The golfers had patronised the airport bar despite the early hour and made witty jokes like "Don't worry love, I'll climb over you," and "You can pull my emergency handle any time." Caroline stuck her nose in the air at first but in truth they were a hearty bunch of young men who looked like they played plenty of sport, and she did little to divert their attentions for the rest of the two hour flight.
I was four or five rows behind in a seat next to the aisle. At first I thought the seat next to me would be empty and I gestured to Caroline that she could sit next to me after all. She said she liked the extra legroom. Then, just before the doors were pulled shut, a pale woman with dark circles round her eyes staggered onto the plane and occupied the seat next to. She slumped into her seat with a sigh: "God, I'm exhausted." She looked like she had just climbed out of a grave.
Before the plane had reached the end of the runway, her long white neck had lolled to one side and she was asleep. Half way between her shoulders and her ears were two dark marks. I had to restrain myself from moving her light brown hair slightly to one side to take a closer look. Love bites, I decided. Her head lolled the other way onto my shoulder. Caroline turned round to see where I was and gave me a look.
Once at cruising height the stewardess started the hard sell with the duty free. Caroline pretended to be interested in the perfume and tried the tester bottles, offering her wrists up for an opinion from her surrounding admirers. She commented afterwards on how quickly the flight had gone.
My sleeping companion woke with a start when the refreshment trolley came past. She ordered a Bloody Mary. The plane hit a pocket of turbulence. There was raucous laughter from the seats five rows up, but my neighbour went a whiter shade of pale, grabbed my arm, and spilt some of the thick red liquid on my chinos.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I'm a nervous flyer. I always think I'm going to die." She used an inadequate napkin to dab the blotch on my trousers. Her nails were painted black.
"No problem," I said, though really it was, because I was travelling ultra light. I seized the opportunity to introduce myself and asked the purpose of her journey.
"I'm Tamsin Baker," she replied. "I'm researching my next book. After Croatia, I go on to Silesia, Moravia, and Transylvania."
"How interesting," I said. "And what would your next book be about?"
"Vampires. The myths originate from that part of Europe. They really did exhume bodies and stick a stake through the heart. It's more than a myth; every society wonders what happens to people when they are dead." She looked straight at me and her eyes widened. "Don't you wonder, Robert?"
They say travel broadens the mind. Tamsin explained a number of things about the sexual habits of vampires which I hadn't previously been aware of but made me shift in my seat. I asked which hotel she was staying in and it was the same as ours - ideal, she said, for single travellers.
"But," she giggled, "I won't be doing any nude sunbathing. I can't go out in the direct sun."
You always wonder if people are making things up, but it turned out to be true. Here's a link to one of Tamsin's books. But not recommended for those of a nervous disposition.
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