ROMANCE IN FRANCE

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Chapter 3

Jemma sat, curled up on the leather seat, surrounded by the cold darkness. Pup curled up in a round ball on her knee. It was still pitch black. She’d slipped her arms into her jacket. It suddenly seemed to have grown cold, as she sat listening to the swooshing of the train moving through the tunnel. ‘Not long now Pup,’ she said stroking the sleeping head gently. He wriggled his nose further into his body and slept on. ‘I don’t think I would have liked this on my own Pup, I’m so glad I found you.’

Pup’s tail began to thump up and down on Jemma’s leg and he woke up, he turned himself round and sat up placing his paws on her chest, at the sound of her voice. ‘I think the name Pup, suits you,’ she said. Putting her head on one side she smiled at him gently. ‘So, if it’s okay with you that will be your name from now on’ she said, as she picked the pup up hugging him closer, feeling the welcome warmness of his small body. He wriggled, and she realised, she was probably squeezing him too hard. ‘Sorry Pup,’ she said releasing him to curl back up on her knee.

She felt as if they had sat in the car in the dark for hours. ‘I wonder how much longer it will be Pup, before we stop.’ Just as she finished saying the sentence they felt the train beginning to slow down, the driver had clamped the brakes on and the train began to slow, eventually coming to a shuddering stop.

A few seconds later, they heard the sound of doors clanging and the noisy chatter of people’s voices. Pup barked. ‘Shush Pup.’ She whispered, pulling him closer again, suddenly feeling afraid someone might hear him.

The clumping, clanging, and clattering seemed to go on for a while before the transporter reluctantly came to life. They felt the bumping motion as it rolled off the train and out into the light. The bright morning light lit up the interior of the car and a feeling of relief and elation filled Jemma.

She edged carefully over to the window, trying to spy out the land. Nothing was in view, only the top of other Lorries. She slid back down the seat thankfully, keeping out of sight. She didn’t want anyone to catch them now.

The car began trembling slightly. The lorry stood idling, the motion caused by the idling motor vibrated along the transporter making all the cars on the transporter tremble. The driver sat patiently in the lorry, waiting for the other traffic to move on, awaiting his turn to follow the rest of the transport out of the station.

They sat trapped, on top of the car transporter for the time being, but at least they could see now. Pup struggled trying to get out of her arms, she realised he probably wanted to go out, but there was no chance of that yet. ‘No Pup, I’m sorry you’ll just have to be good for a while, until we can get out of here.’ She released him and he jumped down onto the floor and began sniffing around.

It was then that she remembered they had a few biscuits left in the packet. ‘How about a biscuit Pup?’ He heard the rattle of the paper and came to sit at her feet. His ears stood up, his tail began to wag slowly moving across the floor and sweeping from side to side as she opened the biscuits. His eyes were glued to her hands, as she tried to open the biscuits carefully without dropping crumbs

The driver was irritable and tired of waiting for the endless queue of lorries to move he was hungry and in a rush to get some breakfast. He let the clutch out on the vehicle and it shot away with a mighty jerk. A couple of the biscuits shot out of the packet and landed at Pup’s feet, whereupon he jumped on them, wolfing them down hungrily.

‘We’re off!’ Jemma exclaimed excitedly as she felt the lorry take off. ’Oh Pup I do hope this is France. She watched animatedly through the edge of the window until they reached the roads, trying hard to catch sight of a sign, but not wanting anyone to see them. Eventually, after feeling satisfied that they were in France, she shared the biscuits that were left with Pup, and sat back, content to watch the scenery flying past them.

‘It was quite an eye opener, watching the world slide past your eyes from the top deck of a car transporter,’ she thought dreamily. The treetops swished past their eyes in flashing green glory, followed by clear blue skies. She had panoramic views of the French countryside and the time passed swiftly as she took in the scenery. People and even cars looked small from her advantage point.

She glanced at her watch, it was nearly ten o’clock, and her mother would be hard at work.

’Would she have missed her yet?’ Her eyes watered as she began to feel sorry for her self and a couple of tears ran slowly down her face, she hurriedly brushed them away with her sleeve. The movement awakened Pup, who lay asleep on her knee, and he thumped her knee with his tail as he felt her move. ‘Oh Pup, I feel so scared.’ Mouthing the words aloud opened the floodgates and a fresh river of tears rolled down her face. There was no stopping the tear’s this time. She buried her face in her hands, and let them roll, while Pup tried to lick them away. After a while, she pulled herself together with a great sigh and blew her nose. As she wiped the tears away, she realized the lorry were slowing down and stared with interest out of the window.

They were pulling into a service area. ‘Should she get out? It was more a case of having to,’ thought Jemma. ’She was desperate for the toilet and knew Pup must be too. ‘I wonder how long the driver will stay Pup?’ she said to him as she gathered her things together. ‘He’s probably stopping to have his breakfast.’ Fervently she hoped that they would have enough time to do what they had to do and get back in time to hide in the car again. She shrugged her shoulders settling her mind to what she had to do and then sat and waited patiently for the driver to park up.

There didn’t look as if there many vehicles in the car park, which was a good thing, thought Jemma. Feeling worried about people seeing them climb down from the transporter. Luckily for them the driver parked near to the trees that grew around the outskirts of the car park and helped in their furtive departure from the vehicle.

Pup could hardly wait. Squirming out of her arms, he shot off into the bushes to do his business leaving Jemma with no option, other than to stand about, waiting for his return. For a few minutes she felt tempted to do the same, he was so long in returning. She was just about to enter the bushes and go looking for him, when he re-appeared.

‘Come on Pup!’ She picked him up, and pushed him hurriedly into the bag, then dashed for the toilets. She had seen the sign, saying [DES toilettes] on the corner of the building opposite, while she’d stood waiting for Pup to come back. She headed thankfully in that direction.

The place was empty, and she sighed with relief as she stared at herself in the mirror, her hair and face looked a mess. If anyone had seen her in this state, thought Jemma, they might have started asking questions. She decided to have a clean up to repair the ravages of the last few hours. Washing her face and giving her hair a good brush helped matters greatly, the auburn cap shone like copper and the Grey green eyes sparkled once again with excitement. Upon gazing at her reflection in the mirror again, she decided to splash out and put some make-up on.

Her mother didn’t approve of her wearing too much, but hardly objected if they were going out. She put the finishing touches to her toilet and then stood back to admire the transformation. ‘That looks better,’ she said smiling at herself, as she stood tall in front of the mirror, turning first one way and then the other. ‘I think I might pass for seventeen now.’ The leather jacket and jeans fitted neatly around the slim figure, and Jemma felt more grown up better equipped to face the world. Bending down to place the make-up and toiletries back in her bag, she heard Pup give a little growl in the back of his throat, and looked up enquiringly.

Straightening her body, she turned, to see a young woman walk into the toilets holding a baby in her arms. Before Jemma could speak, the young woman walked quickly towards her and pushed the baby straight into her arms, blocking her view completely. The sound of running footsteps quickly followed the action and Jemma moved the baby to one side, trying hard to gain a better view of what was happening.

She stood, flummoxed, unable to comprehend for a few minutes what had happened completely overwhelmed with astonishment at having the baby pushed into her arms with no words of explanation. Picking up her backpacker and hunching it up her arm, she walked hastily towards the exit. ‘I’m sure, the woman ran outside,’ she thought. ‘Or, did I imagine it.’ Reaching the outside, she gazed around her in bewilderment; there was definitely no one in sight.

The sun had entered the heavens and it blazed down merrily on the car park, directing its mighty heat on to the grey surface of the tarmac, melting the tar and leaving black silk liquid pools in its wake. The bright sunlight lit up the entire area, which was completely empty of humanity, except for themselves and a few scattered vehicles.

The child she held in her arms was round and cuddly and looked well cared for. Jemma guessed her to be around nine months old. She was a bonnie child and had pale blonde hair and blue eyes. She wore a pale pink dress covered in tiny white spots, pink ankle socks with little frills on, and tiny black patent shoes. Jemma’s brain registered these facts as she turned around on the spot her gaze taking in the empty terrain. The woman, apparently having taken to her heels, had mysteriously disappeared.

The little girl had seen Pup’s head in the top of Jemma’s bag and began cooing to him in her baby language, trying to reach across Jemma to touch him. The combined weight of the child and the backpacker on Jemma’s arms was becoming heavier by the minute. With a bit of jiggling about she eventually managed to swing the backpacker on to her back. ‘That’s much better,’ thought Jemma. The child now stretched its arms out over her back to reach Pup and she now had two arms to hold the weight of the baby.

‘Maybe I was mistaken about the woman going outside,’ she thought hopefully. ‘Perhaps she entered one of the toilets, when she pushed the baby into my arms? I was so astonished; I didn’t notice where she went.’ Thoughtfully she entered the toilets again to search every corner before she returned to the car park with a puzzled frown, there definitely wasn’t anyone in, the child didn’t seem bothered in the least, and stretched her little arms out over Jemma’s shoulders, contentedly letting Pup lick her fingers.

‘Great!’ she thought, coming out of the toilets again, into the sunshine. ‘First of all I find a pup to look after, and now, I have apparently landed myself with a baby too.’ She stood, gazing helplessly around her at the car park, wondering what on earth she was to do.

The car transporter sailed past them. ‘And, there goes our transport’ she said wistfully, watching as the lorry quickly disappeared from view.

The baby gurgled happily. She lifted the child off her shoulder and put her down on the floor. ‘Maybe you can walk,’ she said, and tried to stand her up. The baby plopped down on her bottom and began to scream shrilly.

’Damn!’ said Jemma under her breath, and quickly picked her back up again. ‘I don’t want anyone thinking I’m mistreating her,’ thought Jemma worriedly. The child shut up as quickly as she had started once Jemma had picked her back up again.

’What should she do?’ Jemma asked herself, perplexed at the turn of events. Should she take her into the service building, surely someone there would recognize the child? She began to walk across the car park towards the cafeteria, when a dreadful thought struck her. ‘What if someone did recognize the baby and thought she’d kidnapped her.’ She stopped in her tracks, horror struck. All sorts of terrible thoughts raced through her mind as she stood there. ‘But, what else, can I do?’ thought Jemma. She stood mesmerized not knowing which way to turn for the best, staring blankly into space and wracking her brain.

Suddenly, steely fingers assaulted her, digging deep into her arm. She winced at the pain, nearly dropping the baby in fright.

’Where did you get that baby?’ A cold male voice asked imperiously. The cold steel fingers that were still digging into her arm turned her around. She was brought face to face with an angry male, who looked as cold and demanding as the fingers felt.

’Well,’ said the male with the ice-cold voice that matched the face and fingers. He stood, staring hard at her, his eyes like black chips of coal. Jemma took a step back fearfully, again nearly dropping the baby in panic, this time at the look of anger in the man’s eyes.

’A-A-A woman’ Jemma’s voice came out of her mouth, sounding like a squeaky mouse. She took a great swallow, while the two black eyes of the man who had accosted her, bored into her eyes fiercely, welding her to the spot. Jemma tried vainly to rid herself of the lump in her throat, so that she could speak.

’A woman, she pushed her,’ she said looking at the baby. ‘Into my arms in the toilets, and ran off.’ Although she was still holding the baby, she turned the palms of her hands up and looked up at him pleadingly.

The man grabbed the child out of her arms, and it began screaming again loudly.

‘Shush! Shush! Alice,’ said the man, his voice was now calm and soft, trying unhappily to placate the child. He bounced her up and down in his arms, but she just screamed louder. The man gazed at Jemma again, a summing up look on his face, and slowly passed the baby back to her.

‘At least, she’s quiet with you’ he said, his face glum. ‘You didn’t happen to see which way the woman went, I suppose,’ he asked her, sounding rather desperate. She watched him as he turned his head one way and then the other, in the faint chance that he might see her.

‘Sorry.’ Jemma replied. Letting out a sigh of relief as she realised that, hopefully he believed her, she began explaining to him what had happened. ‘I was in the toilets. This woman walked up to me pushed the baby into my arms and left. At first, I thought I must have made a mistake in thinking she had run outside, so I returned and opened every door.’ She gave him another pleading look.

The young man she stood explaining to had a very sad face. ‘Maybe he would be good looking if he smiled,’ thought Jemma. Noticing, as she looked him over that his eyes were now light brown she felt genuinely surprised and thought. ‘I could have sworn they were black a few moments ago.’ The tall young man she was apprising had light brown hair too. It fell in a soft wave to one side over his forehead and swept back at the sides. He wore a white tee shirt with an open neck and khaki shorts; they suited him, showing off to perfection the golden tan of his skin.

’He was probably on holiday over here,’ thought Jemma, as she suddenly remembered that they were in France, and he had spoken to her in English.

Carl began to look the young person over that stood in front of him. ‘Who was she? He wondered mildly and how had she arrived here, in this car park? She was obviously English. There was no trace of a French accent in her voice at all. She seemed young to be on her own. Perhaps she was here on holiday?’ He stared at her wondering.

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