Notes: Set twenty-some years before the events of the book. These characters are not mine, no profit, etc.
The first two months she's at McGill, almost all Meghan Ford does is study. It's a good school, she tells herself, and classes are challenging, professors have high expectations. And, yes, all that is true, but even she knows that that doesn't mean she should be spending every free moment in the library.
The problem is that Meg has spent the first eighteen years of her life meeting or exceeding everyone's expectations, more or less all the time. She's been a good student, a good daughter, a good sister.
And now she knows, though nothing has been said aloud, that her parents are disappointed she won't even talk about Kim, never mind to Kim.
She won't let herself think about how Kim must see her these days. Not that Kim does see her these days, or any of them, not from her new life with her new husband on the other side of the Atlantic.
So Meg throws herself into the only other real role she's have had to play, and tries to be the perfect student.
By mid-October, though, she's settled into the rhythms of her own new life. And she's ridiculously ahead on the work for all her classes.
So when a Saturday dawns bright and clear, Meg finally gives herself permission to take a day off. She shrugs into a green wool jacket, tucks a small blue notebook and a map of Montreal into her bag, and sets out to explore the city.
Over the course of the day, she slowly fills nine pages in the notebook – what turns she took, where she stopped for tea and for a slightly late lunch (the first worth visiting again, the second worth avoiding at all costs), stores she wants to come back to browse in, the service times at Cathedral Christ Church so she can go one Sunday morning, the name of a bilingual bookstore with a good selection of English language magazines.
She wanders around a square, looking at the statues – a memorial to the Boer war and Robert Burns, odd bedfellows. She stops to ask a man sitting on one of the benches where she is (Square Dorchester, he says, and she writes it down) and gets a mini-lecture on the history of the building across the street (the Sun Life Building, he says, and she writes that down, too), where the Crown Jewels were stashed during World War II. (Meg writes that down with a note to check it, because it sounds like a very odd place to stash them, in her opinion.)
She gets stopped four times and asked to photograph tourists – twice in English and twice in French. Meg assumes she must look like someone who won't mind being asked to photograph tourists. Or else she just looks like someone who is very unlikely to steal tourists' cameras.
When she notices the shadows are getting long, she takes a turn that she thinks will get her back to campus and is delighted to find that she's right. She's almost back to the gates when someone stops her.
Meg turns to find a young man about her age. "Oui?"
"Bonjour," he says.
"Bonjour." When he doesn't say anything else, she continues, "Avez-vous besoin de quelque chose?"
"Ah, oui," he says. "Oui. Ah, quelle heure est-il, s'il vous plaît?"
"Il est. . ." Meg checks her watch. ". . . cinq heures moins dix."
"De rien," she says, and starts to leave.
"Attendez, s'il vous plaît," he says, and she turn again.
"Oui? Voulez-vous quelque chose d'autre?"
"Non," he says. And then, "Oui. Peut-être."
No, yes, and maybe. That seems to cover all the options, if nothing else. "Monsieur?"
"Je voudrais . . . je pense . . . si vous . . . peut-être . . . I don't think I know how to do this in French."
"Maybe you should try English, then," Meg says.
His smile is unexpected and, in a way, kind of dazzling. "You speak English."
"Yes. Was there something you wanted?"
"Okay, look, I know how this is going to sound, and I really don't make a habit of doing this, I promise, and it's not some kind of . . . anything, but I'd really like to photograph you."
Whatever Meg is expecting, that isn't it. She'd been ready for him to ask her out (because that, at least, would have been a logical conclusion to his inability to get to the point). But this?
She laughs. "You should have stuck to French. Do you really think line is going to work?"
"It's not a line. I'm a photographer, or at least, I want to be and you're . . . you're luminous, and I really want to take your picture. And I'm really not saying that to get you to do anything inappropriate or anything else, though if you wanted to have coffee or go to the movies or something, sometime, I can't say that I—"
"Okay, you're creepy and getting creepier. Next time you stop a girl on the street, you might want to try starting with the coffee and working up to the posing. But my answer to both is 'no.'"
"I'm leaving now. Don't follow me. Au revoir, monsieur, et bonne chance."
And she turns and escapes through the gates of McGill.
Edward Marriner stands on the sidewalk outside McGill and watches her leave, and thinks that red hair and a green jacket and late afternoon sun is a combination he should remember. Which is good, because it's also a combination he's not going to forget any time soon.
He stands there until she's out of sight and then some, so she can't possibly think he's following her when he heads for his residence hall, and until a passerby stops to ask him if everything is all right.
"Yes, thank you. Everything is fine. I just met the girl I'm going to marry."