Geraldine assured me the security guard was an idiot. She had spoken to him a few times during her late night walks around the chateau and said he was a dull witted individual who was obsessed with the obscure statistics about Paris Saint Germain. Geraldine knew a bit about the team and would get him into conversations about the legendary goalkeepers in the 1970s. It was a tactic on her behalf to soften him up. She also made sure to wear her flimsiest of dresses on her walks around the castle.
“He wants me so badly,” she told me, as we hid in the shadows behind the vast laundry room. All that lay between us and the freedom of the bare mountains was the bored idiot sat in his dimly lit box.
One morning she approached me in the Great Hall. “Tonight is the night,” she told me, placing a provocative finger on my lip. Her perfume made me think of the exotic flowers in some lush green valley in Provence.
Hours later, I stood in the shadows behind the kitchen block . I had my back to the wall and my gaze was lost in the stars high above the Alpine peaks and the vastness of the blue heavens. Geraldine told me she would meet me at 9 p.m. It was 9.10 p.m. and there was still no sign of her. I took to pacing, wondering if she had been apprehended. I felt some of the fear prisoners of war must have felt as they prepared to lower themselves into the tunnel they had dug out of a Nazi prisoner of war camp. Finally, I felt a reassuring hand on my shoulder. It was Geraldine and she looked both fragile and tough all in one in the shadows behind the kitchen block.
From where we were standing we could see the guardhouse and beyond that a bridge over a high chasm to freedom. A dim light illuminated the guard house and I could see a pale face in the small square of light.
“OK darling,” she told me. “You will know when.”
I watched her walk provocatively toward the gatehouse in her flimsy yellow dress.
I saw Luc the security guard stumble to his feet as she arrived at the gatehouse. I saw her lean toward him and stretch her long bare arm out to the epaulet on his right shoulder, brushing his flimsy badge of power. I saw him starting at her chest and felt the pinpricks of jealousy in my own. Her hand remained on him and I saw her throw back her mane of dark hair in laughter. The idiot visibly puffed up in the pale light. The last thing on his mind was securing the facility. The two figures merged in the half light and dissolved into the guard house. It was the cue for me to leave the shadows. I walked carefully across the courtyard and past the guardhouse.
I didn’t dare look through the gap in the door, but carried on across the short drawbridge and onto a road that was hidden by the bulk of the mountain. Geraldine had told me to keep walking down the brittle road until I came to a small town where I would find a tavern.
On the winding road down the hillside, I felt like I was in occupied territory. The lights of cars came around the lips of the road with a whooshing sound. I kept expecting brakes and the breath of dogs on my legs. Then I reminded myself I had left a rehabilitation facility not a prison. Still my breathing was fast and urgent until I reached the cobbled streets of the small village and was bathed in the waxy yellow light of the tavern. I expected suspicious looks but the bar tender addressed me politely and I ordered a Pastis. As the licorice warmed me, it occurred to me that this was the first time in six months, I had been treated as an equal.
Freedom felt warm and fuzzy and oddly exhilarating. I emptied my glass, beamed at the man behind the bar who returned the smile and ordered another. The feeling of insecurity was burning out of me. When Geraldine finally arrived, I kissed her so passionately that she recoiled. I felt new scratches on her neck.
“How was the idiot?”
“The idiot is a beast.”
I felt all a bit hot and cold before raising my glass.
Geraldine smiled and I pulled her to me across the bar.
Chapters from my novella Transitions are entirely fictitious and no resemblance is intended to real people or events.