The blue-grey slate roofs of TOURS were darkening as the sun slid behind the buildings. Peter drained the last of the Chenin from his glass. White wines weren’t his favorite, but this one was local and sweet, and Peter found it remarkably easy to drink.
Charles, meanwhile, sipped at his tea, eyes ever roving the medieval façades of Place Plumereau. While being there made Peter feel as if he were in some kind of theme park—it was what he imagined parts of Disney Land might look like—the history of the place suited Charles’s love of all things old and monumental.
“The church down there,” Charles said after a moment, his tone suggesting what he was about to impart might be of particular interest to his companion, “is Saint Pierre le Puellier.”
Peter looked in the direction of the rue that led to the old church. “Not as if there aren’t thousands of things named for Saint Peter all over Europe, if not the world,” he remarked.
Charles cocked a bright eye at him and set his tea cup beside his half-eaten salad. “And were your parents religious?”
Peter almost laughed at the thought, though what actually came out was a kind of cough. “Hardly. It’s a common enough name, isn’t it?” For some reason the implied connection between him and—what? old things, religious things? or just the idea that his parents had put any real feeling into the job—made Peter suddenly and inexplicably irate. “Should I ask if your parents were monarchists because they named you Charles?” He was no historian, but he was relatively certain there had been several kings of a few nationalities with that name.
A corner of Charles’s mouth lifted, but Peter knew from experience the seeming amusement was a mask for Charles’s acute discomfort at the truculent response. Still, when he spoke, Charles’s tone remained light. “Not too many kings named Charles did so well for themselves. Maybe I should phone my mother and censure her for wishing me ill.”
Peter sighed. “I’m sorry. I . . .” But he had no rational justification for his behavior, could not elucidate his feelings.
“Maybe we should move on,” said Charles, pushing back in his chair.
Peter looked up at the sky, now a deep and darkening blue. It had happened so fast, night falling, as if it had stolen over the city while no one was keeping watch. And now instead of sharp edges Peter saw everything in a kind of soft light and realized all at once he’d had too much wine.
“Peter?” Charles asked. He was standing now beside Peter’s chair; Peter looked up and saw Charles’s face furrowed with concern.
“Do you want me to tell you about them?” Peter asked.
Charles glanced around at the sea of café tables, most of them occupied. “Let’s walk. You’ll feel better if you get some movement.”
But Peter shied from Charles’s attempt to take his arm and guide him out of his chair. “You might as well know what you’re really getting, being stuck with me.”
“I know what I’ve got,” said Charles, and Peter refocused on his face. “You’re you and that’s all that matters to me. Well, that and getting you back to the hotel. So come on.”
This time Peter allowed Charles to help him up.