Published on September 3rd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie0
Ann’s Story: Chapter Sixteen ‘Single In Paris’
A boat trip on the Seine was planned for the day. Ann had had a good night’s sleep and was up bright and early. She showered, dressed and went down stairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. There was no sign of Thelma. Ann reckoned she must be tired after the night before and had decided to skip breakfast.
After eating she went back up to her room and flicked on the television but all of the channels were either in French or some other foreign language. She quickly tired of watching game shows in French and switched it off.
At 10.30 she rang Thelma’s room but there was no answer. Then she rang her mobile phone but it was switched off. ‘Damn you Thelma,’ Ann said under her breath.
She went down the corridor to Thelma’s room however, a knock on the door told her there was no one there.
It took a moment for it to dawn on her that she was going to have to amuse herself for the day. She didn’t fancy the boat trip on her own and she thought she should stay close to the hotel in case Thelma returned and made contact.
Luckily there was a flea market close by and she decided to ramble around there for a while. The market was huge and seemed to sell everything from food to clothes to toys.
One section was brimming over with all sorts of wonderful artisan products such as cheeses, preserves, fruits, odd-looking vegetables such as black artichokes, and a sumptuous display of the most wonderful cakes, breads and pastries.
Ann bought a bunch of purple grapes ,some cheese and a mouthwatering cream and chocolate cake for her lunch later.
Another section of the market revealed rows and rows of clothes stands with skirts, tops, coats and shoes. Some of the clothes even had designer labels and were being sold at knock-down prices.
Then there were the antiques, paintings, jewellery. In fact there was so much to see that Ann spent most of the morning there rummaging and browsing. At noon she bought tea from one of the many food vendors and she sat down on a nearby bench to eat and watch.
A glance at her phone showed Thelma had still not been in touch. So she was left with the afternoon looming and not sure what to do with it.
She tried Thelma’s phone again but it was still switched off. Ann was beginning to worry about her and feared something might have happened.
She went back to the hotel and ordered a mineral water and sat outside in the sun while she planned what to do next.
Finally, at 2.30 p.m., Thelma rang. She apologised profusely.
‘Where are you?’ asked Ann impatiently.
‘Oh I will explain later, I won’t be back till late I’m afraid, I just got caught up with old friends and they insisted I stay but will tell you later.’
Ann was beside herself with rage, ‘Thelma I’m not impressed, we were supposed to go on the boat trip on the Seine remember?’
‘Oh I forgot all about it, can we go tomorrow instead? Thelma said in a pleading voice.
‘Well we will just have to, won’t we.’ Ann answered in an icy voice.
Then she was gone again and Ann was left wondering what she could do with her afternoon and evening in Paris. To go into the city would require either a taxi or getting the metro and she wasn’t familiar with the subway system, so she felt that was out of the question and to get a taxi would be too expensive.
She had seen most of the nearby shops and so decided to ask the receptionist was there anything nearby of interest.
‘There is a small art gallery around the corner and a park near the same area.’ The woman at the front desk said in perfect English.
With nothing else to lose or do Ann set off for the gallery. It was indeed just around the corner. Ann opened the heavy glass doors and went in. It was very spacious and modern and extremely quiet.
Apart from a woman sitting at a desk just inside the door there appeared to be no one in the place. Ann realised it must be privately owned.
After a brief tour of the exhibits, which were mostly abstract paintings and sculptures and not to Ann’s taste, she made a hasty exit.
‘Au revoir‘ said the woman behind the desk.
‘Au revoir merci beaucoup‘ answered Ann in the only French she knew.
The nearby park looked more promising with wonderful flowers and pretty fountains. A number of street performers were providing plenty of entertainment with juggling, skate board antics, playing music and singing, which was fun.
A quartet playing classical music were performing in one area of the park and Ann sat down on one of the many chairs provided to listen to them. She stayed for nearly an hour but after a while she felt lonely and isolated as she watched families, friends and couples pass by.
She had been looking forward to this holiday for so long and here she was on her own again. She felt badly let down by Thelma and was beginning to realise she was quite selfish.
Afterwards she strolled back to the hotel and had something to eat and lay down for a nap which turned out to be a full on sleep.
She was awoken at 11 p.m. by her phone ringing, it was Thelma telling her she was back. Ann was totally pissed off with her and let her know by her chilly voice before saying goodnight.
The next morning Thelma was up early and was full of apologies.
‘Well I’m not going to lie Thelma I am very disappointed. We came on the holiday together and I didn’t think we were going to have to share it with your friends.’ said Ann realising she sounded prissy and schoolmarmish.
‘I know, it’s just Max had organised drinks with friends and then it was too late to come back. Yesterday there was no one around to drive me to the hotel. Max lives outside Paris.’
‘But you left in a taxi, could you not have come back in one.’
‘Well I suppose I could, look I’m really sorry. There will be no more friends dropping by, I promise.’ said a very contrite Thelma.
True to her word Thelma stayed with Ann throughout the rest of the holiday which they both enjoyed thoroughly.
It was on the final night that Thelma dropped the bombshell. They had gone to a restaurant in Pigalle prior to going to the Moulin Rouge.
Ann didn’t particularly like Pigalle. It was full of strip joints and peep shows with men outside trying to attract customers inside. It was seedy and in many ways sad and pathetic.
Thelma was in great form and ordered a bottle of wine which had made her more talkative than usual.
‘Would you like to know what I really do for a living? she announced unexpectedly.
Ann looked at her not really sure what to say.
‘I thought you said you were an artist and writer.’
‘Well yes I am but that‘s not how I make my money’.
‘It’s not.’ Ann said puzzled, even though she had suspected Thelma could not live off what she made from her publications but she still hadn’t a clue what Thelma was going to say.
Thelma leaned across the table in a conspiratorial way and whispered giggling at the same time.
‘I’m an escort.’
Ann nearly choked on the big spoonful of creme brulee she had put into her mouth.
‘Does that mean you’re are a prostitute?’ Ann gasped, her eyes expanding.
‘Oh wash out your mouth, Ann, of course not. I work for an agency run by two women one of them being me. There is no sex involved.’
Ann looked at her in disbelief. ‘So what do you do exactly?’ Ann asked, once again aware she was sounding prissy and judgemental.
‘There are a lot of lonely men out there who have no one to accompany them to functions. They could be single, widowed, divorced. Most of them are professionals who could be attending corporate events or other things where they need a partner. They will pay big money to have someone go with them for the evening. I have been to all sorts of exciting places I have even been to the White House. What do you think of that Miss White?’ Thelma said proudly.
Ann was in shock and couldn’t speak for a while, all she could do was look in wonder at Thelma. She didn’t know whether she should disapprove of her lifestyle or say ‘good on ye girl’.
This was turning out to be quite an experience for the hitherto cloistered Ann.