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Billionaires in Paris Cynthia Dane 2022/8/3 13:56:16

“So what are you doing in Paris?”

“I’m thinking about moving here. Germany’s getting too… German… for me.”

“Uh huh. Does Dad know?”

“It’s none of your father’s business where I live.”

“Has he ever once come to visit you?”

“No, and that’s how I want it. He won’t shut up about me coming to see him in our monthly phone calls, though.”

“It’s almost like he loves you and wants to see his wife.”

“Kathryn, don’t be like this. You always take his side.”

You ever see that movie Clue? The one with “Flames On The Side Of My Face?” It’s one of Ian’s favorite movies. I’ve seen it at least fifty times now, and could quote the first half of the movie for you right now. I won’t, though. Instead I’ll say that I’m starting to feel those flames on my face listening to my mother talk about her nothing but patient husband like that.

“I am not taking sides.” Somehow, I remain calm.

Mother works a kink in her neck. I can tell she would rather be anywhere than here with me, her daughter and only child. I’ve learned to stop taking it personally. She doesn’t want to see or be with anyone. I could be her hero Harrison Ford and she would still tell me to take the next cab.

“So, I doubt that this is a pleasure call.” Is my twist too tight on my head? It feels too tight. Like every hair on my scalp is hanging on in a wind tunnel. “What do you want to talk about, Mother?”

She pops open her purse and pulls another clutch out of that. More popping. Shuffling. Quiet observances of her own belongings. “I was doing some summer cleaning recently and came upon a token of your grandmother’s. I don’t want it anymore.” She places something between us. It sparkles. Gems.

I swear to fucking God I will never understand this woman. She finds out we’re both in the same famous city? She contacts me so we can have dinner, right? Sounds great! Then I find out that she only wants to give me an heirloom. Maybe you think that’s sweet as sugar, but this is my mother we’re talking about. She either has an ulterior motive, or she’s going through a spell. I can never tell until it’s too late.

I snatch the ring off the table. Diamonds, yes. Looks like an amethyst, too. Silver band. It must be an antique if it belonged to my grandmother. Could be even older than…

“Is this her wedding ring?”

My surprise must have caught my mother off guard, for she gapes at me for asking such a harrowing question. “Of course not! She was buried with her wedding ring. Really, Kathryn, what kind of freaks do you think we are?”

“That’s her engagement ring.”

“Are you going to try it on? I didn’t bring that thing here for you to admire. Maybe it’s not your tastes, but you can humor me. I did give birth to you. Humor me!”

Yay. The guilt trips have begun. If, in some parallel universe, I one day become a mother, I’ll know exactly how to make my kids do anything. Giving birth means they owe, big time, forever.

Just to amuse her, I try to slip the ring on my index finger. It’s too big. Fine, then. I’ll try it on my ring finger.

“Lovely.” My mother is barely looking at me when she says this. “Rest your grandmother’s soul, she probably wanted you to have it.”

“I’m guessing so, if she gave it to you.” I don’t remember my grandmother very well. She died when I was still a child, and the only memories I have are of Christmases and birthday cards. “Why aren’t you keeping it, though?”

“I told you. I don’t want it. Do whatever you want with it.”

The ring twinkles on my hand. It’s definitely not to my tastes, but at least it’s not too ostentatious. “Thank you.”

My mother is still prattling.

“I’m doing great, thanks,” I interrupt. Mother claps her mouth shut, lips taut. Those beady eyes widen, then narrow, coolly judging my poor manners. “Work is going well and my personal life is pretty fantastic. Thanks for asking.”