Here is the third installment of the Christmas Cocktail and guess what, there is going to be a fourth part published on New Years Day!
That evening Mathilde hurried home from work; it had been a long day in the emergency department, and she wanted to be sure to have enough time to get ready for the dinner with Frederic.
She smiled at the sight of her bicycle, still attached to a lonely lamp post outside the hospital, while she jumped into a taxi to take her home through the snowy streets of Paris.
As she trotted up the stairs to her flat on the top floor, she had to pass the door to Frederic’s flat on the third floor, and she could hear music playing quietly. She wondered how he would look in black tie.
She fumbled for her keys in the bottom of her bag, and let herself into her warm, cosy little flat. Greige, her siamese cat, was meowing loudly, so pleased to see her home again, and rubbing herself up against Mathilde’s legs.
Mathilde turned on the lights and let out a little gasp. On the coat stand in the hallway there hung a beautiful black evening coat, the top part covered with a silk shoulder protector, on which there was pinned a small handwritten note “darling Mathilde, thank you for our ‘girls’ session yesterday evening, it was such fun to tell you all those stories. I noticed how heavily it has been snowing all day today, and I wondered if you had a suitable coat to go with the dress. I used the key you left with me to let myself in, I hope you don’t mind. Have a wonderful evening, Francoise de la G”.
Mathilde smiled, and said out loud “Madame, you are my fairy godmother”!
She ran a bath and once she had soaked away the fatigue of her day at work, she wrapped herself in a thick fluffy robe and dried her hair. Mathilde had beautiful hair, that required little to look good, she dried it quickly then simply twisted it around the brush to turn the ends up neatly.
The LBD that Madame had given to her was just a perfect fit. With its pretty beading around the neckline, Mathilde needed no jewelry. She applied a little make up, dabbed perfume to her wrists and neck, and slipped lipstick into her small black bag.
Frederic had said the car would come at 8, and at 7:45 Mathilde was slipping on her high heeled black pumps, and checking her reflection in the mirror.
A few minutes later, there was a gentle knock at her door, she opened the door to reveal Frederic, gorgeous in a well cut dinner suit and black tie. He leant towards her and kissed her on each cheek. She could see the appreciation in his eyes “you look beautiful…”, he smiled as she picked up her bag and together they walked dow to the front door where the car was waiting for them.
The taxi sped through the starry streets of Paris, around the place St. Sulpice, across the river, then Place de la Concorde before heading up the Champs Elysees and stopping outside Fouquets.
They were greeted with champagne and the meal was grand; Frederic’s firm had reserved a private suite for the dinner, and in between courses, guests took to the small dance floor. He introduced Mathilde to his colleagues and partners, and Mathilde was flattered to notice his pride as he announced her as “mon amie”.
As desserts were served the senior partner of the firm rose and lightly tapped his wine glass with a spoon. Everyone stopped talking and turned to listen, “mes amis, thank you for coming this evening, hum….we have achieved great things this year and …hummm, and I….”.
Mathilde glanced at Frederic, she wasn’t accustomed to lawyer’s dinners but she had expected a more eloquent speech than this. The speaker smiled weakly, lifted his glass and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing happened. A murmur went around the room, guests not sure whether they should be amused or concerned, until quite suddenly the speaker gasped and collapsed to the floor!
There was a moment of panic as diners and waiters tried to assist him. Mathilde didn’t stop to think. She leapt from her seat, across the dining room and pushed her way through the confusion. Without losing a second she was down on the ground with the man. He was already unconscious; she laid him flat on his back and loosened his tie and his belt. As she leant over him to start resuscitation she said in a voice that nobody was about to argue with “he’s having a heart attack, leave him space and call an ambulance straight away”.
It seemed to take forever for medical assistance to arrive, and by the time they appeared with a stretcher, the patient was breathing and a little color had returned to his cheeks. He was quickly whisked away, and his exit brought renewed calm to the dining room but the party was definitely over.
A crowd of guests came up to Mathilde, expressing their surprise, admiration and gratitude for her quick action, but she was uncomfortable to find herself the centre of attention, and tried to play down her role in the crisis. The proximity of so many people was beginning to feel oppressive until she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder, and a voice whispered in her ear “let’s get out of here”. Frederic took her hand and led her firmly to the restaurant door. He lifted her coat around her shoulders, pushed the door open and they stepped into the cold night air.
Without saying a word they turned and started to walk down the Champs Elysees. Frederic pulled her arm through his, as he drew her closer to him she could smell his discreet masculine perfume and feel the warmth of his strong arms. He turned and looked intently at her “you were amazing in there, you saved his life”.
“That’s just my job, Frederic, I’m glad I was able to help…hey, can we go somewhere else, it’s sort of cold out here”, he laughed and hailed a taxi “oui Mademoiselle, whatever your say”.
Mathilde didn’t hear what Frederic said to the taxi driver, but in no time at all they were walking into a small and chic bar, where they were taken to deep velvet armchairs. Frederic ordered cocktails and by the time the waiter had brought their drinks the two of them were lost in quiet conversation.
There was a wonderful feeling of discovering each other mixed with an easy familiarity. Before they knew it, it was two in the morning and reluctantly they got up to head home.
Back at their address, they slowly climbed the stairs, walking past Frederic’s door and not stopping until they reached Mathilde’s top floor. As she turned her key in the lock, Frederic took her hand and lifted it to his lips. “Goodnight Mathilde, thank you, this has been a wonderful evening….I’ll call you tomorrow”.
She watched him turn his back to her and slowly walk back down stairs. She mouthed “thank you,” then smiling, let herself into her flat and closed the door. As she fell asleep that night, her thoughts were filled with Frederic and she wondered if he was going to be ‘the one”.
But neither of them could imagine what tomorrow would bring nor how suddenly and unexpectedly events would throw them together…