Attraction and Repulsion



A Parisian fight-for-love story.

Having just arrived in Paris, New Yorkers William, Christina, and Pascale are looking forward to six weeks of uninhibited fun with their French friends, a group of students and aspiring actors—everyone is in their early twenties, neither settled into careers nor domestic life. Adventures are soon had in Père Lachaise cemetery, at a raucous Montparnasse loft party, under the stars in Montsouris Park, and at sunrise in Place de l'Opéra.

Matters become unexpectedly serious when William meets Genevieve, a native Parisian, and they fall deeply in love—a first time experience for both. As William and Genevieve begin to get to know one another and learn about love an obstacle presents itself in the person of Baptiste, a childhood friend of Genevieve's who delusionally believes himself entitled to her affection and begins a campaign of interference and intimidation, eventually succumbing to outright madness—a situation that forces a violent confrontation.

Love triumphs in Attraction and Repulsion, but not easily—William and Genevieve must fight through extreme tumult before enjoying their right to love one another in peace. Along the way they learn that love deepens when it suffers through opposition, and bonds of trust are stronger when forged in the fires of conflict. They also reaffirm what they already know: a circle of devoted friends is a gift beyond estimation, and fun is a very effective medication for tension. They marvel at how their chance meeting has forever altered the course of their lives.

Attraction and Repulsion is a celebration of the unpredictability, beauty, and responsibility of love; it is also an adventure story—with a large cast of colorful characters—that takes place in the parks, cemeteries, streets, apartments, and on the rooftops of Paris.

Advance Testimonials:

“Love can't fully bloom while obstacles stand in its way. Attraction and Repulsion tells the story of a pair of lovers in Paris, as they pursue love and the forces that keep them apart try even harder. A story of love in spite of all those who would end it, Robert Scott Leyse constructs a gripping story that will be hard to put down.”

Midwest Book Review (in "Small Press Bookwatch, April 2011")

“Here in the span of a few tumultuous days, in the heart of Paris, being the only theater that could stage this resplendent play on sudden love, we find a dreamed love that becomes real with quick edges, a purported ménage à trois that is not a threesome, a plotted death that is not murder, where death’s sanctuary becomes a playground, and where actors become characters and characters become actors.”

Tom Sheehan, author of Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans

“Ah, to be a young man in Paris with two lovely, liberated ladies in a very contemporary ménage à trois and with a colorful crew of international misfits for friendspicnicking gourmet-style in Montsouris Park, sneaking into Père Lachaise cemetery after dark to cavort amid a thunder storm, partying all night in the City of Light, delighting under the playful spell of Erosall of it good fun until true love and jealousy intrude, and their lives take a serious turn. Robert Scott Leyse gives us a Parisian romantic comedy with a well-earned happy ending and repartee as sparkling as the champagne. À votre santé!”

—William T. Hathaway, Rinehart Award winning author of Summer Snow and Radical Peace

“Add a love triangle and a love-hate triangle together in Paris, mix in some festive adventures and crackling dialogue, and Attraction and Repulsion is the entertaining result. Page-turning fun, love, duress, and triumph: true happiness doesn't come cheap in life, or in this novel.”

—George Fosty, ESPN featured author of Black Ice and Splendid is the Sun





It's a Friday evening in late May in Paris when our hero's pacing back and forth in front of the main entrance of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, at the intersection of Boulevard de Ménilmontant and Rue de la Roquette—frequently glancing north towards the Père Lachaise metro station, scanning the sidewalks of the boulevard, in the hope of sighting the two young women for whom he's waiting. No matter that he's arrived a good ten minutes before their meeting time of 5:15 PM: he continues to wonder whether his friends have failed to counter the influence of jetlag and overslept or become lost in the metro or run into complications regarding their mission to purchase two bottles of champagne. At the same time, he's literally tingling with exhilaration, gazing at his surroundings with unconcealed delight: the high white stone wall, curving away from him concavely in a semi-circle, of the cemetery's entrance; the view of the cemetery's interior, its jumble of sepulchers and greenery, through the gate; the buildings across the street, their architecture markedly different from those back home; the shimmering brightness of this sunny spring day. Again he glances north; still failing to detect his friends, he consults his cell phone for the time and laughs, saying to himself, It's not their fault I'm early.

But let us describe our hero: although of twenty-three years he's often mistaken for a teenager, primarily on account of his fresh youthful appearance but also due to his playful and mocking disposition—persistent refusal to admit he takes much of anything seriously. His height measures at six feet one inch and his weight's never far from one hundred fifty-five pounds. He has a higher than average forehead on a handsome face of even features, fine light brown hair just long enough to betray its tendency to curl, dark brown eyes, a fair complexion, and long tapering fingers. At once quick and graceful in gait and gesticulation, there's often an air of being lost in daydreams about him; this quality of abstraction somehow carries a mood of intentness with it, as if it's maintained out of defiance or reflects a simple desire to be in possession of a vantage point, deal with others from a position of once-removal. He's wearing a black cotton dress shirt with rolled up sleeves, the untucked tails of which flutter in the lively gusts of breeze, and blue denim pants and black hiking boots. He's an American, born in San Francisco, who's been a resident of Manhattan for over six years, where he attended New York University and is currently employed. His name is William Bergen.

It's not William's first visit to Paris; he's been here twice before, for a week when he was fourteen and for three weeks during March and April of the previous year. He doesn't recall many particulars of Paris from his first visit, when he accompanied his father on a business trip, because he was far more interested in getting to know the Italian girl who was staying with her family at the same hotel. Paris during that visit was but a blurred backdrop to an adolescent infatuation happy to content itself with flirtation, kisses, and light petting—a stirring chapter of his emotional education. He feels he came to know the city fairly well, though, during his last visit: he rode on virtually every metro line, exited at stops in each arrondissement and went for lengthy exploratory strolls. He was bound and determined to map out Paris in his head because he'd decided to make it his second city—his fling-responsibility-aside-and-surrender-to-frivolity city. Most importantly, he'd befriended a number of the locals and had several memorable adventures in their company.

So here he is in Paris for the third time, breathing air he's never breathed outside of carefree-mode; that carries no reminders of regularity of routine, any variety of commitment. How removed his frame of mind is from the work obligations he put on hold less than twenty-four hours ago—when he exited the office early, picked up his luggage at his apartment, rendezvoused with his two friends at JFK, and caught a flight to Orly: goodbye New York work-grind, hello Parisian giddiness. Such is William's lightheartedness it almost as if the force of gravity's been altered: he feels as if he's floating about instead of pacing about; it's as if basic self-propulsion requires less energy. It's amazing how quickly an alteration of geographical location has caused the inanity of office politics to vanish from his thoughts, and no longer seem real. Not that William has a bad job—far from it. If anyone ever had a cushy job, he does. He works at a large law firm, ranked in the top thirty worldwide, and his official title is Corporate Resources Specialist—a fancy way of saying he performs searches in legal databases for specific documents or samples of legal phrasing at the request of attorneys. As the searches are generally easy to perform and there's never a backlog of requests, his primary responsibility consists of padding his billing. His job, in fact (despite the description in the firm's official literature, which includes the phrase, "increased efficiency for fulfilling the needs of clients in an expeditious manner"), exists for the purpose of padding billing. He's essentially being paid very well to do nothing half the time: as long as he bills for that idle time, his salary's more than covered and the firm turns a tidy profit from his employment. Good work if you can get it and William knows it and isn't lacking in gratitude, even though he often mocks the setup.

But when people are confined to offices for hours at a time day after day and month after month they often begin to bicker over nothing, form alliances and rivalries, trade gossip incessantly, start rumors and/or assist with perpetuating them. Some fling themselves wholeheartedly into office politics; others are pulled into office politics against their will; virtually no one's immune because nonparticipation has a tendency to incite all parties against one: it's a case of either bond with a clique or suffer the consequences of having no allies. William, who's never breathed a word of gossip about anyone in any building he's ever lived in, is—we regret to admit—a primary player in the politics at his place of employment. He's told himself he ought to seek to minimize his participation in office politics, for fear it might blow up in his face, but has never been able to resist going at it full throttle: he always winds up considering it a game. He and his cohorts have concluded that the root cause of office politics is the tedium of office life: it's a means of introducing adventure and uncertainty into an otherwise nauseatingly predictable environment. If there's no real adversity, people will create some; if the unexpected has gone into hiding, people will lure it into the open; when faced with boredom, people create tension: it's an instinctive form of protest.

Your humble narrator apologizes for the aside concerning office politics. Again, the point is that William's been cut loose from the influence of the office and is as free of care and dizzy with delight as it's possible for a person to be. Factor in the fact his employer's granted him a six week leave of absence and the reader will understand the amount of freedom he's relishing in advance. I'll be scamping about Paris for a month and a half, he thinks, smiling, while continuing to gaze enrapt at the scenery; continuing to dwell upon the upcoming night's adventure, which he conceived of over a month ago and has fondly anticipated ever since.

Bending to attend to the two bags he's placed on the cobblestones at his feet—weigh down the lighter one with items from the heavier so it won't be shoved about by the breeze—William hears, "Hey Billy!," glances in the direction of the voice, and sees Christina Alari on the traffic island in the center of the boulevard.

"Hey Chrissy," he answers with a wave as she scampers to his side of the street, the wind swishing her long blond hair, flattening the front of her dress against her slender frame. Her movements radiate the natural poise of a dancer. "Where's Pas? Isn't she coming?"

"I left her outside the metro," laughs Christina. "A pebble slipped inside her shoe and she's getting rid of it. She dared me to walk off without her, so of course I had to!"

"Wicked girl," he smiles, spreading his arms in anticipation of encircling her with them.

"It's not like I left her on Mars—she'll be here any second," she responds as they embrace and exchange greeting-kisses. Born into a second generation Italian family and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Christina's recently turned twenty-one, has just completed an internship as a translator at the UN, and resides in Manhattan's East Village, diagonally across the street from William, close to the all-night cafe where they met. A part time job awaits her at the UN in September; while using it for an income, she'll be continuing to attend voice and dance classes and answer casting calls, with the aim of breaking into Broadway. She's a size two, five feet six inches in height, has hazel eyes, a perfect oval of an alabaster complexioned face, and—as mentioned—long blond hair, wavy in texture. She's wearing a sleeveless indigo knee-high silk dress, a jumble of silver bangles on each wrist, and black hiking boots.

Following their embrace Christina backs a step away from William, flings her hands up so that the bangles slide down her forearms, and asks with mock solemnity, "And how are you, sir, on this lovely-enough-to-die-for day?"

"Dying for love of it, of course," he answers. "As happy as your bangles are as they jingle and jangle on your lovely arms! Such a cheerful sound, like the pinging in my senses—my springtime-in-Paris senses, racing at the speed of light! Chrissy, we're going to have so much fun—my head whirls into a zillion beautiful pictures at the thought of all the stuff we're going to do!"

"Yeah, we're in one of those go-wild-in-a-foreign-place adventure stories," she says. "Cliches can be a thrill if they happen for real."

"But who wants to be in a story?" he says, making a face of mock aversion. "Patterns of ink on a page that only come to life in the minds of readers can't reach out and do this." So saying, he caresses her neck.

"Umm," she purrs, tilting her head in the direction of his hand while closing her eyes and lifting her chin.

"So you see," he laughs. "We're living and breathing flesh and blood New Yorkers on holiday, instead of the airy concoctions of an author's imagination!"

"I make a crack about storybook stuff and you use it as an excuse to pet me?" she smiles, pressing against his chest again. "Want me to reel off more nonsense? For the love of sacred springtime and the dizzying fireworks it births in our blood, I'll spout all the silliness you want! I'll even..."

"So rude! No welcome!" interrupts a nearby voice. Up steps Pascale Rosetourne, the third member of the party. "First Chrissy deserts me at the metro, then you both ignore me!" Born in Asnieres, a suburb to the northwest of Paris, Pascale relocated to Manhattan's Upper East Side with her family when she was four years old. Having spent many summers with relatives in various locations in France during childhood and adolescence, she's as familiar with the language and customs of her native country as she is with those of her adopted one and considers herself a French girl, even though she's never thought of leaving New York. A recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she's joined her friends for a final fling before applying herself to a career in clothing design. Like William and Christina, she resides on the 400 block of East 9th Street, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A; her building is three doors east of his on the same side of the street. Pascale and William met as a consequence of springtime sunning on their fire escapes: glances were exchanged for a couple days; on the third day he suggested, via hand-signals, that they descend to the sidewalk for a chat. Their chat, during which there wasn't a single interval of embarrassed silence—not a moment when either of them needed to pause to search for the right words to say—ended up lasting for over seven hours, that seemed to fly by in minutes, in her apartment. William, already close to Christina, introduced Pascale to her and the two hit it off immediately. Thus was born a special threesome chemistry, characterized more by friendship than intimate relations (although the latter aren't lacking), that has strengthened with each passing month, nearly twelve of them now. Pascale has magenta streaks along the face-framing portion of her straight raven black hair, cut at her neck in back and longer in front, and is wearing a mid-thigh high black leather skirt, scarlet silk t-shirt, and black hiking boots. About half an inch taller than Christina, she's likewise a size two and shares the same appealing shape of face; in fact, if the two of them wished to do so, they could dress alike and dye and cut their hair alike and fool many into believing them to be fraternal twins. Pascale will turn twenty-two in September and has brown eyes.

As we've indicated, Pascale's acting offended at not having received a greeting. After chiding her friends regarding the oversight she does an about face, makes as if to walk away.

"Sorry Pas, we didn't see you there," laughs Christina, tapping her on the shoulder and inducing her to turn around again, whereupon she kisses her on each cheek.

"I sort of snuck up, if you want to know the truth," Pascale says with a grin, kissing Christina in return while extending an arm in William's direction, grasping one of his hands. "I wanted to see how close I could get before you saw me! I got pretty close!"

"Sure, prowling kitty," William says as he pulls her to him, frames her face with his hands, lightly rubs her temples with his index fingers. "Good to see you! It's been nearly three hours! I was starting to forget what you look like!"

"Good to see you too, sweetie," responds Pascale, giggling as she kisses him. Then, raising the bag that's in her hand and shaking it, she asks, "But what's the idea of making us cut our after-flight naps short and traipse all the way up here, cross half of Paris, with champagne? Your friends are having a big party later and have a whole case of champagne! Aren't we going to their party?"

"I'm mystified myself," seconds Christina, winking at Pascale.

"And, especially," resumes Pascale, "why am I wearing clunky hiking boots when I have ultra-sleek slingbacks to show off? Answer me that! What sort of girl clops around in hiking boots? I feel like an outcast and a fool! And why haven't we had anything to eat? Why the insane urgency? No time to nap, no time to snack! Just lunatical rush rush rush while tired and starving!"

"You're bright girls," William answers, gesturing at the gate of Père Lachaise. "Certainly you've surmised why we're here. Didn't I say we're doing something we can't do in New York that neither of you have done before and will love? I've brought food and water, three headlamps, and climbing rope. Guess where we're spending the night."

"In other words," Christina laughs, "tombyards are good for a good time!"

"Smart girl," William says, "you've guessed correctly. Père Lachaise officially closes at six and we're going to unofficially stay as long as we please. Tonight's agenda is play in Père Lachaise until we're exhausted enough to swoon in a tomb, mimic the dead."

"If I wanted to be dead, I'd move to New Jersey and work in a mall," declares Pascale.

"Yeah, that's it," says William, with a light poke at her ribs. "Be difficult for the sake of being difficult. You know I mean glorious absorption in fun and games until we're blissful inside, at peace with ourselves, happily spent. Such is the opposite of dead! Pure euphoria!"

"Euphoria, shmoria," Pascale scoffs. "What's euphoric about grass that's slimed with dew, getting our clothes soaked? What's euphoric about swarms of insects landing on us and biting us, getting caught in our hair? What's euphoric about spiders crawling up our legs? Yuck! Why waste a Paris night, and a Friday one too, on running around in a dismal park where corpses decay?"

"So what's become of the Pascale that I know?" William asks. "What's become of the fearless, always-thirsting-for-a-new-thrill, girl? The Pascale I know would never pull a frail flower act, whine about wet grass and bugs! She'd never kiss a unique and golden opportunity goodbye because she's afraid of breaking a nail!"

"She's here, sweetie—is she ever!" Pascale says as she wraps her fingers around the back of his neck, gently pulls his head down and kisses him on the forehead. "And, believe it, your Pascale's eager to play in a graveyard! I love my hiking boots now, and to hell with pretty shoes!"

"Being jolted out of a jet lag catnap—with half my dreams seeming to linger in my head, blend with the waking state—and dashing up here, with no time for more than a mere splash of a shower and cup of tea, is priceless!" Christina exclaims. "It's a swirly blurry half-out-of-my-body feeling, with my two favorite people on earth! Am I in New York or Paris? I'm suspended between the two! On New York time, but flooded with Paris vibrations! But, boy, am I starved! And I'm talking about food!"

"I'm with you there, Chrissy," Pascale says. "I could devour five chickens!"

"Don't worry about that," William says. "I've brought plenty of delectable provisions, as only the French can make them. Pate, brie, baguettes, the best butter on earth, and those cans of tuna with the vegetables and marinade—there's nothing remotely like them back home. Plus celery and cherry tomatoes, fruit—blueberries, strawberries, figs—and three liters of water."

"And I have the champagne," Pascale says. "So what are we waiting for?"

"Just one thing before we go inside," William replies, leading them to the left of the entry area and pointing at the wall that encircles the cemetery. "The gates will be shut at six so we'll be exiting by coming over the wall, using the rope and gloves I've brought. I don't think we want to wait until eight-thirty in the morning for the gates to reopen. In fact, I insist Père Lachaise be solely a nighttime adventure."

"Absolutely," Christina says. "Aside from the nighttime factor, fifteen hours would be too long."

"Of course graveyard wanderings are best before sunrise," Pascale laughs, "if one's looking for maximum atmospherics! And we are!"

"OK, here's the deal," William continues. "Unlike elsewhere, the wall here in front's only about four feet high on the cemetery-side, thus sparing us having to ascend it. I'll stash the rope and gloves in a nearby tomb and we'll retrieve them when we're ready to leave. The rope has knots in it for foot- and hand-holds and the gloves are to protect against rope burns and so we can get a better grip. I'll climb down first, then help you do the same. I'll grab you before you reach the ground to minimize your time on the rope. As you can see, the wall's about fifteen feet high on this side. With your aerobics training I'm not worried about you handling the descent, but take a good look anyway and remember how it looks from here on the sidewalk."

"Petite things we may be, but we're toned and muscular," Christina says, flexing her arms. "It'll be fun climbing down."

"I'd say we're set, Billy," Pascale says, saluting him. Then, as she turns towards the gate and glances up at its twin pillars and perceives the hourglasses and torches engraved thereupon, she adds, "How appropriate! It's spring and our torches are blazing bright, but life's brief and our hourglasses are measured, so the thing to do is use our time to have fun! Let's go!"

"Here Chrissy—you can carry the lighter bag, with the headlamps," William says, handing her the said bag as he picks up the one containing the water and most of the food.

"But why headlamps?" Christina inquires. "We're in a city. Street lamps are all over the place."

"No lamps in the city of the dead," William laughs, gesturing at the cemetery. "No lights in the sepulchers we're going to explore!"

"Never let it be said you're not a fun date, Billy!" Pascale exclaims as the three of them stroll through the gate.



Copyright © 2011
by Robert Scott Leyse
All rights reserved.



All contents Copyright © 2007-2013 by Robert Scott Leyse. All rights reserved.