Frédéric is one of Clémence’s best friends. He studies French literature, wears scarves, and rolls his own cigarettes, which delights me when I am 17 years old and have never met a boy who seems so different, so un-American.
We kiss for the first time at a party at Manon’s house. Emboldened by sweet rum and Cokes, I take his lighter and hold it hostage, flirtatiously demanding payment. Fréd kisses me once, twice. Clémence sees us and squeals for everyone to hear, and instead of blushing with embarrassment, I feel daring. This is how I can be in France, I realize.
We’ve lost track of the hours and the rest of the neighborhood is fast asleep. We are still silly drunk and Manon takes out a board game called Allez, les Escargots! We each line up a colorful wooden snail on the board and roll the dice, moving snails slowly forward, cheering and yelling and trying to get ours to the finish line first.