ON PARIS

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

#WEP/IWSG AUGUST CHALLENGE. RED WHEELBARROW. My Paris story extract, The Arrival.

Hello all! Welcome to the August WEP/IWSG challenge, RED WHEELBARROW. For this challenge, I'm submitting a scene from my Paris novel. The protagonist, Saskia Bell has been fired from her fashion designer position in a New York fashion house and has come to Paris, where her mother was born to forge an independent life for herself away from her controlling father.
As stated in the blurb for this challenge: The RED WHEELBARROW can be purely a prop.
I hope you enjoy this extract..


Image result for place de abbesses metro image


The Arrival

I clamber up from the bowels of the earth that is the Place des Abbesses’s metro station, studying the stunning murals climbing the walls—the oranges, the blues, the purples—imagining what stunning fabric designs I’ll create using this art as inspiration. I snap pictures on my cell phone, so I don’t forget those perfectly orange and red poppies, the outline of the city meandering up the stairs, the white winged Pegasi flying on the blue background. I hate closing my eyes for a second in Paris. It’s a never-ending feast for the eyes.  

When I finally exit into the glaring daylight of a brilliant blue sky, I check my watch, then hurry along the narrow cobblestones to the Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre hill. It’s alive with activity – bearded artists in smocks and berets touting, hopeful tourists posing on rickety wooden stools while artists frown and flourish brushes, trying to capture their image. Since my last visit, restaurants have set up in the center of the Place and already tourists are queuing for early lunch. I check my watch. Désolé.

Désolé,’ I say to the artists in berets who hover along the street, clutching their clipboards with blank art paper at the ready, begging to paint my picture. Soulful cries of “Pretty lady don’t break me. Until I find a job, if I can’t eat or drink it, I’m not interested.

Sacre Coeur is directly ahead past the cafés. I slip into the dim interior and light a candle for Mom in what was her favorite church. I cross myself, whispering, ‘Please forgive me, Mom’. My eyes fill with tears. Will I ever stop feeling angry with myself for the part I played in her death? There’s no answer in the flickering candles. Checking my watch again, I see it’s time.

Et vous, Madame Lavelle?’ I ask the tall African woman standing at the top of the street beside a red wheelbarrow overflowing with red and yellow blooms.  She’s more colorful than any potted plant in her flowery green maxi dress, matching turban, and gold earrings that brush her stately long neck.

Oui, Mademoiselle.’ Her beautiful smile is enhanced by a slash of shiny orange lipstick. I trot out my best French. ‘Je m’appelle Saskia Bell. I’m here for the apartment.’

She leans forward and air kisses me, bisou, bisou, bisou, smelling faintly of garlic and citrus. ‘Speak English with me, Mademoiselle. I’m from Burkina Faso. I need to practise.’ She smiles to take the sting out of her words. Obviously, my American-accented French hurts her ears. ‘Welcome to rue des Martyrs, the best street in Paris.’ She speaks with a sing-song French lilt. Adjusting her huge shoulder bag, she gestures with wide-open arms down the street. ‘Whatever you need, you will find here. Bookstores, baguettes, and bistrots that sell creamy Mont d’Or cheese you eat with a spoon.’

Immediately I taste that runny cheese melting on my tongue, washed down with a glass of bubbly. I study the narrow, cobbled street weaving down the hill. It’s so exotic, so cute, so medieval. What a contrast to Fifth Avenue with its clamor, its stylish buildings and wall-to-wall yellow cabs. No wonder Mom missed Paris so much. Here, people sit crushed elbow to elbow drinking wine or espressos while enjoying a cigarette sitting outside cafés under red awnings with gold fringes. I spy quaint antique shops I can’t wait to explore.  I breathe it in. ‘It’s perfect.’ 

We’ve only walked a short way down the street when Madame Lavelle holds up her hand. Arretêz,’ she says. I stop. ‘Here is the apartment.’ She points to a creamy art deco building the regulation Haussmann five stories high with black lacework balconies rising, slightly crooked, sitting above a fancy pâtisserie.

I’m in love, imagining the aroma of coffee and cake on my doorstep each morning. I wonder if they’ll make me an almond cappuccino like Dom’s in New York? 

Looking up, I see a woman on the second floor with long blonde hair, her elbows on the balcony rails, blowing smoke from a cigarette holder like she’s Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I wave back when she raises a palm in my direction. ‘It’s beautiful.’ I swallow the lump in my throat. 

I feel it in my bones.

I’m home.

‘Come.’ Madame Lavelle keys in the door code. ‘I think you will like the apartment very much.’

We clamber up flights of rickety stairs, the stairwell dark except for sensor lights added sometime in the dim past. I stifle a giggle. How fit will I become running up and down these stairs every day. It’ll fit in well with my training for the Paris Marathon next April.

As we climb towards the top, Madame’s wheezing grows louder. I take her elbow. We pass the fifth floor, then the building narrows and the stairs are so tiny I walk sideways to fit my shoes to the treads.  Where’s she taking me? The roof?

Madame Lavelle is wheezing and gasping for breath when she stops in front of an old arched door studded with huge copper nails. ‘We’re here,’ she says through ragged breaths. ‘The attic.’

I study the ancient timber door and shiver. My knees are weak. I clutch the door frame. Even before I walk inside, I know. This is my Paris home. My Parisian adventure is about to begin.

I step inside. 

The attic smells of time, of layers of life, of people who’ve lived here before. My eyes prick with tears at the simplicity of the light-filled space, loving its original scuffed parquet floors, shabby rose-tinted walls and distressed cream trims. I’ve grown up in luxurious homes decorated with bespoke furniture, antiques and gold-leaf trim, but they never excited me like this little attic with its sloping roof and two cute boxy windows either side of one full length grilled door. But what reminds me of my Hamptons’ beach house is the skylight which bathes the room in sunshine. Perhaps it was originally an artist’s garret. 

I walk over to the floor-to-ceiling window. There it is. The red wheelbarrow. Every day I'll see it and offer up a prayer of thanks for my arrival in Paris.

WORD COUNT: 1044
FCA

To read more RED WHEELBARROW stories, please click on the names in my sidebar or go to the WEP website




54 comments:

  1. Your rich images remind me of the month I spent in Paris. I might have met your Madame Lavelle, and the red wheelbarrow is woven in just right. The innocence and ambition of the narrator (and those five flights of stairs) prepare the reader for twists and turns ahead.

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    1. Oh that Madame Lavelle is everywhere. Lol. Love her.

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  2. Your imagery is so colorful, so vivid. I could almost see it all.

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  3. Rich, evocative, intriguing. I could see, hear, smell and taste this snippet.

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  4. You have brought such happy memories of Paris back to me, thank you Denise, and beautifully recounted 🌹

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  5. Your writing is wonderfully descriptive. I can almost smell the smells you describe so vividly.

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  6. Beautiful and lovely and filled with heart! Love it!
    Now, to figure out how to finance a trip to France!

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    1. Well worth the moolah Jemi. I’m off again in October.

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  7. Your imagery is beautifully done, but what I like best is the rhythm of the story or some would say the timing. Taking the steps one at a time, while thinking it's going to be good training for the Paris Marathon, opening the door and her heart quickens as she sees not the glamour and glanz of New York, but the intimacy of being in the right place at this time of her life.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Thanks Pat. We call it ‘cadence’. I work hard to get the rhythm right. I find writing grates when it lacks cadence.

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  8. Living vicariously through your beautiful descriptive writing has made me feel like I was there. I felt Saskia's apprehension, her excitement, and her need to connect with her mother's spirit. Lovely and poignant.

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    1. Thanks Jenny. If you felt that way I can put this scene to bed. Exactly what I was aiming for.

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  9. Rich with visuals, Denise. You gave me chance to stroll the streets of Paris right along with your character. Great contribution to the WEP.

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    1. Thanks Lee. I’ll stroll those streets anytime.

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  10. You sure bring the visuals of Paris to life indeed. Sometimes finding contentment or that home feeling can sure just hit, sounds like they have all they need in the attic. I liked how you used they hated to close their eyes too. Really hits home so much to see.

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  11. There was a lot of atmosphere and sense of place!

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  12. The imagery in this piece is stunning! It reminded me of the time I spent in Paris when I was a teenager. I loved it!

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  13. Your descriptions transported me to Paris and made me long to be there. The characters are so real and Saskia's thoughts, fears and hopes are skilfully charted.

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  14. Hi Denise - loved it ... poor Madame Lavalle ... you'll be her last tenant up those stairs. The authorly garret - so appropriate for you ... it's great to be able to roam Paris with you ... it's not a city I know that well ... but the culture always comes back to remind us of the opportunities and ideas Montmartre has brought us or can bring us ... and I can always smell and see the areas you so richly describe - cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary! Ah, that garret. The scene of many happy memories for Saskia.

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  15. Fantastic, vivid, descriptions of Paris that simultaneously complements and contrasts with her former life in New York. Well done, Denise.

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  16. Beautiful! I hope she finds a job fast so she can pay the rent :) (Loved that line about if she couldn't eat it or drink it, not interested. I've been there).

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    1. Ha ha. I like that line too. She gets a job a few hours later. All good for now.

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  17. After that description, I think I'd love to take a trip to Paris.

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  18. This is lovely, a very French flavour with your descriptions of the attic room and before that the people with their own uniqueness even though they are trying to entice the tourists. You capture the Gallic charm so well.

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  19. You really put a lot of yourself in this Denise. Your love of Paris, your knowledge of the archeticture; all this description is beautifully and appropriately woven in, a true atmospheric piece. I loved all the description, but: The attic smells of time, of layers of life, of people who’ve lived here before. Now that is the best descriptive line I've read is a very long time.

    I have only one small observance that caught my mind's eye - not really a critique: When she is at her mother's favorite church and says "please forgive me Mom," I expected to read the French "maman." She so beautifully integrates the French terms, it just seems a bit weird she would say "mom" at that intimate moment. However, the English "Mom" does not take away from the intimacy of the moment.

    Truly beautiful Denise.

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    1. Thanks Donna. Saskia is American which is why she says ‘Mom’. It was in the story with her talking about her life in NYC. Easily missed.

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  20. This was wonderful with the visuals you gave. I could see it, and it is beautiful. I love to have a Paris attic as well. Thank you.

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    1. Wouldn’t we all Cindi? I did for a week and that was enough lol.

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  21. This is such a beautiful excerpt, Denise. You included a lot of rich, interesting detail and it was a treat for all my senses. I could vividly picture Madame Lavelle and her wheelbarrow, I could hear the bustling city noises, taste the cheese and smell the coffee. Reading this makes me want to visit Paris again very soon! I'm also intrigued about what happened to her mother-you weaved in that little hook very cleverly.

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    1. Aha. Thanks for noticing the hook. It weaves throughout.

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  22. I've never been to Pairs, but your writing is like watching a movie set there. It really pulls you in. I like the sound of this story. Hope to read more of it.

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    1. I’m glad Toi. Perhaps you will read it soon.

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  23. Your writing was so rich and beautiful, Denise, that my memories of Paris flooded back, especially walking up to the Sacre Coeur. (My sister lived there for many years and studied at the Sorbonne.) That final description of that flat made me think...exactly what you said, 'an artist’s garret'.

    One minor critique - it's probably a posting glitch: the formatting, for me, left some of the dialogue attached to the other person's remark.

    Good luck with the books which sounds fascinating. Finished?

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    1. Thanks Roland. I'm glad i reminded you of Paris. Ah. Sacre Coeur.
      I can't find any examples of what you're talking about re the dialogue. Maybe it's your WP mixing it a little. No one else said anything.

      Nearly finished, thank you, Roland.

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  24. Love the images. I want to live there too!

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  25. The imagery is spot on, Denise! I was there with her in that attic, I was right at home.

    There are spaces exactly like that - where one walks in and slots in like a jigsaw clicking into place. I'm so looking forward to reading more of Saskia's adventures in Paris.

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    i am ERIC BRUNT by name. Greetings to every one that is reading this testimony. I have been rejected by my wife after three(3) years of marriage just because another Man had a spell on her and she left me and the kid to suffer. one day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this spell caster on this address AKHERETEMPLE@gmail.com have help a woman to get back her husband and i gave him a reply to his address and he told me that a man had a spell on my wife and he told me that he will help me and after 3 days that i will have my wife back. i believed him and today i am glad to let you all know that this spell caster have the power to bring lovers back. because i am now happy with my wife. Thanks for helping me Dr Akhere contact him on email: AKHERETEMPLE@gmail.com
    or
    call/whatsapp:+2349057261346

    ReplyDelete

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