LOVE'S PHILOSOPHY (POEM):
ON A DATE WITH JANE AUSTEN:
There are many romantic cities in the world, but Casey Chapel puts Lisbon, Portugal near the top of the list. Visiting that city inspired her to write her first story for Heart’s Kiss, “Count the Ways,” as did her lifelong love of the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Now that she has revisited Lisbon, she can’t wait to go to Paris, France—at least fictionally—in her latest story for even more romantic adventures. This is her second appearance in Heart’s Kiss.
by Casey Chapel
Angie Duquesne heaved her black hard-shell rollerboard suitcase into the trunk of her rental car and chucked the lid shut. Her matching carry-on case and purse were already on the back seat.
Hurriedly, she marched around to yank open the front driver’s side door of the Citroen compact and jump in behind the steering wheel.
At which point she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Because, yes, she might have had a lousy flight and customs experience, but this was still the first day of her vacation, after all.
And nothing could be too terrible if she was in France in the middle of June, could it?
“Pastries, wine, and cuisine.” She repeated it like a mantra, reminding herself of some of the reasons she’d left her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania behind for a week. “Pastries, wine, and cuisine.”
All that mattered now was that she’d arrived. She was in the city of Nantes, about to explore the Brittany region and enjoy the first real vacation she’d taken in more than three years.
“Seriously.” Angie pushed her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears and plugged the key in the car’s ignition. When she turned it, the engine rumbled to life. “You need to chill out for a change, Angelina.”
Entering the hotel’s address from her phone in the car’s GPS, she waited until the device read out the first directions for her route, then backed out of the parking space and headed into town.
Sure, she’d had some bad luck, but she was healthy, twenty-nine years old, and things were bound to look up soon. That was what she told herself just before she got stuck in a road construction zone for half an hour.
At least the hotel, when she finally got there, was wonderful. It was set in what had once been a chapel, with lofty vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows in the lobby. In keeping with the setting, the furnishings were minimalistic—yet modern in color choice and design.
The clerk at the front desk was young, blond, handsome, and friendly. He spoke perfect English, which was good, because Angie spoke only a few phrases of French.
When she stepped off the elevator at her floor, the hallway was narrow…but her room, when she swiped her key in the slot at the door and stepped inside, was not a disappointment. It had the same feel as the lobby, with high ceilings, gray block walls, and Spartan furniture with splashes of color (purple, mostly).
“Thank God.” Smiling, she wheeled in her cases and let the door fall shut behind her. “This, I like.”
Finally, Angie felt like her trip was on track. The day’s hassles had led her to this reward—an awesome room in a hotel with unique character—and now she could relax and get on with the fun.
Lifting the big suitcase, she laid it flat on the luggage rack in the corner. “I need a change of clothes so bad.” She frowned as she hunted for the zippers; instead of at the end of the track on the bottom, where she always left them, they were at the top of the case.
“Oh, well.” She unzipped the case but didn’t open the lid. “I guess security must have rifled through my stuff.”
Stripping out of her clothes, she tossed them on a chair and took a shower, letting the hot water revive her.
When she’d finished drying off, and the world was looking about a thousand percent better, she threw herself on the bed. The cool, silky sheets felt wonderful against her body after the long day of travel.
Pittsburgh, and her problems, were far away. That had been the whole point of coming here—to escape, to not have to deal with the mess of her life for a while.
There would be time enough when she got home in a week to pick up where she’d left off. Time enough to figure out her next move now that YourWorld, the online business she’d worked so hard to build, had gone under.
“Maybe Brittany will inspire me.” That was her secret hope. After all, Brittany seemed to be an inspirational kind of place. Even Nantes, her first stop, was known as the hometown of the great author, Jules Verne.
“Speaking of inspiration.” Rolling off the bed, Angie peeked between the window blinds at the view. Across the street, a vast, green park sprawled behind wrought-iron fencing, beckoning. “Time for a walk, I think.”
Excited at the prospect, she went over and lifted the lid of the suitcase. Fresh clothes, a stroll in the park, and dinner at a local bistro would keep any jet lag at bay.
“Wait.” At first, what she saw in the suitcase didn’t sink in. She shook her head, scowling, halfway convinced it couldn’t be real.
She even lowered the lid again. “That can’t be….” Pulled her hands away. “It isn’t….” Shook her head again. “That’s not…”
But it was. It really was.
This time, she felt a sense of dread as she lifted the lid. Because if she saw again what she’d seen the first time, her day was getting worse instead of better.
“Oh, no.” There they were, nestled in the suitcase just as she’d seen them before—not at all what she’d hoped to see upon opening her luggage. “Oh, God. Oh, no.”
She knew exactly what she’d packed back in Pittsburgh. She knew exactly what she’d put in that suitcase.
And there was no way in hell she’d packed men’s black briefs, gray socks, and an assortment of striped and solid polo shirts.
“Pastries, wine, and cuisine,” recited Angie. “Pastries, wine, and cuisine.”
She didn’t panic. After the day she’d been having, it all felt par for the course. Disappointing, disheartening, disturbing, and par for the course.
“Now what do I do?” Her first thought was to call the airline and see if someone else had reported picking up the wrong bag…her bag. But what if the person with her bag didn’t check its contents or report it right away? What if he was on the move, getting farther away all the time?
Maybe she could solve the problem sooner. Maybe she could reach the guy herself.
There was no ID tag on the bag, but maybe she could find something inside. Carefully, she lifted a solid green polo shirt from the suitcase and set it aside, then a blue-and-grey striped one. Everything was folded neatly and well-organized; at least whoever had packed the case wasn’t a slob.
He might have been a businessman, though. Angie found a three-piece suit folded in the zippered section inside the lid. It was black and single-breasted, with a satiny tone-on-tone pinstripe running throughout.
She found button-down shirts, too, stacked in the main compartment, plus neckties, pocket squares, and dark socks. There were also tan khaki pants and shorts to go with the polo shirts, so business wasn’t his only reason for traveling.
That was all she knew about him…at least until she found the rubber-banded stack of business cards zipped into a side pocket. She grabbed the stack, undid the rubber bands, and raised the top card for a closer look.
Finally, she was in luck. “Daniel Rivers.” That was the name in large type atop the card. His title, under the name, read, “Owner, CEO, Impetuosity, Inc.”
Under that, she saw a mailing address in Augusta, Maine and a phone number. “Bingo.” It was just what she needed.
Grabbing her phone from the desk, she dialed the number fast. “Please pick up, please pick up.” Her heart pounded as she stood there naked, listening to the phone ring. The success of her vacation hinged on what happened next.
She got suddenly nervous when the ringing stopped. There was a voice on the other end of the line, and her heart jumped—but the voice only belonged to a generic voicemail recording.
“Hello,” she said after the beep. “I seem to have your suitcase by mistake. Do you have mine?”
Before she could say another word, the phone rang. A number appeared on the screen—the same number she’d just dialed for Daniel Rivers.
She touched the button on the screen to switch calls and dropped off the voicemail line. “Hello?” Again, her nervousness flared.
It only got stronger when she heard a deep male voice coming through…and what he said. “Hello. Is this the woman with the Super Girl pajamas?”
Angie’s eyes widened, and she felt her face flush. He’d been pawing through her things!
But the good news was…”You have my bag!”
“Bag?” Daniel’s laugh was warm and low. “Sorry to disappoint you. I just have amazing mental powers. I only found out about your pajamas by reading your mind just now.”
Angie cleared her throat. “Then I guess you must know what I’m thinking right now?”
“It has to do with my pajamas, doesn’t it?”
“Not exactly.” Angie dug around in the suitcase a bit. “Anyway, I don’t see any.”
“You mean they’re missing? Did you borrow them, because you don’t have your own?”
“Be my guest, uh…what did you say your name was again?”
“You tell me,” said Angie. “Unlike some people, I put a tag on my bag.”
“Right, okay.” He paused. “Here it is! Ms. ‘Samsonite.’ What a pretty name.”
Angie sighed. He was funny, but she was getting impatient. “I thought you said you didn’t have my bag. And by the way, it’s the other tag.”
“Angie!” Daniel sounded excited. “Now that is a pretty name.”
“Hey,” said Angie. “I’m thinking up another thought for you. Can you tell me what it is?”
“Hmm. You think I’m hilarious and charming?”
“More like I want to get my bag back. Aren’t you thinking the same thing?”
Daniel chuckled. “What makes you think I want it back?”
“Then I should just throw it in a dumpster?”
“I don’t want you to go to any trouble,” said Daniel. “How about if I just take it off your hands when I give yours back?”
“Sounds like a plan. So where can we meet? I’m at the Hotel Oz in downtown Nantes.”
“Nantes? Really?” Suddenly, he didn’t sound as flippant. “Wow.”
“What do you mean, ‘Wow?’”
“I mean, ‘Wow, I’m not in Nantes.’”
“Then where are you?”
“A city called Lyon,” said Daniel.
“Which is how far away?” asked Angie.
“Let me just say first, the following is not a joke. I swear I’m not pulling your leg when I say what you’re about to hear.”
Angie tensed. “How far?”
“Oh…four hundred miles,” said Daniel. “Give or take.”
Angie slumped and lowered the phone, overcome by disappointment.
“I caught another flight in Nantes,” explained Daniel. “I grabbed my bag…”
“…your bag,” he continued, “and hopped on another plane.”
Slowly, Angie sank onto the edge of the bed. The hope that had filled her when Daniel had answered the phone was quickly draining away. Exchanging bags wasn’t going to be so simple, after all.
“Angie?” he said after a moment. “Are you still there?”
Angie took a deep breath and let it out, then raised the phone to her ear. “So how are we going to do this, then? How do we get our luggage to its rightful owners?”
“Good question,” said Daniel. “What are your plans? Where are you headed?”
Should she tell him? He was a stranger, after all…but she wanted her bag. “I’m exploring Brittany. Starting in Nantes, driving up the coast to Quimper…then Brest, Crozon, Morlaix, and on to Saint-Malo and Bayeux.”
“Ending up in Normandy, huh? Great itinerary!” He sounded sincere, not joking around at all now. “You’re going to love it.”
Was she? “Maybe if I had my clothes.”
“You don’t need them.”
“I’m not a nudist.”
“No, I mean…what matters is you,” said Daniel. “The other stuff will work itself out.”
Angie had a comment about mansplaining on the tip of her tongue, but she held it back. She needed his help, after all…and, besides, something in his voice made her think mansplaining probably wasn’t really his thing.
The more she talked to him, in fact, the more she thought he was a nice guy.
“Could we try, anyway?” asked Angie. “To work it out, I mean?”
“Absolutely,” said Daniel. “Are you planning to go to Mont Saint-Michel, by any chance? It’s on your way to Normandy.”
“Yes, of course.” It was at the top of her list of places to see in Brittany.
“So when were you planning to be there? According to your original schedule, that is.”
“Four days from now,” said Angie. “Friday.”
“Hmm.” Daniel fell silent for a moment. “Okay. I can meet you at Mont Saint-Michel in four days. I can move some meetings around and be there next Friday.”
Four days? Without her belongings? “You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all,” said Daniel. “You can buy some things en route if you have to. Heck, you can even use some of mine, if you like.”
“Why not just ship the bags?”
“Because we’ll both be on the move,” said Daniel. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my time in France sitting around waiting for a bag to arrive.”
The more Angie thought about it, the more she agreed with him. She hadn’t come all that way and spent all that money to wait around for her suitcase.
“Hey, look.” Daniel’s voice softened. “I know it’s not the ideal situation, but I think we can make the best of it.”
“You can even keep tabs on your stuff,” said Daniel. “You can call me and check on it every day. Or I’ll call you. Then you’ll know I’m not running off with it and disappearing. How does that sound?”
Angie didn’t like it…except maybe she did, a little. There were worse things, she thought, than talking to Daniel Rivers every day. It might not make up for not having her things for a while, but it was bound to make her trip memorable.
“Okay,” she told him. “You talked me into it.”
“Great,” said Daniel. “Meet you at Mont Saint-Michel on Friday, Angie Duquesne.”
Pulling on a pink t-shirt and gray yoga pants that had been stuffed in her carry-on, Angie crossed the street to the park she’d seen from her window. The plan was to forget about her luggage issue for a while…and the plan worked.
Lost in the lush greenery of the park—the Jardin des plantes, it was called—Angie did indeed stop thinking about her missing bag. The winding paths led her along gently flowing streams, through rainbow gardens of bobbing flowers, under nodding, emerald boughs. Birds fluttered and sang overhead, zipping from tree to tree, and squirrels and rabbits scampered across the perfectly manicured lawns.
The park was full of surprises, too, that pushed her worries even further from her mind. One path took her to a giant park bench, high enough for her to walk under with plenty of headroom to spare. Further on, she found a garden of potted plants mounted on wooden poles, each pot decorated with a beaked, birdlike face.
That was before she strolled along a bend in the path and saw two giant eyes gazing at her from what looked like a huge, buried head. Angie laughed when she saw those big eyes and the top of that head, sculpted from carefully tended shrubs. According to a sign, it was one of the “genies of the garden”…but it wasn’t the last, or even the coolest, topiary figure she saw.
Further on, she came upon a topiary sculpture of an enormous bird sprawled on its back, wings tucked behind its green head as if it were taking a nap. Again, Angie laughed at the clever creativity; her missing bag was the farthest thing from her mind.
At least until her phone rang, and she saw the familiar number on the screen.
“Yes, Daniel?” As she answered the call, she hoped in her heart there might be some kind of good news.
“Hi, Angie,” said Daniel. “What’s up?”
“Just taking a walk. There’s a botanical garden across from my hotel.”
“Is it cool?” asked Daniel. “Cooler than what I’m doing right now?”
Angie got an idea and grinned. “You be the judge.” Switching the phone to camera mode, she snapped a shot of the giant green bird, then sent it via text to his number. It flew from her outbox with a whoosh.
Seconds later, Daniel chuckled. “Hey, that is cool.”
“I know, right? This park is full of cool stuff.”
“But is any of it as cool as this?” The phone dinged as a photo arrived from Daniel. “I mean, seriously.”
As soon as Angie opened the message, she laughed out loud. “Oh my God!”
“Don’t look now,” said Daniel, “but your better half seems to be having more fun than you are.”
The phone shook in Angie’s hand as she kept laughing. Her suitcase was in the foreground of the photo, with a giant pair of white horn-rimmed novelty sunglasses perched on top of it. Behind the suitcase, climbing toward a bright blue sky, were the lofty towers of a cathedral.
“Sue the suitcase says she wants to go to the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière next,” said Daniel, “but I have a meeting. This is mostly a business trip, after all.”
“What are you going to wear?” asked Angie. “I have your suits and ties.”
“Wait, I’ll show you.” There was a pause, then another ding from the phone.
When Angie saw the photo he sent—a shot of a dark-haired, bearded man in his thirties wearing her blue-and-red Super Girl pajama top—she cracked up.
“That’s you?” Angie forced out the words between laughs.
“Yes, and as you can see, the outfit is perfect for me. Not to mention, it’s perfect for my meeting. After all, I’m here to make deals for my business, which is all about being impetuous. It’s called Impetuosity, in fact.”
“You’re right, it’s perfect!”
“If you think that’s cool, wait till you hear what I’ve got on underneath!” said Daniel.
“Oops, gotta go! Sue is calling! Later, Angie!” With that, Daniel suddenly ended the call.
That left Angie, still laughing, to stare at his photo on her phone. Now that she had a look at him, even wearing her pajama top, she was impressed. His short black hair and beard were neatly trimmed, his eyes dark brown, his jaw square. His face looked kind and friendly, yet strong; his shoulders were broad, his chest and arms muscular without being musclebound.
As she went on staring, she remembered seeing him on the flight over—first at the gate, then sitting in first class as she’d passed on her way to Economy. He’d caught her eye then, but now, she liked him even more. Not only was he handsome, but he had a great sense of humor.
Even from a distance, she knew she liked him. Even with her trip through Brittany ahead of her, she looked forward to meeting him in person at Mont Saint-Michel.
The next day, putting on the last spare outfit she’d brought in her carry-on—a striped blue-and-white sweater over a white button-down top and slacks—Angie checked out of her hotel and headed north and west to the Atlantic coast.
It was the perfect day for a drive along the shore. The skies were clear, and the sun shone bright, making the colorful scenery look even more breathtaking.
Leaving the highway behind, she drove two-lane coastal roads to small towns perched on rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean. She wound her way down to sparkling blue harbors filled with fishing boats, circled by hungry gulls.
She spent a little time in the town of Vannes, getting out of the car to explore the city walls and the vast Château de l’Hermine, a historic mansion with beautiful gardens.
Further on, she visited Lorient, the great port crowded with fishing and cargo ships. She also stopped at Concarneau and Riec sur Belon, where the world-renowned oysters, found only in local waters, lived up to their reputation, and then some.
Finally, late in the day, she rolled into the city of Quimper (pronounced “cam-PEAR”), which was where she would spend the night.
After checking in at her hotel, Angie set out on foot for the central shopping district, which was just a few blocks away. Though the stores were mostly closed by then, she decided to window shop a little; she could always stop by in the morning and pick up a few of the things she found to tide her over until she got her suitcase back.
Just as she was eyeing up an outfit in the front window of a boutique, her phone rang. Again, she recognized Daniel’s number on the screen.
“Hello, Daniel,” she said when she picked up.
“Angie, we have a problem.” Daniel sounded grim.
“What is it?”
“Maybe it would be better if I showed you.” As he said it, Angie’s phone dinged to indicate a text message had arrived.
She laughed as soon as she checked it and saw another photo of her suitcase, looking like it was about to fall off a wrought-iron chair at a sidewalk café. The giant white sunglasses were back, but off-kilter, and an empty bottle lay on the table, its neck hanging over the edge.
“Sue likes the local wines a little too much,” said Daniel. “Honestly, it’s getting a little embarrassing.”
“Well, your bag is no treat,” said Angie. “Every time I turn around, his zipper is down!”
Daniel laughed. “Sounds about right. He’s such a slut.”
Smiling, Angie moved to another shop window and admired a bright green and yellow sundress on display there. “So how was your meeting? Did the Super Girl pajama top do the trick?”
“I knew it would!” said Daniel. “I told you my company’s called Impetuosity, remember? A guy can’t get much more impetuous than showing up for an investor meeting wearing Super Girl PJs.”
Angie snapped photos of the sundress and the name of the shop, then moved along the cobblestone street to the next in line. “What is Impetuosity, anyway? What’s it about?”
“You don’t know? You didn’t Google it?” He sounded indignant. “Did you even Google me?”
“Been a little busy, Daniel.” Angie found a funky red top and shorts she liked and snapped a shot of them. “Did you Google me?”
“As a matter of fact, I did,” said Daniel. “And it turns out we already have a connection!”
Angie frowned. “We do?”
“I’m a YourWorld member,” said Daniel. “I’ve been subscribing to your online service for the past two years!”
Angie’s face flushed at the mention of her failed business venture. “You were one of the few, then.”
“Hey, I loved YourWorld. I think it’s a great concept. I wish I’d thought of it.”
“Trust me,” said Angie. “You don’t.”
“Are you telling me there’s no market for a service that tailors a user’s online experience to match his or her favorite era?”
“Not enough of a market, in the end. I had to shut it down recently.” Talking about YourWorld still stung. She’d poured her heart, her time, and all her resources into it for three years, and it had died an ugly death. She’d lost a lot of money on it—not all of it, but enough—and now, she was faced with the prospect of starting from square one again.
“You’re kidding!” Daniel sounded genuinely disappointed. “But my system customizations are still active…though I guess I did hack them a little.”
“You hacked YourWorld? You hacked my service?”
Daniel chuckled. “Well, I loved the 60’s package, but I wanted a Beatles overlay…and there wasn’t one.”
Angie nodded. “Licensing costs were unworkable.”
“Right,” said Daniel. “So I just hacked together what I wanted with bootleg content. My laptop and phone are Fab Four all the time, in every aspect of the user interface.”
Angie’s eyes widened. “No way! I did the same hack for my personal system!”
“Get outta town!”
“No, for real!” said Angie. “I am a huge Beatles fan. Well, until they got all psychedelic, that is.”
Daniel let out a shout of dismay. “No, no, no! The later Beatles are by far the coolest!”
“Early Beatles all the way, man,” insisted Angie. “Back when they were fun instead of trying to enlighten the world and all that.”
Daniel laughed. “We are never going to agree on that!”
“We’ll see about that.” Angie grinned. A later Beatles fan was still better than a non-Beatles fan, in her book.
“Well, condolences on YourWorld,” said Daniel. “I still think it rocks.”
“Thanks.” Hearing him say it made her feel a little better.
“So what’s next?” he asked.
“Well, I’m driving to Brest tomorrow, ending up in Morlaix.”
“I mean your next business move,” said Daniel. “What’s it going to be?”
Angie didn’t have a good answer, so she changed the subject. “You never answered my question. What’s Impetuosity?”
“In a nutshell? This.”
Her phone dinged, and another photo popped in via text. This time, it was a closeup of Daniel’s face—his clean-shaven face.
Angie grinned. “You lost your beard!” She had to admit, she liked the new look. He was even more handsome without the facial hair—almost a completely different person.
“Impetuosity told me to do it,” said Daniel. “Basically, it’s a system that helps people become more constructively impetuous. It sends them in new directions and encourages them to do things they might not otherwise do. And that opens up new opportunities.”
“It’s like a randomizer, then?” asked Angie.
“Not really. It’s more complex…more guided. It uses predictive algorithms to determine possible outcomes, then suggests actions most likely to impact the user in positive ways.”
“What would the system suggest I do, I wonder?”
“Easy enough to find out,” said Daniel. “I’ll set up a free account for you to give it a try. Username ADuquesne, password SuetheLush.”
“Thanks,” said Angie. “Maybe I’ll check it out.”
“Go for it!” said Daniel. “Being impetuous is a good thing!”
Dining in an Indian restaurant after her window shopping excursion, Angie pulled out her phone and searched for Impetuosity. The restaurant had free Wi-Fi, and she had a little time to kill until her food arrived, so she figured she’d give it a try.
When she got to the site, she liked it right away. The design of the home page was professional and visually appealing; the content was clear and well-organized.
She went straight to the login button in the top right corner of the screen and pressed it. When the login screen appeared, she entered the username and password he’d given her and pressed the Next button.
Guided by prompts, she filled in a series of pop-up forms, entering details about her current activities. She hesitated once, wondering if she ought to be giving out such personal information…then decided she trusted Daniel. Her gut instinct told her it couldn’t hurt.
By the time she’d finished, the system knew she was on vacation, where she was staying, and where she was headed the next day. The next button she hit was a big green one called SURPRISE ME!
A moment later, just as her garlic naan, chicken tikka masala, and jasmine rice landed on the table in a cloud of fragrant steam, the screen of her phone flashed with a message from Impetuosity:
Skip Brest. Don’t miss the Côte de Granit Rose.
Angie stared at her phone. She’d already decided to skip the Côte de Granit Rose—the Pink Granite Coast—in favor of some Breton towns further inland. Should she follow Impetuosity’s recommendation instead?
She considered it as she dug into the chicken tikka masala. She wasn’t crazy about letting a website tell her what to do on vacation…but hadn’t she done that already, consulting travel sites while planning her itinerary?
Maybe being impetuous for a change would do her some good. Look where being predictable had gotten her.
She made up her mind over her gulab jamun dessert—delicious balls of warm dough bathed in sweet syrup and rose water. Reaching for her phone, she pressed the Yes button on the screen under Impetuosity’s recommendation.
Congratulations! said the system. Way to go out on a limb!
The next day, standing atop a pile of pink granite boulders, Angie placed a video call on her phone. As her finger slowly moved over the keypad, she could barely tear her eyes away from the view that stretched out before her.
When Daniel answered, she held up the phone so he could see her. Then she pressed a button on the side of the device, turning up the volume so she could hear his voice over the gusting wind.
“Wow, Angie,” he said. “Google doesn’t do you justice. You’re even prettier than I imagined.”
“So is this place, Daniel.” She turned the phone’s camera away from her, pointing it at the view of the glittering sapphire water rippling far below. “The Côte de Granit Rose.”
“You’re right, it’s beautiful,” said Daniel.
Slowly, Angie panned the phone from side to side, taking in the English Channel and the pink granite formations bathed in bright mid-afternoon sunlight. She only stopped when she reached the Ploumanac’h lighthouse jutting from a rocky crag far to her right, a tower built from what looked like the very same distinctive granite as the boulders around it.
“Thank you,” she told him.
“If not for Impetuosity, I wouldn’t have come here,” said Angie. “I would have missed all this.”
“So there’s something to be said for being impetuous, isn’t there? For instance, suddenly changing your wardrobe to give yourself an all-new look.”
Angie smiled. Before leaving Quimper that morning, she’d bought several outfits that she’d seen while window shopping. She wore the funky red top and shorts now and was glad he’d noticed because she was sure she looked good in them.
When she’d finished panning across the scenery, she turned the phone toward her and flipped the camera to selfie mode. “It makes me wonder what else I’ve missed, all these years. I’ve always been a planner.”
“Nothing wrong with that.” On the screen, Daniel looked relaxed in a black t-shirt (store-bought or from a carry-on?). Angie could see from the background that he was riding on a passenger train, the world whipping past his window in a blur of green and blue. “But it’s good to roll the dice sometimes, too.”
“I rolled the dice with my company,” said Angie. “That didn’t go so well.”
“But this is different, isn’t it?” Daniel smiled warmly. “I can tell from your voice. That place you’re at is special, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Angie returned her gaze to the view as her brown hair fluttered in the wind. “It speaks to me. It touches my heart.”
“I understand,” said Daniel. “I wish I was there with you right now, to share your experience.”
She hardly knew him, but she found herself wishing the same thing. It was why she’d called him, after all…because she’d wanted to share the experience with him. In just a few days, forced together from afar because of their mixed-up luggage, she’d started to feel something for him. He’d started to become a part of her life, in an accidental, unexpected kind of way.
“Wait till you see Mont Saint-Michel,” said Daniel. “It’s one of my special places.”
“I never want to go back home.” Angie’s eyes burned as tears welled up. “There’s nothing for me there. I never made a life for myself. It was always all about the business.”
“Hey, I’m sending you a link to a song file,” said Daniel. “Do me a favor and play it.”
The link popped up on her phone, and she tapped it. Immediately, “Let It Be” started playing through the speaker.
Angie almost made a crack about it being later Beatles, but she just smiled and listened, instead.
“Maybe it’s time to stop dwelling on the past,” he told her. “Let it be, right?”
Smiling, she dabbed away tears. She loved that he’d thought to play Beatles for her, later era or not.
“At least you’re taking some chances,” said Daniel. “Throwing caution to the wind. Being impetuous.” He chuckled. “And it suits you. I think you’re a real natural at it.”
“Well, thanks for encouraging me,” said Angie.
“No thanks needed,” said Daniel. “A woman like you, I’ll encourage until the end of the world.”
“Thanks, anyway.” She loved what he was telling her. It had been years since she’d heard words like those from a man she liked…and longer still since she’d said anything like the next words that slipped out of her mouth. “I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.”
“That’s something else we have in common.” He smiled. “And if you’re anything like Sue…” He laughed. “Well, you might really get carried away, huh?”
She laughed along with him, more convinced than ever that she was heading for something good…that she’d done the right thing in coming to Brittany, and getting the wrong bag at the airport had been a blessing in disguise.
That night, Angie found a room in Perros-Guirec, a little harbor town just up the road. She called and cancelled her original reservation in another town, because this was closer…and she felt like it. Who said she needed to use an online system to be impetuous?
After dinner in a lovely corner restaurant featuring perfect fresh seafood, she went for a walk along the waterfront, under the stars. When she came to a bench, she sat and gazed a while at the full moon gleaming on the lapping bay.
It was then that her phone rang with another incoming video call from Daniel. Smiling, she made the connection.
“I love the moon over this little harbor right now.” She pointed her phone at the water. “It just makes me feel…peaceful.”
“What a coincidence. I’m watching the moon now, too. Take a look.”
Turning the phone, she saw his view on the screen—a boxy cathedral illuminated with bright floodlights, the moon perfectly positioned between two rectangular towers jutting from its corners.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“The city of Dijon,” said Daniel. “That’s the local Church of Notre-Dame. Not bad, huh?”
“We both have beautiful views tonight,” said Angie.
“I’d rather be there with you.” As he said it, a link to a song file appeared on the screen, and she played it.
This time, the song was from the Beatles’ early period…and it was beautiful. “And I Love Her” was one of Angie’s favorites.
Hearing the music as she gazed at the moon on the water made her shiver with delight. It was so romantic, being in France, having someone interested in her, saying all the right things. She felt like she was a million miles away from her troubles and disappointments back home. She felt like she was on the verge of something wonderful, something she’d only dreamed of or read about or seen in movies before.
And the two of them would meet in just two days. She shivered happily again at the thought of it, being in the same place at the same time with him.
“Angie, look.” His face replaced the view of the cathedral on her phone. “I can’t stop thinking about you.”
Angie smiled. “No wonder! We’re always on the phone!”
“Exactly,” said Daniel. “And each time we talk, I fall for you a little bit more.”
Good. Angie had never been the type to fall for someone easily, but she felt the same way. She wished she could be in Dijon with him right now, or he could be on the waterfront with her in Perros-Guirec. Against all sense and propriety, she wanted so badly for them to be together that she was thinking about scuttling her plans and running to his side the next day.
“I’m so glad I came to France,” she said softly. “I almost didn’t, you know. I had my doubts.”
“It’s funny how things work out,” said Daniel. “I almost didn’t pick up your bag at the airport. I thought Impetuosity was broken and steering me wrong.”
At first, the full meaning of his words didn’t register with Angie. She was feeling so good, the night was so perfect, and she didn’t really want to spoil the mood.
But then it sank in, and her heart sank, too. With her thumb, she hit the on-screen button to stop playing the music.
“Wait.” She frowned at his beaming face on the screen. “You were using Impetuosity at the airport?”
He was still smiling, but he looked a little frozen. It was then she realized that he hadn’t meant to say what he’d said. “Just a little.”
“Uh-huh.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She hated where this was going. “And you were using it when you picked up my bag? It told you to pick up my bag instead of yours?”
He hesitated, then nodded. “Yes, I trusted the system. And I’m glad I did. Aren’t you? It brought us together.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this until now?” asked Angie.
“It never came up,” said Daniel.
“Or you knew how I might react.”
“That’s not it,” said Daniel. “All that matters…”
“All that matters is you let me think the bag switch was an accident,” said Angie. “Like fate or luck or whatever had brought us together. But all along, it was some system you designed. There was nothing lucky about it!”
“Angie, wait. It was lucky. I didn’t know I’d get your bag, or that you’d be so…”
“Enough!” Angrily, she hung up the call and switched off her phone for the night.
Then, with the full moon hanging in front of her, and its twin bobbing on the bay, she slumped on the bench and cried quietly.
The next morning, after a breakfast of coffee, croissant, and rich local butter in the hotel dining room, Angie put on the green-and-yellow sundress from the shop in Quimper, put gas in the Citroen, and hit the road.
She drove along the winding route that hugged the coast, cruising past spectacular scenery—but its beauty was lost on her. The rocky shore, crashing waves, and perfect aquamarine sky were nothing but background noise as her conversation with Daniel from the night before reverberated in her head.
She was more hurt than angry now, and regretful. She’d really come to like Daniel, and she’d looked forward to meeting him in the flesh. But now she knew that a crucial detail of his story—their story—had been left out. Fate hadn’t brought them together; Impetuosity had.
It was a detail he’d conveniently omitted until last night. Now that she knew it, she felt like she couldn’t get past it.
Angie blamed herself almost as much as she blamed him for it. She wasn’t a stupid person; she’d never been inclined to be taken in by smooth talkers and phonies. But this time, she’d let herself believe. She’d let herself overlook the trouble signs in his account.
As she drove on through Paimpol and St-Quay-Portrieux, the dazzling scenery continued to slip past her. Stunning vistas of bright blue sky and sapphire sea wrapped the horizon, immense and magnificent…but she was too haunted by the wreck of her once-blossoming romance to appreciate them.
Though she hadn’t come to Brittany in search of love, she felt robbed now that it seemed out of reach. She found herself wishing that she’d never picked up the wrong bag at the airport or had those phone conversations or given him the slightest inkling of how she felt. She even found herself wishing that she’d never come to Brittany in the first place, as necessary as it had seemed to her sanity after the collapse of her business.
Near St-Brieuc, the phone rang on the seat beside her. It was him, calling on the audio line.
Angie glared at the phone, feeling an impulse to heave it out the window. Also feeling the urge to pick up and hear what he had to say.
In the end, she just let it go to voicemail. Why let him aggravate her further right now? She’d have to see him soon enough at Mont Saint-Michel, to get her bag.
If she even went there at all. Abandoning the bag was an option, too, if she couldn’t stand the thought of ever seeing him again.
Just after St-Brieuc, she saw a chance to break away. A nearby highway, if she took it, would carry her south to the city of Rennes instead of northeast along the coast toward her next stop, Saint-Malo, and eventually Mont Saint-Michel. All she had to do was head for Rennes, pick up more clothes there, and leave Daniel’s bag somewhere for him to find. She could text him the location, then block his number and move on, forgetting he ever existed.
As she approached the roundabout that would lead her to Rennes, her phone pinged as Daniel sent her a text. She almost didn’t look…then reached for the phone and glanced at what he’d sent: a link to an unlabeled song file. Curiosity got the better of her, and she touched the link to hear what it was.
“We Can Work It Out” played over the phone, and she didn’t switch it off. The message wasn’t lost on her.
Neither was the fact that the song was by their mutual favorite band…and it wasn’t just any Beatles song. “We Can Work It Out” was a product of the group’s middle period, the time of Rubber Soul. It was as if he was offering to meet her on middle ground instead of giving up and letting go.
Angie frowned as she got closer to the breakaway point. The song kept playing, and she wondered if there might be a chance for her and Daniel after all—or, at least, if she wasn’t ready to count him out entirely yet.
Heart pounding, she rolled into the roundabout. All she had to do was get off where the Rennes sign pointed, and she’d be on her way. Problem solved—and he deserved it, didn’t he? How could she reach out to someone who’d connected with her under false pretenses?
Just as she was about to make the jump to Rennes, however, her phone pinged again. She quickly read the words of Daniel’s latest text.
And she suddenly had second thoughts.
At the last second, she passed the Rennes turn-off and continued around the roundabout. The turn she finally took fed onto a two-lane coastal road instead of the highway, keeping her on her planned route and away from Rennes.
She wasn’t sure exactly what she’d do in the end, when she got to where she was going. All she knew was that she wasn’t angry enough to bail out now.
And there she was, rolling toward Cap-Frehel and more of the breathtaking scenery. Also rolling toward Mont Saint-Michel and Daniel Rivers, as his last text glowed on the screen of the phone in her hand:
I would do it all again if it led me to you.
The phone rang three more times that day, but she never answered it. How could she, if she wasn’t sure what she might say to him?
She thought she should still be angry at him, but what if he had a point? What if the details didn’t matter so much as long as two compatible people found each other?
She was more confused than ever by the time she got to St-Malo, where she’d be spending the night. At least there were enough distractions in the seaside town to take her mind off things for a while…to give her enough breathing room that she could decide if she would meet him or flee the following day.
After checking in at her hotel, Angie didn’t waste any time before she struck out on foot for St-Malo’s main attraction—the walled city. It was just a few blocks away along the waterfront, a remnant of the town’s medieval past.
She watched it grow larger as she got closer, the tall gray battlements banked around spires, turrets, and towers. A muddy tidal basin sprawled before it, empty now but sure to fill with seawater soon enough.
She marveled at the sight—the walled city, the forts on little islands further out, the sparkling waters of the English Channel further even than that. Her curiosity drew her closer, driving her to explore this magical place she’d studied and dreamed about.
Entering the nearest gate in the walls, she found herself walking on cobblestones, gazing at shops and restaurants in tightly-packed buildings that looked much the same as they had centuries ago.
She instantly loved the place. Crowded, ancient, noisy, and smelling of cooked food and the sea, it made her feel like she’d stepped back in time.
Caught up in the waves of chaotic energy and sensory overload, she drifted down the busy street between the inner surface of the wall and the first row of buildings. Barkers with sandwich boards called to her from the doorways of restaurants, shouting the merits of the dining experiences to be found within. Men and women sold treats, beverages, and souvenirs, much as others like them must have done ages ago on the very same polished cobbles. Performers clowned and sang and played instruments, filling the air with music and drawing applause.
Angie beamed and gulped it down, losing herself without a second thought. She was bumped and jostled repeatedly, but didn’t mind a bit; it was all just part of the timeless, restless tide of humanity.
It didn’t bother her, either, when someone tapped her on the shoulder from behind. Who knew what opportunity she might find when she turned to see who wanted her attention?
When it came to opportunities, though, it certainly wasn’t any she might have expected.
As soon as she turned, her heart raced, and her breath caught in her throat. A familiar sight awaited her, standing alone amid the crush of the ever-passing crowd.
It was her suitcase.
Someone bumped the bag, and Angie caught it by the handle before it could fall. Then, holding tight to the case she’d thought she might never see again, she stood on tiptoe and scanned the crowd.
Daniel had to be there somewhere. The bag hadn’t materialized on its own.
He’d known she was coming here; she’d told him. He must have cut short the rest of his trip and raced up from Dijon—on high-speed rail, perhaps—to return her property.
And then, he’d vanished in the crowd. He’d been right there, behind her, just inches away…and he’d run off. Why stay, after he’d made her so angry that she’d stopped taking his calls? Why risk upsetting her more, when he could just give her back her bag and make his escape?
Frantically, she looked for him, gaping at the sea of bobbing heads in all directions. Towing the suitcase, she backtracked the way she’d come, peering at every face, window, and side street.
With every passing moment, she grew more desperate. It no longer mattered how he’d come to swap bags with her; she didn’t care what he had or hadn’t told her about the secrets behind their connection. She just wanted to see him in person. To hear his voice, strong and near, undiminished by the speaker of a phone.
To work it out between them, the way the song he’d sent her had said. That was what she wanted; she knew it now without a doubt.
Suddenly, she had an idea. Stopping in the middle of the street, she grabbed her phone and dialed his number.
She tried again…and again, there was no answer. Was he abiding by the radio silence she’d made it clear she wanted to keep? Or what if he just hadn’t heard the ring in the chaos of the walled city?
One more time. She dialed, impossibly tense…impossibly anxious to find him, even after everything.
This time, he did pick up. “Angie?”
Her heart leaped when she heard his voice, but she didn’t give him a chance to say more. “Look for the light!” she told him. “Follow the light!”
Switching her phone to flashlight mode, she raised it overhead. The bright flare beamed from her screen like a beacon, blazing above the crowd, signaling to the one and only person out of those thousands she wanted to see.
She turned slowly, shining the light from left to right in a solitary sweep, calling to him. Calling to a man she hardly knew but had a feeling about, a man who might be worth knowing in spite of his mistakes.
People bumped her, but she kept the light steady and high. She felt as if it were part of her, reaching out, lighting the way after a lifetime of hiding.
Just as her arm started to feel tired, just as she thought about giving up, she heard his voice…not over the phone. She heard him calling her name from not far away, and she quickened.
He burst out of the crowd in front of her, grinning and breathless. “Angie!” He looked at least ten times more handsome than he ever had over the phone, wearing a brown tweed sport coat, brown trousers, and a white button-down shirt without a tie.
Any doubts she might have had swirled away on the breeze as soon as she laid eyes on him. “Thank you for bringing Sue!” She patted the top of her suitcase.
“I thought I’d better,” said Daniel. “I thought you might not meet me at Mont Saint-Michel after all.”
“Never crossed my mind,” she said, though it had.
“I’m glad I didn’t wait anyway,” he told her.
“Did Impetuosity tell you to come?”
“I didn’t ask,” said Daniel. “I just got here as fast as I could and hoped for the best—which is exactly what I got.” He gazed at her, eyes flashing with open appreciation. “Finding you in the crowd was tricky…but I guess it was meant to be. I guess it was fate.”
“This time.” She smiled.
He smiled back and nodded. “I’d do it all again, you know.” He shrugged. “If it led me to you.”
“Bastard,” she said, but she was still smiling.
Feeling impetuous, though without an app in sight to point the way, she hopped forward and kissed him on the lips.
Grinning, he held up his phone and played a song on it—later Beatles, but Angie didn’t mind.
People flowed around them like a river as “Something” played on his phone and he kissed her back, Sue the suitcase resting between them where she belonged.
Copyright © 2017 by Casey Chapel.
Heart's Kiss Magazine
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