Authors: Stephanie Brown
Book One: Beginnings
© 2014 Stephanie Brown
The flight from England to France had been a short one, the waiting at the airports taking longer than the flight itself. Miranda swung her bag over her shoulder before she grabbed the handle of her suitcase, and made her way to where the
taxis were waiting. It was not the most efficient way to plan a holiday, but it was the first time she did something like this on her own. Traveling across several countries alone sounded exciting at first, but in the reality of the moment it was far more stressful than she would have thought.
When she found an empty cab
that was willing to take her money, the driver took her luggage and put it in the boot in a way that can only be described as haphazard. She would have loaded it, but was afraid she would scratch the new sedan. It was in the beginning of April, and even in France it wasn't very warm yet. The sky was bright despite the lack of a clear sun, which remained hidden behind the round white clouds. The taxi rushed out of the airport and away from the city. Miranda mainly stared out the window the whole way to the mustering point. She had no interest in France, especially this part of the country which was mainly flat anyway.
The cab came to a halt in a small village, with a big town square where a
large tour bus was waiting. A small group of people were standing around the square, fussing over bags and suitcases. Miranda's hand was on the car's door handle, but she waited a bit to study the people that would be her fellow travelers for the next three weeks. There were some older couples, some younger couples, a group of young men that were obviously friends and some loners, like herself. Miranda took a deep breath before she stepped out of the cab. She avoided looking at any of the people while she paid the cab driver in Euro's, and rather clumsily retrieved her bags from the boot. When the cab drove off again, sending a wave of dust flying through the air, a young woman not older than Miranda was marching towards her.
"Hello!" she said cheerfully and extended her hand. Miranda let go of her suitcase and took
her hand a little hesitantly while she wiped her hair out of her face with the other. "I assume you're here for the bus tour to Rome?"
Miranda nodded. The woman smiled brightly. "Welcome then! My name is Alice, I will be one of your guides this trip.
Let’s get you signed in and your bags loaded. We will be ready to leave soon."
Alice vanished as quickly as she came, marching back to the group of people that still stood outside. Miranda swallowed before she followed in her footsteps. The loading area of the bus was opened, and a man in a handsome blue shirt and a dark blue cap stood next to it, fussing over the amount of luggage that was waiting to be loaded, and he gestured to Miranda.
"Put your suitcase over here.
I'll take care of it," he said. Miranda nodded again, already wondering why for God's sake she had chosen a bus ride as a holiday. She knew no one, no one knew her. She had thought that to be a good thing, but now she felt rather lonely and was sure everyone was staring at her, though probably none of them would actually notice the small figure with the colorful headband.
She noticed Alice stood by the door, announcing they could step in the bus and find a seat. Miranda was one of the first to go in, and got herself a seat directly behind the driver. She figured that would the least noisy spot. She dropped her bag beneath the chair and folded her jacket in her lap, avoiding eye-contact with the people that passed through the narrow gap between the two rows of chairs. Miranda looked outside, down the side of the bus, where the driver was working away the last of the luggage.
The north of France is not the easiest place to travel without a vehicle, especially if you do not speak the language. Adrian had been travelling throughout Europe for two months with nothing more than a backpack. After the stress of college and difficulty finding a job, he decided to take a break. A friend told him about his experience backpacking across Europe where he traveled to amazing places while meeting interesting people. The best part was the fact it was cheap. There was something about the unknown that called to him, made him feel alive.
Out of all the places he was going to travel, he did not think that he would find himself in the north of France. The constant rain and cloudy skies made the war ridden countryside look more depressing. It was time for him to take his travels south, to Italy. He had heard of a bus heading down south giving tours of
Rome while he was at a café four days ago. It was his best chance to get there without incident and much cost.
Adrian had walked three days from one small town to the next, hoping to find someone kind enough to give him a ride to his destination. Unfortunately, he was only met by more rain and less people to speak English. It was an expe
rience to say the least. At the end of the fourth day, he had his destination in sight. The bus would be leaving that day, so he had no time to stop. His feet started to hurt and his boots were getting heavy, but he had no intention of being left behind.
As he made his way into town, a new sedan almost ran into him as it came driving into the square. All Adrian could think was how rude people have been to him the last
four days. Just what he needed is someone to run him over in the middle of this wretched place. He shook the thought out of his head and approached the woman that seemed to be the one organizing the groups of people.
Excuse me. Do you speak English?” Adrian inquired hesitantly.
“Yes, I do,” the cheerful woman responded. “
My name is Alice. I am the tour guide. Are you here for the tour?”
Yes, I am. But I am afraid that I do not have a ticket. Do you have any room available for me to join?”
It is too early to tell. We are booked full, but sometimes we will have an empty seat. I will put your name on the list and if we have room you can join us.”
“Thank you very much.”
Adrian was hopeful that his four day walk was not wasted.
As he waited, Adrian watched all of the people dropping off their luggage and talking to their friends. This was definitely a diverse group of people. He was sure that he could find someone that could speak English. The tour guide had called everyone over to the bus asking them to start boarding. After
she took a roll call and everyone was loaded, Alice came over to him.
Looks like you are in luck. We had one person not show up. There is one seat left for you if you still want it.”
Excellent.” Adrian dug through his pack to pull out some of his money and paid Alice for the trip. He thanked her and got on the bus to find the last seat.
When he climbed the steps, the last seat was at the front of the bus directly behind the driver. Not the best spot to sit if he wanted to get some sleep, but it was much better than walking or being stranded in the north of France. He put his pack up in the storage above the seats before taking his seat next to a girl with long
light brown hair pulled back with a headband. She was looking out the window and did not notice that he had taken the seat next to her. Just as well, he was not much in the mood to talk right now anyway.
everyone had taken their seats, Alice the Tour Guide had taken up a position next to the driver's seat standing in the middle of the narrow aisle facing the group. Miranda turned her gaze away from the window towards Alice. She was startled to find the face of a man that had somehow managed to take place next to her without her noticing. She swallowed, realizing she should have jumped in surprise but she estimated it was now a little too late to give a reaction like that. Miranda was clearing her throat to find it in her to say something to him. Fortunately, Alice demanded all her attention and gave her another few moments to think about what she should say. Hell, she didn't even know if the guy could speak English. For all she knew he could be one of those cocky, raspy-throated Frenchmen that refused to learn any language beside his own
. Alice broke Miranda's train of thought rather brutally when the microphone she held in her hand screeched loudly when it came too close to her mouth.
"Ouch. Sorry for that. Ladies and gentlemen, madames et messieurs, I would like to welcome you on our Extensive Roman Experience tour. In the next three weeks, I will be your guide and translator during all of the trips we will be making throughout la città eterna and the major points of interest surrounding it. Please, make yourself comfortable. The journey will take us some twenty hours, and we will not stop along the way for sleep. However, we'll make some short stops every three hours, so you can use the bathroom or buy yourself some food.
"Je voudrais vous accueillir dans notre tour
Extensive Roman Experience
iranda blocked out what Alice jabbered on about in French - she couldn't understand more than a few words anyway. Instead, she eyed the man that was seated next to her, studying his face to find out if he was paying attention to it, or that he had as much need for French as she did. Miranda decided not to press her luck to make a blunder on her first impression She waited patiently until Alice stopped speaking. When she took a seat next to the doors, the bus driver climbed in his seat and started the engine. Miranda took a glance out of the window and used the time to retrieve her ability of speech, and then turned her head again.
"Hello," she tried quietly. "Do you err... speak ... English?"
After he had been seated for a minute, Alice climbed aboard and stood at the front of the bus, directly in front of me. With a screech of the microphone, all eyes were on her. She started to give her little announcement, which Adrian did not care much about, but at least it was in English. After she was finished, she proceeded to repeat everything in French. Not understanding another word, he leaned back and let his eyes roll back into his head.
Just when he was finally about to rest, he heard the faint voice of the girl next to him talking to herself at the window. Adrian looked over at her and was surprised when she turned her head and said quietly,
“Hello. Do you err…speak … English?”
Adrian was very relieved to be sitting next to someone who spoke English and the fact that she was really cute made it better. He could not help but laugh a little. The laugh made her feel a little shy, but Adrian quickly explained.
“I am sorry. It has been four days since I have spoken to anyone in English. It is very refreshing to have a conversation that I can understand. My name is Adrian.”
He reached out his hand and flashed a smile, trying to break the ice a little more. Hesitant at first, the girl slowly reached forward to shake his hand. It seemed like several moments passed and the girl did not appear to introduce herself, so Adrian continued to talk. “I decided it would be a good idea to travel Europe for a couple months, to get lost in a place where I do not know anyone. Explore the countries that I have read about growing up. Unfortunately, the north of France was really not one of them. I had to walk four days to get to this bus. It will be good to sit for a while.”
After speaking, the girl just sat there looking at him. She appeared to be deep in thought and Adrian was wondering if she was even listening to him.
Miranda let the name melt on her tongue, and thus almost forgot to accept his hand. She was about to tell him her own name when he had already continued talking. Perhaps he wasn't interested. Perhaps she was just too slow. When he mentioned the fact that he had been walking four days to be able to participate in this tour she pulled out of her own train of thoughts again. Making a note to stop being such a dreamer and pay more attention to the things around her, Miranda stared at him.
"Yes," she said, a little uncertain. "Walking for four days in this country must have been hell." Her British accent was a soft one, but nonetheless obviously British. By Adrian's words, and his accent, she was quite certain he was American. Secretly, she couldn't stand the way American's used the English language, but for some reason she didn't find it a problem to listen to this one.
Miranda quickly averted her eyes from him, certain he had to think she was some kind of alien, or at least a rather alienated and unworldly girl. She bent over and retrieved her bag from under the chair, stowing away her jacket in it. Her eye fell on the beanbag pillow that she had brought for sleeping, in the form of a pig's head. She had thought it cute and
colorful when she bought it, but now it only seemed to add up to her 'alienated' image.
Miranda sat up straight again, and said nothing for a few moments until she
realized she hadn't introduced herself yet. A blush appeared on her cheeks as she spun her head to face Adrian again. "I'm sorry, I'm being so rude.. my name is Miranda. This is really... my first time to go on holiday on my own, and I feel a little lost right now." She hoped the confession would be some kind of explanation for her behavior, though she knew that it wasn't. It was rare that she felt she could truly be herself. Her parents were an exception like that, and she had one good friend, a guy named Patrick, who had unfortunately been unable to join her on the bus tour.
"I'm sorry if I offended you," added Miranda quietly.
All Adrian could think was her accent was so cute. Foreign accents have always been a weakness for him. The ladies used to love his Australian accent when he was younger, but after living in the United States for so many years, he had lost most of it. He was glad that she took the initiative to tell her name, he really did not want to ask.
ran his fingers through his dark hair brushing a stray lock away from his face so he could see her better. As he turned to face her while she talked, he was surprised at how beautiful she was. Her oriental features showed slightly, giving her an exotic look that took his breath away. She was small for her age, which made her look younger. Adrian admired the slight curves of her lithe body. It was not until she said that she was sorry if she offended him did he realize that he was staring at her and was not breathing. His face started to turn red with embarrassment.
“No, not at all. Being in a foreign country will do that to you. Don’t worry, you are doing great.”
Adrian scolded himself.
‘You are doing great? Is that the best you can do?’
Adrian wanted to crawl under his seat and forget that he just made a fool of himself in front of another pretty girl. At the age of 25, he should have gotten over his fear of talking to women. Apparently that is a lesson that he still had to learn. ‘
Always the bumbling idiot
,’ he thought to himself.
turned away from……..’
Crap, what was her name? M, it started with a M. Mindy? No, that is not it. Melissa? No, that does not sound right.’
As his embarrassment grew, he was saved by the tour guide that was walking by to check on the tourists.
“Miranda,’ Alice called.
‘Miranda, Miranda, Miranda.’
Adrian repeated her name over in his mind so he would not forget it.
That is a very cute pillow you have there.” Alice pointed to the floor, drawing Adrian’s attention to the pig shaped pillow. When he looked back up, Miranda thought she would die from embarrassment. ‘
Great... here we go.’
She said nothing but instead turned to the window again, watching as the sky got cloudier and small raindrops were starting to fall on the windows of the bus.
As soon as Alice kept walking, Adrian got up from his chair to pull out his pack from the storage rack. He reached inside and pulled out a beanbag pillow that had a dog on it. After putting the pack away, he sat back down and tapped Miranda on the shoulder.
“Your pillow is very cute, but I like mine better.” Adrian gave her a wink and they both smiled.
Alice had kept on walking, calling the names of the passengers one by one. The young woman with the dark hair and the French nasal accent couldn't be much older than Miranda, at most two years. Miranda looked at Adrian again, studying his face. She thought it wouldn't be so bad travelling with him... at least he spoke English. And he had a beanbag pillow. Two points for the American.