met husband #1 when I was nineteen.
I had saved money to go to America for the summer, a longtime dream of mine. I’d wanted to go to San Francisco, but my uncle had poo-pooed the idea, saying too many French people hung out there. He set me up instead with his old-time friend John, who lived on Long Island. I would take care of the kids along with another French girl, Stephanie, and do some odd jobs.
The house on Duck Pond Road was something out of the movies. A rambling Cape Cod–style complete with wraparound porch, peeling paint, and five cars. I got to drive the Jeep truck and the Jaguar—a nice change from my mom’s old Peugeot. The kids were cute and not too much work since I shared duties with Fanny (a nickname we quit using on learning “fanny” had another meaning).
There was another guest in the house, but my English comprehension wasn’t a hundred percent then and I didn’t fully get what he was doing there. His bedroom was off the kitchen, not upstairs like ours. More to the point, he was 6’4”, blue-eyed, with shoulders tanned and broad from building the fence. He was a “Kiwi.” I had no idea where New Zealand was on the map, let alone what a Kiwi was, but I became very interested very fast.
I learned that Craig was “bumming around the world,” which meant he was traveling on the cheap, staying at friends’ friends’ friends’ places, earning money with occasional jobs. Ah! A globetrotter! An explorer! An adventurer! So worldly and so wise! (He was turning twenty-five.)
I’d always longed to escape my little Parisian suburb and to travel far and wide. Between that and the above-described suntan/shoulders/blue eyes, I was done for. It took three or four long weeks to find out, with utter surprise, that he too was interested in me. He winked at me while riding a merry-go-round at the fair. Since he was a pilot in New Zealand, he’d chosen to scrunch his long legs into the kiddy airplane, holding the tiny joystick and flashing his perfect teeth at every turn. That is how I learned the word “wink.” John mumbled, “Huh, Craig winked at you.” I had to ask what “wink” meant. When he showed me, I could deduct that the interest was mutual.
From wink to bed took a lot less time. One free afternoon we drove the open jeep to a semi-private beach. Craig was floating on an inflatable raft, avoiding the jellyfish, his tanned skin and blue eyes shimmering in the sun. I got in the water to join him. He hoisted me up on the tiny raft with his natural, gentle ease, flashing his perfect teeth. And we kissed.
I wasn’t a virgin, having had a couple of mediocre teenage experiences. But I discovered hot sex that summer on Long Island. By then John had kicked Craig out of the house—he didn’t want any nonsense with his French wards—so we would meet in a friend’s basement where he was crashing. And it was hot. The summer heat, and our two young bodies going at it like I had never experienced. I don’t remember orgasms, but excitement? A-plenty. Sex, sweat, skin sliding on skin, repeat. Smoking cigarettes in bed and eating cereal out of the box because we were starving but didn’t want to leave the room.
Very soon after that, we were on a real airplane to backpack around the world together. Law studies be damned, I could always get back to university later, but I was NOT going to miss out on this love-and-world-tour adventure.
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