Hail and Farewell to Paris

La Fin

The sun was beginning to set in the Venetian sky, grey shadows bled into darkness as I followed the three Armstrong men down the twisting brick streets. My heels began to stick in the grouting of the cobbles, my legs ached and I started to wonder where on earth we we’re going. Billie turned, flashing green eyes at me, his body hung back and he held his fingers open for me to take his hand.
‘Where are we going?”
Billie winked, his hand closing over my own. His cologne hit my nostrils and the muscles around my face bent into a smile.
“Not far now” He breathed.
My neck craned to see down the smaller alley the boys had led us to. Off the cobbles and over a bridge, flashes of light appeared in crooked windows of the houses we passed.
My mind was moving a mile a minute. Where on earth was this restaurant?
“We’re here!” Joe yelled and I looked up from my sore feet to see an ancient wooden door with soft tongues of light streaming through the gap in the hinge. Mike was waiting outside of it in a suit, wrists folded in front of his crotch, a smile curving into his face.
I froze,
“Billie? What?”
The door was hidden in an old brick wall. We had come to a dead end but the architecture around us enveloped and curved so high it was impossible to see what this door actually led to.
“Is this the restaurant?”
Jacob took up my other hand and tugged.
“Come and see”
Mike pushed his palm outwards and pulled the great heavy wood forward with a creak. I gasped.
A tiny church, so small the door opened practically onto the marble altar. Two old wooden pews waited at the foot of the marble and a priest in gold robes stood in between them, a small smile under his old crooked nose. He had a warm face and thin glasses.
My neck snapped back at Billie who let go of my hand.
“What do you say babe?”
I turned to Mike, all of the men where smiling at me.
My eyes followed the streams of candlelight behind the altar. My eyes couldn’t focus, was he actually wanting us to get married now?
“Welcome Ava, this is the oldest and smallest church in Venice” the priest grinned at me. Silence echoed in the tiny carved space.
A small breeze whipped around my legs as Mike slowly closed the mighty door.
“It’s, it’s just a blessing Ava – it’s not legal because we’re not Italian or because obviously we didn’t have the foresight to get a license in advance”
I smiled at Billie’s panicked eyes and felt my hand for my enormous engagement ring. I was ready.
My heart hammered in my chest I can’t believe they had all arranged this.
“Let’s get blessed,” I whispered
He threaded his fingers in my own and pulled me close to him. Our lips crashed together and before I knew it, two boys and a bassist were seated and Billie and I were staring in each other’s eyes as a priest spoke quickly in Italian. I had no idea what he was saying but my heart fluttered.
I looked around the church, the beautiful ancient paintings of saints that sat dripping in gold and staring back at Billie and I. They hung on the ceiling and across each wall and I briefly wondered how many people over the centuries they had seen exchange vows, kisses and tears.
I looked back at those green eyes. They shone at me with such hope.
Brilliant and jeweled they sent a warm ocean across my skin.
A cough erupted and our heads both snapped back around to the priest.
“Your vows Mr. Armstrong”
Billie shook his head smiling,
“Oh, god, oh, yeah sorry…”
He turned back to me and curved his lips round his teeth,
“Ava… beautiful Ava”
He pulled me closer to him and my eyelids closed slowly, focusing on his perfect chiseled face that was framed so perfectly with his black hair.
“Where do I start?”
He blinked and took in a quick breath.
“Would it be appropriate to start with Baudelaire?”
He liked his lips slowly,
“Even when she walks one would believe that she dances”
My grin matched his own. Baudelaire.
Of course. His nose crinkled and he continued, he knew I was melting at this.
“Strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty…”
My heart started to thud again, more Baudelaire. I made a mental note to thank Mike later.
“And your strangeness to me baby is that you are beautiful, smart, kind, caring and loyal. You’re my everything and I love you and I promise I will love you as long as I live.”
My whole soul swelled. His eyes met mine again, in a challenge. I met them fiercely back with my watery brown ones.
The priest coughed again and I snapped out of my trance and turned to him.
“Your vows Ava?”
I coughed, I was too busy staring at the wonderful man in front of me and trying not to melt in a puddle. Oh God what was I going to say? My mouth turned dry, Billie’s face fell slightly as he waited for my response.
“Billie, my beautiful Billie, where do I start? Billie… you are the best thing that has ever happened to me, you make me want to be the best person I can be. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have met you. You’re amazing and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life loving you.”
Billie’s eyes flashed at me and I could see the clouds of black lust rising behind his pupils. He reached forwards to grab my face…
I turned, my heart plummeted and my face fell, I saw Mike rushing over, oh god what?
“The ring! The ring” He gasped handing Billie a black box. Billie giggled and my chest relaxed.
“Of course.” The priest giggled as Billie slid the ring onto my finger. It was a brilliant gold band that sat beautifully underneath my engagement ring. Billie kissed my hand and bit his bottom lip.
My stomach tossed. This man was mine. He was really mine.
After everything.
I couldn’t believe it.
The priest said something in Italian and we both looked at him confused.
He smiled and turned his head at both of us.
“Ava…Billie…You’re marriage is blessed”
Before I knew it Billie had grabbed my head and had pushed his lips against my own. My stomach flipped as he kissed me deeper.
Mike, Joe and Jacob started clapping.
Billie brushed his nose softly against mine.
“I love you” he whispered.
“I love you too” I mouthed back taking Joe in my arms as Billie brought Jacob into his.
“Let’s go and eat!” Jacob called out as we all laughed and left the church in a giant joyous tumble.
We were one step closer to man and wife and it was the best feeling in the world.

Incense filled winds crept through the open window. It was nearly morning.
Warm fingers traced across my collarbone.
“Oh God I cannot wait to marry you Ava”
Billie sent tiny kisses up my neck and I let out a small moan.
“I cannot wait to marry you either” I whispered back.
I felt so content, so perfect, so in love. We had barely been able to keep our hands off each other.
Together, here in this giant bed felt like home. Never mind Paris, never mind Charles or what anyone else may think of me or of our relationship, he was my home and I was his. We fitted together like missing pieces and I knew we would be together forever.
This was a love that most people can only dream of.
This was true and beautiful and everlasting love.
His smell, his voice, his hands across my bare skin was the only thing that I ever needed.
He was my new poetry.
My new art.