(Continued from previous post)
“Okay… So we’ve got the Louvre..” Rachel said, her nose practically touching the page listing the ‘must see’ places in Paris. After a filling breakfast of pancakes, coffee, toast and marmalade, they had settled themselves comfortably on the sofa, all ready to set off to roam the city together.
“The Louvre!” Ross exclaimed in delight. “We have to go there first, Rach!”
“It’s just a museum!” Rachel said, disappointed not only because he was choosing it but also because she had not been allowed the chance to rattle out the remainder of her list.
“Just a museum?!” exclaimed Ross sounding personally offended as he did so. “It’s the largest museum of the world. For me it’s … it’s like how Paris has been to you!”
The passionate look in his eyes instantly melted whatever argument Rachel had prepared. “Fine. But after that, we’d better go shopping!” she said as though daring Ross to disagree.
“Sure, Rach!” he said, chuckling at her expression.
* * *
“Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Islamic, Near Eastern… Aha!” Rachel exclaimed in triumph as she glanced through various collections which the Louvre boasted of.
“What?” Ross asked, confused.
“There are no dinosaurs in here!” she said, as though she had just won a bet.
“And that’s a reason to be happy because…?” Ross asked, even more perplexed than before.
“Oh Ross, you know how geeky you get when there are fossils around! Just going on and on and on…” Rachel trailed as she remembered tons of occasions when she had tried to tune off Ross’s voice as he droned on about his academic interests.
“Well Rach, sure dinosaurs or rather Paleontology is my area of expertise, but I do love history as a subject in it’s entirety. And I bet you’ll be surprised by my knowledge on the medieval European art.” Ross answered, smug.
Rachel didn’t look that happy anymore.
* * *
“So this particular sculpture by Michelangelo…” Ross said, as he halted in front of a beautiful masterpiece belonging to the Renaissance period of European history. For the past few hours, Ross had kept an almost continuous stream of commentary, as they passed through the various halls and corridors of the museum. Rachel had not stopped him even once, her face changing it’s expressions from astonishment to respect at his knowledge. But soon she had grown uncomfortable, not because she found Ross’s speech boring, but because of the ever increasing crowd of tourists who were following their every step, making her feel as though she was some kind of celebrity.
“Excuse me?” a person suddenly asked from the back of the crowd.
Ross turned his head to face the crowd, his expression making it clear that he hadn’t even noticed the busload of people surrounding him in the first place.
“Yes?” he replied, confused.
“Could you please repeat what you just said? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the last sentence.”
Ross looked even more surprised than what he had seemed before. The guy who had just asked him the question appeared to be a hybrid between a tourist and a historian, with his thick glasses and notepad coupled with a denim jacket and a rather worn out jeans. A doctorate student perhaps.
“You have been taking notes?” Ross asked, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Errr… Yeah!” the guy answered, confused.
“Sorry, but I’m not the right person. I do have a doctorate in Paleontology, but when it comes to other aspects of history, I’m not an expert. I’m just another enthusiastic tourist.” Ross explained, looking a bit embarrassed as he did so.
“Oh. I thought you were the curator or something, giving a private tour to your missus.” he replied looking somewhat apologetic yet surprised.
Ross blushed a deep shade of red, thrown completely off guard by his references to Rachel as his wife and himself as the curator.
“Wrong on both counts my man.” he replied, smiling wistfully.
The guy smiled apologetically and turned to leave, as did the rest of the crowd, their faces a mixture of surprise and disappointment.
“Hang on!” Ross exclaimed, approaching him before he could disappear.
“Yes?” he asked, turning back with a rather confused expression on his face.
“Did you really think of me as a curator?” Ross asked, seriously doubting the answer.
“Not exactly…” he replied, blushing a bit as he did so. “You seemed as though you belonged here. Like you were speaking with authority and familiarity. That got me pretty convinced.” he said, shrugging.
“Huh.” was all Ross could respond with, intrigued.
“Have a good day, Sir.” the guy said only half-mocking as they shook hands.
“Good day to you as well.” Ross replied, his mind now swirling with possibilities.
* * *
“So, where are we heading now?” Ross asked as they finally made their way out of the museum some time after noon. After the crowd had dissipated, Ross had asked Rachel whether they should visit other places, seeing that they had already been in the museum for hours. Rachel happily agreed to the same. Truth be told, Ross had really not wanted to leave the museum, but the casual statement made by a complete stranger had somehow made the Louvre emotionally draining. In fact he had ended up practically marching his way out of the place, hoping that a change of scenery would drown all the thoughts fogging into his mind at the moment.
“Errrm… to Place de la Concorde and from there on to Champs – Elysees.” Rachel replied, as she hailed a cab for the same.
“I have heard of Champs – Elysees. What does it have exactly?” Ross asked as they seated themselves comfortably in the back of the cab.
Now, it was Rachel’s turn to look smug.
“That my friend, is my Louvre.” she replied, an air of superiority evident in her voice.
* * *
“The day is about to get over and we’ve only seen a couple of places!” Rachel wailed, yet again going through her list as they had a rather late lunch at one of the cafés on Champs – Elysees.
“You honestly weren’t thinking that we’d be seeing all of these places in a single day, were you? I mean we could’ve but there’s really no fun in simply rushing from one place to another without actually appreciating it.” Ross stated.
“Well… actually… we would’ve had two days if it hadn’t been for me.” said Rachel, in a low voice, her head bowing with guilt.
“Hey… hey Rach” Ross said, moving to take Rachel’s hand from across the table. “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.”
“Really?” Rachel asked, looking up from the table with an expression full of hope.
“We are having fun, aren’t we?” Ross asked.
They were having fun. Though Rachel had been wary at first, she had ended up having a good time at the museum after all. She had always liked it whenever Ross had been passionate about his job and had felt quite proud of him when people had mistaken him as the curator of the Louvre as he fluently described the various collections of the museum. And his formal attire indeed seemed to emphasise the same. Not to mention that the crowd was listening attentively to every word he spoke.
Champs – Elysees, on the other hand, had undoubtedly been ‘her type’ of fun. Ross initially had been skeptic at the idea of window shopping through few of the most expensive shops in the world. But later he realised that it also meant that he didn’t have to worry about either ‘clearing’ their bank balances or carrying around tons of shopping bags. Rachel had expertly guided him through an exquisite perfume boutique, followed by another boasting an extravagant collection of watches. Needless to say that various clothing and accessory shops had definitely not been left unattended
But Rachel’s promise of ‘window shopping’ was broken when they reached the Disney store. Both Ross and Rachel made absolute fools of themselves as they literally ran around the shop, picking up whichever toy or dress they thought their little princess deserved. It reminded them of the first time they had shopped… or for a better description effectively bought the baby store back in New York. As Ross carried the cart towards the billing counter, he had barely been able to keep a check on his emotions, not knowing when next might he get a chance to shop for his daughter.
“Yeah. We are having fun.” Rachel replied, her eyes softening as she did so.
“Then that’s what matters, Rach.” Ross replied, smiling.
* * *
They reached the Eiffel Tower barely in time so as to appreciate it’s beauty during the day. Though the lights provided an amazing night time experience, they agreed that the tower looked even grander during the day. After a quick photo shoot at the base, they raced up the Tower through the elevators, reaching the topmost viewing gallery feeling a bit dizzy by their efforts. But the view atop more than made up for it. The city could be seen sprawling in all directions, everything made miniscule by the height of the gallery.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked Rachel as they clung to the railing and soaked in their surroundings.
“Yeah.” he said, turning to look at her. The setting sun was casting a warm orange glow on everything it fell. And Rachel’s face had been no exception.
“Not as much as you though.” he said, whispering the words as they came out quite spontaneously. Their eyes met, just as an unfathomable source of energy brought their bodies closer to each other. The move was as slow yet as graceful as the sun approaching the horizon. Ross suddenly realised that this was how he had fantasised his honeymoon. Taking Rachel to her dream city. Kissing her as the sun set atop one of the most cliché yet one of the most romantic places in the entire world. Slowly, their expressions changed from a casual smile to a passionate desire left unfulfilled for long. Their lips could’ve been barely an inch apart when suddenly their daughter exclaimed in joy.
The reality of the situation crashed on to them like a bucket of ice cold water. Rachel blushed a deep red as she turned towards her child, who was pointing at a solitary star, now visible high up in the sky. As Ross followed suit, the irony of the sun disappearing down the horizon wasn’t lost on him, his lips splitting into a sad smile.
* * *
“Le Jules Verne? Seriously?!” asked Rachel, surprised that Ross had arranged for dinner reservations in a prestigious restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower.
“Why not?” Ross replied.
“It’s pretty expensive, Ross.”
Rachel’s statement momentarily put Ross on back foot. Since when did Rachel Green start budgeting?!
“I know. But how many times are we gonna get a chance to do this, Rach? Come on, it’s my treat.” he said, trying to convince her.
“Wow! This is like the perfect ending to the perfect day! Thank you!” Rachel said, now positively beaming.
“My pleasure, Rach. After you.” he said, allowing her to lead the way into the restaurant. They chose a family table and Ross went overboard in persuading Rachel to have her favourites, regardless of it’s price. Rachel, of course enjoyed herself thoroughly, not quite knowing that it had actually been in the itinerary of Ross’s dream honeymoon all along.
He chuckled, gazing fondly at her.
“It’s your fault! You really shouldn’t have made me eat so much dessert!” she said, pointing a finger accusingly at him.
“Oh, really?! And pray what did I do to make you do that?” he asked, amused.
“Said that it looked good.” she replied, blushing at her lame defence.
Just as he was about to comment, the maitre d’ came to their table, with an apologetic expression on his face.
“Madame, Monsieur, I’m really sorry to interrupt, but we have another family waiting outside with a reservation scheduled in five minutes. If you are done with the food and the bill, might I please ask you to vacate the table? I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Oh, it’s alright! We were about to leave anyways.” Ross replied said, smiling politely as he stood up.
“Thank you for your co-operation, sir.” the maitre d’ said, smiling in gratitude before walking away from their table.
Rachel still hadn’t moved one bit.
“C’mon Rach. We gotta go.” Ross said, looking at Rachel with his eyebrow raised.
“Looks like you’ll have to carry me home. I can’t move.” she said, lazily offering her hand for the same.
“Sweetie, I would’ve. But I’m afraid that I would break my back due to the extra weight you’ve gained by all those trifles you’ve just had.” he said, mocking.
“Alright. That’s enough! No more jokes on my eating habits!” she said, standing up, as a look of self righteousness came up on her face.
Ross chuckled as he gently picked up Emma, who had drifted off to sleep only moments before. Rachel helped him with the bags and together they strode out of the restaurant, their hands entwined and her head resting comfortably on his shoulder.
As they descended the tower and slowly made their way out to the street, Rachel lazily thought about the day. It had seemed so perfect that it simply had to be a dream. All the while their smallest of the interactions had seemed scripted even though they had been completely natural. Like the simple act of making Emma eat some of the food. With Ross holding Emma and her putting small snippets in her daughter’s mouth. The innocent brushing of their fingers as they did this. The blushing when it came to their notice. The smoothly flowing conversation over a sumptuous meal and exquisite wine. The laughing at each other’s jokes. The adorable gestures. There had been no outward show of either romance or awkwardness. Yet as they say, in it’s simplicity lied it’s true beauty.
“Rach?” came Ross’s voice, sounding distant.
“Hmm?” she asked, disoriented. Only then did she realise that she had actually fallen asleep on his shoulder in the cab.
“We are home.”
They walked up the stairs to her apartment and as they did, Rachel realised that she did not want the dream to end. Not yet.
“Care for a nightcap?” she asked, once they were in.
“Oh, I don’t think so. You look so zonked out. Let’s get some sleep. Besides, we have to get up very early tomorrow.” Ross replied, as he stretched himself.
“Huh. Why?” she asked, surprised.
Ross looked closely at her, wondering whether it was exhaustion which was making her forget the obvious. Deciding that it was, he continued.
“My flight is scheduled to depart at 10 in the morning, Rach. Remember?”
The statement had the same effect on her as happened with dreams which ended dramatically and aroused the person from their sleep. All of a sudden, her warm drowsiness was washed by the impact of cold reality.
She had been right all along. It had all been a dream. A dream which she never wanted to end.
* * *
Nights didn’t really seem like a good time of the day to Ross anymore. Because it was a time when a person was left alone with his or her own thoughts. And the added time difference between New York and Paris only added insult to injury, the jet lag now keeping him wide awake.
He really didn’t know what he would make of his visit to Paris. The last couple of days had probably been the best days he had lived through in quite a long time. The last time he remembered being so happy was the time when Emma had been born. And the time before that was the time when he had been dating Rachel.
But all this had been a fantasy, right? Never quite intending to last. Or could it? he thought as he recalled the events taken place earlier the same day.
‘You seemed as though you belonged here.’
Ross doubted whether he would ever forget that person. And it was not just him. Even in New York people had often mistaken them as a family. To his surprise, Paris had been no different. But did he belong here? Sure he loved medieval art, but that had been a mere shadow in comparison with his passion for Paleontology. Yet again, the Louvre was like a paradise for a historian like him. Of course that really wasn’t why he would consider moving to France…
His stream of thoughts was cut short by an image. An image identical to the day he had spent today, but with the only exception of it being a part of a happily ever after. So what if it was not back in New York? Did it really matter where he was as long as he was with her ?
Ross glanced across the bed to see Rachel sleeping peacefully by his side. The moonlight illuminated only one half of her body, making her look even more ethereal. He sighed as the realisation dawned on to him. Though he had come here to remove the bandage, he had somehow ended up super gluing it. Ross had been halfway through turning to his side of the bed, when he stopped in his tracks on hearing her voice.
“Hey” she said, sounding wide awake. Surprised, Ross turned back to find her smiling tenderly at him.
“Hey” he replied, returning the smile, surprised to find her still awake.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked, genuinely curious.
There was something in her look which made Ross lower his guard for the first time in a month.