Hornets

Hornets

A Story by Donatien Moisdon
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A confirmed bachelor finds true love.

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Hornets

 

On the terrace, and against all contemporary advice, Jane is working on her tan. She is naked. As for myself, wrapped up within a virtual cloak of love and wonder, I lose myself in the contemplation of her firm, tiny breasts, her perfectly flat stomach, her depilated pubic area, as smooth as an egg shell, and her long, streamlined legs.

 

“A penny for your thoughts ?” She asks in a neutral tone of voice.

 

“Guess.”

 

“Dirty old man !”

 

“I’m not old.”

 

After lunch, we had gone for a walk on a footpath. There is no shortage of dirt roads around here. I am lucky to be living in deepest France, surrounded by countryside.

 

On our left, we skirted a meadow where cattle would raise their dreamy eyes as they heard us. On our right, there undulated an experimental vineyard of Chardonnay. I know the farmer. Bare-chested, young and handsome, and with the elegance of a Comanche warrior, he often rides his gray and white horse at a gallop past my house. He planted the vine only two years ago. It won’t be ready for quite a while yet. I wish him luck.

 

Jane was wearing a multicolored, sleeveless top, occasionally showing her perfectly smooth armpits, and wafting the discreet dream of her new perfume. She had recently switched from J’adore to Boucheron. Around her hips, a very short black skirt, almost a mini.

In a sudden impulse of love, I had put an arm around her shoulders, and had squeezed her briefly against me. We remained silent until we got back to the house. While I was preparing a cup of tea, Jane disappeared to the bedroom and came out again, two minutes later, in her birthday suit. “I plumbed for your favorite sunbathing outfit.” She said before slinking over to the terrace. “Excellent choice, Madam.” I replied, imitating the unctuous tone of a posh salesman. She is now stretched out on the brown and clear stripes of a deck chair.

 

It’s getting hotter and hotter. Not a breath of fresh air. High in the sky, almost invisible, a lark keeps chirping enthusiastically. From the terrace, I can detect the childhood-evocative fragrance or freshly cut hay from neighboring fields. I pour the tea : milk, no sugar, and sit next to Jane in a rattan armchair that creaks under my weight.

 

I had enjoyed (as they say) the reputation of being a confirmed bachelor. Why ‘confirmed’ when, in fact, it had never been a principle on my part, and above all when I had never rejected the possibility of marriage life ? It’s mostly by chance that we discover and become who we are.

 

“Not married yet ?” “Don’t you think it’s high time you found yourself a nice little wife ?” “You are not gay, are you ?” Those are the kinds of remarks I could hear from time to time. I usually answered : “We’ll see, we’ll see.” Still, there will come a time, I thought, when something will have to be done.

 

I wondered sometimes if I would be (or would have been) a good husband. What prompted me to answer “yes” was the fruit of experience ; not the experience of marriage, of course, but that of being able to live with others. During my time at university, I had shared a flat with two female students. In the bathroom, I had to fight my way through an inverted forest of wet stockings, and I became familiar with the reek of sanitary towels casually lobbed into a metal bin. Later, I lived at an adorable old lady’s place, and finally with a young teacher who rented out a room to help pay the mortgage on his house. They had all told me that I was easy to live with. Why should I not believe it ?

 

Girlfriends ? Yes, I could have married Maud, a beautiful and elegant woman who worked as a secretary for a stockbroker. She too was easy to live with. Later, I dated Danielle, a junior executive at the headquarters of a major bank. She happened to have a house not very far from mine, and we would spend weekends together. There was also Leonie, a cleaning woman whose simplicity was, in fact, her main attraction. She was so honest, genuine and open ! She also displayed a level of culture and intelligence one does not readily expect from a person of such modest social status.

 

I could have married any of these three women. We would probably have enjoyed a pleasant life together, a life without flaming rows, a life filled with moments that could be recalled with nostalgia in our old age. That, in fact, was exactly what my parents had done.

 

Force of habit and the passage of time can create the sort of affection that is easily mistaken for love. So many people get together, not because of reciprocated, irrepressible, passionate love, but through friendship, and a deep-seated need for companionship !

 

If I am still single at forty, I kept telling myself, it will probably be the same for me : I’ll marry a girlfriend. Would it be so wrong ? What will happen if, a few years, a few months, or even a few days after the wedding ceremony, I meet a woman I can truly love, and who truly loves me ? These things happen, and they can destroy several lives. Wouldn’t it be wiser to wait ? But what if I never meet the right woman ? I was going round in circles…

 

Jane was only a girlfriend… to start with.

 

As a teenager, I had never tried to picture in my mind what my ideal companion would look like. By contrast, my male friends had precise fantasies regarding the sort of woman they were planning to attract. When pestered with questions on the subject, I would reluctantly admit that I liked small, vivacious blond girls. 

 

As living proof that such adolescent dreams are useless, Jane is tall and slim, almost skinny. She also displays long, black hair, like that of Chinese women. Her eyes are pale green, as clear as a mountain lake. Her face, which she herself, describes as long and bony, can appear severe, but lights up like the first rays of dawn when she smiles. As for being vivacious, not a chance ; active, perhaps, hyperactive sometimes, but never vivacious.

 

One day, last month, Jane had decreed at breakfast : “It’s Whitsun. Let’s go for a walk, somewhere. We could make it a long weekend.”

 

“All right. What did you have in mind ?”

 

“I’d like to go back to a castle I visited on a school trip when I was a kid. The guide was remarkable. He knew how to talk to children and how to make them develop an interest in History. For instance, while we were in the dry moat, he showed us a secret entrance, well hidden from view. It was used by messengers and spies in the Middle-Ages. Fascinating !”

 

“Good idea” I said. “We’ll stay at a B&B.”

 

We left the car at the bottom of a ruin-topped hill. Going up on foot was not easy, especially as we were carting all we needed for a picnic, including an ice-box and bottles of water. A narrow footpath with hairpin turns led us up the slope. The sky was milky, the air damp, the heat suffocating. Above us, like the cavernous moan from a cello, stood the menacing, black and grey mass of a medieval fortress. Brambles and thistles looked as if they were sniggering in advance at the sight of our bare legs.  

 

Enormous grasshoppers were flying out from under our feet with a whispered display of blue and green wings. In front of me, in hiking boots, thick socks, short black skirt and striped, yellow and dark blouse, Jane looked like a human wasp. She suddenly stopped. “There is something wrong.”

 

“What do you mean ?”

 

“I mean : we are in summer, and the weather is nice. The place should be thick with tourists. Look : we are the only ones.”

 

I looked around me. “That’s true, and grass is growing on the footpath. No one’s been using it for a long time.”

 

“I don’t feel like going back.”

 

“Nor do I, especially since we are almost there.”

 

Two minutes later, we were gaping at a huge wooden gate and the sign : Keep out ! Risk of falling stones.

 

Disappointed, I sat on a large, cubic boulder. Had it fallen from the edge of the tower ? Jane turned towards me : “I know, I’ll go and find out if the secret entrance is still there.”

 

“Please, promise me that you won’t get in.”

 

“Of course not. I just want to check. Stay here and lay out the picnic. I’ll be back in two ticks.”

 

Off she went, and I started organizing the meal. From the bottom of the hillock, and as Jane was fighting her way through prickly vegetation, I could hear : “Oh f**k ! Ouch ! Oh s**t !” The tiny, painful mishaps of an adorable woman will always bring a grin to my face. I can’t believe I’m the only one.

 

A few minutes later I heard : “Yoo hoo !” I raised my eyes, and saw jane who, twisted with laughter, was waving at me. She wasn’t very far, but we were separated by the gap between the hillside and the walls of the castle. The wretched girl had got in through her secret door and was now walking on a ledge circling a tower. What can possibly lead the Janes of this world to defy some elementary rules of safety ? If we went skiing, would she stray onto a dangerous hors-piste sector, just because she was told not to ? Does she find me too reasonable ? My ultimate antisocial behavior consists in placing the tip of my finger on a public bench displaying the sign : ‘Fresh paint : do not touch’.   

 

I didn’t want to make too much of it. Still, I couldn’t help imagining a stone falling on Jane, or the ledge giving way, her body and a few tons of rubble crashing down in a cloud of dust and blood. I gave her a reassuring smile while indicating that she should go down.

 

That’s when a simply awkward situation threatened to become dramatic. Jane had stopped in front of a hole in the masonry, and from that hole, hornets were flying in and out. There was a nest. The gigantic wasps were lazily avoiding Jane’s head. The intense light shining in her face probably kept her from seeing them.

 

Just as I had imagined the crumbling of the circular ledge, I visualized what could happen next. A sting on Jane’s neck would have triggered an arm-waving response from her, which in turn would have incited a massive response from the whole swarm. Writhing in agony, she would have died on the spot, or she would have instinctively leapt forward and fallen from the tower.

 

With my heart beating painfully in my chest, I yelled : “Jane, turn around slowly and come back here without looking behind you !”

 

“Why ?”

 

I didn’t want her to know why. It could have made her panic. “Do as I say NOW !” I shouted louder than I ever had in my life. Yielding to the urgency in my voice, she shrugged, turned round, and started back along the ledge.

 

Winded, exhausted, I sat on the yellowish grass, and hid my head in my hands. A few minutes later, Jane reappeared, brimming with anger : “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again ! Do you hear me ? Ever !” I pointed at the hole in the wall where hornets were still landing and taking off, two or three at a time, and I haltingly explained why I had been so scared for her. She calmed down but did not react as I had expected. “A hornet’s nest ?” she said. “What’s the big deal ?”

 

I was certain �" and I still am �" that I had just saved her life, but I could feel �" and I still can �" that she had not measured the seriousness of the situation.

 

As if leafing through a photo album, I started to remember the young women who, at some point, had been important in my life. None of them left me indifferent. If any of them had been in an accident, or had caught a serious illness, I would have been shattered. I would have driven to the hospital every day. I would have done anything in my power to alleviate her suffering and bring her back to normal. And yet, her death, sad as it might have been, would not have given me the impression that the planet had exploded, and that life was no longer worth living. The hornets had opened my eyes to the true nature of my feelings for Jane.

 

And so it was that, on a medieval mound, and kneeling on a tea towel in front of a baguette, a jar of mayonnaise and a few cold cuts, I, a confirmed bachelor, had asked Jane if she would be my wife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2020 Donatien Moisdon


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Added on August 2, 2020
Last Updated on August 2, 2020
Tags: Bachelor, girlfriends, excursion, Middle-Ages, Castle.

Author

Donatien Moisdon
Donatien Moisdon

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, United Kingdom



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Retired teacher. more..

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