He grabbed hold of my wrist. “No, don’t leave, Emily. You look upset. May I help you?”
I wrenched free of his grasp. “You -- You want to help me? If you’d really wanted to help me, you would have told me that Sebastian has a wife and child!”
I’d succeeded in stunning Victoire silent. But not for long.
“Yes, you are in the right. He has child. He has wife. But it’s not what you think.”
I laughed, the sound of it hollow even to my own ears.
He continued, “Sebastian and Hélène, they have the separation not long after Julie’s birth. So you see, he is free to be with you, non?”
“Non!” I spat back at him. “Because he should have told me about his little family in the first place! And for being separated, they sure looked cozy back there in the museum!”
Victoire’s eyebrows shot up. “I don't understand. What is meaning of this word, ‘cozy’?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter! It’s obvious that he has a beautiful life here with his wife and child, and I’m just an intruder. It’s just as well I find out now. I’m leaving on Sunday, anyhow.”
Victoire tried to convince me otherwise, but my mind was made up. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and said something in French that sounded like, “I did everything I could.”
Not nearly, I felt like replying, but I didn’t know how to say it in French, and besides, he did offer to pay for a cab back to my hotel so I didn’t want to be overly rude.
Back at the hotel, I didn’t even bother checking at the front desk to see if I had any messages. I didn’t feel like speaking with anyone. I trudged up to the stairs to my door and listlessly rummaged through my purse for the key. It slipped through my fingers and fell to the carpeted floor.
As I reached down to pick the key up, another hand was already there, picking it up for me. I looked up and saw Sebastian standing there.
“Give me my key, please,” I said, trying to inject as much ice into my voice as possible.
“Only if you let me explain what happened today.”
“There’s nothing you can say that can explain what I saw, Sebastian. Victoire already tried.”
“Victoire? But when?”
“I ran into him after I left the Orsay museum. He’s already argued your case for you, so you don’t have to go through the trouble. Now give me my key.”
I held out my hand and waited. Sebastian dropped his head and sighed.
“Forgive me. I should have been honest with you from the beginning. God was trying to tell me something when you found Julie’s bear under my bed, but I didn’t want to listen. I was afraid of scaring you away, and we had so little time together…”
Looking up again, he continued, “But you must believe me when I tell you there has been no one else in my life for a long, long time. There was no one when I met you, and now there is only you.”
I looked at his earnest expression.
“Victoire was right. You do have a silver tongue. You make everything sound good, even lies. Well, I’m through listening. If you don’t give me the key I’m going to start yelling.”
For one endless minute, we stared at each other wordlessly. Then he placed the key on my waiting palm and left.