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My Tantalizing, Travel-Based Romantic Life: A Romance Novelist’s Sultry Tale

“Falling in the shadow of Notre Dame.”

His name was Luke.

We met at the Seine, outside our hostel. He stood tall, dark, gazing out over the water. I stood beside him without speaking, blinking up at the sunlight as it arced over the Notre Dame cathedral. He dipped a cigarette into his mouth. So suave, so cool, I thought. Still, I didn’t speak. My mind was brimming with the story I’d been writing in Shakespeare and Company — a romance novelist, I was never far from my pen and paper, my ideas.

“What do you do?” he asked me.

Confused at the question, I stuttered for a moment. After all: the travelers on the road didn’t do anything. Not necessarily.

“I’m a traveler,” I finally answered, a bit nervous to yield such information about my romance, about my writing.

He nodded, taking another drag. “I assumed you were a creative type. A daydreamer.” He spun his head back toward me, making me feel nearly invisible. I swallowed, and he blew smoke beyond my shoulder.

“I write,” I whispered.

“And I read,” he answered. He shrugged, showing me the book he’d been holding in his hand. Joyce.

“Appropriate,” I murmured toward him, flashing my eyes.

“There’s this great place on the St. Germain-des-Prés,” he stated, so blasé.

And I followed him, beyond the cobblestoned streets. We swept through the smells of brimming bakeries, beyond adorable old women as they creaked along. We passed a set of schoolchildren, waddling off to the local playground. He grabbed my hand, and the tension of the moment made me peer up at him, my eyes wide. But his eyes spoke of nothing.

We sat in the exterior courtyard, the Parisian sunlight wafting from our faces. He squinted toward me, still smoking. He told me he was Canadian, that he was searching for something after his three, four years at a desk. “I pushed away one day and knew I couldn’t go back,” he whispered.

“But how will we live?” I asked him, then. I knew the question held so much emotion.

“Find the money, you mean?”

I nodded, uncertain. I blinked heavily.

“We’ll get by. It’s all we can do.”

I knew that this moment before us spoke much volume — about our futures, about our paths. Perhaps he’d had dreams, once. Dreams to proceed up into his company, to reach the top. And perhaps I’d had dreams, as well. Dreams to find a home, to find a love. But neither of us had found what we wanted. So we were searching, smelling of the road. (Balmy, almost, in this August heat.)

“How long will you stay?” I asked him, gesturing. The wine was going to my head. It was only two in the afternoon.

“Three days. Maybe four,” he stated.

I nodded, knowing my plane left in two.

And so, there, against the brick wall outside of the cobblestone-laden alleyway, he pressed his lips into mine with a sort of gruff inefficiency. I felt his hand at my breast; I felt his tongue so hot, folding over mine. We were taking more sloppy steps into our unsure future, but in these moments, we were doing it together.

The hostel accepted us with open arms, and we flounced onto the bed, still molding into each other. It had been so long since I’d allowed anyone to touch me, anyone to see me. And yet: here I was, my eyes closing slowly at his earnest touch.

Paris. The road. This man — Luke — before me. They would linger with me, mold me further on my search. But when I boarded my plane two days later, just a single letter from his strapped in my bag, I knew that I had to keep pushing. Perhaps, someday, Luke and I would meet again: our separate searches over. But for now: there was only the road. And chance encounters.

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