She hadn’t noticed him before either, but with all this talking it was hard to see. He seemed younger than her, but it was hard to say for sure. He was rather square and somewhat short, certainly under 5’8", Theresa’s minimum height for a romantic contender. He was ugly enough, Theresa thought, despite his broad shoulders and blonde hair.
The man turned to greet someone and Theresa saw it was the janitor. They spoke as if they knew each other well. The man gestured to the janitor to sit, but the old man pointed to Theresa. The man listened, nodded, and stood up as the janitor left his table. Then he sat back down in his chair and stared openly and interestedly at Theresa.
The janitor was clearly headed to Theresa, but was waylaid by the waiter and his group, who also seemed to know him. He was pulled down into a chair, without too much dissent, and given a welcome beer. Theresa watched him for awhile and then glanced back over at the blond man, who was still watching her. She looked down and pulled out her Blackberry, on reflex. She had begun to compose a post for her blog on the rudeness of French men when a young woman from the janitor’s table leaned over and spoke to her. The woman said, “Claude say you miss your train, eh? You need a ride?”
Theresa asked, “Who is Claude?” and the young woman said, “Who eez Claude? Voila Claude!” and she put her hand on the janitor’s shoulder.
“Yes, I desperately need a ride!”
“Claude say he will drive you, eh? He has, how you say, volunteered?” She turned back to the group at her table, who seemed to be hanging on every word and they burst into excited French. Then they all paused and looked back at Theresa. She said, “The janitor will drive me?”
“You have a problem with janitors?” It was the blonde man, at her elbow and no better looking close up. She said hurriedly, “No, no, not at all. He just seems, well, he seems a bit old to be heading out at midnight for a road trip.”
The blonde man studied her. He said, “I would not worry about Claude. He is an excellent driver. But here, I will come with you also, in case he needs a rest.”
Theresa wasn’t so sure about this. She said, “Well, I can spell him, it’s not necessary for you to … put yourself out.” The blonde man smiled. It transformed his face in a way that made him, if not passably good-looking then somewhat less threatening. He said, “Yes, you do not trust me, of course, because you do not know me.” He stuck out his hand. “My name is Jin.”
Theresa took it. She said, “I am Theresa, but really it’s not—” ”Ah, Terese, such a beautiful name!” and still holding her hand he turned to the group and introduced her. Everyone started saying “Salut Terese” and “Bon soir Terese” and she said several times, “Thanks, it’s Theresa” but it was like trying to tell them that not every American came from New York, so she gave up.
The janitor smiled at her and said, “Okay, eets okay. My wife, she come, okay?” and turned to Jin and spoke passionately for a minute. Jinn said to her, “Claude’s wife is a housekeeper in Montmartre. We will pick her up first before we go.” Theresa tried to dissuade them but the young French woman said, “Why not? They give you a ride, it is safe. It is rude to turn them down, you know?”
Claude patted her hand gently. He said, “You are safe, yes? With me, you are safe. Eets okay” and he patted her hand gently. Theresa looked at him and thought, yes, eets okay.