Chapter 2

"I tire of talking of my past. There are not enough hours in a day to think of such things." Annette wanted to learn more, but something about the weight of Stratten's (or was it Christian now?) tone made her check herself. If need be, she would come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.

"What of the present, then, and the future?"

"I will continue to keep writing, if that is what you mean. I have never held any other job, and I never intend to. I suppose, despite all this--the house, money, everything--I am still a Bohemian at heart." He smiled sadly, but she didn't want him to get too distracted.

"What other writers interest you? Do you have a favorite?"

He thought on this a moment. "There's an American, Hemingway. Lives in Paris, I believe."

"I have heard of him."

"He writes of the Great War with such insight. His vignettes are damn better than anything I can come up with. Excuse me, Mademoiselle. I forgot I was in the presence of a lady. Although, perhaps I should have thought of that before my earlier comments." His eyes held a twinkle that she couldn't see him without now that it was there.

"What is it you write of concerning the war?"

"Oh, I shouldn't have said anything. It's awful. Too bloody and violent."

"Wait." Annette was confused. "I did not know you fought."'

"I did, and you may put that in your paper, but I do not want to talk about it."

"Oh."

"But Hemingway, he knows how to write about the war. I suppose it's strange that I admire his works so much, being that I usually only write about love. That is what all my stories are about, by the way. People have this strange idea about me that I use love to portray basic human ideals or some rubbish like that."

"You mean...you don't?"

"Have you even read my books?" he roared. She stared at him as his expression softened again. "I'm sorry. It irritates me that no one understands. I know only one language, and it is love. I am incapable of writing about anything else, as evidenced by my awful stories about the War. I wish I could write of things that are deep and intricate, but it all turns out as a love story."

"But...Monsieur Stratten--"

"Christian, Christian..."

"Christian. You do write deep and intricate stories. Perhaps you do not realize it, but it's true."

"I think you are mistaken."

She sighed. "Is every literary critic in England and France mistaken? They all see the--the layers beneath your words. You think you fail, but we can see that you do not."

"Hm." It was very silent for a very long time, until the corner clock chimed.

"It's time for you to leave."

"Uh, Christian, would you mind if I returned tomorrow?"

He sighed. "I suppose not."

"Thank you. I'll be, um, leaving then." She gathered her things and put them in her bags. He watched her, and she felt slightly uncomfortable. "What time may I come around tomorrow?"

He studied her for a moment more. "You have no cart waiting, do you?"

She was fairly embarrassed. "No."

"And how were you planning on getting in to town?"

"I would walk." He shook his head.

"No, no, that won't do. I'll take you home myself."

"Are you sure? You should not feel as though you must."

"Yes. We can't have you walking through the country by yourself at night, now, can we?" He smiled a little too knowingly and put her off guard, but she was too tempted by his offer of a ride to trudge through the deep mud more than a mile to her hotel.

"You are far too kind, Monsieur."

"You're lucky," he said, eyes gleaming. "Usually I beat reporters over the head with my typewriter and hide their bodies in my yard." He chuckled at her look of horror. "I'm joking!"

She managed a pained smiled. "Of course."

The way that Stratten/Christian drove his automobile did not go very far towards convincing her that this was much safer than her walking by herself. They barely got out of the driveway without becoming stuck, a large tree was in their way and was almost knocked over, and the streets of Iverny now swerving tire tracks coated in mud. Despite almost losing her life several times, Annette enjoyed the ride home. He had no mind, but did any writer these days? She certainly didn't.

After he dropped her off, she sat reviewing her notes of the day and was pleased to find that they were fairly coherent. Usually they made no sense, even to her, but she knew that even if they didn't she would not soon forget her conversation with her favorite author. And tomorrow, she would continue, and hopefully get the information for the one big break that would make her career.


Sorry it took so long, please tell me what you think. I'm having a hard time making this story sound the way I want it to, but hopefully it's turning out all right. And the reason that Christian is kind of pissy is because he's older. I thought he might not be so optimistic after MR, and then he fights in WWI...I'm not trying to have him OOC, honestly I'm not.

Thank you to all reviewers thus far.