The beat was pulsing. All around, bodies were moving to it, bumping into each other, spinning around.
Angela felt a trickle of sweat run down her neck. Her hands moved up her sides and she pulled her hair up. She let it fall back over her shoulders a moment later as she still swayed to the music. It moved her, she was completely in the zone, completely captivated by it. This outing had turned out more enjoyable than she'd have thought.
Germans still called it ‘disco,’ and it wasn’t quite like a club she knew from back home – the ones that admitted minors. Of course, this German ‘disco’ also offered beer and wine to the mostly young crowd and Angela had already made some use of the more lenient German alcohol laws.
While she was glad that her parents had respected her wish to come here alone tonight, she felt a little isolated from the crowd. Most of them were Germans, talking German – not a single English accent had yet met her ears. But in dancing, they were all just young and understood each other without words.
Angela's gaze roamed the dance floor, catching one or two pairs of eyes that turned out male and continued its search. It found a target in a stunning red-head who was watching her over the rim of her glass.
Angela threw the girl what she hoped was a sexy smile and continued dancing as if she wasn’t aware of being watched. The tune of the song changed and something older, something Angela’s mother would have liked, played. She recognized ABBA, but not the song. The crowd seemed to like it and Angela saw the red-head push off the bar and dance in her general direction. ABBA may not have been Angela’s kind of music, but it grew on her as she watched the other girl. She came closer and they were now dancing in close proximity without really dancing together.
Angela turned and passed the red-head who threw her arms up, swaying her hips.
“Voulez vous?” ABBA sang and the whole room answered with: “Ah-ha!”
Angela had to laugh, a kind of wide-spread sensuality gripped her. She danced closer to the red-head, their bodies touching as if by accident. The other girl didn’t shy away, but Angela felt her touch her arm and suddenly their hands held for a second, then released again.
The song ended, another began.
“Hi, ich bin Judith!” the red-head yelled into her ear to be heard.
Angela shook her head. “Sorry, no German!”
Judith held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Angela.” As Angela shook her hand Judith pulled her toward the bar. She ordered two beers and gave one to Angela.
Judith merely nodded and her eyes dived into hers for just a moment, before they were both roused by somebody laying an arm over Judith’s shoulders. It was a tall, lanky guy with shaggy blond hair. He said something to Judith which Angela couldn’t understand because of the noise, though she was sure that it was German and she wouldn’t have understood anyway.
Judith pushed the young man away from her, rolling her eyes at him and saying something that sounded like: “Hör schon auf.” Then she leaned closer to Angela, saying: “That’s Hannes. He’s from school.”
Angela smiled at him, not too friendly, but it was all the encouragement he needed as he reached for her hand and pulled her close. His thumb caressed the back of her hand. “Na du,” he said into her ear.
“I don’t speak German, sorry,” Angela told him and looked at Judith.
“No German? Well, I speak a little English. No worries.” Hannes seemed determined to occupy her attention when Judith talked to him in German. Angela didn’t understand but he started looking around himself. Judith pointed toward the door and he walked away in that direction.
“He’s going to look for some friends,” Judith explained to Angela who nodded.
“You’re from here then, Koblenz?”
“Yes, I am. You’re obviously not from here. Where are you from?” Her English was a little formal but she didn’t have much of an accent – Hannes had one.
“Salt Lake City, it’s…”
“Utah, right?” Judith interrupted with a smile.
“Germans know so much about America. I wasn’t even entirely sure where Germany was before my parents suggested we spend our vacation in Europe.”
Judith laughed. “Well, I’m not sure where Utah is, either, so we’re kind of even. Is it in the middle?”
“More to the west, next to California.”
Angela shook her head, but smiled. She found her eyes captivated by Judith’s, the intense blue making her dizzy, or maybe it was the alcohol she was not used to.
“So, how do you like it here so far?” Judith asked.
Angela shrugged. “It’s okay, not quite Paris, though.”
Judith looked bewildered, obviously confused about the connection of her hometown to Paris.
“I wanted to vacation in Paris.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s certainly a nicer spot than our little corner of the world,” Judith agreed.
“Well, my mom wanted to go to England, my dad to Italy. Mom had the brilliant idea of writing down some destinations and draw. The results were Spain and Germany.”
“Spain is nice. We went to Barcelona a couple of years ago. It was great, I still have a letter friend from back then.”
“Letter… oh, a pen pal.” They both laughed at the mistake.
“Yes, a pen pal. Her name is Lucia.”
Angela nodded. “It was okay there, but it was too hot and we left early. I mean, how do you enjoy your holidays when you can’t move because of the heat? It was oppressing, and my dad got this rash. We still don’t know what that was about.”
They were interrupted when Hannes came back with a couple of friends. The girls hugged Judith and the two new boys kissed her on the cheek. Angela didn't mean to frown, but if it had been up to her they could have spent the evening just by themselves. Judith seemed lovely and her English was the best Angela had encountered since coming to Europe.
Judith introduced Angela to her friends, most of them seemed interested if not able to communicate their interest. Two of the girls didn’t seem to care for her, though to be fair, they talked only between themselves.
Hannes lay an arm around her shoulders. “Do you like to dance?” he asked.
Angela grinned and nodded. She pushed his arm from her shoulders and grabbed Judith’s hand. She led her to the dance floor as some German song started to play. Everybody seemed to know it and many sang along.
It was close to midnight when they were walking along the riverwalk. The air was still warm but a breeze from the water cooled their bodies pleasantly. Judith’s friends were walking a little way ahead of them, talking in loud German voices, laughing, obviously teasing each other quite a bit. Angela smiled at the familiarity, despite the difference in language they could have been her own friends.
Her focus was drawn to Judith when their hands brushed against each other, seemingly accidental yet not for the first time since they had left the club. ‘Disco,’ Angela reminded herself.
“So, how old are you?” Judith finally continued their conversation. The sudden quiet after leaving the noisy confinements of the disco seemed to have struck them silent.
“Just turned 18 last month.”
“Really? Happy birthday... well, late birthday. How do you say it?” Judith asked as Angela had started laughing.
“That would be happy belated birthday.”
Judith snickered. “Okay.”
“How old are you?”
“18 as well. My birthday was in March.”
“Pisces or Aries?”
“Excuse me?” Judith frowned in puzzlement.
“Your astrological sign. Which one is it? Early March would be Pisces, Aries from the 21st.”
“I was born on the 11th, so Pisces. I don’t know the astrological signs in English, sorry.” Again, their hands brushed together, it felt like a caress to Angela and goose bumps covered her arm.
“What do you call Pisces in Germany?”
“Fische, which means fish – the plural of fish is fish, right?”
“Yeah.” Angela chuckled. She wasn’t sure what was so funny, maybe it was just the slight buzz she had from the beer, or maybe it was Judith and how her attention made Angela giddy. But Judith seemed to feel the same, because she too was laughing.
“Are you interested in astrology?” Judith asked.
They watched her friends walking over to the barrier on the quay wall. They climbed it and sat one next to the other, some smoking, some drinking from a flask. Judith looked at Angela, it seemed in silent question if they should join them. Angela merely shrugged and they walked over at a leisurely pace.
“Not so much in astrology as in the fact that people made up this elaborate system of categorizing, giving people characteristics based on when they were born. It’s so fascinating to think that by breaking the time into segments they also established this massive business of horoscopes and superstitious believes that are tied to them, you know?”
“I never thought about that but you’re right. I mean, I read my horoscope on Sundays – not that I believe in it, not necessarily anyway.”
“Just the good parts?”
Judith chuckled. “Yeah, just the good parts.” She pushed her hand through her hair and looked over at Angela.
Angela held her gaze, smiling sexily - she hoped.
They were interrupted in their quiet conversation when Hannes called over to them:
“Ja?” Judith looked up and over.
Hannes pushed away from the bannister and walked toward them. He lay an arm around Judith’s shoulders, it seemed to be his habit. “Wir wollen alle noch rüber zu Benji. Er hat sturmfrei. Kommst du mit?” He didn’t whisper but he asked her in a kind of subdued voice that seemed rather uncharacteristic for him. Even Angela could tell that he was excluding her from whatever was going on right now.
Judith shrugged off Hannes’ arm, then she waved Angela toward the quay wall - a little ways away from her group of friends. Angela followed and they both leaned against the barrier.
“So...” Judith said but didn’t continue. She bit her lip, seemingly reluctant to tell Angela what Hannes had said to her.
“Let me guess, your friends want to go somewhere and they don’t want me around?”
“It’s not that, really. I mean, I’m pretty sure Hannes would very much like to have you around, but, well, they want to go over to Benji’s and... ” Instead of finishing the sentence, Judith shrugged awkwardly. “What were you going to do? I mean, do you have any plans?”
Angela looked at her watch. “I was just going to go back to the hotel. Or take a taxi, I’m not sure how far it is from here.”
“Where are you staying?”
Instead of answering, Angela took a business card from her shorts pocket and showed it to Judith. “I’m not even trying to pronounce that, but it’s where we’re staying.”
Judith nodded. “I know the place. I could walk you over, it’s not that far.”
“Don’t you want to hang out with your friends?”
“I can hang out with them every day for the next three weeks. You’re not going to be here that long, are you?”
Angela shook her head, as she took the card back from Judith and their fingers touched briefly. “We’ll be leaving on Friday, early flight.”
“Well, then... I think I’d rather spend some more time with you. If you want to, that is?”
“I’d like that,” Angela said and bit her lip to keep from smiling like an idiot. It wasn’t much use as she felt her face heating and her cheeks almost split with the giddy feeling radiating from her stomach.
“Cool, I’ll just tell them.” Judith walked over to where her friends were ready to leave. She talked to them briefly, there were some hugs involved, and she was about to come back over when one of the guys caught her by the arm. He talked to her in what Angela could only think of as an annoyed tone of voice. He pushed Judith a little away from the others and they talked alone, or rather he talked at her. In the end, Judith merely shrugged at him and came back to Angela.
“Shall we?” she asked, pointing into the direction they had come from, while her friends started walking further down the riverwalk.
“Is everything all right with your friends?”
Judith rolled her eyes. “Yeah, it’s just Benji. He’s my ex, and he sometimes thinks that he can tell me what to do. It’s annoying.”
“Your ex, huh?” Angela said quietly. They started walking and for a moment an uncomfortable silence lay over them.
“Yeah, from way back when we were 15. Things have changed since then but he still thinks he has a say in who I’m dating.”
Angela could see a light blush covering Judith’s cheeks, she took a deep breath and said:
“He doesn’t especially like that I like girls now, exclusively. He thinks it’s a waste of, well, me.” She chuckled self-deprecatingly at her English. “Well, most of the time he’s a good friend, at least when he doesn’t get all big brother on me, or jealous ex rather.” She seemed to be babbling but then she looked over at Angela, her gaze expectantly.
“So, you like girls, too?” Angela said with a slight smile.
Judith grinned and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Me, too. I mean, I’m not yet sure if it’s exclusive, but... I’ve only really dated guys so far, except, well, I had this thing... Okay, I was dating this guy from school, Matt. He’s a good guy, even though he’s a total jock. You know what a jock is?” Angela asked at Judith’s confused expression.
“Not really, no.”
“He plays football and basketball a lot. Jocks are students who do sports, mainly. But he’s nice, usually, and I liked him. And then I went to this convention and I met... Denise. She was, well, hot and we were really getting along. I guess I thought it was okay to... experiment, but it was really too little time. Well anyhow, Matt found out when he went through my phone and read some texts between us and he totally flipped – two days before prom. He broke up with me and told all my friends that I was gay now. End of story.” Angela’s meant to make it sound like no big deal, but Judith didn’t seem to buy it.
“What an asshole!”
“No, you see, he’s usually not.”
“He outed you!”
“Yeah.” Angela pushed her hands into her shorts pockets and pulled her shoulders up.
“Was it really bad?” Judith asked sympathetically.
“Not until my parents asked why I wasn’t going to prom suddenly, when I had made a big fuss over it with the dress and all.”
“You told them?”
“I had to, we’re pretty close. And they were great but, you know, just having them ask and then building up to tell them, it took years out of my life, surely. I shouldn’t be complaining, I know I’m lucky that my parents love me.”
“If Benji had done something like that, I would have tied him up and left him on our vineyard without sunscreen.”
"You own a vineyard?" Angela asked.
"Well, not me, really. But my grandparents do and we all live and work there, that is, I'm helping in summer with the tourists who stay with us."
"That's why your English is so good," Angela complimented.
Judith blushed. "I guess. It's really a lot of fun, even though it's work. Have you visited a vineyard yet? I mean, that's why you ended up here, right?"
Angela had to laugh at Judith's choice of words. She had really felt like she'd ended up here, but at least now she was making a friend. "Yeah, we came for the winetasting and stuff. My parents really like drinking wine and visit vineyards. Two years ago, we spent the summer in Nappa, in California."
Judith's face practically lit up. "I'm dying to visit there someday, too. I mean, I'm basically in the business, and it must be so awesome."
"It's pretty neat. But to answer your question, we have been to one vineyard yesterday. It was a little... disappointing. I mean, not the wine that was great, but..." Angela shrugged.
"The language barrier?"
"Yeah, and also, I mean, yeah, I love my parents, but there aren't really any guys my age around, you know? That's why I went out alone tonight."
Judith nodded. "I'm really glad you did."
Angela could see the light blush on her face as they passed under a street light. Judith turned her head toward the storefront they were passing.
"You know, you could visit our vineyard. I would be there and it wouldn't be as boring, maybe?" Judith threw her a look over her shoulder, her eyes half hidden under pale lashes.
Angela felt her heart stutter then beat violently in her chest. She knew that they were close to her hotel, because she recognized a souvenir shop she'd visited with her mom on their first day. Time was running out, but it seemed that they would be seeing each other again.
"I'd like that," she said, then bit her lip to keep from smiling. It was no use though.
"Do you think your parents would like to come too? I can arrange a tour of the vineyard and a tasting, if you think they'd like to do it."
"Are you kidding me? That's why they've come here. They would flip to have someone show them everything."
"Cool. Wait." Judith touched Angela's arm as she stopped. She pulled her phone from her pocket. "Let me give you... are you able to use your phone here?"
Angela shook her head no.
"Damn. Okay, how... wait, I think I may have a card. Just a second." She pulled her wallet from her back pocket and went through its contents. It took a while, it was a pretty thick wallet, but she found what she was looking for. She was pulling a face.
"Okay, don't judge, this is an old card. My grandpa designed it himself, it's not really good."
"Is your phone number on there? And the address?"
"Yes," Judith replied.
"Then give it here," Angela said, smiling.
Judith laughed and handed the card over.
Angela looked at it and just barely kept from laughing. It looked like something a seven year-old may have concocted with word graphics.
"It's embarrassing, I know."
"I think it's sweet that your grandfather knows how to use word. My granny doesn't even own a cell phone." Angela lay a hand on Judith's shoulder. The physical contact felt just a little awkward, but she couldn't help herself.
Judith lay her hand over Angela's and pressed it. "You can call tomorrow, if your parents maybe don't want to come or have made other plans. I'll leave a note out for my parents that you may be coming, just so they know."
"Great. We'll see each other tomorrow then. Or rather today."
They stood looking at each other for a long moment, still holding hands on Judith's shoulder. Angela felt sweat break out on her back as Judith took a step closer. Her hand convulsed on Judith's shoulder and she pulled her closer yet. And then they were kissing.
The phone had been ringing all morning, but so far the callers hadn't been Angela or related to her. Judith was getting a little restless. Had Angela just pretended to be interested in seeing her again? But then why had she kissed her? Or had she just been too polite to resist Judith's advances?
Judith let out a frustrated sigh. She'd already talked to her parents about the possibility of three people coming for a tour, but as it was summer, there really wasn't a guarantee that someone would be free to show Angela and her parents around. And her mom had asked her to tell her as soon as she knew, but until 11 at the latest. Now it was almost half past ten. If Angela...
The phone interrupted Judith's thoughts.
"Lammert Weinbau. Sie sprechen mit Judith. Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?"
"Judith, it's me."
About a million butterflies started flapping their wings inside Judith's stomach at the sound of that voice. The sudden giddy feeling errupted as a laugh.
"Hey, you called," she stated lamely and rolled her eyes at herself.
"Did you think I wouldn't?"
"I wasn't sure. I guess I kinda got nervous or stupid. I don't know."
There was a pause and Judith bit her lip. Had she said something completely off or insulting?
"Yeah, me too. I mean, nervous, not exactly sure about the stupid. I just... I wasn't sure if you'd really wanted us to visit, which would be cool. I mean, I already asked my parents and they were delighted, but if you just wanted to be nice, don't worry about it."
"Does that mean, you don't want to come?" Judith didn't understand all of what Angela had said. It had come out in a breathless ramble and Judith's English hadn't been able to keep up with it.
"No, I do. So do my parents, if you'll have us."
Judith let out a sigh of relieve. "Good, 'cause I already told my parents, so..."
"Yeah, so, when should we be at your place? My mom would also like to know what it'll cost, you know... sorry."
"Not at all. We have our usual tours during the day, but I talked my mom into doing this just for you and your folks. I'll come with, of course, and it won't cost anything. They do this all the time for their friends and relatives, too, so I asked and my mom said it was okay. So, free of charge." She'd looked that last term up. She didn't want there to be a misunderstanding.
"Wow, I feel so special," Angela said and Judith could hear the smile in her voice. Which made her smile in turn.
"Well, you are," she said, before she could stop herself and felt her cheeks heat. "I mean... you are."
Angela's chuckle told her she was being an idiot.
"You're sweet. And I think you're pretty special too. I'm telling my mom. She'll be thrilled. When should we be there?"
"Well, it's a little late to go up there before noon now. You could come around four and it should be okay, but it's actually nicer in the evening. Around seven. The winetasting will start at that time, but it's usually going until one or two, so there's plenty of time to, you know, taste it all."
"That sounds great, the evening thing. I'm not much of a wine afficionado, so maybe we could hang? Unless you've made plans with your friends, I mean--"
"No, no plans with friends. I told you, I'd rather spend time with you as long as you're here."
Another pause and Judith bit her lip again. Was she being too forward? She wasn't sure if her English was actually good enough to say what she meant.
"Great, then we'll come by around 7. Looking forward to it."
"Me too. I'll tell my parents. Will you find it okay?"
"I have your card. We'll probably be taking a taxi, so."
Judith nodded, before realizing that Angela couldn't see it. "Yeah. Well, until later then."
"Yeah. Hey, Judith?"
"Yeah?" She couldn't believe how breathless she was.
"Thanks. I'm really glad I met you, and not just because of the free wine I'm getting out of it."
Another wave of giddy made Judith laugh. "I'm glad too."
"'Kay, see you soon."
"Yeah." Judith listened for the click to tell her Angela had hung up, but it took a long moment until she did. She grinned like an idiot, she knew, but it made her inexplicably happy that Angela had obviously waited for her to hang up as well.
* * *
The day got even busier and Judith was glad for it because even between phone calls and people checking in and out, she couldn't help thinking about Angela, wondering what to wear that night, obsessing that everything was going to go smoothly. Her mother, smiling and indulgent in the morning, was slowly losing her temper with her by afternoon as she kept reminding her about the tour. Her dad seemed puzzled by the commotion, but he had his own tour to guide in the evening.
He didn't even know why they had to leave earlier than usual, but since everybody had arrived by a quarter to seven he led them out the back door and up the hill - just moments before Angela and her family came in the front door.
Judith looked down at her t-shirt and shorts, which she had worn all day - rumbled, sweaty. She sighed. She had so hoped she could change before they got here.
"Hey," Angela said, leaving her parents standing by the door as she came closer.
"Hey, there you are."
"We're a little early, sorry."
Judith smiled. "That's okay. My mom will be here in a minute." She then turned to Angela's parents. "Welcome to our vineyard. I'm Judith."
Angelas's parents came closer. They were smiling. Angela's mom shook Judith's hand warmly. "It's good to meet you. I'm Sarah, and this is my husband Ben. Thank you so much for the invitation."
"Well, Angela said you'd be interested and it's really no big deal." There was a semi-awkward pause as they were now looking at each other, maybe assessing each other. Judith felt like she was put under a microscope, but thankfully her mother just came down the stairs at that moment.
"Hello and welcome," she said. Judith made the introductions and this time it was Angela who had to endure a moment's scrutiny.
They set out, following the bigger group of Germans Judith's dad led. Her mom explained the winemaking process to Sarah and Ben while she and Angela lagged a little behind.
"You and your mom shouldn't have gone to all that trouble. We could've gone with that other group, you know?"
"It's easier this way because they all speak German. If there had been any English speakers, it would've been one group because my dad doesn't speak English. But it tends to get a little confusing when two people try to explain things in two different languages. I thought it would be better this way."
Angela nodded, a smile on her lips. "Your mom's English is very good."
"Well, she has done the tour about a million times. She knows the words, I mean, the wine vocabulary..." Judith wasn't sure how to put this, it must have shown on her face.
"Yeah, I guess. It's more difficult for her talking to people on the phone, making arrangements for rooms. We rent rooms, too," she explained. "Do you speak another language?"
"Not really. I tried to learn some Spanish for this trip, but... I don't know, I didn't quite get the hang of it."
Judith nodded, then looked up to see her mother gesticulating at her to keep up. "Looks like my mom needs me to explain something now." They joined their parents and it took a little time to translate a question Ben had had and her mom's answer. They kept close for the remainder of the tour since Ben had a bunch of questions. He seemed really interested in every aspect of winemaking and owning a vineyard - or maybe he was just a little overprotective of Angela, which was what Judith suspected.