It was the summer of 2014, I was just about to turn 13, spending June of summer vacation with my Grandmère, in Paris. Tonight we’re at a fundraising benefit for African relief (it’s always something). It was a coveted ticket, I was told, because Keira Knightley and Rita Ora were there - somewhere. It was being held at an empire-styled museum-estate in Paris, once owned by Josephine Bonaparte.
The rooms were ornate in the extreme, with dark, woodland, panoramic wall murals, large, finicky-looking furniture, heavy, with gold encrusted - everything. It made the small, dark rooms and tight passageways seem foreboding and claustrophobic.
A boy named Théo was my ‘date’ for the evening (NOT my idea). When my Grandmère was a girl, back when hoop skirts were the fashion and F. Scott Fitzgerald was just sharpening his pencils, a girl didn’t attend a function without a date. Théo was in my grade at school, but he was a couple of inches shorter than me, and his voice seemed different every time he talked. He was a surprise; I don’t even know how she found him.
As we snaked through the main house to the solarium, in a parade of otherwise middle aged, formally dressed guests, the dim hallway squeezed us down to a single-file line. Théo kept trying to take my hand, in the darkness, like he’s scared or something. “Stop that!” I warned him.
Then I saw a mirror - ‘Oh!’ I thought in surprise, stopping dead in the hallway to check my hair, straighten my dress, and pose for my imagination. I became aware Théo was talking, again - he always was - saying, “You're wa wa wa,” or something. Call me a casual and indifferent listener.
“Were you talking to me” I asked, “or just making words up?” He looked exasperated - why?
“You're blocking the way,” he said, anxiously, in a squeaky voice, the way he said it made me think he’d said it before.
He gently took my arm to move me along and I wobbled in my high-heels, I wasn’t very good with heels yet. “Easy,” I cautioned him, my arms briefly flailing.
“You know,” I said defensively,“ someone PUT that mirror there.. probably Napoleon or Josephine - they WANTED people to stop there.” Men are so illogical, it’s a wonder they survive.
As we finally entered the solarium, there was a jazz trio playing ‘C’est si bon’ (Arm in arm), what else? I said, “I’m starving.” A long table along a blue-glass wall featured desserts and champagne. My stomach growled.
I looked around, there was nothing for it - action must be taken - and Théo was useless.
“Want to go get something to eat? I asked him.
He lit up as if awakened, “McDonalds?” he asked. Our conversations were in French, naturally. His joy probably meant his parents didn’t like him eating there (American cuisine! = junk food).
“Bien sûr,” (of course) I said, grinning.
I found my Grandmère in a cluster of elegantly dressed patrons - and there was Keira Knightley - gorgeous, in a dress like she wore in that ‘pirate’ movie - she movie-star glittered, otherworldly.
“I’m starving,” I informed Grandmère, “we’re going to get something to eat,” I turned to show her Théo’s delighted face - he was her idea, after all.
“I was hoping to introduce you…” she started.
“Please!” I asked, bouncing up and down on my toes with some urgency, taking her hand.
“Very well,” she said, sighing, after a moment.
I turned away, wrestling my too-large iPhone-6-plus from my sparkly party clutch.
“Hey Siri, Call Charles,” I commanded. A moment later Charles picked up.
“McDonalds, Champs-Élysées,” I said, as Théo grinned, rubbing his hands in glee. “We’re in the solarium,” I added.
“Eyes on,” Charles said, indicating that he had me in sight.