[ About the Trobairitz Series ]
[ Extract from Trobairitz the Storyteller ]
One of the drivers invited me to join them. He was the oldest of the group, tidy, stocky, grey short hair and old-fashioned polite. Told me his name was Raymond. He briefly introduced the other two. They didn’t look too pleased but he ignored them and started asking me the usual questions. Why would a woman be interested in long-distance haulage? What did I do before? Where did I come from?
I don’t answer that kind of question. I refuse to give personal details. They never ask outright about my age but I know they wonder. Why do they need to know I’m forty-two? I wear size 12 U.S. 14 UK. That translates to something like a 44 in European sizing but I don’t buy much here. Take one look at the petite average woman in this part of France and you can see why I get most of my stuff online. My hair is naturally curly, still dark brown. I wear it loose or stuffed under a baker-boy cap when I’m driving. I like Dire Straits and Rachmaninov. I speak French, English, Spanish and Italian. I play guitar and I’m teaching myself mandolin. I’m a passable Mezzo. I read everything and I’m blessed with a good memory. But I don’t tell truckers any of this. It’s nobody’s business but mine.
All I said in response to Raymond’s questions was ‘I like driving.’
Raymond got up to fill his water glass at the cooler. At the same time another driver came in from the parking bays to join the group. He looked freshly showered and he smelled of the garrigue heathland, green and herby. His damp hair curled around his ears. Maybe a few years younger than me, his skin had a healthy outdoors glow. He filled his T-shirt very nicely. He greeted everybody except me and I know the reason for that. Drivers assume that any female present is somebody’s bit on the side, along for the ride. They wait to be introduced. He hurried through the handshakes and seemed anxious to tell them something.
‘Just parked next to a new Volvo FH16,’ he said, searching the drivers’ faces for a reaction, ignoring me. ‘Classy, black livery. Somebody gone over to Trans-Angelus? Anybody we know? Who got lucky?’
‘That’ll be me,’ I said, keeping my eyes on my plate of faux filet.
You could taste the testosterone around the table. Without looking up I knew that hackles were raised, muscles clenched, jaws stiffened.
‘French trucks not good enough for you?’ the newcomer taunted.
Very slowly I put down my knife and fork and leaned back in my seat. Then I lifted my head to look him square in the eyes. Deep dark brown ones, I noted. I smiled.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Nice to meet you too.’ I kept the smile beaming bright, eyes and teeth like a chorus line showgirl.
He didn’t know where to go after that so he gave a little grunt and pulled up his chair. Raymond came back with his fresh glass of water. He greeted the fourth man.
‘Jimi, my friend,’ he said. ‘I thought we might see you tonight. Family okay? How’s the Renault?’
I couldn’t let that go, couldn’t miss out on this perfectly timed gift.
‘Renault Trucks,’ I said quietly, scratching the back of my neck and screwing up my eyes as if I’d only just remembered. ‘Bought out by Volvo in 2001.’
One of the others sniggered. I’d made my point. I don’t like to come across as a clever bitch but Jimi had asked for it.
But I like men. I really do. Wasn’t it Dorothy Parker who said there’s nothing quite so much fun as a man? And I’ve had my share of fun. I’m no angel. I just never saw the attraction of getting into that permanent couple thing.