Carolyn North
- Excerpt From Danilo
from Danilo: a coming-of-age story that takes place
in France, in the '60s, between a 19 year old
American girl and a 21 year old Czech refugee guy
who meet as hitchikers in Chartres:


"Andiamo," he grunted, hefting his pack to lead the way from the
middle of the road toward the tree-lined stream. The only thing I
could do was follow his lead.

A clear, bouldery stream spun a lazy course through a wildflower-
and oak-studded meadow, and we could hear its gurgle before we
could see it. It was a storybook brook with rills and clearwater
pools, its banks trailing with wild honeysuckle and pink vervain, and
flowering grasses that came right up to its edge. With each
footstep we crushed fragrant mint and chamomile, and birdsong
and running water was the music of the air.

"Voilà!" Dani exclaimed, shrugging off his backpack. "This is my
church!" With a single motion he pulled his shirt over his head and
shook out his arms, inviting me to do the same. I lowered my pack
to the ground, trying not to stare at his smooth, muscled arms and
the forest of dark hair massed on his chest. I wondered if his pants
were going to come off next.

Suddenly shy, I froze up and couldn't feel a thing. What a hopeless
oaf I was! What was a girl supposed to do now, especially if she
had never seen a boy naked before?
My heart was beating in my throat.
Dani probably had all kinds of experience, and since I had agreed
to go hitchhiking with him, he must have assumed that I did too. It
was too embarrassing to admit to him that even though I was
almost twenty I was still a virgin. He stood there half naked and took
stock of the situation, and then gently opened his arms to me. Fully
clothed, my heart in my mouth, I moved right into them.
Our hug must have lasted an hour. We held onto each other as if for
dear life, swaying and rubbing and murmuring nonsensical words.
When we finally parted, weak-kneed with desire, we walked hand-
in-hand to a willow by the stream, took off our boots and sat
dangling our feet in the cool running water. He raised a questioning
eyebrow at me.
"I've neverŠ" I confessed. "Toi?" He nodded, his face so full of
longing that I lowered my eyes.
"Yes, but not for a while. When I was in the refugee camp I was a
wild man, but now I am-ahem-more discriminating. Et, tu est une
innocente, toi?"
"Extremely innocent," I confessed with an embarrassed giggle.
"Stupid, in fact."
"It's not so stupid to be a virtuous woman," he stated. "Anyhow, I
happen to find virtue very attractive." We laughed, me rather
uneasily.
For the next hour or more we sat and lay by the stream barely
touching, talking about love and sex, our pasts, and his college
girlfriend, Rosa, who had been his only real lover.
"She finally dumped me," he confessed with a grin. "She wanted
babies and I was too much of a rogue for marriage." He gave me a
playful leer and I pretended to shrink in fear-maybe more than
pretended. In fact, I was scared out of my wits as my body yearned
for him and then seized up in alternating currents.
I told him about my occasional boyfriends, and my crush on my high
school gym teacher-a woman-and the boy I had said yes to before I
had the guts to say no and hand him back his ring.
"And you never made love with him?"
"No-I didn't love him, so I couldn't," I tried to explain. "I knew it
wasn't love because I didn't feel about him the way I had felt about
my dog Dukie!" Dani flopped onto his back and roared with
laughter. I laughed too and added, "When I broke the engagement I
told him that, and he was so insulted he stomped out of the house
and never came back!"
"Oh, deliciously delicious!" he cried. "Tell me all about Dukie right
now!"
And so the day passed in stories and laughter, hugging and
kissing. By the time he stood up, unzipped his pants, and leaped
into the water naked, I think I had told him everything about my love
life there was to tell-which was not very much, after all. And he let
me know that he was attracted to me but would never push me in
any way. I nodded gratefully, too shy to do more than that.
For the rest of the day, he in his skin and me in my tank-top bathing
suit, we played in and out of the stream. We floated on our backs
with the current, paddling around rocks that jutted out of turbulent
water; we treaded in deep pools where fish nibbled on our toes; we
waded upstream, feeling the currents slip around us. He picked a
bouquet of watery wildflowers from the bank-white and pink and
yellow-and presented them to me with a bow. I plucked vervain and
buttercups, tucking them into his wet hair like a crown of flowers.
When we got waterlogged we sunbathed on the bank, and when
we got overheated we jumped back into the stream.
It was hunger that finally forced us onto dry land. My towel became
the tablecloth, and we set our table on the grassy verge with a
baguette and Camembert, ripe tomatoes, and watercress
gathered from the shallows of the stream. Tepid water from his
canteen was our wine, and a bar of melted chocolate from my pack
our ambrosia.
When nothing was left but crumbs and their attendant ants, we
stretched out side by side on the grass and dozed, occasionally
muttering to each other. The sun's heat smoothed our skins and
relaxed our minds so that the senses in our bodies could feel their
way unobstructed through the maze of our desire. I wanted him so
much it hurt, and I had to brace against the twitching in my legs and
the insistent throbbing in my groin. He rolled over in his half sleep,
laying an arm across my belly and I moaned, turning towards him
like lodestar responding to a magnet, but when he began to
explore me with light caresses and a questing tongue I pulled back,
scared.
"It's OK." he whispered, out of breath, lying still until his breathing
settled down. I felt like an idiot girl-or only half a woman. To my
helpless shame, I was not yet ready.
Visit our Carolyn North Page to discover more about this author.

"Fate wings with every
wish th’ afflictive dart,
Each gift of nature, and
each grace of art."

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