Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 1, page 3 of 13)

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'Looks as though it is.'

'I suppose we'll have to bivouac there for the night. What do you think? Caroline? Marie? Willing to rough it, or should we ask Mark to take us to look for somewhere better?'

'It'll do for one night. At least you'll be on the spot when the car is fixed in the morning,' said Caroline.

'Good girl. Marie?'

'It looks quite respectable from here; these little family run hotels in France can be very nice.'

'The garage owner probably runs the hotel too. That would explain why he's arranged things so that we're stuck here for the night.' He looked expectantly at me.

The accusation was groundless, but not worth arguing about. 'Maybe. Do you want me to drive you over and come back for your luggage?'

They decided they could manage the couple of hundred yards to the hotel on foot and I put their bags in the back of the Vauxhall. At reception, Madame, who although middle-aged had retained much of her prettiness, took a handful of keys and showed us up to a large double room on the first floor. Marie and I watched from the corridor as Caroline and Peter inspected it, looked without enthusiasm at the shower and lavatory, but finally pronounced the accommodation acceptable for one night. The allocation of two smaller rooms on the second floor to Marie and myself was then a formality. As we went to get our things from the car we heard Madame call out loudly towards the back of the hotel. 'Georges! Georges!'

A young man of perhaps twenty, his long hair pulled back tightly into an untidy bun, rushed from the dining room to help with our bags. He had smudges of chocolate around his mouth and smears of it on his T-shirt. In the pockets on the outer thighs of his military style trousers were bulky cylindrical objects that made them stick out rather like a clown's costume pants. He looked uncertainly at our assorted collection of baggage until Madame told him to take the two cases nearest the stairs up first. Though Peter looked at him open mouthed, thankfully he made no comment. Georges' hands looked perfectly clean, but Caroline, unwilling to trust him with her property, was visibly alarmed as he picked up her finely stitched leather suitcase.

In my room, as I took my toilet things from my bag and hung up my jackets and trousers, misgivings about the wisdom of making the trip returned. Peter and I were colleagues, not really friends; he did not even know that I was gay. Our working relationship had been good. My expertise with the firm's computer network was useful to him, and for someone in my position making a good impression on more senior staff was the key to getting on. Until the invitation to spend a week with him at his house in France our social contact had been limited to office celebrations and Thursday lunchtime trips to the swimming baths with other colleagues.

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