As she sat at a patio table covered by the brown awning, sipping her steaming café au lait, she watched the people beneath their dripping umbrellas as they strolled leisurely past the cafe . That was one thing she found she enjoyed, the easy and relaxed manner in which people traveled here. Gone was the hustle and bustle of her former life, the bumping into strangers without apology, the feeling of loneliness without ever being truly alone. She lifted the mug that warmed her hands to her lips, blew across the foamed top and took another sip. She smiled to herself as she felt the creamed mustache left upon her upper lip. Dabbing her lip with her napkin, she set it down beside her plate and let out a sigh that caught on a gust of wind and sprinkled her slightly with rain drops.
She was thirty-eight and alone for the first time in nearly twenty-five years.
Not that it had come a surprise to her when her high school sweetheart and husband of twenty years told her months ago that he wanted out. And the divorce had been easy enough, save her shattered heart. No fighting, no anger, no tears. Items had been categorically separated into two camps: his and hers and the remainder had been donated to a second-hand store with little fuss. She thought back on the day that she had stuffed her economy car, it’s suspension heaving and squeaking with each added box, and driven to the store to donate. “Receipt, Ma’am?” the young man had asked once her car was free of it’s physical baggage. She shook her head and climbed into the driver’s seat and pulled away. No use adding paperwork for items that no longer had any value.
It had been one evening while eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for dinner and watching bad TV alone that she decided to make a change. She had reached for her laptop and booked a flight to Paris leaving later that week. She had nothing to tie her here now, no children, no pets, no plants, and vacation hours to spare. With a flutter in her stomach, she clicked “Confirm”.
That had been a week ago. When she landed in Paris clutching only a carry on and her purse, she had hailed a cab outside of the airport and asked to be taken to her hotel on Rue Cler, the one she could see now from her seat at the cafe. Through the drizzle, she could pick out her room, the one with the black iron work on the balcony window with trailing ivy and brightly colored flowers filling the window box.
A couple passed by, arms linked beneath a shared umbrella and she stared wistfully after them as they strolled. Her coffee had cooled, yet she drained the last sip, and set it down on the table. A waiter came by and questioned whether she would like another. She declined, thought of asking for the check before requesting a bottle of wine. The waiter dipped his head and left.
What was she to do now? Where would her life lead?
She had thought everything so simple mere months ago, and now her life had been flipped upside down. Twenty years had passed before she had recognized it happening. They’d both been so busy with their own careers, that their own lives, and apparently, their relationship, had taken a backseat. She had always planned that children would come one day, but whenever she had mentioned it to him that neither of them were getting any younger, he would always beg off with some excuse: work was too hectic just then; they had that upcoming cruise planned with his boss’s family; what about her annual weekend getaway with her college girlfriends? It was never the right time.
Now, she was thirty-eight, and alone. And for the first time, she was glad that she enjoyed her own company. It was frightening to think of what the divorce could have done to her if she had been terrified to be alone. The waiter returned with her wine and she gave him a faint smile as he filled her glass. The deep red liquid sloshed against the side before tumbling upon itself. The waiter placed the bottle on the table and as he walked away, she reached for the glass. She knew she should wait, to allow the wine to breathe, but she couldn’t help herself. The sip of wine filled her senses with fruit and oak and for a moment, all felt right again.
How impulsive she had been, buying the ticket and temporarily abandoning her life. So unlike her former, orderly, organized self. She had always wanted to go to Paris, but he had had no interest and so they’d never gone. She was beginning to realize that there were a lot of things she had never done because of him. She leaned back, her head rested against the cool brick wall of the building as the rain steadily increased. Why should she give up on her dreams of children? Just because he hadn’t wanted any, didn’t mean she still couldn’t try. There were lots of women who became pregnant at her age or later. No, she wasn’t going to give up hope. Not just yet.
She reached for her wine glass as a man with caramel colored hair and eyes that matched his blue umbrella pushed a bicycle and came to a stop at the corner. He bent to chain his bicycle to the sign post and when he lifted his eyes, he met her gaze and a side of his mouth lifted in a smile. She returned his smile. Perhaps, she thought, perhaps she wouldn’t be so alone after all.