An american boy, a French girl . . . and a jealous ex girlfriend
Richie is here early, sat at the center table fiddling with his gold chain. He never wants be second at anything even if it’s arriving for brunch.
This is where we meet, about once a month, his fashionable SoCo café — red brick, black and white photographs and shiny coffee machines. We eat, we talk and we remember all of the reasons why we broke up. It’s fixing to become a bit of a tradition.
I holler across the room, “Hey there stranger”.
He doesn’t notice me until I’m almost on top of him.
Finally tearing his gaze from the counter he fumbles his copy of the Austin Chronicle, “Oh, sorry Hannah . . . I was err . . . hi”. His new gym muscles flex at me through his washed out college t-shirt.
“You see my photos of the old country then?”, he says grinning, even though he is only fourth generation Italian.
“Beautiful. I kinda thought that’s where we’d go on honeymoon, ha ha.” There’s an awkward pause. Was that a joke?
Suddenly the waitress appears. She’s a tall drink of water, taller than Richie anyhow, at least 5’10” and around 120 pounds. I love that hair color, sunbleached and tumbling to the waist, and she fits that uniform just perfectly. Her Café Du Monde name tag is pinned near her bare shoulder at a jaunty angle — Marianne. As she peers down at the pad of paper in her hand, I notice the faded tan of an absent wedding band.
“‘Ave you decided what you want MonsieurRichie?”
“Err . . . well what’s the special today?”
“We ‘ave a grilled duck leg with puy lentils, and butter soufflé with crèmeanglaise for dessert. It’s really fantastic today.”
“Waaoow”, he cooes. “That really does sound fantastic Marianne”.
I reckon he would order three of them if he could afford it, just to impress her. I just order the traditional French breakfast.
“Where are you from darlin’?”, I ask. “I detect an accent, and it ain’t Texan”.
“She’s from Paris”, answers Richie, butting in, “such a wonderful city”. He flashes his huge white teeth at her.
Marianne scribbles down the orders and beats a hasty retreat, not wanting to stay in the middle of our duel. Why had he called me here? Just so I can see him flirting with a girl who’s way out of his league? Normally, he would be eating a meatball Subway talking Sunday football with his buddies right now. Ah, give him a break Hannah, he probably doesn’t even know he’s doing it.
“Ya know, I’m reading a book about France — The Three Musketeers. Mikey gave it to me.” He smoothes his black stubble, “those dudes were really something, risking their lives like that.”
“Since when did y’all start reading fiction?”, I scoff. “Maybe you should tell Marianne if you like it so much”. He folds his arms in like a spoilt child.
The minutes go by and he tells me about his trip and his plans to save up and go back to Europe. Of course he doesn’t ask me a damned thing.
The waitress comes back with our meals and set the plates down, with a cute little bon appetite. She is just about to float off when Richie stops her.
“Hey Marianne, ever read The Three Musketeers by Dumas? It’s quite a ride.”
She sighs, “Yes I read it in ‘igh school, like everyone else in France.”
Sweet baby Jesus! Poor Richie looks like he has just taken a saber to the heart! I’m not sure if she meant to put him down so hard, but Paris must seem less wonderful now. I see why her husband left her, acting so high and mighty all the time.
We eat our meals in silence. This is the last time I’m going to come running to one of these dates when he clicks his fingers. Richie never could take a hint though, he’ll probably be back in Café Du Monde tomorrow.