The dinner was on New Year's Eve. A marquee the size of a pyramid, belly dancers and fire eaters. Our table full of clingy couples, no fun at all. Next door, the boys. And, oh, what boys: they were speaking French, they were gorgeous. But just to make sure, we had to slink past their table every time we wanted to reach the dance floor.
Kate organised everything. "Mine's the one on this side, with the stripey T-shirt" (no bow ties here). "I think yours is the one opposite." As midnight approached, two of them left - disaster! But only to sneak out to the liquor store, and return with golden whisky in a rucksack. By chance, we were dawdling by their table when the clock struck 12, and before you can say "Auld Lang Syne" we had become friends, and it was clear that the one with the stripy T-shirt was mine, and Alex (with the green eyes) was Kate's.
The palm fronds billowed in the warm early morning air, the chips were traded in the casino, champagne was drunk, the dancing commenced. Deep and meaningful glances were exchanged. Even a little French was spoken. The sun came up to find us, weary revellers, drifting off to sweet dreams of a new year. Sometime after the hangover, we met on the beach, ("they won't be late," said Kate, "they're Swiss, remember"), best bikinis at the ready; me in something borrowed and blue since suddenly, remarkably, I had nothing to wear; he in lashings of aftershave.("Be careful," warned a friend later who had lived in Switzerland, "you know what Swiss men are like: safe as houses.").
I wish I could say I fell in love, but you know as well as I do that life isn't like that. Not often, anyway. The sun continued to shine, the sand still crawled between our toes, the sea still swished in and out, but the boys were still boys and left us hanging on the telephone. We did meet once more, Yves and I, in Paris, where the sea and sand were replaced by pink Easter blossom; the sun shone, and there was dancing, but no magic.
And all that's left is a faded photograph of Yves and I; a friendship made in heaven, but not built to last. I have my memories of him, soft lips on my neck, carrying me out of the casino as the sun rose, and no doubt he has his of me, the 27-year-old I haven't been for a long, long time, and the 17-year-old I felt that night.Reuse content