A Parasol in Paris
Within a month, Ahmed had taken delivery of a wide variety of colorful apparel from his associates in Liberia. As with his samples that Sarah had first seen, the clothing was of the most loose, if not swirling, designs made of the lightest of cotton weaves. The women’s clothings were bright with multi-color, geometric designs, some with sparkling trim. The men’s clothes were totally unlike the clinging designs common in Paris. The shirts were broad about the shoulders and loose along the arms. The pants were handsomely short just above the ankles and loose as well with ties at the waist without zippers. All of the clothes had a patch on the outside resembling the parasol with “Anna’s Parasol” noted just below.
Ahmed’s younger step-sister, Shaymaa, had joined his family in Paris from Egypt. This sparkling young lady with the broadest of smiles had the marketing experience to properly assist him in setting up a website, as well as reaching out to retailers in Paris. She was educated in London and spoke fluent French and English as well as her native Arabic. In addition to her education and marketing experience, Shaymaa had several particular characteristics for her marketing challenges that Ahmed didn’t have. As a Coptic Christian, unlike her Muslim step-brother, she drank wine, dressed sharply as do the young women in Egypt, did not wear a Hajib, and fancied herself on her ability to enjoy and discuss many cuisines, including French.
Shaymaa had left her international marketing position in Egypt to help her brother. Her marketing strategy was straight forward. She would start with the local shops in the Marais and then on to the Left Bank along Boulevard Saint-Germain. Her approach was to get a feeling as to the mores of French commerce by starting small and then approaching the boutique shops along Rue Saint-Honoré, and then onto the major department stores of Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché,
Sarah took an immediate liking to Shaymaa as she had with Ahmed. The two discussed how the simple kiosk in the brocant would be the marketing center for Anna’s Parasol merchandise, but in a respectful fashion so as to not overshadow the atmosphere of the other shops. That meant that the displaying of their wares would be modest with catalogs and business cards subtlety presented on one of the tables. So far there had been no criticisms by the other vendors as to the presence of the Muslims. This was significantly due to the charm of Ahmed who would purposely strolled the market, with Anna in hand, with a true interest in the other merchandisers there. Both he and Anna would be dressed in his wares, and thereby drawing a great deal of attention. Occasionally, Ahmed’s wife, Norhan, would also stroll the market, also with Anna in hand with both in their wares. On sunny days, Anna would have her parasol spinning slowly on her shoulder
As Spring progressed, the visitors to the market increased significantly every day. Usually, only Sarah was there to deal the possible clients. Unexpectedly, one day Shaymaa arrived right before lunch practically skipping her way down the aisle. She held Sarah’s face with both hands, gave a kiss to each cheek, and proclaimed “Sarah, we have a very real possibility with Galeries Lafayette”. Shaymaa continued: “I have met with them yesterday and the gentleman, Monsieur Bodin, was greatly interested in our wares that I showed them. He immediately saw the market for our clothes along the Rivera, especially Nice. He has invited me, along with his wife, to join him in a marketing strategy meeting in Champagne with their major suppliers to address next year’s markets. With your permission, I will do so. I did tell Ahmed and he wanted to make sure you were ok with this. We know that we are here because of your belief in Ahmed, and we honor that.” Sarah was overwhelmed with such a possibility. She had no vision of such an expansion as Galeries Lafayette presented. Afterall, her kiosk at the brocant brought nothing to this marketing effort. In Sarah’s opinion, no French person would have been so appreciative. She had not taken any financial risk but only demonstrated her belief in her perception of Ahmed without bias. Sarah threw up her arms and then embraced Shaymaa tightly. “As the Americans say, ‘you go gir!’” Shaymaa didn’t know that phrase. But understood. Then Shaymaa added: “I want to take the parasol with me in that it is our brand, and Anna has agreed.” When Sarah discussed this at night with her husband, he was totally surprised but still skeptical as to what could go wrong.
The next Monday, Shaymaa was on the SNCF train to Reims, one of two prominent cities in the Champagne district. Reims is well known for the Notre-Dame de Reims with the infamous Chagal stain glass windows. The meeting held at the Mercure Reims Centre Cathedrale was actually procedural and quite short with the crowd released to the banquet room were Roderer’s Chrystal flowed with a pyramid of champagne gasses bordered by luscious strawberries with a Belgium chocolate fondue. Surrounding this champagne temple was a wide assortment of classic French cheeses with some sprinkled with fine herbs bordered again by a galactic perimeter of chocolate truffles.
At the meeting, the brilliancy and length of Shaymaa’s dark hair layered over her statuesque back was extraordinary compared to the other women, younger and older, attending. She stood out as if there was a spotlight on her movements. She was dressed in a brilliant silver version of their wares that seemed to swirl endlessly as she flowed through the crowd. She was well up to this display of her femineity given her international travel to the plushest international capitals in her previous marketing positions. There was no denying her classic facial and mahogany skin given her Nubian descent, especially given her bright eyelid highlights that could not be ignored. (Check out the posting The Less Known Egypt on this blog regarding Nubians).As such, she was approached by both women and men as to her presence there to know more about this extraordinary beauty. Being unescorted she was viewed as fair game by the single men at the event, but to no avail. She had a mission to sell the Anna’s Parasol brand. As such, the parasol was always at her side, and occasionally opened and spinning on her shoulder during the event in the evening on the outside deck. The contrast of the multi-color parasol against her glistering silver dress and dark skin could not be ignored. Nearing midnight, she was approached by Monsieur Bodin’s wife. Madame started; “Shaymaa, my name is Antoinette and Monsieur Bodin is my husband. He has told me about your wares and is quite excited to discuss business with you. Does your dress and …. your parasol at your side represent your wares?” Shaymaa smile and responded “Enchanté Madam, and oui! they do.” as she swirled for a full view. It needs to be understood that at this point of the evening that Shaymaa had a more than generous portion of Chrystal and relatively little to eat given how engaged she had been with the men and women of the crowd. Her natural professional stature was definitely softening. During the evening she had been able to gracefully reject the advances of a number of men … and several women as well. Madame continued, “Shaymaa can you join my husband and me for petite déjeuner in the morning at 9?” Shaymaa slurred somewhat “Wee! merci bo coo, I will be there. Bon Swire” and turned to walk towards the terrace overlooking the city. The champagne had gotten the better of her. She stood directly at the terrace border, took a deep breath, and headed back in to go to her room, but unknowingly leaving the parasol behind. While accustomed to wine, Shaymaa had not experienced the effect that Champagne could have on her statuesque physique. In her room she collapsed face down onto the goose-down comforter and fell fast to sleep. She woke at 7 with a bit of a hangover and called immediately to room service for a double expresso to be delivered.
At breakfast, she again wore some of her casual wares. Monsieur Bodin stood to welcome her to the table. Madame was most gracious starting with “Shaymaa, you were the hit of the party last night with your presence and your sparkling gown. Indeed, you are a great example for what your enterprise has to offer to the clothing market.” She continued, “The addition of displaying your parasol was very clever and handsomely complimented your presence.” Immediately, Shaymaa stood and looked to each side realizing that indeed she did not have the parasol with her …. and no remembrance of the evening before as to what she had done with it. She immediately stood and apologized to explain that she had to check with the front desk, and she would be right back.
The hotel knew nothing of the parasol that had been left the evening before, but promised that they would do an immediate search and inform her of their search. She returned to the breakfast table very distraught as she explained her concern to the Bodins. To their credit, Madam attempted to sooth the circumstances with Shaymaa. But then, Mr. Bodin reached across the table to take Shaymaa’s hands in both of his and said; “Madame, I want you and your enterprise to be part of our offerings … and I will have such a parasol to be duplicated, not just for you, but as part of our marketing campaign to handle your wares. I like you .... and your obvious appreciation of the finer champagnes”, said with a slight smile. “We will talk next week.“
The plight of the original parasol proceeds next.
After breakfast with the Bodins, Shaymaa again checked with the front desk as to her parasol that she had left on the patio the night before. It had not been turned in, and she was faced with explaining the loss to her niece. The only relief from this loss to her niece was the offer by Monsieur Bodin to produce a number of similar parasols, both for her and for marketing her wares at Galeries Lafayette. She checked out and headed for SNCF station. It was a beautiful morning with a slight mist along the Vesle river with the crispness in the air that lightened her dismay. Within an hour she was on her way back to Paris.
Shaymaa had clearly left her mark at the event the night before, including the presence of the parasol. Just past midnight when she had returned to her room, one particular French gentleman, Louis, attending the event found the parasol on the deck. It was clear to him who the owner was. As fascinated as he had been with her physical presentation and manner, he had been one of the few men and women at the event to not approach Shaymaa with at least an introduction. Unlike most attendees to the event, his reason for being there was to promote the wines of his vineyard in Alsace along the French side of the Rhine.
AS A SIDE NOTE: Alsace had gone back and forth over the centuries between German and French occupation. As such, Alsace had a number of the same grapes, but produced wines in a very dry fashion compared to that produced in Germany, including Pinot Gris. Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. Alsace is also known for Eau de Vies which are colorless (‘water of life’) brandies made from fruits other than grapes.
Upon finding the parasol the evening before, Louis held onto it until the next day as a means to introduce himself to the lady, not expecting that she would be checking out that morning. After waking in the morning with 2 croissants avec beurre, and a café creme delivered to his room, he dressed and went to the front desk so as to inquire as how to catch up with this extraordinary beauty. Unfortunately, he had arrived there shortly after Shaymaa had checked out. As to the clerk at the front desk, there was no doubt as to whom Louis was inquiring about. And, as to be expected between French men, the clerk provided Louis with Shaymaa’s name and email address as listed on her reservation. This is the only information he needed to pursue this woman.
The next day back in his home village of Ribeauvillé in Alsace, Louis took a picture of the parasol sitting precariously on an edge of a patio several stories above a street in the city. He emailed it to Shaymaa’s email address with a message that was meant to be comical without not knowing the importance of its loss to her: “Madam, if you wish to have your parasol returned to you safely, then you must agree to have dinner with me.” signed ‘Louis’. From the picture, Shaymaa was sure it was from Alsace given the prolific presence of flower boxes in the background of the picture, a well-known characteristics of that area. However, his email address was meaningless to her [email protected] Reading the email, Shaymaa was quite taken back at first. This was just too strange. She mentioned it to Sarah who burst out in laughter. “Dear Shaymaa, only a most interesting man would approach you in such a way. I only hope he is French because that is just too enchanting.” Shaymaa lightened up and started to picture such an individual. No Egyptian Muslim male would take such a tact. But being a Coptic Christian, she was not constrained as to the men she could seriously get involved with as in Islam. With her international travels in her previous position, she had heard it all, but actually not it seems. She decided to engage this individual both because of her curiosity as to this individual and, of course, to retrieve the parasol. Shaymaa responded: “Monsieur, I reside in Paris. I will be at Willie’s Wine Bar in the Opera Qtr. on Wednesday next at 8 with a reservation for 2.” She continued, “Have the parasol in your possession to identify yourself or I will seek you out in Alsace!” This was her bluff to play along. Louis, laughed upon reading her response wondering how she knew where he was.
That Wednesday Louis booked a trip on SNCF to Paris as well as a room in a boutique hotel in the Marais. Reflecting on the manner of dress of Shaymaa, he purposely chose loose fitting clothes in lieu of his tight-fitting jeans and embracing open-collar shirt with a pastel sweater wrapped around his shoulders. He arrived at the restaurant on time and saw no presence of Shaymaa. He went directly to the bar mentioning the reservation that was confirmed by the host. The parasol was at this side on the floor at the bar, but in an obvious position. Upon arriving at the outyside of the restaurant, Shaymaa stood on the street looking through the restaurant’s window. Not knowing who the individual would be, her apprehension immediately dissipated as she walked into Willis and saw Louis sitting at the bar with the parasol next to him. He was quite tall, and handsomely dressed as to her ‘freedom’ style. Before approaching him from behind, she checked out his shoes that were weaved, tan leather, sandals that highlighted his tan ankles given the capri pants he had on. “Oui!” she thought.
Louis was on his second kir royale when he felt a hand on his left shoulder. He turned that direction and then to his right to see Shaymaa in her loose garment over one shoulder but clinging to her swelt body. He started with “Madame, I am your secret admirer and shamelessly proud to be the savior of your parasol.” She responded, “Merci beaucoup Monsieur. You don’t know the importance of the that parasol to me”. He nodded with a slightly whimsical smile. She continued: “We already know each other’s name, it seems. What else do you know about me? He responded: “To be honest, not much. I clearly noticed you from afar during the event in Reims.” He paused and then stated: “I did wish to introduce myself that night, but you were being swarmed by so many that I chose not to approach you. Therefore, finding your parasol, I thought of an individual path to meet you. And, here we are. I do apologize for any discomfort that I may have caused you.”
Shaymaa immediately went into ‘flirting’ mode. “So! Louis, while I am thankful that you have returned my parasol, I should scorn you for placing it in a perilous situation on the edge above the street.” as she glanced over her shoulder while taking a seat at the bar. OK! the game was on. Louis responded quickly. “Madame, I have never really threatened a parasol in my life, but I wanted to get your attention. I do have one question first. How did you know I was in Alsace.?” She responded” Well Louis, perhaps unknown to you, I had checked you out that evening with one of the hosts.” “I’m flattered”, he responded. She paused, “Well, don’t be actually.” as she lightly kicked his shin. “The flower boxes in the picture were a giveaway.” “Oops, you are as clever as you were striking that evening … and tonight.” he said looking directly into her eyes. “Now, I am flattered” she responded blinking several times to make light of the point.
The bartender interrupted them to ‘remind’ them that their table was ready. “Madame, would you like to go for dinner now?” She quickly quipped: “What’s with all of the ‘Madame’s’ Louis? Actually, I would prefer to have a drink or two at the bar where I can easily kick you in the shin when you upset me for some reason, as with all of the ‘Madame’s’.” Louis responded: “Vous êtes une dame impertinente, Shaymaa.“ She kicked him again, but in a lighter fashion “Yes! Louis, I do speak French, merci beaucoup!, and indeed I can be impertinent occasionally. Sorry! I am so delighted to have the parasol back for my niece that I guess I am just in a silly mood. I now apologize to you. Kindly order me a pastis, and let’s go to the table.” This time she gently squeezed his thigh as she stood up.
At the table, Louis pulled her chair and waited for her to sit before taking his chair against the wall. Willies is known not only for its food and wine menu, but for the lineage of posters with a unique one that is produced each year to represent the spirit of the restaurant. (https://shop.williswinebar.com/the-bottle-art-collection/). These posters are presented on the walls with the one behind Louis which was most charming of two wine bottles, a male and female, dancing angelically. Louis hadn’t noticed it, but Shahmaa was really charmed by it, and commented as such. Louis so noted. The menus were presented by the waiter, Madame first of course. Louis asked for the wine menu as well. Louis started: “I don’t recognize your accent. From where do you arrive in France … and why?
The beauty leaned forward in her chair, looked directly at him and stated proudly. “I am Nubian raised in Upper Egypt (Southern Egypt given the Northern flow of the Nile). We are the most ancient people in that part of Africa often referred to as the “Black Pharohs” preceeding the Pharaoh dynasties that are best known across the globe. As such, I am not a Muslim, but a Coptic Christian. We are rightfully a very proud people partially known for our substantially different physical characteristics versus the Egyptians that are classified as North Africans.” Louis cut in, “Yes! I am familiar with your people’s heritage, and I must say that you are a fantastic example of the beauty of your people” he said with a wink. He continued: “I have to be honest that I was so immediately attracted to your presence primarily for that reason not to appear too shallow here. I was also greatly impressed how you handle those men and woman that were gathering around you at the event.” She interrupted: “Louis, I appreciate your compliments, but I must confess that I was in ‘presentation’ mode” for my business and hence much more formal than normal …. the latter of which I have already demonstrated this evening…. pause …. Please set aside that perception of me that night in your mind and let me just flirt with you. There is so little opportunity to do that in Egypt given Islam’s mores. You have already gotten my attention to be loose in conversation by your way of dress, including those fantastic sandals, to be honest here. I request that we just play in our conversation tonight” she said with a most engaging smile. He nodded and said “I love that idea Mad…er.. Shaymaa. I also am usually in my stereotyped French male mode when engaging with French women. They seem to expect a certain level of false charm, if not arrogance, from me. That is not my natural style having been raised in the most charming part of France where Nature’s beauty intermixes with our particular wines and cuisine. We are so much more casual and authentically romantic there compared to Paris.”
The waiter appeared and asked if they were willing to order. Louis looked at Shaymaa for acceptance, and requested the waiter to bring another pastis for each of them and ‘la additional’. It was clear to each of them now that their nourishment that evening would be conversation infused with alcohol. The pastis’s were delivered shortly with a glass filled with glacons to chill their drinks as desired. Louis continued the conversation. “Shaymaa why are you in France, and what were you marketing at the meeting?” Shaymaa briefly explained her brother’s enterprise to introduce his West African’s apparel to France in the name of Anna’s Parasol given his alliance with the French woman that had so graciously and bravely welcomed him to be included in her brocant. She explained that a single parasol was the catalyst for this whole activity, and hence the importance of the parasol to her as to her niece’s ownership, which became the symbol of the venture. She briefly explained that Galeries Lafayette’s interest in their wares and her presence at the Reims event. With that said, Louis raised himself from the bench against the wall, came behind Shaymaa and embraced her while she remained sitting. “Shaymaa, I wish for us to leave now and go to my favorite bar not far from her. But first I need to go to the ‘WC’. I will be right back.” What she didn’t know, is that he went to the bar and ordered a copy of the poster noted by Shaymaa to be placed in a carboard tube and handed to him when he left. When he returned, he bent down to kiss Shaymaa on her right cheek and then sat down. The additional had been placed on the table. Upon his sitting, Shaymaa started. “So tell me Monsieur, what were you doing at the event?” Faking resistance, he stated: “Really Shaymaa? Monsieur?” She shook her head. “You got me there Louis. What’s your story in Alsace? Let me guess. You are either a rascal turning women’s head … and/or live in a castle there … and/or own/represent a winery given the characteristics of that territory.” He laughed and then stated. “At least one of those is correct Shaymaa. That is my mystery for now to entice you deeper.” She titled her head with eyebrows slanted. ‘Really? You indeed have my attention”, she replied. The competition in flirtation was taking on an additional level of seriousness, of credibility. He started: “I am paying this tab for us to continue to another bar where there is a light touch of jazz provided by a group from the U.S. You have NO choice but to accept if you wish to have the parasol returned to you.” “Really?” she stated with false indignation. As they exited Willies he was handed the tube that included the purchased poster which Shaymaa didn’t notice given that the several pastises were kicking in.
He held her hand firmly as he guided her to the right on exiting Willis towards their destination. “How familiar are you with this part of Paris Shaymaa?” She responded that she wasn’t. With that said, he directed her down the steps from rue Des Petits Champs to the Jardin du Palais Royal in an unusually quiet area of Paris. He directed her to one of the benches and asked her to sit next to him. As to be expected, there were only a few couples enjoying the peacefulness of this jardin at that time in the evening. During the day this was a favorite place for many Parisians, obscure to tourists, to enjoy their lunch, if not meditation. The evening was brisk, and she was not so prepared as to her clothing that evening. He embraced her and she settled into his arms easily and turned to face him. He kissed her on her right cheek, and with his left had brought her face around to kiss her lips. What he didn’t expect was the shiver that went through his body. This feeling was unexpected and new to him. He was beyond where he had been before with the women he had romanced in the past.
Being the individual he was, he stood from the bench and faced her. ”Shaymaa, it is time to return you to your hotel. When asked and told of her hotel in the 1st arrondissement, he noted that it was only several blocks away. He reached down with his right hand and raised her from the bench and picked up both the parasol and the tube with his left hand and proceeded to the hotel. She suddenly stopped pulling back from Louis. “What are you doing, Louis? We have just started with a most wonderful evening, and now you are returning me to my place? I think we have so much more to explore about us … and your lips. I love youuuuuuuurrrrrr lips.” “Shaymaa, indeed this was a most enchanting evening for me to be with you. BUT, the multiple pastises have the better of you. When you are back into your room, I will leave you there along with the parasol, this tube, and my phone number. Call me tomorrow please, and I have a favorite restaurant to introduce you to glorious Blanquette de Veau available only on Tuesday at Brasserie Lipp. It was not clear to him that she understood what he said.
They were soon at her hotel. The clerk hesitantly gave him the key with a stern look. He took her to her room, unlocked the door and led her to her bed. He softly kissed her, lowered her onto the bed and covered her with the goose comforter. He placed the parasol, the tube, and his business card on the desk. She was asleep and cooing before he left the room. He returned to his hotel with a picture of her beauty and their conversation circulating in his mind. He knew he wanted to know more about Shaymaa …. and her to know more about him.
Not expecting a call from Shaymaa the following morning, Louis caught the Metro to Gare Nord to catch the 10 AM SNCF back to Ribeauvillé. The winery was quite demanding of him at this time of year, and he needed to be back that afternoon. While he had 2 younger brothers who had with him inherited the winery from their father, the other 2 were not to be counted for the current complex issues of harvesting. He was dressed in his jeans and sweater with only a leather purse on his shoulder in which his clothes from the previous night were compacted. His 6 AM shadow was quite distinctive on his tan skin, especially given his pale blue eyes typical of the people of Alsace.
The train was approaching the Ribeauvillé station when his cell phone rang indicating it was a call from Shaymaa given that he had taken one of her business cards off the table in her hotel room. He answered: “Hello Mademoiselle.” (He didn’t buy into the recent formal practice in France of referring to all woman as ‘Madame’). She blurted: “I am starved Louise, and I demand you meet me for lunch at the café across from my hotel. I mean, after all, you promised me dinner if I would meet with you … you scoundrel. And thank you for returning the parasol.” She giggled slightly. He in turn laughed while quickly reflecting on the conversation the previous night where it was clear as to her charming, engaging manner with him. “Well! Shaymaa, it is your fault that our conversation was so endearing to me, that I decided to take you to another café to so continue. Indeed, it was my fault to stop in the Jardin du Palais Royale and sit next to you to warm you up. …. Which was your fault for the lovely, but very light clothes you wore …. And then it was my fault to kiss you there …. And then your fault for having such inviting lips … and then … Well, you get the picture.” She laughed and started: “Yes, I dearly remember the kiss. I repeat, you rascal… pause …However, what I do remember next is this morning waking up in my bed with the comforter over me and my shoes off and place in the closet. So! Are you good for lunch and the continuation of where I left off last night?” “Sorry Shaymaa you are on your own for lunch. I am back in Ribeauvillé for critical business issues at the moment.” “Oh! I see.” She said shyly thinking that perhaps her fading the night before had turned him against her somehow. Louis sensed her concern, and quickly stated: “Chérie, I really enjoyed being with you last night, as brief as it was. I am very busy until Friday. Hmmmmmm, would you consider coming to Ribeauvillé for the weekend. This weekend is the Fiddler's Festival, aka Pfifferdaj, which has occurred annually for over 600 years. The historic parade is on Sunday afternoon and is a grand display of our people's celebration of food, color, history, and of course wine. I would love to share with you. Also, based upon the apparel you wore in my presence that represents your brother’s venture, bring both male and female garb, as well as the parasol. I will introduce you to some of the top retailers here. This is my village, and I would be very proud and excited to take you around …. And, you will have the dinner I promised, BUT cooked by me.” Unknown to Louis, Shaymaa was shaking her hands in the air with excitement as she spoked through the cell’s speaker/microphone.
The game was still on. She was now giddy for the first time in many years. So much different from Egypt. “That would be great. So you cook? Not use to that.” He continued: “You are welcome to stay in my apartment, or I will reserve a room in a hotel along the river.” She paused: “Louis, you have already proved your character last night. I would only come there IF I can stay at your place.” “Super, I will get the travel information to you for a Friday afternoon departure from Paris. Now Mademoiselle, go get some lunch. I know the café that you mentioned, and I suggest the Croque Monsieur and the house rose at this time today. In saying goodbye I wish to say that I also dearly remember our kiss last night and the amazing feeling I experienced, which I will explain this weekend. Au revoir”. “Au revoir Monsieur.” And they both clicked off.
Shaymaa reached for the parasol, opened it, and swirled around the room in childish glee. Then she noticed the tube on the table. She opened it and rolled out the poster of the two dancing angelic bottles of wine. “Who is this man?” she said out loud and then prepared to go out for breakfast. Two hours later she arrived at the brocant and was greeted by Sarah with the traditional ‘la bise’, a kiss on each cheek, and then noticed Shaymaa’s face. “What’s going on Shaymaa? You appear to be a very different person than before you left for Reims.” “Yes, I am Sarah … I think. But first let me tell you about Galleries Lafayette.” She explained the meeting with Monsieur Bodin and his wife including the breakfast conversation. She also confessed to losing the parasol and her dismay, but then Monsieur Bodin’s generous offer to reproduce for her and marketing efforts. “Fantastique” said Sarah. Shaymaa paused: “NOW, the really amazing news that you have sensed in my face.” She described the return of the parasol by Louis, and the amazing connection she had made with him the previous night ... and then the phone call that morning and the invitation to see visit with him in Ribeauvillé this coming weekend. Sarah was breathless at this point without an immediate comment. The amazing opportunities as to their venture and Shaymaa’s promising romance was just too overwhelming for one, yet alone both reasons. “Have you told Ahmed about your time in Reims?…. and Louis.?” She responded: “I will catch up with him tonight. I am skipping back to my hotel right now. Au revoir Madame.”
That evening when talking to Ahmed about her visit to Reims, he was taken back by the Louis situation. “Really Shaymaa! What are thinking about getting involved with this French guy? You DON’T know French men as I do.” She quickly snapped in Arabic “Allaenat ealayk ya 'akhi aleaziz” (phonetic), gave him 3 kisses on the cheeks (common in some Middle Eastern countries), turned and walked back to her hotel. She thought to herself: “When will my brother respect my independence?” She proceeded to Willis Wine Bar to shake him off with 2 pastises back-to-back. The bartender of course remembered this beauty. “Your beau bought the best poster last night in my opinion. Indeed, the 2 bottles seem to represent you two very well, from what I could tell.” He smiled and said that the drinks were on him. Her anger was subsiding, and she returned to her hotel via the Jardin du Palais Royale. She sat for a while at the same bench as the night before to reflect on the last 2 days.
Friday was approaching and Shaymaa prepared for her weekend adventure. She decided to travel in casual style. She packed 2 extraordinary dresses that well represented Anna’s Parasol’s offerings as well as very loose slacks that otherwise were tight to her hips and emphasized her slender Nubian proportions. She also included a white blouse that was nearly transparent and handsomely exposed the dark skin color of her neckline which would be adorned with classic Nubian jewelry of semi-precious stones. Lastly, she giggled to herself as she added a piece of teddy-bear lingerie of fine silk. On top of that she packed the parasol for safe travel. Thursday evening, Louis texted her the travel instructions including meeting her at the Gare in Ribeauvillé. He also provided the cell phone of his assistant should something go awry, a person named Charlotte.
On Friday, Shaymaa arrived in Ribeauvillé at 5 PM quite relaxed having falling asleep for 2 hours in her 1st class seat on the train. She was greeted by Charlotte as she exited the train. “Shaymaa. I am Charlotte and here to take you to Louis’s house in the city. “Enchantée Charlotte.” She continued: “He had an emergency in the vineyard, which only he could handle… Let me help you with your luggage, s'il vous plaît.” “Oh, OK. Thank you for meeting me.” This was the first surprise of numerous ones for Shaymaa during her visit. Charlotte was a slim and tall blond beauty dressed in a very short clinging skirt and tight blouse with her long hair layered over her right shoulder. Charlotte led her to the black Infinity convertible with the hard top retracted for the short trip to the house. In route, Shaymaa started: “How long have you worked for Louis?” Charlotte turned to Shaymaa as she tugged her short skirt down a touch and then pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Oh yes, that would be 5 years. He brought me on as office manager after he divorced his wife who had working as such.” No. 2 surprise. Actually, I met him on a blind date just before the divorce, and then he asked me to join the company.” No. 3 surprise. Charlotte continued: “His house is sooooo gorgeous. You will really like either of 2 bedrooms with each having a beautiful view of the city. I prefer not to stay in the master bedroom when the parties have been so amazing that it was best that I stay in the other bedroom.” No 4, and counting.
At the house, the car was parked in a private garage, and the two continued to the upper floors. “Shaymaa …I love your name … in which bedroom should I place your luggage.?” “Ahhhhhhh, just place them in the hallway, s'il vous plaît.” Charlotte gave her la bise and stated: “ He should be here in an hour, so make yourself comfortable. By the way, he really needs a double expresso, no sucre, when he wakes up in the morning. The machine in the kitchen is so programmed. Enjoy your visit, Chérie.” No. 5
Shaymaa opened up her luggage and decided to take a shower to freshen up. The master bathroom was extraordinary as to slate walls and floor with a glass encased shower with multiple showerheads at 3 levels. The bathroom also had two sinks with one surrounded by various exquisite female toiletries and a used toothbrush. No. 6. She removed her clothes, dropping them to the floor, and stepped into the shower. She selected an intense pulsing mode of the showerhead to her upper body and leaned against the shower wall in an attempt to release the tension she was now feeling with the surprises so far. After 10 minutes of the pounding water, she turned off the shower and stepped onto the mat. She dried herself with the thick, soft towels, and then reached for and wrapped herself in one of the two luscious robes handing on the wall. It was pink, and the other white. No 7. At this point she wanted a drink and headed for the wet bar next to total glass wall in the front room that looked out over the city. She realized that there was no privacy as to outside world. The main room and the 2 bedrooms, that she had checked out briefly, were bordered by glass to the outside wall-to-ceiling with no curtains.
Pastis was available and she poured herself a ‘healthy’ portion, grabbed the parasol out of the suitcase and headed to the leather sofa lined with large pillows. There was a light plaid cover at the far end of the sofa, and she pulled it over herself as she lay down with the parasol at her side. It had been a very surprising (disappointing) day for her so far, and she reflected briefly on her brother’s comments. She was now mentally exhausted by her thoughts since arriving in Ribeauvillé and fell asleep quickly.
Louis arrived at the house in the evening at 8:15. While the lights were out in the house, the light from the street via the floor-to-ceiling glass walls outlined Shaymaa asleep on the sofa. He first headed to the kitchen to place the bouquet of baby breath encompassing lavender stems into a vase with water. He opened a chilled bottle of his family’s private pinot gris, and poured two glasses in long stem crystal. He then approached Shaymaa and placed the glasses on the side table to the sofa. He awaken her lightly with a hand on the shoulder. She suddenly sat up becoming face-to-face with him. She was somewhat dazed from the short nap, but responded with a light ‘ummmm” as he softly kissed her on each cheek. “Chérie, I am so sorry for not being able to meet you at the train, and then arriving late home tonight. But, my business is now finished for the entire weekend.” She sat up properly as he handed her a glass of wine. “This wine is from the private stock at my vineyard that is reserved for only family …. and the most dearest friends.” She held up the glass as in a toast and said with a whimsical smile “I am ‘enchantée’ as you French say.
As she was taking her first taste of the wine, several of her earlier surprises came to mind, e.g., used toothbrush, ex-wife, pink robe, and gorgeous Charlotte. She held the wine in front of her face like a shield, as she said “Louis, you are not at fault, but there is a lot for me to understand about you given what I experienced in the first 30 minutes of arriving.” “He was confused, but genuinely not alarmed. “What are you speaking about Shaymaa? Was Charlotte rude to you?” Fortunately, Shaymaa realized that she was pouting at least on the inside, and she had no right to. She was being defensive based upon probably meaningless points. She held her hands to her face, moving slowly back and forth. “Please excuse my previous statement. I am just being selfish, naive, whatever, to expect a virgin Prince in Camelot, if you understand the reference?” He responded: “Not really, you seem to be mixing several metaphors … But, I do think I sense some of your feelings as to realizing things about me by being in my home, but without sufficient knowledge of each of us as to the other. To be clear, I truly expect you have a most interesting background that will both amaze me and surprise me … and could result in some sort of unjustified jealousy on my part.” “You have picked up quite well on my thoughts.” she said as she stood to approach the glass wall. She turned, raised her glass: “This will be an extraordinary weekend you have offered me to enjoy your people, your home, and knowing more about you …. And you about me. I AM an open book for you to explore by turning the pages. Now, kind sir, please retrieve the bottle of that excellent wine and let us sit on your deck overlooking the city and REALLY talk about each of us.”
It was now 2 AM and the conversation was starting to turn to trivial subjects, e.g., What was her favorite species of chen?, How much wine did his winery produce each year?, What are Egyptian guys like?, What is that planet in the sky? They were on their 3rd bottle of wine, with only some paté and pieces of baguette to consume. The conversation was getting somewhat slurred. Louis stood and said “Chérie it is time to go to sleep. I have an extraordinary petit déjeuner planned for us.” He took her hand, and they entered into the house leaving the glass door open for the light wind outside to enter. They approached the 2 doors to the bedrooms and he led her into the master bedroom. She tensed slightly that he could notice in her hand. He reached for her face and gave the softest kiss on her lips. “This is your bed tonight. He turned to leave then looked back. “There is a pink robe in the bathroom fresh for you.” She smiled, “I saw that earlier. Bon Nuit Louis”. He smiled with a wink, “Bon Nuit Mademoiselle“ and proceeded on to the other bedroom.
As is normal for him, he awoke at 7:30 and headed for the shower. His favorite savon was from a family-owned producer in Villefrance sur Mer on the French Rivera. The not-subtitle scent was that of sandalwood. He shaved his morning shadow, dried off and put on some loose linen shorts. He was not one for underwear, or even socks, in his daily activities. He pulled on his pale blue Nice Jazz Festival, 1994 tee shirt, but untucked to hide his carved midframe. Before he would check on Shaymaa, he wanted to have all the preparation ready to minimize the time to cook and deliver petit déjeuner once she was up, showered, and in the Kitchen. The menu consisted of a gruyere souffle with a homard sauce, sage saucisson, and of course warmed croissants. This would be accompanied by both conserves de prune et fraises that a family that worked for him produced. The champagne was the ‘fleur’ bottle from Pierre Joulét in Epernay, and the flutes were in the freezer for that added frosted chill for the first sip.
While waiting for Shaymaa to appear from the bedroom, he reflected on their conversation only hours previously on the deck. He had revealed a great deal about his personal life, as well as she had about hers. He didn’t discuss his ex-wife or the loose relationship he had with Charlotte, too much, too soon. What he didn’t know is that Shaymaa had awakened at 7:45 and was going through the conversation as well in her mind. While recognizing that she had NO right to judge him on how sincere he could be with so little experience with him, she remained somewhat dismayed at the points she had learned upon arrival to his home. BUT, based upon the conversation hours earlier she sensed sensitivity, honesty and sincerity yet to be truly tested. She REALLY admired this man … and she was REALLY attracted to him, both physically and mentally. One word came to mind when she thought about the conversation and his physical presence: ”WOW!”
It was approaching 9, and no sign of Shaymaa. “Hmmmmm, what to do?” he thought out loud. He had plans to taking her through the village integrating both the activities of the festival underway with introducing her to various vendors that may have an interest in her wares. He went to his house-wide stereo and started softly with a playlist of Elton. Seger, Bruce, Rolling Stones, and Pink. This was his ‘motivation’ music, and he had no idea of Shaymaa’s preferences. However, by this time his typical French short-patience had run its course. This mademoiselle needed to be up. He had significant plans for her that could be most beneficial to her. One thing he was sure of now after the previous night, is that he REALLY admired this mademoiselle … and he was REALLY attracted to her, both physically and mentally. He didn’t feel the need to “play’ his conversation with her as was usually necessary with the French ladies in Ribeauvillé.
A little after 9 Shaymaa exited the master bedroom with the pink robe loosely covering her body that accentuated her tall mahogany stature as to both her legs and her open neckline. Her long black hair was still wet from her shower and shined in the kitchen light. Louis could not control his audible gasp. He paused, offered a broad smile with: “Bon Jour! Shaymaa. I trust you had a good sleep.” Having been awake for nearly 2 hours thinking about the conversation the previous night, she took a truly aggressive initiative for her. “Louis, I had a wonderful sleep … BUT, upon awakening, you were not at my side,” she said with the most seductive smile while tilting her head. “Are you NOT French, and yet you deny me of that. Shame on you!” She paused to see his expression and then continued “Are we to be lovers or not?” Louis was not prepared for that, but replied instinctively: “Mademoiselle you are not French, and I assumed therefore you are not familiar with our … ah … ways.” He pulled her into himself and releasing the robe from her body. They returned to the master bedroom and discovered each other as to their individual and mutual passions.
It was 11:30 when Shaymaa untucked and rolled away from Louis. He stirred, turn towards her and pulled her back against him. “Where are you going Chérie ?” She responded in a whisper: “I am starved, and once again you have failed to deliver a meal as you promised.” as she softly kissed his lips. He responded with a strong embrace and stated, “Cherie, you will have that meal as soon as we can dress. What I had prepared is not available now. But, I have a favorite place for us to go.” Standing between him and the bath, she reached into her suitcase and pulled out the satin, pale green teddy-bear she had brought with her. She held it up in front of her bare body: “See what you have missed with your impatient French charm?” “First of all, Chérie, you have been the impatient one here, merci beaucoup!, and I now have something else to think about for the rest of the day.” as he raised his eyebrows with a mischievous smile.
She didn’t shower again, but rather put on his pale blue t-shirt with the lingering sandalwood scent. With the addition of clinging white capri pants and sandals, she was ready to go but stated “By the way, what did you have planned as our petit-déjeuner … and why is that not now available?” He explained that the souffle batter will have fallen by that time, and he would start again the next morning. “However, the champagne is well chilled, and we will start with that.” He slowly poured 2 of the frosted stems and they went out to the deck to watch the village come alive. The food merchants were putting out their wares as well as all of the sidewalks were being swept clean, an absolute practice across all of France.19. Yummmmmmm
They sat facing the Eastern horizon with the sunrise having long passed. He started: “Tomorrow, we will have a full day of enjoying, and perhaps participating if you wish, in the 600-year tradition of the parade. It is full of spectacles and merriment with groups of amazing costumes. But today, we will walk several of the commercial rues with your wares and parasol in hand to introduce you to the village, and the village shops to you, that is after a mid-day lunch at my favorite café.” She responded with “I would like some more champagne, WOW!, and we can start as you suggest. That is my name for you from now on” she said raising the flute to her lips.” “OK, I like that but I was thinking of a similar name for you in French. But, I will stay with ‘Chérie’ for now.” And so they sat finishing off the Fleur bottle.
19. Yummm !
Having finished 2 flutes of fine champagne each, Louis stood and pulled up Shaymaa from her chair on the deck. “I must say Shaymaa, you fill out that t-shirt much better … and appropriately than I do.” “Merci beucoup Monsieur. And, I really like this shirt when you are notwearing it, or anything else.” “Ok, Cherie, it is time to introduce you to the village. Grab your wares and parasol, while I put on another shirt. You will finally get the meal that I had promised, but this will first be only an appetizer for what I will cook for us this evening.”
Upon leaving his house, he turned down a narrow alley that was not lined with any shops. Shaymaa could see some tables outside of an entrance 100 meters ahead. “That is our destination Shaymaa” as he lazily placed this arm around her waist, and not her shoulders given her height common to Nubian women.
The small café had 2 tables outside that were available at that time in the early afternoon. They sat at the left one after Louis had stuck his head in the door and yelled “Pierre, c’estLouis. Si te plait, deux Chevre Chaudet petite carafe rosé avec glacons.” Once seated, Louis described the tour that day for visiting what he thought would be the most appropriate shops. Shaymaa was perfectly accepting of his plans. This was her shining knight today. Within 15 minutes the salads and rosé were delivered with oil and vinegar on the side to be added by them as they desired. Pierre knew that Louis was very clear on not over-dressing the salads. Another petite carafe of rosé was delivered before they were finished with their meals. The €s were left on the table, and they proceeded on her adventure.
As they started their tour of shops that Louis thought most appropriate, he said “Shaymaa, upon entering shop we first say Bon Jour Madame / Monsieur, which is appropriate. At that point, I will introduce you to the owner as my dear person. They will respond with kindness and you reply Enchanteé!, and then you are on your own, I will not interfere in the conversation.” She responded simply “Understood.” And they proceeded accordingly down several of the major streets. Before returning home, they stopped at a Boucherieto pick up a rack of lamb for dinner.
On their return to the house in the early evening, Shaymaa headed directly to the deck to flip off her sandals and collapse onto the chaise-lounge. Louis went to the bathroom to wet a facecloth in warm water and take to Shaymaa to refresh her face, and then her feet. The facecloth was scented with sandalwood, as was the savon in the shower. “I will be back in a moment to deliver the most delicious pinot blanc that my winery produces, again only for family and special friends.” He returned to the kitchen by first setting up rhythmic music by the Gotan Project on the phonograph. He then poured the wine and took one to Shaymaa.
Once back in the kitchen, he pulled out the cylindrical sous vide, filled a medium pan with water and set the device for 60oc for medium. The rack of lamb he had purchased needed to first have the outer layer of fat removed, and then vacuum packed with a rub of sage, thyme, and rosemary with a touch of olive oil. The lamb would take 90 minutes to be cooked in the sous vide, before removed from the vacuum bag and grilled quickly on his indoor grill. This was sufficient time to prepare his accentuated recipe for Gratin Dauphinoise that included two layers of thinly sliced gruyere cheese between the 3 layers of 1/8 inch slices of starch-loaded potatoes from the North of France. Lastly, the 1 cup of heavy cream was poured on top to filter between the layers which had been sprinkled every so lightly with fresh nutmeg. Only the slightest touch of garlic was introduced by first wiping some garlic oil on the bottom of the ceramic cooking dish. White asparagus broiled in a skillet under the salamander would complete the meal. Unlike many folks in that area, a salad at the end of the meal was not to be provided. The final requirement would be a marche de vin sauce for the lamb, of which he kept several pouches in the freezer given the time required to prepare. With everything ready to be started at the appropriate time for dinner in 90 minutes or so, he poured himself a glass of pinot blanc and returned to the deck.
Not to his surprise, Shaymaa had fallen asleep into a comfortable position with her right hand under her tilted head. Her glistening black hair surrounded her face nearly reaching the deck. He headed to the shower for a quick wash and dressed in soft cotton sweat pants and a thin cashmere pullover sweater. He returned to the kitchen to place the Gratin Dauphinois into the 177oc oven for an hour bake, poured himself more wine and headed to the deck. Shaymaa was stirring slightly, and he kissed her on her left cheek having first brushed her hair to the side. Her eyes opened and again she gave out an “ummmmmm.” Softly he said “You have time to take a shower and join me back on the deck. Dinner will be ready in about 30 minutes.”
In 20 minutes she returned to the deck with the pink robe on. She had also put on first the satin, pale green teddy she had teased him with that morning. By this time, he had again opened up a Fleur bottle and had 2 stems chilled in a bowl of ice. He stood from his chair and greeted her with a rather-pressing kiss to her lips and a quick twirl to sit her in the other chair. She quickly tightened her robe around her so as to not to reveal what she had on underneath. With not much time until dinner, the conversation was light reviewing what had happened that day with her visits with the merchants. “Shaymaa, I purposely stood back from your conversations to let you shine at what you did …. And you were fantastic. I could easy read the impressions with both the women and men. This is good stuff for you and your wares. Twirling the parasol occasionally over your shoulder was an excellent touch.” Please relax here for several minutes as I make the final preparations for THAT dinner I owe you. I will come to retrieve you when it is time to eat.”
In the kitchen, Louis first placed the asparagus under the salamander to broil. He then
pulled out the rack of lamb, cut opened the bag, and place the ribs on the already heated grill. The sizzling of the rack provided a succulent scent unique to such grilling. He pulled the Gratin Dauphinois out of the oven, and waited several minutes to slice the rack into two-rib portions. At medium the ribs had a consistent pink color throughout which is not achievable by roasting in an oven. There were threads of pink liquid that stemmed from the cut ribs to the edge of the cutting board, fortunately with a groove around it to capture the liquid. He quickly nuked the marchand du vin sauce and placed it on the bar bordering the kitchen where they would eat. The asparagus was extracted from the salamander and placed on the bar as well on a heat pad. Dinner was ready with the exception of opening a bottle of pinot noir from the Champagne district. With that done he went to the deck to retrieve Shaymaa. To his surprise she was on her cell phone speaking softly into it. She was startled by his arrival and quickly ended the conversation with “Later.”
Once in the kitchen, his instructions were simple. “There is your plate, serve yourself as to the ribs and a dollop of the Gratin Dauphinois. The asparagus in on the bar along with the sauce for the lamb as you may wish. We will be drinking a rather unique French pinot noir that is quite luscious and ‘jammy’ to the palate – not from my winery by the way.” Being a Coptic Christian, as are all Nubians, she closed her hand in a blessing fashion with an “Oh my God! You are not only a shining knight to this Mademoiselle in distress for this day, but also an astounding chef, me thinks.” He simple shrugged with a whimsical smile and said “Of course. I am French. You should not expect … or accept less.”
They completed the meal with little discussion other than the “yummmmms” and “ahhhhhs” as Shaymaa completed her first serving with a return to the GratinDauphinois. It was now approaching 9, and they finished the pinot noir. “Shaymaa, there is no desert tonight which would have been a classic ille flotant, the lightest of all deserts. There wasn’t time, but I will make that for you in the future.” He turned her head to face his, paused looking directly into her eye saying softly: “I truly hope there is a future.” She was too satisfied with food and wine to pick up on his comment looking for positive feedback.
While sitting at the bar during dinner, her robe had started to separate revealing her legs further on and on as the meal progressed. NO man could ignore this temptation. He stood and proceeded to place the Gratin Dauphinois in the fridge and then returned to swing her up from the chair to direct her to the deck for more wine and discussion. As he did so, the robe separated enough to expose her satin undergarment. He shook his head as in seeking balance. “Chérie,you have a secret that has now been revealed to me.” She didn’t understand what he meant at first, actually thinking back upon his interrupting her cell phone conversation on the deck before dinner. Had he noticed the cell phone call indiscretion on her part? He then touched her upper thigh stating that the pale green satin teddy was on his mind throughout the day. For Louis, this was the most aggressive he had been with a woman of true interest for a long time.
As he took her hand to head to the deck, she softly fell into his arms. She was tired, a bit too relaxed (smashed) to expect any other real interaction with him that night. Instead of the deck, he helped her to the master bedroom and placed her in the bed, robe and all, and pulled up the goose down comforter to cover her. He turned off the lights and retreated to the deck to address a number of texts he had received regarding the winery. At 11, he returned to the master bedroom, removed his clothes, and laid down next to her spooning her right side. Within minutes he was asleep.
20. Fiddler's Festival
Please note that the most recent segments of A Parasol in Paris have proceeded independently of the parasol per se’ for the benefit of romance. Future segments will return soon to the Parasol's progression through the lives of individuals.
Sunday morning, Louis of course awoke at 7:30 still in a spooning position with Shaymaa. He gingerly lifted his left arm from around her to get out of bed. However, she held on. Therefore, he instead snuggled closer and softly kissed her neckline. She was now fully awake and turned suddenly to face him. Again, with that “ummmmm” of hers she wrapped her left arm around his shoulder feeling his bare skin, and then moving it down to his waist. “Louis, it seems that I am overdressed for this moment. She sat up, awkwardly, removed her robe, and laid back down again. “Shaymaa, you are STILL over-dressed, but let me help you.” He raised himself on his right elbow and proceeded first to remove her top followed by the appropriate touches and kisses. He sat up further and slid down her bottoms with her shuffling her knees up and down to assist. “MUCH better!’”, he whispered in her right ear as he lowered himself down next to her.
Nothing more was said for quite some time as they each relishedthe passion of being together. It was not until 9:30 that Louis stirred raising his head from Shaymaa’s left neckline … and her scent there. From the door opened to the deck, the noise of the “Fiddler’s Festival parade’s preparation could be heard with the arrival of the multitudes to line the main street below the house. He sat up with both of them uncovered, and he lightly kissed her lips whispering “Shaymaa, the merriment is rising outside, and I insist that you and I get up to get involved.” At first she was still coming to her senses, and then commented “Oui! Oui! I want to enjoy this spectacular event as you had described to me yesterday.” She was suddenly insistent. “I want to go NOW. I need not shower, but just throw on your t-shirt and my slacks.” “Granted!” he said. “We can get a croque monsieur and expresso each at the café across the street to hold us until lunch.” Within 10 minutes they were out of the house. Her long hair was totally dischuffed, but even more attractive to Louis.
Nothing was said by either as to the night before, but Louis held tightly onto Shaymaa as they maneuvered through the crowd to go to a position on the parade route that Louis preferred which was outside of a patisserie where they could order a particularly unique baquette layered with paté and gruyére, his favorite, and still not miss the parade. Several times he would squeeze her waist with a burst of intensity. After several such embraces, Shaymaa turned to Louis. “What was that Monsieur?” He responded: “Chérie, that was a ‘shiver’ that goes through my body as I reflect on last night. I have no control of that, but surely you know how men are about intense intimacy?” She paused, “I haven’t experienced that before you, but NOW …. WOW!, another reason for my name for you.”
The amazingly colorful parade proceeded for nearly 5 hours with groups of musicians (primarily fiddlers), marching groups in centuries-old traditional dress, and groups with satirical themes. Throughout the parade, Louis and Shaymaa would alternately stand and sit at their individual table provided by the owners of the patisserie. It was clear to Shaymaa that, as the day before, Louis held a position of notoriety in the village as she would be frequently introduce to Louis’s friends that would stop by.
It had been such an exciting afternoon with a parade that she had never experienced before. It was now time to return to the house. All of the shops were closed of course, and Louis stated that they would be eating at one of his favorite restaurants that night. Upon reaching the house, Shaymaa went directly to the chaise lounge on the deck to remove her sandals and relax. Louis was already thinking about tomorrow when Shaymaa would take the train back to Paris. He was losing his ‘cool’ in having been so encompassedby her presence, their lovemaking, … and her scent. The latter was totally new to him, but as real as their embracing.
He proceeded to the kitchen to pour several glasses of Pinot Blanc and then return to the deck sitting on the side of her chaise lounge. “Shaymaa, I have been totally delighted in having you her this weekend. It has been most extraordinary for the marketing of your wares, I believe. BUT I MUST say that it has been exceptional for me as well to know and experience you as the Mademoiselle you are, and I just don’t mean business …. pause ... You are leaving tomorrow because you have important business reasons to do so. BUT!, I want you to come back to explore US.” He paused holding up his glass to click with hers, “Tell me straight. Do you agree?” She responded: “WOW! You have …. Well … kind of have swept me away/ I am overwhelmed with you, and I need to step back momentarily for my own sanity. We are from 2 very different cultures, but my sense of individualism, independence if you will, wants to pursue us. You have swooped me into your life with such open passion, granted that I initiated. Why I did so is so insane in my mind at the moment. To be clear, my thoughts right now are that I could TOTALLY lose myself in you. But then again, I entered your environment of used tooth brush, pink robe, and the ongoing apparent presence of your ex-wife and Charlotte. How REAL are you? …. How well do you know yourself?, I have to question. AND, how well do I actually know myself?”
“Very sobering thoughts Shaymaa. But I would not expect anything less from you.” With a click of the glasses again, and final sips to empty them, he continued. “You get the shower first. For dinner, I would like to see you in that one purple and gold outfit I saw next to your suitcase.” With that she stood and proceeded to the bathroom dropping her top and slacks on the way. There was another shiver as he watched her walk away. As with him, she didn’t care for undergarments. Within 15 minutes she was out and dressed as requested, brushing her hair to the left side. “Chérie, please pour yourself a glass of whatever wine you would like, and I will be out to sweep you from the deck to proceed to dinner.” He turned back to her and said: “Unlike Paris, the village folks don’t wait until 8 for dinner reservations, especially after such an intense afternoon.”
During his absence in the shower, Shaymaa turned on her cell and sent a text to the individual she was talking to Saturday evening when Louis came upon her unexpectedly on the deck. In 20 minutes, he was back and dressed in tan linen slacks, another cashmere pullover, and leather loafers. He pulled her up from the chair embracing her softly with an extended kiss on her lips. “We are off to the restaurant.”
His favorite, traditional Alsatian restaurant was Winstub La Flammerie. Sophie, the female head chef, did not request what they would like and instead recommended 2 favorites of her patrons. Louis ordered the Duck aiguillettes with pinot noir, honey and plum chutney, and Shaymaa ordered the Pike perch fillet with old-fashioned mustard cream on sauerkraut. They both shared a Tart of asparagus au gratin as an appetizer and a bottle of Pinot Noir from Champagne that Sophie insisted upon. Louis responded “Oui Madame! in that Mademoiselle was indeed not appropriate for this Matron.”
During the dinner, the conversation was more business than romantic. Louis wanted to know Shaymaa’s further thoughts about the touring activities on Saturday … and how this may involve her further visits to Ribeauvillé. Typical of her orderly discipline, she pulled out a piece of paper upon which she had a number of notes from those activities. Sensing her seriousness, Louis shifted into business mode and provided suggestions she may consider. Of course, his comments were such to encourage her return to the village, as well as ways that he could be directly involved in assisting her there with her marketing. A second bottle of wine was ordered with both them denying any ability to enjoy the house-made deserts about which Sophie was much less insistent, but disappointed nonetheless.
Upon entering the house, it was back to the deck. Louis said he would be back in a moment. In the kitchen, he poured two small glasses of green Chatruese and returned to the deck. As he approached Shaymaa handing her the aperitif he said: “This morning I remember removing some amazing lingerie from you. I would love to see that in full view. Would you mind?” She took a sip and said, I will be right back.” In her absence, he put some island music on the house audio. He turned down the lights on the deck letting the inside lights providing a light glow on the deck.
She returned making a “runmway” entrance, with a full turn before sitting down. He started, on He was breathless with only a mild “Mon Dieu” as he stood to turn her around again. “I now have my endearing name for you: Ma Tigresse.” You said earlier that your train to Paris is at 10:20. M/y suggestion is that we now retire to the bedroom for a well deserved rest before I get you up for that petite dejeune that I had planned for you on Saturday. “Really?” she proclaimed as she said striking a most seductive pose turning sideways to him. “Perhaps, there is some more ‘discussions’ before going to sleep.” as she kissed his left cheek and pounced to the bedroom. He followed again leaving the glass doors to the deck open for the breeze.
She headed first to the bathroom as he removed his clothes and slipped under the covers. She purposely left the light on in the bathroom as she exited removing first her top and then the bottoms. She slipped into bed and cuddled to his left side. They were both exhausted. With her head on his chest and his arm around her, they both fell asleep.
At 7:30 he awoke and gently released himself from their coupling; she didn’t wake. Moving directly to the kitchen without dressing, he prepared the souffle batter. At about 8, he pulled on his cotton shorts and gently awaken Shaymaa with a kiss on her cheek after brushing her hair to the side. She opened her eyes, looked directly at him and said. “I am leaving you today Wow, right?” “Oui, but we both know that you will be back soon Ma Tigresse. So, I suggest you take a quick shower, dress in your traveling clothes and join me in the kitchen,” ”Oui” she said, half saluting him as the comforter dropped off her shoulder exposing her upper body. He touched her face with his left arm and kissed her neck, and then continued down. “You still have that scent of our lovemaking. How precious! You need to get up now, or you will missyour train.” He said with a seductive grin.
She showered, dressed, packed her suitcase, and joined him in the kitchen in 20 minutes. “Perfect timing, I am removing the souffle from the oven now. I will serve it and you take the sausages and lobster sauce as you wish.
It was now time to leave for the train station. Louis was still only half-dressed. “Louis, … Wow ... I know my way to the station, and I wish to leave you here”. She put her arms around him, tightly embracing him. “As I said last night, there is so much about this weekend that I need to put together in my mind,” He interrupted, “And so do I, Ma tigresse. ” She kissed him passionately, and grabbed her suitcase and parasol leaving the house. He reached out to touch her again, but she was gone.
On her way to the gare she pulled out her cell phone and made a call. The person to whom she made the call did not answer, so she left a message: “I am on my way back to Paris, and I wish to talk to you tonight. So please call me at 7 PM, Paris time. Love, Me.”
The cell call Shaymaa made upon leaving Louis’s house was to Khalid in Cairo with whom she had become quite serious before joining her brother in Paris. As with most Muslims in Egypt, he adherers closely to primary Muslim principles, e.g., 5 prayers each day, no alcohol, no smoking and the rules of marrying outside of the religion, In general, Muslim men have freedom but women don’t as to cross-religion marriages. However, Shaymaa being Coptic Christian was too regimented as well as independent to make a conversion even with the increasing pressure from Khalid’s family and friends to do so. Arguably, Egypt is the least restrictive as to rights of women in the Arabic / Muslim world, and the Constitution that came about in the revolution of 2013 provided additional freedoms …. but not enough for Shaymaa. The added pressure of Islam regarding women was a just too much for Shaymaa to consider. Additionally, while Islam and Christianity are much more in common as to their beliefs than ether with Judaism, Muslims believe Christ to be a precursor to the Prophet Mohammad; hence Christ is a Muslim. Muslims also reject the Bible on the basis of their perspective of it having been corrupted over time, whereas the Quran is the final, unchanged and preserved word of God.
As she had requested of Khalid upon her departing from Ribeauvillé, he called her precisely at 7 PM in the evening. Shaymaa was not sure what she was going to say, but the objective was clear. Her strict religious practices were guiding her at this point regardless of her growing relationship with Khaled. AND, she justified in her mind that her brother’s business in Paris gave her sufficient cause to strike out on her own as to both romance and her profession. Indeed, going through her thoughts was to not rationalize her objective given her sudden, if not impetuous, involvement with Louis. But when her cell phone rang, her first thought was of Louis. “Mahabaan Khalid” “Hello to you also Shaymaa”. “Thank you for calling Khalid. I wish to talk with you about my visit so far in Paris and the thoughts that are going through my mind. ... pause …To be clear, I have made some difficult decisions about where I want to be …. and with whom I want to be involved.” Khalid was silent waiting for her to continue. Knowing well the dynamics of Shaymaa’s personality in concert with the Islam/Coptic conflict between them, he already expected what would follow as to them as a couple. Before, she could continue, Khalid took the initiative. “Shaymaa! I love you dearly. But we are not the same as we were as children when we grew up together. At that point in our lives, there was no consideration as to the religious differences between us. As has always been true in Cairo, Muslims and Coptic children grow up together in school and play. But now, my Love, I understand that neither of our religious beliefs can, or should, be compromised by either of us. When you left for Paris, I approached my Imam at the Mosque for his thoughts as to our position as a couple. He was very realistic as to the tremendous difficulties of couples in Egypt that have dealt with such conflict, especially when there are children involved.” Shaymaa was stunned by his insights, and now respected him even more than she had anticipated. “Khalid, I love you deeply, but you are right. We would possibly destroy ourselves directly and in conflict with our respective parents.” “Tell me Shaymaa, if you wish, have you been brought to your realizations by the people, eh men, you have met in your time there?” “I think I have Khalid. But to be honest, I am somewhat scared as to where I am and where I am going both professionally and romantically.” “Shaymaa, my heart is with you always and never hesitate to bring your thoughts to me to the extent you are comfortable. I dare say Love, with tears on my cheek, that you will always make the right decisions in the most difficult situations if you use your mind properly without impulsiveness. With that said, you will understand that I need to end this call now with great sadness but yet joy for both of us. Goodbye Love” “Goodbye Khalid. Thank You! You are always in my prayers.” “And you in mine, Shaymaa.”
After this most extraordinary and candid conversation with Khalid, Shaymaa called her brother to provide a brief update on her Ribeauvillé visit without revealing too much. Ahmed knew nothing of her relationship with Khalid, which would have greatly upset him. Instead, she discussed what her activities would be the next day as to the business. There was nothing said about her intimate experiences with Louis. She didn’t need any more ‘big brother’ thoughts at that point.
On Tuesday she woke at 10, dressed in her loose garb and went to the café across the street from her room. Thanks to Louis’s introduction, she was hooked on Croque Monsieur for brunch. In Cairo, within the spacious City Stars Mall, there is a PAUL franchise famous across France for their light French menu, including Croque Monsieur. But what she had experienced there in the past barely resembled what she had enjoyed in the café across the street. After consuming her first café crème with the Croque Monsieur, she ordered a second café and pulled out the business card for Monsieur Bodin. She called and introduced herself to Monsieur Bodin’s secretary in English. The woman readily switched to English and said that she knew that Monsieur Bodin was awaiting her call. However, he was not in at the moment, but had stated that the secretary should set up a meeting in his office as mutually agreeable. An appointment was set for the next day at 11:45.
The rest of Tuesday was now open for Shaymaa, and she decided to relax at the Jardin du Palais Royal where she had first sat with Louis after drinks at Willis Wine Bar. She went about spreading her marketing material across the length of the bench preparing for the meeting based upon Monsieur Bodin’s comments in Reims. It was clear his primary interest was to outfit their Nice store on the Rivera with the more colorful and loose garments she offered that were best suited for a beach environment.
On Wednesday she took the parasol and her marketing material with several selections of men’s and women’s apparel. She was 15 minutes early, and Monsieur Bodin’s secretary received her most graciously and led her into the quaint, private executive dining room. There were 6 place settings on the table, 2 on each long side, and 1 at each end. She placed her material on a side table at one end and sat at that end position. Shaymaa stood and stepped away from the table as Monsieur Bodin entered with 4 assistants. “Bon Jour” she said joyfully offering her hand to Monsieur Bodin in case he was aware of the Muslim practice that men should not offer their hands to women; the woman must initiate - even though she was not Muslim but which he might assume. They all took their seats with Monsieur Bodin at the other end. He started. “I am very pleased that we can meet again after our breakfast in Reims. I have several critical staff here; 3 Marketing and the head of Human Resources. BUT first, we will enjoy a lunch prepared by the store’s Chef from the Gourmet department in the basement.” He continued: “Knowing some Egyptian cuisine, Chef has prepared several dishes including both grilled, marinated goat and stuffed Pidgeon, which by the way is very much part of the French cuisine in Southern France. In France we have Imperial Pigeons that are significantly larger than those in Egypt. So! to start, would you like some wine, if that is permitted by you. Working her marketing skill she stated: “Monsieur Bodin, you overwhelm me with your kind consideration … and Yes! I would love some wine as I see over on that table. I should tell you that I am not Muslim but Coptic Christian.” “Oh! So Shaymaa, what is your wine preference?” pointing to the bottles. She was very clear and welcoming: “I would like to have a glass of the upper Rhone, Chateau Neuf du Pape”. That should go handsomely with the 2 Plats you mentioned. With the wine poured to all, Monsieur Bodin introduced the others as to name and responsibility and then requested: “Shaymaa tell them about yourself, your brother, and the background of Anna’s Parasol.
She stood and placed the opened parasol on the table in front of her seat. Within 20 minutes, she had covered the major points, including a brief history of the parasol, finishing as the food was being served. She sat as Monsieur Bodin noted: “Excellent! Shaymaa. Let’s begin by enjoying this meal as each of my colleagues takes a turn to provide their individual perspective of what you have presented. My management style is to be openly inclusive and each of these individuals can deliver points that are important to consider”, and so they started. The first three presented their individual marketing thoughts as to male vs. female relative to beach attire. There was some conflict as to the brilliancy of the colors of her wares, but all agreed to the styles AND the fine material that Ahmed could deliver. The fourth individual was the Head of Human Resources, and directly stated, having first received a node from Monsieur Bodin: “To be open here Shaymaa, we are willing to take on your line exclusively. And if you are agreeable to such an arrangement, then we require YOU to be part of our team to first bring these wares to the Rivera and then expand through Southern France, and eventually into Paris. Monsieur Bodin and I have already discussed what may make sense given his knowledge of YOU, your brother’s venture, and your wares. He asked me to make the final decision, AND, my decision is that Galeries Lafayette will form a unique, separate marketing division titled Anna’s Parasol for your styles …. And, we want you to head that as well as your brother to handle manufacturing. This may include expanding to France’s holdings in the Caribbean, and possibly elsewhere in beach communities in Indonesia and elsewhere.” Shaymaa restrained her extreme excitement for once, and simply said: “Interesting… pause … I would like another glass of the Rhone s’il te plait.” The French were amused by her professional, but fake, subtleness.
The wine was provided. Shaymaa paused and then swirled the glass and said “I do believe that this wine is as complex and astounding as your offer.” Holding up the glass to the light and she then took a serious sip having sensed its nose. The others held up their glasses and turned to her taking their sips in unison. In Paris this was a contract respected as nearly valid as a verbal or written agreement. Shaymaa placed the glass on the table in front of her. “Please understand that while I am my brother’s marketing consultant, I must first gain his agreement.” “Understood” said Monsieur Bodin. “I ask that you respond within 2 weeks to start building the summer marketing campaign including our making a multitude of duplicate parasols as I mention in Reims. The capital funding to begin manufacturing will be provided by Galeries Lafayette, I also should mention that along with a salary, which I trust you will find suitable as a Department Executive for Galeries Lafayette, you will be provided with a most-suitable apartment in Marais with access to our executive apartments in Nice and elsewhere for your personal and business purposes. Our customers expect the best from us as to products and service, and we provide our executives with the best accommodations to so deliver. Now for dessert.”
The plates were removed by the service staff as the conversation shifted to her impressions of Paris and French culture in general. Shaymaa lightly introduced her visit to Ribeauvillé and her immense enjoyment of the Fiddler’s Parade without any mention of Louis. During her conversation, she and others were presented with a warmed Tart Tatin avec la crème glacée from the gourmet shop in the store’s basement.
Apologizing for his departure due to other commitments, Monsieur Bodin turned to her and said: “My wife and I are having a dinner party on Saturday at Brasserie Gallopin near the Bourse in the Opera Qtr. for several of our most important clients and merchants. We have reserved the second floor in this finest example of a traditional French establishment. I would be honored to have you and your brother attend. If you are willing, then my secretary will provide the details. Au revoir Madame.” Shaymaa stood, and again extended her hand. “Merci beaucoup Monsieur for your hospitality and willingness to consider and include what we have to offer to the customers of Galerie Lafyette. This is going to be very exciting and profitable for both of us. I look forward to Saturday night. Au revoir!.” With that he exited the dining room along with his colleagues, and she sat down to finish the extraordinary tart tatin. Within several minutes, she gathered up her materials and exited the dining room to obtain the necessary information regarding the engagement Saturday night from the secretary. She was so excited by what had happened during the luncheon, that she left behind the parasol still open on the table. She had not yet considered how her brother would receive the news of the exclusivity with Galeries Lafayette … and to a lessor extent the proper dealing with Sarah whose openness and generosity had provided the initial entrance into France. This French woman had selflessly opened the doors for the Muslim Ahmed. This was a valuable lesson for Shaymaa as her career would continue in the next several decades in dealing with individuals of different religions and citizenships.