Home > The Idea of You(13)

The Idea of You(13)
Author: Robinne Lee

August Moon was not the Rolling Stones. But I did not want to be the one to tell him that.

* * *

The Monday morning after the closing of Basel, I flew directly to Nice and barely had time to unpack and shower at my hotel in Cannes before Hayes sent a car and driver to retrieve me. I’d rejected his offer to stay at their villa, not liking the impression it gave, but I’d agreed to join him for the afternoon.

The estate of Domaine La Dilecta was breathtaking. Iron gates rolling back to reveal a rambling drive, acres of lush lawn, a sizable guesthouse, a majestic villa perched atop the hill—stark white against an azure sky. I could get used to this, rock star living.

He was standing there beneath the portico. Tall and slim-hipped, in head-to-toe black and Wayfarers. His jeans, skinnier than mine.

“So…” I said, stepping out of the car. “This is you?”

He smiled, leaning into me. Oh, the smell of him. “This is us.”

“It’s not a bad pad you’ve got.”

“Yeah.” He shrugged. “Thirty million records will do that for you. Welcome. No bags?”

“I told you: I’m not staying.”

“Right.” He smiled his half smile, dimples beckoning. “No pressure.”

He took my hand then, leading me into the house, through the foyer, and up the stairs to the main floor, past room after oversized room. The architecture was Art Deco, the décor ornate. Not particularly my style, but impressive nonetheless.

“So all is well in Basel?”

“All is well in Basel.”

“Did you sell a plethora of art?” He smiled. His skin was bronzed, kissed by the Riviera sun.

“A plethora of art.” My laugh echoed over the marble floors.

It had been a week of wining and dining and posturing in a variety of languages: English and French and Italian, a smattering of German and Japanese. Lulit had bemoaned the fact that, despite the three Ivy League degrees between us, it still came down to the length of our skirts, but we’d stuck to our mantra—Go. Sell. Art. To rich white men—and sold out our entire booth at the fair.

“This place is massive.”

Hayes and I had happened into a drawing room. There was a baby grand piano in the center, and he ran his fingers over the keys as we walked through. The motion was simple, and yet the melody he’d produced was so pure, it stayed with me.

“You have to see the rest of the grounds,” he said as he continued across the space. “The record company’s treat. A little ‘Well done, lads! Have a spot of fun and then back to work, all right? But if you’re inclined to do some writing in the interim, we won’t stop you.’”

He threw open a set of doors, opening onto a grand terrace, revealing the yard in all its vast verdant glory. A bit of a ways down there was a sizable pool, a handsome pool house, and way, way beyond the rolling hills and the horizon of trees, there was the Mediterranean.

The two of us stood for a minute, soaking it in. I could barely make out a few bodies prostrate on the lounges poolside. But other than that, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

“So,” Hayes continued, “we’re here for a few more days, and then we head into the studio to work on Wise or Naked.”

“Wise or Naked?”

“The new album.”

“Oh. So which one are you?”

He laughed. “Which one would you like me to be?”

“Ideally, both.”

“Ha! That’s a flirt, not a spar.”

“You’re getting good at this.”

“I have an exceptional teacher. Come meet our friends.”

I followed him down to the lawn and across the wide expanse of grass. “Where is everyone?”

“Liam and Simon took the boat out to go jet-skiing with Nick and Desmond, a couple of our security guys. Oliver is playing tennis down at the courts with Raj. Trevor and Fergus, also security, are in the gym. And Rory … I think Rory is taking a well-deserved nap.” He laughed at that.

And then I understood.

Lying out by the pool were three young, sublimely formed females in various stages of naked. If I hadn’t had a heart-to-heart with myself about being comfortable with the fact that I would likely be twenty years older than all the other eye candy offered on this trip, I might have reacted differently. I might have run back to my hotel. Back to L.A. But I’d rationalized it shopping for swimsuits at Barneys. And on the flight to Switzerland. And again, just now, in the drive over from Cannes. I was here because Hayes wanted me to be. And being near forty and having birthed and nursed a child did not change any of that.

Hayes proceeded to introduce me to their guests. In one corner, Oliver’s girlfriend, Charlotte: a porcelain-skinned, bikinied brunette who’d separated herself from the others with the aid of an oversized sun hat and an iPad. She smiled up at me from her place in the sun, sipping Vittel and cracking pistachios with the finesse of a duchess.

And in the other corner, the French girls, Émilie and Carine. I’d mistaken them for twins, but Hayes disabused me of that notion. They were locals, friends of Rory, delightfully pretty and ridiculously young, in matching black bikini bottoms. And sunglasses.

“Ça va?” I nodded toward them. I’d grown up summering with girls like this. I had only stopped being intimidated once I’d realized that the particularly aggressive mixture of competitive tanning, cigarettes, and Bordeaux caught up with them at around age thirty-two. But I could appreciate them for all their nubile beauty now. I assumed Hayes could as well.

“Avez-vous du feu?” the one with the slightly more perfect breasts asked.

“Non, desolée. Je fume pas.”

“Tant pis, alors.” She tossed her blonde head.

Hayes called to me from the far side of the pool. Someone had set up a lovely spread: crudités, fresh fruit, a selection of chilled drinks. “Rosé?”

“What? No Scotch?” I made my way over to him.

“When in France…”

“So your friend Émilie—”

“Rory’s friend,” he corrected me, pouring the wine.

“Rory’s friend. She just vous-ed me.”

“So?”

“So I’m guessing she thinks I’m your mother. Or that I work here.”

“Really?” he said, handing me a full glass. And then, before I could take a sip, he grabbed my head in both his hands and kissed me firmly on the mouth. “Well … she doesn’t think that now.”

Somehow I’d managed to forget how wonderful his mouth was. Soft, enticing. “You should probably do that again. Just to be sure.”

“Just to be sure,” he repeated. And then he obliged me.

When he eventually pulled away, I could feel the girls’ eyes on us. Even Charlotte, who was still cracking pistachios.

“Not that that wasn’t fun,” he said, soft, “but you probably shouldn’t care what she thinks.

“Come.” He grabbed his glass. “Let’s go for a walk.”

“The French girls, what are they? Twelve?” I asked once out of earshot.

He laughed. “Eighteen.”

“You know that for a fact?”

“Desmond checked their IDs.”

I paused for a moment, making sense of it. “Is that what Desmond does? Does Desmond check IDs?”

Hayes smiled. “No one on the premises under eighteen. That’s the rule.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “No one asked for my ID.”

“I vouched for you. Come here.” He took my chin in his free hand and kissed me. “Twelve…” He laughed.

“They look twelve to me.”

“Isabelle is twelve. Isabelle is not that. Yet.”

I gave him one of my best withering looks.

“I’m kidding. Isabelle will never be that. She’s going to go from twelve straight to sixty. No stopping in between.”

I looked back toward the pool then. One of the girls was oiling the other’s back. Was this real life? “Aahhh, France…”

Hayes smiled, wide. “It’s like a gift.”

“I imagine it is. I imagine being in a boy band is like a gift as well.”

“Sometimes.” He sipped from his glass.

“Only sometimes? When is it not a gift?”

“When the woman you’re trying to impress reminds you that you’re in a boy band.”

“Touché,” I said. We were making the trek across the lawn down toward the south corner of the property. “Are you trying to impress me?”

“Was that not apparent?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

“But you didn’t bring any bags.”

“I’ve got this.” I smiled, proffering my purse: the Céline hobo bag in chamois, perfect for everything but holding a change of clothes.

“Does it have a toothbrush in it?”

“You’re bad—”

“If not, I’m not interested.”

“You would fuck me even if I didn’t bring a toothbrush.”

Hayes stopped in his tracks, pushing his sunglasses up on his head. “You just used the f-word.”

“Imagine that…”

“I have been. For two months now,” he admitted. “You realize this changes everything, right? I was trying to be a gentleman, but why bother?”

I smiled, swilling the wine. “I like that you’re a gentleman.”

“You, Solène Marchand, are very complex. Which I find incredibly appealing.”

“Like unfolding a flower?”

It took a moment, and then he remembered, smiling. “Like unfolding a flower.”

A sudden glare of light ahead caught our attention, and Hayes and I looked up to see a golf cart careening toward us from the direction of what I assumed were the tennis courts. Rory was at the wheel, Oliver beside him, long legs outstretched on the dash, and Raj was seated on the bench in the rear. They made for quite a sight. Bronzed youthful skin, chiseled features. Like they’d rolled out of the pages of a catalog …

   
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