Under An Island Sun – Episode 07

The main characters from the story

When Philippe broke the news to his girlfriend about what had happened at school, Nicole’s eyes narrowed.

“Are you saying you’ve been suspended?”

“The headmaster said to see it as a break and come back when I’m ready. He said I’m a good teacher but I must be more diplomatic.”

At least, Philippe thought that was what he had said.

So much had happened, and so quickly, that he’d hardly taken it all in.

“What else could I do? Those boys taunted a pupil who couldn’t fight back.

“But their parents are so influential that even the head bows to their demands. Or almost. They wanted me dismissed.”

“A ten-year-old could have handled the situation better than you did!” Nicole cried.

“Philippe, you have a sense of justice, but if I lost my temper with the wrong people, I would soon be out of a job.”

That didn’t stop her from losing her temper with the “right” people, Philippe thought, but he saw her point.

His own tendency to be stern paled in comparison with Nicole’s steeliness.

He probably wouldn’t last for five minutes in the legal profession, while she was at home there.

“So, until you find a job, you’ll have no money?”

He hesitated, then told her about the ad for Land-Rover drivers on Fuerteventura, taking tourists round parts of the island not easily accessible.

“I’ve had experience of similar conditions, and with my language skills I can take both French and English passengers,” he reasoned.

“It’s just for six months, then hopefully I’ll return to my old job.”

“So you want to go off while I stay here, working long hours in a proper job to make real money.”

Even as he flinched, Philippe couldn’t help thinking how lovely Nicole was when she was angry. Her eyes flashed and colour rose to her cheeks.

“Come with me. It can be an adventure for us.”

Even as he spoke, he knew he’d said the wrong thing. Nicole liked her luxuries, shops and competitive environment.

“To live in a desert and wait on tables? A gap in my career would be disastrous. If you insist on going there, we’re finished.”

“But I can come back regularly to visit, and you can fly out to see me,” Philippe pleaded.

“This could be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.” Nicole’s eyes flashed. “We can both apply for jobs in Paris.

“We could rent a fashionable apartment, eat at the best restaurants and take evening strolls along the Champs Elysées.”

Nicole opened the laptop she always carried with her. Her fingers moved deftly over the keyboard.

Philippe knew if he didn’t speak now, he would be swept along on her tide.

“I’m sorry, but I want to find out more about this job before I decide.”

With an icy stare she snapped her laptop shut.

“Then I’m leaving. Contact me when you are ready to see sense.”

She left, slamming the door behind her.

That weekend Philippe drove south past Bordeaux before turning off and taking the roads heading into the Pyrenees.

He had never felt so alone as over the last couple of days.

Nicole might not be the easiest person, but she had a way of making everything more exciting whenever she was in the room.

He had almost agreed to go to Paris, despite his dislike of the place, just to win her back, yet something stopped him.

So far he’d always been sensible, doing what people expected of him. This was a chance to do something different with his life.

First, he needed to talk with someone whose judgement he trusted.

His parents would be sympathetic but non-committal and too busy, as were his siblings, who had jobs and children of their own to deal with.

As the road reached the foothills, his shoulders felt lighter with every kilometre. He drove up and up, towards the village where his grandmother lived.

His heartbeat slowed as the mountains cast their spell. The air was cooler here, with a hint of winter.

Narrower roads and tracks came into sight in the familiar, well-loved landscape, leading to even more remote locations.

He had learned to drive along some of those routes, his grandfather instructing, during the long summer holidays that had seemed to last for ever.

To be continued…

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