I won't apologize for this:
They set out on bikes, eager to get away from the family, to be alone, and to see the beauty of the countryside. It was hot, and she sweated in her cotton dress, her bangs sticking to her face. The village was flat, and she was pleased to move around. She had been in the car for several hours to get there, they had taken a roundabout way, following the backroads. Now she was on the bike and her muscled flexed and moved as she pedaled at an agreeable pace.
“Putain,” there really isn’t anything out here, is there?” he said in French, “It’s really hard to believe how close we are to Paris.” And it was true, they were only 60 kilometers out from the bustling city, but here, there was no one. They stopped to look at the grains, growing in straight lines as far as the eye could see.
“I bet you’re the second American to ever be in this village, after my aunt.”
“I doubt that, I’m sure there were some when they passed through during the war.”
He laughed, conceding “Okay, but the second one in the last fifty years. Except for my phone,” he continued, “It could be 1935 here, just before the war, couldn’t it?”
They stopped the bikes and dismounted, taking pictures of each other posing and laughing together. After a moment she kissed him, leaning against him and she could smell his sweat.
“Shhh, listen to the silence.” She breathed.
They stood there holding each other and listened to the barely sway back and forth, making a shushing noise as the stalks moved in the wind. There were birds in the distance, and every so often, the noise of a car travelled across the field. The sky was clear blue, of French blue as it’s called, and the clouds looked as they were painted in the sky. Across the fields she could see small bosquettes, dark green contrasting with the golden color of the wheat.
Her mind drifted. What would it have been like, just before the war? She could rest assured that the village had been there, but she wondered if fighting had happened close to where they were. Her grandfather had been here, when he was her same age. But he sure as hell hadn’t been having dinner with the French, and watching their children like she was.
Europe, she thought, must have been like the Middle East is to her. When her grandfather was 24 could he have possibly imagined the EU, and all the diplomacy between the nations? Did he think his granddaughter would be walking along the same beaches on which he had seen so much death? Or passing freely, country to country, completely alone?
She felt a flash of optimism for the world, and turning back to her Frenchman, she kissed him again.