Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans, La Sabornne, The Cluny, or Sonnet 137 (I think, I know it's Shakespeare)... Oh, or the Seventh Unicorn.
Garfield stands, hands clenched and sweaty, in front of the single red door. His head down, staring at the stone steps and the embarrassingly large coffee stain on his boots. It is his third day in Paris, certainly enough time to wait before casually looking up an old friend. Old friend? He chuckles at the thought. They had been best friends. No, even that was not enough.
Maybe at first.
She was older than him, a year and a half. She 20, he 19. She was mature past her years, which often left him wondering why she bothered with him: immature, frivolous, irresponsible and lacking in any sort of common sense. But who could blame him? He was in love. In love with Paris, with the French language, with the idea of being young and free in foreign land. In love with the lack of responsibility and lack of obligation to anyone or anything that came with youth.
He was in love with her. And at times, he thought she loved him too.
It wasn't until they were introduced by Victor that they really got to know each other. There he stood, short and gangly. His messy, untameable blond hair, creeping from under his cowboy hat falling over his emerald eyes. His carpenter's jeans and workers boots. His flannel shirt, buttoned up wrong and splattered with paint that seeped even to the white shirt underneath. What a sight he must have been.
And she stood there, carrying a large leather-bound book, hugging it protectively close to her chest. Her long, raven hair in a tight bun with two stray stands framing her face. She dressed sensibly, looking ready for school but undoubtedly fashionable. He had then found his eyes wandering over her long slender neck which was, like the rest of her skin, a wonderfully ivory complexion. Very different from his own, tanned and calloused. She stood with a commanding air about her, a no-nonsense aura. She was here to learn. Her dark blue, almost violet, eyes gave him in appraisal. Victor had excitedly introduced the pair and ran off with a pathetic excuse.
"So where are you from?" She asked, eyebrow cocked.
He grinned, "The sticks, back woods Louisiana. Marsh country. And you?"
"Chicago, exact opposite of the sticks." He laughed at her attempt at mocking him. She simply stood there, unwavering. She probably thought he was some hick gator farmer who got lucky or the stupid son of some southern cotton-baron. What was a dense-looking creature like him doing out of the marsh and in La Sorbonne of all places?
She gave him another once over and nodded, indicating his attire, "So you're a cowboy, huh?"
"Non, je suis un artiste," He said with a smile.
She suddenly became interested. "A French cowboy, who drabbles in a little paint. Imagine that. Unless of course I'm mistaken and you slap together scrap metal and call it abstract sculpture."
He shook his head, teasing her, laying the accent on thick, "No ma'am, I'm an old-fashioned cowboy. Use a brush and paint and erethang. Just like ma daddy taught me." They walked away talking that day, ended up at a café discussing early works of Degas. It was safe to say that after mentioning he was an artist, in French nonetheless, he proved to her he wasn't some dumb, rich, country boy.
Weeks passed and they got to know each other better, becoming best of friends. He knew that she got here on a scholarship and was in museum studies and majoring in the Medieval Ages. That she came from her foster family, very Catholic, in Chicago who were very poor, surprising his because he'd assumed she had money; something about the way she carried herself.
She knew he certainly did come from money, though not cotton farmers. He was the son of prominent field research biochemists looking for cures in the Louisiana bayou. That he came to Paris on a whim, wanting to see the great city that inspirited so much passion.
He was a romantic and she was practical, he painted and she studied. They were both good for each other. She kept him on his toes and on top of assignments while he showed her how to relax and have a good time. They shared a few classes, such as Medieval Art and Art History, and often found each other cramming for tests in each other's rooms. Often, he would walk her back to her student pension where she shared a room with two other girls. She would invite him inside and they would talk. Talk about anything, their childhoods, their dreams. Intimacies that you could only confide in someone you trust implicitly. They'd sit and watch TV, pointing out mistakes and errors and playing on over used clichés.
Then one night, he snuck up behind her and kissed her neck. When she didn't pull away or try to stop him, he smiled against her alabaster skin and nibbled on her ear. Slowly turning her and kissing along her jaw, then abruptly pulled away and stared at him. He swallowed hard and prayed to God he hadn't just ruined their friendship. That she wouldn't shake her head and run away. That she wouldn't slap him, call him a sleaze and never see him again.
But she didn't, she simply smiled and said, "I've got work to do. I'll see you in class. Thank you for walking me home," then walked away.
After that, it seemed the feeling was mutual. He couldn't get his mind off of her. He found his thoughts wandering to her during class and when ever they were apart, which was not often. They spent every waking moment away from class together, in museum, in galleries, talking. Just talking. It seemed that they could talk about anything and everything, except how they felt about each other. They would walk arm in arm down the road and he would whisper in her ear. Sweet nothings, murmurings of a romantic artist. He would quote Shakespeare and cheesy line in movies. Saying things like, "Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best; of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow, I see their antique pen would have express'd even such a beauty as you master now." She'd smile, and tell him he was a tease then go about their business.
They grew closer still.
So much so that the sight of her seemed to make the sun rise and moon glow. Silently they went on about their relationship, neither breathing a word about what it actually was. On occasion, he'd steal kisses from her. A peck on the cheek down the road, a brush of the lips after class. But they had never gotten too far, he didn't want to rush her, to scare her away with his brash actions and hormonal advances. He treated her like a butterfly, get too close to her wings and she'll die. And he was content, content with just seeing her everyday and hearing her voice. Never did he voice how much he really wanted her, to feel her rose-petal skin beneath his fingers.
He longed to hold her close and hold her tight, his hands painting pictures on her back, gracefully gliding over her curves like a pianist over ivory keys.
One night, as they sat alone in the common room of her pension, they nearly got carried away. She pulled back quickly, asking him to stop. She explained how she wasn't ready and she wanted to wait for marriage. He scoffed at her and she slapped him, walking away. He hadn't meant to, it was just a dumb reaction to a shocking revelation, that was all.
The next couple of days, they saw little of each other. Only during classes, then immediately after the bell, she would disappear. He would visit her room but her roommates would say she was out. Gar nearly tore himself apart. She was with someone else, he knew it.
His suspicions were right.
One day he found her getting out of a car with Dick Grayson, the rich boy from L.A. She hadn't seen him. The next day, she asked him to lunch in a serious tone.
"I've met someone."
"What do you mean?" Of course he knew, but he had to play dumb. It was just his nature. He played stupid and oblivious to hold back tears that if released he would surely regret.
"He's American too." Gar opened and closed his mouth like a fish, slowly shaking his head from side to side. "It's just that I'd like to get to know him better."
"Wha-what about u-us?"
"Gar, it's just… I…" She reached for his hand and he recoiled quickly as if she were a snake. He knew there was hurt and confusion on his face he could not hide. He got up and began to pace, his one hand massaging his temples, the other on his waist.
He longed to tell her, to call out to her. I love you! He wanted to say, I love you, don't you love me? His mouth couldn't find the words as he scrunched up his face in an attempt at keeping the tears at bay. Did she simply not care? Was all this really a one sided relationship? Was it even a relationship at all? The silence was so severe as he stood over her, her head down afraid to meet his eyes.
But he bore through her head.
He heard his heart pounding in his chest, his heart rate increasing. He felt pain shoot up from his heart and paralyse his thoughts, there was just him and her. She looked up at him, not a drop of tears in her eyes. In her beautiful blue eyes.
The same eyes dreamed about every night. The same eyes that bore through his soul when they spoke and gently closed when they kissed. He couldn't take it anymore and stormed out. He went home and took all of his painting and sketches of her, most of which she didn't know about, and dropped them off with a street artist for 50 francs.
That was the last conversation they ever had.
Twelve years ago.
Now he stands, memories flooding back at the most inappropriate of times. He found out, after visiting Victor. That she had married Grayson. They lived here in Paris and she was curator of the Cluny Museum. Six years ago, Grayson died in a fatal car accident, or so he heard, leaving her and their daughter with his amassed fortune.
He himself moved back to America. Fitter now, to work off his frustrations he took up swimming and developed an upper body. Losing that scrawny, short body he donned as a kid and growing to be quite a handsome adult. He taught Art History at the University of Boston and was engaged. So what was he doing here? He told his fiancée that he needed space; they had been engaged for two years, neither willing to set a date. Gar, too chicken shit to call it off. Though he wanted to, it was a mistake. A consequence of drunken love.
So he quit his job and moved here, back to Paris. Back to it all. She wasn't willing to go with him and quit her job, she stayed back telling him she'll visit during the summer. But he knew better, this was their silent escape. The engagement was off, and neither of them had to deal with it, being in separate continents and all.
He takes a deep breath and opens the bright red wooden door to the museum. Walking up to receptionists, he smiles politely and asks him where she is in French. He tries her office and looks back up shaking his head. Not in.
O well, he thinks, might as well look around. He wanders into the galleries, taking in ancient textiles that told noble stories of romance and chivalry. Courageous love and righteous battles. Knights and their maidens. Vast tapestries, weaving stories of courtship and happy endings.
That's when he hears her voice. Dignified yet gentle as it always was. He looks over to a crowd of tourists, she is within them, acting as their guide. He closes his eyes and takes in her voice, melodic as it always was, but somehow more mature. Filled with worldly experience now. A tall man moves, and he sees her.
No longer the awkward 20 year-old, skinny and lithe. She is still slender, but now fuller, a roundness in her breasts and hips. Her hair is cut short now, far from the long hair she donned when she was younger, now it barely reaches her shoulders.
He hadn't fully considered that in 12 years she might have changed, but in some ways she was the same. He could hear the excitement and enthusiasm in her voice as she speaks about the history of a particular painting; explaining the significance of a small woodsy animal. She wears a business suit with a skirt, light blue. The skirt is short enough to show off her shapely legs but long enough to respectable. The blue contrasting with her eyes, giving them a darker shade than usual.
He finds himself staring again, not at the skinny bookworm he fell in love with as a teen, but at the stunningly beautiful woman she had become. Her voice falters as her eyes meet his. She stumbles over her words as he smiles at her. It was like their first meeting all overagain. Her in a sophisticated suit, him in jeans and coffee-stained work boots. As if nothing had changed.
They stare at each other, both lost in memories, having a private moment in a crowded room full of people. He gives her his lop-sided boyish smile and raises his hand in a still wave.
He opens his lips and mouths, Hi.