Alice smiled up into Dan’s face with what she believed was convincing, loving adoration. She couldn’t quite believe they were sitting on an aeroplane together; he was actually taking her to Paris. Only two days previously, when they were catching the tube back to his place, he had asked her, as casually as possible, if she happened to have a passport. Of course, the significance of the question hadn’t been lost on Alice, and her inquisitions had soon entirely scuppered all his intentions of making this trip a total surprise. She had to hand it to him, as far as romantic clichés went, Dan had pulled out all the stops: a weekend for two in Paris, flight and hotel all booked and paid, to depart as soon as she’d finished her exams.

She had been to Paris before, of course, but only as an Inter-railer. Which actually meant that she had been to Paris several times, only for daylight hours and then every night she had slept on an overnight train to somewhere else.

This trip to Paris was going to be very different.

Alice thrilled with nervous exhilaration. She had never stayed in a hotel before, she had never been on a plane before and certainly no previous boyfriend had done anything so incredible for her before. She felt like a total virgin. And in many ways she still was.

But, even as she smiled at Dan and pushed and threaded her fingers harder between his, she was aware of a strange dark hollow deep inside and, for seconds only, dared to entertain the idea that her thrills might be purely selfish and superficial. She hastily shoved this minor irritation into the furthermost recesses of her mind and forcibly reminded herself just how much incredible fun she and Dan had had while getting to know each other over the last few months. They’d not been going out together long, but the roses and poetry left at her door on Valentine’s Day had transformed her initial crush on him into something potentially much more intoxicating, to the point where she had been completely sure that he must be ‘the one’ that she could finally trust with her virginity.

Her mind meandered through memories of all their exuberant pleasure-seeking and as it meandered, it chanced upon a curious inkling whispering softly that those pleasures sought and once discovered, had been almost exclusively owned by Dan. It had always been fun, but so far, none of her experiences had in any way reflected what she’d read in magazines about sensual, protracted foreplay and she was still completely mystified about whether or not she had experienced orgasm. If she didn’t know, then she suspected she hadn’t, but then, women’s magazines were full of hyperbole and the content of the sections on sexual health was probably as much half-truths as the rest. As she continued to turn her thoughts and memories over and over, however, a certain unwelcome body of evidence was beginning to take shape. What had started out as a tiny niggle, was gradually waxing into a nugget of quite considerable proportions.

The growth of this nugget rapidly accelerated once it dawned on Alice just how frequently Dan fell into a deep, unyielding sleep immediately after he’d come. She remembered how often she had felt disappointed and abandoned by this post-coital slumber habit, lying naked in the half dark, alone with her thoughts. She had to allow that she was a late starter and so maybe she wasn’t that great in bed. But if that were the case, she would definitely have to do something about it. After idly spending some enjoyable moments considering all the places where she might start with this interesting self-improvement project, and savouring short daydreams about who she might invite to help her attain enlightenment, Alice was almost shocked to catch a dirty smirk curling at the edge of her lips. She was playing with the etymology of being left to your own devices. She quickly wiped it away, glancing at Dan to check he hadn’t noticed and somehow guessed her innermost thoughts. He was dozing, his open book turned faced down on his thigh.

Yes, Alice decided, if there was even a chance that she wasn’t good in bed, then she would definitely do something about upping her game! What irked her more was the lurking suspicion that Dan wasn’t that good in bed. She had no one to compare him with, of course, but how a girl was meant to deal with that without putting the whole relationship in jeopardy, she had no idea.

Over the plane tannoy system came the announcement that passengers should please return to their seats and prepare for landing.

She fastened her seatbelt and gave Dan a gentle nudge. Sex wasn’t everything, she told herself. Dan was so unbelievably thoughtful in every other respect. Hadn’t he given her flowers? Hadn’t he cooked for her? Taken her out? Wined her, dined her. And now he was taking her to Paris, for God’s sake! What the hell did she want? She knew her friends would think she was being so ungrateful. She gave herself a stern mental shake and dismissed what her heart was so desperately trying to tell her.

As the wheels touched down on the tarmac, Dan looked at the beautiful girl by his side. He moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue and grinned. He couldn’t remember when he last felt so happy.

It was going to be a wonderful weekend.