Students scurried across the large grassy area of campus. It was a hot, October day, and anyone fortunate enough not to have a class lay on the grass, some on blankets, some propping their heads on backpacks. They were surrounded by a protective layer of trees and academic buildings. The air was filled with potential and youthfulness and optimism.
One boy in particular, walking from one of the larger brick buildings towards Old Main, glanced discreetly over his shoulder at the girl, also walking slowly, about thirty yards behind him. They had five classes together, but had never spoken. He walked slower, waiting for her to catch up.
Then he noticed that she had slowed down. So he pretended to stop and tie his shoe. She slowed down even more. Finally he stood up and turned toward her.
* * * * *
Four years later the boy and girl take a train from London to Paris. They leave early in the morning, when London is still quiet and dark. The train speeds across the English country side, grabbing hedgerows and pastures and even small villages and casting them back. Then darkness as the train disappears under the channel.
France emerges, feeling older and a little less friendly. The boy and girl do not speak the language. They wander the city, following a red line in a magazine to mostly small, out of the way shops. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart rises into the gray sky. Notre Dame sits patiently, waiting for another time in future history, when it will no longer be bothered by irreverent shouting and pesky strangers.
The boy and girl hold hands, walking through the rain, their shoulders pulled up towards their ears. A cab whisks them back to la Gare du Nord. The seats in the train are not good for sleeping – too straight, too rigid, but somehow the girl drifts off, her head on the boy’s shoulder.
* * * * *
One year after their first trip to Paris, five years after the boy stopped and pretended to tie his shoe on that grassy patch on campus, the boy and girl enter Paris again. This time by plane. This time they have a little boy with them, not yet one. He looks exactly like the girl, with blue eyes and a soft nose and a round face.
They stay two nights, but everyone gets sick. The boy spends the weekend finding medicine for the little boy. The girl spends the weekend in the motel bathroom, washing the little boy’s clothes which are covered in diarrhea.
During daylight hours the three emerge, pale and weak. They walk quietly through the Louvre, not out of respect, but because they are too tired to talk.
They consider going home early, but decide to stay. The French air is crisp and refreshing. They don’t want to go back to the motel. They wander the streets until the lights turn on and the waitress at the cafe takes their order. The city lights reflect off of the Seine.
* * * * *
Twelve years after the boy stopped to tie his shoe, eight years after their first trip to Paris, seven years after their second trip to Paris, they now live in Virginia. The boy stands at the kitchen counter. The girl leans against the wall.
They have run out of money.
Upstairs they can hear the little boy playing with two little girls. All three children look exactly like the girl. A baby boy, fresh to the world, sleeps in a baby swing.
“Now what?” the boy asks the girl.
* * * * *
The story continues HERE