Three years earlier—summer 1994
I met Claude Giraud at dinner at my parents’ house on a summer night just before my twenty-second birthday. I had just graduated from Colby College up in Maine and had moved back home. I hoped to find a job in a Boston art gallery. I wasn’t an artist, and I wouldn’t have said “gallerist” was on my list of life objectives, but I liked the feeling of being in a gallery: the cool rooms, the murmur of patrons as they wandered through, and all the complicated business (I guessed) that took place in the back, which no one but the gallerists ever got a chance to see. I liked the atmosphere of art as much as I liked art—maybe more. But I didn’t know whether I really wanted to spend my life in such a place; I decided to try it out, and then figure out if I had the aptitude or the inclination to go further.
Recalling other dinners at my parents’, I assumed there would be the usual medical talk, and that I would be expected to just sit back and look interested and pretty, if I could do either, only once in a while chiming in to agree—always to agree, it was easier that way. Both my parents were outgoing, but in different ways: my father believed he was an authority on all topics, and liked to be seen as such, and my mother peppered her prey with glamour, style, chat, smiles, and charm, and then ate them up. People were drawn to both of them and to their world, and I’d always had the sense that I was a disappointment, a misfit—that perhaps the hospital had made a mistake and given them the wrong child.
Maybe they gave you the wrong parents.
My mother had told me four things about our dinner guest: he was Parisian, trained at the Sorbonne, a brilliant young surgeon, and single. He had dined frequently with my parents, consulting with my father on patients and asking his advice about the direction of his career. “Reminds me of myself, and is just right for you,” my father had decreed.
Claude arrived promptly at six forty-five, and when I opened the door he handed me a bouquet of pink roses. “These are for you, Mademoiselle Katie. I’m so happy to finally meet you.” His cerulean blue eyes, blue as Monet’s skies, slid across mine, drawing me into him as he took my hand. I felt his warm breath on the back of my hand as he kissed it, and when he lifted his face to mine, his open smile shot through me. His face was slightly rounded, his flaxen hair light against the skin of his temples, and his eyes—
“Please come in,” I burbled, my face suddenly hot. Jesus!
At the dinner table, I caught him glancing at my bare legs as he pulled out my chair, and I thought, What a gentleman, and thanks for looking! I felt both panicked and thrilled—I thought I might burst out laughing. I pulled the hem down to mid-thigh and at the same moment was seized by an insane impulse to hike my skirt up and get it all out there.
Dinner was off to a good start.