CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and TWENTY-SIX
Friday evening — 8:35 p.m.
After dinner, Sissy and her friend Amelia Hutchins had excused themselves from the table to go to the bathroom. They were eating at an upscale, exclusively Parisian restaurant. Amelia was allowed in only after she produced a clipping that announced her engagement to Frederec in Le Parisien. Sissy got in because, oddly enough, of her Internet exposure. The hostess knew that Sissy was going to school at Opéra de Ballet (Paris Opera School of Ballet.) They were eating dinner with Sissy’s hosts — Benjamin and Claire — as well as, Max Hargreaves.
Sissy was following Amelia out of the bathroom when Amelia stopped short. Sissy ran into her back.
“What’s happened?” Sissy asked, recovering first.
Grinning, Amelia nodded toward the table. The waiter was setting another chair next to hers at the table. Sissy shrugged.
“No,” Amelia said. “Look.”
Sissy followed Amelia’s finger to where a man was standing. Even with his back to them, Sissy knew exactly who it was. She squeezed by Amelia and ran to the table. Once there, her hand lingered over his back. Sissy was flooded with insecurity.
Ivan spun in place, and she was in his arms. Sissy cried and laughed and then cried again. It was five minutes or possibly five days before she took her seat again. The entire restaurant had been cheering for them. When she sat down, she saw everyone’s smiling and laughing faces. She leaned over to Ivan.
“How did you get in?” Sissy asked, quietly.
“I made the reservation,” Ivan said.
A man came out from the back, and Ivan stood up. They hugged in greeting and then spoke quickly back and forth. When Ivan introduced a dazed Sissy, the man kissed her hand and welcomed her warmly. When all of the greetings were finished and another bottle of wine delivered, Ivan sat down next to Sissy. He held his hand out, and she grabbed onto it.
Chatting, everyone ate dessert while Ivan made his way through the dinner they had completed. The conversation lingered over coffee and aperitifs.
Sissy simply sat there holding Ivan’s hand.
When they got up to leave, Sissy followed the Martins out. Ivan tugged on her hand so she turned to look at him. In the light of her eyes, he was suddenly a loss for words.
Ivan shook his head. Sissy watched his face.
“I am here for a while,” Ivan said. “If it is tolerable for you.”
“When do you leave for Poland?” Sissy asked.
“We aren’t going to Poland,” Ivan said.
“But …” Sissy said.
“It was just decided the moment before I walked into the restaurant,” Ivan said. “You should hear from your brothers when you check your phone.”
Realizing she wouldn’t see her family, Sissy looked down. She was surprised at how sad and lonely she felt. Ivan touched her chin, and she looked up.
“There has been a serious threat,” Ivan said. “Nadia has hired a team of professionals to go into the mine in secret.”
Sissy numbly nodded. She turned to walk but Ivan held her in place.
“I am here. In Paris,” Ivan said. He took in her surprised face before continuing, “For a long as it is tolerable for you.”
“Tolerable?” Sissy asked. “I …”
She hugged Ivan tight.
“Benjamin is an old friend,” Ivan said. “He’s arranged for me to move into an apartment that our friend Max owns in the Montmartre.”
“We have agreed that you will continue to live with Claire and Benjamin,” Ivan said.
“But …” Sissy started.
He held up a hand, and she stopped talking.
“Please, let me finish,” Ivan said. “I find myself exhausted. I …”
Ivan shook his head.
“It was Seth O’Malley who got this ball rolling,” Ivan said. “He brought me proof that the man who chased me around the globe is no longer living.”
“Wow,” Sissy said.
“I am free, and I …” Ivan said. He touched his chest. “ … weary. I have lived in Paris off and on in my life. Living here is always a joy. I need time to heal, to rest. You need the structure of a family to get to class and continue your studies.”
“Will I see you?” Sissy asked.
“As much as you wish,” Ivan laughed.
Sissy hugged him. When she let him go, she realized that their dinner companions had disappeared.
“Would you like to spend the weekend with me?” Ivan asked.
“I have a session in the morning tomorrow,” Sissy said.
“We can go,” Ivan said. “It would be a great joy for me to see you dance.”
“Come on,” Ivan said. “The night is warm and lovely. Shall we walk?”
He tucked Sissy’s hand into his arm, and they started toward his new apartment.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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