The line inched forward.
Neil adjusted the straps on his frayed backpack again. His eyes swept once more over the crowd. He licked his lips as he failed to find the face he sought. Instead, behind him swarmed a legion of other tourists, bent on the same destination.
Conversations in dozens of languages bubbled beneath the iron legs of the most distinctive monument in Paris. A man in a bright blue beret hawked souvenir’s down the curving ropes corralling the three snaking lines. Neil caught the clink of the miniature Eiffel Towers on the ring the beret wearing fellow waved above his head. Another balding man wore a tray full of bottled water. In the summer heat, his condensating offerings were more fruitful than the pocket sized icons. Other souvenir or beverage sellers meandered through the crowd. Here and there a few Euro’s changed hands.
Neil didn’t linger on the transactions. His eyes flittered from one baseball cap to the next.
“Move up…” said the portly, red faced man standing behind him. The neon green polo shirt stretched over his ample stomach and strained to stay tucked into his bulging khaki shorts.
Neil blinked at him then followed the man’s pointed finger. The line had moved another foot.
“Sorry…” Neil said, stepping up into the gap.
The rotund tourist gave a grunt and wiped his meaty hand over his sweating forehead.
“That fool needs to pay attention…” he grumbled to the blonde woman decked in a white, studded track suit at his side. She seemed intent on dotting her lips with crimson lipstick and only nodded.
Neil ignored them both and stuck his hands into his jeans to avoid fumbling with his straps again. His foot tapped on the stones and he blew out a terse breath.
Hurry up, he silently urged.
The line surged forward like molasses. Without prodding this time, Neil managed to keep up. The large square booth at the southern leg of the Tower loomed before him. He counted the heads between himself and the ticket counter.
He glanced over to his right, beneath the Tower where the other two lines for the elevators wound. A scarlet cap caught his attention and his arched up on his toes. The lean face beneath the brim sported light stubble on a square chin.
Neil sighed. He turned towards the park, stretching out on the other side.
A few more souvenir sellers lurked near the cool shade offered by the lines of manicured trees. On the trim grass sat a few picnickers and others taking a break from the heat and vacation induced activity.
“Oh, that smells good,” said the lipstick toting woman.
Neil swiveled his head and a broad grin bloomed on his face.
“There you are.”
Beth’s bright face beamed beneath her worn scarlet cap. “Take these,” she said offering over a paper sack containing a pair of long, savory smelling baguettes and a small box in a plastic bag.
Neil stuffed the baguettes into the crook of his arm and his hand dipped to take the container.
“Ouch…” He tossed the box like a hot potato as the warmth hit his fingers. “What is it?”
Beth ducked under the rope and took the back the plastic bag. “A snack.”
“It smells marvelous,” said the blond behind them. “Doesn’t that smell good Harold?”
The portly Harold grunted in agreement. “Told you we should have gotten lunch first.”
“Well who knew how long this line was going to be!”
Neil and Beth shared a small smile and rolled their eyes as they moved forward in the wake of the growing argument.
“I thought you were just going to the rest room.”
Beth shrugged and popped open the container. A saccharine cloud wafted into the air and wound tantalizing tendrils around Neil’s nose. His mouth watered.
“Wine and honey soaked peaches…” Beth corrected.
“You are an angel.” He leaned down to plant a kiss on her cheek.
She batted him away as she closed back up the box.
“This means you’re paying for the tickets.”