Punting

by Doreen

Isabel was on holidays in the UK all by herself. Her friends had different plans like going to sunny Italy and whatnot. But she was really glad to have made the decision to go there alone. She had booked a room at a small B&B just outside the city centre of London for the first few days. Then she wanted to go around the country by train. Isabel spent some days full of sightseeing and some days she dedicated to shopping, but she bought mostly books and some DVDs, and some clothes as well.

After five days Isabel packed all of her belongings in her suitcase, took the tube to Kingís Cross and headed for Cambridge. Her host family had recommended a B&B over there which belonged to friends of them; she had booked a room there for two nights. At the station in Cambridge Isabel took a taxi to the B&B where she left her suitcase. After having a cup of tea with her landlady, she decided to take a look at the old town. The weather was really nice and despite all the prejudices people have, there had not been a single rainy day in Britain since she arrived. Quite cold it was, but surprisingly dry

She was really impressed by the old houses and the college buildings. Isabel did not have a particular plan what she wanted to look at, but somehow she was drawn to the canal. There was a bridge and she saw some students standing there who were advertising punting tours through the canal. Isabel had always wanted to go on a punting tour, so she decided to do that. There seemed to be nobody else who was interested in it, but Isabel went down to where the tickets were sold.

"Hi, love, how can I help you?"

"Hi, Iíd love to go punting, but there seems to be no one else, so maybe Ö"

"Donít worry. Weíll wait for another ten minutes and if nobody comes, youíll have a private tour."

"Wow, thatís awesome. Thank you."

Isabel paid and sat down waiting till a young man approached her.

"Iím afraid youíre my only guest today. I hope you donít mind. At least I donít. Iím Jason."

"No, not at all. Nice to meet you Jason, Iím Isabel. I hope itís not too much trouble to go punting with only one customer."

"Itíll be a pleasure, I can assure you. Now, if you please come aboard."

"Okay, letís go then."

On the boat Jason outlined the tour and then the set off. Isabel did not have much time to look at Jason, but while he was steering the boat expertly through the canal she took a closer look. He seemed to be slightly older than her and did not look particularly British. He had short brown hair and a nice tan, and he wore a shirt which showed that his body was not in a bad shape at all. The punting seemed to be a good training.

Slowly their little boat got closer to Trinity College. Jason stopped to tell Isabel its history. She took out her camera and took some photos trying to get Jason on them as well. She would be able to tell her friends how gorgeous British men looked like.

"So where are you from?"

"Thatís a bit complex. My fatherís Spanish, but my mother is Irish. I live in Switzerland, Geneva."

"Thatís interesting. Me, thatís a boring story. I was born in Yorkshire and came to Cambridge to study, where I am now, end of story."

"Could be worse, right?"

"Indeed, but it could be more exciting." He smiled revealing a slightly chipped front tooth which made him look quite sexy.

"Yeah, I suppose it could, but punting is exciting, isnít it? Did you ever fall out of the boat?"

"No, so far Iíve always managed to stay inside, but at the beginning it was quite a challenge; especially when there are many people punting on weekends."

Jason steered the boat towards an odd-looking bridge and told a funny story about it. Isabel took out her camera to take a few shots.

"You could actually just ask me, if you want me in the picture."

"I could, but is it really that obvious? Just kidding. My friends back home need proof that British people can be good-looking and not everyone has fair hair and is incredibly pale, or looks like Prince Charles."

"They have never been to Britain, have they? But whatís your boyfriend going to say?"

"I donít have a boyfriend, so no need to bother."

"Okay, where do you want me to be in your picture? Next to the college, in the water, no, just kidding itís not warm enough to take a bath."

"Could you stand at the end of the boat, right just like that? Donít fall in!"

"I wonít, remember Iím an expert. But donít make me look ugly."

"Thatís nearly impossible. Oh my Gosh, your girlfriend will be jealous."

"She was, but then she was the one who left me. Nobody will be jealous; well maybe my friends, if I tell them that I had a really attractive customer and that she was the only one in my boat."

"Yeah, right."

"Are you in England all by yourself?"

"Yes, nobody else dared to come. The weather is not a good reputation for this beautiful country. Neither are British men, as I told you. Italy and Greek with their crowded beaches outmatched me and the UK."

They continued to talk and eventually came to place where the punting boats would usually turn.

"Do you want me to go on? I could talk to my boss. Iím sure he wonít mind. Thereís no one else here and youíre a paying customer. We can split whatever youíd have to pay for this extra ride. Okay?"

"Deal."

Jason called his boss who did not mind and then they went on.

"Have you ever been here?"

"Of course, but itís been a while since the last time."

Jason stopped the boat after a while and they sat down next to each other. It was really nice and Isabel felt extremely comfortable. The talked for some time until it suddenly started raining and they decided to get back to the punting pier.

As the rain got heavier Jason did his best to go fast and still managed to keep the boat in the centre of the canal. Suddenly another boat was in front of them and the people in it seemed unable to steer it into either direction. Jason tried to stop their boat, but they were going too fast and the other punt was blocking the canal. They could not avoid the unavoidable and the boats crashed, not to hard, but not insignificantly either.

Isabel and Jason were thrown into the water and one or two people of the other boat as well. The canal was not that deep, but deeper than one might expect. As Isabel surfaced she took a look around. The people of the boat they had crashed into were laughing, probably they were drunk. The ones who were in the water were splashing water at the ones still in the boat. Jason appeared next to her looking quite cute actually, but visibly bothered. Their boat was at the side of the canal.

Isabel and Jason went back to their punt and climbed in. Jason helped her before he lifted himself up. Their oar was floating next to the punt. Jason took it and steered past the other boat. "Donít go punting, if you canít steer a boat!" he shouted as they went past.

"Look, Iím terribly sorry about that. I should not have gone that fast, but since it was raining I wanted us to reach the pier without getting too wet. I guess that did not work out", he said smiling.

"Not really, but never mind. At least weíre okay."

"Iím glad you are alright, I would not want to be responsible for you getting hurt."

"Donít worry. Youíre okay too, right?"

"Mostly, yes, apart from the fact that I lost one of my contact lenses in the water."

"Oh, Iím sorry about that. Are you sure youíre alright?"

"Never mind, though, I can still see enough to bring you to the pier safely. I donít need a guide-dog. I could go punting with my eyes closed and not crashing into anything unless somebodyís blocking my way."

They got back to the pier in no time at all. By the time they got out of the boat it was raining heavily, but since they could not get much wetter anymore they were in no hurry to leave.

"Uh, listen Ö would you like to come over to my place for a cup of coffee, once youíve got changed."

"Sure, Iíd love to. Just you tell me where you live and Iíll be there."

"Okay, do you have a map? Iíll show it to you."

Isabel took out a small map. Jason looked at it and pointed at a street. "I live right there, number 45. Just ring the bell."

"When shall be there? In an hour?"

"Yeah, thatís fine. See you."

They parted and Isabel went back to the B&B. Jason got onto his bike and went to his place slowly. His vision was not that bad with only one eye corrected, but he did not want to take any risks. Especially not since Isabel was coming over. He was still angry about losing the contact lens, but he could not do anything about it now. It had been his last pair, which really bothered him. As there was nothing he could do about it, he put on his glasses after having a shower. He looked at himself in the mirror. Not that bad, he thought, at least I can see.

At the B&B Isabel took a shower and put on dry clothes. She had really enjoyed her day in Cambridge so far apart from getting completely wet and now Jason had invited her to his place. It could not get any better now, could it? She did not have anything fancy to put on. She did not really take many fancy things with her when travelling. Isabel chose something she liked wearing a lot and was pleased with the way she looked.

An hour later Isabel was standing in front of Jasonís door, ringing the doorbell. Jason had been standing at the window waiting for her to come. Once more he looked at himself in the mirror. If only I did not need these glasses, he sighed, but he knew that without them there might be some really embarrassing moments and since she knew he had lost one lens, she might expect him to be in glasses anyway. Jason took a deep breath and opened the door.

Isabel was about to give up ringing when the door finally opened and she nearly could not make it to the door because she was smitten. Jason looked incredibly gorgeous and the glasses he was wearing made him even more irresistible. Wow, what a cutie, she thought, as she went to the door.

"Hello Jason. I found the way!"

"Hi Isabel, Iím glad youíre here. Come on in."

"Nice glasses."

"Thank you, well I didnít have a spare pair of contacts, so if I want to see properly I donít really have much of a choice."

"You look good, donít worry about it."

"Great, so are you up for a cup of Cafe Lattť? Iím famous for that."

"If thatís true, itíd be foolish not to accept it."

Over steaming mugs the sat down in Jasonís living room. His flat was rather small, but cosy and Isabel liked it.

"The coffee is delicious. Whatís your secret?"

"I add some chocolate and some chilli to make it sweet and hot. But only for special guests."

"Hot it is."

"Yes, so hot that my glasses are fogged."

"It looks quite funny."

"It is weird. Iím not really used to wearing them that much."

"Why not? Are contacts lenses that much better?"

"Well, not really. I only wear my lenses when I go out and need to see something, like work or university. Most of the time I donít bother and walk around bare-eyed. My eyes are really not that bad except at night."

"Why did you choose to wear them now?"

"I wanted to see you clearly."

"Iím honoured. Listen, I think the weather is quite nice now. Why donít you show me the Cambridge that tourists donít get to see?"

"Sure, Iíd love to. I hope you donít mind sitting behind me on the bike? Because bikes are what Cambridge is about. More bikes than inhabitants I use to joke."

"Donít worry. Letís go before the sun set."

Jason and Isabel went out of the house and Jason took Isabel to the most fascinating places of the town. And he had some stories to tell and some myths the students had made up. Isabel put her arms around his waist and enjoyed her special tour. Isabel took out her camera which had survived the wet afternoon on the punt and started taking pictures while they were moving. From time to time they would stop to take a better look at the buildings. Isabel took photos of Jason and he took photos of her; and they even asked some passers-by to take photos of them.

As it grew dark Jason stopped the bike under a huge tree and they sat down. They were exhausted, but happy.

"I think the punting tour was the best thing that could have happened to me today."

"Yeah, but imagine you had a different guide. Of course that would have been impossible because I was the only one on duty who laid an eye on you."

"Maybe the other guide wouldnít have crashed into another punt."

"And maybe he wouldnít have invited you for a cup of coffee."

"And taken me on this grand tour."

"I guess you made a good choice."

"Iím sure I did."

Slowly they were moving closer until the kissed. After a few seconds they drew apart to make sure the other one did not regret it. Seeing each othersí smiles they kissed again until it got too cold and Jason suggested returning to his flat. While he was preparing something to eat Isabel uploaded the photos on his computer.

After a snack Jason was really curious to take a look at the pictures. Some of them were really bad, but most were quite good. They started with the ones from the punting tour and went on chronologically. When they reached the photos of their bike tour Jason commented, "Oh my God, Iíve been wearing glasses all the time and didnít realise it. You mustnít show them to my buddies."

"I donít even know your buddies and I have to admit that you look incredibly hot in glasses."

"Youíre right itís not that bad, actually. I canít believe I didnít realise I had been wearing them all the time."

"Surprise, surprise, you were able to see."

"Ha-ha, well, youíre right, but you could have told me. I canít believe there are so many pictures of me in glasses."

"Accept it. And think about it. If I hadnít wanted you in glasses, I certainly would have told you, wouldnít I?"

"Come to think of it, I guess you would. Anyway, the photos arenít that bad. I might get used to seeing me like that, but only under one condition."

"Which is?"

"You have to be around as well" he grinned. "Just kidding, but you have to stay here with me for a couple of days."

"Do I? Is this an invitation? Well, I guess I have to disappoint my hosts, but Iím sure they wonít mind, especially if come over to have breakfast. What do you think?"

"Sounds good to me!"

Isabel would have never imagined her holidays to be like that. Neither had Jason, but they spent a fabulous time together and after some months of long-distance relationship Isabel moved to the UK.

BACK