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Over the Top Secret - Chapter 17
AKA A Buttery Betrayal
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Start at the beginning (Prologue - AKA Mission Report)
Read the previous chapter (Chapter 16 - AKA Tout le Monde)
Read the next chapter (Chapter 18 - AKA Getting to the Bottom of it)
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“Let’s try this again,” Eric says. He pours a fresh bottle of bubbly pink liquid into two “glasses,” this time made of plastic.
“Really, I’m fine.” I press my lips together, not too eager to cause another scene.
“You’ve got to hydrate somehow.” I wonder if he realizes that alcohol totally does the opposite of hydrating a person. “When in Rome,” he insists, then hands me a fresh cup of bubbly.
“We’re in Paris,” I correct, reaching for the bubbly, but he smoothly pulls it out of my reach before I can take hold. I purse my lips.
“It’s an expression.” He swirls the drink in the glass and extends it back to me, saying, “You gotta promise to at least try to enjoy it.”
“Only if you promise to at least try to come up with a plan,” I counter.
Our waitress returns with a glass of room temperature water, a tray of cheese, and three super thin slices of salami with what looks like mold growing on them. The “cheese plate,” minus the cheese, that I ordered. She smirks, knowing she’s deprived me of any sufficient supply of nutrients.
Before I can ask for anything different, she tells Eric to enjoy his Monte Cristo sandwich and is already off to take another patron’s order.
Eric watches my vexed expression with an odd sort of grin.
“What?” I grump. He doesn’t answer, and I pout. “Let’s just come up with a plan already. Sound good?”
He thinks about it for a moment, looking at me with an expression I haven’t seen on him before. It’s like he’s actually seeing me, sitting right there in front of him, for the first time. And for the first time, it doesn’t look like he’s annoyed or amused as if by a circus freak. He doesn’t have a dark smirk on his face or a secretive look behind his eyes. He’s just looking at me as I am, with a genuine smile.
It’s even more attractive than his sexy half-grin.
“Deal,” he says.
I grab the glass from his outstretched hand, gently brushing against his fingertips. It’s barely anything, I know, but the touch sends electric waves through my body. Hopefully, he can’t tell that my heartrate hiked up a notch. I clear my throat, forcing myself to return my focus on the goal at hand— relaxing.
“Deal,” I say, this time very carefully clinking glasses with him. Nothing breaks, and I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. We raise our glasses to our lips at the same time, and I let the pink, bubbling liquid crawl it’s way slowly toward my lips.
Through his glass, I can see the biggest smirk on Eric’s face as he watches me take my time. I roll my eyes and take a sip.
The bubbles pop gently against my mouth, and I savor the sweet taste as it travels down my throat. Nicole would be so proud of me. I imagine if she were witnessing this moment, she’d burst into a fit of girly giggles. She’d be so shocked to know I’m in Paris right now. Sharing a glass of champagne with a guy that she’d say, “tops the hottie charts.” I feel a satisfied smile spreading on my face. I decide I’m allowed to enjoy this moment.
“Look at you,” Eric says, but he isn’t sarcastic.
“What? I’ve had alcohol before,” I say, quick to defend myself. The truth is, I’ve had a few glasses of wine here and there, but I’ve never tried champagne before.
I don’t tell him that, though.
“Could have fooled me.” He laughs, and it’s a lovely sound. Immediately, I feel my shoulders release, falling a good two inches from where they usually sit hunched over. I let out another deep breath and take a large sip of champagne. It tastes good. Is this what enjoying yourself feels like?
“You do that a lot, you know that?” Eric takes a bite of his sandwich.
“What? Drinking alcohol?” I furrow my brow, trying to remember a single time I’ve had a sip of alcohol in front of him in the last day and a half.
“No,” he says through a full mouth. “The sighing. The hunched over plotting. The worrying.” He takes another large bite, chewing thoughtfully. “You look much better when you’re not stressed.”
His comment takes me off guard. I don’t even think he meant it as a compliment, but nevertheless, I realize he’s right, and it makes me smile more. Maybe I should try relaxing more often.
I feel rebellious just thinking it.
Eric pours some more champagne in my now empty glass. I take another small sip, and my stomach rumbles loud enough for both of us to hear it.
“Aren’t you going to eat something?” He gestures to the plate of rotten meat and cheesy cheese. The sight of it makes me gag in my mouth.
“I’m alright,” I say, but my stomach grumbles even louder this time, betraying me.
Eric sighs. “Here, have some of this,” he rips off a piece of the sandwich and hands it to me. I ignore the germs and take it in my hand, ravenously overcome by what feels like a month’s worth of starvation. I let out a moan of delight as my taste buds explode.
“Mmmm, this is so good,” I mumble through a full mouth. Eric laughs at me and raises the remaining two bites of his sandwich in the air in a silent salute. I do the same, affirming the mutual deliciousness of the moment, before finishing off my remaining bite.
Man, that was good. Much better than any of the sandwiches I ever order. “What was that made of?” I wonder aloud. For such a cheesy restaurant, that was one quality sandwich.
“Ham, white bread, mayonnaise…” Eric ticks off each ingredient with his buttery fingers, then licks each one clean.
Why are his fingers buttery?
An ice-cold surge of panic shoots through my veins. I glance at my own glistening fingertips, a knot forming in my stomach as the horrible realization sets in.
“…salt and pepper, eggs, usually a bit of paprika,” he continues, and I wince because I know it’s coming, “some Gouda cheese and a dash of milk,” Eric says with a final satisfied suck of his thumb.
Eric doesn’t notice my ashen face or the horrified look in my eyes when he adds, “Oh, and butter. Lots of butter in the pan.” He nods, driving the nail home.
Three dairy ingredients?!
I fight the urge to throw up. I can’t believe I actually enjoyed consuming the unholy trinity of dairy. Eric finally notices the nausea taking over my features.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, genuinely concerned about my wellbeing for the first time since I met him.
“Butt- butt- butter,” I finally sputter out, shaking my head in denial. If I weren’t so scared of the coming aftermath, I’d slap him for poisoning me with les produits laitiers!
He furrows his brow, then sneaks suspicious glances all around us. “Did you get another vision?” he whispers, suddenly serious. His obliviousness of the situation angers me.
“No, you idiot!” I shout, prepared to berate him, but instead, I clutch my stomach as an onslaught of cramps takes hold of my intestines. Sweat finds its way to all my nooks and crannies. I’m grimacing, clenching my teeth as tight as I am my ass.
I need to find a bathroom.
Eric watches from across the table, shocked and totally unable to help as the full effects of lactose intolerance set in.
“What’s happening?” He awkwardly pats my shoulder in an attempt to calm me down, but all I’m thinking about is how I could have let this happen in the first place. I mentally bash my head into a wall, then run through my remaining options, any escapes from the terrible oncoming situation I might still have.
But I know very well that there are no other options.
It’s too late. The dairy has already gotten into my system. My only hope lies in the hands of my trusty Lactaid pills.
A ray of hope shines through me when I remember the emergency tablets hiding in my fanny pack.
I shake Eric’s hand off my shoulder and quickly unzip the bag on my belt, searching with shaky hands for my little chalky saviors, my only salvation from an excruciating day spent in the bathroom. But with three different levels of dairy poisoning, each with their own method of destruction, I know it’ll be more like an entire week of intestinal distress.
Which is not part of the plan.
“Where are they?” I shriek, not finding any pills. People are starting to stare.
“Julie, chill out and tell me what’s wrong,” Eric says through gritted teeth, his temporary concern replaced with frustration.
“What?” he says, edging forward to get a better view of whatever I’m doing on my side of the table.
I pull out a two-pack of Lactaid tablets, but the paper has already been ripped and the pills taken from their little homes. All that’s left is a thin layer of fine white powder resting at the bottom of my fanny pack.
The way Eric sucks in a breath tells me he’s somehow guilty. I look up at him with wild eyes.
“What did you do?” I hiss.
“Who says I did anything?” he whispers feverishly.
I lower my voice to match his, shaking the empty paper casing in front of him in an accusatory manner. “Eric, tell me the truth,” I say, then I take a deep, shaky breath because I really don’t want to know the answer to what I’m about to ask him. “Did you use the last of my Lactaid?”
He stares back at me for a second. Then he says, “Even for a normal stomach, a Monte Cristo is a lot of dairy to handle.” I stare, dumbfounded, as he somehow manages to defend himself. “You should have packed more.” He shrugs.
How did he even get them? I’ve had the fanny pack on the entire time!
Fire burns in my throat. Smoke comes out of my ears. I reach a level of hatred I’ve never felt in my entire life.
“What the hell is wrong with you!” I throw the paper at his face, my voice rising. “First, you poison me, and then you take my antidote?!”
Now everyone is staring. A woman loudly whispers “poison” worriedly. Someone nearby pulls out their phone, hopeful that they might be filming the internet’s next viral sensation.
“What else was I supposed to do?”
I scoff. “Think about someone other than yourself, perhaps?”
“I gave you half of my Monte Cristo,” he says as if it holds the same significance as donating a kidney.
“Unbelievable,” I mutter. Another pang of pain seizes my lower intestines.
A male waiter approaches us, asking if there’s a problem. Before Eric can de-escalate the situation, I blurt, “Where’s the bathroom?”
The waiter shakes his head at my English.
“Les toilettes!” I shout at him.
He points near the kitchen, and I make a dash for it, hoping I haven’t already ruined my very first pair of lingerie.
Have you ever experienced the panic-inducing realization that your lactose-intolerant stomach just received an unexpected dose of dairy? If not, I hope you never do and that Julie’s “overreacting” fills you with giggles. If you have, I hope I was able to make you laugh at the truly terrifying task of frantically searching for a bathroom in a foreign country. LMAO