II.  The Darkening Thames

“You’re late,” said Katie, glancing up from out of a light green evening gown, cut low in front.  Her brushed hair fell softly around emerald earrings.

Atef seated himself across from her.  “So sorry,” he offered, showing the space between his teeth.  “I was held up.  Have you ordered yet?”

Katie looked over his charcoal suit, red tie, clipped black hair and fresh shave.  “No,” she answered.  “I waited for you, of course.”

He reached over the linen table cloth and held her hand.  She glanced at the garnet in his gold ring.  “I’m very sorry,” he said again.  “Harrad’s the week before Christmas is a virtual zoo.  I got out as soon as I could.”

“I guessed that,” she said, smiling, leaning closer.  “I thought I’d have fish tonight. And, a sweet blanc.”

They kissed.

“Fish it is,” he said. “Excellent choice, and the view is magnificent, as always.”  He swept his eyes around the room.  “The charm here is consistently priceless.”

Outside their window, tiny orange lights flickered on distant patrol boats, hovering along the twilight-hued Thames River.

“Atef,” said Katie,  “I have a change of plans for Christmas.  I’m hoping you don’t mind.”

“What’s that?” he asked, turning from the distant flickers to Katie’s eyes.  “A change in plans?”

Their waiter appeared.

Atef pointed at the specials-of-the-evening menu.  “She’ll have the fish,” he said to the man, “and I’ll have the beef.  The blanc for her and the usual burgundy for me.” He eyed the waiter, an older man with a thick, peppery mustache, as the man carefuly moved a stylus over an electronic pad.

“Very good, Mr.Fayed!” the waiter exclaimed, with a smile.  “Your meal is on its way.

Atef noted the man’s slight limp as he walked from their table.

“Now, what’s this about a change in plans?” he said, turning back to Katie’s lovely eyes.

“Paris!” she exclaimed, meeting his gaze.  “Christmas in Paris!”

“Paris?” he asked.  “I was hoping to stay closer to home this year.  Why Paris?”

Katie sat back, glancing around the lavender-walled room as candle flames quivered on small tables.  “For me,” she said, sighing, returning her gaze to his. “And for Tim.”

“Timothy again!” he said, sitting back, turning toward the darkening Thames.

Their waiter arrived with the wine.  He carefully set the glasses down, smiled, then walked away.

“If you love me,” she said, reaching for his hand, “give me this wish.  Just this once. He’s been a family friend for . . . near my whole life.  It would mean the universe to me!  Besides, it would carry us out of the ordinary for a change.  Something new.  A breath of fresh air!”

“Just this once?” he asked, reaching for his wine.  “Really, Katie!  He’s like an old and dying pet to you, you know.  You don’t seem to have the strength to face reality and put him to sleep!”  He sipped the wine.

“That’s enough!” she hissed, pulling her hand away, leaning forward.  “I’ll not hear those kind of words if you want things right between us.”

“Really, Katie,” he said “lower your voice.  If that’s all you want—Christmas away—then you’ll have your wish.  I always give you exactly what you want.  I always do, you know.  I don’t like this Timothy fellow at all.  I don’t have to like him!  But, if this is what you want, then, for now, you’ll have it.”

For now!” she repeated, turning her wine glass on the linen as if screwing it into the table.

“That’s right,” he said, standing his ground.  “This is a two-way street, you know.  If you love me, then very soon, you’ll have to focus on us.  This Timothy, not soon enough, must get the proverbial hook.  That’s my wish!”  He pulled his white sleeves straight from under his jacket.

Katie glared as he raised his glass to his lips.  She turned to the blackish Thames, save for the lights along the frays of the river, then reached for his hand.  “After Christmas, she said, “we’ll focus more on each other.  I promise.  Let’s just get past this weekend.  Then we’ll focus on us.

Atef smiled.

They kissed.


. . . “It is probable that the Mercedes (in which Diana was a passenger) was grazed by a second car” before it crashed into a concrete pillar in a Paris tunnel, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.  “It is probable that it was a Fiat Uno, but this is not certain.”

Investigators are considering the theory that a small car sideswiped Diana’s Mercedes, possibly causing it to veer out of control.  Police have said experts believe paint traces found on the Mercedes came from a Fiat, police found traces of a tail light from a Fiat Uno at the scene. . . .

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  IV.  “Between Tick and Tock.”  July 24, 2013

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  III. “Passengers.”  July 23, 2013

Christmas In Paris:  a tale in four parts.  I.  “Snow Globe.”  July 23, 2013