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THE SHORT STORY This Summer by Peter Dean H

olidays had become lonely affairs for Colin. He always felt uncomfortable eating alone in seaside restaurants. And not having anyone to talk to put him off going places that were unfamiliar to him. But this year his spirits had lifted; he had been promoted at work. Colin decided to holiday in the south of France. Gloomy old England would be just too much this summer. He really needed to get away.

Arriving at Nice airport, in the sunshine, he hopped on a bus heading to the promenade. His hotel was close by, and overlooked the Mediterranean Sea - both were glorious. Quickly, he unpacked his case and went downstairs to explore. Walking along the promenade, he saw artists carefully drawing in chalk on the pavement slabs: classical scenes of the Madonna and Child. He then walked on to the pebble beach where a hawker tried to sell him a ice cold drink.

“Non!” Colin said, waving his arms. Looking around he saw topless sunbathers, and there were windsurfers out on the blue sea, seemingly defying gravity. Despite being alone, Colin felt happy, he felt a kindred spirit with the holidaymakers, so he took off his shirt to reveal his white chest, and lay on the stones soaking up the Mediterranean sun. “Monsieur!”

Opening his eyes, Colin saw an old man holding a small

monkey. The man held out a cup. “Monsieur!” he repeated. Colin reached into his trouser pocket and found a few coins, dropping them in the cup. “Merci,” the man said. He let the monkey swing round his arm and then climb on to his bronzed shoulders before moving up the beach to another sunbather. Colin closed his eyes again and had a nap.

That evening, he went to a chic café for dinner. He experienced that ‘eating on your own’ feeling, but he was used to it. There were olives and pimentos in a dish that he ate judiciously, before licking his lips with satisfaction. His Pernod was exotic tasting, and made his head spin, even though it was diluted with water. He ordered sardines followed by steak frites from the a la carte menu. He could just hear the waves lapping on the shore, and seabirds calling as he watched the passers-by walk along the avenue. Sitting there minding his own business, he was surprised when an elegant, tanned lady came and sat down next to him. She had a little white terrier with her. He observed her lovely accent. “Du l’eau, s’il vous plait,” she said to a passing waiter, who

obliged by returning with a bowl of water that he carefully placed on the ground. The dog lapped at it enthusiastically with its little pink tongue.

“Such a nice dog,” Colin said. The lady smiled. “English?” she said. “Yes, my name is Colin. Do you speak English?” “A little, my name is Colette.” The lady patted the dog’s head as

it drank.

She spoke good English, and they chatted. She ordered some food and Colin ordered some wine, which he shared with her, as it

seemed the polite thing to do.

When they had both finished eating, and the bottle was empty, Colin asked if she would like a walk along the seafront. She nodded, and he could tell that she was a little tipsy. “Bon!” he said. His French was ropey, but he liked to slip in the

easy words he remembered from his school days, many years previously. The lady steadied herself on her heels and they walked to the promenade, the warm breeze blowing over their faces and through their hair. It felt lovely and fresh on their skin. Lights were strung along the main avenue and there was a crescent moon in the sky.

When they reached his hotel, Colin felt as though he was

floating on air. The wine, the lovely food, the company - France - all these things made him feel dreamy. “I haven’t enjoyed such nice company since Eva, my wife, was

here with me,” Colin stated. The lady smiled. “My husband, Pierre, was like you,” she said. “A real gentleman.”

On saying goodbye, the lady kissed Colin on both sides of his beaming face. So French, he thought. She agreed to meet him in the morning. She would show him the beauty of the old town. “C’est magnifique!” she gushed. “That would be lovely,” Colin said, before adding, “and thank you so much for tonight. You don’t know just how much I’ve enjoyed it.”

He waved, as she and her little dog walked off. He hoped he would see her again, as promised, and went upstairs to his room for a much-needed sleep. Colin’s fortnight flew by very quickly. As promised, the lady showed him the sights. They dined every evening in each other’s company in little cafés and restaurants. The old town was a mass of narrow streets, where the locals congregated. He talked pidgin French (and his native English) with her like he had not talked for a long time, recalling happy times with Eva, and telling her about his new-found zest for life, since their encounter. During a short shower, they shared an intimate moment, when he placed his coat around her shoulders to protect her from the rain. He imagined that he was Stewart Grainger and Colette was Audrey Hepburn. With his holiday over, and now aboard his England-bound plane, Colin was still in a dream. The first thing he did when he got home was to call Colette and arrange to meet again. Maybe she would come to England for a few days? Nice was more than nice; it had changed his life forever.

Colin knew Colette was the widow of a French actor, he also

realised that she had fallen in love with him. And, after more than twenty visits to France, he felt sure that they were right for each other. He proposed on her birthday - a lovely Parisian spring day. She said, “Mais oui, mon cheri.”

Slipping an antique diamond and emerald ring on her finger, he simply replied: “Merci. Je t’adore!”

Next summer they would be husband and wife and start a new journey in life together. This story is purley ficticious. Any connection with similar events or any person or persons alive or dead is purley coincidental. 64 County Life If you have a short story (1400 words maximum) you would like to submit for the editor’s consideration, and to share with our readers, please email it to or post to: County Life / Select Publishing (Short Stories) P.O. Box 32 Biggleswade, Bedfordshire SG18 8TE

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