AN APRIL IN PARIS.
Always do what Miss Maxell tells you, Milly, your mother had said when you went to live in and work as a maid at the big house outside the small town. But even your mother would never have understood where that had led and as you sit with Miss Maxell outside a café in Paris musing on your mother’s words and taking in the sights and sounds around you a thrill of excitement flows through your veins. Even the clothes you wear you could never have afforded on your wages,from the hat she brought you down to the stockings on your feet inside the shoes. The underwear are so smooth, so soft and so expensive. Just like hers. You’d seen them, washed them, felt the texture of them. Now you wore some the same. You look around you. Paris. You can hardly believe you are actually here. When she said she was going to bring you to Paris you thought it was just an empty promise, a kind of bribe for sleeping with her. But no, you are actually here. The sights. The smells. The sounds. Let me do the talking, Miss Maxell had said. She spoke French; you didn’t. And when you hear her speaking to the waiter, you have to look at her because she seems like another, as if some other young woman had sat beside you and taken Miss Maxell’s place. Call me Millicent, she had told you. Miss Maxell sounds too formal and will give the game away if you are heard, she had told you in bed the night before you had left for Paris. Saying her name, saying Millicent, sounds odd. It sticks in your throat like a fish bone. Millicent, Millicent, you utter silently to yourself as Millicent orders the drinks and turns to you after the waiter has gone and smiles one of her smiles, and her hand touches yours on the table. Just for a few moments. The feel of it. Hers on yours. Here in Paris. Mother would not have understood this. Even when you lay in bed with Millicent in the night and you and she make love and you following her directions and sensing things you had never sensed before, you think of your mother and what she would have said had she seen all that and overheard the conversations. Poor Mother would have rolled over and died. Funny things, Mother’s words. Always do what Miss Maxell tells you, Milly. You did. You do. And here you are outside the café in Paris; you and Millicent and no one knows. No one here knows or cares or gives you a second look. No one. The waiter comes with the coffee and you sip it as Millicent has shown you. You have never tasted coffee like this. The sensation sits on your tongue. The taste buds are alive and want more. Millicent sips hers. You watch her hand holding the cup, the fingers, the way her mouth opens, the lifting of the cup, the lips touching, the swallow. The fact that you are here watching her seems so surreal, as if you are dreaming it all and will wake up and find yourself lying in bed looking up at the off-white ceiling of your small attic room at the big house. No, you are Paris. Here now. The sight of her beside you sipping, her eyes on you, she smiling and you smiling back, wondering where all this will lead you and where it could go, and as you sip the coffee you remember the first time she had you in her bed, and you so innocent, so unsure, and how she had taken you through the various sensations and feelings, and her soft voice there gently guiding and uttering words as if they were butter, as if you were melting in her arms and she in yours, and the utter thrill of each touch, and the sensations flowing through each nerve of your body, brought you suddenly alive, as if you had been dead and now were brought into being, like being reborn, and she kissing you and holding you, and you returning those kisses and embraces with equal passion and need, and now as she offers you a cigarette and you place it between your lips and she lights it with her silver cigarette lighter, you want to make love to her again and again, and she whispers those words leaning over the small table outside the café in Paris, and her eyes have that tint of blue in which you can see reflected two young women and they are you, dressed and looking just like you, and it is you, and you are alive and feeling and sensing, and the old you, the maid, the girl from the small town, seems far away, seems to be some other, some one you once knew, gradually leaving, waving, turning away and then Millicent sitting there, her lips parted, the smile, the gaze, the hands holding the coffee cup, the hat, the clothes, the woman, you and she and no one the wiser, no odd looks, no comments. Just the beginning, Millicent says, tapping your hand, the skin on skin, the words filling you, entering you, and all is new and fresh and reborn, and neither the waiter rushing around nor the other people around you sitting, talking, eating and drinking seem so alive, but half dead or dying, and you smile at her, Miss Maxell, Millicent, expecting nothing, wanting nothing more, than just this, this now, this moment, this being so alive, so utterly here, and Millicent saying near to you, I love you Milly, I love you, my dear.