I do not call. I cannot muster the courage. It is now August and in four weeks I will be home. I’m afraid that if I call Dominique I will fall and need him more than I should. I want to return home not missing New York as much; not missing him. If I pursue this I will leave with a dejected heart. Besides he can’t really be serious. I doubt he feels the way I do so I must be careful.
He finally calls.
“Why ‘aven’t you called?” he says peevishly. I do not answer. “Allô...?” He curses and hangs up. As I contemplate calling him back, he rings again. “Karel, is that you?”
“Ah my stupid phone! It sometimes gets bad reception.” I say nothing. “So why ‘aven’t you called?”
“I—I was busy.” I’m lying.
“Hmmm...You exploring the city without me, with your friend?”
Actually Andreen has been so busy lately that I mostly stay at home alone. My main source of socializing is when my brother returns from work and usually he is too tired to keep any conversation for more than ten minutes.
“We must meet today for lunch. ‘Ow’s one?”
“...Don’t know what?”
Dominique does not wait for me to reply and gives me the location. I’m expected to be there.
I arrive at the Cercle Rouge fifteen minutes after one and I spot him sipping coffee at one of the tables outside. Already I sense his agitation as he taps his finger incessantly, pondering something. As I approach the table he stands and does not give me the opportunity to properly greet him.
“You are late,” he glowers and examines me from head to toe. I suddenly become conscious of everything: my clothes, my hair, my skin.
“I couldn’t find the place,” I say defensively.
In fact, I was so indecisive about my outfit that I changed at least six times. My hair I could do nothing about since there isn’t much I can change. I combed out the braids and teased it lightly, causing the ends to appear crinkled and curly. I tamed the fro with a black head band and actually went through the utmost trouble of wearing makeup—foundation, eyeliner, and mascara. Dominique doesn’t have a clue the trouble I went through to impress him. Moreover, I did not want to be on time and then have to wait foolishly, should he not be there or not arrive at all.
He softens and kisses me lightly on both cheeks—the way the French do—and assesses me again. He smiles brightly. “You look beautiful ma fille.”
I relax and smile. “Merci, so do you.” He did...effortlessly. He wore a v-neck, white cotton shirt; washed-out blue boot cut jeans and a thin dark biker jacket with boots to match. He removes his pilot sunglasses and slides it over his head causing his hair to bunch up lightly. Suddenly I imagine my hands in his hair. I imagine the soft silky feel...
“Karel! Come let’s sit.” He breaks my train of thought.
We sit and instantly a waiter arrives. He orders in French and thirty minutes later, Dominique is enjoying the saumon sauvage en petit salé and I, the onglet à l’échalotte.
After we eat he offers wine but I decline knowing it would do me no good in this heat. As I sip my water he takes out his camera and starts shooting. I become conscious and hide my face. He grumbles and pulls my hand away.
“You are too shy Karel. Your beauty should not be hidden from my Canon.” I still shake my head in disagreement. I hate taking pictures. “Regarde-moi!” He orders me to look at him and finally I obey.
As the camera flashes and recycles, I relax and even smile. He suddenly stands with exuberance and starts shooting at me from different angles. I pretend to pose and he laughs including a few of the diners that are seated nearby. I don’t know how I’ve become so free around Dominique but he makes me feel beautiful. Je suis libre.
“Dominique! Au mon Dieu! Ça fait longtemps que nous nous sommes pas vus! Ça va?!”
I look up to see two girls running toward Dominique. They appear to be models; I’m here long enough to decipher them. He suddenly rests the camera on the table and rushes to the sidewalk and lifts the brunette, with the cropped hair, as she jumps into him. They squeal and exchange friendly kisses. I believe one landed on his lips. I feel uncommonly unsettled. The taller and skinnier one with long blonde hair hugs him awkwardly and then stares directly at me. I quickly look away. With their skin tight jeans and knee-high boots I suddenly feel inferior and unappealing.
Dominique and the brunette speak animatedly in French for awhile. They are speaking too fast for me to understand. I notice the blonde does not join in the conversation and every now and then she sneaks a peek at me. As if suddenly remembering me, Dominique beckons and I approach.
“This is Karel. She’s from Jamaica.”
“Ah Jamyca! I love Jamyca,” the brunette says genially. Her accent is a bit heavier than Dominique’s. “Nice to meet you. I’m Julette and this is Ekaterina.”
That explains why the blonde did not speak with them. She is Russian.
“Nice to meet you,” I greeted politely.
“Oh I love your ‘air...It’s so cute,” Julette drawls.
Ekaterina still says nothing to me. She turns to Julette and mumbles something in Russian and Julette eyes Dominique awkwardly. I notice Dominique shifting uncomfortably and I wonder if he understood what Ekaterina had just said. Against my first notion, I suddenly sense there is something between him and the Russian; not Julette. Dominique pulls the gaunt blonde aside and speaks aggressively. She tries to hold him but he pushes her hands away. She then glares at me crudely, causing me to glance at Julette, who smiles at me sheepishly.
“But why Domi?! Why?” Ekaterina whines.
“Kat, I tell you many times not to call me that. It makes me sound stupid.”
At her moue and folded arms I almost want to laugh. Dominique continues to speak in hard soft tones in Russian and in seconds the girl bursts into tears. Julette runs to console her and I just want to leave. This kind of New York experience was not on my agenda. I don’t like that I see Dominique differently; like there is something he is hiding. Something I might not like. He is no longer perfect and I realize that I will soon have to wake up.
We are in SoHo now and he is taking me to the different stores along the bricked streets. Even against my will he buys me cardigans and accessories and a small T-shirt, from one of the street vendors, that says “I heart French Men.” I find this gesture adorable and for the first time since our lunch I’m able to laugh freely. We do not discuss Julette or Ekaterina. It is as if Ekaterina’s outburst never happened.
It is almost 6 p.m. when we take the R train to Park Avenue South to his apartment. I had no intention of coming here but it was not until we are crossing the street from the station that he tells me where we are. I’m uncertain about this but I express nothing.
“It’s directly across from IMG models,” Dominique says and points to the building. “I shoot a lot of their development girls.”
His apartment is spacious and sparsely furnished with just the basic necessities. It is very masculine with a theme of grey, black, and brown. He even has a studio which is separated by room dividers.
“One day I’ll shoot you there,” he says as I study the room. I look at him wide-eyed and he laughs. “Per ‘aps implied,” he adds as he rubs his chin, watching me with scrutiny. I ask him to explain and soon I’m backing away and openly protesting at the thought of posing naked. He grabs me laughing and tries to hold me still. “Trust me chérie...you will want me to shoot you in that way.” His hands graze my waist and hips. “I can tell by your form you are graceful.”
I swallow uncomfortably and clear my throat, tearing my gaze away from his. I ask for his bathroom and he directs me to his bedroom. His scent is so pungent there that I become heated and dizzy. He grabs me.
“Mon amour, ça va?” I must have wobbled. I quickly nod and retreat to the bathroom. “I’ll be outside,” I hear him say.
When I return to the living room, it now has a moody and seductive glow. He has dimmed the lights. My heart is already racing. I don’t know what is going to happen here, but I should leave. I decide this as he hands me a glass of red wine.
“I should head back; it’s getting late,” I say nervously.
He must not have heard me because his eyes, which are now a bewitching green, holds me transfixed and I’m unable to move. He sips his wine and moves in closer and I watch as one hand massages my neck gently before travelling to my cheek and landing in my hair.
“I love this ‘air of yours,” he says, his voice more coarse. “Do you want to feel mine?”
I’m slightly alarmed by this question but yes, actually I do. But I do nothing. Impatiently he takes my free hand and rests it on his head and naturally my fingers move through, gently massaging. I’m out of control now because my breathing has quickened at the feel of smooth silk tickling my senses. He takes my untouched glass from my other hand and places it on the table by the sofa. After doing the same with his, both hands cup my face and his lips are now soothing mine.
“Karel, Je suis fou de toi...”
A part of me wonders what about me is so fascinating; why he isn’t crazy about the likes of Julette and Ekaterina, but soon I cannot breathe. I open my mouth to exhale and he kisses me even deeper, tasting me, and my legs begin to quake. A soft cry escapes me as I taste and inhale him—his French manliness, which is nothing like the Jamaican men. Certainly not like my boss. But it is becoming too much and I try to pull away. He pulls me firmly in and I feel his chest pounding rapidly. Or is it mine? My mind is hazy and I can’t think and if I don’t stop now I’m afraid I will lose everything. I finally manage to yank my lips away.
“I have to go.” He sighs and pulls away. “If I don’t leave I won’t be home until late and...”
He places his finger on my lips, silencing me. “I understand. When do you leave?” At first I’m confused. “Jamaica...When do you go back?”
“Less than four weeks.”
He remains still and pensive. “Do you have to go?”
I look at him oddly. “I can’t stay here. I need to be home.”
“No not the Bronx, Karel...Jamaica. Do you have to go?”
If I found him strange before he became even stranger now. I laugh awkwardly. “Of course, why wouldn’t I?”
He stands aloof and examines me and I cannot look away. “Because you can have a life here, chérie....” I shake my head, clearly not comprehending. “There is opportunity here mon amour. You don’t need to go back. Stay.”
He speaks with such conviction that I almost consider it. “No, that’s crazy. I’m sorry.” I walk away to the couch and grab my bags. He is disturbed by my actions but I must leave. With the taste of him still lingering on my tongue, I manage to say, “This was a great day.” I indicate to the shopping bags in my hand. “And thanks for these even though you really shouldn’t have.”
He walks smoothly over to me and takes the bags from my hand. “I will walk you down. And zis is nothing. I wanted you to ‘ave some souvenirs; a piece of me to take with you. Though you don’t ‘ave to go.... You can stay and ‘ave all of me instead.”
We are in the elevator when he says this. Blood rushes to my face instantly and I vigorously look away. I can sense him smiling at my discomfort but I ignore it.