Summer Girl, Winter Boy(8)

By: Barbara Elsborg


“I’m used to driving here, don’t worry.”

He accelerated, overtaking everything regardless of whether he could see ahead or not. Well, that was what everyone else did. Not just in Colombia but in every country she’d visited on this trip.

“Don’t prove Javier right,” she said.

Piero laughed and swerved around a guy on a scooter, sending a cloud of dust swirling over the rider.

“Could you slow down a touch?” she asked, regretting the words the moment they left her mouth because no man liked to have his driving skills questioned.

“You won’t make the plane if I don’t hurry.”

She wouldn’t make the plane at all if they ended up soaring out over that deep ravine. Didn’t even have to be that. They could hit a rock on the rough road, flip over and she could die in an instant. Anxiety gnawed at her gut. When Piero accelerated again, her heart thumped faster. She didn’t understand why they hadn’t set off sooner if they were short on time, but that was the Colombian way, always late for everything. And not just in Colombia.

Not long after she’d arrived in Peru, she’d been invited to the home of a renowned expert on climate change, and when she’d knocked on the door at eight, the man and his wife had looked at her in astonishment. Apparently an invitation for eight meant arrive no earlier than nine thirty and the meal wouldn’t begin until an hour after that. She learned it was better to eat before she went out for a meal.

They shot round a bend to find a bus looming in front of them and her foot slammed on an imaginary brake. Piero shot her a glance and grinned.

“The road,” Summer gasped. “Don’t look at me. Look at where we’re going.”

She tried to close her eyes again but it made her too nauseous. Instead she fixed her gaze on the sky, solid-gray nimbostratus, thick and featureless.

“You going to come back?” he asked and swerved hard, flinging her into the door.

“If I stay alive long enough to leave.”

He sniggered.

“One day.” She sighed. “I’m a little in love with South America. Every country I visited was wonderful.”

“But not me.”

Summer tensed. “I told you the very first time you asked me out that I wouldn’t get involved with anyone. It wasn’t just you.”

Piero accelerated past a slow lorry and pulled in again. “You were hurt. I don’t know how but I understand you’re letting your heart mend. Are you better now?”

“I don’t know.” She gave an honest answer.

He glanced across. “I wish you’d let me make you better.”

But what Piero offered wouldn’t make her better. He was a nice guy, a kind guy, a smothering sort of guy and not her type.

“I have a feeling you didn’t find what you came here for,” he said.

“Yep, I did. My research—”

“I’m not talking about your work.”

Summer swallowed hard. “I found peace.” Which was true.

“But not happiness.” He put his hand on her knee and she froze.

She didn’t deserve happiness. He lifted his hand back to the wheel and she relaxed again.

“I had a lovely weekend, Piero. Thank you so much for inviting me to stay with your family.”

“They all love you, Little Miss English Cloud Spotter.”

Summer calmed further at his teasing.

“You even managed to silence my mother when you spotted that roll cloud. Well, not when you spotted it, when you explained what it was in your beautiful Spanish.”

She laughed. “I do get carried away.”

“That’s what I love about you.”

Oh god.

“Let me see if I have this right.” Piero glanced at her. “A roll cloud has the shape of a low, horizontal tube and is caused by cool air sinking from a storm cloud’s downdraft, which spreads out and undercuts warm air being pulled into the updraft. The cool air lifts the warm moist air and clouds form that roll under the winds coming from above and below.”

She swallowed hard. “Perfect,” she said.

“Ah, if only I was.”

*

They reached Bogota Airport in plenty of time for the flight to Cancun. Summer had a long journey ahead of her. From Cancun to Philadelphia and from there to London.