anywhere but paris // a short story.

If she closes her eyes, she can almost see it.
She can see the Eiffel Tower rising above all buildings, high in the sky. She can feel the cool summer breeze blowing against her skin. She can smell the freshly baked bread coming from nearby bakeries. She can taste the sour lemon and the sweet sugar on warm crêpes. She can almost see it – the beauty of Paris. She can feel the magic of the city with him. It plays like a never-ending song in her mind.
“Val!” He shouts, running after her. “Valerie, slow down!”
She gives him a coy smile and pauses when she reaches the rose gardens. He takes her hands in his and looks at her innocently, his soft brown eyes looking into hers.
“You really seemed to like that girl over there.” She says, raising an eyebrow.
“Val, I was asking her for the time.”
“If I remember correctly, that is how you got me to talk to you.”
“Come on.” He pouts. “Valerie, you know I love you.”
She cannot hold back the smile from making its way onto her face. He pulls her towards their favourite bookshop across from Notre Dame and buys her mango gelato. They spend the evening in the gardens reading books quietly, only stopping to show each other their favourite quotes.
The summer comes back to her in flashes, like that warm august day. She remembers their apartment with its used furniture and the scratchy record player and the Michel Sardou vinyls stacked along the windowsill. She remembers hot chocolate at Trocadèro, red lipstick staining her teacup and his cheek. She remembers pizza by Canal St. Martin as they walked hand in hand by the colourful walls and fancy boutiques. She remembers riding bikes along the Champs-Élysées, laughing as they flew past the handfuls of tourists walking.
She remembers their last night together, lying down on the damp grass and looking up as the Eiffel Tower lit up the night sky. It sparkled above them and he kissed once more, but this was the last time he would kiss her that summer. And forever. Suddenly, the lights are too bright and they blur her vision and she is shaking her head as people’s voices rise in volume around her.
“How do you feel about Paris?” The wedding planner asked.
“Pardon?”
“A destination wedding in Paris!” He replied. “What do you think?”
“No.” She said. “Anywhere but Paris.”
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