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Jolly Rotten Holidays

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Shortly after one, my phone rang. Alec’s number. He was driving. ‘Hiya,’ he shouted. ‘We’ve just gone past Boo Long.’ He meant Boulogne. ‘Claude and I had a cracking lunch at a roadside restaurant.’

It turned out that the two of them had joined the ‘truck drivers only’ cue. They got their meals no questions asked. Steaks, oven-roast Roseval potatoes, grilled Mediterranean vegetables, and tarte au citron for pudding.

‘Risley?’ I roared. ‘At your service!’ I heard. ‘What nonsense is this?’ I snapped. ‘You had beef? I thought you were vegan.’ ‘I made an exception today,’ he laughed. ‘It would be unfair to Alec if I didn’t join him. I even had a fairly good Burgundy with it. One can’t be a teetotaller when one is visiting La Douce France. I’m having a marvelous time.’

‘Me too,’ Alec cried. ‘Oh come on, you wanker, overtake me or stay in the right lane…Where did you learn how to drive?’ He furiously sounded the horn.

‘No need to explain we’re indeed having fun,’ Risley said. Then the connection was cut off.

***

When the afternoon slowly turned into evening, I got messages from Alec. The champagne pallets had successfully been loaded into the truck and now he and Risley were off to an airport hotel to have dinner and stay the night.

Anne came home and shook her head as I told her the news. She was not in the mood for a full meal, neither was I. We made peanut butter sandwiches and had them in front of the TV.

I got some pictures from Alec showing Risley making funny faces and raising his wine glass and enjoying coq au vin (no pun intended) and stewed vegetables. It went on like this forever until he was done eating his feuilleté aux amandes which he washed down with brandy. The final scene was him outside the hotel, next to the Scania, smoking a cigarette and with unfocused eyes.

‘Let’s go to bed,’ Anne said at half past ten. ‘I’m tired.’

This had been our secret code since our first days of courtship. She wanted me. And I wanted her.

We showered together, kissing and teasing each other and making a mess and then we sank into each other’s arms on the master bed. She explored me hungrily, making me come many times until she finally allowed me to slide into her, I held her in an angle so that my clean-shaven lower body massaged her clitoris until she erupted in a magnificent orgasm, laughing and crying and wailing.

We had some brandy after that, huddled together, glowing and naked and happy.

‘We’ll have our twentieth anniversary next year,’ she said, stroking my chest. ‘I’d like us to renew our vows. Not in church, we’re both outlaws now, but in a romantic, private ceremony.’

‘On a tropical island,’ I promised. ‘We’ll be barefoot on the beach and present each other with flower garlands…Yes, we shall do that. I love you, Anne. How I love you! I could marry you ten times over and that still would not be nearly enough to show how you and I belong together.’

She fell asleep with her head on my chest.

***

It was shortly before dawn when I woke up. Anne and Furball were sleeping peacefully beside me.

I could detect Clivie’s silhouette on the windowsill behind the curtains. He was overlooking the garden, his domain that any alien cat could only enter at its own peril.

My thoughts were suddenly twisted. I had not been in contact with Maurice for two days now. The fact that Alec had taken off with Risley must be hard enough on him.

I now had to admit that I had seen Alec and Risley leave without blinking an eye. It would mean the end of Maurice and Alec. Maurice could forgive a fling with someone he himself loved and cherished, but not with his nemesis of twenty-six years. Risley was now in the process of educating Alec on the right dishes to choose in France. Risley had taken a tumble. He had resumed eating meat, smoking and drinking, thus stepping into Alec’s universe. This balding nobleman had a quality that no one I knew possessed. He could cast spells on anyone he happened to fancy. He had cleverly shown that I was in no position to argue, lest I should admit that I was as bad as he was. One could not fight fire with fire.

And what had I been thinking? Well, Alec would be with him now, leaving Maurice no choice but to come back and become all mine. I was wicked enough to sacrifice one lover for the other.

Yes, my happy kingdom had ceased to exist, and it had all been my own doing.

***

Feeling rather groggy, I waited until Anne had left for work at half past seven. When the sound of the engine of her Volvo had died down, I phoned Maurice.

‘Good morning,’ he said in a businesslike tone which made me break down. I cried and asked him if he was feeling devastated, too.

‘I did at first,’ he said kindly. ‘But then I remembered a German saying. Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten.’

‘What the hell does that mean?’

‘It means that you should not stop a traveler. Who am I to tell Alec what he can and cannot do? He’s his own man, he can make his own decisions. So can I, by the way.’

I understood he was not inclined to come back. ‘Are you still staying at Kitty’s?’

‘I am,’ he said sadly. ‘Oh, she’s ever so good to me, my dear sis. But she lives in a street where only residents can park. I had to leave the Focus in an underground car park three blocks away, at a rate of four bloody quid per hour in daytime. I say, that sucks.’

‘Your Jag is fine,’ I said feebly.

‘I know it is, dear…Well, I’m going to get dressed and then I’ll take the tube to the office. We’ll remain in touch. Give my love to Anne and the cats.’