The lock clicked, unlocking, and Adrien held his breath. He placed a hand on the metal door handle and gave the wooden door with the numbers 404 screwed on it in metal letters a push. He stepped into the two bedroom corner flat on the fourth story of a building in Marais. The door opened wide and he walked through the narrow entry hall and into the open flat.
His footsteps echoed in the room with each careful step on the hardwood. Pale green eyes looked around at the freshly painted white walls and curtainless windows allowing what light that pierced through the clouds of an early autumn day in. He drew his lips inward to keep from screaming out loud.
This flat, though modest compared to where he lived before, was his.
“Yes!” He jumped in the air and whirled around the room, not caring how silly he looked. Sure, it was empty and his bed hadn’t arrived yet, so he’d be sleeping on an air mattress he borrowed from Luka, but the flat was his . His very first home, paid for with the savings from his modeling job. He had a sizable amount after over ten years of modeling.
It was enough to purchase the place in a part of the city deemed acceptable to his family. His parents had come to check it out with him and his father had to approve of the neighborhood and building before he signed his name anywhere, but now, it was all his.
And as soon as the furniture he ordered arrived, he’d throw a party.
Adrien walked through the empty flat, checking out the two bedrooms, the narrow baths, and the kitchen. He opened and closed the oven and then checked the new refrigerator his mother gifted to him and was delivered the day before. Everything seemed to be working.
Barely containing his excitement, he walked out and began to carry in the boxes that were being piled outside his door. His blond hair fell over his eyes as he stacked them on top of each other.
“Not that we don’t mind helping you,” a young woman with short, black hair said as she appeared, stepping in from the hallway with a small cart of boxes pulled behind her. “But why didn’t you just call a moving company?”
“I wanted to hang out with you guys. Besides, isn’t this how most people move into their first home?” Adrien gave her a winning smile, but the young woman just looked at him with deadpan brown eyes.
“Are you slumming?”
“What? No!” The elevator dinged once more and this time a tall young man with dark hair and in ripped jeans walked in with a large box on his shoulder. Adrien looked at him with a pleading expression. “Luka, tell Kagami I’m not slumming.”
“Why would you be slumming?” Luka’s calm, placating voice drifted past them as he walked between. He looked at Adrien with clear blue eyes. “Where do you want this box?”
“Just put it in the center of the room,” Adrien said. “I’ll sort through it later.”
“That old bodyguard of yours could’ve helped,” Kagami said.
“He’s not my bodyguard any more. Besides, didn’t you guys say you wanted to help?”
“I was thinking more of decorating, not moving boxes.”
“Come on, you two, we still have plenty of boxes to bring up from the van,” Luka said, cutting between the once more. “And we got a late start today because of the rain earlier.”
Kagami marched into the flat. “Just bring things up to the door. I’ll bring them inside.”
“See, Adrien, aren’t you glad you have such good friends?” Luka said as he and Adrien squeezed into the small elevator. “You’ll be moved in in no time.”
“Thanks,” Adrien said. “I’m just so excited. I can’t believe it’s finally mine. It took a year just to find this place. I’m so glad your sister recommended the building.”
“When does all your furniture come in?” Luka asked as he nodded. “Do you need help setting up?”
“I might. Can I call you?”
“Sure thing. I can make time in between sessions and lessons.”
The elevator door dinged open and they walked out into the foyer of the building. Just as they stepped out, the mailman finished closing the last of the mailboxes in the hall. Adrien’s eyes lit up.
“Oh! Maybe I have mail!”
Luka laughed. “You just moved in. Did you even start forwarding your mail here?”
Adrien’s eyes darted to the side. “Well...not yet, but maybe there’s a flier or something for nearby take out.”
“All right, well, you check. I’ll get the rest of those boxes before Kagami begins reprimanding us through the window for wasting time.” Luka patted Adrien on the shoulder and followed the mailman out the front door.
Adrien reached into his pocket for the small ring of keys. He singled out a lone, shiny new metal key and looked for the mailbox to 404. When he found it, he stuck the key inside and turned it.
Part of him was expecting it to be empty. The realtor who helped him get the place said that the flat had been vacant for a few months as the flat was one of three an old woman rented and when she passed, her children were trying to figure out how everything would be split before it was sold.
Which was why he didn’t expect to see three small, rectangular pieces of cardstock waiting for him. Perhaps a pile of junk mail, but not actual mail.
He reached into the metal box and pulled out what appeared to be three postcards, all from Asia.
He flipped them around and saw that the post dates were sent from the previous month, consecutively. That meant that someone had sent it to the address when it was vacant.
“Okay, that’s kind of creepy....”
“What is?” Luka passed him, another large box on his shoulder. Adrien lifted up the postcards to show him as he closed the mailbox.
“I got three postcards recently, but no one’s been in the flat for a few months.”
“Who is it addressed to? Maybe the last tenant had some friends send it over and they didn’t know their new address.”
Adrien turned the glossy cards over. “It’s my address....Apartment 404....” He squinted at the scribbled cursive. “ Cher A.M.....”
“Did the former tenant's initials spell AM?”
“I don’t know,” Adrien said. He took a deep breath. “Well, whoever is sending them sent three in a row. Maybe one of my neighbors knows who they are and can let them know.”
“I think it’s worth a try.” Luka smiled. “Now, if you’re done. Do you think you can help with the boxes?”
Adrien reached up and tucked the postcards into the box marked ‘winter wear’ and dashed out to the van outside.
He had to admit, with no furniture or curtains, the flat felt somehow colder. He turned on the radiator of his bedroom, but it was still cooler than he’d like. His air mattress was inflated and Luka had dug out a bedding set specifically for the air mattress. There were two pillows he had hastily shoved into a box when he was moving from his parents’ manor that he was using until his bed and the rest of his ordered items arrived.
His mother dropped by with Nathalie, his parents’ “assistant”, earlier that afternoon, just as the last of the boxes had been dragged into the flat with some wine to give to Luka and Kagami for helping him. There was a nice mountain of boxes in the middle of each room.
Emelie did the same thing he did when she came in and checked out all the rooms once more.
Adrien proudly took her around, telling her what he bought and for where. She looked very pleased, but said it was the little things that made the place home, but to deal with them last. He was to take out the things he needed soon first, such as plates, utensils....
“Adrien, where are your towels?”
“In one of the boxes.”
“...which box?” Then they spent the next hour going through some of his foolishly unmarked boxes looking for them while Nathalie and Kagami unpacked brand new kitchen ware.
Emelie and Adrien were just about to give up on the towels when Luka, having just set up the air mattress, walked out and told them he’d already put them away in the hall cabinets and in the toilets.
He was only a year older than twenty-three year old Adrien, but sometimes, Adrien swore he was decades more mature.
After opening a bottle of champagne and arranging for a dinner once everything was in place, they left Adrien to relax in his new home. He’d put together a quick meal of cheese and bread his mother brought him and then wandered around, checking the rooms once more before retiring.
He showered and changed in the bathroom, where a small wall mounted radiator did a good job of heating up the small room. He couldn’t find his hair dryer, so just used a towel; his mother was right about having things he needed out. Upon walking into his near bare bedroom, the early autumn evening chill made itself known.
He laid across his stomach on the air mattress, scrolling through his phone when he succumbed to the chill and began to look for the box of ‘winter wear’ he had seen earlier that day.
He walked barefoot across the flat, in a plain white shirt and black silk pajama bottoms, to the second bedroom, where most of the boxes he thought he wouldn't be needing immediately were piled against a wall. A lot of good that did him.
“Sweater....sweater....” he said to himself as he moved aside some boxes to find a large cardboard box marked ‘winter wear’. As he lifted up the folded lid, a few pieces of paper fluttered to the ground. He knelt down and gathered them.
He’d forgotten all about the postcards he found in the mail that day. He tried to make a mental note to ask the neighbors if they knew of an ‘A.M.’ who resided there before him.
Adrien took a seat on the floor beside the pile of boxes as he flipped over the postcards to read the scribbles. He selected the oldest one, sent over a month ago from Hong Kong.
Today is my first day on my own after visiting with Mama’s family. I decided to go and visit Cheng Sha Wan for fabrics. There were a few things I wanted to buy, but don’t have room for. Should I just buy them and mail them home? Choices choices. Tonight, I’m going to pack up for a day trip to Macau tomorrow. Can’t wait! Heard the food is amazing! Here’s to a great trip!
Bien à vous
He smiled to himself. Some really good authentic food from Macau sounded good on a chilly autumn night.
He moved on to the next card. It was sent a week after the previous one, but this time from Seoul.
I know that I should visit more museums and historical sites, but I’m finding myself going window shopping and eating. What can I say? I grew up in a bakery! It is lovely here and a lot of the clothes fit my frame. I don’t think I’d have to tailor them! Definitely want to buy clothes, but I’m on my own for three months. I need to save money...but after some street food.
Bien à vous
Adrien gathered that the sender was a young woman probably backpacking across Asia. Perhaps she was around his age, but she must’ve been of Chinese descent and was perhaps a fashion enthusiast.
She didn't write much; a postcard could only hold so much information. It was interesting to grow up in a bakery. He understood how busy parents who owned their own business could be and began to feel a little camaraderie with ‘M’. He moved on to the last card and looked at the red painted temple grounds overlooking a city situated in a valley. Looks like she was still somewhere in Asia.
I splurged. Sorry! I know - I only have so much money, but I’m willing to eat convenience store food (which is really good here) the last few days in Kyoto if it means I could buy that red yukata with the gold and black silk obi. My luggage only has so much room, so I’m mailing it to Alya. She said she’d bring them over when I get back. We’re so lucky! Best friends are amazing....and I may have gotten her a yukata, too. She looks good in orange, no?
Bien à vous
There were little hearts next to the last sentence and Adrien chuckled. Whoever ‘M’ was really adored her friends. He could relate. When he was out of the country for work, he’d often try to bring back something for Kagami and Luka. They were his two closest friends: Kagami from fencing and Luka from various music recitals.
Remembering them, he made another mental note to send them a text to thank them again for helping that day. He pushed himself up and grabbed the first sweater he could find from inside the box.
He tugged it on and as he turned around to head back to his room, he stopped. He looked back at the trio of postcards on the floor beside the moving box.
‘M’ meant for them to go to someone special if she was writing every week. If it were him, he’d hope that his letters got to the right recipients and were treated with care.
He swept them up and brought them back to his room, placing them in a small wooden box meant for holding spare change and keys that was atop a cardboard box next to his air mattress.
In the morning, if he saw his neighbors, he would ask them if they knew who ‘A.M.’ was.
“It’s not that I don’t know how to put it together,” Adrien said from the floor of his bedroom, where he sat helplessly surrounded by bed parts. He just had to go shopping at a store that required you to assemble your furniture. He could hear his father’s voice in his head telling him to get ‘real furniture’, but no...he wanted to be just like other twenty-something year old starting out. His phone was in his hand as he looked at the various parts strewn across the wooden floor, beside the deflated air mattress. “It’s just that I think this would go a lot faster with two people.”
“How long have you been working on it?” Luka asked from the other end of the conversation.
Adrien hoped he couldn’t see his face. “I just opened it up....” Three hours ago.
“How far have you gotten?”
“I unpacked everything. Does that count?” There was silence on the other end.
“I’m going to pick up some food and come over right Mdm. Martin picks up her son from guitar lessons. Don’t deflate the air mattress yet in case we don’t finish tonight,” Luka said.
Adrien’s eyes darted across the room. “Um....”
“You already deflated the mattress, didn’t you?”
“I need the floor space to work.”
Luka chuckled. “I’ll be there soon Don’t touch anything else.”
“You’re the best Luka. Oh! Can you get some... pho ?” He pushed himself up and walked to the box against the wall with the wooden change box. “I’ll pay.”
“It is kind of cold out tonight. Beef noodle soup is a good idea. I’ll see you, soo.” Adrien knelt down and picked up the most recent postcard.
‘M’ was in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, as it said on the postcard and wrote about her search for good pho.
A week earlier, he’d received another one from Tokyo, where ‘M’ spent the night and lamented the lack of hot baths at her hotel; something she needed after getting on two wrong trains and nearly ending up in Yokohama.
“Soaking in the tub is fine, but not the same as in the onsen ....” she had written. “Oh well, next time.”
Adrien chuckled. He’d been to Japan once with Kagami and he had to agree. There were also more notes detailing her food adventures, fashion, and about how someone named Kim told her to try the pastries in Vietnam.
The Vietnam postcard confirmed that Kim was right and if she wasn’t walking everywhere, she’d gained weight. She did, however, miss eating with ‘everyone’.
Adrien sighed and wandered out into his living area. He’d managed to put together a table the day before, but it only had one place setting. He wrinkled his nose; he understood where ‘M’ was coming from. He was used to having dinner with his parents and if not with them, then with Luka or Kagami or at least an acquaintance from work or university.
At first, eating alone was fine. He was busy unpacking and working on applications to graduate school for physics most nights. A few times, he’d been out to eat with his mother or had a business related meal with the agency or his father’s company.
So, he didn’t have much time to think about eating alone in his flat.
Then his table came in and he sat down, solo. He didn’t want to admit that he was, perhaps even a little, lonely living by himself. That was definitely not why he called Luka. He was just really bad at putting together furniture. He’d only managed to put together one chair for the dining table.
Still, he found himself hoping that ‘M’ wouldn’t get too lonely on her round the world trip. By his count, she still had a month and a half to go.
“You’ve been keeping them?” Kagami picked up the newest postcard that he placed on the kitchen counter as they entered the flat, canvas bags of food from their morning farmer’s market run rustling around them as they shuffled in.
Two months since he moved in and this was his twelfth postcard from ‘M’. Well, not necessary his , but until he could find the receiver, he’d hold on to them.
“I can’t throw them away. I need to find out who this A.M. is so they can get them.”
Kagami leaned against the pantry door and flipped the card from Morocco over.
“ Cher A.M., I thought Sydney was hot. I’m not at all prepared for this heat ,” she read out loud. Adrien gasped and whirled around.
“Kagami, don’t read it!” He hastily placed the bags on the counter and scrambled to get the postcard. Kagami merely stepped to the side, easily avoiding him. She walked out into the now furnished living room, keeping the sofa between them.
“ I am starting to miss France’s weather, but I’ll be back on the continent soon. Just when I thought the homesickness has passed, it returns. ”
“Kagami!” Adrien chased after her, his face reddening.
She glanced up and raised a brow. “It’s a postcard, Adrien. Not a love letter.”
He knew that, but he couldn’t help but get even more flustered. “I know, but she wrote this specifically for A.M.!”
“How do you know it’s a she?” She held out the card and he all but swept it out of her hands.
“Her...uh...handwriting. She puts little hearts and flowers sometimes,” Adrien said. And that wasn’t all he figured out from her postcards.
Her best friend was a woman named Alya who was getting married; ‘M’ was planning to acquire lace in Italy for her. Her parents owned a bakery with macarons that no other anywhere else she’d traveled to could match. She loved fashion and clothes and had a sketchbook she’d already filled up with ideas.
She loved the color pink and sunsets and views of city skylines in the night. “Breathtaking” she called them. She liked coffee and hoped to find Vietnamese coffee when she got back.
‘M’ often wished she could call Alya, but didn’t want to bother her since there was a time difference. She struggled with her English sometimes and was a bit of a klutz, having broke her sunglasses twice already, as well as the straps of a pair of slippers. She was inspired to update her portfolio and had ideas for interior lining fabric patterns based on architecture she’d admired in Southeast Asia.
All those little details in a handful of postcards piled one on top of the other and Adrien found himself wondering more and more about the mysterious ‘M’; more so than who A.M was. He knew it wasn’t a good idea to daydream about the woman who ‘M’ was, but he couldn’t help it. Even during the most recent fittings and photo shoots, his mind had drifted.
Where was ‘M’ going next? What did she hope to eat there? Did she find that perfect souvenir for her father? He hoped she was safe and would find her away across wherever she was. He hoped she came home soon....
Kagami narrowed her eyes. “So you’ve read them.....”
He brought the card against his chest. He knew he shouldn’t have, but they were postcards and the writing was right there . “I’m hoping to find clues as to who A.M. is!”
“Right...,” Kagami said. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Have you asked the neighbors?”
Adrien’s shoulders fell. He looked down and shook his head. “I asked, but they said the last tenants were an artsy couple from Berlin, plus their initials don’t match.”
“So what are you going to do?” Kagami asked. She looked towards the card. “You can’t keep them forever.”
His chest ached a little. He looked down at the postcard’s message and the now familiar ‘M’ at the bottom. “I know.”
Kagami seemed to watch him a bit longer, before she sighed. “Those are someone else’s postcards.”
“It’s a little weird to grow attached to them.”
“I know that, too,” he said. He walked back to the kitchen and placed the postcard picture side up on the counter. He began to unbag the groceries. “It’s just been fun reading about her adventures in other countries. She’s so lucky to be able to do so.”
“You could, too, if you want,” Kagami said, walking over and watching him unpack. “You won’t be starting graduate school until next year.”
“But I still have work,” Adrien said with a pointed look. “It’s been chaos after fashion week and then the ready wear line photos need to be shot. That doesn’t include the few interviews I have for graduate positions.”
“So you’re just going to live vicariously through this ‘M’ person?”
“I’m not living vicariously through her,” Adrien said. “I just think she sounds interesting.”
Kagami’s eyes widened just a bit. “Interesting? And you’re basing this all off some postcards?”
He opened the fridge to put in some vegetables. “I know, it’s crazy. I’m basically reading someone else’s mail on the travels of some woman I’ve never met.”
“And probably never will,” Kagami said. She pushed herself away from the counter. “Don’t get too attached. She’s not going to send postcards forever, you know.”
“Yeah...I know.” He sighed and lowered his head. He knew that. He knew exactly how long ‘M’ would be gone, but still didn’t know who she was. It was unlikely she’d come looking for her lost postcards, either.
Their conversation lapsed into silence and Kagami checked her phone. “I need to go. Mother is expecting me for lunch.”
Adrien gave her a nod. “Tell her hello for me.”
“Of course.” Kagami walked to the door and paused. “Adrien.”
“What makes her ‘interesting’?”
He hovered over a wheel of cheese on the counter. “I suppose...it’s because she’s traveling alone to these places she’s never been...willing to try new things and learn. There is hesitation in her postcards sometimes, but she goes through with her plans anyway, even if there are setbacks.” He trailed off and glanced at the postcard on the counter. “I guess I think she’s brave.”
The corner of Kagami’s lips pulled up into a small smile. “When you put it like that, she does sound interesting.”
He gave her a small smile in return as she walked out the door. Adrien looked back at the postcard. He picked it up and turned it over, re-reading the cursive on the other side.
Interesting was just one way of describing what he felt about ‘M’. He was afraid there was something else that was building, as somewhere along the line, finding a postcard in his mailbox had gone from thoughtful curiosity to making his heart quicken.
And even he knew that was dangerous.
‘M’ was in Italy.
Adrien stared at the glossy picture of the Coliseum on the postcard dated just a few days earlier. She was on the continent now and had met up with her Italian grandmother. She was having fun exploring with ‘Nonna’ and was so happy to have someone to travel with after so long.
Her postcard had more doodles on the edges than usual; something he decided was a measure of how happy she was feeling.
Yet, for the first time since he began receiving the cards, seeing her postcard in his mailbox that afternoon sent an unexpected feeling of dread through him. He hesitated to pull it out and he wasn’t sure why. He slid it into the side pocket of his bag before taking the elevator to his flat and tried to forget it was there.
He went searching for it as soon as he hung up his heavy wool coat when he got home.
Adrien knew she was closer to Paris than before, meaning that soon, her trip round the world was going to end. The end of the trip meant the end of the postcards.
The thought of no more postcards was more than just disappointing. It hurt.
He swallowed hard.
That shouldn’t have mattered. They weren’t even for him. They were for an A.M. he still didn’t know. However, after all those postcards, part of him wanted to find ‘M’. He was sure he’d have better luck finding ‘M’ with all the little clues in the cards than he would finding A.M.
Yet, the very thought of doing so made him feel like he was crazy.
They were just postcards, as Kagami said. It was an unfortunate accident that they ended in his mailbox to begin with.
Adrien let out a heavy breath and buried his face in his arms as he sat on the sofa; the postcard lay on the low coffee table in front of him. A handful of short letters on souvenirs shouldn’t have affected him like they did. He shouldn’t have kept them, every single one of them, in a small wooden box next to his bed.
That couldn’t have been healthy.
“You don’t know her,” he told himself out loud as he lifted his head to look back at the card. But the thought of her made his heart race.
He knew, deep down, that he’d never meet her or A.M.
He knew that he should just throw out the postcards.
He knew that falling in love with some woman he’d never met based on her brief, journal-like entries on pieces of cardstock was ridiculous, if not absolutely insane.
He didn’t know how she looked like, how she sounded, where she lived or what she did for a living.
But he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of the postcards. Whoever ‘M’ was wrote diligently every week to A.M.
He knew that they were written with care and thoughtfulness. He knew that wherever she went, she was trying her best. He couldn’t bring himself to just throw them away.
“How many more until they stop?” Luka’s voice asked behind him, from the kitchen where he was making coffee. They’d been playing guitar and synthesizer since Luka dropped by to try to distract themselves from the cold.
“They come every week, maybe...two more or so,” Adrien said, still staring at the postcard.
Luka walked into the living room with two mugs and handed one to Adrien. “So...around Christmas? Do you want to look for her?”
Adrien shook his head. “I’m not crazy. And I’d look like a stalker.”
Luka sat down on the arm chair across from him and took a slow drink from his mug. “Do you think she’s writing to a boyfriend?”
Adrien shook his head a second time. “No. She wouldn’t write ‘yours truly’ if it was to a boyfriend.”
Luka leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees. “But there is a good chance she’s coming back to someone.”
“I know.” He took a long sip, allowing the hot liquid to warm him up. If he was that intrigued by her words alone, what more of her as a whole person? “Am I losing my mind, Luka? I think I’ve fallen for a bunch of postcards.”
A low chuckle came from the man across from him. “It’s not just a bunch of postcards. They are someone’s words and thoughts.”
“So...what you’re saying is I’ve fallen for someone’s mind?” That didn’t sound as bad.
“Yes, but not knowing and experiencing them personally also means that your infatuation fills in the blanks,” Luka said. “I’m worried that you’re creating an idealized version of ‘M’ and, while the chances are slim, if you ever meet her, your idealized version won’t match up with reality and you could get hurt.”
Adrien let out a groan and tilted his head back against the sofa cushions. “Somehow, that makes this entire thing worse,” he said. “What do you think I should do?”
“To be honest, you have two choices,” Luka said, looking at the postcard. “First, you can go on a mad hunt across Paris in two weeks to try to find ‘M’ based on her postcards. If you find and meet her, reality will hit you, but you could be very disappointed. Plus, I’m sure it would make her uncomfortable that some man she’s never met before spent all that time looking for her for a bunch of postcards. And that’s only if you find her.”
“And the second?” Adrien turned his head to look at Luka, exhausted. His friend looked up to meet his gaze with a knowing sad one.
“Throw the postcards away,” Luka said. “And forget about her before this gets worse.”
He was sure it was a blessing that his mother called him and invited him to join her and his father for holidays in Switzerland. He received the call shortly after Luka left the night they decided to throw away the postcards, if only for his sanity. However, he never physically threw them out.
Adrien planned to, but then his mother called and he spent the next two days digging through his things for all the items he’d need for his trip to his mother’s friend’s chalet: winter wear, snow wear, his favorite snow boots, snowboarding clothes, and some of the warmest pajamas he owned.
Christmas in Switzerland with his parents momentarily pushed aside the postcards or at least he willed it to.
When they were there, he spent half his time on a mountain and the other half wandering around with his mother, eating and shopping. Even there, on his own holiday, his mind drifted back to ‘M’ during the most random moments.
Drinking hot chocolate with his mother and trying some local cheese dish made him wonder if ‘M’ would like it. The patterns on houses; he wondered if ‘M’ would find inspiration for patterns on them. Shopping at a Christmas market? ‘M’ would’ve loved it. And he would’ve loved walking through with her.
“Are you all right, mon ange ?” his mother asked him when she caught him running his hand down his face, frustrated that he couldn’t get some mysterious postcard writer out of his head.
“I’m fine, Maman .” He gave her his best smile, the one that made people turn their heads and look at him.
“Is it the worry of not knowing?” Emelie asked. He almost ran into the awning pole of a Christmas market shop.
“The what?” His voice must’ve risen an octave. His mother furrowed her brows.
“Of not knowing about whether or not you’ve been accepted into the graduate program,” Emelie said. He still stared at her, as if he had seen a ghost. She lifted her hand and cupped his face, patting it gently. “Adrien, do not worry. You were at the top of your class and had papers published on research you aided with. No university will turn you down,” she said with motherly reassurance. “You will get in. And even if you don’t, your Pere and I are still very proud of you..”
His heart had nearly jumped out of his chest and even after his mother attempted to comfort him, he couldn’t relax. For a moment, he thought his mother knew and thought her son had lost his mind.
He became more determined than ever to throw the postcards away when he returned. His deepest apologies to A.M., but A.M. would never get their postcards.
As his parents’ driver drove him to Marais and rolled to a stop in front of his building, he began to go over where all the postcards were so he could collect them and throw them into the dumpster in the alleyway. It wouldn’t do just to toss them into a bin in his flat. What if he lapsed and went to dig them out?
No, he had to get rid of the postcards completely.
“Thanks for the ride!” Adrien said as he opened the door of the black sedan. The driver, his former bodyguard, rounded the vehicle to open the trunk and lifted out Adrien’s luggage as Adrien stood on the curb, rummaging through a backpack to find his keys. He fished them out just as his luggage was placed beside him. He thanked the driver once more and grabbed the handle to drag it alongside him.
He entered the foyer, shuddering at how cold it was even inside the building. In a few days, it would be January and it would get even colder.
He walked across the hall to get to the mailboxes. Across from the entrance, the small elevator opened and the silence of the foyer was overcome with the chatter of two women emerging. Adrien briefly glanced up; he didn’t recognize them. Perhaps they lived on another floor.
“They couldn’t have lost all of them,” said the petite young woman with thick, black hair tied up in a neat bun. “One or two, I could understand, but I sent almost twenty.”
Something compelled Adrien to stop in the midst of opening his mailbox. A few spaces down from him, the brunette in dark jeans, an oversized knit sweater, and ballerina flats opened her mailbox and peered inside.
A pained look filled her pretty, heart shaped face and she looked at her friend with the red-dyed hair and glasses. “Anything?” the young woman with the glasses asked, hopeful.
“Nothing.” She closed the mail box and stared at it with a mixture of disbelief and despondence. “I don’t understand, Alya. It’s like they disappeared into thin air.”
Adrien froze. Did the woman just call the other one ‘Alya’? Alya as in ‘M’s’ best friend? He couldn’t help but look up and stare at the black-haired woman. Was she A.M.?
“Hey, hey.” Alya stepped closer to comfort her. “We can still ask the mailman if he’s seen them.”
“But what if they never got here? It would be just like me to not buy enough postage or put it in the wrong box when I was mailing them!”
Alya wrapped her arms around the other woman. “It’ll be all right, Marinette.”
“Marinette?” Her name escaped his lips before he even realized it. The two women turned to look at him: Marinette looked confused and Alya frowned.
“Can we help you?” Alya asked in a stern voice.
Adrien opened his mouth. “I...um...sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear. But did you say her name is Marinette?”
The two women exchanged looks. Alya stepped around Marinette and stood between them. “I’m sorry, sir, but does she know you?”
“No, no, she doesn’t. I’m new to the building,” Adrien said, pointing up. “It’s just...Marinette with a ‘ M ’?” He couldn’t remember the last time he asked such a stupid question.
Alya narrowed her eyes at him. “How else do you spell Marinette?”
Adrien cringed. He backed up into the wall and turned to the mailboxes. His eyes widened. “Wait,” he said. There should’ve been two more. He’d been gone for two weeks, so he must’ve received the last two cards. He shoved the key into the mailbox and turned it with a shaking hand. It opened with ease and he reached in, grabbing a stack of mail as his heart slammed against his chest. He gathered the papers against him and plucked out a small, rectangular card and held it up.
Alya’s unimpressed eyes scanned the paper and she raised a brow. “Ten percent off at the Persian restaurant down the street?”
“What?” Adrien turned the card around and felt his face heat up. It was a coupon. “Sorry, that’s not it!” He shut his mailbox and put his mail down on the short counter jutting out from the wall. He riffled through before he caught a glimpse of Budapest’s river walk. He grabbed it and held it up. He looked right past Alya to Marinette, who was craning her neck to see what he was holding. Somehow, he was out of breath and his voice was tight. “Are you ‘M’?”
He held his breath.
Marinette leaned forward and saw the card. Her blue eyes went wide and she darted in front of Alya, reaching for it. “My postcard! You got my postcard!”
He handed it to her and watched as she lifted it up to show Alya, beaming with joy. A slow, warm smile filled his face. So, this was her...he wasn’t sure what he was expecting. He had decided that he’d never meet her, but there she was and he couldn’t stop looking at her.
“Thank you so much!” Marinette turned to look at him. “There was nothing in my box when I got back and-”
“Marinette,” Alya said, holding the postcard. She turned it around. “I think I figured out why you haven’t gotten any.” Marinette turned around and gave her friend a quizzical look. Alya held up the card and pointed to the apartment number. “What does this say?”
Adrien drew his head back. Now he knew why he was receiving her postcards. He bit his lip to keep from laughing. He’d gotten it wrong the whole time. They weren’t being sent to his mailbox.
“Wrong!” Alya said. “Marinette, your ‘9’ looks like a ‘4’. It’s been going to the wrong address!”
“What?” Marinette grabbed the postcard from Alya’s hand and scrutinized it. Her eyes crinkled up. “I...I suppose it can be seen as a ‘4’....” She began to turn red. “I’m such an idiot....”
Adrien tried his best to keep from smiling. “Can you give me a second? I’ll be right back.” She looked up at him and gave him a curious look as he rushed to the elevator. “Just one minute! I’ll be right back. Please wait!”
He frantically pressed the button to his floor, giving the two women a pleading look as the doors closed. He grabbed his key and tapped his foot as he waited for the elevator to open. As soon as it did, he raced out and ran to his door. He fumbled with the key. Why was he fumbling with his key?
“Come on...let me in...,” he said just before the door unlocked and he shoved his way through. He abandoned his luggage in the hall and tossed the mail on the kitchen counter as he ran past to his bedroom.
He burst through his door, his eyes zooming in on the stack of postcards neatly placed at his bedside. He cringed and made a mental note not to tell her that.
Instead, he grabbed the bundle and raced back outside. He pressed the elevator buttons. Was the elevator always that slow? He knew it wasn’t fast, like the one his father had to his lower level wine cellar, but Adrien didn’t remember it being that slow. It dinged and the doors opened. He dove in, pressing the button for the ground floor like an excited child.
He hoped she waited. He probably looked like a maniac begging her to when he ran off, but at that moment, he only wanted to give her the postcards. Anything to see her smile so brilliantly again. He lifted his hand to his chest and tried to order himself to calm down.
Let’s be reasonable. Just because you met her doesn’t mean you know anything about her past the postcards. He told himself. He took a deep breath and managed to compose himself by the time the elevator reached the ground floor.
The doors opened and the ding echoed in the hall. He looked up and saw Marinette stand up straight from where she was leaning against the mail boxes. She was alone and the postcard he had given her earlier was still in her hands. She met his gaze and offered a smile.
Adrien stepped out and held out the bundle of postcards. “I believe these are yours.”
Her eyes went wide once more as a smile filled her face. “Are these all my postcards?”
“I think so,” Adrien said. “I started receiving them when I moved in a few months ago. I’m glad I held on to them.”
“I’m glad, too,” she said. “I would’ve been devastated if I didn’t get at least one. These are my memories.” She clutched the bundle against her.
Adrien raised a hand and ran it through his hair. “I thought that maybe they were being sent to whoever lived in my flat before me, but my neighbors said that their initials weren’t A.M.”
Marinette looked up from the postcards she was flipping through and gave him a confused look. “A.M.?”
He nodded. “They’re addressed to A.M., aren’t they?”
Marinette flipped over the card. “A.M. stands for Avenir Marinette.” Oh... Future Marinette. “I was sending myself postcards to remember my trip. Thank so much for holding on to them. I’m really sorry about the mistake. I’m sure it was very confusing.”
Adrien shook his head. “It was nothing, really...and I should apologize, as well. In trying to figure out who they belonged to, I did read them.”
Her cheeks reddened and he was sure his did, too. “All of them?” she asked in a quiet voice.
He looked away, embarrassed. “Sorry...I started to get really into your adventures. I think it’s amazing that you were able to travel on your own to so many places.” He took a step back and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have read them.”
“No, no, it’s my fault. My terrible handwriting put them in your possession. And they’re postcards; it would be difficult not to read them,” she said, looking down as she shifted in place. She glanced up, almost shy. “It must’ve been strange to get all these postcards from a stranger.”
He let out a low breath. “It was,” he said. “But I’m still glad I held on to them.”
She smiled a bit. “Like I was saying, I can’t thank you enough. If you ever need any tailoring or something....” Her eyes seemed to go down his body, taking in the heavy wool coat, the designer scarf, and shoes. It must’ve been clear he was well dressed and had a good eye. It was drilled into him by his father, after all.
Adrien tilted his head to the side and offered her a smile. “You don’t need to thank me.”
“Well, if i can’t do any tailoring, what about bread?”
“Um...I mentioned my parents have a bakery,” she said, lifting up the cards as if to show him. “Would you like some baguettes or a box of macarons? Tom and Sabine’s is the best in the city, you know.”
He smiled and laughed to himself. “I read that. I didn’t know the name of the bakery, but you did brag about their macarons.”
Marinette smiled a bit. “It feels kind of unfair that you know so much about me.”
“Yeah....” he said. “It does.” He looked past her, out the glass door of their building foyer. He saw the open door of a corner shop. A sense of daring gripped him. He didn’t know when he’d have a chance like this again. The woman he’d been so curious had appeared just when he was ready to give up and he’d be damned if he didn’t at least try. He gave her a hopeful smile. “Should we remedy that?”
She drew her head back, surprised. “Remedy?”
He walked around her. “Can you give me another minute?” he asked as he walked towards the door. He saw her look confused, but nod as he pushed the door open to get outside.
Adrien crossed the street, ignoring the light rain that began to mist down as he ran into a small corner shop. A moment later, he was running back and let himself into the foyer. Marinette watched him as he took out a postcard he purchased from underneath his coat.
An old picture of the Eiffel Tower was on the front and Adrien turned it around and placed it on the small counter in front of the mail boxes. He reached into his breast pocket and took out a pen. He began to write something down on the back of the card.
When he was done, he lifted it up again, showing her the picture of the tower. “409, was it?”
Marinette was smiling. She nodded. “409.”
He looked for the mailbox and slipped it into the small, narrow slot on its metal door. “When you have time, please check your mail.”
He walked around her and headed back to the elevator. She was giggling as the doors closed and once they did, he fell back against the back and let out a breath. He reached up and touched his flushed face, hoping she didn’t notice how nervous he was.
He dug into his pocket and fished out his phone. He looked at the darkened screen, recalling what he had written on the card.
Today, I met a lovely young woman in my building. She seems very kind and just got back from a trip. Perhaps she would like to have dinner with me one night?
Bien à vous
It included his phone number. He thought that was his best bet; if she was interested, then she could call. If not and she already had someone or just didn’t like him, then he’d let it be. At the very least, he gave it a shot and the postcards found their way home.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Adrien stepped out and began to walk to his flat. Just as he reached the door, the phone in his hand began to vibrate. He glanced down and his heart shot to this throat.
He didn’t recognize the local number.
He swallowed once more and brought the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
“Is this Monsieur A?” He held his breath. It was her. “I received your postcard in my mailbox.”
“I see,” he said, trying not to sound as panicked as he felt. “Yes, this is Monsieur A. Does Mademoiselle M have an answer to my inquiry?”
The elevator dinged again and he glanced over his shoulder as he opened his door. A woman stepped out, also holding a phone against her ear. “I do,” she said, catching his eyes as she smiled. “But first....” She lowered the phone and ended the call with a swipe of her finger. She walked towards him and stopped an arm’s length away. “What is your Monsieur A’s name?”
He brought the phone down from his head and smiled. “Adrien.”
“Adrien,” she repeated. Her cheeks were pink as she smiled and extended her hand. “My name is Marinette.”
His hand wrapped around her small one as he held her gaze, still smiling fondly. “Marinette...it’s great to finally meet you.”
A Quick Epilogue
“So there were two waiting in the mailbox for you when you got back,” Kagami said. “Did you throw them away?”
She was seated on an armchair in the living room, holding a glass of white wine as Luka placed a wooden tray of cheeses on the coffee table, along with Adrien’s chocolate from Switzerland and Kagami’s regional gifts from her New Years trip to Japan. It was a relaxing Saturday night; the first all three of them were able to get together since before the holidays.
“Not exactly,” Adrien said. He was in the kitchen, arranging some fruit on a plate to bring over. “I haven’t told you guys yet.”
“Told us what?” Luka asked. He took a seat on the sofa and leaned back, placing an arm over the back of the sofa to look at him.
Adrien opened his mouth when he heard a knock at the door. Kagami raised a brow. “Are you expecting anyone else?”
“Just one more person,” Adrien said as he wiped his hand on a dish towel. He smiled from ear to ear, almost proud of himself. “I met ‘M’.”
At that, Kagami and Luka were sitting up straight with wide eyed looks of disbelief as he walked into the hall to open the door.
“Sorry I’m late! Papa insisted I wait for this batch to finish to bring over.”
“It's no problem. Thanks for coming and bringing the bread.” Rustling could be heard and he walked back in with a white paper bag in one hand and the hand of a pretty young woman in the other. “Marinette, I’d like you to meet my friends Kagami and Luka.”
“Marinette?” Luka’s eyes went wide as he stood up.
“Luka! I didn’t know you knew Adrien!” Marinette was already crossing the room, but instead of heading to Luka, she was making a beeline to Kagami. “And you, too. When did you get back?”
“Just a few days ago. Marinette, since when did you live here?” Kagami was on her feet, hugging Marinette and exchanging warm greeting kisses on the cheek.
“It was Nonna’s place after she and Grandpa divorced. She was having it fixed up for me over the summer and I didn’t get to move in until before I left for China with Mama. I didn’t want to invite everyone over until I got back and settled in,” Marinette said. She released Kagami and moved over to Luka, also giving him kisses on the cheek. “Happy New Year; how’s your mom?”
“She’s doing great,” Luka said. He looked past the top of her head, at Adrien who stood in the kitchen, looking at them with bewilderment. “Say, Marinette...how do you know Adrien?”
She blushed and laughed. “It’s a weird story, actually. I was writing these postcards to myself and I have terrible handwriting, so they went to 404 instead of 409.”
Several pairs of eyes were fixed on her. “Wait,” Kagami said. “Are you ‘M’?”
Marinette tilted her head to the side. “Yeah...did Adrien tell you about the postcards?”
Kagami’s eyes moved across the room, to Adrien, and a slow smirk reached her face. “As a matter of fact-”
“I mentioned it a few times since I was trying to find out who the receiver was!” Adrien said, darting between them and almost slamming down a plate of fruit on the coffee table. His face was red as Marinette drew her head back.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” he said, looking from Luka and Kagami and back. “But how do you all know each other?” He sounded almost pained and Marinette took his hand and patted it gently, though clearly unsure why he looked so defeated.
“Marinette is my little sister’s friend,” Luka said. “That’s how Juleka knew about the vacancy in the building.”
“We met on a friendship app challenge a few years ago,” Kagami said. “Marinette and I have been friends for ten years now.” Beside her, Marinette nodded her head, pleased to confirm it was true.
Adrien stared at them. “Did either of you know she was on a trip around the world?”
“I heard she was in Asia,” Luka said, as if just remembering.
“And we’ve been talking online while she was abroad,” Kagami said, lifting her phone. Adrien’s face fell. “Don’t make that face. You never let us read the postcards; we couldn’t have made the connection.”
“Is something wrong?” Marinette asked, looking at the group. “Adrien?”
“I’m just...I just need to sit down.” He ran his hand through his hair as he reached back for the sofa.
Marinette rubbed his back. “You rest. I’ll go prepare the bread.”
“I’ll come with you.” Kagami followed after her. As they disappeared into the kitchen, Adrien leaned forward and covered his face with his hands.
“You okay, Adrien?”
“Almost four months....”
“I was obsessing over who ‘M’ was for four months and the entire time....” He was muttering and shaking his head. “The entire time you two knew who she was.”
“Sorry, Adrien. We didn’t know she was the one writing the postcards,” Luka said, patting his shoulder. “If we knew, we would’ve told you.” He looked down at Adrien and gave him a gentle smile. “It doesn’t seem like it ended badly, though, did it?”
Adrien, with his face still in his hands shook his head. “She’s even more amazing in person.”
“She’s a designer.”
“Her parents own a bakery.”
“Yes, the best in Paris.”
Adrien peeked out from between his fingers and gave Luka a little glare. “Anything else I should know?”
Luka raised his arms up and glanced away. “Maybe I had a crush on her when I was a teenager?” Adrien’s mouth dropped. “I swear it’s no longer the case. We’re just friends now.”
Before Adrien could say anything else, he heard giggling behind him and looked over his shoulder. Kagami and Marinette were laughing to themselves, occasionally glancing in his direction. Adrien paled. “That can’t be good.”
He saw Kagami elbow Marinette a bit and Marinette walked out with a small tray of sliced bread. “Luka, can you help me with the meats?” Kagami said, rather loud. It was a set up.
Luka was on his feet. “On it.”
He passed Marinette, who placed the tray on the coffee table and took his seat. She said nothing as she carefully arranged some cheese onto a piece of bread and brought it to her lips.
“So,” she said as she bit into it. Her eyes seemed to sparkle as she looked at him. “You kept my postcards on your nightstand.”
“Oh God.” Adrien groaned and shoved his face back into his hands. “She told you? You must think I’m so weird.”
Marinette giggled and scooted closer to him. “Not particularly. If you just moved in, you’d put it where you could easily find it while you were organizing stuff,” she said. “Besides, that’s where I put the postcard with your phone number.” He lifted his head and looked at her, surprised as she reached his side and began to nestle against him.
“You...you kept it?” A light blush spread across his cheeks.
“Of course,” she said. Marinette lifted the remainder of her bread to his lips and he took a small, tentative bite before putting his arm around her. She gave him a cheeky smile. “By the way...when am I getting another one?”