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A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol....Part 5
Since I had left the cabin, someone had come and lowered the second berth and made the bed. Space was limited but the room was warm and comfortable, at least from a normal person point of view. I put Chantal's bags on the small writing table and said :
- "I'm going to step out for about fifteeen minutes so that'll give you time to get ready for the night. I'll knock on the door when I come back. I thought about going back to the Duke of Wellington bar but didn't feel like sustaining a prolonged conversation with Brian, which I could so easily anticipate. So, instead, I headed for the duty-free shop. I didn't really need anything there, but it would kill the little time on my hands. I got weak and purchased two bars of Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate. When everything else fails you, there is always chocolate!
As promised, I knocked on the door and she opened it for me :
- "Want some chocolate? It's supposed to be the best substitute for sex!
- "What planet do you live on? There is NO substitute for sex!
- "Have some anyway! I mean chocolate, not sex!"
- "Not to worry, don't call your mother yet, you are in no immediate danger here! She had changed into some grey cotton pyjamas that closely contoured her body, showcasing the anatomy of her breasts:
- "Are you cold?" I asked.
- "No, why?"
- "you look like you might be!"
- "Oh, shut up! You've never seen nipples before?" I let this one gently float away.
- "Are you finished with the bathroom?"
- "Yes, go right ahead" I locked myself into the cubicle pompously named bathroom, got undressed and took a long warm shower. By the time I came back into the room, she was in bed, her head resting on her folded arm, nipples tantalizing through the thin fabric. Why did the thought cross my mind she might be doing that on purpose? She had chosen the lower berth, so I climbed up the tiny ladder to the upper one.
- "Good night, Chantal!"
- "Nite nite,Tarzan!" Thirty seconds later, I was dead to the world...
A hand gently shaking my forearm woke me up :
- "Wake up! We disembark in about thirty minutes!" It took me about thirty seconds to realize where I was. I had slept like a newborn baby.
- "You snored all night!"
- "Good morning to you too! Hey, I'm a guy and that's what guys do : they smoke, they drink, they burp loudly, they fart, they snore and they leave the toilet seat up. So, live with it or better yet, become a lesbian.
- "Aren't you in a foul mood this morning!"
- "My mood is just fine, thank you for asking. I'm just not used to be agressed the minute I open one eye.
She was already dressed and ready to conquer England. Same ever so tight black pants, thin wool baby blue sweater and the unavoidable suede cowboy jacket. No scarf today! Nice package though, I hated to admit to myself. We gathered our things and quickly headed back to the car. In the lower deck where the cars were parked, the air was frigid and gusts of icy wind would engulf inside the ship through the large open gates. It was a brutal return to reality. The engine of the Sunbeam started without hesitation, bringing a sigh of relief as I had been wondering about that. I pushed the heater control to the max. position. We drove up the ramp and back on firm ground we were. I followed the signs Southampton/London like everybody else. We passed through immigration and customs with flying colors, and suddenly, we were out of the port zone. I had to remember to drive on the left side of the streets, which would take a little time to get accustomed to, especially in urban areas.
I was looking for a place for breakfast as, believe it or not, I was starving. Just before getting into central Southampton, still on the outskirts of town, I spotted a nice pub with a parking lot. A wooden sign advertised "Gigantic traditional English breakfast : 5 Pounds". That sounded to me just what the doctor ordered, so I veered sharply to the right side of the street and into the parking of the pub.
I held the door of the Sunbeam open for Chantal and helped her out of the car.The interior of the pub was warm and filled with tradition. Wood beams everywhere, plaid thick carpet, leaded windows and a crackling open fire in the huge stone fireplace. Needless to say, I ordered the Gigantic breakfast all the way, with tea. Chantal settled for tea and the home made scones. I devoured my food, while she was nitpicking at her choice. Soon, she pushed her plate back, leaving a good half of her portion untouched.
- "Aren't you going to have the rest of it?" I asked.
- "No, you can have it if you want" She didn't have to say it twice and I ate the two remaining scones with butter and strawberry jelly.
Beaulieu, with its mansion, the abbey and more importantly the National Motor Museum and its collection of over 250 vehicles is a village located only about 13 miles from Southampton. So, it took us less than half an hour to get there, driving leisurely through the beautiful English countryside. It was only slightly past 8.00AM when we arrived to a completely deserted parking lot. So, I said to Chantal :
- "I have an appointment with the curator at 9.00. I was thinking of going for a walk to the house and the abbey, and maybe shoot some pictures in the meantime".
- "Can I come too?"
- "you're welcome to, why not?
- "I'm going to take some photographs as well then, since I'm here" She said. She suddenly appeared to be in a more friendly mood, something I was certainly not going to complain about. We both got hold of our cameras. mine looking like a toy compared to hers, a big Canon with all the bells and whistles and a zoom through which you could probably see Gibraltar from here. Along our walk, she took dozens of pictures, sometimes hesitating , then walking back a few steps to get the best possible frame. I was watching a real professional at work and was definitely shaken. AT 8.45, we started heading back towards the museum.
- "Would you be interested in taking a look at the collection itself ?"
- "Well, yes,I am here so I might as well enjoy the attraction" She said with a smile. A smile ! That was a first and it illuminated her face in the morning light.
AT 9.00 sharp, the doors opened and we walked inside the building, alongside a handful of early visitors. I headed straight to the curator's office, whith whom I spoke for about twenty minutes. He gave me a press portfolio with a brief history of every vehicle on display in the museum. In the meantime, Chantal had gone ahead on her own and she was taking yet another large number of photographs. She had become a completely different person, totally immersed in her art. I had never paid attention to her work before, I mean, I'm not an avid reader of "Femmes de Paris". But I promised myself to do so when I would return to Paris. For now, I could just admire her way of working, very focused and creative. She didn't hesitate to climb on things just to secure a better shot. No more denial : I was impressed. She had even removed her jacket for a better freedom of movement. She looked nothing short of fabulous, twisting and contorsioning her fine looking body in all directions. So I took a few pictures myself. Of her! But I left her do her thing alone and walked every aisle of the collection, the most impressive gathering of antique and classic automobiles in the whole UK. Time went by real fast, often the case when you're experiencing genuine fun and by 11.45, I looked for Chantal. I found her in the upper gallery, taking bird's eye view photgraphs of the cars below. I joined her upstairs and she didn't hear me coming.
- "How about some lunch, Annie Leibowitz?"
- "you could have picked a worse comparison", she said with a smile. "Oh yes, lunch, I am starving!" still smiling with a very relaxed and pretty face. With obvious regrets, she packed the Canon into the carrying case and we walked back towards the exit. I stopped to say goodbye to the curator and thanked him for his help. I promised to mail a few copies of the magazine featuring the pieces on the museum and that seemed to please him. As we were exiting the building, I said to Chantal :
- "I would like to come back after lunch for a few more pictures outside. The sky is clearing out and it looks like we might even get a ray of sun".
- "As long as I am in London by Wednesday morning, I'm on vacation in the meantime, and this is my very first visit to England. So, you're in charge here, I'll just follow the guide". Still smiling...
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns