Hello all! This week is another piece of fiction I've been working on: an excerpt from a short story I'm writing called "Paris After Twenty". Hope you guys enjoy!
Maxwell Morrison sat silent, although silence for him was a rarity reserved for when he was alone and had no one to listen. Had someone bothered to sit across from him, Max surely would have taken the opportunity to break the silence and chew the ear off the unsuspecting stranger who walked into his Venus flytrap of human noise. But, he was in Paris, after all, and he spoke not one lick of French. So he waited for the company he was expecting all along and smoked away on a heavy Cuban cigar. Gotta love France, he thought, they let me smoke.
In all honesty, Max didn't know who exactly he was waiting for. No, that's not accurate, is it? Max knew their names, their appearance, he knew their families and the dreams they had shared with him. But time takes a toll on anyone, for better or for worse, and Max hadn't seen his expected company, save one or two, in quite some time. Of course, Max merely had to feel the hitch in his right leg that had pestered him for the last twenty years to know what time can do to a man.
A waitress at the hotel café came over with a fresh latte and Max thanked the pretty blonde with what little French he knew. He quit caffeine over a thousand times and returned to the vice twice as many. There are worse things to be addicted to, he liked to tell people who questioned his consumption once his hands started jittering and tapping against the wooden table.
By the time the first of his expected guests arrived, he had finished yet another cup and his pen scratched against the little cocktail napkins they left him. Max didn't doodle, he wrote, and wrote well. But more on that later.
Max looked up and smiled without bearing his teeth, something he's been doing since he was a kid and no one could quite explain way. He didn't think it was a flaw and insisted the only people who ever cared were photographers who wanted to get a glimpse at his ugly stretched faced when he did show his pearly whites.
"Sabrina," Max got up and hugged her. They'd been together only recently, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sabrina's hometown, when he found himself in need of a translator. She and him had stayed close over the years, more than either of them had with the others.
"I thought I was late," Sabrina looked around, surprised that she was the first to meet Max at the hotel. She was never one to arrive on time and Max had come to accept that over the years. "I missed the first train and had to wait for the next one."
"Hardly surprising," Max smiled. "I have met you before."
She smiled back and flipped him the bird, the Russian eagle, Max called it because she threw it at him so much, always playful he hoped.
"Where are the others?" she asked as she ordered a plain black coffee and the waitress looked at her like she had six heads. Max hated black coffee and preferred sweeter tasting concoctions, the very sight of her drinking the brown bean water made his throat catch a bit.
"You know them," Max lit another cigar. "Always late, fashionably or otherwise."
"Have you heard from Abe?"
"On and off. Mostly through texts and email."
"He's never been chatty. Unless he's drunk. I'm surprised I beat them here. Then again, he's got a lot more going on than me." Max nodded as he coughed on his cigar, never one for fantastic lung capacity. "You beat us here, of course."
"I've been here for two hours," he lied, it'd actually been three. Max would rather sit around all day than be late.
There wasn't much to catch up on between the two of them. Sabrina Salt had spent the last twenty years working with victims of human trafficking victims, sometimes consulting with Homeland Security or the F.B.I., other times going through extralegal measures to save those poor souls. Once, Sabrina helped a band of Vietnamese prostitutes, boys and girls younger than fourteen, escape their brothel and shuttled them to New Zealand using smugglers she had paid off. Max had provided the money used to pay off the sailors and later published a book about the adventure, claiming it was a work of fiction to protect Sabrina and the children.
Sabrina and Max met in college back in the United States, as did the other guests who were late to the party. But these two had always been close and, where the others drifted away, Max and Sabrina were constants in each other's lives.