Wheels of Love Chapter One

 Chapter One

It was scorching hot that late September day in 1972. Sue and Deb had been travelling for six weeks and having a blast. They’d both worked hard for a year, saving to backpack for four months through England and Europe. Sue, although only 23, had so much responsibility back at home that she was really enjoying the freedom she was experiencing. That freedom was all she wanted from this adventure. Never in a million years was love in the picture.

Arriving at the train station in Barcelona early that morning, the platform was overrun with men. Given what happened in France a couple of weeks before, seeing few other women left Sue a little apprehensive about the day ahead but she quickly put her fears aside. They grabbed an empty carriage but it did not stay that way long as they were soon joined by a young Moroccan boy and a woman from England. The latter was so frail and nervous Sue wondered why she was travelling alone. The 16-year-old boy with the black curly hair and animated gestures made them all smile. In spite of his exuberance, he had an appealing shyness about him. It only took five minutes of sitting in the station before the heat got to them.

“Geez it’s hot. This is September, isn’t it?” Deb asked as she made sure all the windows and the carriage door were wide open.

“Apparently” Sue replied while helping fight one of the creaky old train windows into submission.

However, the open windows brought them little relief. Sue was reaching into her knapsack for a bottle of juice when a young man appeared in the doorway of the carriage. She saw his feet first and then her eyes slowly moved up the rest of his body to a face that made her solar plexus tighten and piercing blue eyes that led her down into the most open soul she had ever encountered. She knew at that instant her life would never be the same again.

“Is seats taken?” the man said.

“No,” Sue said quickly.

The young man must have thought he was asking were the seats empty because with Sue’s response he started to walk away. She sprang to her feet and grabbed his arm.

“No, you did not understand”, Sue said almost in a panic to stop him leaving. “The seats are empty. Please come in and sit with us”.

He looked relieved and smiled an impish grin at her that Sue would come to find irresistible. As he untied the Khaki army jacket from around his waist and stored it up above with his bag, Sue was able to get a better look at his body. She would be surprised later to find out he was only 20 years old for she thought him at least four or five years older than that. About six feet tall, he was wiry with strong arms and hands. As he turned to sit down Sue admired his classic Germanic look complete with blond hair and strong facial lines.

“I am named Hans” he told Sue and then nodded greetings to the rest of his companions. As they all made introductions Sue and this handsome blond stranger had trouble keeping their eyes off each other. He was young but Hans had loved before and women were often drawn to him although he never understood why. In spite of this, he thought he had never seen someone whose eyes he wanted to disappear into as this Sue he had just met. It scared him because he realized she was seeing right into his soul and no one had ever held him in this way. It scared him and attracted him at the same time.

An hour or so passed and so did the Spanish countryside. The English woman left them at Gerona and they moved on towards the French border. As they shared some food, Hans told them about himself. Austrian, he was travelling for a couple of weeks before heading off to study at the University of Graz. He had already done his two years compulsory military service and spent most of it driving a tank. This last piece of information made Sue chuckle for she thought Hans looked far more like a poet than a soldier.

“What is funny?” he demanded of her. Hans was very proud of his army service and he didn’t see anything funny in it.

“I’m sorry” Sue said. “I shouldn’t have laughed but you just don’t look like someone who could drive a tank.”

He gave her one of his “that will be quite enough out of you” looks that she would come to know well whenever she gave him a hard time. She found out he had a brown belt in judo and a quiet strength she would lean on later that day. Sue watched him intently as he told his story, fearing she might miss an important piece of information. Every time he looked directly at her Sue was overwhelmed with what she saw. In spite of his smile and friendly attitude, his blue eyes were filled with unspoken but palpable pain.

Sue had no idea Hans was thinking the same thing about her. Except for those blue eyes that seemed to talk to him, there was not anything that remarkable in Sue’s looks, Hans had thought at first glance, but he still could not take his eyes off her. After a longer look he had to acknowledge there wasn’t anything bad about her looks either. Average height, average build he thought. He really liked her shoulder-length dark blond hair and her round face and the hands that she used so much when she was talking. And she certainly talked a lot, which only gave him the excuse to look at her more. The problem was that even when others were speaking he found his focus going back to Sue. She seemed so mature to Hans and he worried what she thought of him.

Stop talking for heaven’s sake, Sue was saying to herself at the same time, or he will think you’re a jabbering idiot. There was just something about this man. It wasn’t like Hans set her heart pounding or anything but she was drawn to him and felt instantly safe, and Sue never felt safe around anyone. He was so easy to be in the same space with and there was not a thing about him that made her suspicious. Deb and Sue asked Hans where he was going. He showed them a piece of paper on which he had written Barcelona – Cerbere – Marseilles – Nice.

“We are going to Nice too,” Sue told him, “but we are going via Cerbere and Narbonne.”

Hans looked at her smiling and said, “This is good.” Then he took his piece of paper, tore it into tiny pieces and threw them up into the air where they scattered everywhere.

“I go with you,” he said full of the self-assurance that this was ok with Sue and Deb. Well, Sue thought, he has some nerve assuming it is all right with us. But she already knew it was. The time passed in conversation, mutual enlightenment and much laughter. Then the train pulled into the border town of Cerbere, France and events took a bizarre turn.

 

Here are all the chapters – so far – of Wheels of Love.

4 Comments

  1. Seema
    Jan 30, 2016

    Fantastic piece, Susan! Such a great way to start to the first chapter…works so well right after the prologue. Love the way you’ve set the scene and your use of foreshadowing & backshadowing (is this a word?). I was pulled in right away and wanted it to keep going. I’m glad there’s more to come!

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jan 30, 2016

      Thanks so much for your kind comments and if backshadowing isn’t a word, it should be. And glad you caught that too. And, there is a lot more to come.

  2. Felt like I was right there on the train with them. Well done, Susan! Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jan 30, 2016

      Thank you Cheryl. I am glad you enjoyed it. I hope to have the next installment up relatively soon.

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