A few days before Rosie left I had bought an old house in the Quartier d'Auteuil. Once, this part of Paris was a sanctuary for artists and authors. In my mind it should have become a safe haven for us and maybe, one day, for our children. The house was mostly empty and needed a lot of serious renovation. I always enjoyed such simple tasks, so I were looking forward to work on our envisioned new home.
At first, I just sat there in the dark, drinking wine, only accompanied by an old stray cat and my loneliness. When the first girl was a fading memory, I went there to start the renovation. What else could I do?
One warm summer evening, I sat outside the house on a chair, shoes off, staring lost in thoughts in the air. The stray cat lay next to my chair. Even though I had renounced the wine, I enjoyed a cold beer after the perspiring work on my house. A woman walked past the garden gate and when she saw me, she waved at me. It took me a while to notice it. My initial response was just a nod and a short wave, but when she didn’t pass on, I stood up and went down to the gate. She turned out to be a neighbour, living a bit further down the road in a yellow house. She was a few years older than me, but her maturity had a surprising appealing effect on me.
After a friendly greating she told me, she wanted to introduce herself to me because she always liked my house and was delighted that somebody bought and intended to renovate it. I invited her to take a look at the house. With a warm smile she agreed and while we walked up to the house, I asked her if she had been inside before. She said no, but she always wanted to see it. When we passed by the old cat, it lifted its head and watched us walking up to the door. The cat stretched its legs and followed us into the dimly lit entrance hall.
We chatted a lot about my ideas for the interior of the house, she listened carefully and made some interesting and lovely suggestions. When we reached the old bathroom on the highest floor, she was surprisingly excited at the sight of the old bathtub. It stood in the middle of the otherwise empty room. On each side it had two lion claws as feet. Once upon a time it must have been a beautiful piece of furniture, made of enamel and chrome. But these days it was just old, dirty and in need of a good polish job.
“I love it!” she exclaimed and rushed to the tub to inspect it closely. Her excitement reminded me of Rosie. It rushed through me like a lightning bolt. She must have seen the pain in my eyes, because she stopped looking at the tub and came closer to me.
“Are you alright?” I just nodded. She came even closer and put a hand on my chest. “Are you sure?”
The look in her eyes was sincere. I couldn’t help myself but to lean down and kiss her rosy lips.
We spend the night in my house, most of the time in the bathtub. Except from that short moment when she saw the tub for the first time I noticed no further resemblance with Rosie. While she was a wild and passionate woman, my neighbour was more relaxed, gentle and with smooths movements. There was a little smile in the corners of her mouth, all night long.
I got up and left the bathroom while she was still asleep. The first light of a new day lit the room. I put on my Jeans and a shirt and greeted the stray cat that came to the door when she heard me move. She followed me down the stairs and accompanied me on my way to a bakery.
Even though I didn’t know anything about that woman, I ordered two cups of coffee and croissants. On my way back to the house I realized that I didn’t even know her name. Did it matter? Maybe. But it didn’t feel important. She had given me some peace last night. Her smile had given me some warmth I longed for.
When I got back to the house, she was already gone.