We rushed - and I mean actually rushed, I don't think I've ever moved so fast in my life, not at little athletics, not in P.E classes - from the second floor of Le Bon Marche where the sour-faced girl at the Celine counter had informed me whilst casually flicking through a magazine "non, je n'en ai plus". No more left. No more left! And so it was, down the escalators, through the perfume section, out the heavy double doors opposite Sevres-Babylone and into a waiting cab. "Avenue Montaigne, s'il vous plait, au coin de la rue Francois premiere". The cab sped off and we sunk back into those leathery seats praying against all prayers, hoping against all hopes that when we arrived at the Champs Elysees the store would still be open, that there would be a navy turtleneck-clad gal willing to keep the lights open for one moment more so I could grab my dream bag, the one that had been haunting my dreams for countless, endless days prior.
It was closed. It was 7:01 and the doors were locked at 7 and it was closed. It was my last night in Paris - I was leaving for Venice the next day and I wouldn't get the chance to get this exact same dream of linen-and-leather anywhere else. I hung my head. My friend patted me on the shoulder and we just stood there, staring at the darkened windows. "I like that bag," my friend said, after a little pause. We looked at the bag. It was pretty great - glossy leather, square and simple, with an eye-catching gold clasp and a long strap curled tail-like around the back of the bag. "I like this one too," she added. It was pretty great as well. The brightest of bright blues, boxy and structured but with just the right amount of humour, an almost-smile composed of zippers and handles across the body. We discussed where we would wear these bags when we owned them. My friend offered the Hotel Paris in Monaco. I suggested the business class lounge at Heathrow (the understanding being, obviously, that one was on a trip to somewhere quite fabulous). What would we wear with these amazing pieces? Tailored pants and crisp shirts? Slouchy basics to offset all that luxury? Hair blown-out to perfection and a full face of makeup? A diamond as big as the Ritz? What would we put in there? Or, in the case of the first, what would fit? Would we carry everything and the kitchen sink or nothing at all? The handbag as the ultimate decorative accessory with nary a function in sight?
Before long I had completely forgotten my silly, first-world despair at having found the shop closed. It didn't really matter, after all, we had pizza dinners left to attend at the restaurant below our apartment and glasses of wine to consume. We had our last night in Paris - who cares about bags when there is such fun to be had! "I'm sorry you didn't get your bag," my friend said. "It doesn't matter," I replied. As we went to leave, me bidding a bittersweet farewell to the dream bag that almost was, a girl in a navy turtleneck ran up to us from her outdoor seat at L'Avenue. "Wait, wait." We turned around. "I work at Celine. We're open at 10 tomorrow. Come by then and you can get your bag. I remember you when you came in and tried it on the other day. You have to have it!" She said that last bit in the fantastic way that French people pronounce h's (you 'aff to 'av it!). I had a train to catch and places to visit and people to see but it was as if I hadn't even though of this option before. I could go to the store when it opened, right when it opened, right before I had to hop aboard the TGV and leave this wonderful city for the time being, and I could buy my bag.
And we did, and I did, and the rest, so they say, is history.