Italy was a bust.
So was Germany. Maybe taking Harriet to see the Concentration Camps wasn’t the best idea. She’d said she’d forgotten a lot of it from when she last visited years ago, so Andrew had signed them up for a tour, not even thinking. She took one look at that display of baby shoes from all the dead Jew babies and burst into tears. To be fair though, it made everyone cry.
He’s apologized until she’d told him to “shut the fu¢k up and go to sleep, it’s two in the morning Andrew”. So he had. They left for France on a train the next morning without looking back. They were now sitting at a café with a name Andrew couldn’t pronounce. He could just see the tip of the Eiffel Tower from where they sat. So far, France was probably his favorite. He loved the brick streets and the trees and the bright colors. He loved the way flowers grew from all the terraces and loved all the strangely designed bikes parked all over the side walk. He loved that almost every street corner was a book shop full of books he couldn’t understand.
The people here weren’t lazy as he’d always thought, just relaxed. The people here, Harriet had told him, shop every day for the night’s dinner instead of shopping in bulk for the week. Andrew began to wonder if he should have opened shop here instead of London. People had, apparently, been complimenting Harriet on her clothes all day. Andrew didn’t really see it. He’d made both the light blue wrap shirt and the loose white slacks, but they were parts of other outfits that were far more striking. Harriet just didn’t care to match anymore. Apparently though, French people seemed to like her casual clothing options and always seemed to compliment Andrew when Harriet seemed to tell them her boyfriend had made them.
Even as Harriet ordered their food, the waitress seemed to be eyeing Harriet’s top. Or maybe she was just lesbian. Andrew chuckled at himself once before his eyes drifted off in awkward boredom. There was a family a couple tables down comprised of a mother and father and little girl and a toddler boy who looked painfully like Everett would have likely looked like. Too painfully. Andrew looked away.
The waitress finally left to go get Harriet’s hot chocolate and Andrew’s cheesy croissant. Andrew looked at Harriet. “What were you talking about?”
Harriet shrugged and looked at the book shop across the street, the one with a glass door with red pained wood that was propped open. Above it, a woman was watering some orange flowers that were growing on her terrace. They watched as some water dripped down off the leaves and came drizzling down on a young couple that was leaving the book shop. They gasped in surprise and looked up. The woman with the metal watering can shouted down, hand over her heart, something that was probably “sorry”. The couple laughed brightly and waved at the woman before taking off.
A few tables away, the young girl who was seated beside the toddler shouted something and her dad shushed her. Andrew cocked his head. “That’s not French is it?”
“Spanish.” Harriet said, not even bothering to look.
Andrew raised his brows. “Spanish? That’s not any Spanish I’ve ever heard.”
“Spain Spanish. Castilian.” Harriet said.
“There are different kinds of Spanish?”
“Yes,” She said with a sigh, sitting back in her chair. “I’ve always found Castilian harder to understand, but that’s because I was raised in LA.”
“I once tried to take a Greek class.” Andrew told her, though he was pretty sure they’d had this conversation before. “I learned to say ‘no I don’t like lamb’ and ‘I know I’m a failed Greek’ and that’s about it.”
Harriet almost cracked a smile. Almost.
They sat there for a while, listening to the French chatter of the people around them and the Spain-Spanish of the whining children a couple tables down, and the general din coming from inside the café and the rest of the street. It was sort of peaceful, even the whining. It somehow reminded Andrew of when he used to sit on the benches with all the parents as the kids and Quinn played on the jungle gym at the zoo. How the kids laughing and shouting would go through a sort of sound filter before they reached the peaceful benches only a few feet away.
The toddler reached out when no one was watching and took something off his sister’s plate and shoved it in his mouth. A bird pecked at some bread crumbs on the ground near the street curb. The woman on the terrace finished watering her plants and went inside. A little girl with curly golden hair skipped while holding her mom’s hand, tugging her into the books store. The toddler at the table began to cough. A guy on an old fashion bike rode down the street. Something from inside the café crashed and several people shouted in surprise, followed by ringing laughter. The toddler coughed again and his mother turned to him. The owner of the shop across the street came out and frowned at the small puddle of water that had fallen from the terrace garden above.
It happened slowly, the Spanish family all turning to the little boy, the mom forcing his mouth open and digging around, the coughing, the dad shouting at the daughter and the girl not knowing what was happening. People began to turn and look, all but Harriet who just sat with her elbow on the table and her chin in her hand, toying with the red napkin on the table. The mother stood up began to slap the little boy on the back, but he kept on coughing and the mother began to shout frantically at the father who started patting his back too. People were standing up and going to them as if they knew what to do.
None of them did.
“Harriet.” Andrew said and knocked her arm, her head dropping as its perch was forced away. She jolted and looked around like she had just come awake.
She found the sound immediately and didn’t wait more than a heartbeat before she stood up from her little iron chair and shoved her way through the crowd, forcing people aside. She wasn’t especially strong, but she was taller than the average woman and being a doctor required more muscle than people would ever think. Andrew stood up and tried to follow, but unlike Harriet, he wasn’t a force to contend with and he was stuck on the outside.
Instead he just watched as Harriet shoved the frantic mother aside and grabbed the child and sat down in a chair. Andrew didn’t understand what or why, but Harriet placed the child’s belly on her legs with its head toward her knees and began to lay blows against its back. Then she flipped it onto its back and began to press down with two of her fingers sharply against his chest. She put her hand over his face and flipped him back over, pounding on his back again. This happened five times, flip, flip flip, every time more nerve wracking than the last. For a moment, Andrew forgot that Harriet was his girlfriend and he became just another bystander, watching, breath held, as a woman tried to help a chocking child.
On the six flip, Harriet pounding away at the toddlers back, a loud wheezing sound came from the child who was slowly beginning to turn blue. Andrew didn’t see it happen, but the entire crowd let out a loud cheer and he could only assume the object had come out. It wasn’t over though. The baby was not the right color. So Harriet pushed all the plates on the table aside, one of them crashing to the uneven pavement where it shattered, and laid the baby flat out on the table and Harriet began doing CPR.
Someone from the front row muttered “grape” in English and the little girl began to cry harder. It was her plate that had broken on the ground and Andrew could see, even from where he was, large red grapes littering the ground.
An ambulance came around then, its lights flashing, it’s sirens not at all what they had in America. It was little and white with yellow stripes reading something-Paris. People moved aside for it and two men jumped out, one carrying a bag. The crowd parted way then and the meds rushed to Harriet and the baby.
The tall of the two meds took out a familiar device from the bag that had a little face mask and blue attachment that Andrew knew was for forcing air into the lungs. It turned out to be unnecessary though. Just as Harriet was about to step aside and let them men take her place, the toddler let out a bloody wail. It was one of the most fearful sounds Andrew had ever heard, but also one of the most beautiful. Everyone let out loud shouts and whistles and a couple people even started crying.
With the new arrangement brought upon by the EMTs, Andrew was able to push his way gently to the front close to where Harriet stood. The mother of the baby, who had all but been forgotten, now rushed forward and grabbed her screaming kid off the table, sobbing herself.
“Antonio,” She cried, holding him so tight he was likely to stop breathing again. “Antonio el nene.”
“Harriet.” Andrew said softly, and came forward to grab her hand. She glanced absently at him and turned back to the mother and her baby. She gripped his hand back though, tightly.
“Madam?” One of the EMTs said, directed at Harriet. “Comment vous appelez-vous?”
“Harriet.” She said.
The EMT’s began to ask what had happened, or Andrew assumed, but they were interrupted moments later by the mother who began to say something in rapid Spanish to Harriet. There were still tears running down her face as she grabbed Harriet, hugging her tight and kissing her on both cheeks.
“Mi no hablo espanol Senora.” Harriet said, but the woman didn’t care or seem to take any notice at all. She just continued to cry on Harriet’s shoulder, speaking even though Harriet didn’t understand.
After a moment, Harriet hugged her back.
When the woman finally pulled away, she gripped Harriet’s arm and said in halting English, “Tank-you Harriet. Tank-you.”
“Harrie,” Andrew shouted from where he lay on his stomach on the hotel bed. “Look, you made the news.”
The subtitles were on as a man with a bushy mustache began to report.
EARLIER TODAY AT A CAFÉ MERE BLOCKS FROM THE TOWER, A NINETEEN MONTH OLD BOY NAMED ANTONIO STARTED CHOKING ON A GRAPE. WITNESSES SAY THE MOTHER AND FATHER BOTH TRIED TO GET THE GRAPE OUT, BUT THEIR ATTEMPTS FAILED.
“They say failed like they didn’t try hard enough.” Harriet said, drying off her hair as she stepped out of the bathroom, smelling like lavender for the first time in months.
“Yes, very sad, now shush.” Andrew said and Harriet plopped down on the bed wrapped in nothing but a robe.
The man went on, a blurry picture appearing in the corner of the screen of Harriet laying the kid across her lap.
FORTUNATELY AN AMERICAN DOCTOR NAMED HARRIET BAPSON WAS EATING AT THE SAME CAFÉ WITH HER BOYFRIEND AND WAS ABLE TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION, SAVING THE CHILD’S LIFE. OUR OWN MEDICAL PERSONNEL WERE RENDERED UNNECESSARY, THOUGHT HE CHILD WAS STILL TRANSPORTED TO A NEARBY HOSPITAL FOR FOLLOW UP PROCEDURES. HARRIET GRADUATED FROM UCLA THREE YEARS AGO AS ONE OF THEIR YOUNGEST MED STUDENTS EVER. SHE HAS BEEN TAKING A SURGICAL RESIDENCY IN LONG ISLAND, MASSACHUSETTS FOR THREE YEARS AND—
“Hey!” Andrew cried as Harriet shut the television set off. “I was watching that!”
“It’s not like you don’t know my medical training.” She said, rolling her eyes. “Figures they care more about me than the child that almost died.”
“He didn’t almost die,” Andrew said, sitting up and kissing Harriet’s temple. “You were there. Did you hear he called you Harriet Bapson?”
“He just got our names mixed up, is all.”
“And you rendered their medical personnel unnecessary.”
A smile flickered onto Harriet’s lips and after a while she said, “I saved him.”
Andrew smiled back. “You did.”
“He’s okay.” She said, as if she didn’t quite believe it.
“A doctor called the hotel with the number we gave them while you were in the shower. Antonio is perfectly fine, though the sister is a little hysterical.”
Harriet played with the strings on the plush white towel. Andrew bit back a sigh. “I’ll order up some dinner and we can go to bed after we’ve eaten, okay?”
“No.” Harriet said, almost scaring herself.
“No,” She shook her head and looked out the window toward the lights of the city and the people who were still roaming the streets, bringing home fresh food for dinner for their families. “I want to go out. Come on. Let’s go see what Paris looks like at night.”