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He sketched away and looked at her intently. She willed him to recognize her. How could you not recognize me, she thought, I’d know you anywhere.
“You are on holiday?”
“Yes, sort of — mostly I am looking for someone.”
“Well, Paris is the place to find whatever your heart needs. Your face has good angles, those cheekbones...astonishing, no?”
“Merci! I got them from my mother.”
“She must be beautiful.”
“She was. She died a month ago.”
“Dommage. I am sorry to hear that. It’s hard to lose people you love.”
“Yes, it is. She was from Toronto.” She studied his face. No reaction.
“Yes, I see many people from Canada.”
“She lived here in Paris back in the mid-80s.”
He paused. “Excuse me Mademoiselle, but have we met perhaps?”
“Not yet. My name is Claire. My mother’s name was Emily. Emily Lawrence.”
“Emily?” He sat for a moment staring at her. “No,” he shook his head. “I don’t believe you. You say Emily is dead?” He dropped his charcoal and stood up, knocking over the easel. “What are you saying? Who are you?”
“I am her daughter and please don’t get upset but I think you are my father.” She pulled the letter and photograph from her purse and thrust them at him. “Look,” she said.
He studied the picture. It was himself and Emily all those years ago. His face first displayed pleasure, and then pain. “Is this a joke?”
“No, Monsieur DuClair, not at all. I didn’t know you were even alive or I would have tried to find you a long time ago. My mother told me you were killed in a plane crash.”
“What! Why would she say that?” he asked, looking devastated. He studied her closely now. His hand gently touched her face. “Yes, I can see the resemblance now. But she wrote to me that my baby died.”
“One of mother’s lies I’m afraid. Your baby is very much alive and has a million questions for you.”
René went over to the next artist and whispered to him. He walked back, his eyes never leaving hers. “Charles will watch my things. Come, let us go to the café where we can talk in private.”
The tall Indian man who was waiting behind Claire piped up. “Excuse me, sir, but we have been waiting a long time. Will you be back soon?”
“Please,” said René, “A family matter has come up. Charles here is very talented and he doesn’t charge as much as I do.” The entire line of people shifted over. Charles was beaming. René threw a scarf around his neck and led Claire out of the crowd.
“Mon Dieu,” He said softly. “This is so bizarre.”
Back in the same tabac where she’d had coffee earlier, the same good-looking waiter came bounding over. “René,” he said in French. “You have yourself a pretty one there, but I saw her first.”
“Henri,” René said in a harsh voice, “back off. This girl is, well, she is my daughter.”