I’ve never forgotten my time spent in Paris, it’s a city I’ve loved from afar for many years and it has always held a special place in my heart. I had flirted with the idea of returning but never really wanted to face disappointment, knowing the city couldn’t delivery such magic a second time around.
My memories of the seductive city run-deep, my recollections of a passionate love affair are still alive within me today, and now on my fiftieth birthday the memories are heightened as I board an aeroplane ready to be whisked away by my husband for an impromptu surprise weekend away. My memories are still as vivid as if I were still twenty-six years old and I feel like the story I’m about to tell him only happened yesterday.
I’d been sent to Paris by the firm I worked for to attend a trade show. I wasn’t the obvious candidate, armed with little more than my limited school-girl French and a warm friendly smile, but I somehow survived and did my job reasonably well. Being the organised type and not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, I tagged a couple of extra nights on to the itinerary to explore the city I’d always dreamt of visiting.
Although alone I was determined to experience everything the city of love offered. Happy and absorbed as I planned my adventure, I’d been flicking through the tourist information leaflets I’d helped myself to from the hotel reception whilst enjoying a creamy omelette and warm brioche breakfast. Perched on a red wicker chair I had paused between mouthfuls of delicious food to take in the intimate interior of the Parisian café I had stumbled upon. The traditional checkerboard flooring combined with the wooden panelling and red and black décor felt familiar and relaxing. As I melted into the chair for the first time in a long time, I felt carefree, two days stretched ahead of me where I could wander and take the time to stop, absorb everything and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Then I met Daniel.
Sitting at a small table in the corner of the café, he was sipping from a tiny espresso cup and reading an oversize newsletter which he’d spread out taking advantage of the full width of the table. He was beautiful. His shoulders were broad, and his crisp white shirt and expensive looking navy blazer clung to his frame perfectly. His dark hair was shiny, and his skin looked tan against the dazzling white of his shirt. Although engrossed in the newspaper he looked relaxed, like he didn’t have a care in the world. Whoever this man was, a Parisian lifestyle looked good on him. As I stared, he looked up and smiled, he knew, and I suspected was enjoying knowing I’d been watching him. I returned his smile and picked up another leaflet, feigning concentration on an image of the Eiffel Tower and blushing with embarrassment at how I’d been caught out drooling over a stranger.
It didn’t take long for Daniel to make his move. He neatly folded his newspaper, tucked it under his arm and confidently walked over to my table and seated himself on the spare chair, despite not being invited to. He introduced himself by telling me his name, sharing he was English but had lived in Paris for twenty years having moved there in his early twenties. Despite the lack of detail in his introduction within minutes I had agreed to a guided tour of the city he loved and now called home.
His guided tour hadn’t disappointed, jumping on and off the Metro, stop after stop, he gave me a whistle stop tour of the usual tourist attractions. Daniel’s enthusiasm and passion for the city of lights was seductive. As he rhapsodised about the architecture, the art, the history and the elegance of life here, his eyes sparkled, and his strong arms were animated as he guided me through the city. I can’t recall exactly when he took my hand, but I remember it was me, as we paused on the banks of the Seine, galvanised by his infectious energy, who placed a finger on his lips signalling him to pause. I leaned in towards him, our faces so close I could smell a faint aroma of a soapy aftershave lingering on his warm skin. I needed him to kiss me. Looking into his pale blue eyes, I wavered and paused to catch my breath, but the intensity of his look told me we wanted the same thing. Daniel then slipped an arm around my waist pulling me in closer, gluing our bodies together. I could feel my heart was beating fast, my stomach was twisting and despite me not knowing this man my usual shyness had been substituted with a greed for wanting his passion to be focused on me.
Eagerly his lips were on mine, it was initially a gentle kiss, as our lips pressed together our untold stories and unknown lives fell away like they were insignificant. With one kiss my inhibitions dissolved and my enthusiasm to be with Daniel intensified. The excitement of what was to happen hurtled from my brain racing with expectation and reached every inch of my body which ached to be touched. Our kisses deepened and my senses heighted, our hands started to explore each as we both detached from our realities.
We didn’t speak as we made our way to my hotel. He’d taken my hand and held it tightly as we travelled on the Metro but kept his eyes focused on the floor. I suspected he was having a crisis of conscience, not knowing him I didn’t know if our actions were right or wrong, and we never spoke about it.
The night we spent together was perfect, he was gentle and affectionate and there wasn’t anything sordid about our one-night stand. He stroked my skin and whispered I was beautiful, telling how much he wanted me between urgent kisses. Each caress intensified and heightened the pleasure, making me breathless and giddy with desire. Our never-ending kisses were voracious and as our mouths and bodies collided it flooded my being with a feeling of euphoria, I never wanted this indulgence to end. My confidence soared as our bodies entwined and I gave into the pleasure of his lustful kisses and responded to his body with equal appetite.
I never told anyone what had happened that night, not even my closest friends. I knew I’d get a lecture about inviting a stranger back to my hotel room in a city I didn’t know, plus I desperately wanted to keep Daniel my secret, a delicious secret which only the two of us would ever know. I didn’t want to hear hysterics about what could have happened, how dangerous and irresponsible I’d been. I just wanted to remember the way he looked at me, the taste of his skin and lips and how gently he’d stroked my hair and made me feel I was his everything.
The morning after when he’d left my hotel room, following several delectable lingering goodbye kisses, I felt exhausted but exhilarated. I still knew nothing about my beautiful stranger, and I didn’t want to, I didn’t want reality to come crashing in and ruin the most magical night of my life. I’ve often wondered who he was, was he married or in a relationship? Did he feel the same exhilaration I did? I hope he does remember and cherish our night together, but I knew we’d never meet again, and I didn’t want to meet him again. What we had in Paris would stay with me forever and the perfection we knew would never be jaded by reality.