Sitting on the plane ready to take off, Bella turned her face away from the stranger sitting next to her so he could not see her cry. She looked up into the bright fluorescent lights in the ceiling to try to stop the tears but she could not help it, they just kept rolling down her cheek.
She shut her eyes tightly and when she opened them again the vacant seat on her other side was being filled – it was the geeky boy from the airport! Oh god, Bella thought to herself. Just what I need!
She quickly wiped her tears away with the back of her hand and looked forward. She felt the boy’s eyes boring into the side of her face and she tried to ignore him by filling her mind with her trip to France. But instead, images of K.C’s face when she told him she did not love him flashed across her mind and without realising it, she let out a tiny sob.
“Are you ok,” the boy beside her suddenly asked.
Bella let out a sigh and then turned to boy. She was about to tell him to mind his own business again, but up close his eyes were so soft and so pure she just did not have the heart.
“I’m ok,” she whispered. “Well no I’m not really. I just broke up with my boyfriend.”
“Yes I saw,” the boy replied.
“I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry for snapping at you like that. I guess I was just angry and embarrassed.”
“It’s ok. I guessed you were. But I was worried about you. That guy looked like a real jerk.”
“He is a jerk, but I love him,” Bella replied with images of K.C flashing through her head again. She felt her face well up again and tried to stifle another whimper.
“Hey you wanna hear a joke,” the boy chirped trying to cheer her up. “What did one math book say to the other math book?”
“I don’t know about you man, but I got a lot of problems!” The boy threw back his head and fell into roars of laughter filled with a snort here and there. Bella could not help but laugh at him.
“That was the worst joke I’ve ever heard,” Bella giggled.
“But it made you smile didn’t it,” the boy replied finally stifling his chuckles.
The rest of the plane ride Bella chatted to the boy whose name she discovered was Charlie. She found out he was a year younger than her and travelling to France to finish his dissertation on Ancient French History. He was so sweet and so nerdy that Bella could not help but wonder if he had ever been kissed.
When the plane touched down at Champ Les Sims airport, Bella rushed ahead to the queue of people waiting to get out, she hated having to wait around. As she stood in line, she could feel Charlie’s eyes boring into the back of her neck further down the line. She thought about saying goodbye. Thanking him for cheering her up but they had spent such a happy time together in the air, she did not want to ruin it by having to say goodbye.
The next morning she rose early in her B&B and rushed outside to the clear French air. She only had a few hours till her flight home and was determined to make the most out of them. She hired a scooter off the owner of the B&B and set out to the cemetery on the outskirts of the village.
The Graveyard was just as magical as she had expected. It was like entering the most beautiful and haunting city within a village. Bella started snapping away at the graves of fallen war heroes and was fascinated by the sublime architecture of the stone and marble.
As she crept around the ancient cemetery, the sun was shining too bright to make her feel any tension from the dead. She took more photos than she intended and basked in the beauty of the ancient statues.
After she had finished she still had a few hours to kill before her flight home so headed to the village square to find anything else of interest.
Bella instantly fell in love with the intricate French style and continued to snap away at anything beautiful she could see. Just as she was photographing the village fountain, she zoomed in to focus on the dancing of the water when she noticed a figure standing far away in the background.
She would have known that polo shirt tucked into shorts and socks with sandals anywhere. It was Charlie peering at a book shop across the square.
She thought about turning her back and walking away, but something was pulling her towards him and she could not help but lower her camera and go on over.
He was busy humming away to himself as Bella approached and she felt bad tearing him from his concentration. “Hey stranger,” Bella quipped.
Charlie turned around and smiled the biggest smile Bella had ever seen back at her. “Are you stalking me,” he joked.
“In your dreams,” Bella retorted.
“You’re not going to run off again are you,” Charlie asked.
“Well I have to catch my plane home in a couple of hours but I’m free till then.”
“Well how about a drink then?”
“Sounds great,” Bella replied. “Lead the way.”
Charlie took her to the only tavern in Champs Les Sims. It was tatty around the edges and smelt of old men, but Bella found it heartening and they settled into a seat each at the bar. “What are you having,” Bella asked Charlie.
“I’m alright thanks,” he replied. “I don’t actually drink. But please get something for yourself.”
“Ok,” Bella replied turning to the bar girl. “Un verre de vos plus beaux boire s’il vous plaît,” she requested trying to impress her.
The girl just gave her a disgusted sneer and went to make a purple concoction for Bella. “So tell me Charlie,” Bella begun. “What do you intend to do with a degree in Ancient French History.”
“I want to go into business,” Charlie replied very matter of factly. “I want it all, job, career, house, future.”
“And what if you don’t get all that? It might take you many years?”
“It won’t. Maybe five or six year’s maximum and I will be rich. Then I will meet the woman of my dreams and we’ll live happily ever after.”
Bella could not help but laugh and Charlie laughed along with her. He too knew it was far-fetched but he was determined.
“I’m sure by then you will be beating the chicks off with a stick,” Bella mocked.
“I will be,” Charlie replied grinning. “Do you really think that six years from now, a guy like me, with a job, a house, a nice car and a future, you think I’m going to have a problem finding somebody to fall in love with me?”
“I don’t know,” Bella replied. “But I think that dream is almost impossible for anyone to achieve.”
“I bet you $20 I can do this.” Charlie pulled out a paper and pen from his pocket and started to scribble something down. “I am writing down my phone number. In six years you call this number and I will tell you where to send my $20.” He handed Bella the paper and she put it in her pocket.
“Deal,” Bella replied. “I look forward to you sending me my $20 instead though.”
Bella downed the rest of her drink. “I need to go, walk me to my scooter?”
They walked across the square together chatting and joking about Charlie’s big plan. “So what are you talking pictures of then,” Charlie asked her.
“Of you,” she joked pulling her camera out and holding it up to Charlie’s face. “Come on, smile for me.”
“No please I hate cameras,” Charlie giggled trying to cover his face.
“Oh don’t be a baby. Come on, give me some face. Give me sexy give me goofy. Come on Charlie.”
Charlie started to relax pulling silly pose after silly pose.
In the end he was laughing so hard that he collapsed into fits of giggles. “Stop, stop,” he cried clutching his sides. “It hurts to laugh anymore.”
Bella finally put down her camera. “I better be going Charlie,” she said looking into his innocent blue eyes. The thought she had on the plane came back to her, I wonder if he has ever been kissed. And before she knew it she was leaning in and planting a tender peck on his lips.
Long after she had pulled back and opened her eyes, Charlie stayed still with his eyes firmly shut and his lips still puckered.
Bella could not help but smile. Eventually Charlie opened one eye at a time and looked at Bella. “Can I see you again,” he asked. “Can I have your number?”
“I have your number,” Bella replied. “And you will hear from me in six years when I come to collect my winnings.” She memorised his face and then turned around to race to the airport. She knew he was watching her leave and she could not wipe the smile off her face.
When she arrived home, it was late and her parents were in bed. She made her way through the house and found April sitting at the dining table tucking into a large slice of cake.
“Hey sis,” Bella cheeped taking a seat at the table next to her sister. “What’s up with the clothes?”
“Oh hey Bella. This is my new Fireman outfit, well waterboy outfit I’m not a fully-fledged fireman yet, but soon hopefully.”
“What happened to you becoming an athlete,” Bella asked very confused. “I thought it was your dream?”
“Yeah I thought so too but to be honest I was making myself ill from all that training and then the other day Sissy asked me whether it was worth it and I realised it wasn’t. So I signed up for the Fire Department and I love it. I’m so happy Bella.”
“I’m so happy for you too,” Bella replied pulling her sister into a hug.
When she released her, April asked. “So how was your trip? Did you get done everything you needed to do?”
“Yeah it was great thanks, though I wish I had stayed a little longer.”
“K.C. has called for you a few times; I told him you’ll be back tonight. Is everything ok?”
“I’m not sure,” Bella replied. “I really don’t know.”
She said good night to April and made her way upstairs. She changed into her nightdress and got herself ready for bed. I can’t believe he called, she thought to herself while brushing her teeth.
She went into her room and sat on the edge of her bed. On her bedside table sat K.C. peering up at her in a photo she had only taken a few weeks before.
She felt the same sick feeling she had had on the plane returning to the pit of her stomach and all she could think about was that she wanted him, she needed him. She picked up her phone and dialled his number bracing herself for some serious grovelling.