We’ll Always Have Paris

Cayla Rusielewicz
April 14, 2023

Arynessa looked up from her textbook at her phone which had no notifications and then at her best friend, Evaline.

“Sunday night was an interesting night,” she said.

Evaline looked up from her textbook.

“I was over at Maddox’s studying–”

Evaline curled her lip.

Arynessa pretended not to notice. “Well, I was studying. Maddox was composing. After we finished, he asked me if I’d seen the new James Bond movie. I hadn’t even though I love the Bond movies, so we went into his room to go watch it and we were for awhile, but as we lay side by side watching this movie in the dark, I became more and more aware of his presence, of his proximity to me. Then, at one point, I felt his hand on my knee. I thought he had placed it there by accident at first but, no, he kept it there and started rubbing my thigh.”

Evaline’s expression remained impassive.

“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Arynessa questioned.

Evaline closed her book and sighed. On the small table between them were plates of crumbs and used silverware, half-full glasses of water, precariously stacked textbooks, and empty cups, rims brown with coffee long consumed.

“Arynessa, I don’t like Maddox.”

“I know you don’t, but I do.”

Evaline sighed again. “So has he mentioned it all since Sunday?”

Arynessa hesitated. “No.”

Evaline nodded. “Right, so if you’re thinking about the last time, which you are, then you’ll also remember that he led you on. If he led you on once, who’s to say he won’t lead you on again?”

“But that’s precisely why he won’t lead me on again. If he’s not interested, then why would he initiate things again? Why wouldn’t he just let it go? He already rejected me.”

“He initiated last time,” Evaline reminded her, “and he wasn’t interested–”

“Why can’t you just be excited? You see that I am–”

“Because Maddox is a dick.” Evaline pinched the bridge of her nose. “And you promised me that you would stop talking about him.”

It was Arynessa’s turn to be silent and while she was, Evaline started to gather her things.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s getting late and I need to actually get some sleep tonight.” Evaline drained the last of her water.

Arynessa’s phone lit up and she saw that it was 8:00. They’d been at Poet’s Coffee for a little over four hours studying. They had arrived when it was still day but because they’d sat in a booth in the middle of the café, there were no windows and therefore no way to tell what time of day it was.

Evaline stood up.

“Evaline, wait.”

She looked down at Arynessa.

“Should I talk to him?”

“No,” Evaline said at once. “Maddox doesn’t want to talk. If he did, he would have reached out by now.”

She left Arynessa, and Arynessa wanted to say goodnight to her before she did but she couldn’t. She’d had her homework and books to distract her for a prolonged period of time, but now her thoughts–and feelings–were returning. She stacked the plates that hours ago held buttery, flaky croissants and in the space that she had created, she laid her head down.

​Evaline was right, and Arynessa hated that she was. There was a reason Maddox hadn’t reached out to her since Sunday night. She lifted her head and started to gather all her belongings. She shouldn’t talk to him. Why should she talk to him when he clearly didn’t want to talk to her? She should probably sleep early tonight too.

​Tomorrow, she would meet with Evaline for dinner and then they would study together afterwards.

​She received a text. Instantly, her heart rate increased. At the top of her screen, she saw his name before she saw his message.

​She tapped it immediately: how goes the studying?

​Got a lot done, she typed, but I still don’t feel ready yet. How goes the composing?

​Got a lot done, but it still doesn’t feel quite finished, he typed back. Do you want to come over and listen to what I have?

​Arynessa thought of Evaline’s advice, of what Evaline would have advised in this situation. She knew, but she found herself typing a response that went against her advice anyway.

​On my way.

She rode the subway to Manhattan.

All the lights of the townhouse Maddox lived in were on; the rectangular windows glowed brightly in the night.

Arynessa texted him that she was outside and after opening the gate started up the steps.

​The front doors opened and the light from inside spilled onto the steps and onto her. Maddox stood in the threshold.

​His eyes shone even in the dark, an intense blue rimmed by an even darker shade of blue that matched his sweater. A few strands of his chestnut brown hair had escaped his slicked back hair and fell onto his forehead just above his brow. There was a slight but perpetual curve to his lips that almost made it look like he was smirking.

​When she reached the top step, he pulled her into a hug and said into her hair, “It’s good to see you.”

​They stepped inside. Arynessa closed the door behind them before following Maddox down the hallway. They entered the living room. The fire was going and she felt its warmth immediately. At the other end of the room was Maddox’s grand piano. There was a mess of paper sitting on top of it and on the sheet holder above the keys.

​While he sat on the bench, she stood behind him and examined the sheet music. Music notes, none of which she could identify, and then the header, the one word title in bold: Widowmaker.

​“This first part, I have it figured out perfectly,” Maddox said, straightening in his seat before he started playing, his fingers dancing across the keys. He tapped the sharpest keys at the far end of the piano rhythmically.

​“It’s supposed to mimic the movements of a spider,” he explained, “and here the brass would come in.” He brought both his hands down in an arc. All the keys in tandem produced a note that punched the air. “The brass slowly takes control…then the drums come in with frequent pauses before the frequency increases.”

​He played a last note and it rippled through the air before it was silent again aside from the crackling of the logs in the fireplace.

​“I’m not sure what comes after that.” He looked over his shoulder at her. “Why are you smiling?”

​“Because you’re talented.”

​He shook his head before turning back around. “Thank you, but this piece is far from finished.” He scooted over. She accepted his silent invitation and joined him on the bench.

​“What am I missing?”

She wasn’t sure if he was asking her or just asking. She was an aspiring math teacher. She could understand formulas and equations, graphs and charts, but music? She was not literate in this language. Fortunately, she got her answer when he laid his head on her shoulder. She stilled.

​“You’ll figure it out,” Arynessa reassured him. She stared at the hair that had escaped onto his forehead.

​He let out an exasperated noise before standing up abruptly. “It’s taking too long.” He moved to stand in front of the fire and Arynessa went to join him.

Maddox’s gaze remained firmly fixed on the logs in the fireplace.

“You can’t rush this, Maddox.”

He inhaled deeply, nodding. “I know.” She saw his shoulders relax slightly before he looked at her. “You seem stressed too.”

His eyes settled on the shadows under her eyes, the lack of color in her cheeks, though she was certain the fire had restored some of that.

“I am,” she confirmed.

He made a thoughtful noise. “Wait here.”


He was already walking away. He left her alone in the library, and she wondered what time it was, but he was back before she could check.

She heard him reenter from the room and saw that he was carrying a bottle of wine. “Château-Margaux 2001. Theo won’t miss it.” He sat down on the carpet in front of the fire and set about opening the bottle, and normally Arynessa would advise Maddox against stealing from his roommates, but considering alcohol’s ability to take the edge off, she did not even think to in this circumstance. She had a lot of edge, so instead she joined Maddox on the carpet in front of the fireplace.

“No glasses?” she observed when Maddox popped the cork off and took a swig straight from the bottle.

“Desperate times, desperate measures.” He passed the bottle to her. “Also, Cash didn’t do the dishes.”

“You know this is only a temporary solution?”

“Mm hm.” He motioned for her to drink, and she did.

Now would be an opportune time to bring up Sunday night, but the moment didn’t feel right. He was already stressed. So was she. The last thing they needed was to talk about their feelings for one another.

Maddox handed her the bottle again and she tipped her head back pouring straight down her throat. It was smooth sailing until she inhaled at the wrong time and she nearly choked.

“Careful,” Maddox warned, though his tone was more challenging than cautionary.

When she stopped coughing, she asked, “Where are Cash and Theo?”

“Cash had a game and I think Theo’s meeting with his advisor.”

“Finalizing graduation plans?”

“Nope. He’s switching majors, and he’s torn up about it. Feels like he wasted four years.” Maddox shook his head and drank.

“A part of me envies him,” Arynessa muttered.

Maddox passed the bottle to her. “What do you mean?”

“I feel like highschool went by so agonizingly slow but then college has gone by so fast, and I don’t feel ready to be done with this chapter.”

Maddox smiled while Arynessa took a small sip. She felt much warmer.


“We’ve had this discussion before. Senior year. I’ll tell you what I told you then. I don’t think you’re ever going to feel ready for the next phase of life. You just have to embrace that fear and discomfort and trust that it will eventually feel right. At least we know for sure what we want to do with the rest of our lives.”

“I’m going to miss it. This part of life doesn’t feel real. I mean after this there’s no Christmas break or summer break. It’s just work. I’m going to miss being a kid.”

Maddox chuckled. “Arynessa, it’s been a long time since we were kids.”

“I know, but the world still doesn’t feel real, and I’m not ready for it to. I long for those days of dreaming of traveling the world before we even fully understood it. In highschool, we always used to joke about going to Paris for a weekend, but our parents would’ve never let us go. Two teenagers wandering about Paris all alone. I didn’t understand their reservations then. I do now.”

“We’re adults now,” Maddox responded.

“That’s true.”

They reached for the bottle at the same time, and their hands met at the neck of the bottle.

Neither of them moved.


“Maddox?” she said and she was surprised she was able to keep her voice even.

She’d heard girls from their classes argue about what was Maddox’s best feature and she had to resist the urge to answer. His eyes. His eyes were his best feature. Blue was the color of the ocean, yes, but she did not think of the ocean when she looked into Maddox’s eyes, she thought of drowning.

There was a challenge in the depths of his eyes and in his voice when he spoke.

“Let’s go to Paris.”

They had made the decision on a whim, wine drunk, but sober they were able to set about putting their plans into motion. Maddox’s parents traveled a lot for business so a quick phone call with them sorted out their hotel and flight. They had a lot of airline and hotel points saved up that they allowed Arynessa and Maddox to use for their trip. They were willing to sponsor the trip in honor of Maddox and Arynessa graduating.

That was how Saturday morning, Arynessa found herself sitting outside a café in Paris watching Parisians shop for their daily bread, meats, and cheeses while Maddox ordered in perfect French. They both took French in highschool, but while Arynessa’s writing skills had always been stronger than Maddox’s, Maddox’s speaking skills had always been stronger than Arynessa’s.

Above them, the sky was picturesque, a bright, electric shade of blue filled with rows and rows of fluffy cumulus clouds. They reminded her of the Chantilly cream that had come with the chocolat chaud that Maddox had ordered for them.

After enjoying hot chocolate, they visited the Eiffel Tower, an experience integral to a first timer.

At the top with a view before her that some people couldn’t die without seeing, she marveled not at it, but at Maddox.

She didn’t feel on top of the world because she was at the top of the Eiffel Tower. She felt on top of the world because she was at the top of the Eiffel Tower with Maddox.

The rest of their day was uneventful if you could call the exploration of the city of Paris for the first time uneventful, that is. They mostly walked the streets and bridges. She saw lovers clip on locks and throw their keys in the Seine. She walked the length of the Champs-Élysées with Maddox, window-shopping at a variety of stores.

When night fell, they finally set about finding their hotel.

Their room was a two-bedroom suite on the seventh floor and when they unlocked the door, the first thing she saw through the windows in the living room was the city illuminated in artificial brilliance. They said goodnight and retreated into their rooms.

Arynessa checked her phone after getting into bed. Evaline had sent her over a dozen texts asking where she was, and Arynessa couldn’t keep her best friend in the dark especially when they were an ocean apart.

After another day of exploring, Arynessa texted Evaline but she got no response.

She tried to sleep, but after tossing and turning, she threw off the covers and padded into the hallway. She heard faint voices coming from Maddox’s room and saw light coming from underneath the door, darkening and lightening.

She knocked gently just in case he was sleeping, but he answered immediately.


“Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” His voice was muffled through the closed door. She opened the door.

Maddox’s room was dark apart from the light from the TV which illuminated him lying on the bed. She walked into the room glancing behind her as she did.

“What are you watching?”

“Casablanca,” he responded.

She sat on the foot of the bed.

“Have you seen it before?”

She shook her head.

“Well, you need to. It’s one of the greatest movies ever.”

“What have I missed?”

“It’s only just started.” His voice sounded closer and she felt the bed shift under his movement as he settled in the space next to her. “Ilsa Lund, Rick Blaine’s former lover, has just entered the scene and asked Sam, Rick’s friend and the pianist of the club, to play As Time Goes By.

Maddox placed his hand on her knee and she held his hand.

It was all the encouragement Maddox needed. He drew her into his chest and they settled together against the headboard of the bed.

The TV was turned down and Arynessa forced herself to inhale and exhale slowly because when he was that close as he was then, she forgot how to breathe.

She could no longer hear the movie or see it. She could hear her heart or maybe it was his. She lifted her head slightly and found that Maddox wasn’t watching the movie either.

He was watching her.

She waited for him to look away because she couldn’t.

He didn’t. Arynessa noticed his eyes wander from her eyes to her lips, from her eyes to her lips and back again.

She leaned forward.

Maddox grabbed her chin and closed the distance between them in an instant, pressing his lips to hers.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

She had to breathe, but wasn’t this breathing?

Maddox’s lips on hers, his hands cupping her face.

No. This was drowning.

They broke apart.

He took one look at her, panting, hair in disarray, and he smirked. He pushed his own hair from his face and then reached behind her for her braid.

“What are you doing?”

He let the hair falling onto her shoulder serve as his response. He didn’t stop until her hair was loose.


He brought a hand to her face and ran his thumb across her lower lip. “Much.”

Maddox grabbed her shoulders and she gasped as he shoved her onto her back.

His tongue swiped across her lips, and she felt one of his hands slide under her shirt. His fingers barely skimmed across her skin, ran a meandering path up her stomach. His fingers kept exploring higher along each bone. There was a rushing pulse through her veins as he mapped her body with his fingertips.

He was moving so fast. She could hardly think straight.

His fingers trailed down her spine, and she shivered. He tugged at the waistband of her shorts, but she grabbed his wrist. Maddox went along as if nothing had occurred, leaning backwards and then pulling her on top of his lap. She wasn’t sure what he wanted to accomplish in switching to this position. She bent forward to connect their lips, and Maddox grabbed ahold of her hips. She could feel him hard against her leg.

“See what you do to me,” he said breathily.

His mouth claimed hers and while his tongue slipped inside her mouth, she felt his hand grab the bottom of her shirt.

She leaned back, and his hands fell to his sides.

“Arynessa, what’s wrong?”

“I can’t breathe,” she said.

“You’re doing it now. “ He offered her an encouraging smile.

“You make it hard to breathe,” she responded, climbing off of his lap.

She laid down, and he followed her lead.

She could feel him staring at her, so she forced herself to look at him. She was afraid of what she might see, but he was smiling at her. “Are you okay?”

“I will be.” As they lay side by side, Arynessa brought a hand up to his face.

He was still smiling, and so she smiled too.

Neither of them moved.

While they laid in the dark, breathlessly staring into each other’s eyes,  Arynessa thought no one had ever looked at her with such unconstrained desire as Maddox was then.

Arynessa thought that friends didn’t look at each other the way they were, but she couldn’t bring herself to voice her thoughts. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything.

Even having stood on the summit of the Eiffel Tower, she didn’t feel as euphoric then as she did now.

Most people if they could freeze a moment in time, they would choose that one.

Time was flowing. Time was the Seine. It never stopped flowing. But at this moment, Arynessa felt as if time didn’t exist. Nothing existed except the two of them lying in the dark. Occasionally, flashes of light from the TV illumined the dimensions of Maddox’s face, the gleam in his eyes.

From time to time, Maddox would close the distance between them, and then Arynessa would pull back before Maddox could deepen the kiss.

Arynessa could have spoken, but every time she opened her mouth, she remembered what happened the last time that she had spoken. Everytime she opened her mouth, Maddox’s mouth claimed hers.

Besides, didn’t actions speak louder than words? Why would she ask him what he wanted when he was showing her, when he would be the one to deepen the kiss before she pulled away, before they did it all over again.

Her eyelids grew heavy, but she didn’t want to go to sleep. She didn’t want this moment to end.

“Arynessa…” he whispered.

“I don’t want to sleep.”

“We have an early flight tomorrow. Sleep.”

Arynessa made to leave but Maddox pulled her back onto the bed. He connected their lips. Though it was brief, it was slow, longing.

“Goodnight, Arynessa.”

“We’ll always have Paris,” one of the characters in the TV said.

Arynessa woke up in New York.

Recalling the past few days was like recalling the pleasantest dream, one where for a brief moment, you’re overcome with disappointment because you, now awake, realize none of it was real.

But it wasn’t a dream.

Her eyes drifted to her desk where she’d deposited her travel bag. Her clothes were spilling out of the sides from last night when she’d rifled through the bag in order to find her toiletries.

She laid there unmoving for a while, basking in the light of recent events. She had kissed Maddox. She laid there for she wasn’t sure how long.

Her phone rang and that was what made her move.

“Hey,” she greeted into the receiver.

“Hey?” Evaline echoed. “Arynessa, you got back to the states yesterday. Why haven’t you updated me?”

“It’s a long story, Ev.”

“I have time,” Evaline said.

When Arynessa finished, Evaline now said, “I have a question.”

Arynessa waited.

“Are you in love with him?”

Arynessa froze.

No, she thought. She thought, but she didn’t say.

She got a text.

Three words from Maddox: I finished it.

The next time she heard from Maddox, it was him inviting her to the auditorium where the orchestra would be playing his piece, so she canceled the rest of her plans and went to the auditorium.

She sat in the open aisle seat in the fifth row and just as she did so, the quiet chatter in the auditorium ceased. She knew what instrument to look to for the beginning notes, and sure enough the pianist played the high-pitched alternating notes that opened the piece and introduced the spider motif. The brass joined in after a few measures, domineering but complimentary to the delicate notes of the piano. The drums seamlessly joined in.

What would follow would all be new to her and she leaned forward in her seat as if it would somehow amplify the sound. The theme kept building until a percussionist hit the big drum in the back and then the music quieted and when it rose in volume again, the music had shifted.

Arynessa and Maddox’s dynamic had shifted. She didn’t know exactly when it occurred. She only knew that it happened when they got to college. Sometime during freshman year, she started looking at Maddox differently and feeling differently when he looked at her. She could no longer remember when she felt like his friend and then when being his friend no longer felt like enough, just that it had, and she was afraid because Maddox was her best friend. They had been best friends since sixth grade. They worked on their college applications in Maddox’s childhood bedroom. She read his supplemental essays, and he read hers. When they were accepted, they helped each other decide on their majors. They helped each other move in, Maddox into his off campus apartment, and Arynessa into her dorm.

The strings took over.

Her room was okay enough, but Arynessa spent most of her time at Maddox’s new place. Considering his parents were paying the rent, it was a nice place, and Maddox was a much needed sense of familiarity following the significant transition from highschool to college.

She watched the violinists pluck the strings of their violins. A web, she thought at once. The plucking of the strings sounded elastic, pliable, like a web, but the brass crept back into the theme. For a considerable amount of time, Arynessa thought she was the only one who felt the way she did, but then finals week of their sophomore year, they got drunker than they had ever got, and she had to help Maddox into bed. He was delirious. By the time he hit the pillow, he was already half asleep but not before he said with sudden, unexpected clarity, “Around no one else do I feel the way I do when I am with you.” He seemingly forgot about this, but Arynessa didn’t. She went to sleep that night with the rousing feeling of a hopeful heart. Even if he had forgotten what he said, she noticed that he was acting differently.

They–the strings and the bass–vied for dominance. When trapped in the string of the web, the more you struggle, the more entrapped you become all the while the spider keeps spinning silk, beautiful but deadly silk. Arynessa and Maddox started spending more time together than they ever had before. Arynessa often left Maddox’s place in the early morning hours, and then of course one night they had watched a movie and she had leaned onto his shoulder. She had done it before. Friends leaned on each other’s shoulders but they didn’t hold hands or lay on each other’s laps. Their hearts didn’t beat so rapidly because of their closeness to each other. It was the final push Arynessa needed, this night spent in each other’s arms, for her to confess her feelings to him, only for her feelings not to be reciprocated.

The struggle ended with the beating of the drum and the sound of the brass fading slowly, slowly into the piano.

But now he had done more than cuddle her close in the night. He’d taken her to Paris and kissed her like she’d never been kissed before.

The piano was the only instrument that could be heard now. The pianist played the final note, and Arynessa reached the last measure of the composition playing in her mind, only the final note wasn’t a quarter note or sixteenth note. It was a realization.

She was in love with Maddox.

Applause broke out, startling Arynessa. She clapped, but she felt like she was underwater and that as a result every noise had become muted.

She needed to find Maddox.

Maddox was there dressed in another sweater, this one a fisherman knit. He was shaking hands. She saw him do so first with the pianist and then he made his way through the rest of the instruments. He had just shaken the hands of the main percussionist when he noticed her.

And he’d been saying something. She had seen his mouth moving but he stopped mid-sentence and offered her a lopsided grin.

He said something, not much, to the percussionist before he made his way towards her.

“You came.”

His eyes looked gray in the stage light.

“Of course I did,” she said with a little laugh. “Where else would I go?”

“Well, what did you think?”

“I think you’ll be on their setlist,” she said, “and on many other orchestras’ in the future.”

He glanced behind him at those that remained on the stage. “I can only hope. The way they play. It would be an honor.”

He turned back around, his smile fading. “We need to talk, Arynessa.”

“Okay.” She looked at him expectantly.

“You know what about.”

She nodded vigorously, swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he tore his gaze.

“I’m sorry,” Arynessa repeated.

He forced himself to look into her eyes. She could tell that it took him effort. “I shouldn’t have done that. I mean we were both delirious. We didn’t get a moment to gather our bearings before we set about exploring and then we did the same thing the next day. It was a lot to take in. We were overwhelmed and in the heat of the moment in this foreign place we were attracted to what we knew.”

“I-I-I’m not sure what you’re saying.”

​“I don’t want to ruin this,” Maddox said emphatically. He grabbed her hands. “You’re the greatest friend I’ve ever had, Arynessa, I would never intentionally do something to ruin our friendship.”

Our friendship.

“You didn’t,” she said quietly. She forced herself to add, “It was just a kiss.”

Maddox chuckled at that. “It was a little more than that. You’re going to make someone very happy one day, Arynessa.”

She made a noise that was supposed to be one of agreement but she wasn’t sure if it was.

“I have to say hello to the rest of the orchestra.”

“Go,” Arynessa said, and she stepped further into the darkness of the wings of the stage because she was crying.

It was a dream.

She’d gone to Paris, left the continent for the first time ever, yes, that was real, but what mattered to her. What had mattered most. He grabbed her wrist pulling her back where he kissed her once slowly as if he were mesmerizing the feel of her lips on his. That hadn’t been real.

Widowmaker told the story of the beauty and the danger of the spider’s nature. Listeners slowly become entangled in the web of the spider, and once they become aware of it, it is too late. She’d risked so much. She had entrapped herself, but she had only entrapped herself because Maddox had been with her. They had looked forward, not down or behind them.

She struggled in the silk and looked to Maddox for guidance but he was no longer by her side. She whipped her head around frantically trying to find him. The light that had been playing tricks on her eyes faded and her eyes adjusted. No, he was standing center stage smiling at the French horn player. Maddox is not trapped with her in the web. He’s spinning it.

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