A/N: No copyright infringement is intended. If you have not purchased and read Anna and The French Kiss, you should do so now!
I appreciate all the views and reviews. Although I started writing this over two years ago, I still come back to it and revise it, wanting to flesh out more details and go further into St. Clair's story and his POV. These revisions are noted at the top of the chapters where they occur.
The below chapter was revised in September 2013.
My father had married beneath his social class.
That's what my grandparents always told me.
You see, they never liked my mum. She was an American, an artist, and worst of all to them, a commoner. She was everything that offended their aristocratic sensibilities.
Naturally, this appealed to my father, who at one time loved nothing more than to cause a stir. They had met in San Francisco, where my father had been "sorting himself out," as my grandfather would say. My father was attracted to her art, her ability to do as she pleased – because it was a concept so utterly foreign to his upbringing.
They eloped in the spring of 1992 and, by the fall, they had me, their first and only child. Despite their disdain for my father's choices, my grandparents were thrilled to finally have a grandchild – and they spared us no expense. They funded my father's first art gallery in Paris, where we lived while I was a child, and then funded another in London, where we lived as I approached adolescence.
Their wealth soon became our wealth and, from the outside, we seemed like the perfect family. But we were far from it. My father was rarely home and, when he was, there were arguments – always. There were the drawn-out battles with his parents, the closed-door ones with mum, and the condescending screaming matches with me.
It was a living nightmare.
When I was 12, my parents finally separated. I had assumed things would get better, but they didn't. I was forced to stay in London with my father and grandparents while my mum went back to San Francisco, a complete shell of herself. I tried to busy myself with school and my mates, but it was hard to ignore all the whispers that followed me after my parents split.
Rich kids can be quite cruel.
By eighth grade, I was determined to escape to San Francisco – but it was different kind of terrible there. I had spent so much time overseas, surrounded by wealth and privilege, that I came across as a complete alien to my public school classmates. It was impossible to fit in, but nothing could be done. My mother couldn't afford private school and my father and his family refused to pay for one in the States.
I'm certain it was part of my father's grand plan to keep control over our lives, despite his distance. As it was, he'd come to San Francisco every few months, sleep in my mum's room, and disappear again. He had, and still has, this odd control over her – and she can't seem to break away.
I suspect my mum still loves him, which is more than I can say for the man. He's a complete bastard. He controls nearly every aspect of my life when he's around and makes decisions for me that I rarely agree with.
At least I get a respite sometimes.
You see, I learned from the best – or worst, as it were. As a child, I watched my father charm people into giving him what he wanted. A shrug here, a grin there. That's all it really took.
And once I grew a bit – right before starting high school at School of America in Paris (SOAP), the charm and confidence I gained worked amazingly well for me. I was not tall, sure, but I was no longer a runt. I knew how to get what I wanted – even if, below the surface, I didn't always think I deserved it.
Sometimes, though, it took persistence – like at the start of my junior year, when I developed an embarrassingly huge crush on Ellie Kensington, a gorgeous, artistic senior from one of New York's most prestigious families. Her best friend that year was Rashmi Devi, whom I count among my closest friends at SOAP, so she started to be around quite often.
Ellie and I also became close rather quickly, though not in the way you think. She saw me as a chum, someone to whom she could confess the ongoing dramas of her family. It was something I understood rather well. They were, by most indications, rather insane – but also very wealthy, far wealthier than my own family.
Ellie knew she had to be careful to maintain the façade.
Bowing to pressure from her mother, she started dating in Paris. She'd choose these older men who always had some sort of intellectual aspiration. They were always funded by their family's wealth and they loved nothing more than to have an equally rich, gorgeous 18-year-old by their side.
I still remember when she introduced me to the last of her older academic philosopher types – Jean-Louis Gagnon, the most pretentious man I'd ever met in Paris, which is saying something. We ran into each other at a café close to SOAP and, if he had stayed but a minute more than necessary, I probably would've pummeled him.
"So what do you think?" Ellie asked, twirling her long brunette locks with her fingers. "Isn't great that he's going to be published?"
"Self-published," I said. "No self-respecting publishing house would actually pay for such rubbish."
"Come on," she said, her voice pleading. "You're just jealous."
I chuckled. "A little bit, yeah," I said, biting my thumb.
"I know you're dying to write a book one day," she said. "Like one of those boring historical books you've always got your nose in, right?"
"That's not why I'm jealous," I replied. "I'm jealous of him, of all of them, for not realizing what a great girl they have."
Her eyes grew wide. I always supported her, but I had never before had the courage to even imply how I felt.
"I didn't know," she whispered. "I just…didn't know."
She looked down at me, as if I had the answer for her. And in a way, I did.
"All of these blokes just see you as some sort of prize," I said. "They don't recognize how smart, beautiful, and talented you are. You should be cared for, you should be – "
And just like that, she kissed me. It was the type of kiss that invited more, the type that would drive any 17-year-old bloke insane with desire. It was…perfection.
Ellie and I have been together ever since then – about a year now, actually. When my grandparents first found out (from my father, surely), they were thrilled to learn of my proper girlfriend from a proper family. They seemed overly concerned that I might repeat my father's supposed mistakes – especially after my own San Francisco rebellion three years earlier.
But to be honest, I could care less about Ellie's background or wealth. All I care about is that I'm no longer alone in Paris. That no matter how bad things get here, I have Ellie – someone who always makes me feel better, someone who always wants me around, someone whom I truly love.
I don't think I could ever be without that.