Sunday, 9 November 2014

Stories from a Village Perchés part three


Nathalie came to call for John at 8-o-clock the next morning. Sunday was her free day from the markets. She drove expertly round the twisting roads and lanes in her small red car with the roof down and the radio blaring.Every so often she'd point something out with a gallic wave of her arms and hands. When they arrived at the Grape Festival John's knuckles were white. Nathalie parked the car and they were immediately surrounded by her many friends and relations all eager to know who he was.

'It's the first time they've seen me so openly with a man. I've told them you're a friend of Jean-Marie. Now let me explain how the Fête works. We buy a wine glass from the stand over there for three euros and then we can taste all the wine for free. As much as we want.'

John looked at her in amazement.

'Won't we get drunk? How can you drive home? You'll be over the limit.'

Nathalie threw back her head and laughed. It was such a joyous sound, people turned to smile at them.

'You can drink it or just swill it around. We French never get drunk, it is not chic.'

Nathalie lead the way round the Grape Festival stopping to chat and introduce him to people. They tasted the wines as they went. John watched Nathalie's lips as she tasted some Rosé wine and felt quite light-headed and he wasn't sure that it was the wine.
Today Nathalie was wearing some very tight red trousers and a Provençale style blouse that kept slipping off her shoulders.

'Let's have coffee now to sober up .'

She winked at him as she said this and he knew she was making fun of him. It was a nice feeling and he grinned broadly at her.

Maybe it was the effect of the wine but John found himself telling Nathalie all about his father. What a kind man he'd been, how his mother had always been so in love with him, what fun they'd had as a family, how wonderful his sister was. Reliving all the happy memories felt good, he was keeping his father's memory alive. He'd never been able to talk like this to Rosie. She had always seemed a bit jealous of his family and how close they were. Nathalie just sat and listened to him,her chin resting on her hand and seemingly transfixed. Encouraged by her attention he told her about Mark.This was harder, but he felt he owed it to his friend to keep his memory alive too.One of the last things Mark said to him was to enjoy his life and be true to his heart. 
'It's all there mate, he'd said, 'just look in your heart.'
Something came over John at that point and he couldn't say another word.He looked at Nathalie. She was holding her cigarette in such a way that filled him with longing and then he just leaned over and kissed her. He kissed her long and tender as though they had always kissed. He couldn't believe he was doing it. There was the faint scent of jasmine and rose that always surrounded her and he was filled with an insatiable longing. He yearned to hear the whisper of a soft French accent in his ear, for arms to wrap around him, for lips to graze him and for her lovely long fingers to endlessly stroke him. He revelled in the scent of her and the taste of her smooth skin.
John drew Nathalie closer to him, one hand on the small of her back, the other beneath her soft, shiny hair, on her neck and behind her ears. He wanted to cry, he wanted to sing, he wanted to keep her wrapped up in his arms forever.
He was afraid to look away from her in case the magic of what had just happened disappeared. Nathalie held his hand to her cheek.She seemed to read his thoughts.
 
'You have to trust it, this feeling, you have to believe. I feel the same way, from the moment I saw you.
Parisian chic
The spell was broken by his phone ringing. It was Rosie. Automatically without thinking, he answered it. His face grew ashen as he heard her say she was expecting Sam's baby and thought he ought to know. His hands gripped Nathalie's, she smiled and stroked him gently on the cheek. John swallowed hard. He was aware of the pressure from Nathalie's thigh. The warmth of her presence seemed to give him some extra strength. He took a deep breath.
 
'Congratulations to you both.'
 
There was a long silence .
 
'Thank you John, that means a lot to me.'
 
He thought there was a note of regret in her voice.
Nathalie looked at John and pulled him to his feet.
 
'I know just what you need now.'

 She laughed and practically dragged him back to her car.


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