So, I'm not usually a lover of movies and was recently persuaded to watch Sabrina by my aunt. This story is a continuation of the plot. No ownership pretended. Also inspired by "Higher Ground", performed by Barbra Streisand.
A Hand to Hold
Chapter 1: Paris Is...
"Of all the idiotic things..." The girl remained motionless over his shoulder—unsurprisingly—though he knew she heard him after her disoriented question and quiet protest of "I'm all right, you don't have to carry me". God only knew how long she had crouched in that garage, inhaling the exhaust. The stench of so many cars had almost choked him after a few seconds; even the single open window he had spotted was useless against the impending suffocation. Stupid— "Haven't you ever heard of carbon monoxide? It kills people."
Linus rolled her off his shoulder, dropping Sabrina to her feet. "It does?" Her voice was dull, almost as limp as her arms; she managed to hold herself upright, albeit leaning against the exterior of the garage's second story.
"Certainly. What do you suppose would have happened if I hadn't come along?"
"I'd have died." Sabrina's face bore no shock at what he said. Again, not a surprise. Even the most uninformed person would have found the presence of mind to open the garage door, just from the smell. It was the fresh air that demanded open windows on a sunny day, not the gray cloud billowing from the car's exhaust pipe.
"And fast. Eight cars." Linus had to look away. He did not want to be angry with her, not now, but the unrepentant expression demanded it. Stupid girl! "One would have done it." Still, he needed no reason from her; such madness was self-explanatory. "It's a good thing Mrs. Van Horn asked me to drive her home."
"Mrs. Van Horn? Gretchen's mother?" That rid her face of the flat stare.
"Why didn't she drive her home?" A bit of resentment crept into the words.
"Because we can't find Gretchen."
Sabrina's eyes widened for a moment, and she turned her face away, looking across the estate. "She—"
"She what?" Oh, the situation was not even a slight mystery: David was unaccounted for as well. The occurrence was hardly a new event at a Larrabee party, and one now almost expected by the entire household.
Sabrina coughed at first, looking down. "Nothing," she said, quieter now.
"Well, all right. The next time you start a car, make sure you leave the garage doors open, you understand?" He tapped her arm firmly as he spoke before he stepped away. "You'd think a chauffeur's daughter would know better."
She was silent as he departed, though a quiet "Yes, sir" followed him through the cooling night air, and another cough to clear her lungs. She needn't say anything at all. Linus knew.
Both were old memories now, hers and his. Irrelevant, if he was honest. He had stood for hours, uncertain if he would find the strength to step over the ledge and embrace the whistling air as gravity dragged him down to the earth that would refuse to swallow him up...at last discovering himself too frightened. And she had opened the window, permitting both a bit of the deadly gas and, more importantly, the noise to escape and sound the alarm. Both too cowardly or too unwilling to follow through, too committed to the lives they claimed to loathe. Sentimentality.
Linus merely smoked, not moving. His thoughts were too cluttered to peruse the pile of business minutiae demanding his attention. Life, once so uncomplicated by the now simple goals of business plans and corporate mergers, had transformed into a swamp no man could drain and no man could ever map. Each day, his life wound more securely around hers, and perhaps extricating himself was impossible.
Their suites in Paris were adjacent, close enough for the moment. Each morning they met for breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, a quiet time to begin over coffee. Some days demanded them to be separated and him to be sequestered, placing and answering phone calls, reading letters and reports, receiving cables. When those days began, the routine overtook him for a time, usually breaking when he remembered Miss McCardle sat at a desk on the other side of the Atlantic, unable to take his dictation. Those days suddenly turned dreary, and the matters before him, shackles.
But some days they spent in the city, simply walking with no destination in mind. Sabrina's instructions had proved impossible to follow completely, as the sun had claimed the sky for the first several days. The rest had been easier: she had fixed the brim of his hat whenever he turned it up out of habit, and he had resisted the impulse to purchase a new umbrella.
Almost a week after the ship docked, he had looked out the window of his suite to see the sky gray, filled with clouds. That morning had been a test of his will, regarding the forbidden umbrella. His inclination was to remain inside despite the lack of urgent tasks, but Sabrina had insisted. "Why, this is the perfect day to be outside!" She wore that coy smile he had come to admire so much and despite her smaller frame, had nearly dragged him through the door.
The air was sticky and the first few drops of rain had been expected, light enough to ignore. Though he knew she desired a near downpour, Linus had hoped for only a quick, gentle shower. But then the clouds had opened, releasing Sabrina's longed for steady rain. He tried to walk quicker, but Sabrina had held him back as though she eagerly anticipated being drenched. This, though, was not for him. Linus had clapped his hat onto her hair, now pulling her forward through the deluge, spotting an awning at the end of the block.
Once safely under at least acceptable shelter, Linus had laughed at the sight she presented, his hat sliding forward on her smaller head and half concealing her eyes as the rain dripped from its edges. "Well, your instructions are finally useful." He tilted the homburg up, exposing her entire face. "But an umbrella might have been handy."
Sabrina had shaken her head, still wearing her tiny grin. "But don't you see? If you had your umbrella, you'd still be going along, just walking and not enjoying it! You'd call off your errand and go back to the hotel."
He raised an eyebrow. "I'd call it sensible."
She shook her head again. "But Paris isn't for being sensible—"
"Sabrina." He had hated to interrupt her, but he had to, just in this moment.
"You remember what I told you? The first time I visited Paris?" Their boat excursion—an early stage in a plan destined to both succeed triumphantly and fail miserably—perhaps this had been the hour he doomed himself, those deep memories escaping into the air for her to hear. The first crack.
"But of course, for only thirty-five minutes. To change planes on your way to Iraq." She had taken his hat and replaced it on his head, arranging it as he would before stepping outside to the car driven by her father. "A proper businessman, never distracted from his work by anything"—then she righted the brim as she had done many times before—"not quite a tourist undertaker."
"And what I said after that?"
"Yes." Quieter, Sabrina had looked away, not moving her face but turning her eyes to the rain in the street. "Yes, Linus."
"I meant what I said." And then, he had kissed her: not at all the kiss he once gave in lieu of his younger brother, but gently, carefully, for just a moment. They had parted and a few shallow breaths had touched his cheeks as she met his gaze. "Every word." Again, he pressed his lips to hers, still cautious and brief. "And I'm certain you've noticed I've been in Paris for more than thirty-five minutes this time."
Sabrina's eyes had widened, and she did not speak. He did not know if he desired it, for those dark eyes already confused, and how much more confusing were thoughts when forced into words? Slowly, Linus had just slid his arms around her, drawing her nearer, tighter than when he had first embraced her on the Liberté. Her own had been tentative, just lightly touching the back of his jacket while they stood in the building's shadow. "You may, Sabrina," he whispered, "consider me distracted."
And in spite of the mystery and the questions, he had been grounded, simply standing there with her. In that moment, everything had been right.
He lit another cigarette, the gray haze of smoke enveloping him as he exhaled. A hitch, he had once said, a complication. Indeed, she had been and remained. But no longer for Larrabee Industries; that state of affairs was exceedingly uncomplicated in comparison to his current one. Business was straightforward, or at least it could be, but this afternoon had shaken the certainty of so many years. The steady ground of those minutes waiting for the rain to slow had trembled once the clouds cleared and vanished by evening, abandoning him to thoughts that chased one another around in his skull, not a one coherent. Ludicrous, unattainable, unfeasible! And utterly ridiculous.
Just speaking to her on the Liberté had been a trial. Linus found his tongue paralyzed by an incomprehensible fear that the next would be the day he woke again at his office to make his own wretched coffee while contemplating success, failure, and unanticipated guilt. Even loneliness. But then they had left the ship, suddenly enveloped by the sun and warmth of Paris and surrounded by the French chatter...Linus knew he would not be transported to his boardroom, for the world here was too real. He suddenly found words to be easy, relaxed when he spoke, and even smiled on their walks with her hand tucked into his arm. Despite the relief, the truth nagged at him. This nightmare was not cruel but taunting, desperate to blossom into an impossible dream, but destined to remain a desire abandoned and unfulfilled. A nightmare unending in its...He could not find a proper word. Another breath, another rush of tobacco and nicotine, and Linus leaned back in the chair in his suite. No, he was unwilling to consider the words.
Even the machinations of business were child's play beside the current mess burying him. It was all so wrong in so many ways: more than twenty years her senior; entirely inexperienced in the levity she exuded effortlessly; and so completely overwhelmed by the work he had poured his life into, he had no room for anyone. And the whispers soon to churn within society—the certain whispers, despite the twentieth century having already entered its middle years—that no man who danced with his chauffeur's daughter, held her and kissed her and took her to Paris alone, had an ounce of honor.
But the whispers and the rumors would not haunt him, or at least to any great extent. The comments about his honor would be well concealed. Gossips, after all, were cowards who murmured behind their hands at parties and exchanged quiet words in the corners of boardrooms. Cowards did not confront power, and despite what he had told his brother, Linus knew he held power. Yet Sabrina, what was her power? The power to charm, to laugh, to smile, to pull from men what had long been locked away and all but forgotten. From one man. She did not hold the power to force the sometimes cruel tales of Long Island to silence themselves. For her and about her, the stories would be a roar from every corner.
Paris is for lovers. Linus extinguished glowing cigarette in the glass ashtray beside his chair, folded his arms behind his neck, and closed his eyes as his head fell back onto his wrists. And I am here with her.