Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapters 26 and 27

This begins Part 2

I apologize for being late with this episode. You’re getting two chapters this time, since I had to redact a lot from Chapter 26, and it wouldn’t have been fair to give you all just a few paragraphs. I was writing this in October, as a warm-up for National Novel Writing Month, and I was working hard on the “show, don’t tell” aspect of getting in a lot of description.

You may also note the gift of a boat as a wedding present. As I said earlier, I wrote this back in October, and Pat isn’t getting to read this any faster than any of the rest of you. So the boat I got as a Valentine’s gift is pure coincidence … or is it?

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 26

“Check out the view from our balcony!” I exclaimed.

“Ah, very nice,” Pierre said without looking up from unpacking our suitcases into the armoire of the hotel room. “Great view of the Eiffel Tower.”

We had just flown across the Atlantic, for the start of what we were planning to be a very long honeymoon in Paris. I was still getting used to some of the side effects of our joining, such as the way we were now each able to experience what the other saw, heard, and felt. At least we couldn’t directly eavesdrop on the other’s thoughts, but then, our thoughts were already fairly closely in tune.

Pierre finished unpacking and came to join me on the balcony, coming up behind me and placing his arms around my waist and pressing his hard, muscular body up against mine. He was shorter than I was by about two inches, making my shoulder just the right height for his chin to rest on. “Ah, honey, I’m so glad to be here with you,” he whispered in my ear.

It was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to get lower in the western sky, giving a golden glow to the city through a low-hanging summer haze. Our hotel suite was high enough up that we were somewhat removed from the noise of the city, and the peacefulness was a welcome contrast to the hustle of the past 24 hours or so, which had been spent in packed airports or even more crowded airplanes. At least the flight across the ocean hadn’t been as turbulent as it could have been; a weather system that had been in the flight path had veered aside as we approached. A little magic can go a long way.

But we had been traveling a long time, and both our bodies were aching. We returned to the room and settled onto the bed to rest. Pierre picked up the telephone and ordered a snack from room service, his French so smooth that even Parisians might mistake him for a native. Soon, a waiter appeared at the hotel room door with a cart bearing an ice bucket with a champagne bottle and a platter of oysters on the half shell. Pierre shut the door after the waiter left and checked that the protection spells he had put on the room were in good order.

I remembered the last time we had had oysters – the evening had had a less than pleasant ending. “Here,” Pierre said, handing me one. “This time, we’re going to enjoy them, and enjoy them properly.” I slipped the oyster into my mouth, savoring the creamy, salty flesh, while Pierre popped the cork on the champagne. He poured two glasses, handed me one, and then pulled the cart alongside the bed, where we both could reach the platter of oysters, and settled down alongside me, facing me. “We’re going to pick up where we left off last time,” he said, picking up another oyster and popping it into my mouth. I followed suit, putting one into his mouth, which he swallowed; through him, I could feel it going down his throat, and the sensation continued.

[This portion has been redacted to keep the blog at a safe, family-friendly level of decorum.]

Pierre smoothed my hair off my forehead, savoring the silky feel of the short, springy curls, and he kissed my cheek, tasting the salt of the tears that had come forth.

“Something I’ll never ever have to ask again,” Pierre said quietly. “I’ll never have to say, ‘Was it as good for you as it was for me?’”

I chuckled. “Because you’ll always know it was, won’t you? Won’t we?”

Pierre laughed, too, and popped one of the remaining oysters into my mouth. “Now do you believe the stories about these being an aphrodisiac?”

Chapter 27
Tired as we were from traveling, we knew that the best way to cure jet lag was to force ourselves to stay awake until it was a reasonable time to go to bed, so after taking a quick shower to freshen up, we decided to go out to supper. It was a warm summer evening, and we went to a sidewalk café near the hotel. I had crepes filled with chicken in a creamy sauce; Pierre had medallions of lamb. Both were absolutely delicious, and I found myself thinking about how now, Pierre and I could enjoy twice as much delicious food without actually eating twice as much.

After supper, we went to the Eiffel Tower, where, after a half-hour wait, we took the elevator to the top for a spectacular view. There’s a good reason Paris is called the City of Lights. We could see the Arc de Triomphe, and the open area leading to the parliamentary buildings, and in the distance, the brightly lit streets on the hill of Montmartre and the white onion domes of the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Not too far away, we could also see our hotel, and we could even spot the balcony of our room. We stood for a long time, enjoying the view. There was a slight breeze, and I shivered a bit; Pierre tightened his arms around me, releasing a warm glow, and we kissed.

The next morning, we had breakfast served in our room. As we were finishing up, Pierre said, “Today I need to see a man about a boat.”

“A boat?”

“Some of the best sailboats in the world are made in France,” Pierre said. “And some of us wizards work on them. I’m going to have one custom-built as my wedding present to you.”

“Oh, Pierre, how wonderful!” I knew this would be one very special boat, not only because it would be built in one of the world’s best shops, but also because it would have, I was sure, special magic built in by the wizards, and because it would be designed with love.

“You can get the spa treatment here at the hotel while I’m gone,” Pierre said. “Might as well enjoy that.”

“Why can’t I come along?”

“Well, officially, I want to surprise you. However, really, you will be along, if this Corsican twin thing works at a distance. This is a chance to test how far it works.”

So Pierre took off in the little rented Mercedes – much like his own car at home – while I went downstairs to the spa. As I sat in the hot mineral bath, I worked on my focus. I could be mostly myself in the steaming water with only a slight awareness off Pierre, or I could be mostly Pierre, driving through the streets of Paris and out to a newer, more industrial area on the outskirts, only vaguely aware of myself. By focusing on Pierre, I could learn the route to the boat factory. I’ve always been good at navigation – once I’ve been someplace once, I can always get there again. Pierre was a skilled driver, and he had also been a world traveler, so he knew Paris well and maneuvered the sports car deftly through traffic, arriving quickly at his destination.

I had to remove my focus from Pierre for a few minutes when it was time to get out of the tub and get a mud pack, in which warm, slightly sulfurous smelling gray mud was spread over my body, and then I was wrapped in sheets to lie down and let the mud absorb oils and toxins. Mud was also applied to my face, and cucumber slices were placed over my eyes, immediately producing a cooling feeling that relieved the lingering tiredness of the jet lag. While I waited for the mud to do its thing, I refocused on Pierre. He was now inside a large building in which boats were being built. There were only a few, and I could see that they were being built carefully, with much attention to detail. Pierre was speaking in French with a man who I guessed to be the chief boat-building wizard; I knew enough French to follow the gist of their conversation, if not the nuances. Every once in a while Pierre would say something in English, and I realized those remarks were meant for me – I couldn’t read his mind, but if he said something out loud, I could hear it.

Pierre and the boat-building wizard – I learned from the conversation that his name was Alois – were looking at a particularly long, graceful hull, and Alois was pointing out how the shape of the hull and keel on this model would make this a very fast boat. Pierre nodded in approval and said in English, “Fast is good.”

“Yes, fast is good,” I whispered, hoping the other women in the spa would think I was napping and talking in my sleep.

Pierre and Alois continued to talk about the hull design for a while, and then they went over to a table where Alois unrolled a sheaf of blueprints. They showed a boat that didn’t match any of the ones currently under construction. “Ce sont les dessins preliminaires que tu m’as demandé,” Alois said.

“Ah, you’ve been planning this already!” I whispered. “I should have known.”

“I didn’t know your French was that good,” Pierre said. Alois gave him a startled look. There was no one else around that Pierre could have been talking to, and it must have been puzzling for a fluently French-speaking American to compliment a Frenchman’s French skills – in English. I could feel Pierre’s face heat up as he blushed.

“Let’s hope Alois’ English is such that he thinks he misheard you,” I said.

Pierre diverted Alois’ curiosity by returning attention to the blueprints. They were looking over plans for the cabin layout now, and I could see that, within the sleek racing hull, the interior of the boat was going to be luxurious. The challenge was to reach a good compromise – if we put too much luxury into the boat, it would get heavier, hampering performance. However, we didn’t want the boat to be too bare, either. A certain level of comfort would be needed if we wanted to cross oceans in it. “Ah, Pierre, are we going to sail around the world?” I asked. “No, don’t answer that. If we do, I’m going to love every minute of it.” Pierre and Alois continued to discuss the plans, and I added my input via Pierre, so that in the end we were both satisfied with the plans, and Pierre gave Alois the go-ahead to start building the boat and wrote him a check for the initial payment.

The time limit was up on my mud pack, and after getting the mud washed off, it was time for my massage. I savored the intense rub, although I missed the extra warmth that came from Pierre’s hands. I was aware of Pierre in the background, driving through the city streets and then going into some shops here and there, but mainly I concentrated on enjoying the relaxation the massage yielded. The heat of the mud pack, and before that, the bath, had softened up my muscles, so by the end of the massage, I was very thoroughly relaxed. As I was leaving the spa, one of the attendants from the mud pack room passed through the reception area. “You were having a very good dream, non?” she commented. “I almost didn’t want to wake you. It is a very special boat you were talking about.”

“Yes, very special.”

“I hope some day you get your dream boat.” Little did she know.

When I got to the room, Pierre was already there, waiting for me. “I figured we could have a classic French picnic lunch,” he said, picking up a wicker basket. “I got bread, and cheese, and wine.”

“That sounds perfect,” I said.

We took a stroll to the Tuileries gardens, where we found a spot on the grass near the fountain where small children sail small wooden boats. I was reminded of Betsy, Pierre’s daughter and my former roommate, whose hobby was carving sailboat models, and whose magic talent was infusing them with the spirit of whoever the boat was carved for. I wondered how the little racing dinghy she had carved for me and Pierre – our boats were identical, so one model could serve both people – would sail among the relatively primitively designed boats on the pond. The breeze was gentle, about 5 knots, and the colorful boats sailed gracefully across the pool, while their skippers would dash around to the other side to meet their craft and use a two-foot-long stick to bring the boat about on another course.

“Hmmm,” I said. “Here’s another idea for our school – a nursery school for very young sailors!”

“Not a bad idea at all,” Pierre said, spreading out a red-checked tablecloth for us to sit upon for our picnic. “Of course, that means finding some very young sailors to enroll in such a class. It’s hard to spot talent among even older kids; you may have noticed that most of the students at the spelling school were young teens.”

“Well, we’d at least know to look among kids of wizards,” I said, opening the picnic hamper and getting out plates, utensils, napkins, and glasses.

Pierre pulled the cork from the wine and poured two glasses. “Now, where would we be looking for kids of wizards?” he asked, grinning.

“Well, I don’t know about right away,” I said, “but some day …” I took a sip of wine; it was a white wine with a light green-apple taste, very refreshing on such a warm day.

“Yes,” Pierre said. “Some day … ours.” He cut a slice of the baguette bread, topped it with a slice of Swiss cheese, and held it up for me to take a bite. The bread was chewy, the crust was crunchy, and the cheese had just the right blend of tanginess and butteriness. We lay back on the picnic cloth, enjoying the food and wine, the sunshine, the gentle breeze, and the laughter of the children.


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