It was close to midnight when they were walking along the riverwalk. The air was still warm but a breeze from the water cooled their bodies pleasantly. Judith’s friends were walking a little way ahead of them, talking in loud German voices, laughing, obviously teasing each other quite a bit. Angela smiled at the familiarity, despite the difference in language they could have been her own friends.
Her focus was drawn to Judith when their hands brushed against each other, seemingly accidental yet not for the first time since they had left the club. ‘Disco,’ Angela reminded herself.
“So, how old are you?” Judith finally continued their conversation. The sudden quiet after leaving the noisy confinements of the disco seemed to have struck them silent.
“Just turned 18 last month.”
“Really? Happy birthday... well, late birthday. How do you say it?” Judith asked as Angela had started laughing.
“That would be happy belated birthday.”
Judith snickered. “Okay.”
“How old are you?”
“18 as well. My birthday was in March.”
“Pisces or Aries?”
“Excuse me?” Judith frowned in puzzlement.
“Your astrological sign. Which one is it? Early March would be Pisces, Aries from the 21st.”
“I was born on the 11th, so Pisces. I don’t know the astrological signs in English, sorry.” Again, their hands brushed together, it felt like a caress to Angela and goose bumps covered her arm.
“What do you call Pisces in Germany?”
“Fische, which means fish – the plural of fish is fish, right?”
“Yeah.” Angela chuckled. She wasn’t sure what was so funny, maybe it was just the slight buzz she had from the beer, or maybe it was Judith and how her attention made Angela giddy. But Judith seemed to feel the same, because she too was laughing.
“Are you interested in astrology?” Judith asked.
They watched her friends walking over to the barrier on the quay wall. They climbed it and sat one next to the other, some smoking, some drinking from a flask. Judith looked at Angela, it seemed in silent question if they should join them. Angela merely shrugged and they walked over at a leisurely pace.
“Not so much in astrology as in the fact that people made up this elaborate system of categorizing, giving people characteristics based on when they were born. It’s so fascinating to think that by breaking the time into segments they also established this massive business of horoscopes and superstitious believes that are tied to them, you know?”
“I never thought about that but you’re right. I mean, I read my horoscope on Sundays – not that I believe in it, not necessarily anyway.”
“Just the good parts?”
Judith chuckled. “Yeah, just the good parts.” She pushed her hand through her hair and looked over at Angela.
Angela held her gaze, smiling sexily - she hoped.
They were interrupted in their quiet conversation when Hannes called over to them:
“Ja?” Judith looked up and over.
Hannes pushed away from the bannister and walked toward them. He lay an arm around Judith’s shoulders, it seemed to be his habit. “Wir wollen alle noch rüber zu Benji. Er hat sturmfrei. Kommst du mit?” He didn’t whisper but he asked her in a kind of subdued voice that seemed rather uncharacteristic for him. Even Angela could tell that he was excluding her from whatever was going on right now.
Judith shrugged off Hannes’ arm, then she waved Angela toward the quay wall - a little ways away from her group of friends. Angela followed and they both leaned against the barrier.
“So...” Judith said but didn’t continue. She bit her lip, seemingly reluctant to tell Angela what Hannes had said to her.
“Let me guess, your friends want to go somewhere and they don’t want me around?”
“It’s not that, really. I mean, I’m pretty sure Hannes would very much like to have you around, but, well, they want to go over to Benji’s and... ” Instead of finishing the sentence, Judith shrugged awkwardly. “What were you going to do? I mean, do you have any plans?”
Angela looked at her watch. “I was just going to go back to the hotel. Or take a taxi, I’m not sure how far it is from here.”
“Where are you staying?”
Instead of answering, Angela took a business card from her shorts pocket and showed it to Judith. “I’m not even trying to pronounce that, but it’s where we’re staying.”
Judith nodded. “I know the place. I could walk you over, it’s not that far.”
“Don’t you want to hang out with your friends?”
“I can hang out with them every day for the next three weeks. You’re not going to be here that long, are you?”
Angela shook her head, as she took the card back from Judith and their fingers touched briefly. “We’ll be leaving on Friday, early flight.”
“Well, then... I think I’d rather spend some more time with you. If you want to, that is?”
“I’d like that,” Angela said and bit her lip to keep from smiling like an idiot. It wasn’t much use as she felt her face heating and her cheeks almost split with the giddy feeling radiating from her stomach.
“Cool, I’ll just tell them.” Judith walked over to where her friends were ready to leave. She talked to them briefly, there were some hugs involved, and she was about to come back over when one of the guys caught her by the arm. He talked to her in what Angela could only think of as an annoyed tone of voice. He pushed Judith a little away from the others and they talked alone, or rather he talked at her. In the end, Judith merely shrugged at him and came back to Angela.
“Shall we?” she asked, pointing into the direction they had come from, while her friends started walking further down the riverwalk.
“Is everything all right with your friends?”
Judith rolled her eyes. “Yeah, it’s just Benji. He’s my ex, and he sometimes thinks that he can tell me what to do. It’s annoying.”
“Your ex, huh?” Angela said quietly. They started walking and for a moment an uncomfortable silence lay over them.
“Yeah, from way back when we were 15. Things have changed since then but he still thinks he has a say in who I’m dating.”
Angela could see a light blush covering Judith’s cheeks, she took a deep breath and said:
“He doesn’t especially like that I like girls now, exclusively. He thinks it’s a waste of, well, me.” She chuckled self-deprecatingly at her English. “Well, most of the time he’s a good friend, at least when he doesn’t get all big brother on me, or jealous ex rather.” She seemed to be babbling but then she looked over at Angela, her gaze expectantly.
“So, you like girls, too?” Angela said with a slight smile.
Judith grinned and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Me, too. I mean, I’m not yet sure if it’s exclusive, but... I’ve only really dated guys so far, except, well, I had this thing... Okay, I was dating this guy from school, Matt. He’s a good guy, even though he’s a total jock. You know what a jock is?” Angela asked at Judith’s confused expression.
“Not really, no.”
“He plays football and basketball a lot. Jocks are students who do sports, mainly. But he’s nice, usually, and I liked him. And then I went to this convention and I met... Denise. She was, well, hot and we were really getting along. I guess I thought it was okay to... experiment, but it was really too little time. Well anyhow, Matt found out when he went through my phone and read some texts between us and he totally flipped – two days before prom. He broke up with me and told all my friends that I was gay now. End of story.” Angela’s meant to make it sound like no big deal, but Judith didn’t seem to buy it.
“What an asshole!”
“No, you see, he’s usually not.”
“He outed you!”
“Yeah.” Angela pushed her hands into her shorts pockets and pulled her shoulders up.
“Was it really bad?” Judith asked sympathetically.
“Not until my parents asked why I wasn’t going to prom suddenly, when I had made a big fuss over it with the dress and all.”
“You told them?”
“I had to, we’re pretty close. And they were great but, you know, just having them ask and then building up to tell them, it took years out of my life, surely. I shouldn’t be complaining, I know I’m lucky that my parents love me.”
“If Benji had done something like that, I would have tied him up and left him on our vineyard without sunscreen.”
"You own a vineyard?" Angela asked.
"Well, not me, really. But my grandparents do and we all live and work there, that is, I'm helping in summer with the tourists who stay with us."
"That's why your English is so good," Angela complimented.
Judith blushed. "I guess. It's really a lot of fun, even though it's work. Have you visited a vineyard yet? I mean, that's why you ended up here, right?"
Angela had to laugh at Judith's choice of words. She had really felt like she'd ended up here, but at least now she was making a friend. "Yeah, we came for the winetasting and stuff. My parents really like drinking wine and visit vineyards. Two years ago, we spent the summer in Nappa, in California."
Judith's face practically lit up. "I'm dying to visit there someday, too. I mean, I'm basically in the business, and it must be so awesome."
"It's pretty neat. But to answer your question, we have been to one vineyard yesterday. It was a little... disappointing. I mean, not the wine that was great, but..." Angela shrugged.
"The language barrier?"
"Yeah, and also, I mean, yeah, I love my parents, but there aren't really any guys my age around, you know? That's why I went out alone tonight."
Judith nodded. "I'm really glad you did."
Angela could see the light blush on her face as they passed under a street light. Judith turned her head toward the storefront they were passing.
"You know, you could visit our vineyard. I would be there and it wouldn't be as boring, maybe?" Judith threw her a look over her shoulder, her eyes half hidden under pale lashes.
Angela felt her heart stutter then beat violently in her chest. She knew that they were close to her hotel, because she recognized a souvenir shop she'd visited with her mom on their first day. Time was running out, but it seemed that they would be seeing each other again.
"I'd like that," she said, then bit her lip to keep from smiling. It was no use though.
"Do you think your parents would like to come too? I can arrange a tour of the vineyard and a tasting, if you think they'd like to do it."
"Are you kidding me? That's why they've come here. They would flip to have someone show them everything."
"Cool. Wait." Judith touched Angela's arm as she stopped. She pulled her phone from her pocket. "Let me give you... are you able to use your phone here?"
Angela shook her head no.
"Damn. Okay, how... wait, I think I may have a card. Just a second." She pulled her wallet from her back pocket and went through its contents. It took a while, it was a pretty thick wallet, but she found what she was looking for. She was pulling a face.
"Okay, don't judge, this is an old card. My grandpa designed it himself, it's not really good."
"Is your phone number on there? And the address?"
"Yes," Judith replied.
"Then give it here," Angela said, smiling.
Judith laughed and handed the card over.
Angela looked at it and just barely kept from laughing. It looked like something a seven year-old may have concocted with word graphics.
"It's embarrassing, I know."
"I think it's sweet that your grandfather knows how to use word. My granny doesn't even own a cell phone." Angela lay a hand on Judith's shoulder. The physical contact felt just a little awkward, but she couldn't help herself.
Judith lay her hand over Angela's and pressed it. "You can call tomorrow, if your parents maybe don't want to come or have made other plans. I'll leave a note out for my parents that you may be coming, just so they know."
"Great. We'll see each other tomorrow then. Or rather today."
They stood looking at each other for a long moment, still holding hands on Judith's shoulder. Angela felt sweat break out on her back as Judith took a step closer. Her hand convulsed on Judith's shoulder and she pulled her closer yet. And then they were kissing.