The first thing he noticed about her was her dress.
He stared agape at the local flower shop’s window as she hung up a vase on the ceiling hook. It was a light yellow sundress with the silhouettes of little daisies all over it. She stood high on a stool and on one foot and Mercier didn’t even have to guess what happened next.
She lost her balance and fell.
With a sprint from across the street, Mercier charged into the shop and immediately to her side. She landed on her bum and was panting heavily as she clutched her chest with a trembling hand. Her umber curly hair now in a disarray of messy strands hid her eyes.
“Are you all right?” He asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.
After a moment, she gathered her breath and looked at him. Momentarily struck by their closeness and how his eyes seemed to see right into her.
“Yeah, ‘m fine. Thank you.” She grinned and started to stand, noticing how his hand never left her shoulder.
“You’re welcome. Are you sure you don’t need a doctor? You fell fairly hard.” He asked, removing his hand but not particularly wanting to leave her yet.
She shook her head, biting her lip and pretending to be oblivious when his eyes zoned in on the motion. “It’s okay, in won’t hurt in a few.” She took a deep breath and looked up at him. He stood a good foot over her. Broad shoulders underneath a militaristic uniform. He had a mop of curly hair, similar to hers and the most warm chocolate eyes she had ever seen. She cleared her throat and extended her hand, “I, uh…’M, Betty.”
“Betty.” He smiled, took her hand and brought it to his lips. “I am Jean-François Mercier.”
“Nice to meet ya.” She grinned and blushed.
He looked around. “Is this shop yours?”
“Yeah. Me sister and I ran it for a while but she bailed when she got married.”
“So it’s just you?”
He noticed the considerable amount of flowers, pots and vases. “Seems like a lot to handle, if you don’t mind me saying.”
She shrugged. “Sometimes it is. But I make it work somehow.”
He grinned. “Well, I must be off.”
“Right well, thanks for your help.”
“I’d like to see you again.” He stepped closer to her.
She blushed, “It’s a good thing you know where me shop is.”
She could feel his eyes on her peering over his menu.
It was French restaurant out of town, and Betty couldn’t understand a word of what food was being offered.
“Would you like me to translate?” He asked
With a stubborn shake of her head she replied, “No.” and he laughed.
“You know all you have to do is ask.” He smiled and addressed the waiter. “I will have bouillabaisse.”
The waiter grinned and turned to Betty, “Erm. I’ll have uh….” And she randomly pointed to something on the menu and shot a glare at Jean-François when he chuckled.
When he left, Jean-François started to snicker which caused Betty to glare and blush at him.
“You are….entirely adorable. It’s very enticing.”
“Shut it.” She laughed while her cheeks turned red.
He held out his hand flat on the table, and Betty slid hers over his. He stroked his thumb along her fingers.
“Jean-François, what are we? Really?...What’re we doin’?”
“We are having dinner.”
“No, but—” He picked up their fingers and brought them to his lips.
“Betty, believe that I’m with you because I want to be.”
When their food arrived, Betty was less than pleased to see cut up squid and mushy green stuff on her plate and with a grimace, she choked some
of it down. Until, Jean-François switched their plates without a word, and that’s when Betty knew she wanted to be with him too.
They spent hours chatting. He talked about his role in both wars, being a soldier in the first and being a spy in the second. He was not ashamed to tell her he cried tears of joy not only when France was liberated, but when he learned his sister, the only family he had left had survived.
She told him about growing up in Leeds. How her Da was Jewish and for years she had fought to hide it. She told him about being a nurse for a while, about working in an orphanage. But she didn’t want their dinner to be so grim, so she told him about her love of flowers and how growing up her parents would always bring her to fields of daisies. She told him that is why yellow is her favorite color and it made him smile.
Talking about the lighter side was easy as well as empathizing one another about the dark.
Throughout dinner, they kept touching their feet under the table.
He held her hand throughout the drive.
He had asked her to run away with him, just for a little while.
He had seen how tiring her shop was, he noticed dark circles under her eyes and how chewed her nails were. He asked her, he begged her to take a rest. When she tried to refuse he said, “What if we took a holiday. Just a small one. Come away with me, Betty.”
She shrugged, “To where?”
“Alsace. In France.”
It was a long journey from Leeds to France but it was entirely worth it. The fresh spring air filled their lungs with excitement and glee. Betty frequently pointed out flowers she saw on the road that caught her eye and he went on about how fascinating he thought cars to be.
By the time they reached his cabin it was nighttime, and they were both exhausted but neither wanted to go to sleep yet; and, Betty was still a bit shy about going to bed with him.
“Will you come outside with me?
“A blanket. I’ll grab a blanket and wine and we can watch the stars.”
“I uh…I don’t drink.” She grinned sheepishly.
He chuckled, “You may change your mind once you see how warm alcohol makes you.” And went off to grab the supplies.
Betty bit back a retort about how she wanted him to keep her warm instead.
Once outside they laid on the blanket and looked up at the stars.
“D’ya think there’s something out there? In the stars?”
“Hmm? Like what?” He opened his arms to her after drinking some wine from the bottle, and she gladly laid her head on his chest.
“Like, angels or somethin’.”
“Sounds like you’re asking me if I believe in God.”
“...I might be….do you?”
“I….” He stroked her hair and thought about it, “I’d like to. I just...I think after all I’ve seen throughout the wars, it is difficult for me to have faith.”
“But you survived...doesn’t that count?”
“Why did I and not my fellow soldiers? What makes me an exception?”
Betty lifted her head to look at him. “I….you just are. I mean, why did I survive?”
“Why did any of us?”
“What kind of thing is that to say?”
“You asked me!”
“I asked you if you believed in God not whether or not you’re happy to be alive!” Betty hastily got to her feet and wiped tears from her eyes. “Which clearly you ain’t so what the hell’re you doing with me?” She ran back down the hill.
Mercier cursed himself in each language he knew. This holiday was supposed to relax her and barely a few hours in, he made her cry.
He could just hear his sister’s voice, t'es un salaud! You’re a bastard, Jean-François!
Knowing she wasn’t stupid enough to run into the woods in the dark and alone, he let a few moments pass. She needed to cool off, and he needed a smoke.
After 3 cigarettes, he slowly made his way down to the cabin.
It was dark, safe for a small glow of the light in the bedroom and he hesitantly stepped inside.
She lay facing the wall in a fetal position, clad dressed in her nightgown. He would have found the sight breathtaking if she wasn’t breathing raggedly, as if she had been crying for some time.
“Betty.” He implored. He sat on the edge of the bed and tried not to feel hurt when she curled away from his hand on her shoulder. “Betty, please let’s talk. Please let me explain and apologize.”
He resumed running his thumb on her shoulder, listening to her breathing calm down a bit before she slowly sat up.
He felt his heart swell at her slight bedhead and bitten lips, and then his heart shattered at her tear stained eyes.
“I spoke in anger just now, and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply I’m not happy with you.” He cradled her cheek in his hand. “I am so happy with you, Betty. I swear. I just...it is sometimes so difficult for me to understand why a lot of my friends died and I didn’t. They were such good men, and I may never understand it. But please understand, it’s nothing to do with you.”
She lowered her gaze and picked at her cuticles, she was silent for a long moment before she took a deep breath and sighed. “Yeah, I’m with you too. And I’m sorry. I can’t understand what you saw as a soldier or even a spy.” She looked up at him. “But I lost people in the war too. You forgot ‘m half Jewish. All of me da’s side. Gone.” Her eyes watered and he sat closer to her. “But, I am happy to be alive. Even through the pain. You just find little reasons to keep going.”
“Little reasons.” He mused. “Such as?”
She blinked and looked around, “Like the flowers blooming each spring. Jazz making an official come back,” she looked at him, “You are a good man, too, Jean-François. And you have reasons, your sister is alive. You keep going for her.”
He slowly leaned in and pressed his forehead to hers. “I’ll keep going for you too.”
She smiled. “Good.”
“Will you tell me more reasons, please?” He made his way to lay in the bed with her and she nestled her face into his neck, like outside.
“Well, I’ve never been, but the cinema sounds amazing.”
“I’ll take you there.” He kissed her head.
“And, erm...Shepherd's Pie.”
“I’ve never had that.”
“I’ll make you some.” She kissed his neck.
“Keep going, Betty.” He murmured.
“Birds. I love birds. Birds singing is another reason.”
“Is there anything else?” He craned his head to look down at her.
She looked back.
Their faces were so close. She could count the freckles on his nose and he could see the calluses from where she bites her lip. It would only take a second to—!
Betty leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. Chastely but firmly.
“I think…” She whispered as his lips rested on his cheek, “Love is a good reason to keep going.”
“Amour.” He whispered and kissed her. She cupped the back of his head and moaned into his open mouth before slowly straddling him and grinning at his groan.
“Wait, wait ma fleur.” He gasped and gripped her waist. “You were crying merely an hour ago. Are you sure you feel okay to—mmph!”
She kissed him again, tugging on his hair and rolling her hips over his.
“I feel better. I feel like I’m floating. You do that to me, Jean-François. And I want you.” She whispered in his ear and giggled when she found herself rolled onto her back.
After a few more firm pecks and his hands running up and down her side. “Well, still. Since I was the one who upset you before, let me make it right. Let me take care of you.”
“T-take care of me?”
He bent his head to hers until their noses touched, “Does that sound okay?”
“Can I take care of you too?”
“If you want.”
“Good. But first,” he grinned and kissed her all around her face. Across her brows, eyelids, cheeks and nose and running his tongue along hers before he started kissing down her body. “Chérie, I need this off.” He pulled the straps of her nightgown and she raised her arms. He lighty fondled her breasts and groaned.
“Please.” Betty whispered.
He smirked, and put his fingers over her her nipple, while he continued kissing down her bare body until he met her mound.
“Magnifique.” He whispered and spread her thighs, parted her slick folds and ran his mouth up and down and danced his head in circles over her swollen bud. His tongue slipped in and out of her. Her hands ran through his hair, making him moan against her.
There was so much he wanted to do with her, to do to her, but he kept his restrain. This was their first time together and he wanted it to be about her.
He twisted her nipple with his fingers while he continued to suck her. He moved his other hand under his jaw and stuck two fingers in her, her flavor exploded over his mouth as her juiced ran down his chin. He set a rapid pace with his hand and curled his fingers up repeatedly and she cried out. Mercier didn’t move, licking her clean and loving the way she trembled beneath him.
“Blimey.” She whispered and he grinned wickedly from between her thighs. “Come here.” She whispered.
Climbing over her, he was pleasantly pulled down by her and she thrust her tongue deep into his mouth. Her hands caressed his back and she ground her body up against his, feeling his hard cock at her hip.
“Are you ready, ma fleur?”
“What’s that mean?” She asked breathlessly.
He bent his lips to her ear. “My flower.”
She moaned and re-opened her legs to his awaiting hand. He stroked her gently, up and down and in tiny circles and she writhed against him.
“Please, please, please.” She begged.
Gripping the back of her thighs, he slowly pushed his way in and they both groaned. Wet warmth surrounded his cock and it took all his might not to pound mercilessly into her.
“Look at me, Betty.” He whispered and she did. Are you okay”
She nodded. “H-hold my hand.” She said and he laced their fingers together.
Bowing his head to her neck, he thrust once, twice. Before curling his knees for better speed and slowly began to pick up the pace. Encouraged by Betty’s increasing pitch in moans.
“Holy….fuck!” She gasped and raised her hips up to meet his fast thrusts.
He laughed against her skin and bit her collarbone. Thrusting faster and deeper into her warmth.
Neither imagined it would be like this. Mercier in his haze, forgot all about his fallen friends. Forgot all the devastation and death he had seen. He only saw stars, and it was because of her.
Betty, with her eyes closed and mouth in a wide O, for these moments, forgot all she had lost. Her Da. Her mum. She saw flowers, a sunny sky. She was absolutely breathless, and it was because of him.
She reached up with two hands and cradled his face, he slowed pace and stared deep into her eyes. She leaned up and kissed him softly.
Mercier moaned, it was the sweetest kiss he had ever had. He cradled her cheek with his palm and moved his lips over hers. Still gently moving within her. This slower pace made everything more intense. They both felt the telling tingle from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes.
She eventually broke away with a gasp and he moved to kiss her jaw and neck. Gradually resuming his fast pace.
“That’s it, Betty. Come again. Come for me, again.” He gasped.
“Harder. Go h-harder!” She whispered, wrapping her legs tighter around his waist and bringing her knees up so he’d be deeper within her.
“Ohhhh, merde!” He gasped.
They clawed at each other's skin, desperate for relief as they moved rapidly together. It was hot, sweaty, furious and so alive. They moaned into one another’s mouths when they felt the telling tingling signs.
Mercier thrust in her once, twice, three times more before he felt her walls flutter around him and she came with a cry. Four more thrusts later and with a near agonizing groan, he pulled himself out of her and spilled onto her thighs.
His head returned to her chest and they both panted heavily. She stroked his hair as he nuzzled her breast. Once they caught their breaths, Betty moved a blanket over them.
They laid face to face. Their hands moving across each other’s skin.
“Before,” Mercier whispered, “Did you say you love me?” His hand stroking up and down her hip
Betty smiled, “I think you said it back.” She bit her lip. “Is that okay?”
Instead of answering her, he leaned forward to press his lips sweetly to hers. He then moved her body flush against his. He cradled her head on his chest held her tight.
“Je t’aime, ma fleur.”
She sniffed. “I love you too.”
They ran. Through the woods of Alsace. They were playing tag.
“Don’t let me catch you!” Mercier called, ten feet behind her.
“Yeah, right!” Betty called back. Using her strength to sprint faster.
She wore the yellow sundress again, and glowed under the sun as she sprinted along the woods of Mercier’s comfort place.
He was astounded, running after her. She was too beautiful for words. He ached to know every inch. Every freckle, every scar, every patch of ivory skin he could possibly touch. He was glad to have caught up to her.
“Got you!” He cheered as he hauled her laughing body up in his arms. He spun around a few times, smiling at her shrieking giggles. He adjusted his grip to a bridal style and kissed her.
She smiled into his mouth and cupped his cheek.
“Is this not a good holiday?” He whispered.
“Oh, I dunno. I’m worried about me shop.” She teased, laughing when he bounced her. He began walking with her in his arms back to the cabin.
“Of course. But what if I told you we could bathe in the river.” He smirked.
“You got soap?”
“Yes. And, we can dry off,” he bent his lips an inch from hers, “in front of a big hot fire.”
“Mmm. That does sound nice.”
“I’ll wash your back, you wash mine?” He teased.
“Only if you wash me back again afterwards.” She retorted with a wink and he laughed.
They took a stroll in the woods, Betty with a wicker basket and one hand intertwined with Jean-François’. She was collecting berries for pie.
“You sure you don’t want me to carry it?”
“I’ve got it.” She smiled.
“Betty, say something in French.”
“I’m hungry.” She obliged. Her pronunciation was a bit thwarted by her Leeds accent, but it made her all the more endearing.
He smirked, “Something else.”
Betty pondered. “I miss my pear.”
Mercier felt horrible for chuckling, but he knew what she was trying to say versus what came out of her mouth. Knowing she meant to say father instead of the fruit. “Ma fleur, je suis désolé. But the sound you’re looking for is père. Not poire.”
“Bugger. What did I say?”
“You miss your green fruit.”
“Blimey. Oof. That gives, I dunno if I can learn French.” She turned to face him and the defeat in her eyes startled him.
“Betty, no. Don’t say that. Of course you can. You think it was easy for me to learn English? Or Afrikaans? Or Polish? Languages are always frustrating.”
“Yeah, but…” She lowered her gaze. “You’re...smart. You finished school. You’re descended from diplomats. Me? I barely made it out of grade school before workin’ in a shop to help pay rent.” She sniffed. “Sometimes, I feel like you forget how different we are. You’re of….higher...class, or whatever.”
“Betty…” He stepped up to her and pulled the basket from her hands. He placed both hands on her shoulders. “Look at me.”
He hugged her tight. “I never intended you to feel like that. I know we are from different upbringings.” He pulled back to look at her, “But ma fleur, none of that matters. You are smart, in many ways that I am not.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Like cooking. I only know mundane French dishes. But here we are, collecting berries and you mean to tell me you’re somehow going to turn that into a pie?”
She couldn’t help but grin, “Don’t tease me you twat, you’ve had pie before.”
“Yes, but I’ve never seen it made from scratch. You’ll have to teach me.”
“Yes. Betty, sweet, don’t let whatever ridiculous rules you think are in society divide us. I love you for you. Not based on your knowledge or skills, to which I think you have many. Okay?”
She nodded and bit her lip. “Mmkay.”
He pecked her lips. “Good. Now, will you please practice more in French?”
“Only if I can teach you some Yiddish.” She picked up the basket.
“I would be honored.” He laced their fingers again and they resumed their stroll and eventually made love against a tree.
They fished, or at least, Betty was trying to.
They sat on a rock which was high and elevated from the river.
Mercier initially was fishing as well but ultimately gave up because of the dress she was wearing.
Betty had sewn herself a new cotton pink sundress which opened from the nape of her neck to the small of her back.
“Jean-François….” Betty warned though his hands rubbing her back sent a spark of tingles throughout
her body. “If we don’t catch any fish we’ll be livin off of bark, berries and nuts again. I want to cook you some fish.”
“Who says you can’t make great meals from bark, berries or nuts.”
“Oh, fine. But next time we fish, wear something else!”
This caused Betty to blush and turned her head to him. Her line, barely moving, she placed on the rock and slowly crawled over to him.
“Is that really what you want? Me to cover up?”
Mercier’s throat felt dry, her face was so close to his. “No.” He said.
She grinned, kissed his nose and said, “I won’t. As long as we catch some fish.” And abruptly turned back to the river causing him to roll his eyes.
“Vixen.” He muttered under his breath.
After the finally caught 3 fish, he convinced her to sit on his lap, still facing the river and gently took her that way.
She rested the back of her head against against his collarbone, panting. Deeply satisfied and ever so warm. He pressed a kiss to her ear.
“Now that was filthy.”
“Good thing we’re already at the river to clean up.”
“Relentless, you are.”
On the final night of the holiday, they lay snuggled up in the leather seat in front of the fire, and barely dressed.
“You built a good fire.” She pressed a kiss to his chest.
“Thank you.” He held her tighter.
“I should be thankin’ you.”
He turned his head to her, “For what, ma fleur?”
“For takin’ me here. I didn’t realise how badly I needed a break. And...I wouldn’t want to spent it with anyone else but you.”
He smiled, “Me too.”
Feeling excessively brave, Betty slowly lowered her body until she was kneeling in front of him. His breaths grew shallow and deep. “To express my gratitude,” she whispered rubbing his bare thighs up to his undergarments before slowly sliding them down his legs. She took hold of his half hard cock and caressed him and stroked him until he was practically shaking.
“Betty…” He groaned to the ceiling.
“Tell me what you love.”
“You.” He whispered. He groaned when her hand wrapped around his base and she licked a line over him.
“What else?” She whispered.
“Your smile. Your hair. Your laugh. Your mole on your shoulder. And—aah!” He gasped when she gave a tight tug and licked the red glistening tip of him.
“No, no. What do you love?” She looked up at him.
“Y-your sweet mouth on me.”
Satisfied, Betty took mercy on him and sucked him deep into his mouth.
He cursed and threw his head back, running his fingers through her hair and letting one had run over her shoulder.
Her hand moved over his faster and faster until he groaned loudly and told her to stop.
“Betty, I’m going to come.”
“So come,” she grinned wickedly, “you can come in my mouth.”
Afterwards, he lay slumped in the chair, boneless and staring at her in stark amazement.
She preened, “I liked that too.”
He made his way to lay on the lush rug in front of the fire, “Come lay with me, ma fleur. But take off your camisole.”
She did and laid flat on her back while he climbed over her. He pressed his face to her chest and held her close again. Proving to her just why he was thankful as well.
They fell asleep, legs intertwined, sated and filled with warmth.
“So do you remember the recipe for pie like I taught you the other day?” Betty asked from the kitchen.
“What? I said sure.”
“I can hear you bein’ sarcastic.”
“All right, I may have forgotten a step or two.”
“Or many more.”
She closed her eyes and sighed. Laughing. “How’re you ever gonna survive without me?”
Grinning, he stepped up behind her and held her waist tight. Kissing her neck and whispering, “Now why would I ever be without you?”
“Dunno.” She shrugged.
“I can assure you I won’t. Which means you can make all the pies you want to for me.”
“Gee, how noble.”
He laughed and spun her around. “I can cook. And once we return home tonight, I will make plans to cook you a magnificent French feast.”
“You or your sister?” She smirked.
“You wound me.” He deadpanned and she laughed which quickly got cut off when his lips pressed to hers.
They stayed in Alsace for a bit longer than intended. What started as a trip to relieve Betty of her work duties turned into a blissful holiday. Picking flowers, making pies, swimming in the river, vigorous love making. By the time they drove home, again with their hands held, they decided to make the trip and annual occasion.
One more year of it, and the cabin is where Jean-François would eventually propose.