Michelle was reading a very interesting but strange book. The room suddenly tilted to one side and the people poured out was the first line which had grabbed her attention and made her want to read it. She was there at the museum reading it while waiting for her friend, Alison who promised that she would be there in half-hour.
It was quiet in the room whose walls were lined with beautiful water color paintings. She liked being there. It was better than being in the library. Very few people were there, probably because it was during the week and just after four in the afternoon. She had left the university’s campus about a half-hour ago to come here. It was a Friday so she only had three classes that day which was why she liked Fridays best. All the other days she didn’t leave campus until after 5 just in time for the rush hour which she dreaded. It was awful riding in crowded buses and trains. Not for the first time, she wished that the university was within walking distance of where she lived although it wouldn’t have been a pleasant walk during the cold winter months.
Maybe, she should wait until the rush hour was over and then, head home. She could always hang out
She glanced up and saw a tall and very well dressed man standing in front of one of the paintings. Her book forgotten, she watched him with great interest. Was he married and had a a family or was he single? Did he come here often or was this his first visit? Why was he here at this hour of the day? Didn’t he have a job or were his work hours different from the average? Perhaps, he was his own boss and therefore, kept his own hours.
Suddenly, he turned around and faced her. For several minutes, they stared at each other. He was very handsome, she thought. He wore an expensive looking suit and coat. She wondered what his background was. He looked middle-Eastern and in his late thirties, early forties.
Her heart skipped a beat when he started walking towards her. Be cool, she coached herself. When he was standing in front of her, he seemed very tall and this close even more attractive. He had dark brown eyes which studied her upturned face which felt hot. “I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said quietly. His accent was unmistakably French.
“No, you’re not disturbing me,” she quickly assured him. Easy now. Don’t get too excited.
“Do you mind if I sit here beside you for a while?”
“No, I don’t mind at all.” She closed her book and put her knapsack on the floor beside her so that he could sit down.
He sat down. “I like coming here, especially after a busy day,” he said. “It’s quiet. I can relax and think here.”
“I like coming here too.”
“I come here for the Art too. Do you like Art?”
“Yes, I do. Especially Baroque and Classicism.”
“I like those too as well as Impressionism and Neoclassicism.”
“What about Rococo?”
“That too. Although it’s a secular style and was primarily used for interiors of private residences the Rococo had a spiritual aspect to it which is why you would find it in churches. I have a few private collections of that style.”
“What I like is when you look up at the ceiling and see a painting which gives the impression that you’re looking up at the sky where cherubs and other figures were gazing down at you.”
He smiled. “Yes, that’s very impressive.”
“What else do you like besides Art?”
“I enjoy reading. What’s that you’re reading?”
She showed him the cover. “A friend lent it to me.”
“Is it good?”
“It’s a strange book but very interesting.”
“I have a large collection of books many of which I haven’t read as yet. I make a point of reading one each week until I have read them all.”
She smiled. “That’s a lot of reading.”
“Yes. What’s your name?”
“Baasil. Are you in high-school or university?”
“University. I have two more years.”
“King’s College London.”
“What are you studying?”
“Physiology.” He looked and sounded very impressed.
“What kind of work do you do?” Michelle asked.
“Have you ever heard of le Lion Marocain?”
“The Moroccan Lion restaurant?” She went there once with her parents and loved the food.
“Yes. I’m its owner.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
“I read recently that you’ve opened another one in Paris.”
“Yes. I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant in Paris.”
“Is that where you’re from?”
“No. I’m from Rabat, Morocco.”
“Morocco is known for the Sahara Desert, its mint tea and pastries and tagine.”
He smiled again. “Yes, it is. Perhaps, you will visit Morocco one of these days.”
“Perhaps.” She was about to ask him how long he had been living in London, when his cell phone rang.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I must take this call.” He excused himself and got up.
Michelle watched him as he walked over to the painting and stood with his back turned to her as he talked on the phone. Probably a business call, she thought to herself. She hadn’t noticed a wedding ring on his hand when he held the phone up to his ear. Hopefully, he wasn’t engaged or in a relationship. Don’t kid yourself, she chastened herself. A man like him wouldn’t be interested in a university student. He was just being friendly–nothing more. So, don’t go getting any ideas.
He ended his call and turned around. For a moment, he stood there in front of the painting, watching her before he rejoined her. Instead of resuming his seat beside her, he remained standing. “I’m sorry but, I’ve to go now,” he said apologetically.
“It’s all right,” she said with a smile although she was extremely disappointed.
“It was really nice meeting you, Michelle.”
“It was nice meeting you too.”
He reached into his breast pocket and removing his wallet, he took out what looked like a business card which he handed to her. “Perhaps we can meet and talk again about Art, books and other interesting things,” he said. “Here’s my card.”
She took it from him and after looking at it, delighted that he had given it to her. “Thank you.”
“Goodbye,” he said with a smile.
He turned and walked away, a tall, elegant figure. Michelle watched him until he disappeared from view. She looked at his card again before she put it in her wallet. The book sat closed on her lap. She couldn’t read it now. There was no way she would be able to concentrate. She was too excited. All she could think about was seeing Baasil again.