Back in the sunlight they continued their stroll.
“I feel like I’ve been in a time machine,” said Callie.
“I’m hungry,” said Lillian.
“I need a drink,” said Dorothy.
Lillian bristled. “Dorothy, it’s not even noon.”
“Je veux un petit fours,” Callie announced, somewhat smugly.
“Ah, moi aussi,” agreed Lillian.
“Excuse me, but it isn’t polite to speak French if someone else doesn’t,” Dorothy protested.
“There it is,” yelled Callie, “the Café de Flore!” There it sat, on a corner of bustling Boulevard St. Germain, polished tables outside with cane back chairs, filled with all manner of bohemians, working Parisians, and military personnel, sipping espresso, absinthe or tea, and everyone with a cigarette, blithely ignoring the war that was bearing down on them, for it was a fine Spring morning, but still cool.
The tables were shaded by a white awning, under which the trio entered the cafe and plunged into a sea of boisterous patrons, white-shirted waiters and a pall of gray smoke, leavened with the aromas of rich pastries and strong coffee.
“Oh isn’t this just the swellest place!” Dorothy exclaimed.
Callie pointed across the room. “There’s an empty table by the window.”
Once seated they couldn’t stop gawking, imagining that secret liaisons were taking place at every table. Dorothy leaned over and whispered in Callie’s ear. “I’m certain that some of these people are German spies.”
Callie ordered a cafe au lait, Lillian a hot chocolate and Dorothy a whiskey sour. She stirred her drink and leaned over to Callie. “That young man with the yellow tie - I think he’s famous.”
Callie casually turned to look at him. “Well, who do you think he is?”
“A writer, an artist, I’m not sure. But I’m sure I’ve seen that face.
And he is so dashing, with that snazzy beret, don’t you think?”
“Yes, he is rather good-looking. Why don’t you go over there and accost him, Dorothy?” said Callie, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye Lillian put down her chocolate. “Dorothy, don’t you dare.”
“Why not, Lillian? We’re in Paris, for God’s sake. We might all be dead in twenty minutes, blown to smithereens,” she exclaimed, gesturing wildly with her arms.
“Well just how do you plan to communicate - sign language?”
“I was hoping you could be my translator, Lillian.”
“Oh my gosh, he’s looking right at me. I’m going over there.”
“Dorothy Elizabeth Gish - you are only nineteen. That man might be a gigolo.”
“Only one way to find out, sis.” She got up and walked straight over to the man’s table.
Lillian averted her eyes and stared out at the street. “What are they doing, Callie?”
“He stood up. They’re talking, somehow. Now they’re sitting. I think he just ordered her something.”
Lillian sighed heavily.
“Calm down, Lillian. She’s just having fun. She likes to flirt.”
“I know. She doesn’t have a serious bone in her body.”
Callie looked distracted. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Never mind. Mr. Griffith told me about your possible rendezvous with your beau. How are you feeling?”
“Oh, just like you’d expect - scared, worried, hopeful, anxious. But being here with you two takes my mind off it.”
“Callie, did he actually propose to you, back in Mexico I mean?”
“No Lillian, he couldn’t.”
“He was going off to war. He was going to fly rickety little airplanes and be shot at. He wanted both of us to have our freedom until he came back, if he comes back.”
Lillian hesitated. “You have been with other men?”
“That‘s awfully personal.”
“Forgive me. Why did I ask that?”
“I can’t ignore my desires. I’m only twenty-five.”
“Yes, a year older than me.”
Callie stared at Lillian quizzically and was about to respond, but Dorothy came bounding back and nearly knocked over the table as she plopped down in her chair.
“Well Lillian, you were kind of right. After wooing me for fifteen minutes he admitted he was married, but was looking for a mistress, and he thought I would do fine. That is, if I understood his broken English correctly. He sure is cute though.”
“But is he famous?” asked Callie.
“No, never heard of him. Claude something or other.”
Callie ordered three petit fours - hers was pale yellow, Dorothy’s pale pink and Lillian got pale blue.
Lillian stared at hers. “It’s too pretty to eat.”
Dorothy sighed as she took a large bite. “Oh dear Lord, it’s as good as kissing a man.”
Callie ate hers in tiny bites, to let the rich, creamy cake linger in her mouth, drifting along in the pleasantries of the moment. A Parisian café was a wonderful place to linger, especially during a war.
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