“Bonjour!” Andre spread his arms wide to wrap Jean in a quick embrace. He pulled back enough to place a kiss on both of her cheeks.
She managed a nervous smile and sideways glace to Dennis as she rubbed her hands on jeans. “Um…Bon-jur.”
“I’m so glad you found your way,” Andre said, turning to a stern faced Dennis.
Dennis extended his hand for a shake, his arm taunt. Andre took the offering with his nimble hand while his other arm wrapped around Dennis’s shoulder.
Jean suppressed a giggle as Dennis’s eyes grew wide, his cheeks flushing as Andre delivered another bise to either side of Dennis’ clean shaved face. The street map in his hand crinkled.
“Your directions were great,” said Jean, slipping her arm through Dennis’ bent elbow. She gave his bicep a supportive squeeze through his long sleeve shirt.
“But of course!” Andre’s smile beamed. He clasped his hands before his snug black tee shirt and trim grey jacket. A stylish fuzzy scarf twined around his neck and drooped down to his lean black jeans and shiny loafers.
Jean adjusted her pack on her shoulder and peered at the crowds hovering around the crystal pyramid. Her sneakers shifted on the large cobblestones.
“So…what do we do now?”
“The guidebook says we get tickets downstairs,” answered Dennis. He pulled the zipper on her canvas bag and tucked away the map before pulling out a worn travel book.
“Non, non,” said Andre with another grin. “You say si vous plait.”
Jean frowned and tried not to giggle at Dennis’ nervous glance in her direction.
“See…Vous..Plait,” she repeated.
Andre gave her a wink and reached for his back pocket. His hand came back with three crisp tickets.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, taking the ticket Andre extended.
“And let you waste your vacation standing in line?” Andre wagged his finger. “Non, non, non. Come mes amis.” Scooping up Jean’s arm, he hurried them around the jagged sides of the pyramid to one of the entryways.
Dennis tucked the book hurriedly back into the backpack as the guard processed them through security. He waved them on with a silent nod. Sunlight reflected off the rotating glass door as they each slid inside and found their feet upon the swift moving escalator.
An excited hum filled the cavernous entryway. Languages from across the globe rumbled in conversation while paper pamphlets exchanged hands, computer registers clicked and booklets flipped to explanatory pages. A coiling line poured out of the massive chocolate colored counters occupying one side of the square. Flat, rectangular panels displayed the ticket prices before the slowly moving mass.
Jean’s eyes swam across the multicolored crowds milling around the information depot in the center and up to the four large hallways branching off from the square lobby. Large banners of various artworks waved in the gusts of air conditioners. She pulled down her sweaters rolled sleeves against the artificial breeze.
“Where do we start?”
“The guide book said the Mona Lisa’s in the…” Dennis frowned, his hand landing lightly on the book containing pack on Jeans back as she stood on the step below him. “Sail des Etats.”
“Oui, she is there,” said Andre, one step further down. He sighed and shook his long locks. His shoulders slumped as he leaned on the railing of the descending stairwell.
“What?” asked Jean as the escalator deposited them on the tiled lobby.
“If you want to follow the herd like the other cows,” he said, motioning towards the surge of humanity heading down one of the four corridors, “then you do not need me.”
Dennis crossed his arms. “You can’t expect us to miss one of the most iconic paintings of all time. It’d be like you coming to the states and avoiding Washington DC.”
“Dennis…” murmured Jean. She shot Andre an apologetic glance.
Andre smiled. “Oui, oui. You are quite right. But trust in your friend. I will show you where the all the treasures lay.”
Dennis grumbled under his breath. Jean laid a hand on his shoulder and received a pleading stare. Andre tactfully turned to peruse a group of college-aged exchange students cackling across the marble.
“Andre knows what he’s doing, Dennis,” Jean whispered. “We’re not going to miss anything.”
Dennis sighed. “I had marked up the guidebook with all the locations…”
“I know, sweetie…but do you want to trust a book or a local to show us around first hand? Look how much time he already saved us!”
He met her wide, blue eyes instead of the ticket she waved before his nose. The tension in his shoulders ebbed.
“Ok…” he nodded and a small smile crept onto his lips. “So long as he doesn’t kiss me again.”
Jean leaned in a placed a swift peck of her own on his lips. His hand found her belted waist and pulled her in for a quick squeeze.
“Ah…amour…” mused Andre. He had wheeled on his loafers and a sly smile had crept onto his mouth.
Jean blushed and gave Dennis a half hearted shove.
“Ready?” asked Andre.
“Please,” said Jean.
“Si vous plait,” corrected Andre with a cocked brow towards Dennis.
Dennis let out a chuckle. “Si vous plait.”
“Parfait!” Andre pivoted to stand between them, slid his arms through theirs and guided them against the crowd’s current. “This way mes amis! Let Andre show you the world!”