When we first met it was entirely by accident. Even now I remember it clearly, although almost four decades have passed by since then. It was one of those lovely bright sunny days that are so typical of Paris in the springtime.
I was strolling along the Boulevard Haussmann, just outside the Magasin au Printemps where the pretty girls were selling their bunches of lily of the valley as they traditionally used to do on the first day of May. I wasn't looking where I was going, daydreaming as usual and distracted by the sweet scent of the flowers that evoked pleasant thoughts of past amours and were rich with the promise of future joys in the arms of a beautiful woman.
You could say we bumped into each other, but more truthfully I barged into her, literally knocking her off balance so that she almost fell to the pavement. After teetering on her high heels for a few anxious heart-stopping-moments, she thankfully regained her composure, although she had to drop her packages in their colourful beribboned wrappings, which fell in disarray at my feet. I stooped to retrieve them and as I rose shamefaced by my unthinking boorishness, I blurted out clumsy words of apology, which she accepted with a graciousness which I later learned was so characteristic of her.
“S’il vous plaît accepter mes excuses sincères, c’était très maladroit de moi Mademoiselle, laissez-moi vous aider avec ces choses,” I said in my very best schoolboy French.
“Thank you Monsieur,” she replied, “pas de mal, and it’s Madame,” indicating the ring on the third finger of her right hand — which, she later told me, was the custom of her Spanish mother, although she herself was a Frenchwoman by virtue of having a French father.
“You must allow me to buy you coffee,” I said, “and perhaps one of those delicious French patisseries.”
She demurred, saying she was had immediate affairs to attend to, but suggested that we might have dinner that evening instead. I blanched inwardly at the name of the little restaurant she mentioned, which, although excellent, was expensive. However, she was so charming and beautiful that I agreed without a further thought, entranced by the prospect of an enjoyable and diverting evening in the intimate company of a captivating young lady.
Besides I was also tempted by the delicious possibility of a mutually pleasant love affair, which caused my amorous heart to beat faster — even then the French were so much more sophisticated about matters of sex than we British.
At this point. I should digress briefly to tell you a little about myself. As you will already have surmised I am English by birth and I was then in my late twenties. I had first visited Paris in the late 1960s, when at the age of eighteen I stayed with a family for a few weeks in the Easter holidays in order to improve my spoken French prior to taking my A-level examinations that June.
At the time I had no idea that seven years later, after graduating from Cambridge University with a first class honours degree and a doctorate in English literature, I would actually be working in Paris as a junior lecturer at the Paris-Sorbonne University. This institution had been formed in 1971 following the decision by the French government to break up the University of Paris, the Sorbonne, following the student riots of 1968. After twenty years working my way up the ladder I was appointed professor, a post I held until my retirement half a decade ago at the age of sixty-two.
Jacqueline and I did not become lovers that evening, even though she admitted that her marriage still remained unconsummated after more than five years. Her elderly husband was uninterested in sex, or more probably, he was impotent. He was a widower with grown-up children, and I surmised, correctly it turned out, that all that he wanted was a charming and decorous hostess to entertain and divert his business associates. This disgusting arrangement had been made when she was eighteen by her father without her consent in order to further his business opportunities — such things were still not unknown in those days.
Over the months following our meeting, I courted her with ardent gentleness, acutely sensitive to her misgivings, but knowing that her final surrender when it came, would be irrevocable. With every day that passed, I fell deeper under the spell of her beauty and charm until what had merely been simple lust blossomed into overwhelming passion.
It was on another lovely Spring night that she finally became my mistress, allowing me to take her virginity, when after her first initial shyness she revealed a passion as great as mine. When I finally penetrated the gates of her secret treasure and moved within the exquisite soft velvet of her flesh, she cried out in the extremity and surprise of ecstasy as our bodies moved in harmony, melting into each other as we mounted to the summit of mutual rapture.
The seductive fragrance of Spring lilies still carries me back to those heady weeks of the beginning of our love affair. We were discreet at first, but as time passed we cast caution to the winds, uncaring about the prurient judgement of the world. We still share such wonderful memories of days and nights of blissful discovery on our journey of mutual desire to the paradise of perfect union.
We laugh together as we remember long afternoons making love in the long grass by some hidden backwater of the Seine, serenaded by the calls of the bullfrogs in the reeds and the happy cries of the young men and women frolicking on the river.
When Jacqueline’s husband eventually died, we were free to set up home together, although we have never sought the sanction of church or state. Ours has always been a union blessed only by heaven in a true marriage of hearts, minds and souls. The passage of time has left its traces on my lover’s face, but these are merely the friendly marks of grace.
She looks just as radiant today, seated at her dresser combing her hair, crowned with a bright golden halo of light from the lamp on the stand beside her chair, as she did on that felicitous Spring day we met by chance on a street in Paris.
Each night in the warm intimacy of our room as I watch her in the semi-darkness performing those essential nightly rites, so familiar from our years together, I am still seduced by the scent of her feminine perfume and the languorous way she undresses to reveal the glorious sight of her nakedness, stripped of all artifice and reserved for me alone.
Of the all world's delights, the vision of her, my lover and true bride preparing herself to come to my bed, is the only one that never fails to inspire my senses and inflame my desire. In the quickening of our mortal flesh, as we consummate our mutual passion once more, our love finds its eternal Spring in a physical and spiritual union that is as fresh and wonderful as in our youth so many years ago.
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