Esmeralda hurried her steps as the chimes from Notre Dame rang out. Late, again! The stone bridge, Pont Neuf, created a beautiful backdrop to her city of love. She waved both her arms spotting the one man in the world who held her attention captive every day.
“Hey, Beautiful! You’re late,” Adam called out from the center of the bridge.
“Surely, that doesn’t surprise you,” Esmeralda quipped.
“No, but you owe me a twirl.”
It was their way. Whenever she caused his ire to rise, he made her twirl, so she would unwind the behavior. Undoing karma they called it. Esmeralda twirled. The skirt flared exposing her upper thighs. His smile said everything.
Her tall black boots clicked on the cobblestone of the bridge as she wandered toward him. She smiled and winked and twirled one more time falling into his waiting arms. Even then she wondered if this brought back bad karma. But she forgot all when they kissed as others commented and whistled.
“So, you ready to lock our love for all time?” Esmeralda asked.
“As is the tradition. You know it has worked for three generations in my family. I know it’ll work for us,” he said pulling her toward him as he brushed her hair from her face.
He opened a red lock and removed the key. Handing her the lock he said, “You do the honors.”
They lock-stepped across the bridge to the chain-link fence which held thousands of locks. She laughed and pulled her hair back from the winds that were blowing fall leaves around in swirls.
“Look, the leaves like to chase each other too,” Esmeralda said.
“I love you,” he said. He showed her the key and winked. “Locking you up is my lucky day.”
“Com’ on romance man let’s make this engagement official and get back home before the storm.”
She looked for a spot and found one thigh-high on the fence. It would be their spot. She slid the lock onto the fence. They kissed. The wind blew her hair around his face like they were kissing in a secret tent of their own. As the bell peeled the half-hour, both their hands clicked the lock shut. He counted one, two, three, and threw the key into the River Seine.
“Never will our love be unlocked,” he winked, and she put her hand on her stomach to calm the butterflies. He kissed her forehead and grabbed her hand. He went to one knee and looked up into her eyes. "I know I've already asked and you've already accepted. But knowing all the good and bad and lateness I know I want you in my life. Will you, my Esmeralda marry me despite all my many flaws?"
She smiled. "Flaws? You have flaws?" He looked at her with a raised eyebrow waiting on her answer. She laughed. "Yes, I will marry you, and each day I will say yes to us."
He stood and they kissed until her teeth chattered in the brisk fall air.
"Just had to make sure I didn't have to swim after that key." She rolled her eyes and shook her head then gathered his hand in hers. They started out until her skirt pulled. Caught in the lock the hem of her skirt caused her to let out a small yelp.
“Bad karma with that extra twirl?” she wondered aloud.
“Only one way,” he said. He grabbed the seam and ripped the skirt's seam. “Twirl,” he said. She did. After a moment, he handed her his sweater. In the tradition of French fashion and unique thinking, she stepped inside the neck opening of the still Adam-warm sweater. "Fascinating," he said, watching a bit to close. She shimmied pulling the neckline to her waist and raising the sweater's arms tied them in the front. The sweater fell too long for his liking but it did solve the no skirt issue. "Twirl," she said, no more locking skirts in locks. She smiled a wicked smile.
"No skirts, but yours shall I every lock up," he said, turning slowly once.
The rain began to stain the cobblestone with large dark blots. "Hurry!" said Esmeralda as ran her heels clacking echoing as his steps assured her he was right there behind her. The crossed a nearby side street and went down an alley behind many small eateries. It would be a short cut to his loft. A truck blocked the alley and men were tossing bags of sugar from the raised back to a wooden lift. Other men pulled the lift up to the second story and through a raised garage door unloaded the sugar in the upstairs storage room. "We can get through, yes?" asked Esmeralda.
"I don't think they'll stop us, especially with the rain coming." Esmeralda came to a complete stop her arms swung wide open like a gate to stop him from going through. She looked with wonderment as loose sugar from the wooden slats rained down like blizzard snow. Adam looked at her. "Sugar or rain?"
"Sugar!" she exclaimed, running into the sugar snow. Mid-way he grabbed her from behind, catching her by the borrowed sweater. He brought her playful complaining face toward his and there as sugar turned them a sweet white they kissed.
"Move along!" a foreman yelled as his workers stopped to whoop and whistle. Laughing they ran to the end of the alley.
"Wait," he called. "Before you go inside I want to remember you in white hair when I have white hair." They took a silly selfie of the two of them.
"I wonder how we will ever get all this sugar off us," she pretended to be befuddled.
"You naughty girl," he said, and licked her neck. She twirled out of his grasp and ran through the door and up the stairs to his apartment. Glad to hear his eager jingling of door keys right behind her.
Perhaps, that final twirl brought back the good karma. Because until death parted them, they remembered the laughter, the fast clicks of her heels, and the clacks of his shoes as they ran, mostly dressed, toward shelter from the storm. From that day on, that photo sat on a mantle waiting for their hair to match again. They never forgot to choose each other every day nor the sweet taste of sugar on salty skin nor how loud and long the bells of Notre Dame could ring.