Novel Preview: Albatross – David Stroud
“So much for strolling in the Cotswolds.” Fiona was gazing at the rain streaming down the stone-framed window of the hotel. “You wouldn’t believe it could rain so much in August.”
“You would if you came from the pisspot of Wales,” I said.
“How can you talk about your home town like that?”
“Like what? A term of endearment for us Swansea Jacks, that is.”
The edges of her mouth turned down. “Well, I think it’s disgusting.”
Her yellow summer dress had pulled tight on her the year before, but now it hung elegantly from her soft shoulders. The Jane Fonda exercise video
and Weight Watchers were working. I felt chubby compared with her and wished I’d put on a shirt with vertical rather than horizontal stripes. Too many of these, I thought, putting my pint back on the table. Her shoulderlength hair, swirling upwards at her neck, was light brown, while mine was steel grey. She looked more than her four years younger than me. She clicked her tongue. “We’re so unlucky.”
I moved the cut-glass vase with the red rose a few inches to one side and covered her hand with mine. “Oh, I don’t know. We might be lucky later on.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know. Wedding anniversary, romantic break in the countryside …”
Her hand shot away as if it were attached to an elastic band. “That’s all you think about.”
After that, silence. She sipped her Moet Premier Cru and I my Taunton Ale.
“You are ready to order?”
We both looked up at the waitress with the foreign accent.
Fiona’s face lit up as she asked, “Êtes-vous française?”
“Oui, madame,” the waitress replied, handing us leather-bound menus.
“Oh, oui,” Fiona giggled. “Un petit peu.”
A French waitress. Perfect. Fiona had been studying French for some years. My first thought had been to take Fiona to France this weekend but I had to be at the university the next day and it didn’t seem worth crossing the Channel just for one night.