04 – Early Birds

Continued from A Nice Evening

“Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early bird—
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.”
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein

*******

It wasn’t that Grissom hadn’t been used to waking up alone. With Sara in Vegas at least three out of every four weeks, he woke up that way far more often than he’d like. He just hadn’t expected to find himself doing so on that particular morning.

For there had definitely been a very soft, warm body beside him when he’d drifted off the night before.

While he hadn’t been surprised to find Sara in bed by the time he’d returned from his what should have been short sojourn downstairs to fetch an extra blanket, he hadn’t exactly expected to find his wife already fast asleep.

He probably could have woken her. Perhaps if he’d been a much younger and far less patient man he might have. But her breathing had deepened into that of the sort of sleep that comes of having finally succumbed to sheer exhaustion. He hadn’t had the heart to wake her.

Besides, he’d mused, there would be plenty of time for such things later.

The practicality inherent in such thoughts however in no means interfered with the few moments he allowed himself as he prepared for bed to indulge in the highly satisfying consolation that with any luck he’d have that very next morning to linger more than a little overlong in bed with his wife.

As for that night, there’d always been a quiet sort of comfort to be found in watching Sara sleep. Well, not quite so quiet with her having just started to snore. Which had made him smile. It always did. Her fervent denials even more so. He’d missed it and them. Hank’s loud, ponderous snores just weren’t the same.

And he’d hoped the sound portended a restful night; perhaps a sleep perchance not to dream.

For although she’d been far less fretful and prone to nightmares during the times in which they’d actually slept together these last eighteen months, he knew things were very different while they were apart. Work was work and Vegas still Vegas. And Sara still seldom seemed to sleep or at least sleep peacefully there.

Besides, he hadn’t needed her to tell him that work hadn’t been going well. Grissom knew it just to look at her.

He’d known even before. Except there had been so very precious little he could do from nearly 6000 miles away apart from listen and try to support and be there for her as much as all that distance allowed.

But now she was here, he could let her rest and did.

Gently, he’d eased the spare blanket over her, having thought as he did so that he should be relieved that she wasn’t sprawled across the mattress and hogging the bed as she so often did. At least not yet.

Just before he’d shut off the light, he’d fancied, in response to the kiss he’d pressed into her still damp hair, that he’d glimpsed just the hint of a smile flutter over her features. Though when he’d slipped beneath the sheets to join her in sleep, he’d been relieved that Sara had only stirred and not woken. She had however seemed to settle deeper into his embrace all the same.

Home, that he was home, had been his very last thoughts, as with an ease he only knew when she was near, Grissom had himself been soon fast asleep.

So it had been disconcerting to say the least to roll over the next morning to find the space beside him vacant.

“Sara?” he called his voice still thick with sleep. “Honey?”

“Yeah?” she asked, wandering in from the bathroom, still dressed in her customary tank top and lounge pants and with toothbrush in hand, having apparently been summoned mid-brush. She was, he rued, certainly far more alert than he was feeling at the moment.

Which was to be expected. Firstly, she’d truly slept better and deeper and longer than she had in weeks, for the better part of a month really. Then even if she hadn’t been actually out of bed all that long, Sara had been awake for a while.

Having awakened to the snug, peaceful comfort of Grissom’s arms about her, the flutter of his breath on the back of her neck and the feel of his fingers having edged their way beneath her camisole to splay against her bare stomach, she’d been in no rush to surrender to the call of morning. Instead, she’d nuzzled nearer, closer, relishing the warmth. For it was the only time she really ever felt warm these days.

Thankfully, no one else had seemed to notice or at least hadn’t yet commented if they had. She didn’t know exactly how or why or when, but she’d found herself getting colder easier these days and more often than not, needing to wear a jacket both inside and out. Considering all the grief she’d given him about his year-round jacket wearing habit, perhaps it was a good thing her husband wasn’t with her in Vegas.

Although she’d readily take the teasing in return for more mornings such as this one, and evenings like the one before.

Still having not being all that keen on rising, she’d reluctantly reached for her phone to check the time. While it wasn’t yet light out, at nearly seven, it was far later than she’d thought.

And even if the plans she’d made several weeks before were starting to pale in comparison with the actual pleasure to be had in simply being back with her husband again, they did have an appointment that morning to keep. Whether Grissom knew about it or not.

But having not wished to wake him just yet, even if it wouldn’t be for all that much longer, Sara had discreetly extricated herself from his side. Grissom had only snuffled and rolled over, predictably pulling the blankets along with him.

He was considerably more awake now, although he didn’t look all that pleased at the prospect.

“I was just about to wake you,” she said, giving him a grin and a swift cinnamon-scented kiss before retreating for a moment to the bathroom to rinse her mouth and toothbrush. Over the running water she called, “I thought about going down to pick up something from the market for breakfast but I didn’t want you to think I’d disappeared on you.”

Which was precisely what had happened to her the night before.

She’d been as good as her word and hurried through her shower only to find as she’d emerged from the bathroom, still damp and only wrapped in a towel, the room utterly empty.

Her momentary bemusement hadn’t lasted long however. She’d soon recalled that her husband had mentioned something about going downstairs for a blanket. Still, he should have been back already.

She’d settled on slipping into her pajamas and had paced the room for a bit.  Then giving into the tiredness she’d been fighting all night, she’d sunk sleepily on the bed. It wasn’t long before the chill in the room had chased her beneath the sheets and even less time before she’d fallen asleep, so dead to the world that she hadn’t even registered Grissom’s return.

“By the way, where did you go for that blanket?” she asked. “All the way back to Paris?”

To which Grissom replied, “I was unavoidably detained.”

She popped her head through the door to ask, “Oh?”

It was the truth. He’d genuinely been unavoidably detained. And for once not by dead bodies or even bugs. But rather by an involved discourse on the innate supériorité of certain dialectes français.

It had all begun innocently enough and with the best intentions.

The fact that Sara seemed to get colder easier as of late (if her tendency to don a jacket more frequently these days was any indication) hadn’t exactly escaped his notice. And with their chambre d’hôtel being a tad on the cool side to begin with and the blankets on the bed a little thin, not to mention there was always his proclivity for stealing the covers (not that he would ever admit to it, even if it was just one of those things: Sara hogged the bed; Grissom the bedcovers), going down to the front desk to get another couverture for the bed had seemed like a good idea.

All he had to do was go downstairs and request of the clerk at the desk, “Je voudrais une couverture s’il vous plaît,” who would then go and retrieve it and Grissom would return to their room with said blanket in hand even before Sara had gotten out of the shower.

What he hadn’t counted on was the curiosity of his fellow guests.

It had been the same clerk who’d earlier assisted them in checking-in that manned the front desk that night, so he’d greeted Grissom with a friendly, “Bonsoir, Monsieur Sidle, et votre diner, ça c’est bien passé?” which had caused Grissom to grin and wish Sara had been with him. She’d have found it both funny and apropos after all the times she’d been addressed as Madame Grissom. And she did, as he related the incident to her that morning.

In any case, he’d chosen not to bother to correct him. Instead, Grissom had replied in his usual fluid sort of French, the ease and speed of which Sara not so secretly envied, that it had been bon, três bon and had heartily thanked him for his recommendation. They’d exchanged a few more casual pleasantries before Grissom requested the blanket he’d come down for in the first place.

As the concierge disappeared off to retrieve it, a voice had piped up behind Grissom, inquiring in a heavily accented English, “You are American?”

As he’d turned to face his inquisitor, Grissom nodded and replied in French that he was. There’d been three of them, all men about or near his own age who’d come up behind him while he’d been speaking to the clerk. What they’d been doing there he never did find out. They all looked strangely and surprisingly impressed. At the elegance of Grissom’s French as it had turned out. Or so the man who’d first spoken said.

Although Grissom could never pass for a native speaker, most américains never bothered to even attempt to learn le français in the first place, let alone speak it with such sophistication. They simply employed what seemed to be the universal method of communication by English speakers: when not understanding or being understood, they simply repeated what they wanted slightly more slowly and a great deal louder in their own tongue. Usually to no real avail.

Grissom might always be an étranger, but at least he was one of the rare conscientious ones.

He’d taken the compliment with his customary good grace and patiently proceeded to answer their questions over how long he’d been in France, how long he was staying, his profession, where he’d learned French.

The three had been impressionnés to find he taught at the Sorbonne, although puzzled as to why anyone would study l’entomologie. Then had nodded knowingly when he’d explained that his tutor was one of les immortels of Le Académie Française. That accounted for it, it seemed.

For while Grissom’s French was good. Very good, they’d readily conceded, it wasn’t real French at all. Just le français parisien. And there was, as Grissom had very soon discovered, quite a difference – at least a difference of opinion.

What had followed next was a quarter hour detailed expostulation on the subject. And Grissom, not wanting to however unintentionally injure the Gallic pride or give Americans a worse name than they already frequently had abroad, had been unable to find a polite way to extricate or excuse himself.

He hadn’t been all that surprised really, having become quite familiar over the last eight months or so with the French penchant of very publicly airing their personal opinions on all sorts of matters, particularly to foreigners whom they saw as sorely wanting such instruction.

And while they might disagree over whose French was most French, most français held to the unshakeable fundamental belief, born of centuries where le français had long been the international language of la bonne société, that one didn’t just learn the language when one studied French. No, these language lessons were no less than a cours de civilisation.

Mme Laurent, Grissom’s indomitable doyen of a language tutor, had once summarized the general sentiment with a quote by Paul Morand, the celebrated French early modernist and auteur, who when elected member of l’Académie had said, “To write in French is to see flowing the waters of a mountain stream next to which all languages are muddy rivers; it is to live in a crystal palace.”

In truth though, she’d also confessed that the dialect superiority wars were a little absurd. Despite all of l’Académie’s efforts to establish and fix the French language, French wasn’t a unified language at all. Even as late as the 1870’s, it was actually was a foreign language for more than half of the inhabitants of France. And Nissart and other forms of Provençal Occitan which were now experiencing a resurgence after decades if not centuries of decline, were made up of various diverse dialects of their own.

Of course that didn’t stop the French from arguing.

Hence why it had taken Grissom so long to return upstairs.

Upon him having finished relating all of this to her, Sara laughed, “Well, you can’t say they weren’t friendly.”

Not that they hadn’t usually found the French that way. In their experience the nation as a whole had a rather undeserved reputation for aloof rudeness. Something foreign to all they had encountered. That was one of the problems with stereotypes. More often than not, they were frequently dead wrong.

“You checking up on my work?” Grissom asked. For while he had been relating the misadventure of the night before, Sara had been sorting through the bag he’d packed for her.

“Never crossed my mind,” she replied, gathering up a handful of clean clothes. “But I do have one question, Gil. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the thought, I really do, but why didn’t you just call the front desk and ask them to send someone up with a blanket?”

That he didn’t immediately answer didn’t matter, the look on his face clearly indicated that the possibility hadn’t even occurred to him.

Amused, Sara smiled and leaned in to kiss him.

His hands sliding around her waist the better to tug her onto the mattress with him, Grissom murmured, “Come back to bed, dear. It’s early.”

Her reply was a reluctant, “We’re already running late.”

“At this hour?” he asked nonplussed. “It’s not even light out.”

It wasn’t that Grissom didn’t often get up at or near the crack of dawn on a regular basis. Hank wasn’t all that amenable to late lie-ins.  But he really rather would have lingered in bed with his wife.

Although Sara seemed to be thinking of something else entirely, for she said, “You should be happy you weren’t teaching at the Sorbonne in Louis IX’s time. Lectures back then started promptly at five a.m.”

Then at the openly dumbfounded way he was gaping at her, she smirked, “You aren’t the only one conversant with l’histoire française,” before retreating to the bathroom to finish getting ready.

“Do I at least get to know why?” he called after her.

She paused at the doorway to reply, “Yeah, we’ve got to see a man about a boat.”

To which all Grissom could do was echo, “A boat?”

*******

Continued in In the Same Boat

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