Prue poked a strand of hair in her bun and watched her new husband’s shadow skulk around the rear of the car on his way to open the door.
His mood had worsened since they’d landed, and she regretted allowing him to become intimate with the spirits selection on the way over. Bloody Mary and Single Malt Whisky were terrible in-flight dancing partners. Somewhere over the Indian Ocean he had passed out while urinating in the toilets and it was only the swift action of the attendants in first class that had saved her from irrevocable embarrassment. Matthew wasn’t a loud drunk – he was too repressed even for that thankfully – but he was an unruly one, and if her plan was to work, she needed to keep him compliant (and sober) in the coming days.
The door opened and she stepped out of the car, stomach in, shoulders down, and with a stony visage that could have destroyed the entire Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a blink.
“So, where to first?” Matthew said and gave a weak smile. “Prada? Gucci? Benetton?” His teeth were two perfect rows of ebony, something Yanni, the wedding photographer, had commented on a thousand times.
“I thought we’d just stroll for a while and take it all in. When was the last time you were in Paris?”
“That’s right. Now, take my arm like you mean it, Mr Wilson. We’re going to show these Parisians just how sophisticated the Australian social classes are. Viens!”
“Your French is horrible.”
“Oui cheri. ” Prue pronounced the word as ‘cheery’ and let the last syllable drawl out of her nose.
They cut a straight path through the zig-zagging crowds, stopping every so often so that Prue could admire an unpriced handbag or scarf in a shop window. Prue clasped Matthew’s hand as she guessed their prices – twenty thousand… it can’t be more than that – then named every item in her existing wardrobe that might have proved a fashionable match, and upcoming events to which she might wear them. They stopped for a ten Euro coffee at Le Fouquet’s where Prue charmed the cute waiter with her knowledge of French cinema. When she revealed that Matthew’s favourite film was Mad Max, she slapped the table so hard the vase tipped over and a sprig of lavender fell into her husband’s water glass.
After two hours, and three hard-won purchases later, she finally saw the blood froth behind his eyes in the clear reflection of a Louis Vuitton shop window.
He was ready to boil over.
“Don’t you want to just go in?” he said. “We’ve got the footpaths pretty much covered and I’ve stepped in dog shit twice already.”
Prue smiled and lit a cigarette.
“Haven’t you seen anything you like, dear? We did say you needed some new ties. Daddy says a man can never have enough ties. He says a good necktie-”
“-wins deals and mops up meals. Sure. Look, I’m really tired. I think I might head back to the hotel.” The last sentence came almost as a question, as if he were seeking permission but was too afraid to commit to an obsequious interrogative. Prue’s inner eyes rolled.
“Fine. I’ll join you later. Take the afternoon off.”
The shock on Matthew’s face nearly made her laugh. The flared nostrils, the wide eyes.
“I… Alright,” he said and kissed her check and left.
Prue checked the time. She would have to take another cab if she wanted to make her appointment. She crushed the cigarette into the ‘O’ of Vuitton on the brass address plate then whistled at a passing cab. After reciting the destination to the driver, and telling him to step on it if he wanted a tip – in perfect French – the car flew from the kerb and into the swarming whirlpool of traffic.