“Do you blow your money? I mean, just blow it?” she asked. “There’s a vertigo in going too far—the thrill that produces—especially if it’s likely to put you in an impossible situation. And then, cash worries are easier to deal with than a general fear of the void. They focus the mind very nicely.” She sat with her back to the window, sunglasses on the table, and she was merry. Her blond hair rose from her forehead, either through art or nature, before falling back to the shoulder of a purple-and-green jersey dress on which was pinned a dense, runic Scottish brooch of amethysts and agates. Her face had an iridescence to it, thanks to something more than the subtle makeup in pale grays and browns, more than the light on her golden hair. A dark, no-color mink coat was poured onto the chair between us. She was eating coddled eggs and toast and drinking a beer.

The effect Catherine Deneuve has on a Paris restaurant, in this case the Brasserie de l’Alma, goes far beyond the frisson created by star presence. Catherine Deneuve is not just a movie star and one of the most beautiful women in the world; she has the status of a diplomatic figure. Through a poll taken three years ago, she became the new face of Marianne, the embodiment of the French Republic, whose bust adorns every town hall in the country. Her features replaced those of Brigitte Bardot. But it goes further than that. After the first socialist government came in in 1981, Jack Lang, the minister of culture, dispatched an emissary to New York to inquire of a select group of intellectuals what France’s great contributions to the world were thought to be. “Perfume, fashion, and wine” was the answer. Catherine Deneuve was for many years the face of Chanel perfume in the United States, and her wardrobe is officially Yves Saint Laurent; that takes care of two-thirds of the national image. The remainder is looked after by some people called Rothschild. She is France’s export goddess, what the Japanese would call a living national treasure, and as such she unwittingly commands an army of curators.

Deneuve in person is full of humor, appetite, rebellion; she is witty and direct, and talks fast in a sharp voice, so fast that she seems to be throwing words at you to stun you. She walks with an odd, determined, almost clumsy stride, and has brisk opinions and an impatience more common to quick thinkers than to movie stars. Said to be subject to depression, she appears hungry, alive, excited.

The curators were out in full force that day in the restaurant. Five members of the House of Saint Laurent came in for lunch. Loulou de la Falaise and Anne Marie Mugnoz from Saint Laurent’s design studio waved from their table. Christophe Girard, a vice president, wandered by. Gabrielle Buchaert and Dominique Deroche, in charge of publicity and the judicious lending of couture clothes, stopped at our table to say hello and whisper the year and the pedigree of the green-and-purple dress. “Pop-art collection, 1968,” said Deroche. This was not a case of an actress wearing a twenty-year-old dress. This was Marianne, waving the flag.

“There is no such thing as a home wrecker, a femme fatale. Some men are available.”

Deneuve est divisa in partes tres: acting, image, and private life. What Americans know of her is mainly the image, for movie distributors in this country have little patience with small, sophisticated films about the intimate lives of foreigners. Of the sixty films she has starred in, only a few have had much impact in the United States: Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Luis Benuel’s Belle de Jour and Tristana, Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro. The icy blonde beauty of the ads is more familiar than the myriad lost girls, capricious wives, tough single mothers, and disillusioned women she has played in French films. In these she is often left alone at the end, not infrequently drenched, and her characters show a recurring propensity for brief, arbitrary sexual encounters with unlikely men, but she is always beautiful. Her quality on-screen of appearing at all times to be thinking of something else makes her the incarnation of sublime detachment. In films she is good at playing submission; in life she exhibits none.

She comes from a family of actors, and she seems to have been born knowing the difference between performance and real life. “I would never go on the stage,” she said, “ever,” but she takes a theatrical pro’s pleasure in fine staging. Talking about a French actress who’d had a disastrous flop in America and, upon coming back to Paris, had given cleareyed interviews about what the disaster had taught her, Deneuve said, “That was excellent. If you’re going to talk about your problems, il faut les mettre en scene; you have to shape them, to make them interesting.” She is not one to talk about her problems or her private life, which has been free of the actressy histrionics associated with stars—no suicides, unsavory divorces, or wild acts of deliberate self-destruction. She did, however, bear the director Roger Vadim a son, Christian, without marrying him. She had a second child, Chiara, with Marcello Mastroianni, whom she did not marry either, as he was and remains married. Unconventional behavior, certainly, but of a constructive kind, and not that unusual in France. “In love, it’s the intensity of the feelings that counts,” she said, “not necessarily what the situation looks like from the outside.”

Her apartment is set out like a series of air locks. A dark hallway leads to sliding doors made of frosted glass, which close off a main foyer, a study, a dining room, and a living room. The maid who lets you in, a small woman from an underdeveloped country, slides the doors open and closed, and by the time you are in the living room two sets of doors have been shut behind you. You are nearer to the fountain in the square below than to the front door.

Her living room is cozy, eccentric within the bounds of unsentimental, elegant flea-market taste, and small. It is dark. She likes to stay up late. “At night you remake everything; there’s a bonding. Physiologically, you’re in a different state; facades fall very fast, people are more vulnerable and interesting.” The light comes from two Tiffany lamps, one a wisteria, the other shaped the way you’d imagine the soul of a slug; the fireplace is a horticultural fantasy of glazed ceramics from the forties, with a bronze head of a man centered above the leaves and below a Jean Dunand lacquered panel which was made for the Normandie’s smoking room. A large black-and-white cat named Tom hogs a small 1920s chaise longue, which is upholstered in felt of a mouse-monkey color. There is a plastic bowl of water with a stone in it on the coffee table, and a wooden toy of a balancing man, a bog-oak artifact representing rams and lambs, a pile of gardening books, and an antique crocodile document case. She is said to drive around town in a black Porsche, but there’s nothing Porsche about the living room.

“What’s this stone in the water?” I asked her on my second visit. “I got it in China last month. The Chinese say you have to leave them in water, because they grow there. So we change its water every day. There’s some green in it, and I can’t help thinking maybe a frog will eventually hatch out.”

She went to China for her forty-fifth birthday last year with her friend Pierre Lescure, the head of Canal Plus, the Parisian cable channel.

She was bom in 1943, the third of four daughters of Renee Deneuve and Maurice Dorleac, who were both members of the Comedie Frangaise. Her father was in the army, and after the war he dubbed movies and became director of the Paramount auditorium.

She attended a Catholic school. “The banalization of religion struck me,” she said, “the repetitive quality of Mass, mechanical prayers. I’m an atheist, absolutely, in that I didn’t baptize my children. The life I led convinced me that it wasn’t at all what I’d been told about. In school there was this very solemn and serious way of presenting life and its big events; it turned out my life was too supple and too amoral to fit into a Catholic scheme of things, even a very liberal one. As the years and sorrows went by, there came a moment when religion didn’t seem possible anymore. I figured that once my son was baptized he would approach religion mechanically, and I wanted it to be a conscious choice for him. The same for my daughter. They’ve brought it up once or twice; if it’s a real question, it’ll come up again.”

She started acting in films when she was sixteen, following the example of her older sister Francoise Dorleac. Her first great success was the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a simple story about a young girl who gets pregnant, is dumped, marries another man, and years later drives into a gas station at night to find that the attendant is the father of her child. The pastel colors of the film contrasted with the story’s bland cruelty, and Deneuve’s absolute beauty had men crying in their seats. “Through this movie,” said Vogue in 1964, “Catherine Deneuve became the image of the simplest emotions: young love, young loss.”

Her face, rectangular with a slightly cleft chin, wide-set green eyes, and a small version of an interesting nose, is distinguished by a broad, square forehead and remarkably arched eyelids. At eighteen, at twenty, she was beautiful, and she is beautiful today, in exactly the same way. The shape of most women’s faces changes, as early round cheeks give way to mature cheekbones, and then the choice is between looking haggard and looking full-blown. “Face or figure,” my mother used to say. Catherine Deneuve has been spared this choice. The face of young love and young loss in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is essentially the same as the face of total emotional disarray in Drole d’Endroit pour une Rencontre, her sixtieth and latest film. From the outset there was a harmony to the way her features hung together, and there is luck in the way they have stayed in the same relationship to one another over almost thirty years of public scrutiny. The camera, as they say, is in love with her, but in person, you find, as the hours go by she’s more beautiful.

“Do you think people are in awe of the way you look?” I asked. “It’s not my looks, it’s the fact that I’m reserved that intimidates people. With this face, if I had a softer, sweeter voice, if I sounded less brusque, if I were warmer and more demonstrative, they’d forget my face. What is perceived isn’t beauty so much as reserve, coolness. I have a face that doesn’t show much.

“Haven’t you noticed how people talk about a woman at forty?” she asked. “They talk about ‘that fragile beauty.’ It’s a way of saying how touching it is to see the shadows beneath the eyes, the first wrinkles. ‘Go fuck yourselves,’ I want to say. ‘There’s nothing beautiful about that!’ When I read it, it strikes me as hypocrisy. It may be more touching, but I resent the fact that a woman’s beauty becoming vulnerable should make her more beautiful. I don’t like the tone of emotion applied to the fragility of the texture of skin beneath the eyes. It’s as if they were saying, ‘Finally, she’s human.’ ”

She’s the opposite of the careful beauty who diets and sneaks in discreet tucks and lifts. “I’m a bon vivant, a reveler. I like going out, being with people, and I’ll stay up late when I’m shooting. I stay up late anyway. I’ve played dark roles, but sun and light attract me more. The huge advantage I have over other actresses is my stamina. I have a great deal of physical energy, resistance. It’s genetic! The difference between actresses who fall apart and those who don’t is simply health, and the quality of their energy.”

Gerard Depardieu has said, “Catherine Deneuve is the man I’d like to be.” In a recently published book of his unsent letters, he writes to her, “Certain people think you’re cold. You’re simply direct, frank, and unambiguous. People think you’re serene and organized; I’ve never seen anyone so disordered, or so capricious with money and belongings.” He adds, “You are stronger, more responsible, more armored than male actors. You are less vulnerable, and doubtless this is the paradox of real femininity.”

Her answer to Depardieu’s line is matter-of-fact. “I did an interview recently with an astrologer, who said that I have a double personality—Libra with a Capricorn ascendant. Libra is seductive and open, Capricorn is rigid and direct, which makes for a certain masculinity. I have a friendship with Gerard that’s free of ulterior motives, so there’s no simpering, no attempt to seduce him. It isn’t that I went out of my way not to charm him, but it’s a very professional, very clean relationship. Since he knows that I really am a woman with a complicated life and children, he knows I am not entirely this clear, direct person that I am with him. Like a lot of actors, he’s very feminine, and his feminine side reacts to my masculine one.”

Her complicated life began as soon as her career did, even a little before. When she was seventeen, she moved in with Roger Vadim, who was separated from Annette Stroyberg but not divorced. “I have never lived alone. I went from my family to that of a man who already had a child, and then I had my son.

“Having the children was natural, but it cost me. What people said. I wasn’t indifferent to it, and I felt deeply that nothing could stop me, but I don’t like to be judged. I like things to be fair, and the reaction was unbalanced, excessive. It hurt me to hear things about myself that were very far from what I am.

“There is no such thing as a home wrecker, a femme fatale. Some men are available. I consider that a married man who leaves his wife hasn’t ‘broken up the home,’ he’s simply left. I never imagine the other woman. I can be terribly cruel about that. I never consider other women rivals. A man can fall in love with someone else, a man can meet a woman who interests him more than I do. Those are the stakes. It may sound masochistic, but it’s very close to me. Unfortunately, that’s life.”

She quoted a poem by Louis Aragon: Rien n’est jamais acquis a Vhomme Ni sa force / Ni sa faiblesse ni son coeur Et quand il croit / … serrer son bonheur il le broie. (Nothing is ever definitely won by man Neither his strength / Nor his weakness nor his heart And when he thinks / … he holds tight his joy he crushes it.) The poem came out so fast, was so much a part of her rapid conversation, that it was only the difference in rhythm that signaled its intrusion. “Nothing,” she said, “is ever permanent, nothing, nothing. Nothing but children. It’s not anything I found out overnight, but as a mother, over twenty-five years, with Christian, my son. I knew a married man when I was very young, and when you’re sixteen you’re marked by that. Maybe if the first thing I’d known was a different kind of love, I wouldn’t have the same attitude.”

In 1965 she married the British photographer David Bailey, and divorced him five years later. They are friends, and when I carelessly described him as a fashion photographer, she was quick to remind me of his other work.

She rarely mentions people by name, whether it be Vadim or Mastroianni or even Pierre Lescure, her current companion. It takes prodding to find out that her secretary, Sylvie, whom she praises highly, is her sister. Only her children are named. It’s as if she has decided once and for all what is for scrutiny and what is not. Those who know her are aware of this discretion. A mutual friend had said of her, “She’s the opposite of a coquette,” and then had sworn me to secrecy, as if a trust had been violated with one accurate and not unflattering assessment. Gossip about movie stars is vulgar, even when it comes from their own mouths, and Deneuve is anything but vulgar. It is her impeccable bourgeois cool that allows her a generous measure of earthiness. Another friend told me, “She’s the opposite of St. Tropez.”

“I define myself by what I say no to,” she said at our first interview. “No to ever going onstage, no to pettiness, no to tightfisted people, no to climbing, no to illness.”

“You play a great many women who are alone,” I said.

“Yes, and that’s because the scripts, I think, reflect real life. A great many women are alone.”

“You seem to choose to play women who don’t win,” I said, and she shook her head.

“Maybe you don’t see them the way I do. I don’t think that the one who leaves and makes the other suffer wins, and I don’t think the ones who are abandoned are the ones who lose. There are women who have far more interesting relationships and are left, and men who appear to have run off who have been, in fact, dumped.

“I’m not against sin. If it isn’t a deadly sin and it doesn’t hurt someone else’s life, sin is fine. That’s what gives virtue its value. It’s part of life. As a child, all I wanted to do was dream, think about love and being loved. Marriage didn’t seem to be a priority, which is curious, because my parents were very close. I need things to be natural. If something is established, I want to kick it in. I’m like a goat; they’re calm as long as you don’t tie them up.

“Mystery is when you talk a lot, but there are still things that are more complex than words, that can’t be expressed.”

“The idea of depending bn a man so much that you can’t live without him is a shaky foundation for a relationship. Staying together is then no longer a choice but a duty. I’ve never been in that position, because I’ve always known men who were passionate about what they did. It never came up that there was a man with a fascinating job that took him into worlds where I’d have to give everything up. I had my children, and I wouldn’t have left them for anything. And then, giving up your life to follow someone—it must get emmerdant very fast.

“Love is fundamental, but complementary. I can’t say I’d let my whole life rest on love. I’ve never had to stop working; it’s never come up. Why should a man I love ask me to stop working? That would be very bizarre, and it wouldn’t bear any relationship to real life. Everyone works. It would be terrible cruelty to stop doing what you love, and to prove what? To be completely available to the man? That’s very dangerous!

“I think men are too busy most of the time, but someone totally available is a far worse prospect. Men work all the time; that’s what they have. Women always write down appointments in pencil so they can cancel.”

Her sister Francoise Dorleac was a terrific actress, and had the reputation of being a spunky, charming woman. In 1966 the two sisters made Les Demoiselles de Rochefort with Jacques Demy, singing duets in absurd, oversize wigs. In the film, Francoise got her man, who happened to be Gene Kelly, and Deneuve kept missing the love of her life, a blond sailor. The following year, Francoise Dorleac was killed in a car crash.

“We were very, very close. People’s voices are so important, and when I see films she’s in, it’s always the voice that gets me. You don’t remember the voices of the dead; you usually just see photographs of them. It’s not like losing a lover, because what’s gone is a real understanding, a complicity. Since she was my sister and we did the same work, I could say things to her that I couldn’t say to anyone else. I suppose I could have met another actress and become friends, but it would have been difficult, because the most important part of that relationship was that there was no rivalry. If you have shared things as children, evolved together, you don’t have to say things, you can guess and interpret, because you can enter the other’s imaginary world. I don’t have the same relationship with my other two sisters. We’re close, but we’re not in the same profession, so the nature of the relationship is not the same.”

Night had fallen, and the only light came from the illuminated fountain in the square and the wisteria and slug-soul lamps. “Do you have that same complicity with men?” I asked.

“When? Before, during, afterward? In general? It depends on the man. I can be attracted by very different men. The voice attracts me more than the mouth. I go by intuition, and my imagination can pull me into—” The phone rang, and she got up to answer it in the study. She spoke Italian, and called out to her daughter, Chiara. It had to be Mastroianni, but these are not things one tries to verify.

“I like a relationship to be very intimate but still remain a mystery,” she said when she came back, “although I’m incapable of creating situations like that. I do nothing to sustain a mystery.” She took on the voice of an advice-to-the-lovelorn guru—“Mystery is not complex games to keep a certain distance between the two of you so that a zone of shadow always remains”—and burst out laughing. “No! Mystery is when you talk a lot, but there are still things that are more complex than words, that can’t be expressed. I’m willing to be a friend to a man, but some things he should only tell his best male friend. I don’t think a woman can be all things to a man. When I see a couple who relate only to each other, it strikes me as rather strange—too limiting. I can understand the concept of spending your whole life with one person, but I don’t think you can do without relationships with others. I cannot take on the whole job; I cannot be the woman a man can’t live without. Some women want men to be completely theirs, men who are always there, who can’t do without them—actresses especially, probably out of fear, anxiety, selfishness.”

“What would you tell your daughter?” I asked, having had a glimpse of an open-faced young girl with a big, pretty mouth.

“Courage, more courage! Dare! I was very fearful, highly protected by my family. Go out, dare, try! I had to force my son to leave home when he was twenty. These days they all stay at home. Kids don’t have a youthful attitude anymore. Material comfort is more important to them. Sure, it’s a hostile world out there, but not every experience is a life-threatening danger.” Christian has become an actor. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. You can paint and sing and write for yourself; an actor depends too much on being wanted.”

Belle de Jour, Bunuel’s perverse, deadpan fable about a rich young wife who spends her afternoons in a whorehouse having sex with traveling salesmen and louts, was a film that marked me. My conscious impressions were of Deneuve’s impassive beauty and her flawless wardrobe by Saint Laurent, whereas the deeper message seemed to fuse detached sex and designer clothes into a potent amalgam. In one famous scene, a fat Japanese sadist opens a box he has brought with him, and the whores all refuse whatever is in it with cries of disgust. The Deneuve character accepts. I asked the classic question: “What’s in the box?”

“I am really disappointed that you should ask that,” she said. “That’s not the real question, it’s a fake one. The real question is, Why should this woman be spending her afternoons in a bordello? But everyone affects not to be surprised by that, and so they ask about the box. Why does she do it? For pleasure. Out of masochism, and thus for pleasure. What’s masochism? It’s pretending you’re suffering while you’re really experiencing pleasure!”

She says she was unaffected by the shooting of this Bunuel film and untouched by Repulsion, where she starts off mad, gets madder, kills two men, and cohabits with the rotting carcass of a rabbit. “Polanski is extremely mischievous, and it was a highly technical shooting. The films that affect me are the ones that are nearer to real life—Andre Techine’s films, where I’m acting with children, playing normal women.

“I’ve learned that I’m pretty consistent. As an actress you live in so many different worlds, you’re subject to influences that differ radically from film to film, role to role. It’s important to feel that you’re pretty much the same inside despite so many things blowing up around you.

“An actress’s life is made up of reading mediocre scripts. When Bunuel or Truffaut asked you to be in something, you did it.”

“I’ve had several lives. Not adventures, but whole slices of life. I’ve got the impression now, and perhaps it’s due to age, because I certainly don’t feel wise, that I’ve come to a part of the landscape where I feel good. The eighties were the beginning of my second life; all kinds of things came together. I did Hotel des Ameriques with Andre Techine, The Last Metro with Francois Truffaut. The 1981 elections brought about a liberalization which seemed to me to be something that was better for everyone, something positive. It was good for our profession. When Mitterrand came in, things came together; there was an upbeat and inquisitive atmosphere that came with him, and the opportunity to say things and be heard. Mitterrand introduced a tone of intimacy; I can’t say he began a dialogue— he’s more the monologue type—but he changed things. In the last ten years I’ve started to look at Paris differently, and at life. Opportunities are often things you haven’t noticed the first time around, and even depression becomes a thing that you recognize as part of a cycle that is merely repeating itself.”

She has made eleven films since 1980, and given some remarkable performances. She also went into business, a decision which from the outside appeared to be the natural expansion of a competent woman’s talents. Nothing of the kind, she explained. “Business is always for financial reasons. I was doing the Chanel advertisements, and then a friend suggested a line of jewelry, which was ideal, and fun. Then out of that came the idea for a perfume, and of all the things an actress can give her name to, a perfume is the most attractive. But it was really the financial advantage it gave me. I would be able to make fewer films. It gave me freedom and an independence I’d never had, because I’m a real spendthrift.” The perfume was advertised with photographs of the perfect Deneuve face, to which she had added a red clown’s nose on one and a blue mustache on another. They were not a success. “I thought it was an amusing wink, something to make the image more approachable,” she said.

She did a television ad for Banque Indosuez last year. “That amused me, because it was talking about money, which makes French people extremely uncomfortable. I liked being able to talk about it very directly, without any false poetry or fake artiness. It brought me a lot of money, which was useful for my company, because I was about to co-produce a film.”

The film was Drole d’Endroit pour une Rencontre, her fifth with Depardieu. In it she plays a distraught, rich blonde whose husband throws her out of their car on the edge of a highway in the middle of the night. Depardieu is at the side of the road, fixing the engine of his car. “You can’t stay here, you smell like a poule,” he says.

“She’s a character whose sable coat is the only thing that keeps her together,” said Deneuve. The woman’s abjection is such that when Depardieu calls her husband she grabs the phone, and her first words to the man she’s been waiting for by the side of the road all night are “Did you get there all right, dear?”

“I couldn’t shoot two scenes like that, because of what it took out of me. And it would unbalance what an actress must do, which is play, reconstruct, give back. From time to time you can get near that kind of truth, but you can’t systematically exploit that vein; it should only be there to punctuate the rest. You mustn’t distill that kind of truth. That’s the scene that made me want to do the movie, because if Francois Dupeyron had written something so painful and terrible and true for that woman, then he understood her and would be kind to her.”

It used to be the directors who made her want to do a film. “An actress’s life is made up of reading mediocre scripts. When Bunuel or Truffaut asked you to be in something, you did it.” Now more planning and decision have to go into the process, which does not enchant her. The Dupeyron film did not do well in Paris, despite her exceptional performance, which even puts Depardieu a little in the shade. She’s about to make another film with Andre Techine, this time in Brazil. “The story is good, but Brazil doesn’t attract me. It’s too consistently carefree. It’s like the prospect of going to St. Tropez.”

She was supposed to go see Hamlet that night. She had just come back from the country, where she has a house that contains, she says, “no guest rooms, only friends’ rooms.” The doors to the dining room were open slightly, and I could see a vast round table. “One of the things that make me happiest,” she said, “is the sight of a dinner table after a good, long meal, when people have stayed and stayed. The wineglasses, the breadcrumbs, the full ashtrays, the grapes, the rumpled-up napkins. Sometimes, before going to bed, I just stop and look at the table, and I go to bed happy.”

There are thick curtains on her front door, to keep out noise and prevent drafts. They are dun-colored, made of felt. At eye level on one of them I saw what looked like a little pin of a golfer. “Is your .. urn, ah … a golfer?” I asked, unable to name Pierre Lescure, although she had allowed as how she had now been in the same slice of life for five years, and that the gentleman was cheerful.

“A golfer? No, that’s a sound man. It’s a little pin from the science museum. They had the most wonderful exhibition of things to do with movies, all the technical stuff, and these little pins. I keep him here.”

The day of our lunch she raced off in her Porsche on multiple errands, and said she was headed for an official function that night. She said she couldn’t stop by the painter Jennifer Bartlett’s apartment, where I was having dinner. But at midnight, when Jennifer Bartlett’s table was covered with used napkins and loose grapes and full ashtrays, Deneuve appeared, blazingly beautiful. She wore a purple satin suit identical to one that I had borrowed from the House of Saint Laurent for official functions of my own. She sat on the white tile apron of the fireplace and argued with Jennifer about a British film; she had liked it, Bartlett had hated it. If she’d been a little less beautiful, there would have been more shouting. “Real beauty is enriching,” Depardieu said in his unsent letter to her, “and near it, near you, I felt myself incapable of bad thoughts, of being violent. The fact that beauty is appeasing, reassuring, makes you better than you are.” There was a little more silence in Bartlett’s loft than might be expected from fifteen people who’ve consumed fifteen bottles of claret. Because she and I had talked so long in private, I barely addressed a word to her. It seemed that any reference to our conversations would be a violation of some pact. Est divisa in partes tres. Discreet as always, she didn’t say where she’d been. And trying to be as good as her, no one asked. They held their breath a little, as in the presence of royalty. I wondered whether it was the same purple suit I had borrowed for my book tour, or whether mine had been merely the sample for hers.

“Perhaps I am Goldilocks,” she’d said to me a few days before. “You know, tasting all the porridge in all the different bowls?”

[Copyright, Joan Juliet Buck. This piece appears here with the author’s permission.]

[Featured Image: from The Hunger; photo credit: Georges Biard c/o Wikimedia Commons]

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