From Boulevard Jean Jaures down to Rue Alexandre Mari the moonlight fell on everything, like a painter had dragged his brush, daubing the puddles from the evening showers so the water shimmied and twinkled as the people splashed through. Vieux Nice bustled with drinkers and diners and people sipping espressos on rickety tables.
The long queues had diminished from the charcuteries and the flower market detritus had been swept and gathered in wet piles. They had walked from the north end of the Promenade de Anglais along Quai de Etats-Unis stopping to lie on the grey pebbled beach and watch the planes bank along the coast towards to airport. Now they sat beneath the stripy canopy of a bistro with a bottle of merlot.
Waiters chattered loudly and hurried about serving the patrons, running up and down the sawdust covered steps to the kitchen balancing plates of fish and rice, and delicious fluffy slices of lemon meringue pie. The merlot warmed them and made them feel content. They drank it slowly, the ambiance intoxicating in itself.
The long windows opened onto a tree-lined street, providing a cool morning breeze upon their faces, their bodies warm and entwined beneath the white duvet. They awoke sleepily within minutes of each other, made love slowly and slept some more. Later they ate croissants, ham and cheese, and drank coffee in the shady courtyard of the hotel.
They fed crumbs to yellow finches that hopped about the floor, grabbing the crumbs boldly and flitting off their little wings flapping madly. The sun was strong and the patch of blue above the courtyard was cloudless. They spoke of taking a boat trip from Nice along the coast to Monaco and back, so they walked to the port and waited for a mini cruise.
They boarded with a gaggle of tourists who smiled at them thinking how nice they looked together. They were tanned and happy, and it showed. The water splashed their legs and feet as they hung them over the edge of the deck, their arms folded over each other’s on the bannister. The salty wind blew their hair off their faces and they closed their eyes and looked in the direction of the boat towards the horizon.
The boat followed the coast past Antibes and Ville Franche and they pointed to the beautiful villas high in the hilltops, the little blue squares of pools promising long, lazy days of decadence. They kissed and laughed, pretending the biggest one was theirs and that after the cruise they would go back, swim naked in the pool, lie on the sun loungers, drink cold rose, and make love in the sunshine where no one could see them.
The boat slowed down and bobbed about in a bay. The tourists stripped to their swimming costumes and dived into the twinkling waters. They stripped too, and jumped in holding hands. Snorkels and goggles were handed down to them by the crew and they put them on to watch the colourful fish skit about beneath them. Some swam over the beach and wandered up over the rocks and explored the small bay.
They clambered back onto the boat and the crew passed around cold beers that they drank thirstily. They kissed and smiled; they could taste each other’s beery salty lips. The bobbing of the boat and the beer made them sleepy. They laid back on the deck and slept for a while. The engines began rumbling under them, waking them. They sat up to see the bay moving further away from them.
They kissed and looked at each other. They both felt happy and a little sad at the same time. “The suffering of happiness,” they said, “why does it always have to end.”
“Because everything does,” she said. Everything has a beginning and an end. They looked at the horizon in the direction of the boat and held each other’s hands.