She undid the bow from her hair, the same velvet ribbon that he had found tangled in a rosebush along the banks of the Seine those many summers ago, summers in which their love had grown thorns similar to those along the stem of a rose, the ribbon was red velvet, the roses had been red, and so, too, her lips, and also the car that had splashed them as they stumbled, pleasantly drunk, from the bushes along that Paris river, the car had been a Peugeot, his name was Frank, hers was Madeleine, she took that bow from her long black hair, she'd gotten a cut on her knee, she didn't care, the car had stopped and the driver had asked "Are you all right?" although he had asked it in French, because they were in France, along the Seine,
they had sat in the back seat and kissed, the red Peugeot had driven for hours, they forgot everything but the passionate love they were going to make, eventually, the driver let them out near the Hotel La Francaise, the driver said "Goodbye, you were so lovely together, that's why I drove and drove, goodbye, now, goodbye," except he said it all in French, Frank left the bow Madeleine had undone from her long, flowing, tangled, somewhat dry hair in the car, they rushed into the hotel, she cried, "Frank, my bow," he had run for miles after the car, had finally found it in Bordeaux, a city and a region in southwest France, he was tired, he slept in the driver's barn, the hay sweet, memories of her perfume sweeter, he walked back to the Hotel la Francais, it took days, she was long gone,
he went back to the States, took a job with an advertising firm, meanwhile she wept bitter tears, then moved to Istanbul, then Rome, then Helsinki, then Oceanside, California, falling into ever more tawdry affairs, he flew to the west coast on business, they met again on a freeway in LA, he in a rented Mercedes, she in a red Cadillac, in the arms of another, he leapt out of his Mercedes, the car would later be returned by a competent towing service, he might lose his deposit forever but he would lose her longer if he didn't try, one more time, the big blond surfer in whose arms Madeleine was seeking temporary refuge laughed, 'Hahahahahahahahaha,' at Frank as he ran after the Cadillac, she asked what he was laughing about, he pointed at Frank, who was out of breath and slowing down, she cried "Stop!" and the surfer did, not knowing (how could he?) of the love that had been between her and Frank that had once been along the banks of the Seine, in France,
she held him, they were both crying, he took a ribbon from his wallet, "I've been saving it all these years," he gave it to her, it was red velvet, she kissed him, they made love along the side of the road, below the stars because it was dark now, nobody saw them but oh, they saw each other and liked what each other saw, he said "Will you?" and she said "Yes," they moved in together, they rented then bought, they tugged to and fro at the red velvet ribbon that bound them and time together through the years, so many of them, so few, they went so fast, fibers from the ribbon slowly yet surely became undone, their love suffered tests, they held on tight, they thought the ribbon was strong enough, they thought their love was strong enough, but love isn't just a red velvet ribbon, and time isn't either, so they stood on the edge of a cliff against the Pacific, the wind was tearing at their respective hair, hers still long and black and dry, lighting and rain were flung from the sky, the thunder was loud, she screamed at him "What happened to us!!"
then tore the ribbon from her hair, he took it from her, the wind caught it and carried it over the edge of the cliff, he leapt and caught it and miraculously landed where air wasn't and where land was, just barely, she screamed, thinking he would surely die, but he didn't, he gave her back the ribbon, they pressed close together, then went home, dried off, interest rates were high then, they were lucky they had a home to come home to, she became an elementary school teacher, they settled down again, arguments were no longer life and death, or loss of each other, but instead mundane, they were comfortable now, secure, she asked him to remember to pick up some milk on his way home from the office, he forgot, she wept bitter tears, he said "Darling, why?" and she said she didn't know why, but they had never learned how to speak French, he said there was still time, Darling, there was always time, he apologized about the milk, she said it was for her hair, which was still dry, he was suprised, he didn't know milk helped that sort of thing, she took the ribbon from her hair,
she was surprised he hadn't known.