He insists upon the small three floor walk-up in Montmartre with the water-stained ceilings and grimy-windowed bedroom. “A fixer-upper,” he says. “We’ll work on it.” So they drag his orange sofa up twenty-four stairs, tack a nail into the wall for her Renoir calendar, buy baguettes from the bakery on the corner, make love with the windows open on sunny afternoons. Because this is what it means to live in this new place.
Four months later and he still can’t speak French. And after he sees the man from the apartment below them with his hands all over her in the alley behind their building, the baguettes start to taste like sawdust. And the way the whitewash curls away from the courtyard walls only makes him think of the time the metro car’s door shut before he could get on. He felt the doors begin to close and the train inch forward as she stepped in, him behind her. When he pulled at her hand, tugging her back, she gave him a flat, plain look and let go. Bereft in Abbesses station, he watched her corn-colored hair disappear behind smudged glass into the blank tunnel.
He buys a one-way ticket back to Omaha and leaves the sofa in Paris.
Caitlin Foster is a high school senior from New Jersey. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a handful of stones and Short, Fast and Deadly.