V

I have spent 5 days in Paris. Each of them somehow filled with Alex and various Parisian adventures, and each day seemingly confusing me further regarding what love is, what love was, or what love should be. I feel as though Alex is an illusion of a man. Like the illusion of water on the road you see on a hot day.

On day one Alex took me to the Champs-Élysée and we climbed more stairs than I think I have climbed in my life, but we saw one of the most spectacular views ever. “Wait until you see the view from the Eiffel Tower.” Alex had said over the shutter sounds of my phone snapping pictures of the view.

We proceeded to a little café where we had lunch and then walked throughout the streets like locals running errands for the day. Alex was actually running errands, because his sister had given him a last minute list of gifts to buy for her bridal party, which he offered to do as a favor to her. Needless to say, he later regretted this.

As the night set in, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower as the street lights turned on. We went up, on not one, two, but three diagonal elevators, the street lights came on one by one, and the view became more and more breathtaking. We stepped out of the last elevator and I was finally able to see the view, and I was speechless. Heartbreak had led me to this.

I felt the familiar tingling sensation in my nose, and one large tear escaping the edge of my lower eye lid and rolling down my cheek. I swiped at it fast before Alex could see, pulling myself together. The strong move on, I reminded myself.

Each day after this, Alex would send a car for me at twelve o’clock sharp, sometimes he was in it, and other times it would drop me off somewhere where I would meet him. Each day was filled with a new sight to see, more stairs to climb, and another café to have lunch in. We saw everything from museums like the Louvre, D’Orsay, and the Georges Pompidou Centre, to sites like the Catacombs and the Luxembourg Garden. The days were always filled with new beauties to behold.

Today for my fifth day out in Paris, Alex has proclaimed that he has a surprise for me as I enter the town car. He slides over in the seat to make room for me and smiles like a child on Christmas morning. He is very tight lipped about what the plans for today are, which is his usual. It’s strange, I am going from a life where every inch was planned and monitored, to spontaneous surprise days, and it feels surreal.

We pull up to a small store front, and I peer through the tinted window. “Pierre Hermé.” I read out the title on the sign. “What is this?” It is a very simple looking store front, but there’s a line that could kill a working girl in heels.

“Just wait and see.” Alex says with a twinkle in his eyes. He walks around to my side of the car and opens the door for me, as he does every day in his chivalrous manner. As I begin to walk to the back of the line, Alex pulls my arm and we walk through the door, followed by the scowls of the angry French people.

As we enter the store, I’m hypnotized by the sweet smell of sugar. There is chocolate, fudge, and pastries galore. I have never seen such works of art made into food! All of the staff greet Alex by name, and I wonder how he stays so fit if they know him so well. He walks over to the cashier and they exchange words in French and then the cashier disappears behind a curtain. As Alex talks to more of the staff, I stare and admire all the beautiful pastries, each one an intricate creation of sugar and fruit. I can definitely see why they have a line so long outside, everyone was waiting to eat one of these lovely treats.

Alex returns to my side with two large Pierre Hermé bags in his hands. “Let’s go,” he says simply and then walks out with the bags and I wonder when he paid for whatever is in the bag. There are more evil stares while we make our way back out of the store and into the waiting town car.

“What did you do, like call ahead?” I ask as I attempt to peer into the bags between his feet, but all I see are white boxes.

“Something like that.” He says with a smile, which I realize this is his mischievous smile. “I was thinking we could do something a bit more low key today. It’s supposed to rain, so I was thinking I could cook you lunch, we would enjoy the surprises in these bags, and we could watch French subtitled movies.” He looks at me hopeful, waiting for my approval.

In my head, I’m telling myself that this isn’t a date. This is NOT a date. This totally could not be a date. I don’t think I’m mentally capable of being in that frame of mind. I am fully aware of the friendship that Alex and I are building, and the underlying attraction. I am in agreement that in most cases this would be a date and we would be on our way to a relationship, but I know that I shouldn’t be in one if every night I fall asleep crying as “I don’t want to be lonely” plays softly in the background on repeat.

As if he’s reading my mind, Alex adds, “It’s not a date,” with a very serious look on his face. “Just two friends, hanging out.”

“I wasn’t thinking that.” I lie. In the last few days, I have shared scarce pieces of information with Alex regarding my relational situation. I let him know that I was with someone for 3 years and they let me down and now I’m not with them anymore, and we left it at that. “Just two friends, hanging out right?”

Alex nods enthusiastically. “Yup, just a good ol’ Netflix and chill.” He says with a smirk.

I narrow my eyes at him studying the nonchalant manner in which he said that. “You know that that doesn’t actually mean that were just going to watch Netflix and chill right?”

Alex’s smile fades. “It doesn’t ?” Before I can even answer, I burst out into laughter. A bout of laughter harder than I thought I would ever have again. I laugh so hard I can’t even breathe to get the words out and I feel tears begin to spring in my eyes.

I hear the driver clear his throat. “It means zat you’re going to invite ze girl over to watch Netflix and it will eventually turn into,” he clears his throat again, “… intercourse.” His driver says from the front seat.

Alex’s flushes to a shade of red not often seen by the human eye, and I keel over with another fit of laughter, tears streaming down my face. For the first time in a long time, they are tears of happiness.

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