Encounters “A” ended with Freda winning Ian as her prize. Encounters “B” reveals an encounter that will prove to be life changing for both Freda and Ian.
Dominique’s mobile is flashing “C”.
She picks up.
“You working?” asks Corine.
“Trying to get my head down. You?”
“It’s the same?”
“Yeh, I’m going mad!”
Corine is stretched out on her bed in her room, curtains drawn, she’s flicking through TV channels as she chats to her best mate Dom.
“I’m gonna run, run away.”
“Where?” asks Dom
“Dom, HELP ME!”
“Get out, get some air, I’ll be round later.”
“Ok, Ok…yes, gotta go Mum’s just come in.”
“Hate her, I hate her, and Dad.”
“Oh C, it’s not that bad.”
“You don’t know.”
Gilles and Corine, C to her friends, lived in the same village, Folleville, just outside Amiens, but they’d never met, their families moved in different circles.
A sun drenched day, too nice to work Gilles phones in sick, wheels out his new Kawasaki bike from the garage, revs up and heads for the High Street.
He’s cruising when he spots Corine, she’s walking just ahead of him, Gilles likes what he sees and slows his bike down alongside of her.
“Want a ride?”
“Where you going?”
He shrugs his shoulders.
She didn’t hesitate.
From that moment they couldn’t get enough of each other, grabbing at every possible chance to meet. Corine knew her Mum wouldn’t approve, he was so much older, and divorced, so she lied saying she was with her best friend Dom.
Gilles had been living rough, drifting, but now his Dad had died he’d come home to be with his mother, found a job as a mechanic’s mate in Amiens and rented a tiny flat in the next village.
He was a man who could have any girl he wanted; they fell for his black shoulder length tousled hair, sensuous lips, his deep voice.
Right now it was Corine he wanted and she just couldn’t get over him chosing her. For the first time in her life she was out of her depth, immersed in sensations that both thrilled and terrified her.
Drawn to a magnet she would constantly go round to his flat spending ages making it homely, then she’d lie on his bed imagining him holding her.
Blipping, bubbling, the casserole on the stove smelt good. She’d put beers in the fridge.
Now she had to wait, wait for the sound of his bike, his footsteps coming up the stairs into the flat.
Back home Corine calls Dom, gets her voicemail.
Dom gets back to her.
“You OK? Your guy OK?”
“All going great?”
“You don’t sound sure?”
“Oh God, I don’t know – it’s nothing – oh God.”
“C, tell me.”
“What? How? From you !?”
“No, I know – don’t say it”
“Shit.” “You’re dumping him then?”
Corine hesitates again and says
“Don’t know” “You won’t tell will you?”
Two nights ago Gilles had talked about Morroco.“The food, magic starry nights, it’s a fairyland, Corine. I’ll take you one day. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen an Arabian night, think C; just you and me under the stars.”
Like a limpet Corine clung to his words, maybe, just maybe they would be together.
Gilles was always talking about being rich, it was an obsession.
Corine couldn’t understand why he despised and hated rich people, she could hear the venom in his voice whenever he spoke about them.
“You see, Corine, It will be me with a house, me with a Porsche, everything, I’ll have everything. I’ll be so rich, you’ll see Corine.”
Corine was hardly through the door and her mother would start on her.
“Come on, who is it? You must tell us, we’ve a right to know, people are talking.” Corine glares at her Mother, turns her back, runs up the stairs her Mother right behind her, but Corine beats her to the safety of her bedroom, slamming the door, sliding the bolt, the one she’s just fitted.
“WE NEED TO TALK!” her Mother yells.
Corine covers her ears.
“Uni papers came, you need to send them back.”
Uni was the last thing Corine wanted.
She just wanted Gilles.
Corine’s door is ajar as she listens…waiting for her Mother’s soap to come on, her Mother never missed it. The monotonous music starts. Corine slides drawers open, throwing things into a bag, creeps downstairs past the lounge and glances in. Her Mother is well into her programme.
Tiptoeing into the kitchen Corine peers into the fridge and takes out beers, a cooked ham, a chunk of cheese, stuffing them in her bag.
Corine holds the latch on the back door so it doesn’t drop and leaves the door wide open, runs out and races to Gilles.
“It’s no working.”
“You mean it’s not working don’t you?” Ian asked
Freda let go of his hand.
“Don’t correct me!”
“What do you mean?”
“We never have time, time for the children.” “Sorry. Yes, you’re right, of course I’d love to see more of them,” Ian watched the children who were running ahead of them.
“More of you too,” he said grinning, pulling her close.
It was a good day. A good day to be a family walking round a park. Magda and Amy’s excited voices; sounds of ducks quacking; dogs barking; muffled shouting. Sounds that said everything was OK.
“But we could, with help.” Freda said.
“For God’s sake don’t start that again! I told you no strangers in my house.”
“But we’d get to know her, I’m calling the agency.”
Ian went quiet.
One night everything changed.
Corine couldn’t believe it – Gilles was early! before midnight! She heard him rev up his bike’s engine a couple of times and switch off.
Earlier that day she’d sneaked his washing home, now it was in a neatly stacked pile on the armchair, ironed to perfection.
Dinner was ready.
She’d taken one of her mother’s tablecloths and laid it over the fold up table, in the centre of the table was a bunch of wild flowers next to the cheese and olives. Onion soup simmered on the stove sending wafts of brandy and garlic round the room.
Corine is reading a book by the lamp on the dining table
She looks up.
A girl’s voice!
Gilles is coming up the stairs with a girl! They’re laughing!
Corine jumps up, presses her body against the wall and freezes, she can’t breathe.
“Hey, Corine, brought you a little surprise!”
Grinning, reeking of beer, he pushes forward a girl in green dungarees and dirty trainers. She looks about twelve, slight and delicate.
He staggers towards Corine grabbing a chair for support but Corine backs to a corner.
“Get away from me”she screams.
The girl starts to giggle.
“Hey Corine, C, easy,” he slurs, slumping on the chair at the table.
“Look! Food, we can party!”
He waves his arms and grins again at Corine, blind to the anger in her eyes.
Swiftly, in one move Corine grabs the edges of the tablecloth, letting the cloth fly and spew its contents over Gilles.
He’s so drunk he can’t free himself.
Black juicy olives roll between fragments of a blue glass vase. Flowers lay splayed out on the floor.
Corine grabs her bag and flies past the girl spitting in her face, ignoring shouts from above, charges down the steps out into the icy cold air.
Again she’s running away, a fierce wind freezing the tears on her face. Fields, fields, she’s lost count of them.
Stumbling, crawling through hedges, ripping her clothes. Crossing ditches that lead her down into darkness, caked mud on her shoes slow her.
She swings round, black, everything is black. She flops down onto the earth, takes a deep breath and peers into the sky, her heart leaps as she makes out the outline of a barn she used to play in.
Through the moonlight there’s a wooden ladder, propped up against a huge haystack.
She puts her foot on the first rung, a dog barks, making her body stiffen.
There’s a noise of a door opening, then voices, travelling across the frosty air.
It’s quiet again, except for the whimpering of the dog.
The ladder doesn’t quite reach the top, Corine swings her bag up, finds a foothold and heaves herself up, clutching onto clumps of hay. Lies back breathing in the sweet smelling hay, closes her eyes for a second then opens them, forcing herself to stay awake until dawn.