As promised, here is the second installment of the Christmas Cocktail by Sharon Santoni. Enjoy!!
After a late night celebrating Christmas Eve with her friends, with Madame de la Garenne and of course the newly discovered Frederic, Mathilde woke early to tidy the apartment before appearing on duty at the hospital.
Christmas morning in Paris felt strangely quiet. There had been the lightest of snowfalls during the night, and the city looked more beautiful than ever. As she cycled to work through the calm streets, she thought about the dinner and in particular her unexpected guest.
When Frederic had come into her small flat yesterday evening, with Madame de la Garenne on his arm, she was slightly intimidated by his good looks and distinguished manner. But as the evening warmed up, and everyone relaxed, he chatted easily and fitted in with the conversation without a hitch. He teased Madame and joked with Julien, and as he left the flat at 2 in the morning he gallantly offered to come back after dawn and do the washing up while she was on duty. Of course she laughed and declined, but she couldn’t help thinking how nice it would be to have him around again.
Christmas day at the hospital was mercifully quiet. Mathilde worked at the emergency unit, but the day brought no serious injuries: a little boy who had swallowed a marble from his Christmas stocking; a father to five who had cut his hand while carving the turkey, and an older lady who was worried about heart palpitations, but actually was just lonely….
Six o’clock came and Mathilde wished good luck to the next shift, before putting on her coat and hat and heading out to find her bike. It was snowing more heavily now, and realizing that cycling home was not an option, she headed instead to the metro.
The warmth of the underground engulfed her, and comforted her after the long day’s work. She was lost in her thoughts when the train drew in, and she stepped onto the carriage mechanically, without looking at the other passengers already standing inside.
As the train doors shut with a swooshing sound, she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear “a penny for them…”. Mathilde turned around quickly, ready to rebuff an indiscreet stranger, and found herself nose to nose with Frederic. She had just that moment been thinking about him, and to see him, so close to her, smiling in his knowing manner, made her blush deeply. He smiled more broadly.
“So how did your day go?”.
“Good, thank you, what a surprise to see you!”.
“Thank you for yesterday evening, it was fun?”. Frederic was staring at her intensely, and Mathilde found it difficult to concentrate on an answer. She could only think that he had such deep blue eyes, and wonder why she hadn’t noticed them the evening before.
They chatted easily until they arrived at their stop, and walked back from the metro to their flat together. Frederic explained that he had just arrived in Paris, and knew nobody yet. He was from the Savoie region, all mountains and fine wine. He was brought to Paris by his new job as a lawyer, in a big Parisian firm.
Suddenly he turned to Mathilde, “would you do me a favor?” Mathilde wanted to say “anything” but she knew that could sound too eager, so she just smiled and raised her eyebrows, waiting for the end of the sentence…
“There is a company dinner coming up…I should really go with someone, all of the partners will be there with their wives…I really don’t want to go alone…it’s going to be a good dinner, at Fauchon, on the Champs Elysees…you know, black tie…well, I wondered, would you like to come with me?”
“Oh! Well thank you…yes, I could do…um, when would the dinner be?”
Frederic flashed his blue eyes at her and grinned “umm…tomorrow evening”.
“Tomorrow evening? But at what time? How can I be ready? What about the snow? What should I wear?”
Frederic just laughed, “I can have a car here to pick us up at 8 and I’m sure that whatever you wear, you’ll look beautiful…so is that a yes?”
It was a bit of a blur, but by the time they each reached their front door, Mathilde agreed to accompany the handsome Frederic to the dinner and they bid adieu, until tomorrow at eight.
As she opened the door to her garret flat and turned on the lights, she found a handwritten note waiting for her on the floor. Madame de la Garenne had slipped a thank you card beneath the door, “darling it was a magical evening, thank you so much..come and see me when you get back this evening, I’d love to know what you think of Frederic?”
Mathilde laughed out loud, “oh Madame de la Garenne, what have you got me into?” She put down her bag and went downstairs to knock on Madame’s door, where she was greeted with champagne and a little snack . “Ma cherie, you must be tired, so sad to have to work on Christmas day”.
Madame normally wanted to hear all about the day at the hospital, but not this evening. “Well, so tell me, what do you think… isn’t Frederic just the most lovely boy?”
In no time at all she had extracted from Mathilde the details of the chance encounter on the metro, and the unexpected invitation to the dinner and most of all Mathilde’s big worry, “I have nothing to wear!”
“Oh ma cherie, that is just a detail, we shall fix that little problem straight away, pick up your champagne glass and follow me”.
Intrigued, Mathilde followed the elegant lady through the apartment and into a huge dressing room, that smelled faintly and quite divinely of L’Air du Temps. “You know ma cherie, I used to be just about the same size as you when I was much younger. Oh, I led quite the high life and I have all these beautiful dresses that I never know what to do with”. She flung open a curtained closet to reveal a row of stunning dresses. Mathilde’s jaw dropped, and Madame smiled, “this is what you call vintage designer. I am told it is all the rage”.
Mathilde’s fatigue was forgotten, her worry for the next evening instantly dispelled as for the next two hours she tried on every single dress that was there. With each dress came a story from Madame’s past and where and when each outfit was worn. At ten o’clock, she said a happy goodbye to Madame and returned back to her flat carrying a beautiful black dress, bag and shoes, all in perfect condition, all the perfect fit and each item bearing a discreet little label with one embroidered word CHANEL.
P.S. There is going to be a final installlment….stay tuned!!!
P.P.S. I stayed at a hotel in Paris right at that very Metro stop!