I was nervous about going on the trip as being a lone traveller I was uncertain as to who else might be on tour and whether or not I’d fit in if I was the only single person.
Our tour leader, a pencil faced man, called Barney asked me if I’d mind sharing my seat with the only other single person, an odd-looking woman called Carissa.
She appeared as nervous as I was and sat silently beside me on the first leg of our tour through France.
We did engage in some small talk, but for the most part, she sat, arms folded, looking out the window.
At each stop, we came to she hurried off the bus and disappeared into the ladies amenities. It wasn’t until we were about to leave that she would re-appear and take her seat next to me.
She was a very plain looking woman and very much an introvert as by the end of the day’s journey she made just one statement: She was glad the day was coming to and end and had I been to Lyon before?
I had to say no I had not been to any place the tour was heading to. She nodded and said she was looking forward to Lyon. Why I didn’t find out as the bus stopped at our hotel and we all alighted.
At dinner, she sat with other travellers, and I didn’t see her until the next morning when once again we were travel companions.
By lunchtime, we had reached Lyon, and she asked if I’d like to have lunch with her in a small café she wanted to visit. Up until then, our relationship was small talk and her expectation of being in Lyon.
I followed her down some narrow lane-ways, and when we arrived at an old wooden door in a high stonewall she touched a spot on the door, and it opened.
Behind the door was another village. It at this point she took my hand, and I was taken by how soft and warm it was. She led me along a street busy with shoppers and small cafes inhabited by people engaged in serious conversation. The language I didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter as my entire body was enthralled by the sensation of my hand in hers.
“Look,” she announced as we arrived at another old gate.
I looked and beyond the gate was the bluest ocean I’d ever seen.
“Noyl,” she said, “a magic kingdom and home of my grandfather the Wizard of Noyl.”
Once through this gate, I could feel the magic in the air. Carissa transformed from the dour introverted girl on the bus to a radiant princess.
Still holding my hand, she took me to see the most amazing things, showed me what I thought was impossible and invited me to partake in foods that left every taste bud in my mouth craving for more.
She turned to me and her smile radiated through me. I felt if this was a dream might it not end.
“Come,” she said, “I want to go dancing.”
“I don’t dance so well,” I replied feeling instantly self-conscious.
“Don’t worry, let me lead.”
And at that moment I experienced the most graceful of movements. It was as though her body wrapped itself around me and led me in a dance that was both sensuous and rapturous. I could feel her body against my own, the warmth of her was as if I was part of her and one I wanted never to end.
At one point her lips brushed mine, her hands caressed my head as we swirled and turned in time with the most alluring music I had ever heard.
And then it was over.
Holding my hand, she led me away back to the bus where the last of our touring companions were getting back on.
Settled again in our seat I realised my mind was still in the dance we had just completed.
She moved closer to me and slipped her hand into mine, leaned over and whispered, “The next time I’ll introduce you to my Grandfather. You danced well.”
My heart pounded for the rest of the afternoon as I sat there, my hand entwined in hers, unsure of what to say, but praying this never ended.