Put on your best rural French accent. “Would you like to com to my plaze an listen to som Musik?” Lucy looks over at me, her wide smile and nodding head telling me she has never in her entire life heard a better idea. Has she lost her mind? She can’t be serious! It could be the four cocktails talking, or it could be the Hoegaarden that she has clasped in her hand. Regardless, my eyes go wide and I try to subtly shake my head side to side, whilst keeping the fake smile glued to my face.
It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. I can’t even remember the name of the French town we are in, and I literally couldn’t tell you where in France we are. The laneway is dead quiet and empty, but for the five of us. And to top it off, nobody on this planet even knows we are here.
“Com on, we don live far away. We can walk zer.” He assures us. I glance over to his suspicious looking friend (who hasn’t said a word all night), who’s inebriated glazed over eyes are staring right at me. Penny is sitting on the curb, holding her head in her hand, so drunk that she doesn’t really know what’s going on. I look up and down the lane, no one in sight. That’s it, I’m totally going to get stabbed.
Let’s backtrack for a second. Its 2006, I’ve been traveling Europe after the world cup in Germany and have met the twins (Lucy and Penny) in Paris. We have been friends for a few years and are having a great time. After seeing much of the highlights of the French capital, and having scoured Euro Disney for an entire day, we get the idea to hop on a train and go to Normandy. Mont Saint Michel is calling!
So we booked our tickets, packed our bags and hurried to the train station to catch the midday express. Waiting on platform 6, we started to wonder why there were no other passengers. Finally midday passes and we realise we are on the wrong platform! It’s too late, we have missed the only train that would take us the whole way. Our next best option, hop on the 3pm and stay overnight halfway there, and then catch the next train in the morning. So we do and find ourselves in Coutances, Normandy. We get off at the station and look up at the rural town with raised eyebrows.
This was before Google maps was at everyone’s fingertips, so we actually have no idea where we are. We walk up through the town and find that other than the quaint cottages, Coutances has nothing to offer other than several massive churches; cathedrals almost. “Seems like more churches than people,” comments Penny.
We find a pub which will offer us a room with three beds. The innkeepers looks at the twins and then at me, as we ask for a room for three. He smiles a sleazy smile and nods his head. “It’s not like that,” we assure him. “Sure,” he replies, though his grin suggests otherwise. Can’t blame his line of thought, it is France after all. After dinner we realise that we have nothing to do so we walk the streets until we find a small bar.
The owner welcomes us in and, in what seems like a few blinks, we have managed to drink several of his delicious cocktails. All of a sudden he is calling out to us to tell us he is closing up. We look outside, its pitch black. I check my watch. It’s 3’o clock! Those were some good cocktails.
There is only one other patron in the bar, a friend of the owner who seems more inebriated than us. We step outside into the cobblestone lane and find it dead. Dead empty and dead quiet. The bar owner locks his door. Which way was the hotel? We pause for a moment then begin to walk down the street. Then a call comes from the end of the lane. Two figures yell something in French. Lucy calls back in French. “What are you doing?” I ask, flabbergasted.
The two figures approach. They are young men, close to our age. One with crew cut blonde hair and army camouflage cargo pants; the other looking like a gringo straight out of a Mexican gangster flick. I insist we have to go, but Lucy wants to talk to them. The gringo pulls out some Hoegaarden’s from his backpack and hands them to us, so we share a drink with them.
They continue to talk and Penny, struggling not to fall asleep, sits down on the curb. Lucy is enjoying herself and so are the two men. They only have one thing on their mind, I’m not that naïve. I insist again we should be going but they insist we stay and talk. How am I going to politely get away with the twins? We find out that they are the local garbage collectors. ‘Fantastic. They have the means to dispose of my body,’ I think to myself. We have not told a single person that we left Paris. No one knows where we are. We don’t even know where we are. If they want to kill us, it would be a long time before anyone would find us.
We have been talking for an hour. That is when he asks us to come back to his place to ‘listen to music’. Fast forward and I am now realising that I need to get us out of here quickly. “I really don’t think we can guys, we have a really early train to catch.”
“Don’t worry, we will get you to ze train.”
“Thanks for the offer, but we have to go!” I say directly to Lucy, grabbing her hand.
The gringo picks up his backpack and reaches in, his dark eyes not leaving my face. Oh crap! There is no way I’m going to be able to fight these two in my current drunken state. He is going to pull out a knife! He is going to stab me and toss my body into his dump truck. Then they are going to take the twins to their place and no one will ever find them again. My life is flashing before my eyes!
His hand comes out and I see the flash of metal. My heart stops, then his hand continues out of the bag and reveals another beer. “Stay for one more?” he asks.
“No thanks,” I quickly say, knees still shaking. I grab Lucy and pick Penny up from the curb and start marching as fast as possible down the lane. I don’t think we even said goodbye. I was too focused on getting back to the hotel!
Luckily we all look back now and laugh. Coutances did have more to offer than we thought.