A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol....Part 4
By the time we entered Le Havre, it was snowing heavily and the ground being below freezing temperature, the snow didn't melt. Chantal had either dozed off or was lost in her thoughts. Either way, she was silent and appeared to have run out of venom to spit for the time being. She had kept my jacket on the same way despite the heating system of the car going full blast, and I was worried she would get cold when we would step out of the car. We drove straight to the ferry terminal, even though we were a little early. I parked the Sunbeam and we walked inside to buy Chantal a ticket. I had made my reservation well in advance, but her being a late addition , she had to purchase a pedestrian ticket to get on the ferry, which shouldn't be a problem at all. For anybody else! But not for Chantal Vauquier Fontin de Sellieres. She could get a ticket for the ferry all right, but the cabins were sold out. And that simple fact didn't seem to be able to get past her comprehension. So, she threw a tantrum. I felt for the poor woman behind the desk actually trying to accomodate her, but Chantal wouldn't calm down. I finally got upset and decided to intervene.
- "Chantal, please step aside and let me handle this!"
- "No, it's not your res....
- "Shut up and step aside! Now!" I had actually yelled at her. I guess my tone was convincing enough as she did move and shut up. I apologized to the lady clerk and we started back from square one. Turns out, my cabin, like any other one, was a double one with an upper and lower bed. When only one person was supposed to occupy the cabin, the upper bed would be folded up against the wall to allow for more space. So, all it took was to pay a small supplement for an extra person sharing the room, and have someone from the company go to the cabin and set up the other bed. Watch in hand, it took less than four minutes to find the only reasonable solution to a very small problem. Without anyone raising their voice. Once it was all said and done, I turned towards the shrew next to me :
- " I completely understand you have no desire to share a cabin with me, and if it can be of any comfort to you, I am far from thrilled with the idea myself. But, under the circumstances, your only other choice is to spend the night in the lounge, which is cold, drafty, noisy and uncomfortable. Not to mention the lack of a proper bathroom. Another thing, I am getting sick and tired of your permanet bitching. Nobody owes you anything, not me nor anyone else! You may be a princess in your own mind, but to the rest of us commoners, you're just another woman. And not avery nice one, it turns out. So, get a grip! You embarass me in public one more time like you just did and I drop you, cameras and all on the sidewalk. Wherever we are. I need you like I need a tooth pulled. The only reason we're traveling together is because Audrey, our boss, asked me as a favor to take you along. And if I had any idea it would come to this, I would have said no". She looked at me with defiance and anger in her eyes :
- "Everybody knows you're screwing her! And she lies about her age!"
- "Good! That'll give them something to talk about. As for Audrey's age, you're out of luck as much as you're out of line. I don't even know how old she is, I never asked and I don't care. So, she hasn't lied to me about it. The only thing I know for sure is she's a hundred times the woman you are!'
- "Who do you think you are to speak to me like that ?"
- " I'm the guy you needed to get your sorry ass to London, remember? And you know what? I've just had it with you. So get your shit out of my car so you can have a nice trip on your own. I'm done with your attitude. You can take a train back to Paris, or you can get on the ferry and from Southampton you can catch a National Express bus to London in the morning, I don't give a flying f..k! But we're done! You're on your own!" She somewhat had lost some of the arrogance, and I thought I could detect panick in her eyes.
- "You can't be serious!"
- "I'm serious as a whore in church. So, get your things and go give someone else a hard time".
Then, I turned around and walked out of the building. I unlocked the car, popped open the rear hatch, and started unloading her belongings onto the sidewalk. By the time I was finished, she had caught up with me.
- "There is a shuttle bus that'll take you to the ship. You can keep my jacket for now, but make sure you return it when back in Paris. It was a gift from my parents and it's very dear to me, if that means anything to you".
- "You're serious, aren't you?"
- "Yes, Chantal, I am very serious. And I'd like to say it was nice meeting you, but I'd be lying. So, Sayonara, Princess!"
I closed the back door of the car and settled behind the wheel. I was so upset that I spun the wheels as I drove away. I took a quick look in the rear view mirror and saw her standing in front of the terminal, in what appeared to be some form of disbelief. Then I followed the signs to the ferry.
As I got near the ramp leading inside the ship, I hit the brakes and stopped for a moment to collect myself. And eventually, I realized that as much as I disliked that woman's behavior, I had commited myself to give her a ride to London. Then I thought of the bad weather and everything. So, I turned around and drove back to the terminal. She wasn't where I had left her, so I parked the car and walked inside. I couldn't see her inside the building either, so I asked the lady clerk :
- "Where did she go?"
- "I think she just took the shuttle bus"
- "To the ship?"
- "I don't know, the same bus runs in a loop from the train station to here and then the ferry, so she could be going either way"
- "Thank you". Well, I had done everything I could. So, I drove back towards the ship and this time, I boarded it. I drove down the ramp and parked the car as instructed by the attendants. Then, I grabbed my bag and climbed the stairs leading to the upper decks. I had been on that very vessel before, and I had no difficulty locating my cabin. I was still quite upset, so I laid down on the bed, hoping to calm down. I had no idea where she had gone, but I that point, I didn't care.
I fell asleep for a short while. The motion of the ship over the bigger waves of the open sea woke me up. My watch showed 11.30 PM so we had left the port about half an hour before. My stomach reminded me that now would be a good time to get a quick bite to eat before settling for the night. The cafeteria was almost deserted, except for a group of truck drivers joking loudly, unphazed by the rough sea. I had a plate of fish and chips, which to my surprise turned out to be quite good. Done with my late evening meal, I walked the two decks open to the public and ended up in the pompously named Duke of Wellington bar. And that's where I found her!
She had stuffed all her bags under a bench seat on which she was laying asleep, her body goofily covered with my leather jacket. I have to admit I felt relieved to see her there. I headed to the bar and asked Brian, from the name badge on his chest, to pour me a double malt whisky. It came a little late to take the edge off, but as my ever wise mother would have said : better late than never. Sitting at the counter, I had my back turned to Chantal. So, from time to time, I turned around to check on her. But she seemed to be sound asleep. I asked Brian if he knew anything about the kind of weather we would get in Southampton in the morning, and he said:
- "A bit cold but no snow!" Upon hearing the good news, I said goodnight, and walked up to Chantal. I just stood there looking at her for a moment. In her sleep, her face had relaxed and her natural beauty had become more obvious. She had moved and my jacket had fallen to the floor, so I picked it up with the intention to put it back on her.
- "What do you want?" She must have felt my presence and was now looking at me with sleepy yet angry eyes.
- "Why don't you come to the cabin, you're going to freeze to death in here". It wasn't really cold but the large room was drafty
- "You're worried about my well being, now?"
- "Listen, I don't want to argue with you or anybody. So, whether you want to sleep in a real bed or not is entirely up to you. If you do, I'll help you to carry your bags. If not, have a good night!" And I walked away.
- "Wait!" She was now sitting on the sofa, her hair in disarray. I couldn't help but find her adorable. Her looks, not her personality!
_ "All right, I'll come". As if she was doing me a favor. She put her boots back on and while waiting, I pulled her bags from under the seat. As we walked by the bar, Brian was drying some glasses with a towel. He looked at me, visibly amused with the situation, as if to say "man, you're quick!". He winked at me. I smiled back at him and just wished him good night again. If only he knew!
to be continued
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns
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