The Man in the Paris Cemetery, Ch. 7


That damned lie. It would be Gemma’s undoing.

As the hostess showed them to a table, Gemma’s spine tightened with anxiety. She stifled the urge to blurt out the truth.

Aidan and Finn were bickering over who would sit where, and Gemma found she could stand it no longer. She crooked her finger at Daniel and leaned toward him.

“I’m alone in Paris,” she said quietly. “I lied.”

Daniel frowned. But he was so distracted by getting the boys settled and helping them decide what to eat, that he didn’t respond.

While Aidan struggled to pronounce the menu items Daniel glanced at Gemma with a baffled expression. Why hadn’t she waited for a more private moment to make this odd confession?

She tried to focus on the menu as Daniel ordered lunch. For Aidan, the quiche Lorraine. For Finn, the penne with peas and zucchini, hold the onions. Daniel ordered the ricotta and spinach ravioli with gorgonzola sauce and roasted walnuts, hold the chives. Such a New York way to order. It was endearing.

Daniel glanced at Gemma expectantly with that same confused expression from before.

She took a sip of water from her goblet. If she tried to speak, she’d end up in another coughing fit. Finally, she wordlessly pointed to the menu. Smoked salmon on toast points, roasted new potatoes, and a salad.

“Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast – Mario’s AUD8” by avlxyz

Lunch went by in a haze of clattering dishes and bursts of excited conversation from Aidan and Finn.

Gemma was aware of being hungry, but the sensation felt disconnected from the rest of her. She mechanically chewed, gulped, and sipped.

Daniel barely talked to her during the meal and he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

She couldn’t see any way to salvage this debacle. When they were all finished, her mind groped for a quick escape.

Daniel was just closing the dessert menu when a waiter passed by holding a platter high above his head. It was a giant golden waffle with a mound of vanilla ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

“I want that,” Aidan said, pointing.

Finn’s head whirled. “Me too. And I want my own.”

Daniel looked at Gemma. “We’re going to be here a little longer. You might want to go off by yourself.” It didn’t sound like a suggestion.

It was exactly what she wanted to do but she was taken off guard by the cold way Daniel had delivered the message.

“That’s a good idea,” she said. She reached into her purse and threw down some euros for her lunch. Daniel awkwardly tried to hand the money back to her.

Gemma waved him away. “That’s okay. Thanks.” She gathered her things and stood. “It was great seeing the museum with you guys. Have fun.”

Finn looked at her blankly and Aidan turned to stare at his father. The two boys seemed to sense the change in the new friendship. They remained silent.

Gemma turned to go. “Can we talk later?” she asked. “I want to explain.” She winced inwardly and hoped it wasn’t visible on her face. She heard echoes of Harvey, begging her for the same thing.

“That’s not necessary.”

“I’ll text you tonight.” Gemma pulled out her cell phone. “What’s your number?”

He recited his number in a monotone, a slight frown creasing his brow.

“Great, thanks.” Gemma started off again but stopped when Daniel touched her arm.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”

His indifference was worse than anger. “Later, then,” she said.

She had a sinking feeling that there would be no later.

“Dining in a masterpiece” by Jim_Nix (The Restaurant in the Musee D’Orsay)


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