Julie and Quinn watched the couples walk by at a pace slower than what they were accustomed to in the United States. Their breath clouding the air in front of them, they admired the beautiful view, a simple rue full of little shops like every other street they’d seen in Old City, Quebec.
“I wish we could live here year round.”
“And I don’t? That would be lovely.”
She pulled a mittened hand out of her pocket and picked his up, holding it tight. He squeezed back and she looked into his eyes. A couple passed and she returned to people watching.
Lovers walked by closer than they would walk back home, and Quinn squeezed her hand a little harder and a smile grew on her face. She rested her head on his shoulder for a moment and closed her eyes.
That’s when a distant ruckus startled her a bit, and she was not the only one. The meandering couple who moments before were full of bliss jumped a bit too and hurried away from the little courtyard-like road. The noises approached from around a corner.
“Here they come again, merde!” Julie whispered.
“Jul, they are so obnoxious. I can’t take it anymore.”
A large group of people, their loud laughs echoing against the stony storefronts, began to emerge from around the corner, headed by a rather large woman with a giant American flag t-shirt and armed with a disposable camera. She screamed at the sight of the fountain calmly pushing water into little waterfalls.
“Be positive,” Quinn whispered into her ear.
“I’m trying. It’s tough.”
“Look at the cute older couple sitting over there.”
She followed his finger towards the same fountain, where a couple, probably in their seventies, were sitting close to each other and preparing lunch. The man pulled out a sandwich and unwrapped it making sure the paper came off just right, handing the woman her half, and waited to start eating until she was settled. Meanwhile, she opened a bottle of Perrier and placed it next to her. She took her half of the sandwich; they looked at each other, and began eating. That’s when the American woman ran up to them.
“Hel-lo,” she yelled as if the elderly couple was both deaf and unintelligent. “I. Would. Like. To. Take. A. Picture.” She held up her disposable camera and pretended to take a picture. “Could. You. Please. Move.” Then she began to back up, ready to take the picture. The couple looked at each other and then, with a sad sigh, began collecting their little picnic. The loud American grunted.
“Take your time, geez. I just wanna take the friggin’ picture!”
She rushed them, shooing them away like unwanted children at a dinner party, and then tried to take the photograph multiple times until she realized the camera must be advanced.
“Ugh. It’s so embarrassing that we’re with them,” Julie said.
“But what are we supposed to do? Quit the tour now? We spent so much money.”
At the sound of Quinn’s simple attempt at French, Julie smiled. She loved that he was trying, because she knew it was just to impress her. She loved the one or two words he was comfortable saying, such as this one and the other common expression, “Merci.”
He also smiled, because he knew she was impressed. She had taught him other words on the plane as they took off, but those were the ones he was comfortable saying, for now. He would try harder.
The large group of Americans filed into the nearby stores, most of them purveyors of Canadian flags, t-shirts and hockey jerseys.
“I’m dying of thirst.”
“Moi aussi. Let’s get a Perrier. I’ve always wanted to try one.”
Quinn got up from the curb and offered her his hand, and she took it and allowed herself to be pulled towards a store.
“Merci,” she said with a cute smile.
They walked up to the nearest store with a visible refrigerator and entered.
“Mom! MOOOOOM!” a woman in the back of the store screamed into a cell phone. “They have all kinds of shirts! They have blue! BLUE!”
Julie looked at Quinn who was already rolling his eyes.
“This is so embarrassing,” she whispered. “No wonder the world hates Americans.”
The woman continued her phone call as if she were yelling to her mom from two hundred miles away. “MOM! THEY ALSO HAVE A RED ONE WITH A CANADIAN FLAG! OH AND A GREEN ONE WITH A MOOSE! OH AND MUGS! THEY HAVE TONS OF THEM!”
Quinn ran to the drinks and grabbed a Perrier as Julie pulled out a toonie, almost as if they had rehearsed this before. The little bell hanging over the door rang in no time and they were back on the curb. They opened the Perrier and took a sip.
“Oui,” he agreed. “It’s kinda just like club soda. But the moment is so great, I can’t help but love it. Just look at this place. It’s beautiful.” He looked around and his eyes ended on her. “You’re beautiful. How do you say beautiful?”
They stared into each other’s eyes and then heard footsteps, so they returned to their people watching. Another couple wandered onto the street: a boy in a longer pea coat with large buttons, and a girl in a similar coat but red. They both wore white scarves and walked in unison. At first this was confusing, until they looked closer.
“Were they sharing headphones?” asked Quinn.
“Oui, Je pense ainsi, I think so.”
“That is adorable. I love this place. The couples seem so loving, the streets are so clean, it’s safe and beautiful everywhere. The only really ugly thing is the…”
His voice was drowned out by two loud Texans who exploded out of a nearby restaurant.
“I can’ beleev that stuff we jus ate, the damn es-car-got,” he yelled, spelling the word out, as if his wife were deaf. “What the hell is up wit these damn frogs? Eatin shit that I wouldn’t use as bait! And what the HELL is a loonie? Sounds like a damn cartoon!”
The end of his sentence echoed down the street a little, and the pea coat couple turned around for a second, recognized the situation, and then continued on shaking their heads.
“Maw, let’s get one of those damn Canadian flags to burn at the pig roast next week! Ain’t never had a pig cooked over a fire without some flag from a stupid-ass country! Whatta ya think?”
“Sure thang, Walter. Les do it!”
They entered a store, where their voices could be heard even once the door was shut.
Jul took Quinn’s hand and he squeezed.
“When we finally get to Paris, we’re going alone,” Julie said.