Today's Reading

Grace held out her hand to me. "Merci,Sophie, is it?"

I nodded. "Sophie Duval."

Her eyes lit up in a smile. "Ah. Duval. You're the owner?"

"Yes."

"Well, thank you again, Sophie. I won't forget your kindness."

"I hope you might return to our shop under better circumstances, one day."

"I'd like that very much," she said, her blue eyes twinkling.

As Natalie escorted Miss Kelly to the office, the front door opened again. A very tall man peered inside. He lingered on the doorstep, half in and half out of the shop. He wore an old-fashioned Homburg hat and a shabby leather jacket, clearly underdressed for the Riviera. I noticed a camera hung from a strap against his chest. It had to be the photographer chasing Miss Kelly. I took an instant dislike to him.

"Pardon me, monsieur, we are just closing." I didn't bother to hide the irritation from my voice. "We open again tomorrow at nine."

In faltering French, he asked if Grace Kelly had come into the shop. His accent was terrible. His incorrect use of vocabulary was almost comical.

I pursed my lips. English. The worst kind of press hound. Miss Kelly herself had said so.

I sniffed, and replied in English. "I'm not in the habit of telling strangers whom I have and haven't sold perfumes to, monsieur. It's bad for business, and frankly, none of yours."

He regarded me a moment through golden-brown eyes and burst into laughter. "Well, aren't you perfectly French."

I felt heat rising to my face. How did Miss Kelly put up with such awful people pestering her all the time?

"You don't have to tell me what she bought," he pressed, casually picking up a couple of business cards from the counter. He glanced at them briefly before slipping them into his pocket. "I'd just like to know whether or not she came in here." I raised a quizzical brow at him, incredulous he should try to jockey for information as if I were Miss Kelly's private secretary. "The name's Henderson, by the way," he added, extending a hand. "James. Jim to my friends."

Seeing my expression and realizing I wasn't going to shake his hand, or divulge any information, he took off his hat, and ran his hands through his hair, sending it sticking up every which way. I bit my lip to keep myself from laughing.

"Thing is, miss, I'm having a hell of a day and if I don't get a decent picture of her—of anyone important, really—I might not have a job to go home to and the cat will be terribly disappointed in me. Not that it's of any concern to you, but, well, that's how it is." He held his hands out in front of him. "Help out a useless English chap, would you?" He tilted his head to one side. "Merci beaucoup?"

I was suddenly very busy straightening the tissue paper and rolls of ribbon beneath the counter. "I believe the phrase you are looking for is s'il vous plaît. I'm afraid I can't help you, monsieur," I added. "If you are so incompetent at your job, I doubt a small perfume boutique can save you." I glanced up at him.

A wide grin split his face. "Quite right. I'm a ridiculous fool and should be on my way." He touched the brim of his hat in salutation and turned to go but when he reached the door, he hesitated. "Actually, before I go, can I ask what perfume it is you're wearing? It's really rather lovely."

I turned to meet his gaze. "And you are rude—"

A flash went off. I was blinded by the light, and my hand flew to my eyes. "What are you doing?"

He shrugged. "If I can't have a photograph of Grace Kelly, I might as well have one of a furious French girl." With that, he left, laughing as he closed the door behind him.

Furious French girl? How dare he! As I roughly turned the shop sign to 'Fermé,' I watched him light a cigarette and saunter off down the street. The familiar aroma of leather and balsam lingered in the shop where he'd stood. Despite my bad humor, the scent provoked memories of happier times.

That was the third lesson Papa taught me. "To be a parfumeur is to be a keeper of memories, Sophie. Every scent will remind you of something, or someone."

It was only as I walked back to the office to assure Miss Kelly he'd gone that I realized who the English photographer reminded me of. 

James Henderson reminded me of Papa.
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