L’ennui en rose part sept

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ImageDimanche                                                                                           Jour Quatorze (Day 14)

 

Go visit the inside of a church youve never been in, preferably an old one.

 

OK, Leni dug this one out of the beret, too.  In fact she’d planned to use this one on a Sunday, and today seemed like as good a day as any to use it.

 

Leni crashed hard and fast that night.  She slept 12 hours, not opening her eyes until 10 am.  She often slept deeply when her emotions robbed her body of oxygen, food and adrenaline.  She’d been through so much in the last 36 hours, it was high time to give her body a bit of a rest.  Going to church would give her soul some equally needed tranquility.

 

She had the coffee going and assembled breakfast when she heard her phone shaking on her nightstand.  There was a text a from Erik last night.

 

She slept so hard-core that she didn’t hear her phone go off when he texted at 10:32.

 

Sweet dreams.

 

With sigh of deep regret, she powered down her phone and set it in her purse.  As much as she wanted to text him back and say something witty and cheerful, she had to take a step back from Erik.  Her head had come completely off her shoulder, and she had a task to accomplish before she could even see him that evening.  A little distance couldnt hurtcould it?

***

Fuck you, Paris!  See you later tonight!

 

Leni melted into the seat in the TER car she took from Paris.  She was on the hour-long ride to Chartres to see one of the most stunning cathedrals in France which, despite all her months there, she had yet to see.

 

It was the summer Leni chaperoned the group of American college students, and she was taking advantage of a few free days to see Paris, for once, alone.

 

Paris is a nice enough city, but after four days, she was tired of the smog, the filth, the crowds and tall buildings.  She was tired of the cat calls, groping and getting leered at, though she did everything she could to blend in, not look like a tourist or draw attention to herself.

 

The prairie girl in her physically ached to see blue sky, open spaces and to breathe clean air.  She loved churches and she wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity to visit what Victor Hugo called the jewel of French churches.  In fact, she was so eager to see it that she did something completely uncharacteristic of her as a tourist—she left her map and guidebook at home.  She was determined to fly this one solo, and she was going to love it.

 

She enjoyed the rolling hills, the cows and couldn’t get over the fact the sky was actually blue—rare for France.  The gentle rocking motion lulled her into a quiet doze until it was her stop.

“Chartres, ici, Chartres.”

 

Leni tumbled off the train and blinked in the dazzling sunlight.  Again, she just wasn’t used to this much sunshine in France.  She tried to get her wits about her, but she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to go. 

 

So whose genius idea was it to leave the guidebook back at the hotel?  Dammit!

 

She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to get to the cathedral, but an idea suddenly hit her.

 

Look up.

 

She saw the two narrow spires and like a beacon, the cathedral beckoning her to turn her weary steps to it.

 

She walked the two blocks from the train station to the magnificent structure.  The two spires—still in remarkable condition—pierced the sky nearly 100 meters up.  She remembered reading until the Eiffel Tower was built, this was the tallest building in France.  What a site it must have been to travelers back in the day! 

 

The church must have had exterior renovations recently done because the stonework gleamed white under the glaring sun.  Leni was thankful her sunglasses provided enough protection. 

 

Leni passed the usual panhandlers at the doors and made her way to the inside.  She was slapped with a cold blast of air which she hadn’t expected.  Her pupils wildly dilated in the cool blackness that greeted her.  She reached into her backpack to put her sunglasses away.

 

Once her eyes adjusted, she gasped at the stunning kaleidoscope of light that awaited her.  Stained glass windows, some more than 800 years old which miraculously survived two world wars, showed scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints.  She couldn’t make out most of what they were, but the sun danced off the colored light which illuminated the pillars as they had for hundreds of years.  To her, the windows were reminders of a bygone era when the Church dominated every aspect of life in France.  That time had passed, though it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing,

 

Leni knew many illiterate people who didn’t speak Latin learned about the Bible through stained glass and the stories they told.  From the narrow, stories-high Gothic windows to the gigantic rosette on the south wall, she allowed herself to be transported back in time and spoiled by the delicate, ornate architecture.

 

She sat down in one of the high-backed wicker chairs in the rear of the cathedral.  Quietly gawking, she looked up, down, side to side and all around.  She was pretty sure she was going to give herself a neck ache if she kept staring, but she couldn’t process everything she was seeing.  The color, the light, the space, the height…the sheet magnitude of the grandeur and majesty hit her like a ton of bricks.

 

After she soaked up some of the atmosphere, Leni went to the tourist kiosk and rented one of those little audio guides which was a slim, digital Walkman with earbuds.  She thought about getting the French version but because she didn’t want to miss a single detail, she overruled her first impulse and took the English.  Like a weary pilgrim (or a dork—she couldn’t quite tell which), she wandered through, admiring all the stained glass, the façade and sculptures the cathedral had to offer.  The audio tour was supposed to last roughly an hour but she probably spent two hours pausing to admire everything the tour pointed out.

 

She walked around the circumference of the nave, and there was an elaborately carved marble relief sculpted between the 16th and 18th centuries.  She could see a great detail in the Biblical scenes and those stories only found in Sacred Tradition, captured in stone for all posterity.

 

She walked outside where the audio guide pointed out some areas of interest—the buttresses, the gardens and the spires.  Leni particularly liked seeing the bright sun peeking through the flying buttresses like it doubtlessly did 800 years ago.  Many things change, but ethereal beauty will always exist so long one can stop long enough to marvel it.

 

After her tour, she returned the audio guide.  She still had some time to kill before the train headed back to Paris and she thought she would have a little fun.  Pretty much smack dab in the middle of the church was a mosaic maze.  It was about 20 by 20 feet, and it was a labyrinth that was supposed to be a stand-in for pilgrimages nobility were supposed to make to the Holy Land or at least Santiago de Compostela.  She walked through the tiny maze several times, always able to weave her way in and out with little problem.  Sure beats a trip to Israel!

 

The thing she loved best was the 15th century statute called the Black Virgin made of pear wood.  The Virgin, purportedly from Poland, cradled Baby Jesus.  On this particular day she was dressed in cloth of gold and adorned with a gold crown.  Leni loved her.  The audio guide said she was black because of the soot from hundreds of years of candles, but she hardly cared.  Leni prayed for a solid hour, praying her students made it to France safe, that she would retain her sanity for the rest of her sojourn in Paris and for Mary to bless all her future endeavors.

 

After praying so long and so eagerly, Leni was disappointed to glance at her watch and see it was time to head back to her train.  She had such a marvelous afternoon traveling back in time to the Middle Ages that she hadn’t thought about the restroom, eating or drinking.

 

She reluctantly gathered her bag up, said one last prayer in her seat, genuflected deeply and headed towards the narthex.  Before she left, she turned around to face the altar for one last look.  She looked at the stone, light and shadow as they doubtlessly looked in the 12th century, and she smiled one more time to herself.

 

She would be forever grateful for this time she spent at Chartres.  She got to experience the most magnificent cathedral France had to offer.  In one afternoon she traveled back 800 years and allowed herself to be transported to a different place, a different time.  A place and time when the Church dominated, when illiterate French peasants learned stories from the Bible written in color mosaics in the sky.  When the smoke of incense carried the prayers of the faithful directly up to heaven.

 

When life was simpler.

 

***

Leni checked Mass schedules online, showered and made herself presentable.

 

She went to the circa 1900 Catholic church where Latin masses were held weekly.  She had been there once many years ago in college but had very little recollection of it.  It would be a pretty old church and the Latin would allow her to unplug her brain to concentrate on the experience rather than what was being said.

 

Before she even hit the church vestibule that she wasn’t dressed for the part.  All the women around wore skirts and had hats or lace veils on their heads.  Leni was bareheaded and wearing scandalous black jeans.

 

Are you freaking kidding me?  This is 2013, not 1953.  Vatican II happened so that we wouldn’t have to wear damn doilies on our heads! she thought grimly.

 

Thankfully there was a little wicker basket of spare lace handkerchiefs for women to put on their heads.  Leni hadn’t come all this way to turn back—she had to do what the beret said.  Hell, I should’ve just worn that!  She grabbed one and stuck it on her head.  It was cheap polyester and itchy.  She felt ridiculous but she was all-in.

 

She genuflected and hit a pew two from the back on the left side of the church.  She said a quick prayer for herself and Erik, then sat down and looked around.

 

About half the people there were straight-up old.  They were pre-Vatican II diehards who refused to accept the sweeping changes the Church made.  They looked right at home.  The other half were young diehards who valued the most orthodox tenets of the Church.  Every last one of them was with a spouse, and none had less than three children.  Leni even saw a family of eight—yes, eight—kids sit smack in the front pew.

 

Really?

 

With the chime of bells, mass started.  Leni didn’t bother with the singing—she thought she had an awful voice and honestly she didn’t really care.  She respectfully kept her head down and waited for the congregation to sit down for the readings before she let her eyes wander aimlessly.

 

She took two years of Latin in high school and her linguistic skills were sharp enough that she could’ve followed the readings and even known which Bible passages they were, but she wasn’t interested in the service.  She was here for the atmosphere and the experience, so she let her gaze roam around the church with naked curiosity.

 

The stained glass windows were by no means anywhere near as spectacular as Chartres.  Most of them depicted key scenes from the Bible or the Stations of the Cross and were very easy to see and understand.  At least I don’t need binoculars to see what’s going on here and there isn’t symbolism dripping from every pane, she thought.  In this respect, the church was actually quite user-friendly.  She read the inscriptions which were in German.  Leni’s hometown was founded by German settlers in the late 1800s so it was in line with what she knew about the town’s history.  She was interested to see who they were dedicated to.  At least that was transparent.  Who knows who paid for the Chartres windows…rich nobles trying to get a “get out of jail free” card from Purgatory?

 

Still, the windows were arched, tall and slender.  They let in plenty of light on the cold autumn morning, though they just didn’t have the “wow” factor of Chartres.  The pillars were tall, simple and slender.  But they weren’t soaring, arched or graceful.  The sound system, the A/C ducts and the electric lights just all seemed oddly out of place with everything else being so old.

 

She didn’t pay much mind to the readings and even tuned out the droning homily which was in English.  She preferred to focus her attention on the soft scent of the incense, the delicate light, and the weird spectacle of old people, huge young families and the women wearing the damn doilies on their heads.  She had to restrain herself from ripping her veil off and itching her head like crazy.

 

Leni still remembered to sit, stand and kneel at all the proper times.  She didn’t go up to Communion because she knew that was a big no-no.  She pondered how she still believed Jesus was in that little wafer of bread, but there was so much Church doctrine that she was opposed to.  She also mused about how much her life had changed since sitting before Chartres’ Black Virgin.  She still believed in so many of the basic principles, so why couldn’t she reconcile that with her opposition to the Church’s stance on social issues?  She was discomfited by her lackadaisical indifference.

 

“Ite, missa est,” the priest said at long last.

 

Finally!  She still remembered those words—time to go!

 

After the recessional hymn, she made a beeline out of church, yanked her veil off, dumped it in the basket and drove straight home.

 

Done.

 

She decided to power up her phone which had been shut off in her purse for two hours.  She saw she had a missed call from Erik, so she called him back to see what was going on.

 

“Hey!” he sounded genuinely happy to hear from her.

 

She smiled softly.  “Hey yourself.  What’s up?”

 

“Oh, not much.  Just got back from church and just hanging out with the fam.  What’re you up to?”

 

“I just got home from church, too/”

 

“Oh?  Where did you go?”

 

“There’s a church here that does mass in Latin, so I thought I’d check it out.”

 

“You speak Latin?  You never mentioned that.”

 

“Well, I took a couple years in high school.  No one really ‘speaks’ Latin.  I understand enough to get by.”

 

“OK.  But I thought you said you didn’t go to mass anymore.”  He wasn’t following her logic.

 

“I don’t, but I felt like changing things up today.”  Leni really didn’t want to get into the details and mechanics of her French life over the phone.

 

“Fair enough.  I won’t pry.  So, what did you have in mind for this evening?” he asked.

 

They made plans to meet at a local pub for an early dinner so he could be home at a reasonable hour in the evening.

 

Leni had several hours to kill before her date, so she filled it with cleaning, writing and running errands…things she did most weekends.  She kept busy enough that she didn’t think too much about Erik and she kept her phone in her purse, avoiding the massive temptation to check her phone every 30 seconds or barrage him with text messages.  She didn’t need to look crazy or clingy because she wasn’t.

 

She got to the pub early, and he was actually there already, sipping a couple samples of microbrews.  What followed was a two-hour dinner with appetizers, main course and dessert all peppered with tasting great Indian pale ales and hearty stout brews.  The food and the beer were truly delicious, and the company was even greater.  Leni couldn’t remember when she’d laughed so hard, when she felt so radiant and carefree.  She flirted, she touched his hand, his arm, his shoulder and didn’t even notice when he kept getting closer and closer to her, his eyes never leaving hers.

 

Sadly, all too soon, Erik asked for the bill, paid it and put his card back in his wallet.  He looked at her expectantly and said, “Well, I’m going to have to hit the road now.”

 

Leni sunk down a little in her seat.  She hadn’t even though about this awkward scene.  They had had such a glorious weekend together, now it was over.  In 12 hours, Leni had to go back to work.  The proverbial clock would strike midnight and the coach would turn back to a pumpkin.

 

“Um…” she started, suddenly shy and terrified about this part of the conversation.  Her pulse hammered in her ears and she felt lightheaded.  And it wasn’t from the beer.

 

“Um, what?”  Erik put his wallet back in his pocket.

 

“Where…where are we…what are we…?”  She couldn’t get the words out.  She chomped the inside of her lip and looked at her hands folded in her lap.  “Jesus, this is awkward.”

 

He got up, walked to her side of the booth and slid in next to her.  Without a word, he angled in to kiss her.

 

Holy crap! 

 

Leni had read so many cheesy romance novels about couples and their first kisses, and so many thoughts ran through the heroines’ minds when the hero kissed them.  But her brain was completely blank, save for the shock and surprise of him going straight in for the smooch.

 

He pulled away, and the breath that deserted her came back with a whoosh.  Her head spun and she saw stars behind her eyes from lack of oxygen to the brain.

 

She knew her eyes were wide as saucers and she felt her face on fire from the blush that crept from her cheeks to spread to her face, ears and neck.

 

A playful smile was plastered on his face.  “I’m sorry, what were you asking?” 

 

There was a cocky smugness that she found endearing.  Leni remembered hearing opposites attract, and there was enough self-assuredness in him that she knew made up for her lack of experience and her naïveté.  What she most appreciated was how patient and gentle he was.  He wasn’t in a hurry to rush her into something she didn’t feel comfortable with, but he knew where they were going and she liked that.

 

“I don’t remember,” she choked, still blushing and flustered.

 

He took one hand in his and lazily drew circles on the inside of her wrist.  “Can I see you again this week?  I’m free Thursday or Friday.”

 

“I work Friday, so why not Thursday?” the cracked voice croaked from her throat.

 

He winked.  “Perfect.”

 

He helped her as she struggled into her coat.  They walked in silence to her car—Jesus, again with the flipping parking lots!—and she tapped the remote keyless entry.  She opened the door and faced him.

 

“Text me when you get home?” she asked.

 

“I could text you while I’m driving down the interstate,” he teased.

 

“Smartass!” she playfully smacked his forearm.

 

He kissed her again.  “Don’t you forget it.”

 

Leni drove home and when she got there to feed Opie, she went outside on the balcony to sit and think.  The cold air hit her hot cheeks and it was a huge relief.

 

She sat on her lounger and pulling her knees up to her chest, she hugged herself tight.  The tears that had stung the back of her eyes spilled quietly down her cheeks as she gave voice to the nameless horror that had haunted her mind all week.

 

“I think I’m in love.”

***

Week two:  finished

 

Leni’s life was radically different than it had been just seven days ago, even three or four days ago.  Erik had turned her world upside down with his humor, patience, intelligence and gentleness.  So how was Operation Live More French going now?

 

Some of it was awful innocuous.  Leni made someone’s day a little brighter by writing a simple letter as she had done years ago.  She reconnected with a beautiful French movie that reminded her about why she loved French cinema so much in the first place, full of quirks and appreciation of the beauty of life.  Her hands looked a billion times better after treating herself to a manicure.  She also reconnected a little with God spending a very long hour in church, but it was worth more to her that she unlocked the memories of Chartres.  She knew that even if she would never be Catholic again, she always would have a soft spot for the Church. 

 

Life also looked more beautiful.  She took a stroll to the art gallery and reconnected with both Louis Galliac and Edward Hopper through two very different paintings done in two very different centuries that both dealt with themes of love, loss and distance.  She explored the local arts with the Blue Moon River and literally bumped into a man who accompanied her on a walk.  Only here, she wasn’t attacked by farm animals or French rednecks.  She was attacked by the strength of her emotions.

 

Maybe this week wasn’t as neat as the first week was.  It was messy, scary, sad and exhilarating all at the same time.

 

Week two over.

 

Bring on week three!

 

 

 

Lundi                                                                                                  Jour Quinze (Day 15)

 

Buy a pastry at a bakery.

 

Leni read her slip of paper she drew from the beret.  She’d cheated two days in a row, so she felt like she had to go legit today and not dig one out. 

 

Damn!  Too bad I already ate breakfast!  She knew exactly where she was going to buy her pastry.  She opened her tablet to check the hours it was open.  She could swing by and get one during her lunch hour and not disrupt her day too badly.

 

A day can never be too bad if pastry was involved…

***

Leni had only been in one French bakery before she moved in with Mme Martin.  There was a village boulangerie she visited, but all they had was bread and nothing really sweet.

 

She had been in classes two days when she decided to head downtown on the Grand-Rue between classes to see what there was to see.  Her friend Laura asked her if she wanted to grab a pastry snack.  Of course Leni had heard about patisseries since her first year of high school French, and she was more than down with checking one out!

 

They agreed to hit up the first one they found on the Grand-Rue.  Though it was a cold January day and the grey clouds loomed in the sky, it wasn’t windy or rainy.  It could have been raining fire from the sky for all Leni care.  She stared at everything with rapturous wonder, with the awe of someone exploring a new culture for the first time.

 

Chez Jean-Pierre was the first place Laura spotted, and Leni was not one to protest venturing further.  They stopped at the window and pressed their noses against the glass.  There were little fruit tarts, chocolate pastries, croissants, and huge, elaborately-decorated cakes.  Since it was early January, there were also special Epiphany cakes for sale.  If you sound the bean in your slice of marzipan-ish cake, you got to be “king for a day” and boss your household around.  At least, that is how the tradition went.

 

Wow.

 

They walked in and said the perfunctory “bonjour,” to which the other customers queued up and cashiers responded in kind.  Laura and Leni didn’t get in line.  Rather, they approached the glass-covered refrigerated counter with a quiet awe, amazed at all the selection offered.  However were they supposed to choose?!

 

There were raspberry, apple, blackberry, raspberry, cherry and apricot tarts.  There was one of kiwi and mandarin oranges that won Leni’s prize for most colorful selection.  But she zeroed in on the chocolate selection like a moth to the flame.  She examined her choices carefully and decided on a rectangular-shaped objected with a black chocolate frosting with the word “opera” written in cursive in some sort of ganache or white cream.  Leni had always been a raging fan of the Lloyd Webber musical “The Phantom of the Opera” since she was knee-high to a grasshopper, and she wanted that pastry.  She had no idea what the name of it was, but she wanted it.

 

She turned to Laura.  “Do you know what you want?”  Laura had selected a beautiful, red, plump, glistening strawberry tart.

 

They queued up and somehow kept from drooling on themselves or other customers.  They were discussing their purchases when the cashier chirpily said, “Bonjour, mesdemoiselles!  Vous désirez?”

 

“La tarte aux fraises, s’il vous plait,” Laura ordered.

 

Dammit I don’t even know the name of what it is I want, Leni fumed.

 

“Et pour la mademoiselle?” the cashier asked brightly. 

 

Leni glided to her selection and pointed vigorously at the “opera.”  “I don’t know what you call that, but I want it, please,” she said politely.

 

“Ah!  Le napoléon!  Bon choix,” the cashier encouraged.

 

Why would it say “opéra” if it was named after Napoléon Bonaparte?  Leni knew the sumptuous Opéra Garnier of the “Phantom” fame was built in Paris in the 1870s, about 50 years after Napoléon’s death.  I don’t freaking care I want my goddamn opéra and I want to destroy it!

 

The cashier carefully scooped out the pastry which was in a large muffin wrapper-like dealie.  She set it in a small box and lovingly wrapped it with a blue ribbon and a gold stamp with the patisserie’s name embossed on it.  Leni was impressed at the careful presentation of the food item she was going to literally shove up her nose the second they left the store.

 

She paid and Laura and Leni debated where to consumer their desserts.  Eating on the hoof was a big no-no in France and they didn’t want to subject themselves to dirty looks as they walked down the street cramming sweets in their mouths,  There wouldn’t be any empty tables available at the school.  If they sat down to eat at the main square, panhandlers and teenagers would bother them for food or money.  They decided the most unobtrusive place would be down by the river, a few blocks away from school, sitting on benches.

 

They walked down to the river’s edge, carefully balancing their wrapped boxes on their fingers.  They didn’t dare drop the lovely packages, but neither of them could wait to sit down and inhale their content!

 

They found an unoccupied bench to settle on.  They silently, reverently opened their boxes.  Neither pasty was jostled in their walk, and they could only admire how artful they were—almost too pretty to eat.

 

Laura’s pastry was shiny from the sugar glaze on the strawberries.  Leni’s napoléon had delicate layers of cream and flaky pastry beneath the chocolate frosting.  They were lovely to behold.

 

“Wanna split them in half?” Laura offered.

 

Leni’s first thought was bitch, you picked that one out, so eat it yourself!  But she thought better of it.  Fishing in her backpack, she pulled out her Swiss army knife.  They each cut their own pastry and handed the other off.

 

The tarte aux fraises was even more gorgeous to eat than it was to look at.  The flaky crust had to have been made by hand.  There was real butter in it, and it literally melted in her mouth.  The strawberries were fresh—not out of a can or frozen.  Their slightly bitter tang very nicely contrasted the sugary syrup that enveloped them.  Leni would have never called a dessert sublime, but that came pretty close.

 

Then she turned her attention to her napoléon.  Now that it was cut in half, all it said was “éra.”  The chocolate top was a bitter dark chocolate which nicely enhanced the sweet cream and buttery pastry millefeuille-ish layers in between.  Leni could have literally shoved it up her nose and adored it.

 

They both sat in contented silence, satiated from their sweet treats.  Neither of them said a word as they watched the river slip past them.  Random French people walked by with their dogs, or with baguettes tucked under their arms.  No one paid much mind to the two American girls getting their first true taste of French pastries, both almost exploding in delight from the lovely presentation and the delicate balance of tang and sweet, creamy and crunchy.

 

It didn’t matter it was cold or grey.  Or that either was slightly homesick.  Both were young, happy, eating pastries in France.  It was really hard to feel any more alive.

***

Leni rubbed her eyes at her computer.  It was nearly noon, so she had to go figure out where she was picking up her pastry.  She Googled the bakery she had in mind.  She wrote down the address.  Though it was on the other side of town, she was eager to get over there and see what they had.

 

She was walking to her car when she got a text from Erik.  What’s up?

 

About to go get some dessert, she answered.

 

Wish I could be there with you.

 

I bet you are, she teased.  I ain’t sharing with you!

 

Fine, be that way.  See if I’m as nice when we get together next time! he joked.

 

His lighthearted banter put her in a good frame of mind as she crossed town to Chez Day bakery.  She walked in and was disappointed that she wasn’t hit with any smells of bread or sweets.  The bright lights and white tiled floor did little to disguise the fact that she wasn’t in an authentic French patisserie, nor could she shake the realization she wasn’t in France.

 

Le sigh.

 

Of course no one greeted her as soon as she walked in the door.  Leni looked carefully at the selection.  There were cookies, cupcakes, slices of cake and pie.  How very American!  There weren’t any artful pastries or tarts with beautiful decoration.  Her heart sunk at the pitiful selection.

 

The sullen cashier, dressed like a godawful hipster, greeted her with, “What can I get you?”

 

“Hello to you too,” Leni said sharply.  “Is that really how you greet new customers?”  She worked retail herself, and she had very little tolerance for rude service.  This tattooed little girl was a real sourpuss considering she surrounded herself with sugary confections.

 

If it was possible, the server got even more glum.  “What do you want?”

 

Leni’s face flushed hot.  “Where’s your manager?”

 

“I’m the manager,” a man came next to the faux hipster with a concerned look.  “What’s the problem?”

 

“’What can I get you’ is not the most friendly welcome, especially to someone who’s never been here before,” Leni said.  “I’ve been to France, and this is a pretty pathetic selection and miserable service.”

 

“All I did was ask her what she wanted,” the cashier whined.

 

“Look, I drove all the way across town specifically to try your so-called French pastries.  I didn’t quite expect such rude service.  A ‘hello’ really goes a long way.”

 

“I’m sorry about that, ma’am.  Pick out something on the house and I’ll get it for you,” the manager said, trying to smooth Leni’s ruffled feathers.

 

“You know what?  Forget it.  I work retail and if I treated my customers like such brat, I’d get fired!”  She narrowed her eyes and glared at the cashier.  “Get those fucking gauges out of your ears if you want to be treated like an adult.”  She turned to the manager.  “Hire grown ups next time, huh?”  She stalked out of the store, shaking in anger.

 

She started her car and noticed a couple people exiting the bakery.  They were people who had come in behind her and witnessed the little exchange she just had.  They hadn’t purchased anything and decided to take their money elsewhere.

 

Good, she thought to herself.  Serves those assholes right.

 

She checked her phone for Plan B.  she drove back closer to her workplace in a working class neighborhood.  There was a little Mexican bakery she’d also heard good things about.  Let’s hope the service doesn’t suck!

 

She walked in and was greeted with an instant, “Hola, señora,” from the woman behind the counter.

 

Again, no real smells to take her back to France, but Leni admired the lovingly baked breads that lined the bins.  There was a glass counter and while there were no gorgeous pastries, there were cookies and sweet rolls that she was sure would make it worth her while.  A

 

She didn’t even really care.  After the stupid hipster and the icy greeting, she didn’t care how awful the pastry was—she preferred to be treated with kindness and civility.  She selected a tan-colored sweet roll with granulated sugar on it.

 

Just like in France, it was carefully wrapped in a box and sealed with a sticker with the bakery’s name printed on it.  Yeah, it wasn’t as spectacular as what she was accustomed to in Europe, but this was a nice substitute.

 

Leni got back to her office, snarfed down lunch at her desk while browsing Wikipedia, then excitedly tore open her little box.  The sweet roll was sweet and crunchy with the sugar on the outside and tasted of almonds inside.  Not sweet and tangy, but sweet and nutty.  Not her favorite, but not bad at all.

 

She liked every crumb she could off her napkin and sighed contentedly with her dessert.

 

Note to self:  American bakeries suck ass.  Ethnic pastries all the way!

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