“Do you believe in soul mates?” Elie asks, kissing a slow line along Gaspard’s back, from one curve of shoulder to the other. Resting his chin on Gaspard’s shoulder, he whispers in French, “Someone who’s your other half?”
The words are a promise, a touchstone to that first day, to their first meeting. The day Gaspard walked into the shop and tilted Elie's life onto its side and opened his world to new opportunities, ones he'd never have thought possible.
Elie thinks of that day often. If he had understood what Gaspard was saying to him--the almost-magical pull that made Gaspard linger behind to talk to him, the stilted attempts to engage him in conversation about music (Charlie Parker. Kurt Cobain.), the talk about soul mates -- he’s not certain he wouldn’t have written him off as a quirk. People didn’t just walk up to a stranger and all but propose, life wasn’t a fairytale and things like that just didn’t happen, especially to Elie. Especially if the other person looked like Gaspard -- a walking, talking sex on two legs, as his aunt would have said, with his hair falling into his eyes and his tank top and leather jacket, leaning in across the table as Elie smoked his cigarette and stared. Elie’s first thought, perhaps his only thought, would be that this man was just trying to have some fun while Christian and Marianne discussed the perfect shade of red.
But he hadn’t understood. He’d known only a handful of the words that Gaspard was saying, and even those words had slipped through his mind like quicksilver as his attention was focused on Gaspard’s lips. The rise of his adam’s apple. The curves of his bicep and pecs. How Gaspard looked at him through the fall of his hair and asked him if he liked jazz.
And then, there had been the phone number. That simple slip of paper that Elie could have easily crumpled in his hand and when Christian had asked what they’d discussed, he could have tossed the scrap of paper to the ground as he admitted he had no idea what had just happened.
But he didn’t. He couldn’t. His mouth had been dry and the feeling that he’d missed something was so strong, pressing at his chest that he took off without another thought, searching for the man whose name he didn’t know, who’d said god knows what to him, and had sent Elie’s world askew.
He’d learn later, when they were safely stretched out together on Elie’s bed, that he’d run the wrong way from the shop, delaying their reunion by nearly an hour.
Elie doesn’t like to think what would have happened had he not found them--had not spotted Gaspard and Marianne at the cafe--but whenever he’s confessed this to Gaspard, the other man will smile and touch his cheek and reassure him that he was meant to find him. And even though ‘You, hey!’ wasn't the most romantic of decorations for a second meeting, it had worked.
And then it was Elie’s turn to slide into a chair across from Gaspard and start talking, to confess he had no idea what Gaspard said to him and that even though he had no idea the words Gaspard had used, something happened. When Gaspard opened his mouth to speak Elie pushed on, grabbing the arm of a passing waiter and asking if he spoke English, asking him to translate his words.
Marianne took that opportunity to quietly slip away. Elie didn’t even notice until much later.
“At first I didn’t realize you were talking to me. And by the time I knew, I was already lost. I didn’t know what you were saying, but I think I know now, because I felt it too. When I asked you for the light, when you leaned in, just having you that close to me felt as though I was complete. It felt right, and I didn’t realize that until you’d left and I felt… lost.”
Elie waited for the waiter to translate, watching Gaspard’s face as he did. The smile on his face only grew, and when he pushed his hair out of his eyes, Elie could see the look in Gaspard’s eyes that let him know he’d understood.
With a nod, Gaspard dismissed the waiter and he stood, walking around the small table to Elie and offering his hand. “If I had known you spoke English, I would have… But that’s in the past now.”
Elie accepted Gaspard’s hand as he stood up from his chair, and he felt a shy smile twitch has his mouth as Gaspard’s fingers laced with his.
“I’m Elie,” he said, realizing that formal introductions hadn’t yet been made.
“Elie,” Gaspard echoed, touching his cheek with his free hand. “Gaspard.”
And then they leaned in and kissed.
“Elie,” Gaspard had whispered, his lips brushing against Elie’s ear. "Do you believe in soul mates?"
”Do you believe in soul mates? Someone who’s your other half?”
Elie presses a kiss just behind Gaspard’s ear as he waits for Gaspard’s answer. Just outside their window there’s a couple having an argument, Elie tightens his arms around Gaspard’s waist.
When it quickly became clear that Elie’s temporary stay in Paris was going to become permanent, Christian offered him an apprenticeship at, and an apartment over, the print shop. The day he moved in, Gaspard arrived at his door with a framed copy of the print from that fateful day--a housewarming gift from Marianne--and a change of clothes. They haven’t spent a night apart since.
There have been some changes over the years--not the least of which is that Elie’s French vocabulary has expanded well beyond his phrasebook. Gaspard’s hair is shorter now, although Elie still has to push it out of his eyes when they talk in bed, and he’s hung up his tank top for a button down shirt and a desk job. There are matching gold bands on their left hands.
But for all that has changed, the answer to that question is always the same.
“Yes,” Gaspard says, leaning back into his arms.