« Bloody maniac » I cursed, as I bounced and slipped on the seat of the Renault 5, regretting that there was no handle in the back to hold onto, and the fact that I’d agreed to come in the first place.
As an au pair, I had been given the evening off, and was heading up to a fête de village, with the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, who’d invited me along to give me a taste of the local night life. Our driver, indiscernible in the darkness and with no apparent will to live, was throwing the car round hairpin bends at a speed that would have defied NASA. No revelry was worth this I thought as he ground the car to an emergency stop in the middle of a field, lightly kissing the bumper of the car in front.
I climbed out shakily and threw him a black look that was lost in the gloom, before following them both from the improvised car park towards the village, where strings of multi-coloured lights dangled from buildings and the distant thump of music echoed off the surrounding mountains.
As we arrived in the main square, our chauffeur turned and I had my first good look at him. His large aviator style glasses reflected the reds and blues of the illuminations and cowboy boots poked from under tight fitting jeans. Two large silver chains hung round his neck, glinting beneath a shirt that was unbuttoned more than necessary. His dress sense is as bad as his driving, I thought grimly, gluing a smile onto my face as he offered to buy me a beer.
We pushed our way through the throngs to the bar, but as soon as my friend had been served, she disappeared to mingle, leaving me alone with the lunatic. His language hovered on the incomprehensible; his vocabulary and accent proving too much for my basic French and he looked at me with an intensity that did little to put me at ease.
After a laborious attempt at conversation, I finally understood that he was a farmer and I was surprised. In my limited experience, farmers from these parts all seemed to be pushing 40, had trousers pulled up to their armpits and sported large potbellies and moustaches. He, on the other hand, appeared to be my age, slim, with a Mediterranean tan and dark hair, and a clean-shaven face that boasted large lips and black eyes. He smiled a lot, but I noticed with growing dismay that when he was amused his laugh veered towards the high-pitched.
After an eternity, I was relieved to see our mutual friend making her way back. I spent the rest of the evening chatting to her and pointedly ignoring our crazed driver.
Although, looking back, had I known then, that one day he would become my husband, I might have paid him a bit more attention.