C'est la Vie
Justin yawned mightily as he entered the hotel suite with his husband and daughter. It had been a long day.
"You look tired, Daddy," Bree observed.
Justin frowned. "So do you."
"Not as tired as you," Bree retorted with a coy smile. "I'm much younger."
That drew a smile from her father. "Go to bed, young lady," he commanded.
"Yes, Daddy," Bree said submissively as she entered her room.
Justin shook his head. "Do I really look that tired?" he asked Brian.
"Come to bed," Brian ordered.
"I ... um ... I don't think I'm up..." Justin muttered around another yawn.
Brian glared at him. "Get into that bedroom, eejit," he commanded, in his best imitation of Shane. "Nobody's up tonight. What do you take me for? You need your rest."
"Sorry," Justin replied tiredly as he stripped off his clothes and climbed into their bed.
Brian joined him quickly and pulled Justin against him resting his chin on the top of Justin's head as the younger man snuggled against him.
"It was a great show," Brian whispered.
The only answer was a soft snore from Justin.
"Morning, Dada," Bree said as she came out of her bedroom rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Where's Daddy?"
"Still sleeping," Brian replied as he poured more coffee from the carafe on the table in front of him.
"That's good. He was tired."
"I know," Brian said with a bit of a sigh. "Being on public display like he has been for the last few days is hard on him. Want some breakfast?"
Bree nodded. Brian picked up the hotel phone. He ordered her favorites which brought a smile to Bree's lips.
"Daddy doesn't like all the fame, does he?" Bree asked with a puzzled look.
"I think he likes that people love his work. It's all the other stuff that comes with fame that he's not so keen on."
"Hm," Bree said. "Do you like fame?"
"I'm hardly famous."
"You are ... in the advertising world."
Brian shook his head. "Why are you asking?"
"I was wondering if I'd like fame. I really liked when everybody applauded for my piano playing. That was nice."
"Yes it was, and you and Jacques did a great job."
"Thanks, Dada," Bree said with a big smile.
Breakfast arrived and they ate without much talk until Bree asked what they could do for the day.
"What would you like to do?" Brian asked.
"See some of Paris," Bree replied. "Can you and Daddy take me?"
"I think Daddy and I are going to stay in the hotel today."
"Oh," Bree replied, her face falling.
"But what?" Bree asked.
"Auntie Molly has some VIP passes for the Louvre, courtesy of Mr. Bellerose. How would you like to do that with her?"
"But not you and Daddy?"
“Not this time, Squirt,” implying that Brian intended to bring them back when they more time to appreciate the sights.
"Can Patrick come?" she asked.
Brian nodded. "If he wants to."
"He will," Bree replied confidently.
Brian chuckled to himself. Only Bree would think a sixteen year old boy would want to go to the Louvre when he was in Paris. But then, if he was going with Bree, Patrick would probably agree to it.
"Let's see what they say," Brian said picking up the phone once again.
"Oh, Auntie Molly, look at the pyramid," Bree gushed.
She, Molly and Patrick had just entered the courtyard of the Louvre.
"It's neat," Patrick observed.
"Also quite controversial when it was added to the courtyard," Molly informed him.
"It’s so modern compared to the other buildings," Bree said with a frown. "But it is neat."
"The entrance is through the pyramid," Molly said as she ushered them into the glass enclosure.
It wasn't long until they were wandering through the Louvre hitting all the highlights.
When they stopped in front of the Venus de Milo, Patrick asked, "What happened to her arms?"
"Nobody knows for sure, but she is considered one of the most beautiful women ever depicted, even without her arms," Molly explained.
"She's not so beautiful," Bree observed. "Although, she does have nice boobs." Bree chuckled.
"Briana," Molly said trying not to laugh out loud.
"You do have to admit that she does have nice boobs," Patrick said supporting Bree's statement. He was trying not to blush.
"And just what do you know about boobs?" Molly asked. This day was not going quite the way she had expected.
"Enough," Patrick replied with an enigmatic smile.
Molly frowned. Maybe she needed to have a talk with his fathers, or maybe it was just an innocent comment. She'd think about that later. "Let's move along," she said. "We should see the Mona Lisa," Molly said as they came to another gallery. "You both know about the Mona Lisa?"
"Painted by Leonardo da Vinci," Bree said.
"The lady with the enigmatic smile," Patrick stated.
Molly almost choked. That was exactly the thought she'd had about Patrick a few minutes earlier.
“She also has another name,” Patrick stated smugly.
“What is it?” asked Bree.
"Huh,” Bree murmured as she contemplated the painting. “It's so small," Bree said as she tried to peer over the heads of all the people surrounding the famous painting.
"Everybody's always surprised by how small it is," Molly said. "Because it's so famous, people think it should be much bigger."
They were gradually moving closer as the people closest to the painting were taking their look and then moving away.
When they were near the front, Bree managed to get a good look at the painting. "It's really interesting," Bree said as they finally moved out of the crowd around the painting.
"How so?" Molly asked.
"She looks like she has a secret."
Molly chuckled. "I think that's part of why she's so famous. Nobody really knows what she's thinking, so they can make up their own story about it."
"I think she's got a boyfriend that she's thinking about," Patrick said. Molly and Bree both stared at him. "What?" Patrick asked.
"I don't know about you today, Patrick," Molly told him getting a laugh from both children.
Bree turned to look back at the Mona Lisa across the room. "Maybe she does have a secret boyfriend ... or girlfriend," she added. "But the way Leonardo painted the light is just incredible."
"Let's go see some other paintings," Molly said amazed at the observations of her young charges.
“Ben, come in, sit down,” Alex greeted as Ben entered his office. “How are you?”
“I’m not really sure,” Ben replied with hesitation.
“Try to explain it to me,” Alex prodded.
“I feel like I’m just going through the motions.”
“Life, in general. Right now, the only satisfaction I seem to be getting is from teaching and writing.
“The semester is almost over; will you return in the Spring?”
Ben shook his head. “The Dean gave me the heads up. The department will be fully staffed by the end of January. I’m free to return to my sabbatical without guilt and with the gratitude of the university.”
“It’s good to see your generosity rewarded, at least with words if not in remuneration,” Alex smirked.
“Yes, a professor’s salary won’t get me listed in the Fortune 500.”
“But you’re tenured.”
“There is that. And I don’t want to stay away forever. I do enjoy what I do. How many of us can truly say that about their life’s work.”
“So true,” Alex agreed. “What does Michael say about your plans?”
“Nothing as in he has no opinion?”
“Nothing, as in I haven’t told him.”
“Yet. You haven’t told him yet,” Alex added.
“I suppose I’ll have to say something to him. He’d probably realize something’s a little off when I pack my suitcases again and drive to the cabin.”
“I should say so,” Alex stated as he stared at his patient.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Ben finally said after a few minutes of silence. Alex kept mute. “You’re thinking that for a tall man with a few muscles, I sure am a coward.”
Alex gave him a poignant look.
“And you’d be right,” Ben said with his hands raised in surrender. “But there are times when I just can’t stand the thought of trying to have an intelligent conversation with Michael. All I can hear is his whining and the way he poses himself in a huff with his arms crossed. Then there’s that indignant look he gets on his face which eventually fades into puppy dog eyes when he thinks he’s not going to win the argument.”
Alex remained quiet.
“I am a coward. All I want is a quiet life where I can write and spend quality time with my kids and their partners. If it wasn’t for Brian and his barbeques, I’d never get to see Hunter or JR, let alone Nick and Jacqueline. Michael thinks it’s chic to have dinner parties with the neighbors and just talk about our kids but not actually see them. Do you know Michael still hasn’t fully forgiven Brian for encouraging Hunter to go to college? Look at all the good Hunter and his clinic have done for our community. How can it be wrong?
“And JR, she has a great business head on her shoulders. She was barely in her teens when she started helping out in the store. Now she’s a real entrepreneur. She and Jacqueline have a good thing going. I know Jacqueline is a lot older but that means nothing. They complement each other. I used to think Michael and I did the same but no longer,” Ben said with a sad shake to his head.
“I care about him and in many ways I still love him, but I’ve come to the harsh reality that I’m no longer in love with him.”
Ben and Alex sat in silence while Alex jotted down a few notes.
“Aren’t you going say anything?” Ben asked with a scowl.
“Why, when you were doing so well on your own.” Ben made a face, ready to call his doctor an asshole. “Uh uh uh, it’s not nice to insult your psychiatrist,” Alex said in an effort to forestall the coming barrage of words.
Ben stared at Alex for a moment then burst out laughing.
“There ya go! Feel any better,” Alex asked when Ben finally calmed down.
“A little but I think Glen’s bad habits are rubbing off on you,” Ben said trying to keep a straight face but failing.
“Okay, now I know our time is up when you start hitting below the belt. Speaking of my old ball and chain, he tells me that you’ve been hitting the gym a lot more often. He’s concerned that you might overdo.” Ben grumbled. “Language, Professor,” Alex teased. “Seriously, Glen’s concerned.”
“I know and thank him for me. But it feels good when I push myself, and I’m never alone. If Glen’s not there I buy time with one of the trainers; they all know me. They know when to push and when to take it down a notch. I’m fine. Seriously.”
“You have a lot of people that love you, Ben. And you are an inspiration to many of us. Don’t go getting yourself hurt.”
“Yes, mom,” Ben snarked.
“Out!” Alex commanded. Ben stood then extended his hand toward Alex which he readily took. “I have my eyes on you,” Alex warned as he made an eyes on you gesture. “And I have spies everywhere so you can’t lie to me.”
“You’re lucky I’m not paranoid, that does defeat the purpose of therapy,” Ben quipped.
“Say good night, Ben.”
“Good night, Ben,” he said as he walked toward the door.
“And you’ve been hanging out with Brian too much,” Alex called out after him. Alex smiled when he heard Ben laugh. It was a genuine laugh that Alex was happy to hear; maybe Ben was making some progress.
“Come in, Guillaume,” Pierre greeted his employee as Gui entered Pierre’s office. Stéphane was seated at the small conference table. “Have a seat,” Pierre gestured to an empty chair at the table.
“If I’m being fired, I’d rather stand,” Guillaume stated with a slight edge in his voice. Pierre and Stéphane exchanged looks.
“Why would you think we are going to fire you? Your work has always been meticulous, although I’m beginning to understand why at times you are a bit standoffish,” Pierre added. Guillaume was a bit taken aback. “Guillaume, are you not happy here, is there something else you’d rather be doing? Somewhere else you rather be living? Please speak freely; there will be no repercussions.”
It took a few moments for Gui to gather his thoughts. He had always imagined Fate was against him. He looked up at his employer, a man who had always treated him fairly.
“I have always imagined a better life for myself in America. A home, a family, a career in art or cooking. Many years ago I almost had all of it, but then it was suddenly taken away in a blink of an eye and I was forced to return to France.”
“And this angers you,” Stéphane commented.
“Yes! To see one’s dream snatched away within moments of attaining it,” Gui snapped back then regretted his words. “It’s not that I am ungrateful; you have been an excellent employer and mentor,” Gui stated as he turned toward Pierre. “But I was never allowed to find out if I could do more.”
“And what if you had that opportunity again?”
“I don’t understand.” Gui was confused as well as intrigued.
“We are still learning the Kinnetik way of doing business. They appear to take a lot of chances and are almost always successful. I regret to say I have never been that bold. Your English is excellent, and we believe, given the chance, you could represent our interests with integrity.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“We would like you to be our eyes and ears. To travel to each Kinnetik branch, learn their ways and report back to us regularly.”
“Me?” Gui was shocked.
“Yes, Stéphane and I believe you are the right candidate for this task. After you have time to get your affairs in order, you can begin your journey at Kinnetik Isles. Have you been to London?”
“Just once, briefly,” Gui replied. “I wasn’t too impressed.”
“Well then, perhaps under the tutelage of Shane McKenna and Charles Higgins we can change your mind. Next, we will send you to Kinnetik North. This is a very new venture started from the ground up and housed in of all places an old church, so I’ve been told. The manager is a young woman who is making quite a name for herself. This branch is overseen by Mademoiselle Melanie and young Gus. You are known to them, yes?”
“We think Los Angeles would be next but we’ve made no definite plans as yet until we are assured of your answer. Would you be amenable to this?”
“Yes! It would be an opportunity of a lifetime,” Gui said with enthusiasm.
“Then go and make your agenda. Come back to me later today with questions and we shall discuss this further.”
“Yes sir,” Gui said as he extended his hand. Pierre took it readily.
When Gui was safely back at his desk, Stéphane asked a question.
“Is this wise? His work has always been adequate but he has never been a team player.”
“Perhaps so but now we know why. Let’s give him this chance. He is not so old that he cannot turn his life around. And who knows, we may get back a better man when he returns.”
“If he returns,” Stéphane predicted.
Pierre just shrugged his shoulders.
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