are we going?” I can’t keep the eagerness from my voice. “The Seine? I know it’s up here somewhere. Are we going to sit on the riverbank?”

“Not tell ing. Keep walking.”

I let this pass.What’s wrong with me? That’s the second time in one minute I’ve let him keep me in suspense. “Oh! You have to see this first.” He grabs

my arm and pul s me across the street. An angry scooter honks its puny horn, and I laugh.

“Wait, what—” And then I’m knocked breathless.

We’re standing in front of an absolute beast of a cathedral. Four thick columns hold up a Gothic facade of imposing statues and rose windows and

intricate carvings. A skinny bel tower stretches all the way into the inky blackness of the night sky. “What is it?” I whisper. “Is it famous? Should I know it?”

“It’s my church.”

“You go here?” I’m surprised. He doesn’t seem like the church-going type.

“No.” He nods to a stone placard, indicating I read it.


“Saint Etienne du Mont. Hey! Saint Etienne.”

He smiles. “I’ve always been a bit proprietary about it. Mum used to bring me here when I was young. We’d take a picnic lunch and eat it right here on

the steps. Sometimes she’d bring her sketchbook, and she’d draw the pigeons and the taxis.”

“Your mother is an artist?”

“A painter. Her work is in the New York MoMA.” He sounds proud, and I remember what Meredith once said—that St. Clair admires Josh because he

can draw so well . And that St. Clair’s father owns two art gal eries. And that St. Clair is taking studio art this semester. I wonder aloud if he’s also an artist.

He shrugs. “Not real y. I wish I were. Mum didn’t pass on that particular talent, just the appreciation. Josh is much better. So is Rashmi, for that matter.”

“You get along well with her, don’t you? Your mom?”

“I love me mum.” He says this matter-of-factly, with no trace of teenage shame.

We stand before the cathedral’s double doors and look up, and up, and up. I picture my own mom, typing snapping turtle data into our home computer,

her usual evening activity. Except it’s not nighttime in Atlanta. Maybe she’s grocery shopping. Wading in the Chattahoochee River. Watching The Empire Strikes Back with Sean. I have no idea, and it bothers me.

At last, St. Clair breaks the silence. “Come along, then. Loads to see.”

The farther we go, the more crowded Paris gets. He talks about his mom, how she makes chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and tuna noodle

casserole for breakfast. How she painted every room of her flat a different color of the rainbow. How she col ects misspel ings of her name on junk mail.

He says nothing of his father.

We pass another enormous structure, this one like the ruins of a medieval castle. “God, there’s history everywhere,” I say. “What is that place? Can we go in?”

“It’s a museum, and sure. But not tonight. I believe it’s closed,” he adds.

“Oh. Yeah, of course.” I try not to let my disappointment show.

St. Clair is amused. “It’s only the first week of school. We have all the time in the world to visit your museum.”

We. For some reason, my insides squirm. St. Clair and me. Me and St. Clair.

Soon we enter an area even more touristy than our own neighborhood, crammed with bustling restaurants and shops and hotels. Street vendors

everywhere shout in English, “Couscous! You like couscous?” and the roads are so narrow that cars can’t drive on them. We walk down the middle of the

street and through the jostling crowd. It feels like a carnival. “Where are we?” I wish I didn’t have to ask so many questions.

“In between the rue St. Michel and the rue St. Jacques.”

I shoot him a look.

“Rue means ‘street.’ And we’re stil in the Latin Quarter.”

“Stil ? But we’ve been walking for—”

“Ten? Fifteen minutes?” he teases.

Hmph. Obviously Londoners or Parisians or whatever he is aren’t used to the glory of car ownership. I miss mine, even if it does have trouble starting.

And no air-conditioning. And a busted speaker. I say this, and he smiles. “Wouldn’t do you any good even if you did have one. It’s il egal to drive here if you’re under eighteen.”

“You could drive us,” I say.

“No, I couldn’t.”

“You said you had a birthday! I knew you were lying, no one—”

“That’s not what I meant.” St. Clair laughs. “I don’t know how to drive.”

“You’re serious?” I can’t help the evil grin that spreads across my face. “You mean there’s something I know how to do that you don’t?”

He grins back. “Shocking, isn’t it? But I’ve never had a reason. The transit systems here, in San Francisco, in London—they’re all perfectly sufficient.”

“Perfectly sufficient.”

“Shut up.” He laughs again. “Hey, you know why they cal this the Latin Quarter?”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Centuries ago, the students at La Sorbonne—it was back there.” He gestures with his hand. “It’s one of the oldest universities in the world. Anyway, the students were taught in, and spoke to each other in, Latin. And the name stuck.”

A moment of reserve. “That was it? The whole story?”

“Yes. God, you’re right. That was pants.”

I sidestep another aggressive couscous vendor. “Pants?”

“Rubbish. Crap. Shite.”

Pants. Oh heavens, that’s cute.

We turn a corner and—there it is—the River Seine. The lights of the city bob in the ripples of the water. I suck in my breath. It’s gorgeous. Couples strol along the riverbank, and booksel ers have lined up dirty cardboard boxes of paperback books and old magazines for browsing. A man with a red beard

strums a guitar and sings a sad song. We listen for a minute, and St. Clair tosses a few euros into the man’s guitar case.

And then, as we’re turning our attention back toward the river, I see it.


I recognize it from photographs, of course. But if St-Etienne is a cathedral, then it is nothing, NOTHING compared to Notre-Dame. The building is like a

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