As she rode the metro, Claudia felt anxious and unsettled. Thinking about Michael made her feel guilty and embarrassed. She had planned to get up early, get croissants from downstairs and give him a map of Paris, recommend galleries and sites, make sure he would be okay his first day in the city. She groaned as she realized that she had even forgotten to give him a key. She decided to skip her afternoon classes and come back early, try to make it up to him.
It was around noon when Claudia came home, carrying a fresh baguette and groceries for lunch. Michael looked up with annoyed surprise.
“I thought you had classes all day,” he said. “That’s what your friend Margrite told me.”
“I did,” Claudia replied. “But I felt bad about not leaving you with keys or anything to do, so I skipped them to hang out with you.”
“You shouldn’t have missed classes. Margrite told me she would leave the door open and I was getting ready to go out,” he said.
Claudia set down her groceries. The room seemed crowded with Michael at the table. “Well, are you hungry?”
“I already ate.”
There was a half-eaten baguette on the table and she set hers down beside it, noticing that hers was broken in two.
With forced cheerfulness, Claudia suggested they go to the Louvre. Michael agreed dully. Once inside, he spent half an hour inching his way through a thick crowd to get a close look at the Mona Lisa.
“I’ve never understood what’s so special about that painting,” Claudia huffed after waiting impatiently for him. “It’s so little and isolated behind that glass. I want art accessible, alive. The Mona Lisa is a small, dead painting - a pretty corpse on display.”
“It’s a classic,” he admonished, “one of the most beautiful paintings that exist.”
“Just because it’s a classic, doesn’t mean I have to like it,” she said. She was annoyed at her cousin for showing such interest in the painting. When she had shown him some of her photographs the night before, he had flipped through them quickly, indifferently. “So this is what you do,” he’d said.