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Strange Love

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            Lucas Jackson saw the most marvellous thing yesterday: Love at First Sight. He was sitting, minding his own business behind an outdated newspaper in a Paris coffee shop, when it happened.

            Just as he brought his mélange up to his moustachioed lips to blow and then sip as was his wont, a woman strode through the door: American and proud with a brassy Boston accent clouding her impeccable French. She was forced to place her order twice, dragging out each syllable of her complicated latte of choice with painful precision. She made enough noise to frighten the pigeons that waddled cheerily beneath the wrought iron chairs.

            It was amidst the cacophony of feathers that the second player emerged. Lucas was lowering his paper, folding it carefully at the crease to see what was terrifying the local fowl he so loved to feed little remnants of his croissant in the mornings. He caught sight of something dark through the escaping pigeons. A man in a black, Italian cut suit, with impeccable hair and a handsome nose looked up from across the busy thoroughfare. Lucas ogled because he may have been a grandfather, but that didn't mean that he couldn't appreciate the fine form of a handsome man from afar.

            His eyes flashed, missing Lucas completely to rest on the girl at the counter. Lucas followed his gaze just in time to see her still, as if she could feel their eyes upon her. She spun, nose upturned and prepared for confrontation. Eyes locked above Lucas' head, and he looked between the two of them, to see who made the first move.

            The lovely man walked into traffic without a care in the world, hurrying to meet her for the first time. She was still and wide eyed like a doe caught in the sights of a great hunter about to pull the trigger. Cars screeched and rough accents caterwauled from early morning delivery trucks, but Lucas paid them no mind. The mélange clinked as it met the saucer, and the newspaper was smoothed onto his lap. He tilted down his cap and settled down for a bit of well earned people watching, as per Parisian tradition.

            “Bonjour,” the man said softly, absent-mindedly tugging his cuffs back into place after his mad dash. “Je-”

            “Bonjour,” she said breathlessly back.

            “You are American?” She grinned at the question.

            “Guilty as charged.” The cashier, still without her payment and the drink half completed, tried to catch their eye to no avail. They would have no other but each other.

            “My name is Marius.”

            “Call me Bess.” She held out her hand for him to shake, but he caught it instead, bringing it to his lips for a meaningful kiss without breaking eye contact.

            They made a pretty picture, Lucas thought. Both were tall, but even in heels, she couldn't compete with his impressive stature. While he was made up of dark colours, from the shade of his hair to the colour of his suit, she was a painter's dream in white: white dress, white nails, white hair that fell in artful layers around her face that contrasted all the more beautifully with her dark complexion.

            “Buy me a drink?” she asked, cocksure and brilliantly New World against his Old World elegance and reserve. He paid the woman behind the counter with a sleek black credit card that nearly sent her eyebrows into her hairline.

            “Mon pleasier,” he smiled, taking the card and signing the receipt without breaking eye contact with this pretty Bess. “What brings you to Paris?” He handed her the drink.

            “Looking for something,” she said offhandedly. Thick, dark eyebrows jumped at the response. “Someone.”

            She took long, confident strides to one of the tables, and Lucas couldn't believe his good luck. They were easily within spying distance, facing each other in such a way that Lucas could see both their faces, and he certainly wanted to see how this unfolded. Amongst his friends, his romantic streak was a well known and mocked part of his persona that he never bothered to hide. What use was there in hiding, he always thought.

            “Do you know this 'someone?' A family member or-?” Her eyes left his to fall coquettishly on the cobblestones, where pigeons were slowly starting to return, edging away from her and crowding around Lucas as if for protection. She looked Lucas in the eyes and flashed him a blindingly perfect smile.

            That woman, he thought to himself, is without flaw.

            He busied himself with sprinkling bits of breakfast onto the ground, listening but not looking. No need to frighten the young lovers, now. Not when it was all so interesting.

            “Well, why does anyone come to Paris? The City of Lights is for lovers isn't it?” The smile in her voice was a dangerous thing.

            “Do you think you have found him?”

            “Maybe. He needs to buy me another drink before I can decide.” Lucas risked a peek, and they were challenging each other. Each wanting the other to make the admittance first.

            “I'm sure he could, if given the opportunity.” Lucas really had to admire the fluidity of his English. There was only the barest trace of Paris in his words, and only a long-time Parisian could pick it out if pressed.

            “Maybe he could. Maybe he couldn't.” She gave him a measuring look. “You look like you're on your way to work. What do you do?”

            “I'm-” he leaned back into his chair, suddenly the very essence of a young dilettante. “Not in the business of doing business if at all possible.”

            “A trust fund baby, then?” she challenged, unimpressed.


            “Oh?” She looked utterly disbelieving. “Started a business at 18 and retired at 20?”

            “I was 17, if I recall rightly,” he grinned. “And I finished work at 25. Too boring. Pedestrian.”

            “Well, maybe you were in the wrong line of work, then. I can't imagine giving up my work for country clubs and a nice round of golf on the Scottish green.” She leaned into the iron as if it were the softest of overstuffed chairs, relishing in thoughts of her life's work.

            “What is your vocation then?” She straightened and held her hand out with a professional air.

            “I'm a writer, investigative journalist, and professional traveller. Nice to meet you.”

            “Impressive,” he said without guile. “I've always admired those that forge their own paths.”

            “That's me. Path forger extraordinaire. Won't find another like me.”

            “I'm sure you shattered your own mold.” They both laughed gently, eyes on each other. Lucas wished for a camera. He'd never seen a prettier sight in all his eighty years. They would surely chat a bit more, maybe exchange numbers, and part. What a lovely start to the morning, Lucas thought.

            Then it got strange.

            Marius took her hand, the one not now taking a measured sip of coffee. The touch was light and gentle, tracing patterns into her outstretched palm. She stilled.

            “Would you like to spend the day with me?” he asked. She started laughing uproariously at the quiet suggestion.

            “You're trying to steal my soul!” she giggled, and he stiffened. She looked at Lucas, who was, rather smartly, enthusiastically feeding the pigeons, some of whom had flocked to his lap and were eating out of his hand. Thank heavens.

            “Who are you?” he asked harshly, letting go of her hand as if it had burned him. “A hunter? A priest?” She leaned forward, so that they were nose to nose. Their eyes flashed an unearthly red. In a blinding moment, the two of them were more than their bodies suggested. Both were surrounded by inky blackness, clouds of malice and evil that Lucas hadn't seen ever before in his very long life.

            “A succubus.” His eyes widened. “Haven't met an incubus in a long time.”

            “Were you going to-?”

            “Yep!” she grinned. “Oh man, this is the greatest. I haven't talked shop with anyone for decades.” He looked around, but Lucas was suddenly overwhelmed by a dozen pigeons flying away. Must have had something to do with the way his legs couldn't keep still.

            “You think he heard us?”

            “He's an old man,” she waved him off. “Who would he tell? Let's just get outta here. See the sites and exchange horror stories.” She rose, and he followed.

            “If you're sure.” Marius sounded dubious.

            “Positive. He's harmless. Aren't you honey?” She looked straight to Lucas, who jumped, dislodging the rest of his bird friends.

            “Pardon!” he stuttered. “No English, Mademoiselle. No English. Parlez-vous Français?”

            “Of course you don't,” she said indulgently. “Let's go, Buddy.” They walked away arm in arm. Lucas' hands shook lightly as he picked up his newspaper, shook away the feathers and poo, and unfolded it. His mélange was cool on his lips as he stared into space.

            Well, Lucas certainly saw something marvellous yesterday. Perhaps not True Love, though. He wisely decided to never speak of it to anyone. Ever.