Alain and Michelle

The glass elevator rose like an arrow through the galleries, and as an art museum in the vertical floated enticingly past him, thoughts about last few years of his life came unbidden into his mind. He marvelled at how full and varied the time had been, well aware that it was in the Genève that he’d got his real start. Mario Constanza had been a tough man to work for, but the effort he, Alain, had expended to meet those demands, had helped him understand, very clearly, the commitment Mario had given to his work, and what he’d found so irresistible and addictive about being a journalist.
It was 4.00 o’clock in the afternoon when he arrived on the topmost floor of the hotel, and his timing proved to be fortunate, for there was a temporary lull in the flow and the rooms were not overly crowded. There was space to stroll and look about and one didn’t need to shout at people in passing conversation.
Alain spied the food tables; they were ranged along the long window wall of the sun gallery, which gave a magnificent view down onto the broad stretches of the lake, and he moved purposefully towards them to make his selection before the crowds thickened again.
Someone bumped heavily against him as he stepped forward; his mind and eyes fixed on the prospect of choosing a meal, and sent him staggering off-balance towards a group of people who were standing close by, quietly chatting and drinking.
What to do? In a second’s blink, Alain saw only total and utter disaster. If he couldn’t stop or change his path, he’d crash right into them. Shit!
But surprise, in that same split second someone must have seen what was about to happen and had reacted with incredible speed, and instead of creating havoc and scattering bodies like nine pins, Alain felt himself being lowered to the carpet with commendable grace.
A soft rose perfume? Then a beautiful face was looking down at him in polite concern, the full mouth pulled up at the corners by a hint of amusement. It was the most perfect woman’s face he’d seen in his entire life, but before he could register any emotions or offer thanks, her hand took his and he was on his feet again.
“Are you hurt?” the voice of the goddess asked.
This marvellous countenance was the only thing Alain could focus on in the room.
“Thank you,” he stammered, “I’m fine.” Not sure of what he was saying, or if it had been an appropriate remark. He brushed at his suit, hoping it hadn’t taken any damage.
He then stepped back, flushed and uncertain, his dignity completely bounced out of its usual niche.
He struggled for words, feeling, at the very least, he should bow deeply or tip his hat, if he’d had one.
Instead he muttered rather lamely, “I couldn’t do a thing to prevent … the accident. I don’t know what happened, and, and … how did … did you … manage ….” He tailed off, staring and wondering furiously how a slim slip of a woman, trigged out in a gorgeous blue evening dress, could have so deftly manhandled his considerable size and weight.
“Martial arts,” came the quick intuitive reply, “it’s very handy every once in a while, don’t you think?”
Oh, her voice! French in tone, but perfectly English, threatened to withdraw Alain’s usually reliable senses from him altogether.
“I don’t know what to say,” he tried again to apologise. “Was anyone hurt?” He looked around, remembering that there had been a group of people standing close together.
“No,” said the blue goddess, “everyone’s fine. A waiter backed into you as he came out through the kitchen door, and you were sent flying. I’m glad I was in the right place to be of help. You’re right, though,” she said seriously, “it could have been much worse. Are you here in the Genève as a peace delegate?” The query, begging an answer, floated lightly towards him and he couldn’t resist it, and before he knew what he was doing Alain had told a perfect stranger all there was to tell.
“I’m a news correspondent, over here to cover the conference. My name is Alain Weston … and … as I wasn’t on call, I decided to come up for supper ….” He stuck out his hand in greeting, and to his intense surprise, his rescuer took it, and pulled him closer, slipping her arm through his and leading him over to the banquet tables that had been his intended destination.
“I am Michelle Delacour,” she said, summing up Alain in an instant.
She decided he was twenty-eight years old and an inch or so over six feet tall. She liked the way he was compactly built, not gangly, all arms and legs, and that his hair, a wavy, light brown colour with touches of red gold in it, was cut moderately long. The well-grown beard he was sporting was a few shades darker than his hair and the effect gave him an older, most distinguished look.
His eyes that twinkled at everyone they met, even when recovering from a sudden shock, were set wide apart, and also a deep dark brown colour. His glances were casual, but behind them was a sharp intelligence that begged to be investigated. Smiles, which he often allowed to happen, made strong dimples in his cheeks, and revealed fine, even white teeth. He was a very handsome young man, who knew how to dress very well.
“Please,” she said, her face wreathed with smiles. “Help yourself, the food is marvellous, and then when you’re ready, perhaps you’d like to sit and eat in the sun-room. It’s quieter out there and the view over the lake is gorgeous at this time of day.”
Alan smiled back and nodded his head in acceptance, for some reason he didn’t dare trust his voice. A few minutes later however, with a heavily laden plate, a stein of brown beer, and a little more of his usual composure, he picked his way through the knots of animated guests towards a table by the window where Michelle was sitting.
There must be something about luxury hotels and cruise ships that leads to the willing suspension of reality in the mind of the guests. Is it the splendid magnificence or the fairy castle ambiance? Is it another form of the Love Boat magic? More probably it’s the availability of comfortable beds, fine food and drink that one doesn’t have to get for oneself that relieves the person of his or her limited expectations and constraints born of an ordinary life.
Whatever the larger picture, on the close and personal level, Alain Weston and Michelle Delacour found themselves instantly intrigued with each other.

taken from B’Hemoth, Prequel to The Gatherers Trilogy. Alain and Michelle travel through the story from beginning to end.


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