Now she sits on the bench, trying not to look at them too closely, beyond the simple spectacle of them, their shimmering surfaces. She does not want to think about what they mean.
‘Meet me at the Pont des Arts,’ she had said to him. Nothing more.
Perhaps there was something in her voice.
‘I’ll be twenty minutes,’ he’d said.
She sees him coming from the Musée du Louvre, his blue shirt becoming more vivid as he gets closer. He is wearing khaki-coloured trousers and she thinks, with a pang, how much she loves the sight of him. How familiar his shape is to her, even after such a short time. She looks at his soft, ruffled hair, and the planes of his face, and the way his walk always has a touch of impatience, as if he’s keen to get to the next thing. And then she sees that over his shoulder he has the leather bag in which he carries his plans.
What have I done?
He doesn’t smile as he approaches, even though it’s clear he has seen her. He walks up to her, slowing his pace, then drops his bag and sits down beside her.
They are silent for some minutes, watching the tourist boats glide past.
And finally Liv says, ‘I can’t do this.’
She looks down the route of the Seine, squinting at the people who, even now, are stooping to examine the padlocks.
‘I think we’ve made the most awful mistake. I’ve made a mistake.’
‘I know I’m impulsive. I see now we should have slowed things down. We should have … got to know each other a little better. So I’ve been thinking. It’s not like we had a big wedding, or anything. It’s not like all our friends even know. We can just … . We can just pretend like it didn’t happen. We’re both young.’
‘What are you talking about, Liv?’
She looks at him. ‘David – it all became clear as you walked towards me. You brought your plans with you.’
The smallest flinch. But she sees it.
‘You knew you were going to meet the Goldsteins. You packed your bag of plans and you brought it on your honeymoon.’
He looks down at his feet. ‘I didn’t know. I hoped.’
‘And that’s supposed to make it better?’
They are silent again. David leans forward, clasping his hands together above his knees. Then he looks sideways at her, his face troubled. ‘I love you, Liv. Don’t you love me any more?’
‘Yes. So much. But I can’t … I can’t do this. I can’t be the woman this makes me.’
He shakes his head. ‘I don’t understand. This is crazy. I was only gone for a couple of hours.’
‘It’s not about the couple of hours. This was our honeymoon. It’s a template for how we’re going to be.’
‘How is a honeymoon ever a template for a marriage? Most people go and lie on a beach for two weeks, for Christ’s sake. You think that’s how the rest of their lives is going to run?’
‘Don’t twist my words! You know what I mean. This is meant to be the one time you –’
‘It’s just this building –’
‘Oh, this building. This building. This f**king building. There’s always going to be a building, isn’t there?’
‘No. This is special. They –’
‘They want you to meet them again.’
He lets out a breath, and his jaw tightens. ‘It’s not a meeting as such,’ he says. ‘It’s lunch. Tomorrow. At one of Paris’s best restaurants. And you’re invited too.’
She would laugh if she wasn’t so close to tears. When she finally speaks, her voice is oddly calm. ‘I’m sorry, David. I’m not even blaming you for this. It’s my own fault. I was so besotted with you that I couldn’t see beyond it. I couldn’t see that being married to someone who was so consumed by his work would make me …’ Her voice thickens.
‘Make you what? I still love you, Liv. I don’t understand.’
She rubs her eyes. ‘I’m not explaining myself very well. Look … come with me. I want to show you something.’
It’s a short walk back to the Musée d’Orsay. The queue has died down and they move forward in silence for the ten minutes it takes to gain entry. She is acutely conscious of him beside her, of the new awkwardness between them. A little part of her still cannot believe that this is how her honeymoon is ending.
She summons the lift, confident of where she is headed this time, and David follows. They walk through the rooms of Impressionists on the top floor, dodging the clumps of people who stand and stare. Another school party sits in front of Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the same enthusiastic attendant talks them through the scandal of the naked woman. She thinks how ironic it is that she now has her husband here, where she had wanted him this morning, and it is too late. It is all too late.
And eventually there they are, in front of the little picture.
She looks at it, and he steps forward.
‘“Wife, out of sorts”,’ he reads. ‘“By Édouard Lefèvre”.’ He studies it for a moment, then turns to her, waiting for an explanation.
‘So … I saw it this morning … this miserable, neglected wife. And it just hit me. That’s not how I want to be. I felt suddenly as if the whole of our marriage was going to be like this – me wanting your attention, and you not being able to give it. And it scared me.’
‘Our marriage isn’t going to be like that.’
‘I don’t want to be a wife who feels ignored, even on her honeymoon.’
‘I wasn’t ignoring you, Liv –’
‘But you made me feel unimportant, and on the one occasion I might have reasonably expected you to just enjoy us being together, to just want to be with me.’ Her voice lifts, becomes impassioned. ‘I wanted to stroll around the little bars of Paris and sit down and drink glasses of wine for no reason, my hand in yours. I wanted to hear about who you were before we met, and what you wanted. I wanted to tell you all the things I’d planned for our life together. I wanted to have lots of sex. Lots of sex. I didn’t want to walk around galleries alone and have coffee with men I don’t even know – just to kill time.’
She can’t help but be a tiny bit gratified by his sharp sideways look.
‘And when I saw this painting it all made sense to me. This is me, David. This is how I will be. This is what’s going to happen. Because, even now, you can’t see that there’s anything wrong in spending two days – three days – of a five-day honeymoon pitching for business to a couple of rich businessmen.’