“Composed by Olivia Giacobetti, En Passant is an impressionistic fragrance, an evocation of Doisneau’s Paris.” How fitting. The legendary photographer of the 1950’s, whose photographs are emblematic of the City of Light, makes a cameo appearance in today’s brief but telling chapter.
20. En Passant
Leslie was pleased when she received an email message from Peter suggesting they meet at Wynken de Worde. Perhaps he had come to his senses. True, if the little Gooden had lashed out at him after Leslie’s revelations, he might be disgruntled and in need of soothing. That could be easily arranged— a good dinner of veal with a fine Haut-Médoc, a relaxing session in bed. Poor Peter had suffered a double disappointment, between his failure to seduce la Gooden, and his inexplicable infatuation. Leslie was prepared to be generous.
She had given careful thought to the question of whether to intervene between him and Cynthia. On the one hand, Peter would likely be angered, given his current state of folie. On the other, he was in over his head. She was acting in his best interests; this he would see soon enough, once the madness was past. In the meantime, she wished to ensure that la Gooden learned the facts. She, Leslie, was to be deprived of her plaisir because Peter had bungled things? Alors. She had delivered the news herself, in order to witness the delicious reaction firsthand.
Although Cynthia’s facial expressions and blushes had revealed her emotional response, Leslie was grudgingly impressed by the way she handled the situation. She possessed far more backbone than Leslie expected. From their previous acquaintance, it had always appeared that la Gooden was a soft, tender creature, easily wounded and, like many an américaine, untrained at controlling her emotions in pursuit of a higher goal.
When she arrived at the café, Peter was waiting. He rose as she reached the table and helped settle her into a chair as usual, but he didn’t lean in to identify her fragrance, nor did he greet her with a pet name. Small signs, but noticeable ones. He was angry.
“I’ve been reading about Cleopatra,” he said. “Did you know that she tested poisons on prisoners and slaves, and that she and Antony found their agonies entertaining?”
“Non,” she answered. “That, I have never heard.” She gave him a searching look. “Are you certain you have your facts straight?”
“Oh yes.” Peter considered her silently for a moment. He waved away the approaching server, and then said, “I always knew you were a bit of a snake, Leslie, but I never realized how venomous you are.”
“Did you come here to lecture me?” she asked coolly.
“No. I came here to thank you.”
She waited for him to continue. For the first time in their fourteen-year relationship, she found herself uncertain. A fine tendril of fear unwound itself within her. What, truly, were her own feelings for Peter?
“If it weren’t for you, I might never have met her,” he said. He set a plastic ziploc bag on the small bistro table between them. It contained all her gifts to him. Three pairs of cufflinks, one set shaped like serpents’ heads in green enamel with citrine eyes. A gold ID bracelet with heavy links. The Cartier watch that had belonged to her father. Even the CD’s of Stéphane Grappelli, and the little Taschen book of black and white photographs by Doisneau.
Leslie raised her eyes to his, understanding at last that she had made a terrible mistake.
Peter met her gaze, his expression grim as he rose to leave. “Find yourself another Antony.”
Copyright 2014 by Linnet Moss
Notes: the café Wynken de Worde is named after one of the first English printers (d. 1534) who worked with William Caxton and was the first to set up a print shop on Fleet Street in London. An appropriate name for a bookshop, I thought 🙂
Although Leslie seems to have received her comeuppance (wonderful word, that), this is not the last we will see of her.
I promise much longer chapter next week!