It’s a Monday, 8am, and the tram’s packed and sweltering. My eyes are drooping, tired, really really tired. The night before spent listening to beeps and smelling disinfectant, in accident and emergency at Hopital Pasteur, it had stretched out while the doctors and I took care of Frankie. The man who had come to my house the night before was the latest man she had been seeing, and since her family were all back in Devon, when the paramedics had asked him if she had anyone who might need to know she had had a seizure, he remembered me. Apparently, she had tried to say “Please tell Rory!”, but he had been so distressed the best he could remember was that I was English.
I had made a few acquaintances in my time here, French, English, Spanish, and even Italian, but I had connected most with Frankie. She was a reminder of home, and a woman pushing on the same path of adventure as I was. It was terrifying, moving to this city, a twenty-two-year-old graduate, and a girl because that did matter here. The comments from men on the street at the tall ginger girl walking past them felt complimentary at first but now they were just intimidating and irritating. Frankie and I had met at a Cafe in Place Garibaldi, very cliche I know. She was reading a novel I knew and loved, ‘Love Iris’, so I assumed she spoke, or at least read English. I wandered over to her and struck up a conversation about it, we sat there, and coffee progressed to Sauvignon Blanc as the sunset, until we found ourselves sat on the beach sharing a bottle of cheap rose and reminiscing about home, pebbles uncomfortable under our legs but wine numbing the sensation.
Frankie fit in better here. Her Italian father had given her a far more Mediterranean complexion, and she was far softer on the eye than I was. It’s hard not to draw attention to yourself as a five foot ten woman with pale skin and a streak of freckles across an upturned nose, matching my vibrant red hair. She spoke better French and could flirt with a waiter or bartender from a mile away. When we went out, people stared and made comments, but when it was just she and I and sometimes the band of misfit girls she had brought along from her language class, or the Spanish girl from my building, we were pleasant company. It could be so lonely in that idyllic apartment, but she was now a fast friend. I’d spent the first few months here alone, drinking cheap beer, reading and spending my life at my desk, with no one but the man at the till in the supermarket for conversation.
The doctor had told me she had slipped on the rocks while wandering towards the sea with her boyfriend Henri. She had fractured her wrist and damaged her first two vertebrae. She had been knocked out by the fall and the whole ordeal sounded rather traumatic. I had stayed in the hospital with her that night and crawled home at 6am to get ready for work. This tram’s weaving through the rush hour riddled streets was making my tired stomach sway, nauseous. I was exhausted but glad to know Frankie had company all night. Disgruntled her ‘boyfriend’ had left to go to bed while I stayed to keep an eye on her.
I was stood in the front carriage, arm numb from holding tight onto the rail, sweat pearling on my forehead, a child whining in a thick Parisienne accent to his mother next to me. As we reached the penultimate stop, before my desk sat looming five floors above in commercial Nice waiting to greet me, I was clobbered around the shoulder by a guitar case.
“Pardon!”, I huffed. He had earphones in and didn’t hear me. He turned slightly and as I caught his eye, I realized he was the busker from the Cathedral square.