Ross flipped through his notes early that Tuesday morning at the breakfast table, sipping his coffee and preparing for an especially long day of conferences at the museum, followed by teaching two seminars at the American University of Paris that afternoon. He'd left Rachel in bed to let her sleep another half hour, since their usual alarm clock didn't go off until 7:30.
However, his reading was interrupted by two feminine hands settling on his shoulders and a warm kiss on his cheek.
"Morning," she whispered, coming to sit beside him at the table.
"Morning," he greeted in return, smiling at this wife of almost 6 months. They were still in that domestic bliss stage, where they loved to get up early just to see the other off to work, and make breakfast in bed, and sneak passionate morning quickies, just as they'd done about an hour ago.
"You're up early," she noted, sipping some of his coffee.
"Yeah, I've got an early meeting. Are we still on for tonight?"
"Yup," she confirmed, pulling her satin lilac-colored robe more tightly around her.
There was a candlelit concert and dinner for museum employees in the garden across the street that night, and they'd managed to find a sitter for Emma so they could attend. Rachel looked out of the window to her left and over into the garden they'd be at that evening.
They'd ended up in an apartment just across the street from the National Museum of Natural History. It overlooked the Jardin des Plantes on one side and the rue Cuvier on the other. Equipped with a sweeping balcony and upscale but comfortable furniture, mostly neutral colors, the apartment fit right in with its surrounding upper middle class neighborhood in Paris' 5e district.
"Mommy!" they both heard Emma whine from her bedroom. Rachel smiled and got up to go check on their daughter. On her way out, she kissed him firmly on the lips and ruffled his hair.
"See you tonight."
"Bonsoir, Madame," Marie sang, greeting Rachel at the door that evening at 7:30. She was not only their permanent sitter for Emma, but also their French teacher, a pretty 20-something just out of college with a thick French accent but very good English. She gave a joint lesson to Ross and Rachel three times a week for an hour.
"Bonsoir, Marie. Entrer, s'il vous plait," Rachel greeted, swinging the door open for her and turning back inside to finish getting ready. She put in her earrings and disappeared into the bedroom to find shoes. "Ross will be here any minute. If you could feed Emma before putting her down, that'd be great," she yelled at Maria from the bedroom.
"Certainement, Madame Rachel."
Just then, Ross came in through the still opened door, carrying a bottle of wine and his briefcase.
"Bonsoir, Monsieur," Maria nodded toward Ross.
"Bonsoir, Maria. Où Rachel est-il?" he asked, wondering where Rachel was.
Before Maria could answer, Rachel emerged from their bedroom holding Emma. Ross was taken aback by how beautiful she looked. She was wearing a long, fitted, strapless black Gucci dress with the diamond necklace and earrings he'd bought her for her last birthday and strappy black heels. Yet, she still had their daughter sitting on her hip. She could do it all, and it made her all the more sexy.
"Nous serons arrières à minuit," Rachel informed Maria, handing Emma to her. She'd told her they'd be back by midnight.
"Take your time, Madame Rachel," Maria smiled politely. "And your Frances is getting better."
"Merci, Maria," Rachel thanked her. "Hey, sweety," she greeted Ross, placing her hand on his chest and kissing him quickly. "You want to go change really fast, and then we can go?"
"Yeah, hold this." He handed her the bottle of wine and she looked confused. "It's for afterwards." He smiled at her suggestively and stroked her arm as he passed her. She couldn't help but giggle.
The Jardin des Plantes was illuminated that night with strings of lights, and candles, and lanterns. Small private tables for 2 and 4 were scattered around a stone patio, a single candle surrounded by rose pedals as the centerpiece of each. Waiters hurried from table to table, taking orders and serving food, and a quaint little band sat at the center of all the tables.
Ross and Rachel walked through the rod iron gate and down the cobblestone path to where the event was sat up, at the heart of the garden. They were seated at their assigned table and ordered two glasses of wine to start.
"God, this is so gorgeous," Rachel whispered, leaning in towards Ross, still very self conscious about speaking English in public, even after 5 months.
"Yeah, it really is," he agreed. They were quiet for a minute, taking it all in. Then, Ross cleared his throat. "So, I've got some good news," he beamed, smiling from ear to ear.
"Oh, what is it?"
"Well, uh, Professor Barclay offered me a permanent professorial position at the University when my interim is up at the museum."
"Oh, Ross," Rachel smiled, taking his hand across the table. "So that means…"
"Yeah," he confirmed. "We can stay here as long as we want."
"Well, that's good, because I was wondering how I was going to tell Louis Vuitton I'd have to leave in 7 months."
"So you want to stay?" he asked, hopeful, his eyes lighting up.
"Of course! I love it here! Great shopping, great food, great apartment, great schools. Why not?" she chirped. He smiled and leaned over to kiss her, brushing her bangs out of her eyes like he always did. She was so positive and reaffirming.
In the quiet that followed, they noticed the band keying up for a slow song and other couples strolling to the dance floor down in front. Ross smiled at his wife and extended his hand to her, not even having to ask. She took it and they walked to the front. They found their way to the middle of the crowd, amidst all the other swaying couples, and Ross placed one hand on the small of her back and took her hand in his other, holding it to his chest. She wrapped her free hand around his neck and laid her head against his chest.
"I can't believe this is our life," she whispered.
"Me neither," he agreed. "It seems like just yesterday, we were scared little kids, just out of college."
"So that's what the wine was all about," she wagered, smiling mischievously up at him.
"Eh, maybe…" he chuckled, "…and maybe because I was hoping to get lucky."
"Hmm, maybe…" she teased, flattening her hands over his back.
When they got back to the apartment, a little before midnight, they paid Maria and sent her on her way. Rachel checked on Emma to make sure she was sleeping soundly and then joined Ross in the kitchen for some wine.
He'd taken off the jacket he'd been wearing, removed his tie and rolled up his sleeves. He looked sexily disheveled, she noted, and smiled to herself. Aging suited him well, though he still wasn't very old. She had to remind herself, sometimes, that they were only 35 and 36 years old, they'd experienced so much. Other times, however, like when they were making love or walking in the park or hanging out with their friends, they still felt 25.
"That dress is amazing," he complimented her, pouring a second glass of red wine as she waltzed toward him and handing it to her.
"Well, I'm glad you like it. It only cost a month's rent," she joked, taking the glass from him.
"Oh, speaking of rent," Ross initiated, stroking her arm lightly and sipping his wine. "I wanted to run something by you."
"I was thinking, maybe when I'm done at the museum, we could move to a neighborhood outside the city…" he proposed, quickly taking another sip from his wine, hoping his suggestion went over well. A lot had been happening lately. He didn't want to rush anything.
"Yeah, maybe," she nodded. This caught him off guard a little, but excited him. He hadn't been expecting that response, in all honesty.
"Really? 'Cause I was thinking maybe something in the Neuilly or Levallois arrondissement—"
"Shhh," she smiled, putting her finger to his lips. "Why don't we worry about unpacking all our things here before we talk about moving again," she teased. He nodded and smiled, kissing her finger.
"Come to the balcony with me," he whispered, taking her hand. Just like in their old apartment, there was a balcony right off the kitchen. It faced the garden where they'd just been.
They set their wine down on the intricately carved barrier and looked down at the street below and the dying stages of the party they'd just attended. Ross positioned himself behind her and placed his hands firmly on her stomach, kissing her shoulder with an open mouth, massaging the bare skin with his tongue.
"Mmm," she moaned, tilting her head to give him better access when he moved up to her neck. She absentmindedly swirled the wine in her glass with her finger, and when he noticed, he brought that finger to his mouth and licked the wine off. "I think Paris made you more romantic," she giggled.
"Well, it definitely made you hornier," he retaliated, referring to the way she practically jumped him, anymore, when he got home in the evening.
"Hey, in my defense, that was marriage, not Paris."
"Damn, I knew I should have proposed the first time we dated," he joked.
He was still occupied with her neck. The back of her dress was open to just above her ass, so he slipped one hand inside and tucked it around to press it against her stomach. She moaned when he moved his other hand down to stroke her thigh.
"You know, Emma's getting better at the walking thing," she warned him, but not wanting him to stop. He moved his hand slowly up to where her legs met and caressed her through the fabric of the dress.
"She always sleeps through the night," he reminded her.
"Ahh, okay," she gave in, sighing when he sucked on that very specific spot just below her ear. She turned around and kissed him passionately on the lips, trying to take his hand and move him inside, but he wouldn't budge.
"No," he breathed between small kisses. "Here."
"Here? Ross, people can see…"
"Shh," he quieted her, silencing her protest with a hard kiss and beginning to unzip her dress. "No one's watching."
Though she knew there was no possible way he could know that, the way he was kissing her and stroking her back made her not care. The warm summer air felt nice against her bare skin, and the balcony was dressed with ferns and plants and flowers to obscure most of what was happening.
They rushed to remove their clothes, and Ross actually only got down to his boxers before she reached inside and began stroking him. From then on, he was too consumed in the act to ever remove them. He propped her up on the wide, conveniently waist-high railing behind some vaguely private hedging and she wrapped her legs around him, still wearing the stilettos, upon his special request. He felt the sharp heels digging into his back and it egged him on, as did her whispers and moans.
When they were done, he collapsed against her and they took a few moments to regain their composure before she jumped down off the railing. She started to collect her clothes and go inside, but he stopped her.
"Wait. I'll be right back," he insisted. When he returned, he was carrying the big white sheet from their bed. He sat down in the ground and brought her to sit between his legs, wrapping his arms and the blanket around them. They sat that way, with her back against his chest, under the Paris moonlight and the caresses of the summer breeze.
"This is really nice," she whispered, stroking his arms that were wrapped around her. He buried his face in her hair and smiled. It was nice. He could get really used to this.
Lulling his head over to the side, he looked on down the street below them, taking in the sights of Paris at 1 a.m. He wasn't sure he'd ever seen it at this hour before. Suddenly, something very familiar jumped out at him, and he had to smile.
"Look," he nudged Rachel, gesturing toward the street sign two blocks down.
They were home.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO The End.