The Woman With the Bouquet

The Woman With the Bouquet by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt Read Free Book Online

Book: The Woman With the Bouquet by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Tags: Fiction, General
met him somewhere? No, a man with such a physique, I would have remembered. Had we been together somewhere as children? I wouldn’t have recognized the child in the adult. Yes, that must be it, we must have known each other a long time ago, and then we grew up, he had recognized me, but I hadn’t recognized him, and that is what his sentence meant.
    Who was he?
    I searched through my memories and could find no trace of Guillaume . . . this made me want him to come back all the sooner.
    The next morning, he preceded his visit with a phone call asking for permission to come for tea.
    When he appeared, he so impressed me with his elegant blazer, fine shirt, and classy shoes—a multitude of details that transformed the wild man into a man of the world. It was as if I was greeting a stranger.
    He sensed that I felt awkward.
    “Oh please, don’t tell me you’re sorry I’m wearing my own clothes. Otherwise, I’ll put your maid’s robe back on, I’ve brought it back.”
    He handed me a package wrapped in tissue paper.
    “There is no point in threatening me,” I answered, “I shall try to get used to you like that.”
    I led him into the living room where the tea and cookies had been set out. He seemed glad to be back in this décor.
    “I haven’t stopped thinking about you,” he confessed, as he sat down.
    “You’ve stolen the words from my mouth, that’s exactly the first thing I wanted to say to you.”
    He placed a finger before his lips and said again in a quieter voice, “I haven’t stopped thinking about you . . .”
    “My love,” I exclaimed, and began to sob.
    I could not understand my reaction the moment this man was anywhere near me. Why had I burst into tears? To seek refuge in his arms—which was what happened the very next instant? No doubt . . . Visibly, another woman, far more feminine and clever than I, and who had been dormant inside my body, was aroused whenever he came near, and seemed to manage quite well: I let her continue.
    After he had consoled me, he forced me to let go of him, and we sat down in separate armchairs. He asked me to serve the tea. He was acting rationally. Too much emotion can kill. This return to an everyday activity allowed me to regain my composure, and my strength.
    “Guillaume, yesterday you recognized me, but I didn’t recognize you.”
    His gaze was questioning, and he knitted his brow.
    “Excuse me? I said I recognized you?”
    “Yes, we used to play together when we were children, no?”
    “Did we?”
    “Don’t you remember?”
    “No, not at all.”
    “Then why did you reproach me for not recognizing you?”
    He suddenly became very cheerful.
    “You are truly adorable.”
    “What? What did I say?”
    “You are the only woman who could become infatuated with a man who walks out of the sea. If I find it amusing that you didn’t recognize me, it’s because I am well-known.”
    “But do I know you?”
    “No. But a lot of people do. Newspapers talk about me, and publish photographs.”
    “Why? What do you do?”
    “What do I do?”
    “Do you play some sport, or write, or win competitions? Car racing? Tennis? Sailing? That’s the sort of talent that makes you famous. What do you do?”
    “I don’t do anything. I exist.”
    “You exist?”
    “I exist.”
    “As what?”
    “A prince.”
    This was so far from what I expected that I sat there dumbfounded.
    He eventually grew concerned.
    “Does this shock your beliefs?”
    “Me?”
    “You have every right to be of the opinion that the monarchy is a ludicrous and outdated system.”
    “Oh, no, no, no, it’s not that. It’s just that . . . I feel like a little girl . . . You know, the little girl infatuated with the prince. It’s absurd! I feel ridiculous. Ridiculous that I didn’t know who you were, ridiculous to have feelings for you. Ridiculous!”
    “You are not ridiculous.”
    “If I were some shepherdess,” I said, in an effort to act the clown, “that at least would make sense! The

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