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by Steven John

The hotel was no more than a sign, a door off the street. Whilst we registered, girls with bare, scabby legs came and went from the rooms behind us. Crapulous men tapped on doors. You said it was ironic that we’d booked a hotel where the rooms were on hourly rent to the street whores.

You said, that’s what I am now, and dropped your wedding ring into your purse.

In the chill of our room the stained soft furnishings smelt of spilt sex, even more so just as soon as we closed the door. We ravaged each other, kerb crawling talk, hard and trodden, until we were blooded, coal-eyed and sex-shocked, until the room was dark with the Parisian night, until our need for food and air was greater.

We showered together, stood in an embrace in the bathtub, but the hot water came in a trickle, not enough to cleanse even one. You sent me for towels that weren’t filthy. The proprietor shrugged and said there were no more till morning.

We walked Montmartre until we found a boutique de salle de bains. They only stocked designer which cost more than the hotel room, but you said they’re cheaper than paying for sex.

In the morning we queued for the Louvre. You wouldn’t let me photograph you by the glass pyramid. You bought trinkets for your daughters. We marched through endless galleries, stopping to look at nothing, saying nothing. We peered over heads at the Mona Lisa, then left. We found a bistro where we were the only customers. I ordered oysters. You speared at a bowl of olives and we drank two bottles.

I wanted to find Montparnasse cemetery and the tombs of Sartres and Beckett. We asked a grey-haired couple for directions in classroom French. They were small and fragile as sparrows, they were holding hands. I showed them a map. You stroked their dog. They laughed at us, pourquoi un cemitiere? vous etes jeune, a Paris!, so we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. When we arrived you said you couldn’t queue for anything else.

The bed linen hadn’t been changed so we resumed on the towels. Whilst I slept you went out and booked yourself on an earlier flight home. Said you’d done Paris.

Steven John lives in the Cotswolds, UK, where he writes short stories and poetry. He’s had work published in pamphlets and online magazines including Riggwelter, Spelk Fiction, Fictive Dream, Cabinet of Heed and Ellipsis Zine. He has won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times. Steven has read at Stroud Short Stories, Cheltenham Poetry Festival Fringe and The Writer’s Room on Corinium Radio. He is associate editor at New Flash Fiction Review. Website: stevenjohnwriter.wordpress.com.