Giselle sat at the small table in the Parisian café where she was waiting for her date to arrive. Jacques should be along any time now. Paris was a very busy city, as was Jacques, and it was quite possible he’d been held up by unforeseen events at work. At any rate, she was sure that he would be arriving shortly. He had promised her, after all, that tonight would be a very special first date for the two of them. They had been working together for a year now at the store, but they had never been on a date before this evening’s planned event.
Despite sipping a glass of Merlau, or Merlot, a relatively new wine in Paris that was harvested from succulent grapes in the Bordeaux region, she could not quell the butterflies that flew about her stomach in anticipation as she waited. The wine was rich and velvety, while also fruity and spicy, and had become a favorite for her. As she continued to sip the Merlau, her attention was drawn to the corner where two men sat drinking their forbidden drinks of absinthe and talking. Whatever it was they were discussing, it was obvious that their conversation was intense and somewhat heated. One was a handsome, slender, tall, and blonde-haired gentleman, and the other was a bit shorter and stockier, with dark hair and a beard. Eventually, after becoming angry and frustrated, the stockier gentleman rose from his seat and abruptly left.
Surprised by their public disagreement, Giselle quickly looked away toward the door in hopes of finding Jacques arriving, but such was not the case. When she turned back to look at the remaining gentleman, he gave her a delightfully handsome smile and shrugged his shoulders. As she smiled somewhat timidly back at him, he picked up his drink and leisurely walked toward her.
“May I sit for a bit, my sweet? I fear my friend has suddenly left me alone, and I find myself in need of companionship,” he smiled charmingly as he took a seat at her table.
Giselle was a bit startled by the man’s boldness, but she didn’t want to be rude. “Of course,” she said. “However, please know that my date will be arriving very shortly.”
“Lucky man,” the tall, slender man said as he settled himself comfortably in the seat across from her. “I’m Scott,” he said with a beautiful smile that had obviously impressed many.
“Hello, Scott. I am Giselle,” she smiled back at him.
“So, you are waiting for your sweetheart, are you?” the man asked. It was obvious that he was American. “Your intended?”
“Oh, no!” Giselle quickly said and then shyly smiled. “It’s our first date after a long time of knowing one another. We work together, you see.”
The man smiled ruefully and with exerted concentration, began, “Ah...l'amour. Love is so very splendid and beautiful when it’s fresh and new. And yet, as time morphs by, it so often becomes a damning element in our lives,” he said, his smile fading to a frown. “I should know,” he added as he held up his left hand for her to see that he was married. “At best, you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.” The handsome smile returned with the last bit of information.
Giselle was uncertain how to respond. Who was this American and why did he have such a sad view of love? And why was he inclined to share it with her? It was obvious that he’d had more than enough to drink. Perhaps this is why he and his friend had argued.
“Sir,” she began, but he immediately interrupted her.
“Please, I must insist that you call me Scott,” he said, his eyes soft and kind as he appealed to her.
“Scott,” she said. “Perhaps you’ve had enough to drink for this evening. I thought that this drink was forbidden anyway,” Giselle whispered as she pointed at the milky, green drink. She knew that absinthe had been illegal in Paris since 1915, and yet, here this gentleman was drinking it a full ten years later as if it was not.
Scott looked down into his glass and smiled. “My sweet, young girl, only such intense pleasures are derived from the forbidden.”
Giselle blushed at his words and quickly attempted to change the subject. “Where is your wife tonight, sir…Scott?” she asked.
The man gave her a rueful smile. “I fear she finds her pleasures in the forbidden as well,” he said and then sighed. “Alas, she has taken off with her friends for more exciting times than intense, heated discussions between my friend and I – as you have just unfortunately witnessed.”
“I see,” Giselle said, genuinely sorry for this man’s current misfortune in life, friendship, and love.
“Do you? Do you really see?” Scott asked, intently watching her and awaiting her answer.
But unsure how to respond, Giselle once again attempted to deter the conversation from the question with which he had just presented her. “Why are you in Paris? Are you working here?” she asked.
“Paris is such a beautiful city, full of so many opportunities. I am here at present, attempting to write my latest novel, my dear, at least on good days. On bad days, like today, I drink and argue with my closest friend. And I suppose one could say that I tend to drink - and argue - frequently,” he said as he took a large swallow from his glass.
“Oh! You are a writer! What are your books about?” Giselle was genuinely interested.
Scott smiled a broad, attractive smile and nonchalantly leaned back in his chair. “Well, let’s see, Giselle. I mostly write about love. Don’t you find that a bit ironic in consideration of the view of it I’ve just painted for you?”
Giselle was indeed perplexed. It was odd that a man with such a dismal or disappointed view of love would choose to write about it.
“Well, let me explain my pretty, petite French flower,” he said as he leaned on his elbow across the table to look intently into her blue eyes. “I write about love, my dear, because I am a hopeless romantic, and I have not yet given up on achieving its fullest capacity in my life.” He relaxed in the chair again and took a sip of his drink before he continued. “I have a need to know and understand love; to have it fill me to the depths of my being. In fact, I crave love with an intensity that extends beyond a need for food or sustenance of any kind.” He picked up his nearly empty drink and waved it in the air. “And believe it or not, I crave love more than I crave even this poison.”
Scott took another sip of his drink before he added, “Hope for such things springs eternal, does it not?”
Before Giselle could ponder an answer, however, she was saved as he suddenly rose and declared it was time for yet another drink, and then he headed to the bar. She watched as he ordered another absinthe drink. Before he could return, Jacques entered the café and immediately found and joined her at the small table.
She rose and kissed Jacques on the cheek. The smile she gave him assured him that she was very happy to see him.
“I am so sorry I am late, my sweet,” he said. “I was detained at work.”
Giselle smiled sweetly. “It is not a problem, Jacques. I am just so happy to see you now.”
The two potential lovers were interrupted as the stranger stopped by the table to speak to Giselle and meet her guest, a fresh drink in hand.
“I see your friend has arrived,” Scott said, and smiled at Jacques, extending his hand and introducing himself.
“I fear I was a bit lonely for the moment, and I kept your sweet date entertained for a short while as she waited for your arrival,” Scott said. “We had a very thorough discussion about love, and I gave her my most earnest opinion on the subject.”
As Jacques’ brow rose in surprise and question, Scott continued. “I informed your sweet Giselle that I am a hopeless romantic and believe that love will eventually win the day for all of us. Ah, and I can see from the way you look at this delicate, beautiful French damsel, that it may very well be the case for the two of you.” Suddenly Scott turned very serious and gave a gracious bow before he said, “I pray that may be the case here, and that love will triumph like the spring in Paris for the two of you. I can see that it is already a flower nearing a full bloom.”
And then, as suddenly as he had appeared before them, he turned on his heel and headed to his former table where he was joined yet again by the gentleman with whom he’d been arguing earlier in the evening. The two friends now hugged, laughed, and patted each other on the back as they continued their deep conversation.
Giselle nervously eyed Jacques, who was looking at her in amazement.
“Jacques,” she began. “I did not know what to do when he approached and began to discuss such serious things like love. I found him to be a rather sad man, always hoping to find love in everything and everyone.”
Jacques continued to stare at her in disbelief. “Giselle,” he said. “Do you not know who that gentleman is?” he asked.
“No, I don’t have clue who he is. I know that his name is Scott, and I know he’s American, but that’s all.”
“My dear, sweet Giselle, that is none other that F. Scott Fitzgerald, the famous American novelist. And he is sitting with Ernest Hemingway, another very famous American writer. The two are well known throughout Paris for their carousing ways. They drink nothing but absinthe and champagne – or so the story goes.”
Giselle dubiously eyed her date. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? I’m not sure that I know who they are,” she said. “However, Scott did tell me that he is a writer.” She stared at the two men as they conversed, a new view of Scott taking root in her mind. She would have to buy one of his books just to see how he wrote about that thing called love for which he continuously searched and hoped.
Giselle turned back to her date and smiled. “Famous American writer or no,” she said. “I would much rather be sitting here with you, Jacques, enjoying this wonderful Parisian night.”
Jacques picked up her slender hand and kissed it. “And I, with you, my sweet Giselle. But still, not just anyone can say that they had a date interrupted by someone as well-known as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Perhaps you should consider picking up the trade and writing about such an incredulous story as this!”
Giselle shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. I will leave the writing to the two of them,” she said and the couple laughed as they began the first night of many to come for them.
Indeed, a lifetime of love and special nights spent together would be forthcoming for Giselle and Jacques. And who can say? Perhaps it was due to the ardent wish from someone like F. Scott Fitzgerald that propelled their love to triumph and achieve the ultimate end. Regardless, there is little doubt he would have been immensely pleased, and perhaps a wee bit envious, of the love the two shared over the course of their lives.