Following the success of the first chapter or Carine and Archie’s love story (read it here), I have decided to share with you the second chapter of the novel today. You need to keep in mind that I have submitted this story to various publishers, only to be told that they expected Carine to be nicer (who said French women were perfect?), some wanted me to ‘tone it down’ (a recurrent feedback I have), and everybody wanted more ‘Oooh la la’. In short, I couldn’t get it right. Well, here we are. Tell me what you think, and we will adjust as we go along.
The second chapter is all about Carine and Archie met…Here we go!
Chapter 2: Two years earlier…
Mum is going to marry in London this time. Marriage number four. I am seriously bored of mum’s numerous adventures. As a dutiful daughter, I have come from Paris to London and I am starting to regret it. I am twenty-six now, and I feel far more adult than her.
We meet in a cafe at lunchtime for a quick catch-up and after a latte I am swiftly brought to a studio in one of the Barbican towers. I thought that I would hang around with Mum but suddenly realise that I do not belong to her inner circle of friends any longer. In fact, I don’t know my own mother. The view over London is stunning. But I am literally surrounded by concrete and I can’t stand it. It is suffocating. The wedding is starting shortly. Maybe I should go back to Paris. After all, I can hail a black cab and jump to St Pancras. I could be back to France in no time. And miss this charade. It is exactly what I am going to do. My bags are still untouched anyway. I have finally made up her mind: I must go. I quickly open the studio door. .
What I haven’t anticipated is that someone is walking down the corridor. I haven’t seen him. My bags bump into him, full frontal shock.
“I am sorry, let me help you…”
Damn it, he’s English. I have just hit him with my bags and he’s apologising.
” I’ll be fine. I’ll manage!”
The invitation for the wedding had fallen from my handbag. He picks it up from the ground.
“Are you going to this comedy?”
“Yes, I answer. She’s my Mum”
“Don’t bother. I was leaving,” I say. “I can’t go to another wedding that’ll only last a few months, a year maybe.”
He is clearly not used to such bluntness and hesitates.
“Well…I hope I’ll see you at the wedding anyway.”
I look at him, puzzled. Let’s admit it, this wedding suddenly looks a lot more interesting. I know, I know, I am incorrigible. But he is tall and handsome and I like his voice. I am already in London anyway. After all, I shouldn’t behave as a petulant child. In the spur of the moment, I decide to stay and get prepared for the ceremony. Things suddenly look up. He is so, well, British…
I feel lost when arriving at the small church in the middle of the Barbican towers. It is full of people I don’t know. Thank Goodness the service is quick. Just a blessing. I manage to catch one of his glimpses while the priest is talking.
Nice dinner suit. Limpid blue eyes. I smile and nod at him. What is wrong with me? Why am I behaving like a teenager again? Let’s admit it, staying was a good decision. I am happy.
At the dinner, we are sitting at the same table; all are close members of the family of the bride and groom. I am clearly in luck.
But who is he?
He starts the conversation.
“Are you French?” He asks.
Seriously, worst pickup line ever. What a shame!
He ignores my aggressive answer and asks me questions about my job, my life. I likes my accent, I can tell. I find out his name is Archie, and he is the preferred nephew of mum’s brand new husband.
His family looks as complicated as mine. Well, some things transcend nationalities, right? He used to be close to his uncle but felt out of touch with his love file. It sounds like a familiar story: I feel the same with Mum. We laugh about the wedding. Unexpectedly, I am having a good time. He is charming, in an old-fashioned way. I touch his arm or hand at every possible opportunity: when I am talking to him, when I need more wine…What is happening to me? I thought that I wanted to say single for a while, and here I am, hitting on a British guy I have never met before. Damn it. I couldn’t care less about the food, my Mum, and the wedding. What is wrong with me?
He sounds like he has studied at Eton. Pure British product. Do I fancy him? No way, it’s just some harmless fun. Is it really? But he is bright…And handsome.
After the dinner, when I miss a step, he catches me gently and asks if I am all right. His concerns are a bit over the top but I start blushing.
Is this really me? I can’t believe I’m acting this way!
He keeps his distance and continues to behave like a perfect gentleman. He is carefully avoiding all physical or even eye contact with me. A bit too carefully, if you ask me. I can’t help smiling.
He fancies me, I can tell.
We dance and talk. The time passes quickly. I sort of expect a little sign, maybe a quick kiss while dancing. But nothing happens.
What can I do? I need to make it happen. He doesn’t seem to want to take the initiative. I need to step things up.
French women know how to make a man want them, so I disappear to top up my make-up and make sure my hair is perfect.
I can’t help worrying a bit: why hasn’t he done anything yet? I am supposed to leave tomorrow. We need to speed things up.
When I return to the table, Archie takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor. Surely that is a good sign.
Archie, make a move! I silently beg.
But even when I am dancing he keeps his distance. Maybe I have misread the signals. After all, I am tired and a bit tipsy from the wine.
I ‘m so pathetic. He was just being polite. I dreamed the whole thing.
“Archie, I am tired and I have a long day tomorrow. I am going back to the studio” I say, discouraged. I should have gone back to Paris while I still could. Well, you can’t win every time, right? I am disappointed.
Then something surprising happens. He silently puts his coat on my shoulders and comes with her. We walk in silence. We take the lift without speaking. I am lost: what does he want? Is he interested in me or not? He is clearly looking at me. We are both still.
I’m hopeless. Nothing will happen tonight.
Resigned to being alone, I open the studio door and am just about to walk through when Archie’s arm shoots out and holds it back. His eyes widen. He then gently pulls me close, wrapping his arms around me. We kiss and time seems to come to a complete stop.
Come to thing of it, I had only kissed French guys so far. Well, some things are universal. The French kiss works just as well with a British guy. Wow, I didn’t know.
I think that I am going to stay in London a bit longer.