Chapter Ten - Run To You
Sophie made her way downstairs to the street entrance and the front of the tea shop, bags in hand, heart pounding wildly with exuberant excitement and disbelief. Less than an hour ago, she had been convinced that she’d be heading home, putting all of this behind her, trying to forget it as some blip in the road, some wild mistake she’d made. But now, now…
“Bonjour,” she said as she darted inside the tea shop and found Hélène behind the counter. “I’m sorry to be so late, but I had a change of plans.”
“Ah, do you need a taxi to the airport?” Hélène asked, putting down the box she held in her hands and peering out at Sophie with a curious, faintly bemused expression on her face. “I can call one.”
Sophie shook her head. “No. Not to the airport. To the train station, actually.”
Something in Hélène’s eyes twinkled, almost as if she’d been expecting Sophie to say those words. She nodded, and wiped her hands on her apron.
“Well, I cannot call a taxi for you.”
“What?” “Why?” Sophie’s heart launched itself into her throat, thudding like a bird in a cage, yearning to fly free.
“Because,” Hélène said, “I will drive you there myself. Gare de Lyon?”
Sophie checked her ticket. “Yes, but—”
“You can walk; it is not that far, perhaps twenty minutes, but I think you will want to hurry, yes?”
Sophie nodded. She was past the point of wondering how Hélène had known, and she hefted the strap of her bag a little higher on her shoulder, trying to steady herself. Hélène untied the apron from around her waist and folded it neatly on the counter. Sophie rechecked her ticket.
“The train departs in only half an hour,” she said. “I’d have to start walking right now—”
Hélène waved away her concerns with a casual gesture, a smile still on her lips. “Much faster to drive. Let me lock up. Go through the back and put your things in my car.”
Sophie nodded and did as she was bid. Five minutes later—and she’d checked her phone twenty times, feeling like time was slipping by, like she wasn’t going to make it—Hélène came back out the back of the shop, locking the door and sliding into the driver’s seat of the little mint-green bubble-shaped Renault Twingo.
“We have time,” she said, but to Sophie, her tone was far from calm enough for her liking.
“Are you sure?”
Hélène smiled. “I’m sure.”
She shoved the key in the ignition, and before Sophie even had a chance to grab hold of anything, they were off, jetting into traffic, weaving through the bustling streets with a sort of casual efficiency that bordered on utterly reckless. Sophie reached up and grabbed onto the handle in the door as Hélène took an abrupt right turn into a narrow back street.
“Shortcut,” the older woman calmly assured her. “Is that what you call it?”
Sophie nodded. Between the aggressive (or, some might say, assertive) way Hélène was driving and the nerves about making it to the station in time, Sophie could hardly keep herself in her seat. Part of that was how hard Hélène was taking the turns, but Sophie wanted nothing more than to make it to Tristan, to tell him…
Hélène pulled up with a screech in front of the station. “Go,” she said with a smile. “Go and catch my nephew. And take these.”
She handed Sophie a paper bag emblazoned with her shop logo. Sophie took it, nodded her head, and replied with a breathless: “Merci!”
And then, Sophie was off.
Gare de Lyon was a beautiful building, but she had no time to stop and appreciate it. Sophie dodged the slow-moving clusters of travelers as politely as possible, hoping that her presence and urgency inside a train station was enough explanation for her haste.
At the board of arrivals and departures, Sophie stopped. A few people pushed past her on their way to the kiosk beneath the sign, lining up to buy their travel snacks, pastries, and coffees. The arched glass ceiling overhead made all the sounds of the crowd echo around her, but all Sophie could hear was the fierce, insistent beating of her heart, urging her to go, to run, to find him. She caught her breath, scanning for Tristan’s train.
There: She found the train and saw it was close to its departure time.
All at once, she broke out into a run. Feet pounding against the marble, she scanned down the line of trains until she saw it: The track she’d been searching for and the teal and red train which awaited her, the train on which Tristan now was sitting.
He didn’t know she was coming.
The thought filled her with giddy joy. Sophie kept going. Then she was on the train, walking down the aisle, looking left and right for her seat. The moment she saw him, time stood still, and so did Sophie.
He was asleep.
Well… He was leaning back in his seat, eyes closed, headphones in his ears. She wasn’t sure if he was asleep or just listening, but either way, it was him. She’d made it.
Her heart pounded in her chest, every nerve alight with joy, pleasure, and rightness. It was something so simple, yet for the first time in months, years maybe, Sophie felt as if she’d done something brave and perfect. There was a soaring feeling inside her chest, a wonderful sense of freefall, openness, and potential…
And people were staring at her.
Sophie felt her face heat as she sat down in the seat beside Tristan. He stirred a little—perhaps he had been asleep or nearly there—and blinked at her. At first, his expression was almost neutral; only for a flash of a moment, Sophie saw the face of someone who had hoped that a stranger would not sit beside him on a long train ride. She wasn’t a stranger, though.
The moment he processed that it was her, really her, Tristan’s face lit up.
She gave him a little wave. “Hi. I—”
He closed the distance between them, capturing her words in an exultant kiss. Through the rush of her ears and the pounding of her heart, she heard a few of the people who’d been watching her laugh or clap. Sophie was too delighted to even be close to embarrassed. Tristan was her whole world, and everything had narrowed to a singular point of focus: His mouth on hers. And this moment suspended like a drop of pure sunlight, shared and created between them.
When they finally came up for breath, the train was moving. Sophie felt blissfully flustered, but although the kiss had felt as if it had lasted for an eternity, she knew it was not some excessive display. He hadn’t put his tongue down her throat or groped her. But still, there was promise in that kiss.
Their words were simple, but there was everything unspoken in their eyes. There was so much to say, yet nothing needed to be said. The train moved out of the station and into the sunlight, increasing speed as it went. Tristan clasped her hand in his, and a thrill went through Sophie’s body, radiating outward from that warm point of contact.
She wasn’t afraid.
For the first time in countless years, she wasn’t afraid of what the future might bring. The feeling reminded her of being a child when she used to climb to the very top of the massive oak tree in her neighbor’s backyard. Pushing herself to climb higher and higher, facing her fears, until, at last, she emerged at the top and surveyed the valley beyond. All the tops of the houses, the yards, and the gardens felt like they were miles away.
That was the same feeling, but bigger, so much bigger, and in her heart. In her very soul.
Whatever came next for them or for her, Sophie didn’t know. But she didn’t fear it, either. There was time, at last, to ease into a future where she was wholly herself. No more playing-dress up and hiding her feelings behind a veneer of frantic confidence and constantly playing catch-up. Life was too short for that.
There was time, at last, for love.
Tristan brought her hand up to kiss the back of it; Sophie had never smiled so wide in her life. The train traveled onward, outside the city and into the fields and little towns, and the sun shone down on all of it.