tagRomanceTwo Americans in Paris

Two Americans in Paris


Dans l'amour, il faut des larmes
Dans l'amour, il faut donner
Et ceux qui n'ont pas de larmes
Ne pourront jamais aimer
Il faut tant, et tant de larmes
Pour avoir le droit d'aimer

-Edith Piaf, « C'est L'Amour »

Marie let her secret nickname slip by accident that night outside the pub, but she couldn't have asked for better results if she'd planned it.

It was a typical midwinter Paris night outside, but the pelt of the rain on the pub windows only made Marie feel cozier inside with Jane and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon Klatch. Especially not with Pete, her fellow American and her crush of several weeks now, looking cuter than ever in his dark red sweater and glasses as he told them all about his next article for the Expat Monitor. If the topic was anything but sexy, his palpable aura of caring about it was. "No one's sure if anorexia is on the rise among American teenagers over here, or if people are just noticing it for the first time," he said between sips of wine. "But either way, it's a big problem and there is help available. I'm hoping the article will help point some families toward that help."

"I'm glad you're the one writing this one, Pete," proclaimed Jane, his editor and Marie's oldest friend in Paris. "I knew a few girls at Cambridge with anorexia, and they were bloody disgusting with their ribs showing, looking like the wind could blow them away!"

"Well, that's sensitive!" said Daniel, the gang's token Canadian, with the diplomatic laugh that Marie was sure was his way of covering up when he was offended; Jane brought it out in him almost every week.

"It is a serious disease, Jane," Marie pointed out. "It can kill you."

"It won't kill me, thank you very much!" Jane roared with haughty laughter, and then turned to Eric, Jeff, and James, her three fellow Brits who were clustered around the far corner of the table as usual. "Am I right, guys? Fat problems are for the Americans, aren't they?"

"My cousin was an anorexic, Jane," Eric told her, instantly wiping the agreeing smirks off his two friends' faces. "She got down to forty-seven kilos before they got it under control. It was disgusting, but it wasn't any bloody joke."

"I'm sorry, Eric!" Marie said. "I hope she recovered."

"Me too!" Pete added.

"She did," Eric said. "Didn't mean to get all melodramatic with you guys. It's just, Jane, it's no joke, all right?"

"You've been spending too much time with the hypersensitive Americans here, Eric," Jane said. With that she snuggled up to her boyfriend Sam, the only Frenchman in attendance and indeed the only one they'd ever allowed into the Anglo-Saxon Klatch. "You understand, don't you, mon cheri?"

"I understand I didn't come here to discuss illnesses!" Sam purred, turning his face close to hers and rubbing noses with her as he ran his fingers through her blonde locks. "Especially not in English!"

"There they go again!" laughed Alexandra, the newest addition to the gang, fresh off the plane from Australia just a couple of weeks before. "Have they always been like this?"

"They've only been a couple since about the time you got here," said Cathy, who was seated next to her. "Before that, Mark and I were the only couple in the group," she added, grinning at her fellow Kiwi on her other side and squeezing his hand. "But we've never put on a show like that in here."

"Who'd have thought the Kiwis would be the politically correct ones?" Alexandra said.

That brought on a roar of laughter from both Marie and Pete, as well as Cathy and Mark. Jane had had enough, and she focused most of her annoyance on her nearest target: Marie. "Oh, pardon me, dear, but I seem to recall you and Leonard got quite lovey-dovey more than once!"

"I can only wish that were true!" Marie shot back, drawing a round of laughter from everyone at the table except Jane and Sam. Most of them had met her ex here and there, although she'd been no more able to persuade him to join the gang than she'd been to get him in bed most of the time. "I dumped him because he was so unaffectionate, remember?!"

"By your standards, perhaps," Jane said drily.

Marie took no offense at her friend's needling; she was used to Jane's prudishness and her passive-aggressive comments about Marie's own proud promiscuity, and had always chalked it up to jealousy. Maybe, she mused now, Sam wasn't as much fun in private as he let on in public. But chances were Jane was getting luckier than she behind closed doors these days all the same. Which just wasn't fair, but it wasn't Jane's fault.

"Guys, come on!" Daniel said. "We don't need to hear about Marie's love life!"

"Yeah, but we want to!" James quipped, again drawing laughs from most of the gang including Marie.

"I wish I had one to spill about!" Marie said. "But I don't, not since I ditched Leonard." It took every ounce of resolve she had to avoid looking at Pete as she said it. It wouldn't do to be that blatant, after all, though as usual she was dying to run around the table and tackle him.

"To spill about," Sam repeated. "What means that?"

"It means to share more than you should!" Jane said. "Something Marie is all too good at when it comes to sex."

"And we love her for it!" Eric said.

"Or admire her for it anyway," Alexandra said. When Jane gave her a funny look, she continued. "Seriously, Marie, I really admire that about you, how open you are about these things."

"Yes, tell us again about these baths you take with your gay roommate!" James said. "That is a joke, isn't it?"

Marie laughed and felt her face flushing. But she had vowed long ago -- back in her days as the town tramp of Mayer City, Wisconsin -- to be ashamed of nothing. "No, James, it's not. Jean-Charles is a dear friend and he gets me in a way most people don't, and we have a special bond."

"Oh, I think that's sweet," Cathy said. Then she turned immediately to Mark and quipped, "No, that doesn't mean you can invite other women into our bath!"

"I think it's sweet too, Marie," Pete said. To everyone else he added, "Jean-Charles is a really nice guy. I only met him once, a few months ago, but you could tell he thinks the world of Marie."

"Thank you, Pete, and I think that way of him too," Marie said. Though her smile was demure, her heart was flying inside, knowing Pete remembered that day he'd come by their flat to visit her while she was sick. They'd spent the afternoon chatting and getting to know one another better than they'd had the chance to do in months of once-a-week evenings at the pub, and she'd been head-over-heels in love with him ever since. She had also been utterly stymied as to how to let him know, but at least now she knew that day was a nice memory for him at the very least.

"I think it's fairly horrid, myself," Jane sniffed. Turning to Sam she added, "I do hope you don't think this is how all Anglophone women think of Frenchmen!"

"I can only wish you did!" Sam said with a grin.

"Speaking of sweet," Daniel said, "Do we have any plans for Valentine's Day? It's just a couple of weeks off."

"Speaking of American treacle, you mean!" Jane said.

"I'd have to agree," said Mark, drawing a thwack on the leg from Cathy.

"Hey, it's just an idea!" Daniel said. With that he drank down the last of his wine and stood up. "And on that note, I'm off. Early shift at the bookstore tomorrow."

Once the ice was broken, everyone else soon made an excuse to leave. All except for Jane and Sam, who Marie was sure were glad to be alone. With the attitude her old friend was dishing out tonight, she was only too happy to arrange that. She had several client meetings scheduled all over the city tomorrow anyway, and the talk of baths with Jean-Charles had her hoping one just might be in the cards for tonight. Although she knew he was probably busy with his latest flavor of the week, this latest near miss with Pete had her longing to lay bare her frustrations -- and everything else -- in the way only Jean-Charles understood.

Through all the weeks of her unrelenting crush on Pete, Marie had never resorted to the old schoolgirl trick of accidentally-on-purpose landing herself next to him on the walk to the Metro. But tonight, emboldened by his comment about that day he'd visited her, she did. "Thank you," she said with her sweetest smile as he held the door open for her and she waved good night to Jane and Sam. Once again she wanted so badly to throw her arms around him that it almost hurt, but she contented herself with a pat on his shoulder.

Unassuming as ever, he showed no sign of suspecting any intentions on her part. "Marie, I'm sorry if we all got too personal there with you," he said.

"No, it's fine!" Marie said. "You know me, just about impossible to embarrass. At least when it comes to sex." If only he knew!

"I have noticed that," Pete admitted. "And like Alexandra said, I admire it. I wish we were all more like that."

"Thank you, Pete," she said, putting up her umbrella; to her delight, Pete took it and held it over them both. "So, now that Jane can't throw a wet blanket over everything, what do you think of having a Valentine's Day party? I'll bet if we do it, she and Sam will show up after all!"

"And the anti-American whiners be damned," Pete agreed. Looking ahead to Cathy and Mark huddled under their umbrella and the others rushing ahead to the Metro stop, he added, "I think they'd all really like it too, whether they say so or not."

"It has always been that way," Marie said. "Three years Jane and I have had this gang going -- ever since we were at the Sorbonne -- and she always whines about how Paris isn't more like London and the Americans aren't helping, but most of the others ignore her nonsense and sooner or later she comes around too."

"Seems like she and Sam are the only ones with a reason to celebrate Valentine's Day anyway," Pete said. "You think in their mood they'd be more open to it."

Marie couldn't help herself. "Well, maybe by the big day, some of us will also have a love to celebrate," she said.

"Has someone caught your eye?" Pete asked. "Lucky guy!"

"Why thank you," Marie managed to say through her private delight. "We'll see if he agrees."

"I sure hope so," Pete said. As they were approaching his bus stop, he handed the umbrella back to her. "So. Shall we meet up this weekend, maybe, and start making plans for the party? Just as well to keep the others out of the mix for now, I think."

"Let's do it!" Marie agreed, her mind already running wild with the possibilities.

"Great, I'll call you Friday," Pete said. "And happy Valentine's Day to them all whether they want it or not!"

"So say the hick and the bush queen," Marie declared triumphantly. She had just enough time to realize Pete didn't yet know that particular secret of hers before he gave her a nonplussed look, and burst into nervous giggles at what she'd just given away.

"Bush queen?" he'd asked. "You're a Republican? Or did you spend time in Africa before you came to Paris?"

"Neither!" Marie laughed through her self-imposed humiliation, and lifted her free hand to her face to point out her thick eyebrows, which had always served as a hint to guys. "Sorry, Pete, I thought I'd already shared that one with you at some point. Sooner or later everything goes at the pub, after all."

"Not quite everything," Pete said, still looking quite bewildered. "But...thanks, Marie. It's nice to know you trust me with that one!"

"My face must have been purple!" she told Jean-Charles and Francois through her laughter that night in the bathtub. "But the way he looked at me, I could tell he was really flattered that I felt comfortable sharing that. If only he knew just how comfortable I was with him!"

"I am surprised he didn't already know that nickname," said Francois, who had heard it before but had never seen Marie naked until now. Although he was Jean-Charles' favorite boytoy on nights when he didn't have another date, tonight was the first time he had joined them in the bath for the first time, to no small amount of delight on Marie's part. He was gazing shamelessly at Marie's giant bush -- which she welcomed, as his own lithe and toned body was a sight for sore eyes -- and was hard as a rock, supporting her longstanding suspicion that Francois was bisexual. "You do call yourself that often, after all."

"I call myself that with you and Jean-Charles and a few of my girlfriends," Marie corrected. "Not just anyone would know it. I just felt so comfortable with him..." She sighed.

"And now you see he is comfortable with you, no?" Jean-Charles asked.

"Well, we are going to be spending more time together, working on the Valentine's party," Marie said. "I guess if he doesn't ask me out now, at least I have something to blame it on."

"Oh, come on, you haven't had any man refuse to sleep with you over that, have you?" Francois asked.

"I have, a few," Marie replied with a wry smile, running her fingers through her abundant bush. "But hey, it's their loss. I've been saying since I first realized I was unusual, I'd almost prefer it if guys knew I had a lot of vagina hair before they saw it." (Marie had never liked the word "pubic"; she had gladly appropriated the clumsy misnomer Jean-Charles had bestowed upon her lush, thick bush the first time they'd taken a bath together.) "Then the bush-haters would stay away in the first place. Now I guess that wish came true with Pete."

"Bush-haters," Francois -- himself freshly waxed along with Jean-Charles -- said thoughtfully. "I hope you don't let them hurt you, Marie. You are beautiful, you know."

"Thank you!" Marie purred, grinning ear to ear and wishing Jean-Charles had invited him into their bath sooner; she'd always wondered what he looked like naked and it had been well worth the wait to find out. "And no, I never have. Believe it or not, I always wanted to look like this." Darting a look at Jean-Charles, she added, "Hasn't he told you that story?"

"No, I haven't," Jean-Charles said. "That's your story, Marie, not mine to share."

"Please share it now!" Francois implored. "Then you've always liked being hairy?"

"Always," Marie confirmed. "I'm surprised you kept it to yourself, Jean-Charles, I know you always get a kick out of it." Turning back to Francois, she explained, "When I was a little girl, I saw under a woman's dress once. She was wearing tights but no panties, and her bush just looked so big and wild and sexy. From then on, I couldn't wait to have one of my own." Patting her big triangle now, she added, "Little did I know how true that wish would come!"

"That is lovely," Francois said. "Now surely you can make your wish for Pete come true, if he didn't mind learning your secret?"

"If only he would ask me out already!" Marie groused.

"Why don't you just ask him yourself?"

"I don't know how!" Marie confessed. "You see, I never even really had to flirt before. Back home I had a bad reputation, that meant guys were never shy about asking me out."

"You have a bad reputation here, too," Francois grinned. Looking to Jean-Charles, he added, "Both of you, how many men in and out of this place?"

They both laughed. "Sluts-are-us, huh, Jean-Charles?" Marie said, and they slapped a wet high-five. "But I don't think Pete knows about that. It's not something that comes up in polite conversation, after all."

Neither man looked convinced of that, but they let the point slide. "I suppose you have no practice asking men out, for the same reason?" Francois suggested.

"Exactly," Marie said. "I've never had to do it before! Back in Wisconsin I was the girl they all talked about behind my back. I'm not saying I liked that, but I did like sex and I wasn't ashamed of it, and that meant I never had any trouble getting dates! I decided I'd rather put up with the slut-shaming than pretend to be someone I wasn't. And it meant I never had to ask a guy out before. With my reputation, they always asked me. In college, too."

"Pete is shy, maybe, or he seemed that way to me" said Jean-Charles, recalling that fateful weekend several weeks before when he'd come to visit Marie while she was sick in bed. "Or he thinks you don't want a boyfriend."

"Or he thinks you aren't ready for a new one after Leonard," suggested Francois. "It has only been, what, three months?"

"Could be that," Marie said. "But I think I've made it clear I'm over Leonard. I had nothing but relief when I got rid of that cold fish! I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it when Pete's around, too. But how can I let him know yes, I am interested in him?"

"He's a straight man, Marie!" Jean-Charles snickered. "Just tell him, look, Pete, open your damn eyes and this time tomorrow you can have my thirty-eight-D's bouncing in your face!" All three of them roared with laughter, Marie once again hiding her regret at having ever divulged her bra size to Jean-Charles -- at least he used the intimate knowledge to amuse her -- but he wasn't done. "Eh, but women never want to do their half of the work, do they?"

Marie gaped open-mouthed at her beloved flatmate. "Jean-Charles!"

"What do you know about women in the first place?" Francois needled him.

"Merci, Francois!" Marie gave his hand a thankful squeeze under the water, then turned back to Jean-Charles. "Just what do you mean by that?!"

"Did you not just say you know nothing about asking a man out because you always knew they would ask you?" Jean-Charles said. "I am only being honest about your own entitlement, my friend." Before Marie could respond in any way, they all heard his telephone ringing in his bedroom, and he hoisted himself out of the tub and was off to answer it.

"What a little bitch he can be sometimes," Francois said as they both watched his lithe wet figure vanish out the bathroom door. "I'm sorry, Marie. I get you."

"Thank you," Marie said, and she dared a kiss on his cheek, which he happily accepted. "Do you mind if I ask you something personal, Francois?"

"Do I look like I have anything to hide?" he quipped, looking down at his hard cock and grinning.

"Well, I guess that makes two questions I've got," Marie said, also admiring his erection. She longed to play with it, and she suspected he could tell. He looked at her as though she would be welcome to touch him; but she didn't. "Why do you put up with him treating you like a toy, always inviting you over here when he can't pick some other guy up at the pub? Is the sex that great?"

Francois sighed and nodded his head. "Yes. That is all, Marie, it is."

"Wow," Marie chuckled. "I was only joking, but..."

"But it is true," Francois admitted. "I know what a pig he is, I know he uses me, but the things he can do, it is worth it. Usually. I am sorry he was so rude with you, though."

"He's worth it to me too," Marie said. "He gets me in a way most people don't. But I sure don't like his attitude right now."

Francois nodded. "What was the other question?"

"Oh, right," Marie blushed a bit and gazed down unabashedly at his erection. "Francois, is that...for me? Are you bi?"

"Yes and yes. But don't tell Jean-Charles, please? He doesn't like bi guys. He thinks we're just trying to have it both ways." He let out a nervous laugh. Marie wanted to join in, but couldn't muster it. "Please, Marie. I told you I know what he is, but..."

"No, of course!" Marie reassured him. "Of course I won't. I'm just really sad that you feel you have to hide that from him."

"Thank you," he said. "I'm sorry if it was wrong for me to join you in here."

"it's fine," Marie said. "Really, I'm flattered. It's been a while since I've caused one of those, that I know of at least." She reached tentatively under the water. "May I?"

"If I may, too?"

Marie took his hand and placed it in her bush. "Feel free to explore the jungle," she quipped, and then she eagerly wrapped her hand around his cock.

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