René Beauchemin opened his journal as he sat in the departure lounge of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. He thought he might as well take the time to make the last entry in Europe before he flew back to Canada and his home in Ottawa. Before writing down the date, he read the last entry he had made in Santiago three days earlier:
We’re in Santiago, well I am in Santiago with Fred and Frieda. The others have now retreated into the depths from whence they came. I think I am ready to return to work and to living a full life. But first, Frieda and I will journey on to Finisterre and then on to Paris. We have a life to plan together.
They never did make the trip to Finisterre, and here he was, alone in Paris. René shook his head still confused as to what had happened when the next morning had arrived. When he had woken up, Frieda was gone. There was nothing left in the room to indicate that she had ever been there. When René went to knock on Fred’s door, there was no answer. Neither Fred nor Frieda were in the small dining room when he went down in search of them. Like the other pilgrim companions he had walked with on the Camino, they had just disappeared. René stayed in the hotel an extra night hoping that Frieda would return with a good explanation. However, night came and he was still alone with no e-mails or messages other than one from his ex-wife, Rosaline, in Ottawa who was wondering when he was returning.
When he woke up yesterday morning with still no messages or signs of his pilgrimage companions, he decided to take the fast train to Paris and book a return flight home. And now, here he was, sitting in the airport in Terminal 2A waiting for time to pass until his Air Canada flight was ready to depart. René put his journal away without writing anything in it and sat back with his eyes closed. His thoughts wandered back to his journey on the Camino with what he could now only describe as imaginary friends.
He now wondered if Frieda and Fred were imaginary as well. He needed to look at his photos to learn the answer to that question. What would those photos tell him? It was an answer that would have to wait as the photos had been uploaded to his web account. He hadn’t saved the photos on his camera once they had been uploaded.
Feeling exasperated and a bit hungry, and in desperate need for a coffee, René picked up his backpack and made his way to the Café Select eatery. Café Select was located just beside a Macdonald’s restaurant and René was surprised to see Fred sitting alone at a table in Macdonald’s. Abandoning his plans for coffee at Café Select, René entered the Macdonald’s and went straight to Fred’s table. Fred looked up and his eyes widened in surprise at seeing René standing beside him.
“René? I never expected to see you here. I thought you were walking on to Finisterre with Frieda?”
“It didn’t happen, as you can obviously guess,” admitted René. “Frieda disappeared and I just didn’t have the initiative to walk to Finisterre alone. Talking about disappearing,” René continued, “You were gone when I looked for you. You remember we were supposed to meet up?”
“Yeah,” confessed Fred. “But I felt like a third wheel. You only had eyes for Frieda. I decided to get a little visit in Paris before heading home.”
“We need to talk,” decided René. “I’ll just get some coffee and something to eat. Seriously, Fred, Macdonald’s?”
The two men talked for more than an hour, only stopping when the American Airlines called for boarding for Fred’s flight home to the United States. Fred had promised to send any photos he had of René, Frieda, and other Camino friends once he had time. Both men were curious as to what the photos would show. Fred had wondered if Frieda might end up being one of the imaginary people when all was said and done. René began to suspect that she might be a projection of his anima rather than a real woman though he doubted it. She had felt so real. René needed her to be real.
René’s flight finally began to board, a long process which had him waiting as his seat was near the first class seats, the last seats called to board the plane.