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Authors: Kate Klise

Tags: #Fiction, #General

In the Bag (6 page)

BOOK: In the Bag
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“That’s a
great
idea,” I said. “I’m sure we can find colored pencils. We’re in Paris, the city of art and artists.”

“And executioners!” Coco said, laughing wickedly and tucking her arm through mine.

“Don’t be too hard on Dr. Guillotin,” I cautioned. “He was a humanitarian and a reformist. Executions in his day were public spectacles and almost unimaginably brutal. That’s what he was fighting against.”

“Oh, I just love gruesome stuff like this,” Coco purred, pulling me closer. “Let’s wander around and look at everything creepy and cool.”

And we did. The entire afternoon.

We should’ve been back at Solange’s apartment, taking naps and trying to shake off our jet lag. This was still our arrival day. But it felt wonderful to wander the narrow streets, admiring the beauty that enveloped us.

Hours later, when we weren’t hungry for dinner, we decided to get some pastries to take back to the apartment. We chose a patisserie based on the spellbinding window display of pastel meringues stacked with architectural precision.

“The French know how to do sweets like nobody else,” I told Coco. It was the reason I’d studied in Paris twenty years earlier. I was heartened that I could still remember most of the names of the delicacies:
opéra, tropizenne, castel, mille-feuilles, éclair au chocolat ou café.

“Mom, what do you want?” Coco asked when we were inside.

“Hmm,” I said, mulling over the possibilities. The
tartes des pommes
looked lovely. So fresh and light and unlike the morbidly heavy Death by Chocolate monstrosities I saw on too many American menus.

“Mom, what do you
want
?” Coco repeated.

And with that question, the spell was broken. Because instead of delighting in the edible art in front of my eyes, I was remembering that idiotic headline in the
Chicago Tribune
.

“What do I want?” I asked, feeling my blood pressure rising. “I want people to stop asking me what the hell I want.”

I caught myself.
Don’t take your frustrations out on Coco,
I could hear Nancy the wonder therapist telling me.
Anxiety is unexpressed anger. Breathe deeply. Are you angry at Coco?
No.
But you are angry. Who are you angry with?
I’m not angry, I’m just tired. I need a small vacation
.

I took a deep breath and tried again. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I want whatever you’re having.”

Coco smiled mysteriously and ordered a small, hideous-looking thing called
séduction
.

CHAPTER 13

Webb

D
ad was going to be busy with work stuff for hours, so I could’ve responded to Coco’s message right away. But that would’ve seemed lame, especially given her “Answer at your leisure” suggestion. Wasn’t that code for “Dude, don’t e-mail me for a while”?

I logged off and left the hotel. The concierge was still at his post. He smiled and lifted his chin at me.

“Luego,” I said with a wave. I felt like a dope using my crappy high school Spanish. But it seemed ruder to expect everyone in the world to speak English.

It was six o’clock Madrid time. Eleven o’clock St. Louis time. I’d been in the same clothes for twenty-four hours. I knew I needed a shower, but it felt good to be outside in the fresh air.

I liked Madrid. Dad had brought me with him twice before on work trips. We’d stayed both times at the Palace Hotel, so I was familiar with the neighborhood. Standing outside the hotel, I could look to my right and see the fountain with Neptune and his seahorses. The Prado Museum was just down the street. So was Retiro Park, home of the Crystal Palace, which sounds like a casino, but it’s more like a huge antique terrarium that’d been converted into a museum. That’s the place Dad was working, and where I was headed when I left the hotel.

I walked down Paseo del Prado, losing myself to the sights, sounds, and dense magic of the city. There’s something weirdly calming about being alone in a big city. It made me feel like the universe was hugely generous, and that my species was so damn smart to have constructed such a beautiful city. If it were up to me, we’d still be living in huts and roasting meat over an open fire.

I remembered a recent conversation I’d had with Dad. He asked if I’d thought about what I might like to study in college. He wanted to know if I had any careers in mind. I told him I’d love to be a modern-day caveman. He almost started crying, poor guy. Parents have it so hard these days.

I wandered for an hour or so, feeling freakishly tall among the
Madrileños
. After a while, I discovered I’d made a giant loop and was back at the hotel. I wandered through the marble lobby and back to the business center. Once again I had the whole place to myself. I settled in and started writing.

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Proof I am not an old creep and/or a globe-trotting internat’l playboy:
1.I have no hair growing out of my nose or ears.
2.I rarely begin sentences with “You should . . .”
3.Almost everything I own comes from either Goodwill or the Salvation Army store. (Exception: my Chuck Taylors.)
4.I’ve never written a real letter that requires a stamp.
5.I don’t think Casablanca is a masterpiece.
6.Or It’s a Wonderful Life.
7.Or The Wizard of Oz.
But I do love Hitchcock movies. And the Mississippi River. And the St. Louis Arch. Have you ever seen it? The official name is the Gateway Arch, but nobody in St. Louis calls it that. It’s just the Arch. It was designed by an architect named Eero Saarinen. The cool thing about the Arch is that it stands 630 feet tall and is 630 wide at its base. On nights when the moon is full, it knocks you out.
But back to your question (which was delightfully sassy, I might add): One way that I *might* be confused with an old guy is my musical taste, which runs mainly toward older stuff. I have a thing for Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain—all those genius singer-songwriters who wrote brilliant songs and then killed themselves.
“What’s with this sad sack and all his talk of double murder plots and suicide?” Miss Sprinkle asks herself, stepping away from the computer slowly.
Don’t worry. I’m harmless.
OK, your turn now. Prove to me you’re not some 45-year-old transcontinental cougar who pours herself into her daughter’s jeans and looks great from the back—until she turns around and reveals her shriveled-up dried apple face, like that freaky scene from Lost Horizon. Another cool movie, btw.

 

Webb

CHAPTER 14

Coco

B
ack at the apartment Mom brewed a pot of hot tea while I enjoyed my pastry.

“Ready for bed?” Mom asked. She was paging through a stack of Solange’s art magazines.

“It’s only eight o’clock,” I said. “I’m not at all tired.”

Actually, I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept much on the flight. Plus, I’d spotted an Internet café at the end of Solange’s block.

“Can we take a walk?” I asked. “I need to check my e-mail.”

“Are we going to spend our entire vacation in cybercafés?” Mom said, not looking up from her magazine.

“No, but I really need to check on someone.”

So we walked down the street and reserved twenty minutes on two terminals that faced each other. I signed on to my account and read Webb’s message. Then I started writing.

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Dear Mr. Superficial,
Have you ever seen
The Graduate
? If so, you’d know from witnessing Anne Bancroft (goddess) just how 100% GORGEOUS older women can be. But no, I’m not a cougar. You require proof? Okay, here goes.
Unlike my mother and her friends, I fail to see the attraction of Brad Pitt. Or George Clooney. Or Will Smith. However, I think Sean Connery and Denzel Washington are hot hot hot, even though they’re ancient. And I’m totally in love with Clark Gable and Gregory Peck, even though they’re dead.
Further proof that I’m only 18: My clothes are stylish (sorta) but cheaply made. My mother, by contrast, wears pseudo-stylish sexy librarian clothes, like $250 silk blouses. Granted, everything she wears she’s had for years. So maybe it pays off in the long run. Still, you should see how she freaks whenever she spills something on herself or pulls a random thread from one of her favorite “pieces,” as she calls them.
Speaking of fashion, it might interest you to know that I’m wearing your white oxford cloth shirt even as I write these words. Don’t worry. I’m going shopping tomorrow with my $500 airline money.
Yes, I’ve seen the Arch. It’s totally cool. In fact, I was in St. Louis a month ago. I had a second interview at Washington University. I’ve been accepted there for next fall, but I’m trying to get into an honors program. (Did I already mention this? If so, sorry. It’s on my to-stress-about list.)
Hope you’re having mucho fun in Madrid.
Adios, amigo.
Coco
P.S. Oh, here’s one way I’m sort of a lady geezer: As much as I miss my phone and texting, I don’t really mind using e-mail. It’s retro cool and vaguely Victorian, y’know? Plus, you can add groovy things, like P.S.

 

Two minutes later, I had a response:
Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Agreed. Texting is for monosyllabic morons. I don’t really do it that much. Mainly b/c I lose my c/phone a lot. But wait: You’re planning to go to college in STL? I want to go to Northwestern. That’s your ’hood, sí? And you’re wearing my white shirt? That’s muy odd. Because I’m wearing your gypsy blouse. Olé!

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Dog! Are you pawing through my clothes? (Btw: It’s not a gypsy blouse. It’s a *peasant* blouse.)

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Peasant blouse. Gotcha. And no pawing here. The saucy thing just flew out of the bag and wrapped itself around me, like I was Gregory Peck. I have that effect on blouses.
(You know I’m kidding, right? Are you mad? Do you think we should start seeing other people? I hope not. Because I was just thinking how cool it’d be to meet you.)

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Are you serious? About meeting?

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
Si. Muy serioso!
I’d love to show you around STL.
Wearing matching peasant blouses, of course.

It was all I could do to keep from howling. Why didn’t my school have any guys like this who were smart and funny and who could write complete sentences? I wondered what he looked like. He seemed like a bum from the way he packed his bag. But maybe he was just rumpled in a totally adorable sheepdog way.

I wanted to ask if he had a MySpace page or was on Facebook, but that would be a total giveaway that I wanted to know what he looked like. And here I’d just called him Mr. Superficial.

So I fired off something just to keep the conversation alive.

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your bag
BOOK: In the Bag
11.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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