Meaghan could just spot the Eiffel Tower from where she sat in the café. Framed neatly between the ornate gold lettering on the window, it symbolised everything she was feeling about everything right now — a huge brutalist dagger stabbing straight into the soul of the universe. Seriously, what prick brings his fiancee of two years to Paris, the rumoured city of love, to introduce her to his lover of six months? She shook her head as she thought back to the introduction to his “newer, hotter version of her”. His words. She thought of the two of them, entwined passionately, bare skin, writhing together, impaled on the tip of the Eiffel Tower after a tandem naked skydive goes horribly wrong. Meaghan smiled slightly for the first time in a week.
And this was the problem, everything here reminded her of them. Coffee was what she was drinking when the introduction to Mélanie had been made. The woman walking past the café in a béret? Mélanie surely wore one. The croissant in front of her? God knows what the two of them had got up to with croissants behind her back. As for that baguette the waiter has handing across the counter to that sylph…
It dawned on Meaghan that the café had gone quiet, pin drop quiet. She looked around at everyone staring at her — the mother holding her baby tight, the business man holding his briefcase like a shield, the waiter nervously flicking his eyes between her face and her croissant. She looked down at it to see that she had turned her freshly strawberry jammed pastry into something that would have seasoned homicide detectives rushing out for fresh air. Carefully placing the knife back on the table, Meaghan mumbled a “Merci, mon petite derrière” in what she believed was an apology. The café began to return to an appropriate level of hubbub around her as the world began to swim behind a upwelling of tears.
As the rainstorm of self pity began to burst, a face popped into view, nose almost touching hers. “Man, oui? Heartbreak?” Meaghan nodded gently, not wishing for the tears to start pouring out. The crockery rattled as the table was slapped with a resounding “Ha!!” In the time it took to for Meaghan to sweep a few escapee tears from her face, a whirlwind had deposited a figure of elderly elegance and two decadently size glasses filled with a dark drink to her table.
A hand extended languidly across the table, hovering there until Meaghan worked out it was to be taken in hers. The hand’s owner introduced herself, “Camille. Now, drink up. Heartbreak requires anesthésique in the near term, détermination in the long.” Camille retracted her hand and picked up her glass, motioning for Meaghan to do the same. With a “à la tienne!”, Camille knocked back the drink. Meaghan went to do the same and nearly choked as the brandy hit the back of her throat. Not wanting to look like she couldn’t keep up with Camille, Meaghan managed to get it all down. Languid was a now look she could go for.
The waiter stepped in, refilled their glasses, and in a mixture of french and english and floating waves of her hands, Camille began to run through what Meaghan assumed were her heartbreaks. From Jean to Oliver, Dominique through to Jacques by way of Serge, each accompanied either by a shot of brandy, a snort of derision, or a sigh of regret. Cyrano, Christian, Blaise, maybe back to Dominique, maybe a different Dominique. Aramis, Anton, Antoinette, Alexandre; Meaghan thought she was preparing to make her way through the alphabet. The brandies continued on, accompanied with more pastries, tears, cheeses, laughter, and a hearty stew. The hours passed as Camille went though them all, finally completing the catalogue as the sun set behind the Eiffel tower.
In the quiet then descended between them, Camille looked at Meaghan, “Et vous?”
With a heart fortified with brandy, Meaghan told Camille about her one and only heartbreak, her singular love, her fiancee bringing her to Paris only for him to introduce her to his lover. Camille smiled at her, “You’re still young, more time for heartbreak. Go, sleep, go risk your heart some more.”
Meaghan sat silently, digesting Camille’s advice. The moment didn’t last long as Camille started waving her hands at her. “Shoo, go. Don’t waste time. Break hearts, yours, theirs.”
Meaghan thanked Camille for the anesthésique, the stories, the company, and walked out into the street. Wavering as she walked, she made her way back to her Airbnb and collapsed on the couch. Sleep came quick for the first time since Mélanie was introduced. A deep, dreamless sleep of the very, very brandied.
Waking the next morning, Meaghan was hungover, but strangely clear headed. She showered, donned her sunglasses, and thought about toast. Instead, a cup of coffee was brewed and she sat on the couch, suddenly single, migraine at the ready, and perhaps with a new purpose in life, she let the morning sun warm her up. A thought bubbled into her head, she smiled a wicked smile, and pulled her iPad close. A quick search, a quicker purchase, and a quick transfer of funds from their joint account into her brand spanking new solo one, Meaghan was ready to text an old crush.
A few moments later, none the wiser to his new financial predicament, Meaghan’s ex’s phone chimed. An email, a gift from Meaghan. He showed it to Mélanie, who read it out loud. Let’s move on, it read, enjoy your time together. You should have an adventure, it continued, on me. Skydiving, you’ll enjoy it — to a point.