By day students of all nations and continents were harvesting apples and plums on the fruit plantations of Tiptree, a village near Colchester. By night they were eagerly creating intimate international bonds under the roofs of their rustic accommodations provided by the National Union of Students.
Nando was a handsome young man, dark blonde hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders and the pronounced self-confidence of a true Milanese. One might say he was maybe just a little taken by himself.
Of course he was a favorite with the girls, and it was no wonder that he could not understand at all, why Jean, his girl-friend, always was accompanied by a friend. A circumstance that had a detrimental effect on the development of the encounter at late night.
“Nando siamo amici, nevero - what are friends good for”, replied Richard, when Nando complained about his fate.
“I come along and take care of her friend.”
This spontaneous offer was no sacrifice at all for Richard. To be quite honest he was even keen to do Nando this favor. Jean was a beauty. Her body was like the statue of an antique goddess, her skin white as snow, her red hair a curly mane, and her eyes green like the meadows of Ireland where she was born.
Not that Richard wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to make her aware of his existence. That idea never crossed his mind. He was a true friend, a realist too, and he knew that he was no rival for Nando. What motivated him was the somewhat audacious assumption that Jean’s friend had to have the same attributes as she herself.
On the evening of their rendezvous at “The Anchor”, one of the two pubs in the village, Richard put on carefully washed Levis and a T-shirt imported from Texas, that proclaimed “ I ain´t nobody´s fool.” and assumed he was almost as irresistible as Nando.
They arrived a little late at the pub, because Nando had trouble finding his hidden money, and Jean was already waiting surrounded by several young men of the camp. There were also some girls, but one glance was enough to see that no one could rival with Jean.
A promise is a promise, Richard thought and prepared himself to spend the evening with a girl he was not interested in.
Nando gave Jean a hug and whispered something in her ear. Jean looked at Richard smiling. Actually she should have known him. After all they lived in the same camp, but her expression showed that right now she had noticed him for the first time.
No wonder taking in account the number of young men who tried to catch her attention, while Richard always had pretended not to see her. They greeted each other like friends, and he was comfortable in her company, and they chatted a little.
“Oh” she said after a while, “Nando told me you want to meet my friend.”
“Marjorie”, she called.
Richard was curious to find out who would react to that name and just hoped it was not the fat girl who had been keeping an eye on him ever since he had arrivedl.
A white T-shirt emerged out of the cloud of cigarette smoke. One could not overlook that it was filled generously. Then he saw the head. A mane of kinky black hair framed an equally black face.
Nando gave Richard a stealthy glance.
Richard smiled and welcomed Marjorie, as if he had expected her and nobody else but her. By no means this required a major effort on his part. Even though Marjorie was not Jean’s double in any way, as he had expected, she definitely looked great. Besides she had a lovely smile. He liked her Caribbean accent, her gracious movements. Her voice bewitched him.
After the pub closed he invited Marjorie for a stroll through the plantation. The night had grown cool under the apple trees. Sometimes Marjorie leaned a little on Richard. He inhaled longingly the scent of her skin.
Nearby they heard the dull humming of a one string bass, made of a broomstick and a washing powder container, accompanied by a real conga. In front of a barn a little fire was burning surrounded by boys and girls of the camp. Bottles and joints were passed around. Wenche from Norway sang “summertime”.
When Richard and Marjorie came out of the dark they were greeted with raging applause. Wenche began to sing “when the saints go marching in”. Marjorie put her arm around Richard’s hip. He embraced her and kissed her, long and yearning.