European Travels Ch. 02bypetervongrunigan28©
Usual Words. This story is a work of fiction; no inference with real people or events is intended. You must be 18 to read this story. If your not, just read it anyway. You might learn something. This continues my first series, so watch this space over the coming months for the next installments.
Feedback and constructive criticism would be nice. It offers a huge amount of encouragement, as well as providing useful analysis. I can't get better at this unless you guys give me some input.
Just a quick recap of Chapter One. "London Calling"
Jon Carter attended the BRIT Awards, and hooked up with Avril Lavigne at the after show party. After spending the night with her he left for Paris, which is where we pick up the story.
Anyhow. Enough of me, read on into the action.
* * * * *
Chapter Two : Parisian Nights
The Eurostar train slid into Gare de Nord, Paris at precisely 13:31. Disembarking and collecting my luggage I cleared security and then hailed a taxi. Stowing my belongings in the boot I climbed in,
"Hotel de Paris, s'il vous plait." I instructed.
"Oui monsieur." The standard response of any taxi driver.
I settled back and thought about my plans for the weekend. Today and tomorrow were diplomatic exercises, I was to confer with French Officials about a possible joint bid for the 2010 Football World Cup.
Sunday was shaping up to be a great day, as I had the morning free to explore Paris, something I'd always wanted to do. Even though I had been to the city several times they were always flying visits, with no opportunity for leisure time. Sunday afternoon I was going to give a lecture at the Universite Paris on the consequences of war was Iraq, one more opinion on the world's hottest topic.
I lay back in the seat and closed my eyes. I thought of Avril, she would probably be on a plane back to the States or Canada by now. I wondered if she would ever call me. There was no point worrying about it though, I couldn't influence her decision.
Opening my eyes I surveyed one of the great symbols of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe. The skies above it were dull, and I couldn't help but wonder if my business appointments would be the same way.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, back in London.
At 10 Downing Street Harry Mortimer and the Prime Minister were deep in conversation, discussing the photo in that day's paper.
The Sun lay on the table, the centre pages revealed a spread on the BRIT Awards after show party. In particular the two men focused on the picture of Jon Carter and Avril Lavigne walking from the building. The headline screamed "LAVIGNE LET'S GO WITH PLAYBOY CARTER"
The Prime Minister was almost screaming as well. "What the hell does that kid think he is doing? Leaving a party with some bimbo on his arm!"
The Press Advisor shook his head, out of the Minister's vision. As if he was going to know who Avril Lavigne was.
"Look, he's young. He's just having a little fun." He protested.
"Fun? I didn't give him his post so he could have a little fun! Where is he?" There was no stopping the Prime Minister in this mood, and Harry knew it.
"He's on some kind of European tour, Sir. You sent him on it to make sure we aren't obstructed in bidding for the World Cup with France." The Press Secretary tried not to sound patronizing.
The Prime Minister just glared at him, then issued his order.
"When he gets back to London, arrange a meeting. I'll get it into him that he can't go about having a little 'fun'. We've got local elections soon, this is the sort of stunt that gets you booted out of office. Mind you, he'll be lucky if I let him run."
The Press Secretary decided it was worth raising a point.
"Sir. We've conducted polls already this morning. 40% of voters said they were indifferent to his behaviour, and another 40% praised him for it. Only 10% of those polled suggested it might affect their vote. The public love him, something like this isn't going to damage his reputation." He said.
The Prime Minister turned away in ignorance.
"Get him here, Harry." He commanded.
Knowing when a meeting was over, the Press Secretary gathered his things and left the room, realising Jon Carter was probably about to be removed from the front bench.
* * * * *
Come Sunday morning I was sick of diplomatic discussions. My French was OK, but not good enough to pacify several irate Frenchmen who believed that they should have sole control of any World Cup bid. You know the old saying "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"? It's kind of like that with us and the French. They live right next door to us, and are biologically identical, but it's a whole different race, one to which I had little clue about its workmanship.
Exiting the hotel in casual clothes I turned towards the river, walking slowly into the fog and gloom of a Paris morning. The air was damp and clammy, and the streets were quiet. Almost the same as a winter's morning back home.
I crossed the Seine at Pont de la Tournelle. I stood on the Ile St. Louis and turned a full 360 degrees, enjoying the panoramic view of the city from ground level. Turning left onto Quai D'Orleans I hurried along the pavement. Trying to burrow deeper into my coat, I thrust my hands into the pockets in a desperate attempt to keep out of the cold. Spying a small jetty shrouded in fog, I walked onto it and stood silently. For seconds all I heard was the lapping of the water against the wooden boards, I was oblivious to the faint sounds of traffic.
The river still had traces of mist lying across it, and the far bank was nearly obscured. I still managed to sight a solitary figure on the shore, wearily moving bricks from a fallen wall.
I kept my sight on him as I thought about my life. Who was Jon? No – one. I didn't have a family, I had few friends, I was anonymous. I suppose its my own fault really, politics became my single goal, I lost touch with those who I had once known. When my parents died I was 22, and in the two years that had passed since then I had drifted from life itself. I had my career, but that was about it. Mr Carter was an amazing professional, but he didn't have much of a life outside of it. Jon Carter was buried under the bricks. The wall had collapsed, but there was no one to rebuild it. Sure, I had tried, but, like the man on the shore, I was facing a fruitless task.
I lowered myself to the ground, and sat cross legged, my eyes still intently watching the man. He had been joined by an accomplice, and between the two of them they were constructing the foundations of a new wall.
I allowed myself to fantasise, just for a few seconds. Maybe Avril could help me start over. I silently begged her to ring the number I had left. During the night with her I had awoken, and lay there, enjoying the warmth and company of a loving body next to me.
I gave a rueful smile and shook my head. Who was I kidding? I was probably another one night fling to the Canadian singer, never to be given a second thought by her. Still, if I closed my eyes I could touch her, and relive that night. At least I didn't have to worry about her getting hurt if I never saw her again.
A hand grasped my shoulder firmly; I bolted forward, just catching my balance in time to stop myself falling into the murky water. Spinning over onto my back I tried to speak, but my words caught in the surprise.
"Hey! What the hell?" I tailed off as I overcame the shock.
The figure had also been startled by my reaction. The person was cloaked in a great coat, with the collar turned up, obscuring the lower half of their face. The eyes though, gave the femininity of the figure away, and the amazing features easily showed the shock and fright of the woman. She backed away, stuttering.
"Excuse e moi, oh, er, Sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Je pense si! Pour quel était cela?" I spoke angrily.
She was just about to turn, but by this time I had regained some composure. I realised there had been a flash of English in the madness.
"Hey. Wait. Did you want to talk to me?" I said.
The figure moved no closer, but spoke with a more assured tone this time.
"You seemed lonely, upset. I just wanted to see if you were OK." She said.
"I'm fine, thank you very much. I appreciate you asking though." I paused. "I was just sitting here, thinking".
"Yes, I come here sometimes. May I join you?" the stranger asked.
I shrugged. I didn't really want company at the moment, but it was a free country. I motioned for her to take a seat.
She lowered herself next to me, and turned down the collar of her coat. I cast a quick look at her, before returning my gaze to the water. My mind suddenly caught up with my vision, and my head snapped back towards her. She gazed into my eyes for a second as I studied her. Surely there was no mistaking the face, not when I had seen it so many times. I elected to try my luck.
"Can I ask? Are you Virgine…?
"Ledoyen." She completed my question for me. "Yes. Are you Jon Carter?"
I briefly considered denial as a route of choice, then realised my momentary pause had probably answered the question. Settling for a simple nod I heard her continue.
"I've watched you for a little while, I was so sure it was you. I came over to see." She explained.
"Well." I stopped for a second. "Thank you. May I ask how you know me?"
"I attended a lecture in London a few weeks ago. You gave a talk on Anglo French cooperation over Iraq. It was interesting, I enjoyed it." She said.
"Cooperation didn't exactly happen did it? That lecture got me into a lot of trouble." I smiled ruefully.
"Oh, and why was that?" she pressed.
"We all have to toe the party line on Iraq, in public at least."
I moved on, eager to avoid any more questioning on that issue. Once again my acting before thinking had caused another dressing down from the Prime Minister. It is safe to say the two of us are not best friends, and never will be.
"I must say, I've enjoyed some of your films, En Plein Coeur particularly.
She smiled, and her face lit up, accentuating her sharp Gallic features. She looked down awkwardly, but I knew enough about women to see she had liked the compliment. Virginie paused to think, choosing the best words for her reply.
"Usually many people only recognise me from 'The Beach', its so nice to be praised for my other work.
I finally realised that meeting a major film star by the Seine wasn't an everyday occurrence.
"What brings you to the river, Ms Ledoyen?" I asked.
She gave a light laugh, a beautiful sound.
"Its Virginie, please, or just Ginie, if you prefer." I nodded, so she continued. "I live in Paris when I'm not away working. I often just walk around in the mornings, and if I dress like this people don't really recognise me. I just come to the river to think, the same as you perhaps."
I had to question the wisdom of being out on a morning like this.
"Haven't you got a nice warm house to think in?" My tone of voice indicated that the question was a light hearted one. She answered it seriously anyway though.
"Of course I have a flat nearby. But it is lonely, empty. Acting leaves you with few friends to call on. So I come outside, and at least I see other people. How about you?" she asked.
"Well, the same, really. If you substitute politics for acting anyway." I hesitated, digesting her statement. "How come you don't have many friends in acting?"
"I think," she tilted her head slightly, "people are scared to approach me." She said.
My silence gave way to her continuation.
"I suppose it's about people being scared to approach celebrities. Most people don't know how to talk to me, it hurts sometimes. I get very lonely." She said.
I avoided her gaze.
"You can sit here and talk to me if you like?" I offered. I looked up to see the same smile from a few minutes ago looking at me.
"Thank you, I'd like that." She said.
We both settled on the jetty, looking out over the strip of water. For several seconds I waited, trying to prepare an intelligent question. I teased my eyes sideways, enjoying the image. Long black hair framed a rounded face, one that could communicate any emotion at a moment's notice. My memory shifted to my last year of school, and a Business Ethics lesson. The poster that occupied the far wall of the room always asked a rhetorical question. I spoke it out loud.
"If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?"
Virginie gave me an odd look, with her eyebrows slightly raised.
"A very curious question?" she said, her language problems causing the sentence to break down. I knew what she meant though.
"I thought I'd ask something directly. Its normally my style." I said, with a smile on my face.
"Since you ask, I shall answer. Real friends would be nice, you know, people who will always be with you, but don't demand from you. Tu comprendes?"
Virginie stopped abruptly, realising her instinctive lapse back into her native tongue. She made to apologise, but I began first.
"Its fine. I speak French fairly well. It took me a long time to learn though. And yes, I do know what you mean. People who will be there for you in times of trouble." I elaborated.
"Oui, exactement! I can be on my own, but it would be much nicer to have friends, or a boyfriend even." She again turned towards the river, breaking the eye contact we had engineered.
"I live alone in London. I survive, but I would like someone with me. I've got no right to complain about my lot though." I speculated idly on my life.
Virginie's face tightened.
"Your, lot?" she asked. It was obvious she hadn't understood the phrase.
"Oh, er, my lot. My life as a whole." I explained with a wave of my hand.
"OK." She gave a look to the Cartier wristwatch on her arm.
"I'm sorry Jon, I must go. I have things to do later." She said.
We both rose, and I extended my hand.
"It was a pleasure to meet you Virginie. If you are ever in London, come and find me." I made a genuine offer, not one stemming from courtesy. I handed her my card.
"I shall do that." She fiddled with the collar of her coat. "Au revoir, Jon."
I chose not to reply verbally, instead just lifting my hand in acknowledgment. Virginie turned and walked away. I watched her disappear over the bridge, noting that the early morning mist had started to clear. Checking the time myself, I realised I had to get going if I was to get to the Universite on time.
* * * * *
I heard the hushed voices in the auditorium, and I felt my hands shake as I straightened my tie. The fear is something I had never shaken off, even after a few years of speech giving. I knew it would resolve itself as soon as I got to the podium, so there was not much I could do but accept it.
The Compere began on stage.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, The Right Honourable Gentleman, Mr Jon Carter MP."
He withdrew from the podium, and I emerged from the wings, accepting the polite applause from the gathered people. Easy, long strides took me to the front, where I deposited my cue cards, and took a sip of water. I waited for the applause to subside before beginning.
"The world today is at war. As a people, we tried to stand as a democratic barrier to that. World leaders, great men, believe that violence is the only way to solve this conflict."
I paused, allowing the audience to digest my opening remarks. Sure enough, the fear in my stomach had gone. Relaxing into the atmosphere, I continued.
"However, I'm not here to debate the merits of war. I'm here to talk about possible consequences of such a war. Now, I know there are a lot of us in here today, but can I just have a show of hands. Who thinks the American motive for the war is control of Iraqi oil reserves?"
I turned my full attention to the audience, noting the show of hands. I scanned the crowd, noting that many people had hands in the air. I finished my perusing in the front row.
Suddenly I stopped dead. Sitting demurely not 15 feet away from me was Virginie Ledoyen. We locked eyes, and she tilted her head slightly and smiled at me.
I continued through my speech, occasionally punctuating my remarks with a glance at Virginie. Each time she responded to me, either with a smile or a wink.
* * * * *
I came to my closing statement.
"Ladies and Gentleman, I hope that you have all learnt something from my words this afternoon, and I thank you for listening."
With that I stood back from the podium, accepting the warm applause coming from the crowd. For me, it is one of the most satisfying, moments in politics, knowing that people have respected and enjoyed my thoughts.
At this point I looked again to the front row, and I was disappointed to find that Virginie had left already. My mind was ticking over ; why didn't she mention to me that she was coming?
I left the stage, en route to the room the staff had kindly provided for me. Reaching the door, I entered, contemplating the closing of my official business in France. I walked straight to my briefcase to deposit my cue cards, aiming for a quick exit.
"Well, hello." The voice came from the furthest corner of the room. I didn't need three guesses to realise who it was. Without turning towards her I spoke,
"Are you stalking me?" I asked jokingly.
She laughed. "Non, I came to congratulate you on your lecture."
"C'est bien?" I asked.
"Tres bien" she replied, a smile hidden behind her eyes.
She emerged from the dark corner, and like a true orator, began her words with dignity, belying the message she delivered.
"I said earlier, that I was lonely." She paused. "I didn't just mean I don't have many friends, also, I know few men."
She seductively ran her hands down the gap in her top. As she stood, I noticed how elegant she looked in a plaid skirt and blue shirt. With every movement she exuded confidence, and her hair was framed perfectly around her face. As I admired her form, her speech continued.
"Mr Carter, I find you very attractive." She said.
I moved my gaze, trying to play embarrassed. There is, however, a good reason why I'm not an actor, and so my emotions were obvious. I hoped against everything I had that this was going the right way.
"You are lonely; I am lonely. We could be so good for each other." She continued her powerful words.
By now she had completed the journey across the room, and stopped right in front of me. She raised her hands, and began to play with my tie. No more words were necessary. She pulled it loose, and threw it to the floor, before starting on my shirt. As she fiddled with the buttons I lost myself for a moment, peering past her shoulder.
I began to cast doubts on my own mental sanity. I thought I must have been hallucinating. How might Oscar Wilde have put it? To have one celebrity throw herself at you could be regarded as rare, to have two in a week seemed like a product of Jon's dreamland.
Virginie tugging upwards on my shirt ended my philosophising. I looked in to her eyes, enjoying the mischievous expression. I leaned in to kiss her, forcing her mouth open aggressively, slipping my tongue inside. She reciprocated, showing a slight passiveness to counter me.
I broke the short kiss, and lowered myself to her neck. Starting at the base, I ran my tongue up over her throat as she titled her head backwards to allow me a better angle. Her skin tasted of expensive soaps and perfumes; everything I would have expected her to wear.
Her button up shirt was plain, but obviously expensive, no doubt hand made in a Paris boutique. I took care to unbutton it and push it away from her shoulders, revealing the plain white bra underneath. Again, plain, but exquisitely crafted. It did just enough to accentuate her breasts without hiding her natural curves.
Now that she had removed my shirt, it was Virginie's turn to move along my neckline, placing passive kisses on my shoulder blade. I leaned into her and wove my arms around her back, using my fingers to deftly unhook her bra.