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Trouble in Paris
“Merci, Collette!” I called as I left the patisserie with my croissant and coffee in hand. Good bakers were not one of a kind in Paris, but Collette had become my friend, and I had a particular fondness for her almond butter cookies.
The streets of Paris were crowded today, unsurprising, considering it was a Monday morning and business people were rushing to work while tourists rose early to gawk at the attractions before anyone else could. Several children ran down the sidewalks with their little satchels of books strapped to their backs like camping gear, unattended but always safe in the community the locals had formed. The sky was clear today; it always was after it rained. But the atmosphere was slightly cool, as if winter were loath to part from its beloved City of Lights.
I rounded the corner of the street, leaving the quaint shopping district that always made me feel happy, and entering the business district that made me feel sick to my stomach. There was a homeless man on the same corner, one I hadn’t seen before and I stopped in front of him.
“Bonne chance, monsieur. La vie va s'améliorer. ” And I handed him a one hundred euro bill. Then, without looking back, I walked away. After half a block, I heard him call, “Que Dieu vous bénisse!” I smiled at his blessing. I would need that in this meeting. Yes, I could do with the blessing of a homeless man.
By the time the meeting ended, I was exhausted. It was already seven o’clock and the sky was getting dark. I had to argue with a bunch of pigheaded executive who wanted to waste my money for nearly ten hours. My only reprieve was a brief lunch break – long, I’m sure, in Western standards, but short for my now French schedule.
I took a different route than the one this morning back to my apartment. It was shorter and I didn’t have to stop at Collette’s. It was not known to be the safest part of town, but I had never had a run-in in Paris, and I doubted I ever would. I loved it here. The people, the atmosphere, everything felt like home. Moving away from New York was the best thing I’d ever done. Besides, Paris was always Daddy’s favorite city. He would be happy knowing that I was happy here.
As I walked down the street, chillier now that the sun had gone down, I thought about my father and what my life would be like now if he was still alive. I’d been forced to take over and run his business four years ago when he was murdered. He was such a nice man, and the money never changed who he was. He taught me to be charitable and honest with people. That rule of thumb had gotten me far and kept me afloat.
I was pulled from my thoughts by the sound of footsteps behind me. Normally, I wouldn’t think anything of it. After all, this was Paris. There were millions of people in the city alone. But these footsteps were different. They were muffled, quiet, sneaky on purpose. They were ominous footsteps.
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