Lost and Found
When the skies suddenly decided to liquefy and rain down on the roads below, Robert stood on the street corner, soaked and stunned, as he reeled from a sense of déjà-vu.
Then he realized he didn't have an umbrella. Goddamn it. The man hefted his briefcase up over his head and ducked through the thinning crowd over to the nearest awning. Once there, the 'Closed' sign on the door ruined any hopes Robert had for more comfortable shelter, so he dropped his case to the ground, and sat down upon it. His suit was already ruined anyway. He'd give his bodyguards ten minutes at most before they caught up to him.
Robert had just wanted to give normalcy a go, a test run so to speak. To be able to walk down the sidewalk on his own, as though he weren't the heir to one of the mightiest business empires in the world, as though he weren't in the middle of dismantling that very empire right now.
That was what he had come to Paris for – to sign off required documents, placate European shareholders, business meetings, and on, and on. He'd just wanted a taste of what his life would be after all is done and dealt with. All he gets is rain, grey skies, and an uncomfortably sodden suit. Great.
The brown-haired man sighed, and slumped back against the door. For a moment, he let himself just sit there and watch the street. A woman with a trench coat and umbrella turning the corner; the businessman exiting the flower shop with two bouquets; the fruit vendor covering his wares with plastic against the downpour.
Everyone had their dreams, their goals, their purpose. Robert knew now beyond a doubt what he wanted to do – but everyone else around him seemed to think otherwise. They hounded him day and night, telling him he was crazy, that he was wrong, or throwing themselves at his feet for even the smallest slice of the company pie.
Then there was Peter. He thought of the man who had been like a second father to him, and how he had stormed out of the office the day Robert told him that he would dissolve the company. They hadn't talked since.
"Hey, you okay?" There was a hand on his arm, and Robert started, looking up the person who interrupted his reverie. A petite woman stood over him. Her brown hair looked soft and frizzled in the humidity, framed against the bright red of her umbrella – but her eyes were kind.
She seemed familiar, although he couldn't quite remember where he'd met her. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm alright." He pinched the bridge of his nose, and looked back down to the cobblestones at his feet. He expected the Converses that the girl was wearing to turn away, and move out of his vision.
Instead, a pack of Kleenex waved before his eyes, and the girl crouched down to meet his gaze once more. A brief memory of her silhouetted against a raging storm, in a world greyer than this one, and a flash of her undoing the ties that bound him to his misery. Robert clenched one of his hands into a white-knuckled fist, as though he were strangling the strange thought away.
"You really don't look alright mister," she tried to smile, but it seemed shaky, almost nervous. Odd. Then she took a breath, and her lips relaxed. "You're crying."
He chuckled, turning her offer down with a wave of his hand. "No thank you, it's just the rai—" His fingers touched upon the curiously wet tracks below his eyes, and he realized that the rest of his face is dry now.
The tissues are held out to him once more, and he sheepishly reached out to take one. "Thanks." Robert tried to twist his mouth into some semblance of a smile for her, but he can't quite do it. He still felt as though this is not enough, as though there is something else he has to thank her for – but for what, he doesn't know.
Instead, he attempted to find words for the dizzying mess that his life is right now, how he knows where he wants to go but can't get there. Robert can do that much for this kind stranger at least. "I'm just a little…lost. That's all." He managed a smile this time around, but when the woman tilted her head in sympathy, and he knew he hadn't reassured her.
When she replied, her voice shook a little. "Y-you're in luck. I happen to know my way around Paris pretty well, I know how it can be a maze sometimes – want some help?" Robert opened his mouth to politely decline, but she interrupted him and added, "I also have an umbrella." The woman spun it to prove her point, and sent forth a wheel of raindrops.
He didn't quite know what it was, but when he looked at her bright, expectant face, and her warm gaze, something clicked in at the back of his mind to just tell his caving-in world to screw itself, and to take a leap of faith into a new one.
So he did. "Sure." The smile he gave her then wasn't forced at all.
After she helped him up, he grabbed his briefcase, and ducked under her umbrella. As she led him down the street, asking him where he needed to go, her hand tried to slip away – but he threaded his fingers through hers, and stopped her.
She glanced up at him in surprise, and the colour splayed across her cheeks matched her umbrella. Robert looked down at their hands, his large one around her small one, and he wondered at the warmth he felt from her. Then he looked behind him, and saw the armoured car in the distance.
He turned at the next corner with her, and didn't look back.