As rain splattered onto the roof, I started not to feel refreshed, but jut cold. My hair started to plaster itself to my face as I got up, hoping that, at least, this rain would conceal the mascara stains on my cheeks.
I walked the streets, looking for things to do. The problem with my lack of sleep was that I had nothing to do at whatever hour in the morning it was.
Food. My stomach and mind grumbled at the same time. I wasn’t sure when I had last eaten. Perhaps I had been wondering for hours. Reflecting that my life had been wondering for ever…
Good idea, eating is a great way to forget my problems, and I could do with a hot chocolate now I’m soaked.
A lot of French shops, surprisingly, weren’t actually open at that time, but many tourists and locals would pop in and out after travelling or for some snacks.
After wandering for a while, I stopped and looked into the window of a little café, open but practically empty. I saw a few older guys in there and the staff wandering around looking for attention, but there didn’t seem to be many women my age. Nevertheless, it was a solace from the pouring rain, and I was cold.
I stepped inside, and instantly a waitress glided over to me. I was seated at a table across from one of the men; he nodded, but (aside from a polite nod back) I ignored him. I wasn’t in the mood for conversation.
As I waited for one of the waitresses to get my order, a large burly man who had been sitting further inside the café approached my table. He didn’t seem friendly. Or rather, he seemed too friendly.
“Hullo. Are you married?” He asked me in slurred French.
I scowled. Perhaps getting soaked would have been a better choice than this.
"No, and I don't intend to be anytime soon," I replied, feeling my blood go cold with fear that he could cart me off to some backstreet, and no-one here would know me enough to do anything.
“Just kiss me," he drooled.
Eurgh, no thank you. I snapped up my hand and slapped one of his red cheeks, hard. I hoped that my false nails had scratched him; it would serve him right. But no, he became rude and furious, and suddenly I found myself against the wall, feet dangling in thin air.
I guess it’s the backstreets for me. I prepared myself for the worse.
But then, I was down on the ground. My throat ached but I had been released, which was nice. The floor was cold on my bare knees, and I was pretty sure that I was going to have bruises there, but all my attention for that moment was centred on the two men fighting over me. The man from the table that was next to mine had obviously leaped up at my ‘attacker’, and was now about to get an œil de noir for his troubles.
"Are you okay?" He asked as he dodged one tough fist, speaking fluent French, tinged with a soft English accent. He must have been British.
"I'm fine," I muttered back in French. I didn’t want him to worry more than he already was.
"What's your name?" He asked me.
I frowned, but eventually he persuaded me to tell him some unnecessary information.
"Je m’appelle Jemima."
The waitress and I leant over the unconscious man. She had managed to shove the pervert out the door soon after he had managed to knock out my rescuer. And not a minute too soon.
His eyes flicked open, long lashes framed pools of caring, mature blue, like the waters off the coast of Brittany.
“Are you okay?” I asked, this time in English.
The man groaned, putting a hand to his head.
“My head hurts.”
“You’ve had quite a fall, but I think I owe you a ‘thank you’, so merci.”
“You…are speaking English.”
“So are you.” I stuck my tongue out at him. Not very ladylike, but I wasn’t a lady, “You’re British, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, how could you tell?”
I laughed, helping him up.
“One, your accent; two, well, you dress funny…and you’ve seen what single men are like around these streets of Paris…”
“I’m…not single,” The man abruptly started to stumble on his words, “Well, I mean…I am…”
I raised my eyebrows, bemused, but he sighed, a deep sigh of resentment for the world and for himself. I’d heard it before.
“My wife died a year ago.”
Oh, ce n’est pas amusant.
“Je suis désolée… J’étais une idiote.“
“It doesn’t matter. Look, do you want me to walk you back to your place from here. There might be…others like him.”
I scowled, my eyes narrowing obviously under their lack of make-up.
“I’m twenty-three. I can look after myself,” I muttered, and then walked out the door, perhaps a little haughtily; but I didn’t like being treated like a child.
I’m not in the mood. I have a headache. I have to face part-time work at an Art gallery later…