Tuesday, April 7, 2015

G is for Geraldine

I watched the peaks and the gullies where the gleaming ice was as razor sharp as the frosted air, shimmering below me. Then the picture broke up as I lowered myself into the chill waters of the pool. It was spring in Grenoble but the snow lingered on the high peaks of the Alps, even though the air was warm on the swimming pool terrace.



I fell into my trick of imagining I was a guest at an exclusive resort on the shores of a Swiss lake rather than a grim castle where drug addicts were rehabilitated by a combination of new age techniques and Medieval impatience. Up on the cool slates around the pool, I could distance myself from the therapy sessions. The shouts and squeals of those going through a long and painful withdrawal at Chateau Lac Dumain reminded me that my problems were not serious compared to many of the lost souls who ended up here. 

On the terrace the sky was cloudless and the mountains had a high white serenity that made me long for the purity of the elevated places. There was just one fly in the mirror of the pool and it was hard to banish the intrusive thought that I had now been here for 10 weeks and heard little from my family beyond the carefully written letters I received from my parents every week that bore the signs of Monty’s coaching.

There was no mention of my future after this place. When I broached the issue of my release with the administrators I was greeted with Gallic shrugs. I wondered what I had signed but nobody ever gave me a straight answer.

“You will hear from your family soon Monsieur. Your recovery is good. Yes?” the beetle browed administrator would tell me.

 I became more disconcerted on the occasions when I looked over the parapet and saw the thickness of the walls. Increasingly the white uniforms of the orderlies at the gatehouse started to look like military regalia.

Twelve weeks into my stay there was a new arrival who bore little resemblance to the others here. I first saw her lying beside the pool in a red two piece, one leg raised in the air as she look lusty puffs on a Gauloise.

I was shy about talking to random strangers but I found my glance returning again and again to the girl who flicked her dark locks around her neck and paid little attention to me at first. The next time I got in the pool I used the steps near to where she was lying, even though there were steps closer to me.  As I was about to lower myself I heard her gentle voice across the terrace.

“Monsieur?”

I turned to her and made to attempt to use my halting French.

“Yes.”

“Oh American?” she said.

“No British.”

“Oh,” and the girl’s eyes narrowed, displaying a small hint of disappointment.  “Ave you been here long Sir?”

I stood and surveyed her. I estimated she was about 22-years-old. Her body was languid and she had olive skin. She had a little excess weight over the band of her bikini bottoms which made her slightly more attainable and attractive to me.

“Too long, I’m afraid. Why are you here? You don’t seem…”

“I know,” said the girl. “I don’t seem like a crack addict. I’m not screaming for God. I am something worse Monsieur British. I am an embarrassment to my family. I swear and I smoke pot and I sleep with boys – although not usually ones wearing Speedos,” she added, her eyes moving briefly down my stomach. “So every now and then my family send me to the Chateau to teach me a lesson.”

By now the thoughts of the cool waters of the pool had passed and I squatted on the slate tiles next to her. “Tell me. How do you get out of this place?” I realized there must have been something desperate in my expression because she moved back a little and something flecked appeared in her otherwise flawless brown eyes.

“They didn’t tell you? You get out of here if and when they want you to. People have died here. My family usually relents after three weeks. Did you not read the papers?”

“I was a bit out of it at the time.”

“Well you may be out at Christmas Monsieur British. You won’t be eating your roast beef for a while.”

“Oh please.”

It’s OK,” said the girl, and she stretched a reassuring hand to mine. “You’re not the only person I have encountered here who is confused.”

“Do you come here often?” I asked her, clunkily conscious of how it sounded like the most mawkish of chat up lines.

“It’s my favorite solitary confinement holiday. Let’s just say I don’t share my family’s devoutly religious beliefs.”

“That’s awful,” I said. “How can your family abandon you like this?” I was acutely conscious of how something heavy dropped inside me as I said it. The girl seemed to sense it too. She seemed to be very intuitive. She said nothing and let out a plume of smoke. I was reminded then about how only the French can look cool smoking.


“Let’s talk about something else Monsieur British. What’s your favorite movie and can you join me up here after dark? They keep the key to the roof terrace behind the electricity meter on the fifth floor. My name’s Geraldine.”

Chapters from my novella Transitions are entirely fictitious and no resemblance is intended to real people or events.

8 comments:

  1. Wow this is beautiful. I love all the G words you dropped in here, most of which are uncommon.

    The ending makes me want to know more. What happens next?

    A Deecoded Life | A to Z challenge

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  2. Thanks so much Dee - well you can tun in tomorrow - hope the challenge is going well for you

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Scots Lass - good to see ya back blogging..

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  4. Wow. This is impressive. It's like from 1 to Shakespeare, you can be an 8. I wonder how you would describe gravity with your creativity and articulation.

    Nice story so far, by the way! Excellent even. Write more.

    Kristine - lovetakestyne.blogspot.ca | A to Z Challenge

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    1. thanks so much Kristine - I will check out your blog.

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  5. More great descriptions. Well done. I'm sure he'll be enjoying Geraldine's company soon enough.

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  6. Thanks Jean - you may have a good point there :)

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