April Lily Heise is a Paris-based Canadian writer and romance expert. When she is not getting into romantic mischief, she writes on Paris, dating, culture and travel. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, CondéNastTraveler.com, Business Insider, Frommer’s, City Secrets, DK Eyewitness, among others. She is the author of two novelized memories on her romantic misadventures in Paris Je T’Aime, Me Neither and its sequel, Je T’Aime… Maybe? She also shares original things to do in Paris, dating tips and travel features on her blog www.jetaimemeneither.com.
FUSAC asked her where she got her inspiration for her Paris novels.
Are the novels based on your personal experience? I like to call my books novelized memoirs, the stories are all based on reality but are told in a lively storybook fashion, like modern-day fairy tales. Though like modern love… there are often complications and the road can be rocky towards a happy or not so happy ending.
Are your titles inspired by the Serge Gainsbourg song? Yes. The title of my first book Je T’Aime, Me Neither was inspired by the Gainsbourg song. For two reasons, I felt the its contradictory title of loving than un-loving expressed the essence of many of my dating stories and those others have experience here in Paris. The French can so easily declare “je t’aime!” then soon after come out with a “je ne t’aime plus”. I put the title half in French and half in English to express the cross cultural nature of many of these relationships.
La Convocation extract from Je T’Aime, Me Neither
Hi Lily, My ex-husband might be stopping by, if he does, could you give him this key? Merci – Nicki
Hmmm … could it be? Might I have a chance to meet Nicki’s mysterious ex? Little did I know what her key was going to unlock!
I never really understood what exactly our glamorous American landlady Nicki currently did for a living. A former model turned fashion designer, the only thing I knew for certain was she no longer had her own fashion line since our office occupied what had once been her workshop.
At the beginning of the year, I’d been tasked with finding a newer, bigger office for the tour company I worked for. I truly hadn’t been expecting to find anything exceptional, but it was love at first click when I stumbled across the Craigslist ad for a bright, spacious room, a stone’s throw from rue Montorgueil, the trendy, centrally-located market street where I’d met Lionel for our first date. Though geographically and spatially perfect, it came with its share of intrigues … and surprises.
The whole space had once been a single apartment, Nicki had the front section and we had the quieter back section facing the courtyard. We each had our own entrance doors, so we only saw each other occasionally when crossing paths in the shared kitchen and bathroom. Despite the fact that signs with the respective company names hung on our doors, since ours was first, we often had deliver boys knocking at it bearing mysterious packages from Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci for Madame Nicki. Letters were also slipped under our door addressed to one of her various businesses … or to a certain mysterious Mr. O’Brian. This was not her last name, or at least what she’d told us her last name was. At first, she referred to him as her ‘business partner,’ however, later on she let it slip that he was indeed her ex-husband. It was strange to me she was already divorced, as she barely looked thirty. Had she married a gay French fashionista so she could get residence papers? Unlikely. O’Brian didn’t sound in the slightest French. Yet another slip of the tongue, revealed he was as Irish as his name suggested. Even better than my previous hunches, I imagined that she’d married him to get a European passport and at the same time cleverly evade France’s astronomical business taxes. All my theories resurfaced while reading her note. Today I might just get a chance to meet ‘Monsieur Ex Hubby’… and piece together the obscure puzzle of Nicki that preoccupied my overactive imagination.
I put the key on the corner of my desk and got down to work. That was about as much thought I gave to it until her doorbell startled me out of my digital depths in the mid-afternoon.
My eyes first shot in the direction of her door, then to the key. Ah ha! That must be the Mr. O’Brian! Had it not been for Nicki’s note, I would have merely ignored her ringing doorbell. Mr O’Brian might not have realized which doorbell he should be ringing to acquire the key.
I hopped out of my chair, smoothed down my dress and went to my door. Flinging it open expecting to find a stylish, red-headed Irishman, a very tall, dark-haired rather ordinary looking man swung around instead.
“Bonjour Madame, Inspecteur Cluzot, Préfecture de Police.”
A policeman? The plain-clothed officer confidently strode across the landing towards me, flashing an official looking badge.
“Is Madame Swanson here?”
“Ahhh ummm non …” I stammered. Wow, how many secrets did Nicki actually have?
“Can I leave you this convocation for her?” He politely requested.
I was ‘allowed’ to pick up and leave on the kitchen table all the letters erroneously delivered to our office. However, Nicki got terribly annoyed when I’d signed for certified letters or packages on her behalf unless she’d specifically told me in advance something would be coming. There was no mention of the police in her note! What could she possibly have to hide?
“C’est rien. It’s nothing serious,” he added, sensing my anxiety. “She was broken into a while ago and we just need her to stop by the station to clarify some details.”
Broken into? At her home? Or here? We rarely locked the door between our offices and the last thing I wanted to add to my list of worries was the threat of burglary. He gave me a reassuring smile and I felt I had no choice but to oblige.
“Come in,” I invited, still a little flustered. “Would you like some coffee? Water?”
“No, but thank you very much, it’ll just take a few minutes for me to fill in this form,” he replied, taking a seat at our meeting table. He reached into his jacket and produced a small, old fashioned pad, the kind with three different colored carbon sheets. Judging from its size, I figured that it shouldn’t take too long to complete, so I hovered a few steps away instead of returning to my desk.
“Your name, please?” Why did he need my name? “It’s merely a formality, since you’re taking the convocation for Mrs. Swanson.”
Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. However, now it was too late, so I proceeded to reply to his question, spelling out my impossible foreign name, each letter printed with meticulous precision on the first dotted line. He was v.e.r.y. slow. They mustn’t teach note taking in the French Police Academy. What happens if they are at an urgent crime scene? I guess this is why Nicki had to go back to give them more details; something had obviously been missed by the original, equally turtle-paced policier.
“Address?” Geez, that form was more comprehensive than I’d gathered from my quick glance. Then again, the French do love their paperwork and bureaucracy. This should have come as no surprise to someone who’d spent hours at the préfecture over the years, delivering the mountains of paperwork required to renew my annual residence permit.
“So, what do you do?” he enquired next, pen matched up to a blank line. Why should he need my profession? This opened up a whole new can of inquisitive worms and a series of off-the-record questions from the Inspector.
“Hmmm … today’s date is …?” This question allowed me to escape back to my desk to double check this on my computer calendar. I proceeded to park myself there, I resigned to the fact, at this rate, it would take the Inspector a minimum of five to ten minutes more. Would he have to take down my age, eye color, height and weight as well?
“Are you English?” Nationality couldn’t possibly be a category on his form! French people always think I’m British since I don’t have the typical Québécois accent the French expect from a Canadian, nor do I have a typical ‘American’ accent. Therefore, my sing-songy voice is usually assumed to be from across the English Channel, not the Atlantic Ocean.
This was another off-topic question, which forced more polite conversation. I was starting to get a little antsy, noticing the growing number of unread emails piling up in my inbox.
“Right,” he said getting back to his form. “I need your phone number … just in case we need to reach you …” Why would they need to reach me? Wasn’t this convocation for Nicki? Again, I didn’t really feel I could say no; therefore, another slow minute went by as I carefully enunciated the digits of my cell phone number, which he slowly repeated back. He then silently and painstakingly checked over his entire form.
“Oh I forgot, one last question, is it madame or … mademoiselle?” Oh brother, the French! No neutral ‘Ms.’ in this country. You’re either married or you’re not.
“Mademoiselle,” I had to honestly answer.
Finally his form seemed to meet his rigorous standards of completion. He fastidiously tore off one of the sheets while unhurriedly rising from his seat, cueing me to his imminent departure. I walked over expecting a courteous farewell and the pink slip from his form pad, but he was lingering.
“Well if you need anything, just let me …” I started.
“Vous êtes ravissante,” he passionately proclaimed cutting me off mid sentence. Ravishing? The French and their ardent amorous compliments! Wait a second … was he hitting on me? Oh mon Dieu! He now knew all my basic details, including that I was a mademoiselle, and thus proposition-able.
Sputtering out a merci, my cheeks most certainly beamed brighter than the red lights of a police car.