Skin deep


It was one of those sharp, bright December mornings, the winter sun made the wet Paris streets dance with a glittering sparkle of light and shade. A day when the numerous Parisian dogs seemed to understand the point of deposing of their morning toilet needs in the gutter.


Harold felt good. He was out on the prowl for Christmas presents, always a laborious task, but necessary if he was to keep the peace with his immediate family. As a confirmed bachelor with a handsome income, Harold was expected to give generous Christmas presents.


He was passing a fancy jeweler’s boutique on the Rue de la Paix when his eye caught the sight of an elegant wristwatch. Harold stopped to take a closer look. Definitely, he thought a stylish little timepiece! Did he really need a wristwatch? No, but it was Christmas. He remembered, last year, buying himself a little present that had taken the tedium out of these shopping expeditions. At least, he thought, he would enjoy seeing the watch on his wrist, even if it was for a fleeting minute.


He was about to open the boutique’s door when he saw a tall sergeant major type move with haste from the interior of the shop to open the door. This is going to be expensive he thought. Once inside two stylish looking females, all smiles, approached him with that air of your heart’s desire is our pleasure.


“Do you speak English?” asked Harold.


He always enjoyed these moments in fancy boutiques of this nature; his understanding and his fluency in the French language was good, verging on being excellent. In French he heard the elder of the two women say to the other “ Veronique, your English is better than mine, please serve the customer, he seems to have a charming air about him. ” ( Il a l’air d’etre charmant). Inwardly, Harold smiled to himself, one of those pleasant advantages of secretly listening in on other people’s conversation.


Veronique stepped forward, “ How can I help you sir.” This was spoken in good English supported by a charming smile and a French accent that embellish the pretty picture. Before Harold replied he made a quick mental assessment of the young women before him. A series of images float before his eyes. He thought she probably came from a good family; he saw her spending her summers in Normandy, running through an orchard, laughing as she got soaked in the summer showers. She appeared to be the type that had been a serious student, but obviously from her position in the shop not quite good enough to get into the top universities. Judging by her appearance she was interested in clothes, tastefully dressed in a skirt with matching pullover, set off with a string of pearls around her neck. Harold immediately imagined the pearls were a present from her Grandmother for her eighteen birthday. She had delicate hands with long tapping fingers with well-manicured fingernails; she was not wearing a ring. Her face was a study in that refined and intelligent visage one often sees on young women in the crowded French streets. Her dark hair was drawn up in a perfectly executed chignon; for a fraction of a second Harold contemplated what she would look like with her hair down. As she continued to smile at him he noticed two little dimples showed on either side of her cheeks, just at the corner of her mouth. Harold stepped forward thinking how pleasurable it was going to be examining the wristwatch with this creature.


“Yes, please, I saw a wristwatch in the window which rather caught my fancy”


“Can you please show it to me,” came the reply. Together they move to the back of the boutique’s window. Veronique bent forward to unlock the showcase and then move back to allow him to look into the back of the window. He moved forward and pointed to the watch. In order to see where he was pointing she had to practically move in on top of him, there was a little shuffling of feet. He caught a whiff of her perfume, definitely Guerlain he thought. In her anxiety to make sure she didn’t make a mistake she nearly fell on him, he just steadied her in time. Little blushes, profuse excuses. This wasn’t Harold first time experiencing pointing to object from the back of showcase window, nor for that matter of catching people just in time. At one time it had even crossed his mind that these showcases were designed in this way so the customer and sales person could have a touching intimate experience before the art of persuasion played its role. He stepped back to allow her to retrieve the watch.


The little commotion in front of the window had obviously intrigued the older woman as she now stood before him. He had visions of his mathematics high- school teacher about to deliver a lecture on the disrespect of young men had for the opposite sex. Much to his surprise she showed him to a table and asked him to take a seat. As Veronique was still adjusting the window display this gave him time to look around the boutique. The walls were covered with solid looking highly polished wooden cupboards; he noticed each cupboard had a large lock and key that projected a strong message; only to opened by an authorized person. The floor was covered with a thick carpet and there were four ornate tables evenly distributed around the room at an angle to the walls. Each table had inlaid leather covering with a graceful table lamp placed to one side. The whole boutique reeked of sophistication and refinement. He ran his fingers across the soft touch of the leather tabletop. Harold always took pleasure in touching things; he thought he had a particularly sensitive touch. As a child he had often play a game of being blind and only using touch to simulate sensational pleasures. This little particularity was still with him today; needless to say the childish game had been tempered down. Any further thoughts were disturbed by the table light being switched on and there before him was the wrist watch placed in the middle of the table.


“I believe this is the one” he heard Veronique’s voice as she sat down opposite to him. He looked up across the table and said. “Yes, this is the one.”


“Let me help you try it on”


As he extended his wrist and took off his present watch he felt a warm, soft hand gentle place the watch around his wrist. His eyes danced in front of those long well manicured hands as they adjusted the strap.


“What do you think? ” He heard the charm of English being spoken with a French accent.


“ I like it very much, but I don’t like the strap.”


“ Monsieur, is so right, this watch needs a more elegant animal skin, may be crocodile, or possibly lizard? I think black should be the color, don’t you? ” He nodded his head. “Let me see what we have got.”


She left the table and went over to one of the cupboards. Harold was left looking at the watch. Yes, he definitely like it, but thought it was probably one of those silly spur of the moment purchases that one learns to regret. Veronique was back with two watchstraps, one in crocodile, one in lizard. He was greatly taken with the lizard. The tight scales of the skin conjured up tropical nights, green foliage, and flashing tongues. His little dream was interrupted by Veronique voice saying “ We will be pleased to change the strap for you at no addition charge.”


Harold sat there looking a watch. He put the lizard strap beside it.


“Yes,” he said, “ Change the strap and let me have one more look at it.”

The moment he saw the watch dressed with the lizard skin strap he was fairly certain he was going to buy it. But before he finally made up his mind he had one more request.


“May I put the watch on your wrist just to see what it looks like at a distance.” He noticed a tell tale emotional reddening sign on the side of Veronique’s neck.


“Of course sir,” came the replied.


Harold’s extra sensitive fingers felt the tender warm skin of the young woman. He wondered what she would be like in bed. Enjoying the moment he gently turned her wrist to see the watch at various angles. “ Excellent, I will take it” He wasn’t sure if at that moment he heard a slight sigh.


It must have been a month later that he started getting an ugly rash from his new watch wrist strap. His doctor told him it was the lizard watchstrap; he was obviously allergic to their skin.


The boutique’s door opened in the same manner as before. As he entered Veronique looked up from a flower arrangement she was busy with at the back of the shop. Her eyes told him she was not that surprised to see him, in fact rather pleased. Something told him she had expected him to come back. She immediately came forward so that her colleague, the older woman, had no chance of intervening.


“This is a pleasant surprise, what can I do for you?” She said this with a tone of voice that disguised her true feelings.


“I have a little problem, said Harold showing her the marks on his ugly red wrist.”


“Oh! You poor thing!” exclaimed Veronique. This was said with an emotional out burst that completely exceeded the bounds a normal customer-saleswomen relationship. He could see the older woman was more that surprised at this out burst. Veronique blushed trying to get a control of her emotions.


“My doctor tells me I am allergic to Lizard skin, regrettably I will need to change the strap.”


“Sir, I understand. We will immediately change the bracelet.” Veronique replied.


For the second time they sat opposite each other at one of the elegant tables. For the second time her warm soft hands caressed his wrist as she bend over to make sure the new crocodile strap fitted. It did. He told her that as soon as the rash subsided he would wear it to find out if this new reptile’s skin suited him. As he left they shock hands. Her hand lingered in his trying to tell him something. Her eyes seemed to be shining with a brightness that he had not noticed before, but no words passed her lips.


Once the rash had cleared up Harold started wearing, on a regular basis, the watch with its new crocodile strap. Three weeks later the rash had reappeared. Harold began to convince himself that it was Veronique who in some strange way had found a clever way of enticing him back to the boutique. May be she had designs on him? What ever it was he had to return to the boutique and find out


This time there was no big sergeant major type to open the door. He saw Veronique sitting alone behind one of the tables. He immediately walked over to the table and sat down opposite to her. She smiled; gorgeous little dimples showed on her cheeks, her dark hair was loose, cascading down her back. For a second the vision of her in bed captured his imagination with surprising vigor. He extended his right arm showing her the rash on his wrist. This time there was no emotional exclamation. She put her hands on the table as if beckoning him to touch her. Slowly he moved his hands towards her and gentle took her right wrist. He felt the smooth warm, tender skin of a young woman.

He leaned forward and in exuberant, flippant mood whispered.


“ I think the only answer is a strap made out your gorgeous warm tender skin.”


Veronique gently moved her head forward and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, while whispering, “what part of the body do you suggest.”


Harold’s head started to spin. He replied.


“ Before choosing can I examine every part of your body.”

Veronique left hand moved forward and slowly caressed the back of his right hand.


In a low seductive voice she said, “ ………….”




-The end-


short stories
An Unusual Request
Bewitched and be wildered
A cry from the heart
Fate played a devilish hand
Frustration with a capital F
A roll of the dice
Living in the shadow of death
A lesson well learnt
The wedding
A pleasant ride, a pleasant talk
Sweet revenge
Drum beat, heartbeat
Skin deep
They came, they left no trace
The window cleaner
A delayed meeting
Hold on tight
In the name of my parents
Strange events
Sequel to Frustration with a capital F
A strange and beautiful love affair
The doll's dilemma, a chage of style
The poster hanger - It had to happen
They had nothing in common
A misplaced letter
Life's mysteries
An ode to cheese
The marshes
Waiting in vain
Day follows day
Sounds of the future
The dream of flight

writing in Paris, copyright 2005