a novelist's dabblings

At the End of an Empty Street

“The Ides of March” Series … Prompt #8 – “At the end of an empty street.”

We walked a lot that day – two girls giddy with the love of a foreign city. Determined to save money and see more of the city upfront and personal, we had studied the maps – of streets and subways galore – in order to use our own two feet to get us around. And it had worked – despite our lack of “sensible shoes” – me in my plaid Converse and Elsa in her white Keds. We called them our “adventure shoes” and meant to fill their memory with our travels abroad, even if they left our feet exhausted at the end of the day!

Now as the sun moved toward late afternoon, Elsa plopped herself on a park bench, dropping her bags at her feet.

“I can’t possibly walk another step, Libby,” she groaned, closing her eyes momentarily.

“I know,” I agreed, joining her on the bench. “But just think of all we’ve seen today! We hit the most major attractions in this part of the city and we saw all the hidden ones in between.”

“You’re right,” Elsa paused to take a deep draught from her water bottle. “It was worth it, every step. I just feel pooped! Can’t we take a cab back to our hostel?”

I shook my head, also drinking deep of my refreshing water. “Remember, Elsa? You promised me we could go down that one last street across the square. We have to at least explore that before we go back to our hostel and get ready for dinner.”

Elsa sighed a little. “Okay. But there better be some picture-worthy sights to see down that street!”

I grinned at my best friend, knowing if it weren’t for our back-and-forth banter, we wouldn’t have seen half the sights we had along this trip. Some days it would be her pressing to go to “just one more shop or street.” Some days it would be me begging to stay out just a little longer. In the end, though, we were usually glad the other made us go for what we received out of it, be it worthwhile souvenirs or pictures or just the memory of it.

Gathering our belongings, we headed across the square toward the street that had caught my eye. It was marked by an old-fashioned French signpost, all decorative and swirly in its iron lace trim, but the street seemed to be quieter than most as it curved out of sight.

Elsa raised her eyebrows at me as if to say, “It’s not looking too promising,” but I shook my head and smiled anyway.

“We have to give it a try, Els!” I cried and plunged forward.

A few old stores lined the front of the street, but as we followed it around, the shops became fewer and farther between. In fact, the street was practically empty altogether, with an almost abandoned look to it.

“Libby! We came all this way for nothing?” Elsa exclaimed.

“Elsa, just wait,” I protested. “Let’s go all the way to the end, then we’ll call it a day.”

Elsa shifted the bags on her shoulders, sighed, and grudgingly agreed.

The end of the street inclined just a little with the climax of two ancient trees and an old-fashioned bench at the top. As we approached it, we realized why the bench faced its back to us – because it looked out with simple grandeur to the whole city spread below us.

We collectively gasped at the sight – almost a bird’s-eye view of this whole, grand, beautiful place we had come to love in a brief four days. We couldn’t even speak or reach for our cameras, the scene was so breathtaking.

At last, Elsa murmured, “You were right. It was worth it. Every step down this seemingly insignificant street. Because the best view was waiting, hidden just out of sight.”

A smile spread across my face. “Just like in life, isn’t it, Elsa? And we had to come all the way to Paris, France, to figure that out.”

And in silence, we sat watching the sun spread its last, majestic rays over the city from end to end – grateful to be alive and adventurers in the world.

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