It’s Saturday, September 1st and Alexander Blackwell is at the vernissage of his exhibition at the bar “Les Artists” on rue Didot in the 14th District, at Metro Plaisance. In walks Kahina Zeroual, a 32-year-old, single, Parisienne Kabyle. She’s a fit, blue-eyed, black-haired beauty, and CFO of a French Multinational in the Cosmetics Industry. She’s admiring “Dos” a large nude painting of a woman’s back when Alex approaches her.
“Hi, I’m Alex. You like it?”
“Hi, Kahina. You’re the artist?”
“Very soft and sensual, I love the contrast between the dark hair and the light skin.”
“Just like yours Kahina. Interesting name, I haven’t heard it before.”
“I’m named after a famous Berber warrior queen.”
“Your name suits you; you look like an Amazon, a beautiful one.”
She’s direct and unabashed, her blue eyes gazing directly into his. “Did you sleep with her?”
“And what do you think?”
“I’m sure that you caressed this back before your brushes caressed the canvas.”
“Why do you think so?”
“I can see it in your eyes, you’re as transparent as a mountain stream.”
“I know, I can’t hide anything, I’m a terrible poker player!”
They both laugh and sit at a table together to get to know each other. The end of the evening finds them together in Kahina’s spacious 2-bedroom apartment. Alex is impressed, everything is in its place. It’s sparkling clean and in perfect order.
“Do you have a maid?”
“Yes, but she only comes from time to time when I call her. I manage to do most of the housework. It’s not hard.”
“You live alone?”
“Just now, yes. I had a flat-mate to share the rent, but she just moved to London. We work for the same company and she got a better opportunity there. So, I’m looking for a new flat-mate.”
Something pops into Alex’s mind; he doesn’t say anything but she sees it.
“You know someone who’s looking? It has to be a woman, and a non-smoker.”
“Not exactly. There’s a young Art student I know, Kimi, from the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana where I was born. She’s coming to Paris to see all the museums and she’s looking for short-term accommodation during her stay. My place is too small. I told her I’d keep an eye out.” Alex doesn’t mention that Kimi is a complete stranger, they are only friends on Myspace.
“You were born on a reservation? You don’t look like a Native American.”
“I’m not, my dad was a preacher on the reservation.”
“The son of a preacher-man.” (She sings it) “Let’s see if you can reach me.”
They spend the night and most of Sunday in Kahina’s bedroom.
When Alex gets back home on Sunday evening, he connects on chat with Kimi Morning Plume.
“Good news Kimi, I may have found a place for you to stay. It’s a room in a woman’s apartment.”
“That’s great! I’m arriving at the end of the week. My flight gets in at 6 pm on Friday, September 7th. Can you pick me up at the airport?”
“Sure. No problem. It’s incredible, I arrived in Paris on September 7th too, 24 years ago. I lived in a squat for my first month. It was a run-down hotel that was to be demolished, and I had a friend in Minneapolis who knew the man to see to get a key.” Alex likes to help people whenever he can. People have always helped him, and he’s grateful to whatever power it is that controls people’s destinies.
When Alexander picks Kimi up at the airport, they’ve already scheduled a visit to see Kahina on Saturday.
“Can I sleep at your place just for tonight?” Kimi is looking to save money.
“It really is too small, and I wouldn’t propose that you sleep with me.”
“Let’s go see it anyway.”
“OK, like you want, you’ll see.”
They take the elevator up to the 7th floor and go up the back staircase to his tiny apartment, and she’s taken aback. She couldn’t have imagined such a small room.
“I told you. Tell you what, I know a nice Hotel nearby that’s not too expensive.” Alex calls and there are rooms available so he books one for the night.
“I don’t have any Euros, only dollars. I didn’t get a chance to change my money at the airport.”
Alex is thinking No credit cards? But he doesn’t make a deal of it. “That’s OK, I’ll pay for it, you can pay me back later.” He wonders if she will but decides that he won’t count on it; that way he won’t be angry if she doesn’t.
Alex leaves Kimi at the hotel and gives her Kahina’s number and address, then heads over to Kahina’s place to spend the night. He’s still there when Kimi shows up on Saturday morning with her suitcase. After brief introductions, Kahina goes straight to the point.
‘I pay €3600 a month, so half of that is €1800. How long do you plan to stay in Paris?”
“Just ‘till the end of the month.”
“3 weeks. That’s €1350 if you want to stay here. There are rules; No smoking. No loud music. Clean-up after yourself, and buy your own food. There’s plenty of room in the fridge, and I’ll show you where you can buy groceries in the neighborhood.”
“Can you lower the price some? I don’t have a lot of money.”
“I’ll give you a week free, that makes €900. You won’t find a better deal. I won’t charge you anything for the water, electricity, insurance, and taxes that I have to pay.”
“OK, I guess that’s alright.”
“It’s settled then. Cash up-front.”
“I still have to get change for my dollars.”
“That’s alright, I’ll take dollars” she takes out her calculator. “That’s $1270, and you don’t even have to pay the currency exchange costs.”
“Can I use the bathroom? My cash is in my hidden money pouch.” Kimi comes back a few minutes later. “Here’s $1000, I’ll give you the rest later, OK?”
“Sure, let me show you your room.”
Everything seems to be settled so Alex bids them good day and goes home to paint. The next day Kimi is taking advantage of the “free Sundays” offered by most of the museums and is visiting the Musée D’Orsay, so Alex and Kahina have the apartment to themselves for a lovers’ tumble in the bedroom all day.
Friday evening Alex gets a call from Kahina.
“Hi Alex, I have to talk to you about your friend Kimi.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I’d like you to talk to her about a few things, so that we don’t end up fighting. Firstly, she hasn’t paid me the balance of €190 yet. But that’s not all. Every day she spends a half an hour under the shower and empties the water heater, so there’s no hot water for me. Next, she eats my food instead of buying her own, and on top of that she always leaves a big mess in the kitchen, and not only in the kitchen. She leaves dirty dishes and trash in the living room too. I’ve spoken to her about these things already, but it’s not sinking in. She just keeps it up like I haven’t said anything. I laid down the rules from the start, but she’s not respecting them.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to her. I think perhaps she’s just a bit immature, you know, she’s only 20, and young adults are often a bit irresponsible, like teenagers.”
“Well, she’ll have to grow up fast, because I won’t stand for it much longer. If she doesn’t shape up, she’ll find herself outside. I’ve been really patient, you see, I waited all week before telling you.”
“OK, don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” Alex is wondering if he hasn’t made a mistake. He calls Kimi and cheerfully, with all of the diplomacy he can manage (he’s a very direct person), he iterates what Kahina has already requested of her. He doesn’t want to sound like a strict old parent bitching out his child, and he’s sure that a friendly approach will be more effective. She agrees to abide by the rules of the house for the next two weeks and to pay the balance of her rent. Afterwards they talk a long time about their common passion and what she had seen the Sunday before, as Alex loves to spend time in the Musée D’Orsay, especially for the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
Sunday finds the lovers in the apartment and Kimi in the Louvre. Kahina is happy.
“Thanks for talking to Kimi. It seems like she listened to you. She paid the rest of the rent and yesterday she followed the rules of the house for the first time. She even left me hot water to shower for once!” They both laugh.
“I’m glad it’s working. I was worried that she was becoming a hassle for you. I wouldn’t want that.” Alex is proud like a father would be after effectively dealing with a teenage child.
His satisfaction doesn’t last long though. Thursday, he gets another call, it’s Kimi. She’s crying and says that Kahina threw her out. She put all of her things in a heap outside the door and took the keys back. She’s locked out. She doesn’t know where to go or what to do. Alex calls Kahina to try to fix things.
“Kahina love, Kimi says you threw her out.”
Kahina’s voice is crisped with anger. “I’m a fair person, I gave her back €600, that’s the 10 days’ rent till the end of the month. I was patient again. You know, Monday everything was just like before. What’s worse, yesterday she smoked hash in the apartment! Cigarettes are bad enough, but that was the limit. I’m sorry.”
“I understand. You have a right to be angry.”
“You bet I do!”
Alex calls around and finds a place for Kimi to stay with Luke, an old friend, a Reggae musician he met when he worked in the Music Industry. The guy is laid back and a good person, but extremely untidy. He doesn’t charge Kimi anything. Alexander meets Kimi and takes her to her new digs. Hardly a word is exchanged. Kimi feels that Alex is responsible for her misfortune and Alex sees it the other way around. Finaly Kimi hits it off well with Luke.
It’s the end of the road for Alexander and Kahina. She doesn’t want to see him anymore.