Chocolate eyes, caramel skin.
It was a French flavoured summer in 1980 when I fell in love with my chocolate eyed stranger. We were recent arrivals to Europe, having just moved from England to Germany with my Mother, Sister and Victorian values Stepfather (who steadfastly maintained the look and demeanour of a chap that had just finished piloting a Navy ship).
My Sister and I abhorred the very thought of moving to another continent away from friends, family and our real Father, but we had been given no choice. In another time and different frame of mind, we would have relished the experience, the assault on the senses; but I was 11 and she was nearly 13 and relish it we did not.
Still reeling from the culture shock of 80′s Europe, we embarked on a leather seated and over-heated epic journey by means of an old brown Rover to the South of France for a holiday in Juan-le-Pin. It being my first time in France, I swam through waves of fluid language, basic toilets, unctuous stinking cheeses, wine syphoned from vats in farms and daily new crispy and lengthy bread. It was enchanting.
Then there were the packed topless beaches hugging the bright blue Mediterranean, heaven itself for a boy whose fascination with the female form had been smouldering since he was five. Yes, at five my captivation with the workings of woman started. I grew up in an era of British newspapers being emblazoned with brazen and brash topless beauties; Sunday magazines rammed to capacity with more. Airbrushing was yet to exist, so glimpses of pubic hair and entire smudges of flattened 70′s body hair could be easily pored over in the lingerie section of catalogues.
And pore over them I did. Of course, I had yet to fully understand the meaning of the thrill the taunting representations shot through me, nor did I understand my first girl-induced erection stood next to the new arrival at school that I liked when I was only five. Erections had been passed off by my Mother as my ‘needing a wee’ when I asked what was happening to my young hard penis, so ignorance reigned.
Nothing was finer than drawing my crude interpretation of naked bodies, lovingly scribbled in scrapbooks next to images carefully cut, tongue protruding, from said newpapers and magazines. I was obsessed.
So, years before I was able to act upon the very urges I had yet to comprehend, I found myself on these sizzling, flesh filled sandy stretches of Southern France surrounded by girls and women frolicking in near nakedness. There were breasts of all sizes, ones that had yet to develop, others that were in the process of budding; then the women with all sizes of fully developed chests. Body sizes and different shapes, young through to old, all held my rapt attention. All were so fascinating to me, I had no preference at an age where I was the taboo.
Then there were the delightful glimpses I stole when positioned in such a way as to peer down bikini bottoms stretched taught across protruding hipbones; tufts of hair and folds of flesh on display if gaps gaped, or angles allowed. How I made the angles allow. This little prepubescent pervert worked diligently for his visual fare.
Daily, I stared until my eyes blanked from the sun’s glare on taught tanned bellies, glistening globes, and I carried a yearning I had no channel for, no understanding of venting.
Balmy, baked days slid by like this, and I would return to our campsite at the end of the day yearning for more. We would normally eat in newly acquired, at least for three of our party of four, European ways. Gooey cheeses, that day’s baguette, salad with oils and wine in copious cheap quantities, poured from large plastic containers filled earnestly at farms and vineyards. Geckos and mosquitos, bugs and colourful birds would be our soundtrack, as I chewed upon food and thoughts, masticating on the day’s stolen fleshy glimpses, marvelling at the realness of it all.
We would venture out rarely. My Stepfather was one predisposed to spending as little as possible in life, but even he occasionally sought different fare, some heated food served by locals; and so, finally, I was to visit my first French restaurant.
A new world, it was, of sound, colour, smells and nuance. Packed to the rafters with locals rather than bloated with tourists, it was authentic, real. Not for us an English translation on the menu. It evoked in me a thrill filled fear, and that carries through with me to this day; the love of the new and the electric rush of being thrown out of my cotton-wool filled rut.
Once seated, I took in the vista of tables of all sizes laid out in front of me, like the clusters of houses and dissecting streets of an ancient Mediterranean town when viewed from above. They were everything a tourist could expect. Romantic couples leaning in over checked tablecloth to whisper sweet nothings impossible to hear over the cacophony of noise, swarthy workmen with ruddy cheeks, evidently still on their post work drinks and eats; through to the families of all sizes making up the majority of the restaurants wall of noise.
Openly gawking at the generations of gesticulating French in front of me, I marvelled at how social it looked, how joyous. An ongoing celebration of blood and kin over broken bread and wine and beer. As I looked about, my hungry gaze a nosy lighthouse; my beam reflected in the dark eye of the girl that was to be my love. She was sat amid the throng of the largest table, calm amid the sea of relatives shouting and laughing around her.
Caramel skin and eyes deep and brown. Glossy black hair in a bob that framed the angelic beauty of her exquisite French face. She wore a simple white summer dress that was milk on the coffee of her skin. I had been gulping her in as she watched me, smiling her dimples so gently back at this obvious stranger, this English boy. I must have blushed, then grinned back into her bottomless brown gaze. She laughed, icing white smile that unlocked butterflies I didn’t know were locked within me. My stomach flipped and I fell hopelessly in love with this beautiful stranger.
Seconds elapsed in that lifetime, until parental demands meant my attention had to be turned to ordering. Whilst I did, I took slices of her from across the room and ate her up. How she blew hair out of her face when it fell into her gaze. How she tucked her star-white bra strap back under her dress each time it snuck out to play. How she ate only with a fork and sipped her wine. I ached to be that wine. Our eyes met, again and again, striking the room silent as the sparks flew between. Smiles, dimples, blushes and an as yet non-verbal bond.
No one noticed, as we were kids. She, what I could only uneducated guess as 13 or so, purely by physicality of her from across the room and me just 11. To be nearer, I orchestrated a need for the toilet, sure that we would meet; the door to which was adjacent to the end of my French fancy’s table. I swam through her thick gaze, afire as I walked that walk to the conveniences. Her stare mirrored what I felt as I glided by, eyes locked in on hers.
Finally, I exited the toilette where heart stoppingly, she was there in front of me in the vestibule between the cubicles and the restaurant. All was quiet. We said nothing, just digested each other, our smiles inches apart. She was slightly taller than me, and seemed to float in an aura of sun kissed skin and innocence.
I went to speak, but she placed a finger on my mouth so that I smelt another world. Her fingers were bread, wine, musk, hair, lemons, salt and life. I was giddy as she peered into my soul, her bee stung lips parting to utter a ‘ssshhh’.
My world fell away when she replaced her finger with her slightly parted mouth, and gently kissed me with plump teenage lips, wetly, pushing her tight young body against my clumsy inexperience, her pudenda nudging my throbbing unfulfilled and building need.
She had to have felt my spasm, my trembling body killed by her beauty, grace, her smell. And then, she turned and left me. One wave, a cheeky peek over her shoulder and with a laugh she lifted up the back of her bright white dress, flashed her pert, pink knickers, tan lines, tight golden thighs with sun beached hairs; and flounced out.
My heart broke when I finally emerged, composed, to her family having left forever. I carry her everywhere, and my French girl unknowingly never lets me go.