Early the next morning, as I as getting dressed, I had trouble locating one of my shoes. Getting down on my hands and feet, I peered under the darkness of his bed and found it there. Reaching out for it, my hands came in contact with something else, something soft. I pulled it out.
It was a teddy bear. It had a missing eye and bits of fluff were poking out from various tears in its fur. I reached out my hand again and this time found the missing shoe.
Pulling on both shoes, I sat back down on the bed and held the teddy bear in my hands. Something about it made me nervous, though I didn’t know why.
Sebastian stirred and opened one eye to stare at me sleepily. “What are you doing up, ma petite? Come back to bed.”
“It’s morning, Sebastian, and you have to go to work soon. I should be leaving. Don’t worry, I can call a cab myself.”
“Don’t be silly,” he said, sitting up. Then he saw the teddy bear on my lap and froze.
Was it my imagination, or did he suddenly turn pale?
He cleared his throat. “Where did you find that?”
I tried to act natural. “Oh this? I found it under the bed when I was looking for my shoe. Is this your old teddy bear?”
I watched carefully as Sebastian’s face flooded with sudden color. He laughed, “Ha ha, I was worried you would think I was an imbecile for keeping that old jouet, mon petit ours.”
Looking down at the bear, I felt somehow relieved. “Oh no, I think it’s adorable,” I said, laughing with him. “I can just imagine you as a little boy.”
“Ha, I was a little terror. Just ask my mother. Now come back to bed so that I can remove some of that pesky clothing.”
I complied willingly.
It was only later the next day, Thursday, as I paid again for my ticket into the Louvre, and stood in front of the Mona Lisa again, staring into the black depths of her eyes again, that a tiny seed of doubt took root in my brain.
Why the strange reaction to my finding the teddy bear? Was he really that embarrassed?
There was more to this. Of that much I was sure.
I recounted yesterday’s events to my mother later that afternoon on the phone. Much of it was censored, of course, but I made sure to explain in minute detail Sebastian’s strange reaction to my finding a teddy bear under his bed.
“Emily, you probably embarrassed the guy. Put yourself in his shoes.”
For about the zillionth time, I wished my mother were here with me, sitting in front of me and soothing me with her dark gaze that brimmed with wisdom. Not unlike the Mona Lisa’s eyes, come to think of it…
“Did you hear me, Emily?”
“Hm? Sorry I was gathering wool for a second.”
“I said just to enjoy the time you have left. Don’t you come home Sunday night?”
“Will you be needing a ride home from the airport, hon?”
“No thanks, Mom. I’ll just take a cab.”
We spoke for a few more minutes before hanging up.
I took her advice and forced last night’s events out of my head. I took a long shower and got ready to go out. His phone call came at 6:30 PM.
“I managed to sneak a call from work,” he said.
“Can you get in trouble?” I asked.
I heard his laugh on the other end and closed my eyes, imagining him in the museum, in his element.
“No,” he replied. “I probably can’t, but still. Listen, the reason I called was because my friend invited me to a little party tonight. I’d like you to come with me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure I’m sure. Please say you’ll come. Whatever you’re wearing is fine. This is an easy crowd to impress, you’ll see.”
“Um…all right. What time will you be here?”
“As soon as I can tear myself away. I can’t wait to see you, Emily. I’ll be there by 7:30 at the latest. Au revoir, ma petite.”
I stayed holding the phone in my hands long after he’d hung up.