, and my take on a romantic story. I think it’s pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. It’s definitely something I wrote to get out of my comfort zone, so it works for me on that level. Other than being seen by a few friends, it hasn’t been published before. I think. Enjoy.
Sarah Loved the Rain
Short fiction by Bobby Mathews
The city was made of silver, or at least that’s the way it looked to us. The rain came down and washed the gray streets and streaked the tall slate buildings until they looked strange and mercurial in the twilight. Everything was tinged with magic, and why not? Two Americans in the city of light, walking along cobbled streets that were ancient when Ernest Hemingway walked along them nearly a century ago.
We walked along, our heads and shoulders protected from the soft, fluid chill of the rain by the large black umbrella I carried. Sarah was taller than me by a couple of inches, and self-conscious about it. She never wore high heels. She shortened her stride to match mine, and we meandered everywhere, watching flower vendors pack up petals and plastic wrap and dyes. In the gutters where they dyed the flowers, riotous color ran and mixed in a greasy rainbow.
“I can’t believe we’re here,” Sarah said. Her eyes flashed in the glow of the old-fashioned gaslights that lined the street. “We’ve been here for a week, and it still amazes me. I could live here.”
“We have another week,” I said. “Will that be enough?”
She paused and looked at the darkening street before us. We were alone and in love in Paris, and the idea had intoxicated us both.
“It gives me goose bumps to be here.” She pushed away from me and stood alone on the deserted sidewalk and turned her face up toward the rain until the water sluiced down her neck and turned the upper part of her white button-down blouse nearly transparent. Her nipples pressed in sharp relief against the thin material. With her head thrown back in wanton abandon, Sarah ran her tongue over her lips, pulling in the moisture. In the growing darkness, she looked like an Amazonian goddess, at once peaceful, and yet ready for war. After awhile, I moved over to her, and put the umbrella over her head again.
“If I let you stay out here any longer, you could be arrested for indecent exposure.”
She grinned. Her eyes were still closed, and her voice drifted toward me as if she were somewhere very far away.
“I thought breasts were more accepted in Paris.”
“No,” I said. “Too gauche.”
“I love the rain,” she said, and leaned her willowy body against me. I could feel her wet blouse against me, and then the warm body beneath it. Her lips were cold against mine, and then her lush mouth was warm when she opened it and began to kiss me. The differences in taste and texture and temperature were exquisite, and I felt my own response begin. Sarah kept her body pressed against me, and I felt her heart beat in direct counter-rhythm to the pulse pounding in my temples.
“I couldn’t share this with anyone but you,” I said.
“Do we really need this?” She said, and took the umbrella from my hand. With one deft movement it was closed and cast aside, and the rain spread through my hair and down my face. I watched the drops pattern themselves against my blue shirt, watched its color turn to midnight blue as the rain soaked through. We stood on the sidewalk in Paris and kissed until twilight was gone and night had overtaken the city like a stealthy enemy. Around us the city bloomed to life. People passed us by, and paid no heed. The city was made for lovers like she and I, and we were a common enough sight.
Finally, a man in a dark uniform and military-looking hat approached us.
“It’s a cop,” I said. “A gendarme.”
“No, that’s not right. In the city, they’re agents de police, or policiers.”
“How do you know this stuff?”
“High school,” she said, nudging me in the ribs. “For some of us, it wasn’t so long ago.”
The policier had a clear plastic cap over his military-style hat, and a thick mustache. He carried a nightstick, and in the rain he looked like the rest of the city: gleaming and timeless, as if he had been there forever, and would be there long after Sarah and I were gone.
“You are Americans?” There was in his voice that trace of rudeness, that condescension that is so fittingly French.
“Oui,” Sarah said.
“Parlez vous Francais?”
Through Sarah’s limited French, and the policier’s limited English, he finally communicated to us that we had somehow gotten off-track, and that this was not one of Paris’s finer neighborhoods… and now that night had arrived, perhaps we would do better in another quarter of the city – one where tourists normally went.
“Merci beaucoup,” Sarah said, and we walked away arm-in-arm. Behind us the policier looked at the discarded umbrella and wondered, probably, what had happened that would cause the crazy American couple to throw it aside so casually, and I wondered if he knew – if he had ever kissed the woman he loved as the heavens opened up and poured down upon them. It seemed unlikely.
Later at a café, we sat and laughed in our drenched and clammy clothes. Warm red wine and hot, bitter coffee warmed us. We were the only ones in the sleepy café. Everyone else seemed to have gone home for the evening. The large room was heated by a wood-burning stove, and the old proprietor, a skinny man with a bald head and knobby, deeply-veined knuckles, was sweeping up. At every other table, chairs had been sat on tabletops, their delicate legs standing straight up in the air like alien antennae. From somewhere above us we heard an impatient female voice boom.
“Sont-ils partis encore?”
Sarah snorted into her cupped hands. Her whole body trembled as she tried not to giggle. She leaned against me and tickled my ear when she whispered, “Someone just asked if we had left yet.”
I sipped more of my wine and smiled at her. The old man stopped sweeping and called out over his shoulder to the disembodied voice.
“Non, pas encore, mère. Et ils ne sont pas argent de poche, l’un ou l’autre.”
Sarah giggled harder. “He’s upset that we’re not leaving, and we’re not spending money. He knows we’re American, or he wouldn’t say things like that.”
“We should probably go,” I said. “He’s an old man, and he would probably rather be in bed than down here waiting on tourists.”
We left too many Euros on the table, a small gift to apologize for putting our host out, but Sarah couldn’t leave it alone. She approached the old man and dazzled him with her sweetest smile. She was stunning, even though her blouse and slacks had wrinkled as they dried in the dense heat of the café. She put one hand on his gnarled and knotty forearm, and said, “Je parle francais.”
And then we were out the door, and running along the broad streets, free spirits that swallowed the night and made it our own. We danced in the moonlight, in the pale and silky glow of gaslights too bright to be real. We offered one another our lips, our bodies, our lives, our souls on that night in Paris, and the rain pounded its music on the streets, on the buildings and the surface of the river that ran through the heart of the city. The rain ran down our faces and down our bodies until we were one with it, until we became a part of the city that stood forever gleaming under the gray rain clouds.
And we fell in love. Again. And again. And again, forever, until that city no longer stands, until its catacombs open up and swallow it whole, our hearts would be one. And in that moment when our souls became entwined again, inextricable, Sarah spun away from me and caught the rain in her upturned palms. She danced back toward me and wrapped her long, slender arms around me and whispered once more in my ear.
“J’aime la pluie.”
I pulled her mouth to mine, felt the ferocious intensity of our kiss jolt me down to my toes. I pulled away, gasping for breath.
“I love the rain, too,” I said. “And I love you.”