This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
On the way to Caen, Adrian saw a sign for Bayeux. “We could turn off, go to see the Tapestry. I have always wanted to see that”. Sally shook her head. “Nah, it’s a bit lame to be honest. Besides, I’ve seen it loads of times”. After driving for ninety minutes being directed by Sally, she told him to take the next left. A few miles on a much smaller road led them to the village of Buron. Indicating he should turn into a tiny lane on the right, Sally grinned. “Just up there, and we are at my uncle’s place”.
The bumpy, rutted road led to a rather large but exceedingly ramshackle farmhouse. Three tumbledown outbuildings formed a dusty courtyard, and he could see a man about sixty years old carrying a large rake. He was standing watching as the car stopped. Sally ran across and hugged the man, shouting out “Lucien” as he lifted her up. Then they engaged in a short conversation before Sally ran back to the car and opened the boot, hauling out her big rucksack..
Getting out of the car to join her and get his suitcase, he almost got his fingers caught as she slammed the lid. “So, shall we say three days? You can go and see theTapestry, have a look around Caen. It’s very historical in the old city. Pick me up when you’re ready, and we can head south. The Atlantic coast is nice, we could have a look at Biarritz, I’ve never been there”.
Adrian had no idea what to say. Her aunt was now standing in the doorway of the farmhouse, shaking flour off of her hands. He had just presumed he would be staying, and having to find a hotel hadn’t been mentioned.
His voice quivered a little as he controlled his emotions. “Three days then. Bye”.
Fortunately, Caen was only a couple of miles south, and the city had a large number of hotels. Adrian drove around until he found one with a car park, and managed to get a single room with a reasonable view of the damaged Norman castle. Wandering around to find somewhere to eat before a much-needed sleep, he eventually convinced himself that it was unrealistic to expect to have stayed with Sally’s uncle. They had family news to catch up on, and might well have not had enough room to accommodate him anyway. He was sure things would be more relaxed once they headed south in three day’s time.
Although he had been to France many times, most of those trips had been to Paris, and usually in organised small groups of students. Being on his own in the unfamiliar city of Caen wasn’t much fun, even though there was quite a bit to see and do. He decided not to drive back to Bayeux and see the Tapestry. That could wait for another time.
On the third day, he was at the farmhouse before ten. He sat in the car, studying a map he had bought the day before. To drive all the way to Biarritz would take around ten hours, allowing for a stop. If he drove all day, they could be there by around eight that night. Such a popular beach resort was bound to have some reasonably-priced small hotels, so he wasn’t concerned about finding a room when they got there.
Sally appeared in the doorway fifteen minutes later, kissing her aunt goodbye, then waving as she put her rucksack in the boot. She jumped into the passenger seat, and grinned at Adrian. “Biarritz, here we come!” As he turned the car round and headed back down the lane, she didn’t even ask him what he had been doing for the last three days.
Just over two hours later, they were approaching Tours. Sally had been napping, using her cardigan as a pillow. She sat up suddenly. “Can we stop at the next service area, Adey? I need a pee”. He nodded. “Okay, I should probably fill up with petrol anyway”.
As he filled the tank, Sally disappeared inside the main service area. There was a sign for a restaurant and shop, and the place was much larger than anything comparable in England, with more than a dozen pumps, and even a small workshop for repairs and tyres.
Twenty minutes later he saw her walking to the car, chatting animatedly wtih a tall man who seriously needed a shave and a haircut. He was also carrying a rucksack. Walking up to the open window, she turned to the man. “Put your bag in the back, there isn’t room in the boot”.
“Adey, this is Julien. He’s from Quebec, and I said we will give him a lift”.