Noah took his packed basket back from the clerk, opened the lid, and looked inside, obviously pleased with what he saw. He snapped the lid shut, and paid the exorbitant amount asked without a blink.
"What's in there?" Paula asked, unable to hide how appalled she was at the price. "Pheasant?"
"I hope so," he said, a man accustomed, apparently, to eating pheasant. For a moment she wondered what Isabella and Emil would think about eating pheasant.
She was keeping the most important part of her life secret, and suddenly it felt wrong. But again, she told herself it was just for a day. Her old life would be waiting for her soon enough.
With him pretending to stagger under the weight of his purchases, they finished the walk through Copenhagen to the park, and spread out their blanket on the lush green grass overlooking the Little Mermaid statue perched at the edge of the harbor.
"Tell me about the statue," Noah said, as he unpacked the lunch. It was a feast of cold cuts, exquisite cheeses, baguettes and delectable pastries.
So, she told him about the Little Mermaid and about Hans Christian Andersen. She told him both versions of the story, the most recent Disney one, and the much darker original.
The original might be trying to give her a message about the hazards of falling for a prince, because it did not have a happy ending, but it was so easy for that message to be ignored with the bright sunshine dancing around them, the delicious food, and the wine adding even more glow to the afternoon.
With a little coaxing, stretched out on the blanket, his head in her lap, Noah told her about himself. He was everything he appeared to be. In his early twenties, with a master's degree in business, he had gone traveling and been appalled by the plastic in the world's waterways. He'd created a way to collect and repurpose it, his company making everything from tote bags to, most recently, furniture. Now, he was selling the technology globally.
"Do what you love and love what you do," he said, his eyes closing, "and you'll never work a day in your life, though I have to say it's a long time since I have felt this relaxed."
Paula contemplated the luxury of being able to say words like that. Still, she felt as relaxed as he appeared to be, like a part of the wonderful flow of life. As he snoozed on her lap, she ran her hands through his hair, and looked with wonder at the thickness of his sooty lashes. She felt as if they were like all the other young couples in the park, just enjoying each other and the most gorgeous summer day.
Paula thought about how she had come in to those concert tickets, those three young women who had come to the tea stand. They had rescued that older woman—Viv—who had hurt her ankle and lost her silly dog, dressed in his sailor suit. They had decided to help that woman instead of going to the concert.
She remembered their names: Jessica, Daisy and Aubrey, but mostly she remembered being so envious of the magic that had danced in the air around them all. Their lives had seemed, not just carefree, but ripe with possibilities and opportunities for adventure.
Now as Paula remembered Viv's searing I-can-see-your-soul gaze resting on her, she felt as if she had been sprinkled with her fairy dust.
And she felt herself wishing that magic would never end.
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