Newlywed, Hannah, was peering in the storefront window, her delighted visage reflected back to her through the glass. For the last two hours, she and Lou had visited a dozen stores just like this one and Lou had had enough.
“Oh, honey, look,” exclaimed Hannah, “it’s an old timey boulangerie. Let’s go in.”
Lou hadn’t envisioned his honeymoon being quite like this. Despite the months’ long planning and fervent itinerary-making by his young fiancée, he still hadn’t counted on so much of their time being spent outside of the honeymoon suite. His pleas earlier this morning for a quiet day of rest with promises of touristy resumption tomorrow had fallen on deaf ears. There will be plenty of time for rest tonight, Hannah had said. I only get one honeymoon, she’d pouted. Lou had tried to insist, he’d joked about his advanced years, but Hannah was having none of it. In fact, Lou recalled, her resistance to his insistence bordered on frenzied.
Standing on the sidewalk now, outside the pastry shop, the headache Lou had been fighting off all day was only getting worse. He just wanted to go back to the hotel and take a nap. But he knew that to protest would make things worse for himself. Hannah would put on her petulant child face. The silent treatment would inevitably ensue. So, he simply shrugged and followed Hannah into the shop.
The door jangled as it opened, the wood-planked floors creaked underfoot. Hannah went directly to the showcase where trays of cookies, tarts, and similar sweets were aligned on tiered shelves.
“Oh my god, Lou, look at this. So many things to choose from.” Hannah was entranced. Lou hung back a bit, hoping for somewhere to sit down. A small chair, a window seat.
The plump middle-aged woman behind the counter approached Hannah. “Bonjour, madame. Ca va?” she enquired.
“Oui, oui, ca va!” responded Hannah with her trademark over-enthusiasm. The pitch of her speech was like a stabbing icepick to Lou’s head.
“Do you speak English? I’m afraid my French isn’t very good,” Hannah explained, eyes downcast in false humility.
“Oui, madame, yes. What may I serve you today?”
Hannah scanned the treats behind the glass and turned to Lou. “Honey? What should we get? I’m thinking chocolate croissants at the very least.”
Before Lou had a chance to respond, Hannah turned back to the server and was pointing out her favourites. Lou noticed that the woman looked inquisitively past Hannah to where he was leaning against the door frame. He really didn’t want anything, and he knew it was pointless to interrupt Hannah once she got going on something. Besides, the headache was getting worse and the thought of putting anything into his stomach brought on a wave of nausea. Still, it was kind of the shopkeeper to include him, so he politely shook his head, no.
As the woman placed items into a paper bag, Hannah made small talk. “That’s my husband, Lou, the shy one,” she giggled. “We just got married. We’re here on our honeymoon.” The woman avoided looking at Hannah as she half-glanced at Lou. She seemed embarrassed and Lou assumed this was on his account. Clearly, Hannah was a woman who was used to getting her own way and perhaps the shopkeeper felt Lou’s discomfiture. Sure, it was old-fashioned to take pity on a seemingly emasculated male but, to be honest, Lou rather appreciated it.
“Your honeymoon?” asked the woman. “Over there, that is your husband?” She looked directly at him only it seemed, also, that she looked past him.
“Yes, that’s right,” responded Hannah, a little puzzled by the woman’s tone. “Oh, I see,” she said, “yes, he is a bit older than me. About twenty years, if you must know, but I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” Hannah’s voice grew quiet. A tell-tale sign that a storm was brewing within.
The woman apologized for having caused any offense, wished Hannah and Lou a bonne journée and quickly made for the back of the store. Lou felt badly for her. He could see that she was only trying to be polite. If he were feeling more like himself, he might have intervened on her behalf. But right now, the urge to lie down was pressing in.
“Well, that was rude,” said Hannah as they exited the store. “Imagine her passing judgement like that.”
Lou didn’t know what to say. Despite the age difference, Hannah had seen something in him and jumped at the chance to marry. He was just so grateful to have such a vibrant woman for his wife that he hadn’t dwelled on the “red flags” his sister, Jean, had been so willing to point out.
“She’s after your money, Lou. Can’t you see that? No offense but you aren’t exactly Tom Cruise. One of these days, you’re going to have to push back.”
Finally, Hannah and Lou were headed back to their hotel. Lou wanted to offer to carry Hannah’s bags. It was the gentlemanly thing to do but the throbbing in his head was worse than ever.
Back at the hotel, Hannah pushed open the door to their honeymoon suite and dropped her bags on the chair. She kicked off her heels and threw her jacket on the bed. On her way to the kitchenette, she stepped over Lou’s inconveniently situated lifeless body, nimbly avoiding the pool of coagulated blood from his open head wound.
“Lou, I’m going to pour us a nice cold drink and maybe we can tuck into one or two of those lovely buns we bought,” Hannah called out. She cracked out some ice cubes from the tray into two tall glasses and filled them with some iced tea.
“Best honeymoon ever, darling,” said Hannah as she raised her glass in Lou’s direction.
Dana Webster has been writing off and on for most of her life but has only begun to find her stride in the last year and a half. You can subscribe to her observational blog at www.danawebster.com
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