She noticed he liked to do that. Babble on about “the future” and what they would do in “the future.” How they would spend their days and what life would be like with just the two of them. He never talked about the present. She wondered whether his conscience ever bothered him and if it was too hard for him to face exactly how he’d blown her life apart. Or maybe he didn’t care. It was as if it was easier to live in some nether region of “the future,” where his overly detailed obsessions dictated her life . . . much the way they had done in all these weeks—had it been weeks? No, it had to be months since he’d forced her to come here. The other day—at least she thought it was the other day—she thought she felt the vent in her room blow heat. That must mean summer had passed and winter was imminent.
N atalie sniffed and pulled the collar of her black wool coat closer to her neck. As much as she loved Chicago, she didn’t dig the cold, bony fingers of winter clawing at her.
Funny enough, though, she hadn’t minded winter in Paris at all.
Paris with Jason had been a fairy tale. After the usual whirl of holiday parties and other social obligations, they spent a frenetic Christmas with his family, swept up in a tidal wave of presents and traditions of church on Christmas Eve and a big breakfast of gooey cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs that were more cheese than eggs, and fat logs of sausage before spending the morning opening presents. She was embarrassed by the shower of gifts from his family, but Jason had just laughed and said it meant she was part of the tribe. In private, he gave her a sterling silver heart tag charm bracelet and a hefty gold-tinted padlock, telling her she’d find out what it was for later; she gave him a platinum watch inscribed “Always, Natalie.”
They departed for Paris the next morning, and as tired as she was, she was too excited to sleep. After Jason finished his business, they spent their days exploring the Louvre, strolling along the Left Bank, visiting the Arc de Triomphe and ice skating at the rink outside the Hôtel de Ville—well, trying to, since they were both terrible; they spent more time edging along the side and trying not to go spinning across the ice. They crowded into the Champs-Élysées to welcome in the New Year, wishing each other “bonne année” at midnight and kissing long and slow as the crowd exploded around them. She couldn’t get enough of the little cafés with their buttery pastries and delicate cafés au laits or the French markets, bursting with cheeses, meats, baguettes, jams, and jellies. On their last night, he surprised her with a dinner reservation at Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, and they watched fireworks from the balcony of their hotel.
Yes, she would always remember December in Paris.
She smiled now, on her way home after brunch with Christine and Brandy at Wildberry. She needed to do a few hours of work from home before she met Brandy later that night. Jason was in California on business for a few days, and they’d talked five or six times a day since he’d been gone. Brandy and Christine had joked at brunch that they’d be walking down the aisle as bridesmaids any day now. She didn’t let on to the girls, but she hoped that’s where things were headed. It wasn’t that they had talked about it, but she just had a feeling that soon . . . she would be Mrs. Jason Hudson. Natalie Scott Hudson. Natalie Hudson. She smiled. They all had a nice ring to them.
She grabbed her mail, melting when she saw Jason’s familiar cream stationery sitting upright in the box with an L.A. postmark. She waited until she was upstairs, not wanting to share her reaction to his words with anyone.
Even when I’m out of town, I just can’t stop writing letters. What is
So, I was looking at the calendar today and realized we’ve been together almost eight months. That’s wild, isn’t