Paris was much more beautiful than Dax could have ever imagined. Everywhere he turned, there were things to see that caught his attention just the same way a light draws a moth. When he first arrived, he hadn’t expected that he would so easily lose track of time as he walked the cobblestone streets and admired the architecture of the old buildings.
His favorite spot quickly became the Eiffel Tower. While there, he could saunter through the park without much care and observe people in the most candid of moments. Memorizing different things he took notice of, he put them all to canvas, down to the last detail.
After a time, he’d begun to recognize that there were distinct differences between tourists and locals, so he made a great effort to try to fit in. He dressed casually, but nicely, making certain he was put together well enough that he wouldn’t stand out too badly. There were no “I heart Paris” t-shirts in his wardrobe, he didn’t carry little maps of the area and always acted as if he knew exactly where he was going, even if he was lost.
Luckily, his childhood in Winchester had prepared him for this adventure (even though that hadn’t been the intention of his teacher). He could speak and write French fluently which, for him, seemed to be most of the battle when trying to blend in. While he wasn’t fooling anyone, he at least made an attempt to mimic their accent and pick up on local colloquialisms.
And so, while Dax seemed to blend in, there were things about him which he hoped no one would ever find out. If he met someone, did they necessarily need to know that he came from a one horse kind of town that to any outsider would seem backward? Would a new friend have to be told about the scars that used to crisscross his handsome face due to a childhood accident?
Even after all this time, he was still trying to get out of the habit of touching his face because sometimes he worried that he would wake up and the ugly, jagged lines would be back. He realized this insecurity was unpleasant, but he couldn’t help but feel that his luck would change and they would return. He couldn’t bear to think how the scars’ reappearance would be seen as hideous by all who came across him.
This was the very reason he’d spent most of his life in dark rooms. The overwhelming shame still flooded through him like a dam breaking, knocking his soul right out of him because of his previous existence and how grotesque his face had been.
That was, until he met Blue Capra. She had washed into his life on one of those dam breaking waves and had seen right through his suffering. If he closed his eyes, he could still see her beautiful dark hair that smelled like flowers he couldn’t identify, green eyes that reminded him of his favorite meadow and full lips that just begged him to kiss them. And, oh, how he’d tried to kiss her! But she wasn’t ready for a relationship and even though it hurt to feel put off, at least he knew it wasn’t because of his appearance since she had never seemed repulsed by the scars at all.
Besides Blue, Dax had one other friend back in Winchester where he was from, named Mango. Thinking about Mango, Dax unconsciously touched his face yet again. He still didn’t understand how his friend Mango had healed the scars. All he knew for sure was that Mango had some strange powers and had been kind enough to do this supernatural thing for him. But in healing Dax, Mango had died. Since then, there had been a hole in Dax’s heart. While he didn’t feel completely empty because of the new adventures he was experiencing, no one could ever replace his best friend and mentor.
After Mango’s funeral, Dax had gone back to the cave Mango had called home and found the letter from his friend instructing him to travel to Paris. Mango was quite certain Dax would be able to make a living painting and instructed him to show his paintings to someone named Cosette Barbeau.
Dax had, of course, been reluctant to leave the world he knew in order to strike out on his own. It had been an extremely difficult also to tell Blue goodbye as at one time, he’d hoped they would have a future together. Deep down, though, Dax had the strong feeling that Mango was right in his advice. He could have forgotten the entire thing and settled down with Blue, if she would have him, raise children and paint on the farm. It was what she wanted out of life, he was learning. But it had never been the way he wanted to spend his life. It wasn’t until the scars were gone that he’d been able to gather enough gumption to even think about following his childhood dreams. Now, he could live in Paris and paint to his heart’s content.
As for meeting Cosette, it had been nerve wracking for Dax. Upon his arrival, he’d immediately sought her out. Not knowing what specifically to expect, he’d been stunned by her beauty to the point of distraction. As soon as Dax mentioned Mango’s name, Cosette had smiled and said that Mango had sent her a letter with some of Dax’s sketches some time ago.
To Dax’s amazement, she was eager to see his work. Afterwards, she told him that she would try to get him into a local gallery. He couldn’t believe his good fortune as, other than having a nice face again, nothing even remotely happy had happened to him in so long.
The two became quick friends as their interests were similar. He found it quite enjoyable to sit over coffee and discuss art with her. She was quite knowledgeable in her field and had good connections with other artists.
Time seemed to fly by even faster and they began to go everywhere together. Cosette was keen on showing him all of the art galleries – there were so many!
He listened intently as she told him the history of many of the pieces they gazed at. Her voice was music to his ears and he was beginning to think that, just as he had once read in a book, this was indeed the city of love after all.
“This statue,” she said in French, her voice caressing his soul, “represents a woman from long ago whose beauty stopped an army dead in its tracks. She was able to bring peace to the city by negotiating a wedding between the General and herself. It was not just an arrangement, it was a love match as the General found he could not leave her behind.”
“That is a beautiful story,” he responded, also in French, unable to take his eyes from the sculpture. He wasn’t sure if it was the story itself or the way Cosette told him about it, but he felt it deeply.
The next few months continued this way and were a whirlwind in his mind as they explored the city and its other museums.
Had their romance happened more quickly, he was certain it might not have lasted. Although time had felt like a tornado, rushing around him and through him, carrying him every which way, they had not hurried into anything.
When the moment presented itself, their first kiss had been explosive. As soon as their lips touched, everything around them slipped away. There were no crowds, no children running through the streets. Her kiss was soothing in a way that nothing else ever had been before him. He pulled her closer until their bodies were melted together and he could feel her heartbeat…
Most of the time now, Dax spent the nights at her flat. But today, he needed to get some paintings done in order to show a gallery owner that his work was worthy of being displayed.
If Cosette was disappointed with his humble living space, she didn’t mention it or appear bothered.
Because he spent most of his time painting or with Cosette, he had earned some money drawing sketches of people in the park. With this, he had procured a one room flat.
The reason Dax had chosen this particular studio apartment over the others he’d seen was because there was an attached room with a lot of windows where he could paint. The landlord had allowed him to set up a studio in that room free of charge in exchange for some repairs that needed to be done on the building.
Of course, his favorite subject was Cosette even though he knew he couldn’t have a gallery showing with just one subject matter.
And there was always time for a break.
It hadn’t taken Dax long to come to the realization that he loved her and wanted to spend his life loving her. To his great delight, she felt the same way.
The city of love was more than he’d hoped it would be.