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Archive for July, 2011

These words are from the preface to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855).

I knew a man whose life embodied these words. I called him Uncle Ted.

Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

Uncle Ted (2006) by Rozsa Gaston

a short memoir

Edward Hapgood Little (1927-2010)

Our next door neighbors on West Hill Drive, in West Hartford, Connecticut, where I grew up were the Littles. There were five Little children, Mr. and Mrs. Little, and their golden retriever, Penelope.

I called Mr. and Mrs. Little Uncle Ted and Aunt Sharon.  This is due to the fact that they accorded me privileges of a family member, such as barging into their house through the kitchen door without knocking. I don’t think any of the other neighborhood children enjoyed such a privilege. I lived with my grandparents next door as an only child, and Uncle Ted and Aunt Sharon more or less treated me as their sixth child, so that I could enjoy pretending the five little Littles were my brothers and sisters.

Uncle Ted in particular was the Little I most loved. He ended up being my role model for the ideal man, although I don’t think he ever knew this.

Uncle Ted was both gentle and genteel. He had a soft voice and referred to us children as “laddies and lassies.” I don’t think I ever heard Uncle Ted raise his voice to any of us. I certainly heard Aunt Sharon raise her voice to her children many times; mostly for good reason.

Uncle Ted worshiped Aunt Sharon.  There was a painting of her hanging in their living room, which he had commissioned on the occasion of their marriage, when she was 26 years old. She had fluffy, long golden hair and the bluest of blue eyes. Her cheeks looked like apples.  It turned out that their youngest child, Rebekah, ended up looking almost exactly like her mother, although all four of the older ones resembled their father more.

My grandmother would pooh pooh the fact that Uncle Ted was so solicitous of Aunt Sharon, but I knew this was only because she was envious of the attention he paid her unfailingly, even after five children and many years of marriage.  It was quite remarkable, and after six and a half years into my own marriage, I now realize how completely outstanding it was. Uncle Ted was the husband that every woman should be so lucky to find and keep forever.

Uncle Ted and Aunt Sharon would enjoy cocktail hour in their living room every evening. This was a WASP institution that I admired as a child and enjoy even more as an adult. They would have some cheese and crackers laid out on a platter, and would sit down and enjoy a drink together.  The cardinal rule of this cocktail hour was that the children were to behave and show good manners with quiet voices if they wished to join their parents in the living room at this time.

The Littles when they were little

This was a difficult feat to accomplish for five children all very close in age. There were two entries to the living room, one on either side of the living room couch upon which Uncle Ted and Aunt Sharon would sit.  The children would whoop, yell and rampage outside the living room, which their parents would pretend not to notice. However, the moment any one of them entered the living room, they slowed down, pulled out their drawing room manners, and practically tiptoed over to the coffee table to take a cracker or piece of cheese.  They would then politely slink out of the living room by the other entryway, and within seconds turn into wild Indians again, usually engaged in pursuit or torture of a younger sibling.

The Not-so-little Littles 2010

Occasionally one or more of the children would forget to put on their drawing room manners upon entering the living room, in which case Uncle Ted or Aunt Sharon would quickly remind them to adjust their attitude. Uncle Ted would say something like, “Slow down there, laddie, don’t disturb your mother,” in a quiet, gentle voice. Aunt Sharon would say something along the lines of, “Put that cracker down RIGHT THIS SECOND and go wash your hands before coming back!!”

While the children were rampaging about the rest of the house like whirling dervishes, Uncle Ted would get up every five seconds or so to tuck a throw or shawl around Aunt Sharon’s shoulders, or ask her if she were warm enough, cool enough, comfortable enough, or would like her drink refreshed. (In WASP households, one does not offer “another drink.”  One offers to “freshen” someone’s drink.) He would say, “Are you warm enough, darling?,” or “Can I get you something, darling?”

Uncle Ted was the first man I knew who called his wife “darling.” I had heard this expression by watching lots of old movies with my grandmother, but had not come across it in our particular household. Because of the fact that Uncle Ted called Aunt Sharon “darling,” I now refer to my own husband by the same term.  Our six year old daughter has picked it up too, and sometimes calls to her father saying, “darling” (as in “darling, come here, I need you to do something for me…”)

Uncle Ted’s version of “darling” was not a need-based term, but rather a beautiful present that he offered his wife again and again through all the years of their marriage. His terms of endearment and frequent solicitations were his way of saying thank you for being my wife and for having five of my children in the space of eight years. At the rate that Aunt Sharon had churned out children, she was entitled to a little solicitation which Uncle Ted generously gave her.

My grandmother loved both Uncle Ted and Aunt Sharon dearly. However she would sometimes imply that Uncle Ted was a bit of a pushover or a “softie.”  Even at a very young age, I could see through her criticisms and knew she was simply jealous of the fact that Uncle Ted took such good care of Aunt Sharon.  To this day I have always been attracted to gentle and genteel men, and I have Uncle Ted to thank for this.

Uncle Ted (2006) by Rozsa Gaston

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Rozsa’s weekly  book excerpt

Hot Fudge Sundaes

A children’s tale by Rozsa Gaston

My grandmother and I spent a lot of time shopping together when I was young. This can be exhausting, so to break up a long shopping trip, we would drop by the Friendly’s restaurant in our town, halfway through our travails. An excursion to Friendly’s would restore the spirits of both my grandmother and me after any shopping expedition, no matter how overly long or fruitless. After one hour at Friendly’s, both my grandmother and I were ready to face more stores again, having refreshed ourselves with the two most satisfying of all major food groups: sugar and fat.

Looks like a "Zsa Zsa"

There was a wealth of good reasons for why our Friendly’s visits were so restorative to both body and soul. There was the fact that my grandmother would allow me to spin endlessly on the bar stool I occupied at the counter near the cash register. As much as my grandmother ordinarily conducted herself like an army drill sergeant when monitoring my behavior both at home and in public places, she would deliberately not notice when I spun like a whirling dervish on a Friendly’s bar stool.  She would sometimes indulge me in bad behavior that I suspect she secretly would have liked to be doing herself.

My grandmother had a touch of flamboyance to temper her strict standards of propriety, which would account for why she had given me the nickname of “Zsa Zsa” when I came to live with her at the age of 14 months.  You don’t nickname your granddaughter “Zsa Zsa” if you think she’s a shrinking violet, or if you’re one yourself.

A trip to Friendly’s afforded my grandmother a chance to get around the permanent diet she was on, in the most innocent manner. She would suggest I order French fries with my cheeseburger, although I didn’t really like French fries, a fact she had known for my entire life. However, we both kept the secret of who those French fries were really for so as not to spoil our convivial mood.

When the fries arrived, my grandmother would then eat one here and another there until she had managed to eat them all, while I worked on my cheeseburger; during which time I devoted most of my efforts to getting the ketchup out of the bottle. She would then congratulate herself for having stayed on her diet by only ordering a grilled cheese sandwich with sugarless iced tea.

After such exceptional Calvinist self-restraint, my grandmother felt she deserved a small reward. At the end of our meal, the waitress would come over to see if we would like anything else.

Afternoon tea offering at the inn at Gorges de Pennafort, Provence

“Zsa Zsa, would you like to order a little dessert?” my grandmother would ask.

“Yeah. I think I’ll get a hot fudge sundae.”

“Oh Lord, a hot fudge sundae: that sounds good! Do you mind if I have a bite of yours?”

“NOOO, Mom!!” ( I called my grandmother “Mom,” as I lived with her and my grandfather.) “I mean yes, I WOULD mind. I want one all for myself.”

My grandmother would then hem and haw and look to the waitress for guidance. The waitress would inevitably suggest that she order her own hot fudge sundae. My grandmother would then go into a fake southern accent, and pointing to her tummy would say, “Oh dear, do you think I really should?” looking for all the world like someone who wants desperately to be lied to.

The waitress would respond, “Sure, why not? You can afford it!”

My grandmother would say, “Oh sugar, do you really think so? I used to have a 23- inch waist.” My grandmother had spent a few years of her youth in the south and would frequently use southern terms of endearment when addressing waiters, store clerks or hired help. These terms of endearment never failed to charm anyone outside of our immediate family circle.

I too used to have a 23-inch waist, back when I was 11 years old. My grandmother, however, was well past the age when possessing a 23- inch waist would mean anything other than wasting away from a terminal illness. Therefore, I would jump in and say, “Mom, you don’t need to worry about that. Just get your own hot fudge sundae!”

This was one time when I could boss my grandmother around, knowing full well that she needed me to order her to get a hot fudge sundae. Otherwise, she would feel guilty about having deliberately gone off her diet.

This particular food item was at the top of both of our lists of things to eat that sent us straight to heaven. If I showed any sign of not being able to finish every spoonful of my sundae, my grandmother would admonish me.

“Zsa Zsa, you should finish your ice cream. You know children are starving to death in Armenia.”

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that children had starved to death in Armenia a full half century before I was born.

Those trips to Friendly’s remain pleasant memories of happy times my grandmother and I spent together. I now realize that when people are on diets, they need other people around to help them live a little every once in a while.

When I myself reach the ripe old age of 60 or so, I intend to allow any relative of mine under the age of twelve to knock me off whatever diet I’m on, if the mood suggests. There is no reason on earth to forego a hot fudge sundae every once in a while.

Hot Fudge Sundaes (2006) by Rozsa Gaston

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Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

School Days

A short memoir by Rozsa Gaston

From kindergarten through eighth grade, I attended school within walking distance from my home, about a 15 minute walk. I was raised by my grandparents, who held very conservative values.  My grandmother’s idea of an ideal school outfit for my first day of fourth grade was a two-piece navy blue suit with jacket and pleated skirt, white bobby socks, black patent leather shoes and matching short white gloves.  I wore a white straw hat too, but thankfully just for the photograph she snapped of me on our front walk right before we set off.

First day of fourth grade

As soon as I arrived at school, I could see my blue suit wasn’t going to work. The other girls were wearing flowered dresses with smocking, or casual seersucker outfits. Nobody was wearing a suit. The boys had on pants they could play in and plaid or striped shirts in bold colors. I looked like Madeline from the orphanage in Paris wandering into a Norman Rockwell painting.

After a time, I was allowed to walk to school by myself. We lived in a very safe town and security issues were not high on our list of things to worry about. My grandparents mostly worried about the cold war, fighting communism and whether the pH balance was right in our backyard pool. The pool stayed up until the end of September, at which point it was covered with its winter tarp and my grandmother began worrying about what my Halloween costume would be for that year. We were not poor and my grandparents had no one else to focus on other than me, so I led a very pampered existence. If the dinner menu was not yet decided, and I wanted lamp chops, we had lamb chops.  I was the mediator and tie-breaker in all family decisions to be made. However, neither of my grandparents sided with me when it came to fashion, so I had to come up with my own survival strategies not to be judged a nerd by my peers.

After a short time in elementary school I realized that my grandmother’s idea of how young ladies should dress and the way girls actually dressed were worlds apart. The first days of the Flower Power revolution were upon us, unheeded by my grandparents. My grandfather had served in the British army as a doctor in World War I and my grandmother had counted Lillian Gish and the Gibson Girls as her idols as a young girl growing up.

One of these women is a former fashion model

My grandmother herself was an impeccable dresser. A former fashion model, if anyone knew how to turn out an ankle, she did.  She carried herself ramrod straight, and ensured my own military posture by frequent prods to my lower back with her walking cane on our evening walks. I often practiced walking across her bedroom with a telephone book on my head. My grandmother wished to ensure my future as an eligible young lady with regal bearing. I enjoyed imagining I was one of the scantily dressed African women balancing food baskets on their heads who were occasionally featured in National Geographic magazines lying around the house.

My grandmother’s foundational garments were worthy of mention in military history books. It appeared that most weaponry would not be capable of piercing the thick elastic fabric which encased and shaped her already shapely lower carriage. Once my grandmother got her girdle on, she was formidable. Her long line bras were impressive as well, with the total result transforming her into an older version of Rosalind Russell.

Foundational garments have their effect

These foundational garments had been tossed on the rubbish heap of history by most American women under the age of 30 by the time I was a schoolgirl. Not only were women no longer wearing long line, bullet-coned bras, but they weren’t wearing bras at all. My grandmother was appalled. God only knows what my grandfather thought, but every once in a while he’d drop a wry comment when he and I passed a shapely adult woman.

“Nice tillies,” he’d say quietly, more or less to himself. I never asked him what that meant because somehow I already knew from a very young age.

For reasons not yet fully understood to me, it appeared that compliments were most often bestowed by those outside of one’s immediate family circle. Our neighbor, Ted Little, the father of five children and a full generation younger than my grandmother, never quite got over the fine figure she cut as she marched around the drive on one of her walks. When I was older and my grandmother had passed on, Uncle Ted would remark on every occasion we met that “your grandmother was a fine-figured woman.” He didn’t mean for her age. He just meant she was. Those foundational garments had really had their effect.

Once I began walking to school on my own, I developed a routine for transforming myself from a late 19th century Edwardian girl to a 20th century budding hippie chick. We lived on a horseshoe-shaped road called West Hill Drive. Cornelius Vanderbilt once owned the entire drive, erecting one large mansion at one end. But something went wrong with his marriage at the time, and his house mysteriously burned down during divorce proceedings. The property was subsequently  sold and divided into 25 lots, one of which had our house built on it.

At one end of the horseshoe shaped drive was a copse of trees and bushes. At the age of seven or eight, it seemed like a small forest to me.

On my way to school in the mornings, I would set off from our house, waving goodbye to my grandmother, then walk down the hill toward the mini-forest, where she could no longer see me. There I would duck behind a bush and quickly adjust my skirt waistband, rolling it up two or three times so that my skirt length was now well above my kneecaps.  I would then take off the velveteen bow or bows my grandmother had carefully placed in my hair; and bending over from the waist, I’d shake my hair until it flared out wildly in all directions.

I had been granted ideal hair for the era of the flower child. Not only did my hair frizz in just about any weather, but it waved and flared out at the slightest provocation.   Each weekday morning I was pleased to provoke it until I looked like a miniature version of the female lead in the movie and Broadway musical Hair by the time I arrived at school.

The beaded choker

I also had a few pieces of jewelry which I would hide in my pocket on my way out the door. There was one beaded choker in particular that I would put on in my forest dressing room which I thought made me look like a teenager. I wore it in my sixth grade class photo. When my grandmother saw the photo, she remarked that she’d never this piece of jewelry before. I told her I’d borrowed it from my best friend, Susan Sacks.

I led a double life of fashion up until ninth grade. At that point, I was shipped off to a private girls’ school in a neighboring town, where I was able to spend the entire 45 minute bus ride adjusting my wardrobe and toilette to arrive at school looking like a paragon of Flower Power chic. I’m not sure if my grandmother ever caught on to the wardrobe changes I made, but I have a feeling she knew what was going on.   By that time it was 1972, and even my grandparents were aware that the Age of Aquarius had arrived.

Their Aquarian granddaughter succeeded in outfoxing them until getting shipped up to her aunt and uncle’s home in Maine for the remainder of her high school years. At that point, my cousins and I spent our weekends tie dying tee-shirts and sewing Indian print bedspreads into long skirts and peasant blouses which we wore to school. My grandparents appeared not to notice these fashion statements when we dropped by their house on the occasional visit back to Connecticut. They simply ignored the entire social and cultural atmosphere of the late 1960s and ‘70s. I can’t blame them and will probably do the same when my own grandchildren come along. There’s only so much change most people can take in one lifetime.

School Days by Rozsa Gaston

What glass of wine would you sip while contemplating this story?

In honor of my grandmother, Helen Clarke Clason (pictured above – you can guess which one), I would go with a thimbleful of pink Dubonnet.  This sweet, wine-based aperitif was my grandmother’s poison of choice on Sunday evenings settling down with the Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1960s. She would pour herself a crystal-cut wineglass-ful, add some ice, then pour a thimbleful for me  in a delicate cognac glass.  Although not a wine connoissieur, my grandmother did not lack for style.  Brava, Helen.

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Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

Black Cows at Sunset

A children’s tale by Rozsa Gaston

The thing Tara Reed liked best about the home she grew up in was the pool.  It wasn’t actually an in-ground pool, but a large turquoise-colored above-ground one.  It was the focal point of the backyard.

Tara had been raised by her maternal grandparents in West Hartford, Connecticut. At the age of 14 months she had come to live with them in their big eleven room house on a horseshoe-shaped road called West Hill Drive.

Summers on West Hill Drive revolved around swimming in and hanging out at her grandparents’ pool. There were many neighborhood children who came over to use the pool while their parents sat on the back porch terrace and chatted with Tara’s grandmother. Her grandfather would join them in the evenings when he came home from work, but being a man of few words, he would mostly trim the rose bushes and hedges, and check chlorine levels in the pool, rather than sit out on the terrace with whoever was visiting at the time.

Tara especially liked late afternoons and early evenings in the summertime, when their neighbors had gone home for dinner, and her grandmother would turn to her and ask if she’d like a black cow.  This was a root beer soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. The ice cream would make the soda fizz and develop a nice cream colored layer on top that she would have to quickly drink the minute her grandmother put the root beer in, before it spilled over the side of the glass.  It was a dramatic drink, but easy to make — perfect for summertime refreshment.

Tara and her grandmother would take their black cows out onto the patio overlooking the pool, where they then stretched out side by side on turquoise-colored chaise longues and watched the sun set over Talbot Mountain.

There was a convent behind their property called Mount Saint Joseph. It was a peaceful place, with acres of grounds surrounding the main building. Statues of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus and St. Francis with a small stone bird on his outstretched hand stood in semi-hidden spots on the property.  Tara and the neighborhood kids knew where all the statues stood and would visit from time to time.  The nuns wore black habits with white trim, which Tara thought looked really sharp.

The nuns didn’t spend much time outside on the convent grounds, which afforded Tara and her grandparents the illusion of the convent’s well-manicured back lawns and their own blending into one expanse of rolling grass stretching down a gentle hill towards the west.  If you kept going for ten miles, you’d reach Talbot Mountain, behind which the sun went to sleep every evening.

Tara loved watching the sun begin its march towards Talbot Mountain in the late afternoons in summer. She knew the best time of day had come when her shadow on the patio got longer and longer until it looked like a tall dancer in a pantomime. Her grandmother would look at her own shadow and laugh, saying, “You know, Tara, this is the only time I’m ever going to look this skinny.”  She would always start to relax at this time of the day, which is another reason Tara liked it best.

There was a silver ash tree on the grounds of the convent, just on the other side of the hedge marking the border of their property that Tara and her grandmother particularly admired.  This tall, slender and elegant tree was a beautiful sight in the setting sun.  The leaves of the ash tree appeared to be green on top with silver underbellies. When the wind blew, the leaves shimmered and waved in the breeze, like silver and diamond gems. The tree looked to Tara like the Mother Superior of the convent, dressed to go out to the opera for the evening.  It didn’t occur to her, when she was a girl, that a nun wouldn’t wear a lot of jewelry and most likely would not be attending the opera on any evening.

Tara’s grandmother, whom she called “Mom,” and she would dreamily stare at the silver ash tree while basking in the late afternoon sun. You might say they were having “a religious moment.”

Those times together watching the shadows lengthen and the silver ash tree dance in the setting sun were some of the best moments of Tara’s childhood.  Her grandmother would be at peace, and wouldn’t talk much.  Her voice would become soft and melodious, which at other times of the day it frequently was not.  She and Tara would play a game where they looked up at the clouds and tried to decide which animals they saw in them.

Tara felt as if she was looking at heaven when she looked up at the clouds with her.  She also felt surrounded by heaven, basking in the sun, safe and snug with her grandmother, knowing she was at peace and feeling her love for Tara. Those moments when her grandmother was serene and calm were quite rare, but when they came, Tara felt that they were far more significant than all the moments filling the rest of the day when her grandmother was busy making plans and making sure they were carried out exactly the way she wanted them to be.  Time literally slowed down for both of them when they shared those quiet summer late afternoons on the backyard patio.

Thinking back on those times in later years, Tara wondered if God Himself had been there with them, enjoying the sunset and letting them know that His love for them was the same love they had for each other.  When Tara was older, during the winter she turned 30, her grandmother died.   She was very sad for awhile.  Terrible moments would come at any time of the day or night when she realized she would never see her grandmother again; but every time this happened, within seconds, good memories of times with her grandmother came flooding into her mind, and she would feel happy again. It was as if God’s rescue squad had arrived to comfort her and help her remember all the details of their happy times together.

The house on West Hill Drive

After that winter passed, spring came and Tara noticed, for the very first time, how quickly the blossoms on the trees outside her house came to life, showed off their beautiful colors and fragrance, then turned green. Once they had turned green, she could still remember how pretty they had been and how good they had smelled. For the first time, she realized that although the blossoms and their fragrance were gone, no one could take away Tara’s memory of how beautiful they had been.  In the same way, she began to realize that no one could ever take away her memories of those great times she and her grandmother had spent out by the pool with their black cows.   When she figured this out, the sadness she had felt inside began to go away.  Tara realized that although she did not have her grandmother around anymore, she was surrounded by memories of their times together and these memories were hers to keep forever.

Helen Clarke Clason and granddaughter

The first summer after Tara’s grandmother died, Tara’s daughter, Danielle, turned four. Tara decided to teach her own daughter how to make a black cow and then drink one together with her at sunset while they looked for animals in the sky.  When they did this, Tara told Danielle to close her eyes, squeeze them very tight, and ask God to tell her great grandma to come to the section of the sky where she was looking when she opened her eyes.

They both squeezed their eyes shut and asked God to send grandma over there right away. They then opened their eyes and looked up. At that moment, a big fluffy white cloud passed over their heads. Tara told Danielle that her great grandmother was watching them from behind that cloud, and that one day they would be able to see her again. Meanwhile, grandma wanted them to watch a lot of sunsets together while drinking black cows.

Black Cows at Sunset (2006) by Rozsa Gaston

What glass of wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

In honor of my grandmother, Helen Clarke Clason, I would forego wine and have a black cow instead.

Black Cow Recipe: one glass of ice cold root beer with one scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy, dear reader, and stay playful.

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Side of a building, Brussels, Belgium

What is allure? I invite you to comment, playful reader.

What glass of wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

Most certainly I’d go with white to match the ephemeral, ineluctable mood of allure. Something light, but with a bite. Perhaps a 2009 Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s South Island.  Light and aromatic, it pervades without overwhelming —  a lot like allure.   Around $28-29 a bottle.

Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

From Paris Adieu (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

Over the din of the crowd a sharp male voice stood out. “The wisdom of life, my friend?”  The accent was cultured, more continental than French, although it was that too.  Something belonging to someone well-traveled.

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. For example — speaking with you now.” A raucous laugh ensued.

Now that was rude. I swiveled my head to scan over Scott’s shoulder in search of the voice’s owner. What kind of brazen boor would say such a thing?  He had to be either drunk, completely ill-mannered or talking to his younger brother.

After a moment I located him. Tall and brash, a man with a high forehead and golden skin tossed back longish, auburn hair. Dashing but raffish, clearly he would take no prisoners in a battle of wits.

I willed him to look my way.

The face turned and a mobile, full mouth rearranged itself the second he saw me.

I pretended to look beyond him.  Fortunately the man who’d greeted me at the door stood behind him chatting with a group of gayish, bookish looking types.

“Sa-a-a-a-m,” I called out, in my best Audrey Hepburn impression. I might not look like her, but I’d watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” so many times I was confident I could channel her when the occasion arose.  Pointing my small, slightly upturned nose toward the ceiling, I moved in Sam’s direction, brushing past the reddish-haired barbarian as I passed. I made sure not to give him the tiniest glance.

He took the bait.

A low growl followed as I swished past. It was as if the air rumbled  between us, making the hair stand up on my arms.

The man called Sam looked pleased but slightly baffled as I approached.

“What a delightful party,” I sang out as I broke into his circle of friends, all with manicured hands and eyebrows to match carefully mannered expressions. Gay – the lot of them, I’d surmise. Unlike the un-caged lion a few paces behind me.

“Thank you. Let me introduce you to Trevor, Henry and Jean-Paul,” he offered graciously, clearly unsure of my name.

“How darling to meet you.  I’m Ava from New York,” I said, loud enough for anyone in the general area to hear.

“And what brings Ava from New York to Paris?” a voice that was all angles rang out behind me. Sharp as a knife, it crackled with testosterone.

I turned slowly. No need to hurry. Something told me whatever I was about to face would be part of my very near future.

“And what brings you to Paris?” I asked back.  He was way too uncivilized to be a Parisian.

“I live here.” he answered, in a voice that sounded like a challenge.

I shivered, then braced myself.

“”But you’re not from here, are you?” It was a presumptuous guess; as presumptuous as his greenish-blue eyes, now roving over me, insolent and unapologetic.

The floor cleared on both sides, as if a duel were about to take place.

“Entirely correct. I’m from somewhere else,” he answered maddeningly.

“And where would that be?” I asked.

“Where would you like me to be from? Take your pick. I’m yours to serve.”  He bowed, but not before raking me again with twinkling blue-green eyes that reminded me of my father’s. Nothing else about him did.

“You mean you’re at my service?”  He must have misspoke.

“No. You’re at mine.” His eyes gleamed.

What cheek.

“Well thanks, but no thanks.” I turned to speak with the gay contingent but they had already faded into another group. Feeling my face flame I searched for Sam or anyone else who looked safe.  Where was Scott from Omaha now that I needed him?

“Thanks, but thanks you mean,” he corrected.

“I didn’t say that.”  This time I bared my teeth as I looked at him.

“No you didn’t, but that’s what you meant.”  His laughing eyes continued their sweep over my form.

“I think I know what I meant,” I hissed.

“I think I know what you meant too,” he hissed back.  His English was accented, but perfect.

This time I couldn’t control the color that shot into my face and neck.

“You look nice in red,” he whispered.

“I’m wearing blue,”  I looked down just to make sure.  Whatever self-possession I’d faked from the moment I’d walked into the party was now in a puddle on the floor in front of me.

“I meant your blush,” he teased.

“I think I know what you meant,” I countered, wondering how long I could keep this up. Conversations with him would be exhausting. We’d need to find something else to do.  My racing blood told me it wouldn’t be a problem.

From Paris Adieu (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

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