Friday, March 23, 2007

Chapter 5: Porte Maillot

"Night's Caress"
© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest

We all have our vices and shortcomings. Sometimes they are completely out of our control - and this is the case for Gaston. He snores so incredibly loud and with such force, I sometimes wonder if he is actually human or a grizzly bear. He also passes gas in his sleep, which I find repulsive. I suppose it's somewhat natural, but it's so abrupt and uncouth, and, of course, it's not like he can pardon himself in his sleep. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to this issue because Gaston only seems to pass gas once it's finally quiet and I'm nearing that elusive state of sleep - only to be jerked back to consciousness by such unpleasantness.

For the first few weeks of our arrangement I tried to sleep beside him; for the first few nights I was able to catch some rest. Then for the next few nights I tried turning on a lamp and reading, but that usually disturbed Gaston. I couldn't get up and go to another room for Gaston would surely wake and it would be entirely counter-productive to me even being there in the first place. So I practiced laying there... I'd let my mind wander and fantasize about a life I will never know. It was there that I got my first inspiration to write. Myriads of stories came to me as I lay there in the darkness, with only the sound of Gaston's discordant opera.

Of course, my ideas started out very cliché -- the damsel in distress, the evil oppressor, the abusive father. Eventually, I grew some creativity and a yearn to actually write. Most of my stories reflected my inner demons. Most of them are a bit bizarre and esoteric. Most of them are a wild call out for attention, but then, most authors would say the same if they did any real introspection.

For months, I practiced this routine of meditating beside Gaston and letting my mind wander along the different paths that one of my plots might take me, but I got to the point where even that could not entertain me and I felt such a restlessness, that I went to the Doctor and feigned insomnia. He gave me some paroxetine and I have to admit, I took more than I was supposed to. I couldn't help it. I blame that damn dream. I would close my eyes and think of him... of Etienne. For most of my life I've been able to just go back to sleep and resume my dreams, but this one eluded me. During this time Gaston became a bit more physical with me. I don't know if he noticed my state of distraction and was trying to win me back or if he was taking my increased presence as a token of affection. The only thing I knew is that all I wanted to do was sleep... to just see Etienne once more...

Then it happened. I saw him... I swear I did... he looked like so much like the Etienne of my dream... I ran after that metro. I embarrassed myself terribly... I was pushing and screaming, waving and making a huge commotion. I only saw his profile, but I swear it was him. He was getting on at Porte Maillot. I happened to be wandering around aimlessly trying to break out of my daze from those damn pills. I had exited and just sat down on a bench to watch the people walk by. I had been sitting there for hours and was beginning to grow uncomfortable. A man, very tall, rushed past me to jump on to the metro... this is what caught my eye. He stepped in just before the doors closed, looked down at his right hand to check his watch, and the metro whirled off. I don't even remember what exactly I did -- I just pushed and shoved forward toward him. I think I was shouting, "Etienne! Etienne!" He didn't seem to notice.

I stood there staring at the empty space and doubted myself. Maybe it wasn’t him after all. Perhaps I was just wishing it was him. I waited in that station until the last metro departed, thinking he might make his round-trip home, but I didn't see him. I decided on the walk home that I would return the next day, in hopes that I might see this man once more.


This last week has whirled by me like most dreams do – with little concept of time, skipping from scene to scene and experiencing a range of emotions in an incredibly short period of time.

I’m still unsure at this point what is or was real and how much was my projected desires…

I went back to Porte Maillot and I sat for days on the same bench, facing the same direction. I even packed meals so that I never had to leave that bench, except for bathroom breaks – which broke my heart to take and which were taken with great expediency. I even gave one woman 100 francs to let me go ahead of her and each time I feared that that would be the moment that he walked by… but I made sure to reserve myself for the timeframe in which I had last seen him. I was growing to fear that it might be only a once a week or once a month thing… or worse, perhaps a once in a lifetime thing. After several days, I was disheartened, but nowhere near losing hope – with Gaston’s financial support, I had all day long to wait for him. Granted, I would get nothing accomplished in that time, but this had become so important to me, I was willing to take risk that time lost. I used that time to do some serious people watching, and even gained some inspiration for more stories – which I will elaborate on later.

One evening – late after the last metro stopped, I decided to walk the Rue… to breathe the air and see the sights and moreover just to clear my head. As I was walking, I spotted a man walking in the same direction on the opposite side of the street, seemingly unaware of me. So I quickly crossed over and was about 10 metres ahead of him. I thought he looked like Etienne, but it was very dark and I could not tell – I needed some excuse to stop, turn around and stare at him.

“Ask him for the time?” I thought. “Ask him for directions? I could just trip and fall, hoping that he would come to my aide and if he didn’t, then he wasn’t the Etienne of my dreams.” My mind was racing. “How do I do this without making an ass of myself?”

Suddenly, I just felt myself turning to stare at the Krasnyansky in the window of a small art shoppe that I had been the week before. I just stared intently at the window and waited for him to pass so I could look at his reflection in the moonlight. I was acting on pure impulse at this point. As he neared, I began to panic as I realized I might not get a good look at him. A few seconds went by when I expected his silhouette to have passed the window.

“Pardonnez-moi, mademoiselle,” he interrupted my panic. “Do you know when this shoppe opens?”

I turned quickly to find him standing just feet away and stared at him awestruck. It was him. He cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable with me staring at him. He spoke up again to clarify, since I must have looked like I never heard his question in the first place.

“Mademoiselle? The shoppe…? Do you know? I’m interested in that Krasnyansky…”

“The shoppe…” I stammered, “it opens at 8 a.m. and the Krasnyansky has already been purchased… I inquired about it last week…”

I couldn’t believe it. This was my Etienne… his voice, his lips, his eyes… everything. The only thing that was different was his height, I think… he seemed a bit shorter – he must have been just a bit exaggerated in my dream. And he was trying to buy my Krasnyansky!

“That’s too bad,” he commented, “it would have gone very well with the other… Well, thank you for your time, adieu…” and he started to walk away. He was walking back out of my life again and, at this point, I wasn’t certain that this wasn’t a dream – it was too coincidental for chance.

My head started to swirl and I heard someone asking, “Which one do you have?” He paused and turned back to respond “Ceremony.”

I soon realized the voice was my own. “That… is one of my favourites… My other favourite is ‘City Serenade.’”

“You have good taste indeed, mademoiselle.”

“Merci, Etienne.”

It slipped. I swear. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t even think about it – it was like two old souls in harmony.

“Pardonnez-moi, mademoiselle?”

I started to feel nauseous. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding. “What had I just done? What had I just said?”

“My pardons… but you look just like a friend of mine, named Etienne,” I lied through my teeth to save myself from embarrassment.

“That is a funny thing,” he said, “my name is Etienne.”

I passed out. It must have been funny to a passerby, but it wasn’t funny then. I didn’t even know that women really did that, I thought it was just a bad ploy for unimaginative storytellers, but the truth is that it happened.

“Mademoiselle? Mademoiselle…? Are you alright?” He tapped my cheek gently. He had sat me up in his arms, I guess to get my head off of the dirty street.

“Mademoiselle… eh… what is your name, if I may ask?”

“Lisolette,” I mumbled trying to get my bearings.

“Mademoiselle Lisolette, would you like to get some water and rest a bit? My flat is at the end of the block…” and he nodded ahead.

I nodded appreciatively and silently. I couldn’t pass up this chance – but should I tell him of my dream? Surely, he would have thought me mad, or worse, realized I orchestrated our introduction and think that I had feigned illness to get his attention. My head… it hurt so badly. I rubbed it a bit and took his arm to help me up.

“What harm will it do him if I don’t tell him?” I have no ill intentions and do not mean to betray him. If I tell him now, I’ll never get this chance again – not without more deceit.” I decided to keep my mouth shut, “ferme la bouche, Lisolette…” I thought to myself.

“Would you like my arm there? To steady your step?”

“Oui, merci beaucoup…” I said, still rubbing my head. I was starting to feel like a giddy like a schoolgirl.

He was so polite and so formal, I laughed to myself thinking, “if he only knew that I was a cortisanne…” It was a bittersweet thought.

We walked quietly to his loft. He opened every door to let me in first, he was kind and sweet with his words. When I walked in to his loft, I was astonished. Of course, I saw the Krasnyasnky – but the rest of his loft was covered in rich, beautiful colors. Rather than the nouveau cold black and white decorations or the terrible eclectic collections of a typical bachelor’s pad, most of it was done in rich browns and dark blues. To match were other great artists, like Tarkay and van Gogh and others that I did not recognize, but with enormous talent.

He handed me a water and excused himself for a moment. I sat down on his couch and admired the art – one in particular was fascinating. When he returned, I asked him what it was and he told me it was a Cherneshevsky that he acquired while he was in the USSR.

“What were you doing there?” Of course, as soon as I asked, I realized how intrusive the question was, but before I could take it back or pardon myself, he answered.

“I was in Voronezh on a freelance project…”

It was ambiguous, at best, but I had already pushed it with the first question, so I didn’t press it further. Perhaps realizing how cryptic he had been, he added, “I’m a photographer.”

“What was your project?” Now I was just blurting things like a schoolgirl. I swear I must have grown red. This time, I was embarrassed by his answer.

“I really cannot say… it was for a private investor.” The word “investor” was strained and it made me wonder, which of course, caught me off-guard, when he asked, “What about you, eh, Lisolette?”

“Damn,” I thought. I hate this question. I usually avoid all conversation related to it – but I got caught up unexpectedly. His way was so disarming; I had let myself let my guard down for a moment.

“I am a personal assistant for a financial mogul.” Damn him for making me lie to him again. Damn him for tricking me into the subject. And damn him for being so incredibly much like the Etienne of my dream.

“You look a bit familiar… I mean aside from the fact that you bear an uncanny resemblance to my friend…” oh God, the lie was growing, “do I know you from somewhere?”

“Likely not… I’m originally from Provence and honestly I work too much to have much of a social life.”

“I see… must just be the resemblance… funny coincidence…”

At that moment, I heard some rustling in the back of the flat, near where I suspect the bedroom would be. Out of instinct, I looked down at his hand and realized he was wearing a wedding ring. I don’t know why I assumed he was single – probably because I wanted him to be. I looked up abashed and looked around for a clock.

“It’s late,” I said. “I should be on my way…”

I stood up flushed -- suddenly embarrassed at my assumption and behaviour. I was angry, too. I was too late... possibly. Who knows? Maybe he was a real and I would have hated him in the end. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I needed to think those thoughts in order to keep it together and to console myself at that moment.

I babbled some gracious words and gathered up my things. Etienne tried to assure me that my presence was alright, but more than anything I felt like a fool and wanted to get the hell out of there. Etienne said something as I ran out waving goodbye in an awkward fashion, I wish now that I knew what it was, but at the time I was damning him for his lovability.

And that's it. Rather anti-climactic. And, of course, it's all I can think about. I keep replaying the scene in my head. Wondering what would have happened had I made an advance on him and his wife came out... or what might have happened had he shown interest and then found out what I am.

Chapter 4: Endless Days

© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest

I never tell Gaston what I'm doing during the day, whether it's legitimate or nefarious because I don’t think he could possibly stomach it. It’s not so much that I take commissions with other men that frequently, however, I will not deny that I do on occasion, especially if that commission has been a regular with me for some time or even if I’m mildly entertained by them. However, I don’t think Gaston could stand it to think about his "wife" with “other men” and I think Gaston has grown some affection for me personally, although he would never admit that since it would also require him to admit our charade to himself and it is clear that he is enjoying the illusion. More often than not, though, I fill my day running errands and going shopping – both of which are really just an excuse for me to watch other people since my life is so mundane otherwise. I think this, too, would be cause to make Gaston recognize that I am not his Chloë, who seems by all accounts to have been filled with a vivacity and love for life.

I think it also bothers Gaston to know that even though the Francs that he gives me are clearly enough for a salary, I continue to do what I do. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why that is. I think that part of me is afraid one day that Gaston will abandon me and that I will be back out on the street on my derriere starting from zero again if I don’t maintain some contacts and prospective work. Sometimes I'm more honest with myself and I admit that I do it simply because it's all that I am. I do it because some small part of me enjoys doing it. I also cannot deny that I do it because I know I’m good at it and I will never be anything more than a cortisanne. It's all I will ever know and all that I'll ever be able to rely on.

I learned my lesson once about relying on someone else. I started out low and went even lower before I ended up where I am now. I never want to go back to that place and I have to embrace that I can't go anywhere else. What would I put on my resume: "Whore extraordinaire?"

I have done very bad things in the past and I could do them again, if I wanted to… as far as I know my contacts still exist. I did those things once strung out on drugs and alcohol and willed by extortion. I'm sure if I were ever in that position again, I'd have to drown myself to the point of delusion and justify my actions in a three hour high because I was so suicidal for so long last time when I finally broke that vicious cycle that I’m not sure that I could last through it again… but things are different now. I have no one precious to me. I have no harbinger. I have no hope. I have no future.

Even with the aide of drugs and alcohol, I’m not sure I could ever return to him again. I won't take those things away from other people because I don't have them anymore. I'm bitter, not malicious. At least I'd like to think so.

I'm a prostitute, because it's who I am. I turn tricks and play escort to men who pay me money… many different men. Because of this my personality must be dynamic. I change who I am for who they are. In a sense, I guess that makes me nothing.

But I was something once... before that night... and I did have life and vivacity like Chloë. Perhaps that is what reminds Gaston most of her when he looks at me. Maybe there’s a flicker in my eyes and he sees the passion within me to live hidden deep beneath the layers of fear, abuse and pain.

I’ve heard some people say that to be alone, or maybe better word is “lonely” is the worst feeling in the world. I’ve often thought about this adage, because most of my life has been spent in a private fashion and I wondered how this could be worse for more solitary individuals like myself, than say the grief over having loved someone who didn’t love you back. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that loneliness was not worse than two other things that others I know have personally experienced. At least if you lose someone, you’ve had the opportunity to love. But loving someone who cannot return that love – this, this was the worst potential thing I could think of to happen to any good soul. I can’t say that I have ever really experienced this, not in an adult love anyways.

I thought that I loved a young man in school. He broke my heart, as most young men do to their lovers and I spent one evening crying behind St. Catherine’s. It was a beautiful church, with an amazing scene behind it that was illuminated at night and the iconic saints, mother Mary and Jesus upon the cross would glow with a life-like aura. I remember being struck as a little girl by the statues at night after going to a midnight mass with my mother. After mass my mother took me outside to look at the scene in back and she told me how she used to go there as a girl and pray or talk to them when she had troubles. She told me that once she thought she saw the mother Mary move – she was sure she was not mistaken – but, of course, she never saw it again. I found solace there, mostly because it made me think of her and her wisdom and words.

On this afternoon, I went behind the church heartbroken about Pierre to cry and grieve and ask God how he could be so cruel. I was there for several hours sitting and thinking when suddenly I felt like a selfish child. How could I be cursing God about Pierre’s lack of love towards me, when God probably felt that way most of the time with most of the people in the world – including me? I couldn’t help thinking that if we all were God’s children how painful it must be for Him to love us and for most of us not to love Him in return – or worse, just forget about Him and that He’s watching us like a proud parent.

I cannot deny that I’ve often questioned a lot of things about God and if He even exists – and whether He does or not – the mere idea that if He does exist, He is probably in much more pain that I could even imagine. This very thought made me feel very small and very spoiled at that moment. It was an odd epiphany, especially considering I did not think myself particularly religious or at least not dogmatic.

It was also then that I decided for this reason that my loneliness without Pierre could not be the worst thing for me to experience and that although I felt rejected, there was indeed a worse fate than his ignorance at what I had to offer him.

There is something that is much more treacherous – betrayal and abandonment. These two things by their very definition mean either gaining of one’s trust and friendship intentionally to harm them or for your own personal gain – or simply because they’ve reprioritized their own needs above others without consideration for them.

That’s more than simple ignorance; it’s neglect through malice.

In the long run I can deal with betrayal, because while the sting of betrayal burns deep – I’ve always said it is best to cut your losses there and be grateful that their darkness is out of your life forever. But abandonment… for me it is the worst pain imaginable. It leaves you wondering why they left, when they’ll be coming back and hoping for some justifiable explanation as to why they couldn’t be there for you. A desperate hope… for something…

Chapter 3: References

© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest

The phone rang.

"What color panties are you wearing?"

The question caught me a bit off guard, as it usually does, but I quickly regrouped and replied matter-of-factly.

"I'm not."

"You're not…?" He replied surprised and this time he was the one caught off guard.


"Well… what color do you normally wear…?"

He tried to recover by pushing the conversation back to his original line of questioning but I already had the upper hand when I heard the pause between his first two words, so I replied casually trying not to reveal that I was suddenly realizing that I had no idea with whom I was speaking and furthermore that this was not who I initially thought it was.

"I don't."

"You don't???” He was pleasantly stunned, chuckling a bit in a congratulatory fashion and then asked playfully, “Do you have a nice derriere?”

Merde, I have no idea who he is. He could be a reference from Remy or he could just be some pervert randomly pranking me. Anything's possible... but if I break character now, the illusion for him may be lost. However… if I get commissioned, it could be a rude surprise for him or for me.

"Only if you have the proper references..." I finally blurted.

"What do my references have to do with your ass?"

His response wasn’t condescending, just challenging enough to let me know that I was not dealing with a fool. In fact, I began to note at this point in the conversation that I was strangely attracted to his voice. His croon combined with his wit was delicious.

"Because I am different things for different people -- as we all are." He had posed a good question about my previous poor answer and the conversation volley came at me too quickly for me to retort with clever sarcasm. So I responded truthfully and, in all honesty, vulnerably to him – though I easily could have played it off as a front. This time I thought I had him in the banter, but all I heard was a strange, small sigh that sounded almost proud and then he said something so quiet that I couldn't discern it.


"Nothing that I can share with you at this time, Lisolette," he paused and then said in a heartfelt tone: "Thank you..."

He hung up. There was nothing but dial tone and me staring at the receiver.

Damn. I lost him. A perfectly good reference and he even seemed benevolent enough. Ah well, I'm well taken care of by Gaston anyways.

Chapter 2: Gaston

"The Channel"
© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest

Gaston. I think I've grown a certain affection for him. More than twice my age and probably quadruple my weight, he is a lonely old man, who above all has been as honest with me as he can be with himself. A widower, he lost his wife seven years ago to a terrible car accident. An extremely successful and savvy businessman, well credited in his field, he began to lose grip and slowly began deteriorating from the grief, and quite honestly, from the lack of sleep. He would toss and turn with nightmares about the accident, her funeral and her loss. He would wake to turn to see if it was all a bad dream... and then remember that it was indeed a "bad dream."

The partners in his firm asked him to take some time off, some time to himself and he agreed. He drank those first few months away and philandered with hookers. Then one day he found me. If I recall correctly, he was referred to me. He placed a phone call and when I answered, he couldn't help but slur his words in a drunken Absinthe stupor. I promptly informed him that he was to go take a very cold shower, drink two espressos and call me back when he could form full sentences.

"I am not a common whore," I told him. "If you want common service, please go down to the Rue."

He was apparently tired of the parfum-ridden prostitutes or his life as a drunk (one or both), or maybe I just sounded a lot like Chloë, but it was an effective maneuver. The next day, stone cold sober, he called to arrange an appointment. He was given stern treatment by me after that first drunken contact and for several months afterwards while he shaped up. I called him my "problem child" and I was especially squeamish about his requests at first – nothing necrophiliac or terribly kinky, just morbid.

Chloë had been slightly taller in stature and some twenty years younger than Gaston (about ten years older than I am now). She had had amazing taste and a very large budget: elegant cocktail gowns, sexy lingerie, top-notch footwear, parfum and colognes and gorgeous jewelry. Gaston had left everything exactly as it has been the day she left and never came back. One could almost see the wear marks from where Gaston had walked around a beautiful oriental silk robe that had fallen from her armoir onto the plush carpeting of their bedroom.

Upon learning of her death Gaston was shocked... then he was angry... then he slipped into the delusion that helps him survive from day to day. When he saw me, he turned pale and bent over, as if to catch his breath or vomit – which one it was in this case, I do not know. I responded by chastising him, thinking that he had been inebriated again, until I heard him sobbing, "Chloë..." Apparently, to him I had some resemblance to her, although I have since seen pictures of her and think the likeness is remote. Perhaps it's more my mannerisms, but I'll never know.

Once he was able to gather himself he started explaining his situation, and I felt terrible. In fact, I am under the distinct impression that I was the first person he ever opened up to on the matter. Our first session didn't even involve intimacy. I just listened, like his "Father Confessor." At the end, he was so emotionally exhausted that he just fell asleep in my arms. I stayed there for a while and then eventually grew uncomfortable when my arm fell asleep and hungry, so I got up to go get something to eat.

I wandered around the house for some time as I ate some pâté, and it was then that I discovered the pictures. Chloë was beautiful – far more beautiful than I have ever felt about myself. She exuded a unique grace and class, and I am still today admittedly enviable of her beauty.

After a short while, I could hear Gaston tossing and turning... and whimpering, so I made my way back to the master bedroom. Just as I was a few steps from the door, he sat up in bed and cried out her name. He looked around in the darkness after feeling the bed beside him. As I crossed the threshold to the bedroom, I stopped in the doorway and watched him for a bit as he murmured her name and looked around helplessly. I leaned against the door frame and the wood made a soft, creaking sound. He started a bit and then began to scramble, thinking me an intruder in his disorientation.

"It's me..." I spoke up in a yelled whisper and Gaston immediately relaxed.

"What are you doing?" he asked still slightly unnerved.

"I was getting some pâté, I was hungry... I hope you don't mind."

"Of course not. How silly of you," he responded sheepishly. "Now come to bed," he patted the side next to him. I walked over and set the empty container of pâté down on the dresser, slapped my hand together softly and began to crawl into bed.

Gaston let out a small chuckle, "What are you doing? You're still in your clothes, go put a nightgown on. Honestly, Chloë, sometimes I wonder if I didn't marry a Fae... prancing around in the middle of the night, eating pâté, and getting into bed with your street clothes on..." He laughed, obviously entertained and with adoration.

I stood there like a deer in headlights. "Chloë? Does he think I'm his wife? Is he still sleeping? What if he realizes it's me in the middle of a love-making session and panics?"

"Well?" he quashed my impulse to run.

"I'm coming, Gaston."

"Very good," he said pleased.

I don't know why I played along. I think part of me understood that deep down inside he knew better, but just couldn't bring himself to admit it on this night.

I walked over to the armoire, stepped over the robe on the floor and opened up the top drawer. To my luck, it was the drawer with all of her negligees in it. I chose a simple one in the dim light of the hallway sconce. I undressed with my back to him, fearing that he would recognize that my nude body was different from hers, and then I hopped in bed.

"Good night, my dear," he spoke wistfully.

"Good night, my love," I responded instinctually, then cringed silently hoping it wasn't too much.

He let out a sigh that sounded like his grief escaping him.

I stared at the ceiling for a long time, wondering what the hell I was doing there, and if I was even doing the right thing.

In the morning I woke up before Gaston and got out of bed quickly, before he awoke – just in case he was sleeping when he asked me to put his wife's nightgown on. I folded it up quietly and put it back into the armoire, then snuck out of the bedroom and back downstairs to the pantry. I whipped up some crêpes and eggs for two and sat down to eat. I figured I'd leave him a plate and he could think maybe his wife left it for him.

"Merde," I muttered. "How am I going to get paid?" I asked myself. As I sat there wondering how to approach the situation, I was surprised to see Gaston turn the corner with attaché in hand. I couldn't believe that they made such handsome suits in such a large size. I also couldn't believe that he was in such good spirits.

I nodded and smiled a bit nervously. I was terrified by the possibility of different responses that my presence there on that morning could have elicited. He smiled appreciatively and cleared his throat to speak.

"Thank you for last night... it was just what I needed."

I nodded a bit, wondering if he meant the discussion or the nightgown.

"Did you need any money today, dear?

He was dropping me deeper into confusion – I was a courtesan, what was he thinking? Is he still in denial? Or could he just not bring himself to admit was really going on?

"I... would like a small allowance, yes please, Gaston..."

"Will 5000 francs do for today?"

I nodded.

"How long will you be away?"

"I... hadn't decided. Did you need me back at a certain... time?" I stammered.

"I'd like you to be here... home... by around midnight at the latest."

He reached into his front coat pocket and grabbed out a small metal item, then handed it to me. It was a house key. I looked at it and back up at him. I gave a quick look to the breakfast plate that I had prepared for him. I nodded as if to seal a contract and then spoke firmly.

"Sit down and eat your breakfast, Gaston. It's getting cold..."

Chapter 1: Etienne...

"Fiery Dreams"
© Lisolette Gilcrest

My dreams are usually quite vivid. I've always been a heavy sleeper and from discussions that I've had with other people, I've found that those who sleep more deeply tend to have more animated and fascinating dreams in general, but this dream... this was like no other dream that I have ever had in my life... I woke up so incredibly disheartened when I realized that I had lost him.

I laid there for two more hours trying everything I could to fall back asleep just to see him once more and when I realized that my slumber would not embrace me anytime soon, I finally got out of bed downtrodden and resigned to my frustration. All day long I was haunted with this lingering wish that it was time for me to go back to bed, but I was also haunted by this dreadful fear that by the time I got back to my dreamscape, he wouldn't be there anymore and I didn't know if my heart could take that disappointment. Mostly the fear tugging at my stomach was that he had learned the truth about me and left, just like all of the others had done. I think part of me felt so connected to him because I had this notion that he would have accepted it and maybe stayed for just a while longer – long enough for me to experience some of the happiness I had once known as a young girl.

He was enormous, standing at least two metres tall. He was so thick and muscular, so unlike the men I usually meet or even desire to be with. He had a crown of brown hair, slightly longer than a brush cut, with his thick locks just beginning to turn into the tight curls that would likely encompass his entire head if he let his hair grow out much longer. His eyes were a deep pool of dark chocolate, so dark in fact that it was impossible to tell where his pupils ended and where his irises began. His eyes were so piercing and enchanting that it was difficult to look away from him. He was clean shaven and well groomed and looked like the type to guard the Prime Minister - in fact, he felt important like that in this dream, though I am uncertain why he was dressed so plainly when I saw him. He had this simply incredible presence and I was so drawn to him, despite myself, that I couldn't help but stare at him unabashedly.

In this dream, I was at a reunion for the academé that I attended in Paris and this seemed strange to me, even within the context of this dream because I would never really want to see any of them again. I had very little in common with those students while I attended there a decade ago, and likely had even less in common with them now. Perhaps the dream was meant as a cruel reminder that I am not as young as I once was and how much of my life has been wasted with the path that I have taken since then – I am uncertain.

As I walked around having seemingly important conversations with faceless but familiar figures, someone stopped me to tell me an "Etienne" wanted to speak with me. I was confused, since I couldn't recall any Etienne that had gone to school with me, but as it was a dream, I just went with it and walked over in the direction that the man pointed me to. Etienne was seated humbly, nearly hunched over and this position did not reveal his massive girth at first. What was most amusing and anachronistic, was that he sat quietly as if waiting for the headmaster, looking down at his large, rough hands fidgeting nervously with them as he awaited their arrival.

"Etienne?" I asked nervously and doubtful of whether or not I even had the right man.

He looked up and my heart raced as his face brightened – with a smile as if a young child whose lost toy were returned to him.

"You've come... I never thought you would..." he said softly.

"You have been waiting for me?" I asked stunned, "For how long?"

"For nearly ten years..." he replied.

I stepped back. My world was spinning around me. He stood up and put his hands forth pleadingly. It was then that I realized how large and overpowering he was and I became even more anxious.

"Please..." he begged, "Lisolette, give me just a few minutes... I have been waiting for so long and I don't think my heart could stand it if you walked away now."

I stepped back again, though I am unsure as to why I did – perhaps because at this point he involved his heart with mine and I never invited or allowed him to do so. Nor did I even recognize him, as he was definitely not someone that I ever went to school with. Actually... I cannot say that I didn't recognize him entirely, since like most dreams, there was something strangely familiar about him: his aura, his voice, his forlorn eyes... he was nothing like my men.

He continued to move forward, his hands up in protestation and I continued to step back in some sort of shock. He was terribly handsome, with big strong hands and a commanding presence, but his eyes were immensely sad. I had a rush of emotions – attraction, concern, confusion and mostly anger. How dare he invite himself into my life like this??? Especially now. In real life, I would have run out, but as usual with dreams, I was oddly compelled to stay, even if only for the moment.

Others began staring and some turned to see if I needed aide. One man even stepped toward us and Etienne snapped a glance at him, as if to warn him to stay out of the matter, and then Etienne immediately retracted his visual threat by looking down in submission and stepping back apologetically.

I looked at the unknown man, a bit surprised to remember that anyone else was even around us, and Etienne stood there helpless, looking down at his own hands. Damn Etienne... He was so... beautiful and I would never normally use that word to describe a man. Etienne's face was well-sculpted, as if chiseled from quebracho, yet his child-like humility made him all the more intriguing and appealing.

"It's alright, Yves," I assured my intercessor. I was shocked that I even knew the unknown man's name.

Then I turn and spoke to Etienne again for the first time since he confessed that he had been waiting for me for ten years. "Etienne, come with me." He looked up and stepped forward immediately and obediently. Oddly, I remember thinking in the dream that things would go well between us if he continued to yield to me as such. I think I was resentful that he commanded so much of my interest and attention and now I was thankful that I could at least command his actions for a short while, since I was so tired of being commanded or even having to be available on demand.

Next thing I remember is that we are outside in some alley – each leaning against the outer brick wall of the building about a metre away from each other and facing one another. He was staring down at his hands again and I was just staring at him – his face, his lips, which seemed to be quivering at this moment. I waited and watched for a long time – at least it felt like it. You can never really tell in dreams. Maybe it wasn't even that long, but Etienne eventually spoke and said, "Forgive me for stalling, I just want this time with you to last."

"People pay me for that," I thought, but didn't dare say.

"You probably don't remember me," he continued. "I was always very shy and I usually stayed to myself. I watched you all those years ago and never had the courage to approach you. I fell in love with you then and I have loved you all these years..." His words trailed off and Etienne stood there with his head resting against the brick wall, awaiting a response from me.

I was floored. I think he knew to be patient, since I hadn't left and I hadn't slapped him either.

After a long quiet and with as much thoughtfulness as I could muster for the situation, I began to speak, barely audibly. "You cannot possibly love me, in the manner that you are speaking, any more than a cinematic film – if all you did was watch me ten years ago and are now replaying those images in your mind. It seems I am nothing more to you than a projected image, purified and glorified through the years. No wonder you think you love me... you remember me as a young girl – I love those memories, too. You..." I paused and spoke emphatically, "Etienne... don't have a damn clue as to who I am today and to think that I am no more experienced, wiser, learned and different is insulting."

Etienne wanted to make certain that I was done and nodded to indicate that he heard every word I said, and had in fact expected each word from me as it flowed like the chorus of an operetta.

"I expected such words," he said, yanking my proverbial soapbox out from underneath me. "And if that was all there was to my story, you would be right. But there is so much more you need to hear, Lisolette, and I can only pray that you will show the same mercy and patience with me that He does."

This struck me in a way that I was not ready to even explore myself at the time. It particularly stung and soothed at the same time, as I had been struggling for years with my faith, though I had resolved myself to one thing: somewhere, somehow God will make things right. It hurt too much to think that He wouldn't.

"Lisolette..." he interrupted my thoughts, "give me one chance, one courtship or even one night with you... please let me have just one chance to taste life at your side, rather than afar. I promise you will also taste something that you have never, ever experienced..."

I looked at him and squinted my eyes just a bit with attention, and to indicate that he needed to identify which thing he thought I'd been missing.

He concluded quickly, knowing that he'd sparked my interest, "appreciation... You've never once felt that, this I know. I also know that if you give me this one chance, you will never again want for it again." He looked up and straight into me, with his piercing brown eyes.

What did he say next? What would he do? I can only imagine for I was woken up by Gaston's snoring... but that is whole different story...