One girl and two motor-teams (the title is (again) a tribute to MV comic title nr. 25; Des filles et des moteurs)
When Steve and Jean-Pierre re-entered the box some twenty minutes later, they found Elisabeth waiting for them, a video tape in her hand. "Mes garçons, I want to show you something..." she told them. "This security-tape shows a conversation between me and a motorbike driver. I was wondering if you two know her." She put the tape in a VCR and on the screen appeared a black and white image of Kathy and Elisabeth talking. She stopped the tape at a clear shot of Kathy's face. "She looks vaguely familiar, Madame Vaillant, but you should know, the minute I asked Gabrielle to marry me, I forgot all other women in the world; well except for you of course..." "You're an incorrigible flatterer garçon!" "I know her..." Jean-Pierre said thoughtfully, "It's that... waitress, n'est pas? It's... it's... what's her name..." At that moment Michel, together with his father joined them. One glance at the screen and Michel inhaled sharply: "June?" "Yeah! That's it. Does she drive?" Jean-Pierre asked turning to look at him. Michel tore his eyes from the screen and stated bitterly "For Leader!"
But José, who was just passing by, overheard him and calmly stated, after looking at the face on the screen: "Non, c'est Kathy MacRae, she rides a bike for Yamaha, does it pretty well actually; going to ride there for at least two more years, I understand." Two astounded faces turned to him. Simultaneously Jean-Pierre and Michel started questioning him: "She drives?" Jean-Pierre repeated while Michel uttered: "Yamaha? But I saw..." Both were drowned by Steve's laughter: "June? 'Les douze mois'-June? Ha! You two thought that June was her real name? Every waitress there is called after the month they work there, the place is called 'The twelve months' for crying out loud!" and as in an after thought he smirked: "And I'm the American here!"
At this point Elisabeth intervened. She turned off the TV and looked at Henri, Jean-Pierre and José: "You three must be dying to analyse the data of this race, you know, to be all 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed', tomorrow at the training? And Steve," she continued, to the younger man, "you must be dying to ehm..." "Go party!" Steve cut in. "Ah, oui, that was what I was looking for," Elisabeth presented them with one of her sweetest smiles. After a short moment, the four men started to move but then Michel cleared his throat: "Non, please wait. First I have to apologize for my behaviour earlier. I was completely out of line." He looked at the faces of the people that were the most important in his life and knew he had hurt them bad. "I'm... I'm sorry. There's no excuse..." he came to a stop, not knowing what more to say.
Steve was the first to answer, he slapped his friend on the back and said: "Don't worry: I'll just expect apologetic coffee and donuts tomorrow morning at about half past nine in bed!" This broke the tension. José and Michel shook hands and next the two brothers hugged. Henri looked on and nodded, he had succeeded in at least talking some sense back into his youngest son. Finally Michel wanted to hug his mother but she held him off and said: "Non, Michel, tu sais que..." and as she started her familiar 'it was not nice of you to talk that way'-sermon, the other four men made themselves scarce. When his mother finished her sermon, Michel started his usual: "Maman, je m'excuse..." but he was cut short by his mother: "Ils sont parti? They're gone?" "Oui." "Bien." She looked at her youngest son who just stood there, looking at the black TV screen and rubbing his hands through his short brown hair, shaking his head as if to rid it from the thoughts that flew through his mind.
June. She was more challenging than anyone he'd ever met. She had just broken through all his defences. June. She made him fall, hard and complete. June or... Kathy. She was sweeter and softer then any girl he knew. She made him feel like he should protect her. He mentally shrugged: Yeah, I would only manage to make a fool of myself. She would probably laugh in my face. I don't even know her! But then I don't know anybody who got under my skin like that. And not only under my skin but in my mind and into my dreams. Nobody who causes such a lack of concentration... Nobody who leaves me feeling this cold, empty and... alone. He shrugged again and turned to leave.
"She asked how you were." At those soft-spoken words Michel jerked his head back and looked at his mother: "Maman..." His voice was hurt and deep. She could hear sleepless nights, emotional exhaustion and a plea for information in that one word.
"She told me her name was Kathy MacRae and that she rides a bike." He was hanging on her lips like he had been in a desert and she was the first well he found. "She also told me to tell you that she will not join team Leader; she said there was a bet between her and one of Ruth's mechanics, without Ruth knowing anything about it!" He remained silent, but his eyes were lighter.
"Yet," his mother continued in a now stern voice: "she was under the impression that you and Ruth are lovers."
His thoughts on definitely another girl than Ruth Wong, Michel answered absent-mindedly: "Were mother as in the past, past tense."
"Are Michel. Miss MacRae definitely used the present tense!" He stared at her, his expression blank at first but then suddenly bright eyes darkened, became more grey and hard as steel. "Ruth! Elle est un serpent trompant avec une langue fourchu!" He angrily turned to leave and was surprised to hear the light sound of his mother's laughter. He turned back and looked at her questioning. "Ah, Michel, it's just that I heard Ruth referred to in that exact same phrase earlier today, although then it was in English with a rich Scottish accent!"
His eyes grew large and she hugged him, whispering in his ear: "She watched you ride today Michel! I know what Steve says: you don't freeze, don't drink, don't smoke, don't sleep... But Michel: don't forget to live mon fils!" After that she kissed his astounded face and walked away.
The next morning as he entered their box, Jean-Pierre heard somebody whistling. When he walked around both Vaillantes F1 2005 he came across Michel who was squatted down in front of his car, dreamingly whistling. "Bonjour, tu es matinal! Good morning, you're early!" His younger brother stopped whistling: "Well, I wanted to take an early morning stroll, just checking the circuit, you know." Michel's eyes didn't leave his car. Then he started humming happily, grabbed a cleaning rag from somewhere and started polishing his car! No, I don't know, Jean-Pierre thought, confused by his brother's behaviour and asked: "And?" For a moment Michel looked at him, a pensive look on his face and then he slowly said: "You know...We're lucky... It's still there!" Totally ignoring the strange look from Jean-Pierre, he returned to the task he set himself, humming again!
Michel's had been a slightly twisted version of the truth. After a short night; most of it spent surfing the internet where he found a considerable amount of information on a motor driver named Kathy MacRae; he had been strolling, first to Steve's trailer with a thermos cup of coffee and two donuts, which he had left silently besides a still sleeping Steve; then he had strolled to the Honda box, bringing more coffee and croissants, to find somebody to talk 'motorbikes and their drivers' with. However, in the mean time he had thrown a glance at the track so the information he just provided his brother with was accurate, at least for the piece of black in front of the pits.
At Honda he was told that indeed yesterday some Honda motorbike drivers had been watching the race. The last MotoGP-race had been at the Motegi-circuit in Japan. So it was just a little hop over before they went on to Qatar for the next race. And indeed there had been a befriended Yamaha driver. As luck would have it this particular engineer was the boyfriend of the only Honda female motor driver, who in turn was the friend of the before mentioned Yamaha driver. But what really gave Michel an excuse to whistle and hum was that this very same engineer was planning on having lunch with his girlfriend and her friend. When they had arrived at that point in their conversation, Michel had grabbed one of the napkins he had used to bring the croissants in and started drawing.
By the time the setting sun cast long shadows across the track Jean-Pierre started to recognize the grumpy Michel again. Only it was by fits and starts: Michel's bad moods seemed intensified when suddenly he would fall silent, staring at the sun, or the track, or his car. In between Jean-Pierre tried to have an intelligent conversation with him about the reason for this extra test: a new adjustment to the suspension secretly tested as a foretaste to the F1 Vaillante 2010.
Where was she? Why didn't she give him any sign of life? She wouldn't reject a challenge now would she? And she wouldn't have a hard time figuring out who drew the circuit and she had been here yesterday, then why...? Michel's thoughts were racing around on a track of their own; starting and finishing at the same point over and over again. Suddenly he was aware of Jean-Pierre walking away from him. "Jean-Pierre?" His brother turned. "Did I miss something here?" Michel made a gesture between them. Jean-Pierre couldn't help but laugh even with the risk of provoking an outburst. "You mean you missed the whole part about me being grateful for your cooperation and suggesting calling it a day?" Michel's comical expression made him laugh louder. "Well... it certainly looks like I did!" with that Michel jumped up and started walking out the front box door. Jean-Pierre shook his head, admitting that his brother's emotions and actions were totally unreliable.
Michel went to find the Honda engineer, but his supply of luck for the day had run out: the Honda box was closed. It was times like these that made him wish he liked liquor like Steve did but instead of drinking he changed out of his driving overall into sweats and ran around the circuit until he was even more exhausted.
The next day another testing sessions was planned, the last one before joining the rest of the teams in Japan. As 'her men' were occupied with cars and engines, Madame Vaillant occupied herself with more social events, like having nice company over for an afternoon tea.
This was why at half past two in the afternoon Kathy MacRae was waiting for her courteous hostess in the restaurant of the Vaillant motor home. She was looking out of the huge windows, overseeing the pit lane and grid, unconsciously blowing on the window shield and drawing for the umpteenth time the circuit from the last napkin by heart. Suddenly she felt herself floating through the curves and finally she recognized the circuit: it was Losail in Qatar, the very circuit she would be tearing around the next day! How was it that she hadn't recognized it before? Maybe it had something to do with a vision of electrifying eyes that somehow popped up every time she thought about the darned circuit? "Michel Vaillant! You just wait until I get my fingers on you!" she exclaimed.
Michel, coming downstairs to grab a cup of coffee before preparing another test was slightly startled by hearing somebody in the restaurant making that exclamation. Cautiously he bent his head down to peek into the restaurant and see who he had offended so to make them utter this threat. He was mesmerized by the picture of HIS Ju... Kathy, having drawn (once more) HIS circuit and exclaiming HIS name in HIS motor home.
Unknown to them both somebody else had overheard Kathy: Patrick, one of the team members was looking at the woman in a Yamaha jacket and this combined with her exclamation made him decide to call security. So a moment later the restaurant was invaded by two broad-shouldered security guards, Jean-Pierre, his mother and Patrick. They rudely disturbed Kathy's and Michel's daydreaming. Patrick pointed at Kathy: "This is the woman I was talking about". "Excuse me miss, do you have a reason for being here?" the first security guard asked Kathy. "It's alright; I invited Miss MacRae here this afternoon." Elisabeth told them. Above them, on the stairs Michel found one surprise following the other, HIS mother inviting HIS Kathy? Things just were getting better and better. Downstairs Jean-Pierre was explaining to Patrick that: "As we don't ride motorbikes in the MotoGP it's alright from a competitive point of view too Patrick." But then, feeling cornered, Patrick claimed that Kathy wanted 'to do something to Michel'! "You do??" Jean-Pierre asked and Kathy adoringly flushed. At least that's what Michel thought. Patrick continued: "I overheard her! She said: 'Michel Vaillant! You just wait until I get my fingers on you!'" Now everybody was staring at Kathy who turned a more crimson shade of red, when calm voice came from upstairs: "Well, that would be my fault Patrick. I put cold coffee in Miss MacRae's water bottle when we were at Le Mans, the other month." Everybody was now staring at Michel who had come down the stairs. "Yes, I know, I know, rather childish..." he continued while approaching, not facing anybody, just looking at Kathy with eyes that almost radiated light.
"Well," Jean-Pierre cleared his throat, "solved! Patrick thank you for your concern, we do appreciate your loyalty. Guys," he turned to the guards: "thanks for your swift reaction." He nodded his head politely at the two ladies: "Maman, Miss MacRae," before turning to his brother and pointing: "And I want you to do a flying lap this time!" He turned, expecting his brother to follow him. Yet, Michel didn't follow. He was occupied staring into dark brown eyes. Jean-Pierre, not getting any clever remark, turned and stressing the word, he said: "Michel?" No reaction what so ever, so he raised his voice: "MICHEL!" "WHAT?" Michel was rudely awoken from his lovely view. Jean-Pierre ordered: "Flying. Lap. NOW!" He put as much authority in his voice as possible, since regardless of yesterday's testing, Michel has been such a pain lately, making all kinds of excuses not to test or train.
But this time he didn't have to worry. Michel followed him like a little puppy, distracted, but obedient. Then just before Michel started down the stairs to the box, he looked back to find her eyes still on him. "It's just one lap you know, it won't take that long..." there was a silent plea in his eyes for her not to leave before he got back. Kathy nodded. She knew and she wouldn't. He smiled and turned when she called him: "Michel!" He turned back in a flash, his heart missing a beat just from hearing her saying his name again. "Cold coffee? Very immature..." But her eyes conveyed the real message: thanks for coming to my rescue. He grinned, nodded, took two steps down, turned once more and caught her eyes saying: "Anytime... Oh, and Kathy?" No need to call her name dude, she was already looking at you, yeah, duh! "Circuit too difficult?"
Her eyes narrowed and she completely forgot Elisabeth's presence when she started: "Michel Vaillant! You..." With his trademark lopsided grin back on his face he interrupted her, putting a finger on his lips: "Shhhh, concentration you know: Flying. Lap." Then from downstairs, as if on cue, came a frustrated holler: "MICHEL!"
See? Michel gestured and answered Jean-Pierre: "Yeah, yeah, hold your horses, I already burned some rubber here!" and after one sweet smile to her Michel finally descended.
"Michel Vaillant!" Kathy muttered, her Scottish accent prominently present: "You just wait till I get my..." she suddenly remembered his mother and apologized instantly: "Oh Madame Vaillant, je m'excuse... je ne sais pas que..."
"There is no need to apologize my dear. Vaillant-men, they love to think they're unbeatable. We women however know better, n'est pas?" she smiled and added: "You'll have a better view on the monitor downstairs in the box."
When the two women arrived downstairs, Michel was already on the circuit, doing his outlap. Jean-Pierre walked passed on his way to the wall while talking to José. Elisabeth interrupted them: "Jean-Pierre?" "Oui Maman?" "Jean-Pierre, make sure he knows she's watching." Not understanding her request Jean-Pierre asked: "Maman?" "Jean-Pierre, sometimes it's the women in this family who know what makes a man drive on the limit." Jean-Pierre smiled and nodded: "Oui Maman."
Kathy didn't hear any part of the exchange between mother and son; she was staring down at a napkin that Patrick had given her. On it was one line: 'Maybe this one is more up your sleeve?' accompanied by the outline of a circuit. And not just any circuit, no THIS circuit, the very one she was standing on right now! Fuming she approached Patrick: "Excuse me, what's Michel's pit board sign?" "eh... V1" Patrick replied abashed by her thundering eyes. "Madame Vaillant, please excuse me for a minute, I'll be right back" with that Kathy took an empty pit board from the box and walked towards the wall with it.
When Michel crossed the starting line he saw his team's pit board reading: FL LAP GO! He heard his brother on the radio: "Michel, flying lap; Maman and Kathy are watching... just so you know." But that information was rather superfluous because a bit further a brown head was holding out a pit board on the wall that read: V1 LOSAIL MGP.
And then Michel did a lap that had his signature all over it.
Oh yeah, Michel Vaillant was back!
I really hoped you liked it. Please leave a feedback note, if only to let me know you read it.
The new story is in progress. One chapter finished. At this moment I'm visiting family in Africa, I'll be back mid-October 2004. Greetings from Holland everyone!