Monsieur Noir and his family were running late, which greatly annoyed his wife. Eglantine hated having to rush, even when it was just the two of them. With the children in tow, it was downright chaotic. Sebastian seemed determined to render himself as filthy as possible in the hour prior to dinner, requiring an unnecessarily long bath. And Genevieve refused to go anywhere without her eyestalk bows (one of which Sebastian had unraveled and commissioned as a makeshift splint for brave Private Loeffler, injured in Friday's bedtime battle). By the time they left the house, Mme. Noir was so flustered she forgot to check the mailbox for the gloating postcard she'd been expecting any day now from Santorini. Her in-laws were nothing if not reliably boastful about their travels.
"For heaven's sake, Henri, slow down. They won't give our table away at this hour." Henri ignored this, causing his wife to glance at him nervously. "You did make a reservation, n'est-ce pas?"
"Of course, darling. But you know I don't like running into the Lacombes," he replied, pronouncing with obvious distaste the name of the neighbors who tended to be found, most Sunday nights, stationed in their usual spot near the club's front door. (Mme. Lacombe, it was rumored, suffered from agoraphobia, and thus preferred to have a clear escape route.) "Jacques is always so..." M. Noir cast about for the right word to express his disdain. "...familiar."
Eglantine didn't respond. Her husband's attitude towards les parvenus was nothing new, but it never failed to chafe her. She was, after all, from the 18th arrondissement herself, the daughter of working-class slugs. Henri's blue blood, cut to fifty percent by the time it coursed the veins of his children, occasionally drained from his heart and pooled, in a most ugly fashion, around his ego. It wasn't why she'd married him, that was for certain.
The family crawled in silence, the children absorbed in a competition to see who could leave the bigger trail behind them on the sidewalk. The game took all of their concentration and, Eglantine supposed, would leave them so dehydrated that dinner would be a multiple soda affair. Oh well, she thought. At least they're being quiet.
When they found themselves, a little while later, standing before the grand double doors of Gastropodapub, Henri paused to check his reflection in the glass. Smoothing his mustache, he addressed his wife without looking at her. "Remember cherie, je ne veux pas parler avec les Lacombes ce soir." And then, as if the idea had come to him like a pleasant memory forgotten, he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
Eglantine smiled and nodded wordlessly at her husband, still undeniably handsome even if the shine had long since faded from his shell. She ushered her young children into the restaurant's foyer, nicking a speck of pollen off Sebastian's back as he moved past. This was her family, and she loved them dearly.
Henri exchanged a few words with the hostess, who beckoned to the group a moment later with raised menus and a welcoming smile. "Noir, escargatoire of four?" Single file, they followed her through a dining room filled with the delicious aroma of soups, sauces, and other enticing fare.
Sunday dinner really was the best.