AN: Here is my new story. I hope you enjoy what's to come!
Disclaimer: I am not Charlaine Harris, therefore I do not own these characters.
I don't even know what I was running for - I guess I just felt like it.
- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Chapter 1: Paris
I looked to my right, where a man was standing on a street corner in Paris, offering me a rose. I shook my head, not too familiar with French. He shook his head right back and held his arm out further. "Il est gratuit, pour une belle fille comme toi."
Everyone spoke so fast in Europe. "Merci," was the most I knew. I took the rose and smelled it politely. He beamed at me and continued to sell his flowers from a bucket. They looked nice, but it was a bit weird coming from a street man like himself. I continued on my way, holding the flower close to my chest. This really was a beautiful city.
I wandered the streets, glancing into the shops, the cafes, really just getting a feel for the city. My boyfriend Bill was back at the hotel, claiming he wasn't feeling so well today. We'd stayed in Paris much longer than we intended. We started off our European trip in London and went into Ireland and Scotland as well. We began our journey three weeks ago and have spent the past ten days in Paris when we should have been in Scandinavia four days ago. It was tampering with my plans. I had been plotting this trip since I was seventeen years old and began saving up for it.
When you grow up in northern Louisiana, there isn't much culture. I wanted to see the world before I settled into a job, and maybe a husband and kids one day. I always wanted to just spend a few months roaming Europe, going to whatever city I wanted whenever I wanted – although, I had a rough outline as to where I wanted to be and for how long, I figured I'd end up staying a bit longer in the places I fell in love with. When I met Bill two years ago, he was twenty six and I was twenty. He was my first boyfriend, my first love, and my first time. Since then, it'd been a steady romance. I loved him and didn't want to leave him back in Louisiana; but, it wouldn't stop me from insisting on my Europe trip.
When I told him my plans to head off on my adventure as soon as I graduated from LSU, he balked. He had a steady job in computers in Shreveport, and honestly, I wasn't quite sure what he did exactly. Bill would talk about his day at work and I'd usually just smile and nod, having no interest in computers whatsoever. I hardly understood how my cell phone and iPod worked.
So, when I announced my itinerary for Europe, he immediately freaked out. He asked if I was breaking up with him and I clearly said no. I had never seen Bill like that – paranoid, unsure, panicked. I explained that I wanted to learn more about the world. He said nothing, looking thoughtful for a while I waited patiently for his response. He threw me through a loop when he insisted he'd go with me. I never intended to go with anyone. When I was younger, I mentioned my dream to my best friend Amelia who was enthused about the idea. We plotted and planned to go together until her dad took her to Barcelona last summer and she fell in love with a man there and had stayed. I planned to see her on my trip, but since then, I was sure I was going solo.
And then, I was confronted with the option of my boyfriend accompanying me.
I saw many pros and cons to this list and I had to admit, the cons weighed more. I envisioned us parting our separate ways because we couldn't handle travelling with one another for too long. I imagined me falling for a foreign boy and leaving Bill. I pictured Bill realizing he wanted to become a vagabond and march the mountains of Switzerland for the rest of his life.
Nevertheless, I found myself agreeing. He was ecstatic and so, four months ago, we began planning our Euro trip. I had the feeling of dread the entire time – like when you're about to go on a roller coaster that looks terrifying in height, in size, in screams and you're waiting in the line-up, the anticipation smothering, dizzying and when you finally get on, you feel as if you're going to barf up your heart, your stomach twists and threatens to fall out of you as the coaster climbs up slowly to the top and then you plummet down. It wasn't an analogy that made sense to me. I loved Bill. I did. It just didn't stop the feeling that we were creeping toward a magnificent height, only to be dropped down. I still had the rest of the ride though, right? I remained optimistic – what couple hadn't survived a drop before?
My Gran adored Bill. She believed him to be the perfect Southern gentleman. He would come over every Sunday night for dinner and Gran would just dote on him. My brother Jason, on the other hand, couldn't stand my boyfriend. He would ask me why I was with such a boring man, to which I would counter why he was with such loose women. He'd get huffy and walk away with a scowl. My brother and I didn't have the best brother-sister relationship that existed. You'd think we would, considering we were all the other had left growing up, but Jason and I never clicked.
Gran was hesitant about me going on the European trip with Bill. I couldn't tell her I was too. I just conveyed to her how excited I was and how I wanted to see Europe badly. And so far, it was exactly how I imagined. I was just getting bored of Paris, which was something I never thought I'd say or probably something no one had said before.
I wanted to move on. I wanted to see everywhere else on my list. I was anxious to go!
But Bill kept saying "one more day, Sookie, just one more day." For the last three, he'd been sick, so I'd spend the full day out and about, and then return to our fancy hotel at around four and then he'd walk with me to dinner.
Bill came from some family money.
When I told him my plan to go to hostels, he did several double takes. He adamantly professed we stay in hotels and experience Europe in comfort. I protested, it was part of my plan to do this as cheap as I could, but with just as much adventure as I could inspire. Bill disagreed and eventually, after impressing upon me the downs of hostel-travelling, I gave in.
I hated that Bill was spending so much money on the hotels, for I could never afford them. They were top-class establishments too. I felt awkward and disconnected from the high-class atmosphere. When I mentioned my discomfort to Bill, he told me I was being ridiculous and it was all in my head. Maybe it was, but it didn't change the fact that I was self-conscious in the gorgeous lobbies.
I confess I wasn't finding Paris as romantic as the stories said.
It was beautifully romantic – but I was not romanced. Bill was distant and preoccupied.
I fretted over this as I walked through the streets, dazed. I wasn't sure where I was going, but my mind was focused on him and us. This trip wasn't working. I was disappointed. I couldn't continue the next few months like this.
I decided to go back to the hotel, two hours sooner than my usual return. We were going to sit down and have a serious chat about what I expected from him for the rest of our vacation.
I looked around me, finally stopping and realizing my surroundings. Alright, I had no idea where I was. I tried to find a main street, wanting to ask someone for help as a last resort. I always got funny looks and up-turned noses when I would ask a Parisian a question in English. They didn't like Americans all that much. Eventually I ran back into the man with flowers.
"Bonjour!" I said giving him a nervous smile.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle, comment allez-vous?" he beamed at me, flashing his teeth, which weren't too pretty.
"Um," I said scrambling. "Do you speak English?"
"Un peu," he said. Right.
"Do you know where I can find..." I pulled out a sheet of paper from my purse and showed him the street and the name of the hotel.
"Ah, oui, mademoiselle," he said, holding out a rose to another lady. If he was trying to receive money for these flowers than he was doing an awful job at earning it if he just kept giving them out to beautiful women on the street. I didn't feel so special about mine anymore. He held out a hand and muttered something along the lines of a pen. I nodded and produced one for him. He began to draw directions on the paper and I thanked him profusely, hurrying off in the direction the map he drew told me to.
I went as fast as I could in my blister-inducing flats. I wasn't nearly as dressed in haute couture that most of the women in this area were. I wore simple, no-name brands that were cheap for a girl who was helping pay off her university and while saving up for her big European adventure.
My university tuition was paid partly by my Uncle Bartlett, who managed to get down two years and a bit for me to go to school. Gran had been saving for years and had managed to get enough for one year. So, I spent my summers working at Merlotte's in my home town, Bon Temps, earning enough money to save for my trip and my final year in university. It worked out fine and I wasn't left with any loans to pay back.
I found the main street and the traffic was pretty heavy, I weaved in and out of the people, glancing at my impromptu map. Soon, my surroundings became familiar – after sifting through the Paris streets for ten days, I knew my way around this part of the city pretty well. I knew where my hotel was from here and stuffed the map into my purse. I bumped into an elegant woman who snapped at me in rapid French, I apologized, "Pardon moi." She just looked more irritated with the knowledge that I was an American. I turned away and continued my haste, eager to hammer out the details of what was to come with Bill.
I went through the hotel lobby with my head down, not wanting to receive any judgemental looks. I really had a bad self-esteem issue and I was only painfully aware of it since the trip started. I got into the elevator, tapping my foot impatiently as it took me up to the seventeenth floor. I went down the hall and entered into the suite Bill had booked. It was massive with its own living quarters and then a separate bedroom and bathroom.
Immediately when I stepped inside, I knew something was wrong.
For one, those shoes weren't mine. They were high-heeled and high-end.
Secondly, the curtains were drawn.
Third, I could hear moaning in the bedroom.
It all came crashing down on me, causing my knees to buckle. I slipped off my shoes and dropped my purse on the floor, holding onto the wall for support. I took a deep, shaky breath and ventured toward the closed bedroom door.
"Bill, harder!" a female cry filled the hotel room, through the door. I put my hand on the knob and twisted it open. They didn't even notice me. Bill's ass was my view as he thrust into the woman underneath him. I stood there motionless, speechless as I tried to interpret the situation. What the hell could I do about this?
For some odd reason, I let them finish. My mind was just not working fast enough for me to get angry or to get upset. I just watched. When Bill rolled off her, his face now toward me at the door, he and the woman scrambled out of bed at my presence.
"Sookie!" he blundered, pulling up his pants, where as the girl, not as quickly, headed to her dress that was folded neatly on the armchair in the corner. What a prissy bitch, folding her clothes before sex. "Sookie, it's not –," he started. It's not what it looks like?
I was dumbfounded, my mouth gaping open, my eyes carefully following this woman's ever move. She was blond and smaller than me. She was pretty and all but – really?
Bill looked just at a loss for words as I.
"What..." I started. "You said you were sick."
Bill looked at the woman and then back at me, his brown eyes wide and guilty.
"Oh my God," I said and finally got my body to turn away from the situation. I walked further into the living room, distancing myself from them. "I wanted to leave Paris days ago, Bill."
"I know," he followed me, his hands out with caution and somehow, begging for mercy. "I never wanted to hurt you Sookie."
"Well, you did," I said. My voice was even, detached. I think I was still in shock. I turned back around where the woman was leaning against the door frame, looking cool as a cucumber. Really? "Who are you?" I spluttered, finally losing my calm exterior.
"I dated Bill a few years ago before I moved to Paris," she spoke, unfazed.
I laughed shortly, insanity winning over numbness. "So is that why you wanted to come to Europe? You used me as a ruse?"
"No, Sookie, I love you – listen to me, Lorena was a mistake. I love you and I –"
I held up a hand. "Please, don't." I pushed past Bill and Lorena and did the first thing that came to mind and that was to pack one of my bags. I just wanted to take the essentials. I didn't need everything. I went into the bathroom to fetch my tooth brush and face wash, and then rummaged through my suitcases, emptying one and choosing a manageable one. I began throwing in a few items of clothing.
"What are you doing?" Bill asked. He and Lorena watched me scramble for a plan, now that my original was ruined after being altered.
"I'm leaving, Bill."
"Are you going back home?"
"No, I'm continuing on with my trip," I said closing my suitcase and facing him. "Without you." I went back into the room pushing my feet into my shoes and facing the two of them one last time. I felt sick to my stomach, but I was going to keep a brave face.
Bill came over to me. "Sookie, please. Let's talk about this, don't leave mad." He put a hand on my shoulder and I dropped my bag, flinching at his touch. I pulled my arm back and swung my palm across his cheek.
"Bye," I said firmly. Why did I felt the need to say farewell? I scooped up my bag and ran out of the room, leaving a stunned Bill behind. I rushed to the elevator before he could stop me and quickly pressed the button that closed the doors. I let out a sound that was a mix of relief and sorrow. I held back the tears, feeling my heart break, right now. This was the moment.
I couldn't believe it.
It felt like a dream.
I wanted to get away from his lying and his cheating as fast as I could. I reached outside and asked the valet for a cab. He called and I waited anxiously, hoping Bill didn't come down in search for me. It wasn't long before the taxi pulled up and I slid in the back with my bag before they could pop the trunk. I leaned between the seats to the driver and said.
"Le avion," was all I could think. He looked back at me annoyed. He saw my red rimmed eyes and his face relaxed slightly.
"Airport?" he tried, his accent thick.
"Oui, merci," I mumbled, sitting back, resting my head and closing my eyes, trying to block out what I had just witnessed.
I was deciding which pool to drown in: disbelief, anger, hurt or ignore. I brushed away my tears and sat up straighter. Bill Compton was not going to ruin my trip. I'd been waiting for it since I was seventeen. He'd already tampered with my original plan, so I was going to go back to it. I was going to travel Europe the way I wanted to. I'd find hostels and see the countries. I would continue onto the cities that Bill and I intended to go to because it was the only plan I had, and I liked plans.
When I got to the airport, I found myself a little lost. I went to the desk after a long wait in the line and faced a pleasant looking young woman.
"Bonjour," she beamed.
"Bonjour," I said. "I was wondering what's the soonest flight to Norway," I looked at her hopefully.
She nodded and began tapping away at the computer. She said in her Parisian English accent, "Tomorrow morning." No, that would not do.
"Are you sure?" I asked, biting my lower lip. She nodded firmly. "How about Stockholm?" I asked, doubtfully. She smiled again, and asked her computer. She looked back up at me, seemingly pleased with the results.
"The plane leaves in two hours," she said.
"Great!" I grinned. "I want that flight now, please," I said, pulling out my wallet and giving her my credit cards.
"Yes, mademoiselle," she said. Flights around Europe were so cheap. Mind you, I was looking forward to taking the train through most of my trip. I wanted to see the scenery while riding the railroad. It seemed more worth my time than being in a plane for a forty minute flight.
I got my ticket and headed off to my plane, my destination in view. I could not wait to get out France. I would arrive in Stockholm at just after five. This would be great. If I had to, I'd get a cheap hotel for the night. While I waited I found many brochures about Sweden and read through them. They didn't distract me from the dull throb in my heart after this afternoon's events. I couldn't deny my pain, but I could run from it until I got back home.
Nothing was going to alter or ruin my European trip.
It was all going to go perfectly planned.
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