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"What kind of an idiot goes to the most romantic city on earth all by herself to get over a broken heart?"
That would be me. And the slightly nasal voice in my head asking that question belonged to my best friend, Kelly. That voice continued to nag me about how dangerous it was to be in a foreign country with a broken heart as I stood in the long line at Customs at Charles de Gaulle airport. It even had the nerve to follow me when I boarded the tram to baggage claim. She wouldn't shut up. I wanted to scream that I wasn't an idiot and my heart wasn't that broken. But shrieking like a crazy person in the middle of the airport? Not such a good idea, mainly because handcuffs and a straitjacket wouldn't go with my outfit.
By the time I'd arrived in Paris that morning my emotions were bouncing from one extreme to the next. I was extremely tired from my sleepless overnight flight, extremely excited to finally be in Paris and extremely scared because I had come all alone to a foreign countrywhere I barely knew the language. Maybe Kelly was right. Maybe I was an idiot. But it was too late now. I was already here. And I was going to enjoy myself if it killed me. I just needed a little sleep and then Kelly's voice would disappear just like my last boyfriend.
"Ah, Madame Sinclair, our solo traveler has arrived," exclaimed a dapper Frenchman holding a clipboard when I finally managed to locate my tour group in terminal 2C.
The man's badge read Sebastian Marcel, TransEuro Tours. He was dressed in a neat blue three-piece suit with a striped shirt and red bow tie. A white handkerchief poked out of his jacket pocket. He sported a head full of thick snow-white hair and wire-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his narrow nose.
"Bonjour," I said to Monsieur Marcel and the group. Curious stares and a few friendly nods returned my greeting. My gray eyes, honey-colored skin and long, thick dark hair are always a source of speculation. I could see the unasked questions frozen in every furrowed brow and narrowed eye. But they'd be stunned to know that I was just as curious as they were about my origins. My mother had been African-American. I have no idea about my father. The answer to that mystery died with my adoptive parents.
"I trust your flight was pleasant?" the tour guide inquired.
"Yes. Thank you."
A quick perusal of the twenty or so people gathered confirmed my worst fears. The tour was entirely made up of couples. And I wasn't just the only solo traveler. I was also the youngest and the only one with a permanent tan. Thankfully, the tour was semi-escorted, which meant after we were escorted to our hotel and given info on optional group excursions, we would be left on our own to do as we pleased, meaning I wouldn't have to stick out like a sore thumb for much longer.
"So you're on your own?" asked a middle-aged woman with glasses and short brown hair. Her accent was Australian.
"Yep, just me. Couldn't find a friend to bring," I replied with as much cheerfulness as my exhaustion would allow.
Actually, I was supposed to be on this trip with Ben, my boyfriend of a year. However, since he'd recently gone back to his ex-wife, he was no longer in the picture. Apparently, much like a pair of cheap magnets, Ben and his ex just couldn't stay together or apart for any great length of time and reconciled and split up every few years. Ben had felt so guilty about dumping me that he'd attached the e-tickets for the trippaid in fullin my "Dear Maya" email as a lovely parting gift.