There is something disturbing and almost hypocritical about starting a new life. Once just another Parisian woman lost in the masses, living in a modest studio, I had now become Chicago’s little French girl, object of curiosity.

And there is an upside to piquing people’s curiosity: no longer surrounded by my circle of friends, I was sure to have more exchanges with strangers than I was used to. Strangers like “Steely Eyes.”

As the days passed and the end of May approached, my days bore a strange resemblance to those of a desperate housewife…without the friends. I toured the city, decorated the apartment, learned new recipes, shopped at boutiques, and managed to pick up a few useful phrases in English.

Joshua and I had moved into a big apartment at 840 North Lake Shore Drive. Three bedrooms and four baths. There was a balcony off the living room with a view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Magnificent, inside and out. And all this for just two people, one of whom was out of town more often than not. Magical. And ridiculous. Oh, well.

My moments of joy, those moments when I could have a real conversation, were with Joshua, of course. Poor Joshua—I would recount my every exploit in the city and show off all my new acquisitions to him one by one, from an Al Capone coffee cup to my new Victoria’s Secret panties.

And Joshua was a good sport, receptive and intelligent. He had hired a maid, Yolanda, to look after the apartment, and, I suspect, to take care of me too. It only took thirty seconds for her charm to win me over, and one morning for us to become friends.

Yolanda was a tiny woman, all curves and roundnesses, with a sweet smile and laughing eyes. A real Italian mama who would hug you tight and pat you on the back, then hold you by the shoulders and look you in the eyes to ask you how you are.

Yolanda was unerringly human, empathetic, and upbeat. She had known hardship and suffering, but she kept it to herself. Her past was hers alone, and she lived in the present.

Every morning we sat on the balcony and drank coffee out of our Al Capone cups, enjoying the morning sunshine. Then we would do a bit of housework, chatting away, then set out to conquer the city. Two European women, neither one of us particularly fluent in English, we had no trouble understanding each other.

But best of all, Yolanda got on board with my mafioso phantom hunt right away, and I must admit, she never ceased to amaze me…

To be continued…

Translated from french by Kenneth Barger 🙂