Hand in Hand – Chapter 3

LOST IN THE CITY

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I and Eugène Lapierre had been working on the same project since last 2 years. We chatted almost every weekday, via text/voice/video chats, I am the lead developer of this project and he is the IT head of LPA Systèmes which is our client. It was a work relation but we were always on friendly terms. It was the critical time as the Project deployment was appearing close, and I had to leave for France. It was only 20 days earlier to my departure when I was informed that I had to be in France for approximately 6months – 2 years for pre and post deployment support. I was in a rush, buying new clothes, shoes, and a new laptop because my laptop is an oldie and I don’t trust it. I have never been away from my home except for my vacations. I love my mom, and I am so used to the cocoon of her love that in like a week away I would feel homesick. Being pessimistic, I would assume I have to stay there for 2years, and I’ve no idea if I would get an opportunity to come home for Christmas. Or I would end up celebrating it in my room alone? **sighh**

So many questions, and I don’t see anything good in going there except for my experience of clientele. As of what I could remember what Eugène once told me, he is the only American (half American) in LPA Systèmes. And others hardly speak English, probably this is the reason only Eugène converses with us. And I’ve been informed I would reach France on 23rd October, and Eugène would be on a vacation, and would come back by first week of November. **OMG! What am I gonna say to the Parisian’s?? C’est? Oui? Je m’appalle Amelie? What if I need to go to the powder-room on first day and I don’t know where it is? Should I learn some sign language?? Yikes! This is so terrible. Why wasn’t I sent to England? Or New Zealand? Come on any English speaking country? Even India would have been fine since major people there speak in English. Like Sujata came to USA from India, I would have filled her place. God! I was never good at foreign languages. Probably carrying a piece of paper with basic French words would do, but I may end up making a fool of myself by pronouncing something bad or funnily **Oh-God-Why-is-French-not-pronounced-as-it’s-written? **. What about food? I would get burgers, wouldn’t I? Burgers are all over the world I am sure. Sujata said you can find burgers in India in almost all cities. So why wouldn’t France have. I was trying my best to convince myself, I had expected my mother to be all sad and disheartened but she was on the cloud nine. She says I am lucky to go Paris, it’s a city of love and lights. And I am like “Momm.. I am nont going on a vacation!!”

My US Airways Non-stop flight was at 4.45 PM (22nd October) from Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Concourse B, it is an 8 hour journey but because of the time difference I should be in Paris by 7.00 AM. Mom, Dad and Christy came to drop me. I have stocked myself with my favorite chocolates and cookies as if they would last forever. Chris gifted me a minion collection with different expressions saying “One for every mood of yours” (Aww I loved them, she knows me so well). Mom gifted me a hand-made Photo collage book with pictures from the day I was born till date (oh I love them and I almost had tears in my eyes, she is a Do-It-Yourselfer and she did a very good job) and I embraced her tight in my arms. Dad sponsored my shopping what else do I expect? I purchased some branded outfits, bags, footwear, it has cost his pocket heavily. But I was surprised that he gifted me a “Living and Working in France” a Survival Handbook, by David Hampshire and I threw myself on him and wrapped him in a big tight hug and I was crying like a kid. ** Oh-I-so-love-my-Dad **

I get a window seat but I really am not excited. An old lady is seated beside me, and on a usual day I would have started a conversation with her but today I am controlling hard not to burst into tears because if I start I may cry forever. Somehow I manage to sleep through my journey by trying to think what all places I would visit in Paris. I reached at 6.55 AM (23rd October) on Paris Charles de Gaulle Apt on Terminal One and there is a mid-aged half bald man about 5.5″ (shorter than me) who later introduced himself as François Moreau, holding a sign bored with my name and DAMN IT! A spelling mistake in my last name? I mean really is it that difficult? It spelled “Amelie Sylvie” and it’s originally “Amelie Sylvia” and I don’t wish to change my name. *urghh*

I heave my baggages from cab to the lift (obviously Mr. Moreau didn’t bother to help). The room they provided me was on the second floor of the building named Devanley Résidence located at Les Pavillons Sous Bois (I am pretty sure if I am lost somewhere in Paris, I could never pronounce and reach back to my dorm), and by Public Transport it would take an hour for me to reach LPA Systèmes office (I so miss my old beetle). The room is small about 12×14, but pleasant and cozy with plain white walls. A queen sized bed with comfortable white bedding, small old wooden side table with a chest of drawers, a TV unit made of oak wood in the opposite wall of the bed that looks like that is some 1.5 feet tall, a wall mounted 14″ LCD with what? French channels, what would I understand? Later I would scan through and I am sure I can find few American channels. Small shower area with lavatory, it’s clean and I am relieved, because when I see dirty washrooms or lavatories, the first thing I do is throw up, and I have no intentions to spoil my first impression with this man. He greets me and speaks in broken English “Mademoiselle, youu resst n’ eet n’ sleeep, youu can eet at de restron on de ground flooor, I would peeck you tomoroo moorning at 7.00 AM, n’ I would teeke youu to de offeece, Au revoir ” (Fingers crossed. If not burgers or pizzas I at least want a pan cake).

Yeah after freshening up a bit, I was able to search few American TV channels like Fox, ABC, The CW, etc. I was hungry to the pit of my stomach and I start munching one of the chocolates I have got. I so wish I could get my Mom’s hand cooked bacon and a Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich. But in a worst case scenario, No mom’s food for 2 long years(Oh I hate it) I wear my jeans and my favorite tee that Chris and Me had purchased when we had participated in Twins Day at our office. Chris and I had been best of friends since our high school. We were selected in the same organization “Charles Brothers and Co.” after graduating from University of North Carolina in Charlotte. And I miss her, we are totally opposite, she is blond, I am brunette, she is all long legs, curves, sultry blue eyes and right complexion and I am big green eyes, pale skin, tall but not so beautifully curved, I can never manage growing long nails. But I love her, I can share all my stupid secrets with her and I am sure she won’t judge me, she is all girly and has helped me with the shopping. I started placing all my gifts on the TV unit below the LCD and tears clouded my vision and I go flat on bed, hug my Huggy-Bear (teddy bear that Mom had gifted me 4 years back), and cry till I dehydrate myself.

Because I am a girl who needs a hand to hold on to, and I feel I am lost in a new city.

Hand in Hand – Chapter 2

Hand in Hand – Chapter 2

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After my first stroll on the streets of Paris, Eugène and I had our lunch at Brasserie de l’Isle Saint Louis, while we reach there I am starving since I had a granola bar in breakfast from the vending machine on my floor. Eugène says this restaurant is owned by a family since 1953, and they brew their own beer. It is a beautiful small restaurant, nary exceptional, but gives me a pleasant feeling. This is a kind of restaurant where the menu is written with chalk on a black writing board, where the lights are yellow colored. There are outdoor seating’s with small round table for two and wooden chairs with red seats and red rain/sun shelter, and indoor are those long tables, where I would love to come with my family or a bunch of friends, and laugh out loud, and have a good time. Now that it’s just the two of us, we sit in those outdoor chairs. This place has a warm ambience filled with the din of people bustling in, chattering and clinging glasses. A place I often enjoy my meals because I would not want to go in some elegant Parisian restaurant in this outfit. The sky is clear, the climate is cool and the temperature is 8°C, I could feel the chills deep in my hair follicles so I take my beige cardigan out of my bag and clad myself. Eugène seems to be comfortable in his long sleeved tee. The wind blows and dishevels our hair, there Eugène’s hair is mussed up and yet he looks like a beautiful boy, and my hair are all over my face. Eugène laughs with that boyish charm, and tells me, “Your hairr is all ruffled” and places his arms above his head and points his fingers in different directions like antlers. He has this peculiar accent where he stretches few words like those that have ‘r’ in them or gives the sound of ‘ah’ for ‘a’.

Me: “I know I look like a goon, I hate my hair”.

Eugène: “Naahh, rather you look cute like this”, while I am adjusting my hair he says “I like yourr hair, the waves, their colorr. I like brrunettes.” And I lower my face so my chin touches my throat and try to cover my cheeks with my hair, in a failed attempt to furtive my blushing.

Eugène: “You know this place has that good classic tastes in their meal, and I lurrvvee its Choucroute”

(I am oblivion to French food, as I never had much of French cuisine because I am a kind of person who doesn’t like to experiment with the food. I have my few favorites and I always stick to them.)

Me: “Alright, hope it’s not a sea food”. I feel stupid asking everything to him, but I don’t want to end up being served a fish head or octopus, and I would have to eat it to maintain my equilibrium.

Eugène: “Noo Choucroute garnie has sausages and other salted meats and charcuterie, and Potatoes.”

And I heave a sigh, because I was aww-Induced by his description of Choucroute and finally I would have a proper meal after 2 long weeks of feeding myself with croissants, baguettes, fruits, chocolates, cakes, granola which is not a very healthy diet and left me sweet tongued, and I have been craving for a proper meal with spices. In last 2 weeks countless are the times when I had wished if I were shifted to Thailand than France (unbeknownst of French cuisine, I am well aware of Thai cuisine and it is my favorite), until today morning when Eugène took me out for a tour.

We order 2 Choucroute garnies, 2 beers from their Brasserie, and the meal priced 50€ for two, cheap enough. While we were waiting for our meal, Eugène told me about the eateries near my dorm that is located at Les Pavillons Sous Bois and the type of meals I should order. A servile French lad comes in with our lunch and I hog on my meal as if not eaten well in weeks (that part is true). It really is delicious, for the kind of restaurant I am amazed that the food is sumptuous, the meat is in galore and is tender with a flavor of wine and tanginess of sauerkraut, and potatoes melt in my mouth with a flavor of parsley, bacon has its crispiness and I am in love with the food. I feel it’s only me and Choucroute and the surrounding is devoid and for a moment I forget that a beautiful French boy, Eugène is in front of me (probably staring at me). My meal dwindles while I eat when my stomach is happy I gradually come back to the reality, and finally give Eugène a glance and catch him staring at me and he has this lopsided grin on his face and he says, “I like it that you are not pretentious”, Wow.. Reeeaally! what a choice of words to say you are hogging and I suddenly feel self-conscious and cringe-worthy. He waves his hands in air as if to discard these feelings and I quickly flush them and give him my reviews on Choucroute. I can see the proud smile on his face. And not to forget the beer, mighty taste, although the balance is a little tilted toward sweetness (Which I prefer). Coconut, vanilla, rich caramel malt, long sweet bourbon barrel finish with lots of lingering coconut makes me feel fresh. There is a bare hint of bitterness at the end which for some reasons I liked, probably the food effect. While we were eating, we didn’t talk much, and once I happily obliterated Choucroute from my plate, I tried to pay but he didn’t let me, saying “Allow me maah lady” with a slight bow. I know he was being funny but I felt burning of my cheeks.

We head towards the Quai de Bourbon, assuming we are going to my dorm, while we are walking straight he again offered me his hand, and I take it without hesitation, without a question where we are going, like I am the putty in his hands, and I surmise that this journey has just began.

 

We walk to the Beginning of this journey of my life, Hand in Hand.

Hand-in-hand Chapter 1

My First stroll on the streets of Paris

Image   Yes, he was there, right in front of my eyes all the while, and how dumb I have been, that I couldn’t see. While we are still standing on the bridge that he earlier mentioned it as Île de la Cité that leads to Notre-Dame which looks like a small island in itself, and he is still talking and explaining things about the History of Notre-Dame. He is a history aficionado and I could not hear a word, but I am tranquillized by the glittering of his eyes. He has the same exuberance in his eyes that I see in my brother’s eyes while he talks about Cricket. I am lost in the mellow of his voice, as if Mariah Carey is singing “Without You” in my ears, like Kenny G is playing “The Moment” with his saxophone. I feel like my legs have turned Jelly, and how I long to close my eyes and melt slowly in his arms like chocolate. I am lost in his Adam’s apple while he is still talking about Notre-Dames history, it so delicately moves up and down that I feel my eyeballs are bouncing up and down with it. When he points his finger towards the cathedral saying something, I get to see the back of his head and yes, there is something more beautiful to my eyes than the cathedral. While he has his back to me, I get a moment to study him, the perfect boy, he has this auburn hair that has few streaks of lighter shades to the ends, more out of natural coloring from being in sun. I could only think of what it would feel like if I scroll my fingers in them. As I move my eyes down slowly taking advantage of the moment, I realize he has these broad shoulders that has a slope from his neck to the acromion (if that’s what it is called), and he is totally callipygian. I savor the view and I get this sudden urge to touch him, feel his hair on my fingertips (I am sure they are as soft as they look) and I being ebullient with this new feeling and also since a week I had been trying to use French words in my sentences I have this falsetto in my head that says “tout de suite” and suddenly he turns to me and my thoughts come to an abrupt halt. I feel the burning of my cheeks and they turn crimson. I could see the amusement in his eyes for he has just caught me checking him out. He asks me “What?” and I don’t know if it’s a question related to the history of Notre-Dame he must have asked (that I didn’t paid attention to) or is it about the fact that I was checking him out. I started offering him my profuse apologies for not hearing him, while he had been kind enough to spend his weekend giving me a tour of Paris that I couldn’t see since I came here 2 weeks back. I had my weekdays spent in office, weeknights in my dormitory hearing the noises of neighboring rooms, and staring the ceiling till i fall asleep. Well last weekend was the same, I redesigned my blog website, emailed some of my friends, that’s it. It was when Eugène thumped on my door and forced me to come with him to see Paris. He is half French and half American. He waves his hand in air as to stop with my apologies, and I stand there blank with my pursed lips. Eugène says I said “tout de suite” and I realized I was blabbering my thoughts, and a sudden dark cloud appears on my head, as to what else did I say. I ask him as innocently as I could “What else did I say?”, and he smirked, saying “Nothing I wish you had”, and darn, what did he mean by ‘Nothing I wish you had?’, is he teasing me. I feel the blood draining from my face, when he says, “Heyyyy, Amelie you said nothing, what’s wrong? Why are you so pale? I was just yanking your chain.” and I now realize I have been holding my breath, and I exhale a big breathe, and I could only say is “Nothing”. He then shrugs like ‘Let’s just go and see the Notre-Dame’, and held out his hand for me, I hold it and we walk towards the cathedral. (Oh yes this place is magical, my first wish just came true, I touched him). We walked till we reached the place and my God, it is beautiful. The long columns, the beautiful carvings, surrounded by water under clear blue sky, such an eye savoring place, like I am in some palace, and I am the Princess in some long exquisite gown (though I am wearing jeans, tee and belle shoes) walking hand-in hand with my Prince Charming.   It’s the day I realized, there has to be some reason, I had to come to Paris for work at client-site.