Angéle is French.
She was transferred to our Seattle office for twelve weeks as a liaison between our teams.
We are shivering on a bench in a gazebo. It is forty degrees and raining. White paint peels off the grey wood of the bannister. Figures on the path form as they approach, then are lost in the rain as they move away.
I kissed Angéle for the first time in the alley behind an Irish pub. We were both incredibly drunk.
That was two weeks ago.
She goes home today.
We sit in the gazebo and I try to memorize her profile. The perfect curve of her skull under long black hair, the slant of her smile, the shape of her nose; the swirls in her ears, the freckle on her lip.
“Je t’aime,” she says, breaking the silence like the the crack of an egg. Her voice is soft, barely audible. She thinks I still can’t understand the words she would whisper as she fell asleep in my arms.
She becomes self-conscious and pulls her collar around her face, giggling.
I look at my shoes. For a moment we are awkward as teenagers.
She would join us after work for drinks. At first we sat on opposite sides of the table. As the weeks progressed the number of people between us shrunk, until we were sitting side-by-side.
We left our friends at the bar for a five-minute smoke break.
We must have been out there an hour.
“That should’ve have happened,” she had said.
“I am married.”
Angéle would come over to the efficiency apartment I’d been renting since I moved out and cook us dinner. We would have some wine and watch an old movie, curled up against each other. We would make love.
“I wish it could be like this always,” I would say.
“I have a husband.”
“I made a vow.”
“And I have two children.”
I want to say goodbye, but it feels like dying. I want to say I love her too, but what would be the point?
We don’t speak. There is nothing left to say.
One night she asked me if I loved my wife.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Do you love your husband?”
“Je ne sais pas.”
She stands and I start to say something stupid, but she presses a finger to my lips.
“Partir c’est mourir un peu,” she says looking into my eyes one last time. She kisses my forehead.
And then she is gone, another figure lost in the rain.