“And still I dream he'll come to me, that we will live the years together. But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather.”
A cool whisper of air came through the vent below Colette’s feet as she stumbled over the rattling floorboards. They were tile, with cracks and broken bits plastered back into place many times over the years. Beige stains were strewn about the floorboards and walls, possibly from the messes that had emerged in the tiny apartment over the years, or possibly from some old artist who thought they were being clever by making it purposefully marbled with the ugly shade of yellow.
Sighing, Colette reached towards the small window in the corner of the kitchen to quickly slide it open and prop it up with a bowl she kept there for that very purpose. Gradually, she exhaled a breath she had been keeping in for the entire morning. After all, it was Christmas Day, which meant yet another dream came to her that night.
The window showed the old Notre Dame cathedral in it’s misshapen, burnt remains, something that had lowered the cost of the apartment significantly. If Colette wanted to sell her apartment, though, she’d have to wait until it was rebuilt. Not that she wanted to, anyway. It was tiny, cramped, and not particularly aesthetic despite the beautiful city it was located in, but without that apartment, the dreams would stop.
And Colette didn’t want that. No, she wanted to stick with those dreams as long as she could. It was her little secret, and there was no way she was going to give it up.
Last night’s dream was different, however. Unlike the others, it started with the man. He fumbled with the ring in his pocket as he walked down the streets of Paris, passing by the beautiful buildings to admire the architecture and style. There was a certain stride in his step, the same stride that all the men in the dreams had. He was about to propose, after all. And knowing herself, Colette knew he knew she’d say yes.
She always said yes.
The man walked into a flower shop to his right, and came out with a bouquet of red roses. Cliche, but still pretty. He grinned and told the shopkeeper they were perfect, smiling from ear to ear. Then, he jumped into a taxi, telling the driver all about Colette.
Except, this wasn’t Colette. At least, not the same Colette who lived in twenty nineteen with her dirty apartment and poor ventilation system. This was some other Colette. She was never the same person, but she always got engaged in the same city, by the same apartment. She never lived in the same time period as Colette, but she had the same flaws. The same eagerness to rush into things, the same desire for romance and the great city of Paris.
After last night, there were five of her, each with different names and backgrounds. This one was named Azelie, and she wore a grey scarf around her neck with a maroon hat, despite the spring weather. She pulled a flip phone out of her matching maroon jacket pocket while the wind whipped her hair to and fro. After dialing a number in, she excitedly spoke.
“Jules!” she said, her blue eyes radiating brightness. “Are you almost here?”
The man stepped out of the cab, holding his phone to his ear. “Right here, darling,” he replied, putting the phone back in his pocket. The woman ran to the cab and hugged him, right as he began to get on his knee. Behind the two was a perfect view of the cathedral, it’s luminous golden lights shining, even in the day. It was Christmas Eve, after all, so why not bring some cheeriness? It was perfect for the young couple, exactly what Colette would have liked if she were Azelie.
Azelie was young, in her mid twenties. She was headstrong and brave, but Jules brought out a gentler side of her. She loved him with all her heart, something clear to Colette from her outside view of the dream. She was his Azzie, and he would always love her, until the day of his death.
The dreams always switched to the lowlight of their lives right after the proposal. Azzie’s happy grin turned dark and dreary as her surroundings grew into a toned grey. She was wearing all black as she stared down at her feat, sniffing back tears. “I’m sorry, Jules,” she whispered at the grave in front of her, grey like the skies. “I should have protected you.”
She placed a red rose on his grave, and walked forward, towards the gentle horizon, the great cathedral in the background. This was where her happy life went dark. When her Jules was taken from her by the darkness that haunted her dreams.
That was the end of Azelie and Jules’s story, but there were still four more lives. Four more couples lost in time, four couples Colette could see only on Christmas Eve.
Colette sighed again, as she shifted through the pots and pans on the shelf in front of her. It was about dinner time, and she had hardly started cooking. Remembering a quick omelette recipe, she went to the fridge to find eggs, contemplating Azzie’s story. Not all of the dreams ended tragically, but most did. It made Colette wonder sometimes - was it some sort of hint? Someone trying to warn her against love, or against that apartment? Against Paris?
But no, she wouldn’t move, nor would she stop looking for love. It was part of who she was, and that showed through each life she led in the dreams. Cracking the eggs into a small metal bowl, she thought about the dream the year before.
Adela reminded her a lot of Azelie, and a lot of herself, as well, though Pierre was nothing like Jules. While Jules loved Azelie with all his heart, Pierre was noble and fierce, like Azzie liked to show herself as. He decided he wanted to marry Adela, and so that was that. Off they went to the wedding, the bells clinging in the background, right behind the cathedral, the same spot where they got engaged. Pierre said his vows, and Adela somberly nodded and whispered out her own, wishing her life were different. Colette didn’t know if she loved Pierre. Perhaps she did, and just wasn’t ready to commit to marriage. But still, she was never happy with him, not when there was always the itching in her mind to leave and live her life.
As always, the dream switched back to her lowest point, showing Adela struggling with Pierre years after the wedding, wanting to move out of the city of light while he stood firm in his footsteps. Colette tossed around in her sleep that night, thinking about Adela the the life she lived alone afterwards, missing the life she had while still never really getting what she wanted. It was a sad tale, even if Azzie’s was probably considered sadder. She never got her happy ending after the trials she faced. Colette hoped she someday would.
And then there was Corinne. Oh, Corinne. How could she forget her, with her bouncy curls and prideful gaze? She was everything Colette wished she could be at times, and everything she hated about herself at others. She was just her, and that was that. Of course, she would never accept that, but it was the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. It hurts when we get married to a man we know we’ll never love, and it hurts when we stick by his side forever, even if we want to let go. It hurts when we tell ourselves that we can be ourselves, but never let that happen.
It hurts to be Corinne, which means it hurts to be Colette, too, because every life was just a little bit different, highlighting each individual quality in such a complex way. Corinne’s story might have been similar to Adela’s, but it was almost an alternate version of it. While Adela was kind and gentle, Corinne was fierce and tough. And yet, Adela was the one to let herself go when she needed to, and Corinne couldn’t do herself any favors.
Perhaps it was just the time. The dreams were always hazy on the time periods, but there would be hints and clues. Corinne could have ended up someone’s great grandmother, if she didn’t end up dying early on in life. But alas, her life ended before she could ever let herself go.
Colette sighed, adding a pinch of chives to her cracked egg mixture, along with a few tablespoons of milk, just to amp up the creaminess. It wasn’t traditional, but neither was she, especially not as her second life, Genevieve.
Genevieve was wild and different, ahead of her time with her fierce eyes and intense feelings. She always had something to say, but usually regretted it. Marriage was something she never really thought about, but when Anton got on his knee right in front of her favorite building in all Paris, how could she say no? It was just perfect.
But, of course, it wasn’t perfect. Not when Anton kept his secrets and left her to cry alone at night scared, but wondering what could possibly have gone wrong with such a perfect situation. Not when she found him with Cecilie, or when she weeped out tears of pain in front of the two of them, even though she’d still be sticking by Anton’s side without a choice either way. The opinionated Genevieve had grown to be scared and distant, something Colette knew she still held, even four lives later.
Holding her breath, Colette slowly flipped the omelette, letting it fly through the air before finally hitting the pan again, a swizzle of smoke coming down onto the eggs as it toasted. The smell of chives and eggs wavered through the open window into the streets, following around the wind until it finally stopped at the old cathedral, burnt to a crisp. Sighing, Colette stared out the window, wondering how they would ever be able to fix it. She knew that there was a good likelihood it would stay that way for a long while, but she still hoped for her own sake that it would rise again.
Maybe it was just because she loved her view. Maybe it was because of her first life, Leane, who had been hiding out in the crypt underneath the grand cathedral when she was proposed to during a war, though the dream didn’t show which one. Maybe it was because each and every life had a connection to the cathedral, whether it was positive or negative, which meant Colette did, too.
Perhaps the fire was a hint of some sort, just like the dreams. A hint that she should leave the city while she still could, that she should sell her apartment and move somewhere where she wouldn’t be doomed at romance. A hint that a single girl had no place in the city of love, whether she liked it or not.
Perhaps the dreams were a message, but Colette would still stick with them. Because they held the truth about her life, but also because she loved the stories. Perhaps her man would never come for her, and she’d never have that perfect proposal by the cathedral. Or perhaps he would, but she’d know what to do from her past lives mistakes. Either way, the dreams were helping her, and that was all she could hope for.
By this point, the omelette was just as burnt as the cathedral. Sighing, Colette went to throw it away and start on another breakfast.