The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

Oscar Wilde
Image by Michael & Inessa Garmash

The sad cafe iv

A Love Story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
She Doesn’t Speak French
By Holly Hunter

On sleepless nights
I stroll the left bank in black sequined heels
My eyelids are heavy with smoky glitter.
Among the art I find you
your essence pierces my veins
settles in the pool of my heart
soft lights flicker their last warning in the sad cafe where
like willows, we sway to long-forgotten love songs
then you are gone, a Modigliani reclining, never hearing
Je t’aime, the only French I know.
Five Years Earlier

Autumn leaves have begun to fall. Late October, London is ablaze in hues of orange and purple. On my bench, by the river, I daydream that I am an adolescent reptile escaped from Kafka’s Die Verwanlung, laid back basking in the sun.

The air is layered in heavy cologne, but men do not interest me now.  I am content to casually observe. To my advantage, I know all about them while they know so little about me.

Thinking of you against my wishes, dying a little, dead all the sweet hope of dreams never realized,  I imagine my earthly body padded, sat beside yours on a grassy knoll breathing in the scent of lilac and the mossy green River Delta.

In the dark, I am nude but for a shadow across my torso.

You are so near, and to distract me from this burning desire, I let my thoughts linger among Roethke’s “In A Dark Time.”

Years pass, and by chance, we meet at the sad cafe. I sway in your arms like a fragile birch in an autumn tempest. The halo of my eyes glistened, recalling how we gave away what we never really had. We hold each other, knowing that love has died, and we with it.

Renate’s life rotated in the dark of city life as she did her post-graduate work at the St. Thomas Hospital on the Thames River situated across from the Parliament Building. London was her escape from the memories of Paris. Here it was a different life with less mystery and a chance to work with only her thoughts to distract her.


“Welcome aboard, David. I see in your personnel file, you served the Embassy here in Paris before as an assistant to a previous Military Attache.

“I was young and inexperienced then, Sir,” David replied.

“I also see where you departed with high regard from the Ambassador. I find that interesting that you made such an impression.” The current Attache, Colonel Picardin, remarked as he continued to walk briskly from the receptionist station into the secured keep of the U. S. Embassy in Paris.

Doors designed to withstand bomb blasts clanked shut, ensuring David would be a captive audience for as long as the Colonel desired. Thankfully, senior military officers that spied for a living were spare of words.

When their tour of the facility and introductions to his team of embassy support staff was complete, David excused himself from the group confessing he had a date with a cafe near the Seine River. People rarely asked the Deputy Attache questions as it was his mission to go places and meet people of all walks of life, some much more dangerous than others.

“David, one second. I’ll walk you out. Col Picardin lost his amiable countenance and now addressed David with a stern demeanor like a face dancer. This assignment is no stranger to you. It will be hard for you to acclimate to Paris’ slow battle rhythm compared to your work in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Don’t let your guard down. Bad things happen here of a far more insidious nature. Loss of life is seldom, it’s the discount price that is rarely offered in our line of work.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’ll keep my head on a swivel.”

“One last thing, the Officer uttered as he approached the blast door. The women here are the best at getting what they want. Trust no one.”

The words bit into David’s flesh like the talons of an angry raptor. The curse of secrecy meant his honesty could only go so far. This need to only address people without commitment had wounded the only true love he had ever known. He looked down at the pavers and shook the memories from his vision; duty feeds the ego and stabs the heart, he whispered to ghosts. Tonight he would go to the Sad Cafe and wait for Renate. It was their anniversary, so to speak. Today was the day they confirmed their love for each other five years ago. They had missed several, but this time he hoped she would be there and let him explain; no, beg her to come back to him.

He would be here for at least five more years, plenty of time for them to work on restarting their relationship. David knew he would tell her what he does for a living and why he was gone so often without explanation. He let loneliness, fear, and finally, jealousy and suspicion take her mind and crush her heart. How could he let an oath to silence destroy the one person he held most dear?

33 thoughts on “The Sad Cafe IV

    1. Thank you so much Lauren. Of all my blogoteer friends, I’ve known you and Holly the longest and between you have inspired a good 80% of everything I’ve attempted in my journey to learn the art of writing fiction. None of my stories have felt as right as this one. I was always pushing myself to try something out of character for me as a person. I felt that is what writers should do. You can see Holly’s masterful touch in every line as we play each character. To invoke the dreams of another master in the arts is a compliment I could not have imagined until now. The right friends make everything possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s amazing, it really has been a long while – and I’m honored to be an inspiration! You are absolutely an inspiration as well. The way you and Holly write is so beautiful and poetic, it’s on another level. When my writing needs more depth and luscious imagery, Hyp’s Hypnotic words are an excellent motivator.

        I can tell you I don’t really push myself to try something out of character. I think that way I can be 100% genuine and really shine. I would never write pure romance, it’s just not me. I leave that to the experts! 😉 I do think it can be a good exercise and brain flex, though. Any writing, no matter what, is good practice. Just write and keep on writing, but preferably write what you love and let it come bursting out. This is it, right here.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So very true Lauren. I see that authenticity and humor in your writing. It’s always fresh and lively. I think I’m past the push it stage. I came to understand what you already know. Going forward, I hope to show a truer picture of what I feel is the right stuff for me. I have lots to inspire new stories. I like short 10,000 word stories and may try to craft a few 50 word stories. We’ll see how it goes. Lettin’ it bust out now 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you so much!

            I certainly don’t mind reading outside of my usual genres, and I think that can help with writing, too – no matter what genre you write in.

            Glad to hear there is no shortage of material in the wings. ❤

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Very true. I’ve always been the odd duck that likes nearly everything and I was explaining to a female coworker once that I even read romance for women written by women and before I could explain why, she interrupted and told me not to being saying that out loud like I should be ashamed for intruding in that private domain. I decided this was another oddity that should be kept closely held among friends. I thought, how else am I to understand the other perspective if I’m not willing to engage with it. Of course, that goes on to include outdoor equipment, beer, and food. I like to venture out and try new things. That doesn’t always sit well with people of well defined boundaries. I can honestly say, my life has been an exciting adventure because I never accepted a small slice of life as my only ration. I think you are exceptionally kind to tolerate me and I deeply appreciate it.


  1. Loved this! You guys are on fire!! So many great lines – “Thinking of you against my wishes, dying a little, dead all the sweet hope of dreams never realized, . . . . I sway in your arms like a fragile birch in an autumn tempest. . . . . London was her escape from the memories of Paris. . . . .The women here are the best at getting what they want. Trust no one.” . . . .duty feeds the ego and stabs the heart, he whispered to ghosts.
    Love that you guys have continued to expand the Sad Cafe!! Bellissimo!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it’s a wonderful painting! You have a sweet brush, Dan.
        Really enjoying this sultry tale!

        So, I’m busy on the next PBH tale.
        Nothing strange happens, until the end of the first episode.
        RR will switch to her PBH persona in the second episode. Will need to consult you then. “Gowntoons” are a happening!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Here we have the typical conflict between commitment to profession versus emotional romantic entanglement. Usually the protagonist displays struggles of concience before giving in but the reader is told David will not entertain such mental conflict. He will reveal his secrets and violate his oath of office but he did not advise his superior of his intentions. That makes him a hypocrite in my view if not a traitor, hm? Of course it all depends on what comes next but now he’s lost his credibility… in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The conflict of duty versus desire and self is long documented in our short history. I suppose many Roman Emperors in the late Western Empire can testify to that as their Praetorian Guards, the most loyal and trusted, slipped a dagger in the royal tickers for Rome. Many people serve a cause greater than themselves and don’t act out of self serving pettiness no matter the price they must pay. But human nature can often lead to internal conflicts that only the strongest psyche can resolve according to their personal reckoning. David must resolve his oath with his desire for Renate who he has already hurt. Let’s see how he pulls this off. I think a good story should evoke emotions, even negative ones. That’s real life written into a fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “duty feeds the ego and stabs the heart, he whispered to ghosts. ” Ah Hype, you have a talent for diving into the human condition and putting it such words so everyone understands. As for this question: “How could he let an oath to silence destroy the one person he held most dear?” The answer brings to mind the dilemma of both Bond’s wife and the wife of Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Perhaps revealing such secrets would put the woman’s life in danger, and withholding the truth requires the ultimate in self-sacrifice and is, in fact, the pinnacle of true love…love for the other, and not for the self. in David’s case. “The Sad Cafe” may be his permanent residence. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A perfect explanation, George. It takes a very special woman to stay by her man and wait for him to return, hoping he is still whole and undamaged. Most normal people can’t deal with the stress of plans always curtailed and the daily worry about when the next shoe drops.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Fiery One. This was truly a collaboration where Holly has contributed the greatest portion of what it means to love someone and to mourn the loss of a soulmate along the way in our life’s journey. But, never underestimate the power of love to return us to one another.

      Liked by 1 person

                1. Ha ha ha! I don’t remember if Europe’s coffee made for good romance but it sure did wake me up. I did spend a lot of time in Gasthauses with good friends and neighbors with coffee in the morning and beer in the evening. The conversations were always lively.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed Chris. We often fall into that trap of work to live and then ruin our lives with work. Not everyone can walk away from the rat race and those people are left to dream of what could have been instead of memories that soothe the soul.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wise words, My Friend!! Yes, sadly the seeds of regret that bloom into “What ifs”, “If only” “What might have been”??? Wonderings for dreams and lonely nights!!
        You guys are on fire!! Masterfully penned!! Bravo!! Chuck


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