Copyright © 2001 dircat. ALL Rights Reserved
Sandra looked out at the wind driven rain as it beat a staccato against the window. She sighed, the weather only deepening her depression. Why couldn't he have been a better man, she thought to herself, then things may have been different. But no, over the years he had turned into a drunken, crude, slob who thought of nothing but his own enjoyment and where the money for the next drink was coming from. The fact that it usually came from her no longer gave her the hurt or the anger it once did. She recognised in him a man who was ill. Not physically, although that was rapidly becoming debatable, but certainly a man who was so eaten up with a deep inner rage he no longer had control over his reasoning.
She smiled at her own rambling thoughts. Listen to me, I'll be talking to the walls next, then they'll probably have to come and take me away. Then her mood took a more serious turn. No not now, nothing could destroy my future now, nothing at all. It's funny, her uncontrolled thoughts spilled out into her consciousness again, if it hadn't been for Ted I would never have met Graham and we only went to Spain because I thought the change might buck him up. She looked at the curtain of rain that was now sweeping the whole street, the drops bouncing back into the air as they landed. Spain, she thought, what a holiday that had been. Her thoughts drifted back to four months previously as the heavy cloud burst disappeared from her vision to be replaced by the soft, warm nights, the guitar playing and the sound of people laughing and enjoying themselves in a land far away. A land created to fit the mood of lovers...
The hotel was excellent. Sandra had chosen it because the picture in the brochure showed her what to expect and the price was surprisingly cheap. She had read about photographs not portraying the true picture. That hotels may be next to a construction site, or the food could be so bad as to be inedible, but she couldn't afford to pay too much and as long as they had a roof over their heads, as far as she was concerned that's all that mattered. But she was not disappointed. The place was perfect. The restaurant had sliding doors which were kept open during the day giving guests a view of the large pool beyond which were groups of palm trees surrounding the gardens which sloped gently down to the beach. As soon as they arrived Sandra felt a wave of contentment sweep over her and an excitement she hadn't felt for so long. This was going to be a good holiday she thought happily. After they unpacked they took the elevator to the ground floor. She in a one piece bathing suit covered by a light green cotton robe and he in, what she considered to be a hideous, pair of baggy Union Jack shorts that reached his knees and an equally baggy T-shirt with F
K U 2 printed across the front. She had tried to dissuade him from packing the clothes but he had only turned abusive and angry and so she had kept quiet, hoping he might, after a while, realise how ridiculous he looked and get something more suitable.
For a while they both lay by the pool soaking up the sun. Sandra felt self-conscious in her bathing suit. She hadn't had much chance to wear anything so skimpy in public for a long time and at first she felt all eyes were looking at her alone. She had slipped the robe off but continued lying on it ready to grab it and cover herself if she felt the need, but slowly she relaxed, closed her eyes and began drifting off to sleep.
"What?" Ted's voice had brought her awake.
"I said I think I'll go for a beer, I'm bloody gasping."
Sandra knew what one beer meant and over the years she had grown resigned to it. But this was a foreign country where strangers surrounded them, strangers like themselves who were on holiday to enjoy themselves. She looked around at the children running around, jumping into the pool, shrieking with excitement, whilst their parents kept a watchful eye on them. Everybody was so happy, she thought, everybody's having a good time.
"Must you go now Ted? It's nearly lunchtime and we don't want to miss that do we? We haven't eaten since London and I know I'm starving, you must be too."
She realised her mistake as soon as she finished the sentence. Ted stared at her with a dark sullen look.
"Christ you're not going to tell me what I can do and what I can't do are you? That's your trouble Sandra you're always trying to control me. What's your problem? Scared I might have one too many? Scared I might bloody well enjoy myself? His voice had grown louder drawing curious glances from the groups nearest to them.
Sandra panicked and caved in, "No, no Ted. I just thought you might be hungry that's all. You go and enjoy yourself".
With a churlish "Thanks" he stood up and went into the hotel, looking for the bar.
Sandra's contentment had dissipated in a flash and the familiar tense knot began tightening in the pit of her stomach. 'God', she thought, 'it's going to happen here as well and I thought it wouldn't. You stupid, stupid woman'. Her relaxed mood having completely vanished she pulled up her robe, rose, and started to take a walk down to the beach berating herself as she went. When she reached the sand she took off her flip-flops and walked along aimlessly her feet sinking slightly at each step. The sun was at its hottest and to cool her feet down she strolled along the water's edge, letting the gentle ripples wash over her as they rushed in then pulled away from the shore. The sun was getting too strong and the heat on her head was almost unbearable. She wished she had brought her hat with her but it was too late now to go back and she didn't want to bump into Ted. Then as an answer to her prayers she saw a hundred yards up the beach a large wooden building with advertising signs for cerveza and soft drinks. As she approached she saw it was really nothing more than one huge veranda supporting a rickety wooden roof and surrounding a tiny bar. In one corner there was a barbecue spitting fat and producing mouth watering smells which reminded her just how hungry she was.
Thankfully she climbed the small flight of steps into the coolness of the shade and went up to the fat middle aged man who was standing behind the bar smoking the largest cigar she had ever seen.
"Si, senora?" Sandra began panicking again. God she didn't speak the language! She struggled to find a word that the man would understand. "Uhh, uhh yo... would like... uno cold drink... por favor," God what was the word for cold. "Frio!" she suddenly blurted out, "uno frio drink!" The man looked puzzled for a moment then as enlightenment dawned he began pointing at the various bottles. Beer, whisky, cognac, rum, Fanta. "Yes. Yes. Uhh... Si, Fanta. Thank you." The barman smiled around the cigar in his mouth, opened a bottle, and poured it into an ice filled glass. Sandra almost drank it in one go.
"Mas?" the barman asked pointing at the nearly empty glass. "Mmm. Yes please. Uh... si." she said with a smile. With her second glass she turned around and nearly bumped into a tall, good looking man who was standing close behind her. "Oh... Sorry... I mean... um"
"Don't worry about it I came over to meet you anyway." At the sound of his voice speaking English relief swept through like a wave. Then the full meaning of his words sank in.
"What do you mean, you came over to meet me?"
"Well I couldn't help noticing you walking along the beach and I thought to myself, that woman has to be a visitor. Nobody here goes outside at this time of the day if they can help it. Then as you got closer I saw that you looked quite sad and so I thought to myself, that woman has to be a visitor who is sad, something must be troubling her. Then when I heard you try to order a drink in Spanish I thought to myself..."
"Yes, yes alright. I get the picture." said Sandra laughing despite her mood.
"The man smiled and offered his hand. "That's better," he said, "my name's Graham. I'm sitting over there with a few of my friends eating our way through Pepe's, " and he pointed towards the fat man who smiled and raised his hand in greeting, "magnificent fish food specials. My friends and I would be honoured if you would join us at our table."
Sandra was nonplussed. The man had lightened her mood that was true, but to sit down with total strangers? She wasn't sure she was ready for that.
Graham saw her hesitation. "Come along," he said, "It's my birthday today and we're celebrating in the style we all like best, and if you don't you'll probably starve to death by the time you manage to find the right words to order anything in Spanish."
That persuaded her. That and the charm of the stranger, the smell of the food and the happy looking group sitting at a long trestle table all watching her expectantly. She threw caution to the winds and said, "Alright, thanks very much." As soon as she accepted the group began clapping, then shuffling around with much confusion and hilarity to make room for her to sit down. Sandra looked around at the dozen strangers. Graham started to make some introductions but after the third, noting her confusion, he gave up and said that she would catch on who was who eventually. As the afternoon wore on she became more and more relaxed.
The food was excellent, the wine superb and she could not have asked for better company. Apart from Graham, two Americans and an Australian all the others were Spanish and Sandra began to wonder just whom Graham was to have such a pleasant group he could call friends. It was obvious they new each other well as the familiarity between them showed. After three hours the lunch was nearly over and the group began to grow quieter as the food and drink began to take affect. Some left the table and took their coffee or cognac over to the wooden railings that surrounded the veranda to talk quietly amongst themselves. Sandra was listening to the woman on her left, Isabella, as she was explaining where Sandra should visit during her holiday. It was then that she plucked up courage to ask about her host.
"Gra'am?" replied Isabella, "he is, ver', how you say, populair. Oh, yes," she continued with a knowing smile, "an' ver' 'andsome too, es verdad?" Sandra felt the colour rising in her cheeks and wished she could change the subject, but Isabella was in full swing. "Ev'ry woman I know falls in love with 'im. Me too. But a long time ago. 'e 'as been living 'ere for twelve... thirteen years, not sure. 'E owns three of the best restaurants in the distric' and of course, this... " Isabella waved her hand to encompass the wooden building. Sandra was shaken by what she had heard. Not only had she been rescued from a depressing moment by a charming, likeable man who seemed at ease with himself and the world, but she had also been rescued by someone who was respected and admired in the area, a man of some standing.
Suddenly she felt awkward and out of place. Her mind flashed back to Ted and guilt swept through her as she realised she hadn't given him a thought all day. Doing the best she could she looked at her watch and said to Isabella, "I didn't realise it was so late. I must get back. It's been a long day and if I don't go now I'll probably fall asleep at the table!" she laughed but even to her own ears the laugh sounded hollow. "But of course," replied Isabella. "You mus' forgive me I forget you only came today. Wait a momen' an' I will drive you to your 'otel."
Sandra wouldn't hear of it and the two women became noisier as they both insisted in having their own way. "Alright, alright," said Graham as he came across from the bar where he had been talking quietly with Pepe. "I'll settle this. I'll take Sandra back to her hotel. It's only down the road. I'll be there and back in ten minutes." Sandra couldn't refuse without sounding churlish and so accepted the offer of his lift. She said goodnight to everyone, falling easily into the continental habit of kissing everyone on both cheeks in farewell. Walking slowly up to the road by Graham's side she felt the tension rising in her body. All she wanted to do was to get to the hotel, wave him goodbye as quickly as she could and go inside.
But luck was against her. Just before they turned left into the hotel grounds Graham was forced to swerve slightly to avoid a group of drunks staggering along the middle of the road and even before she saw him she knew that Ted had found a group of like-minded men. As they pulled up outside the hotel's entrance she all but leapt out of the car babbling her thanks incoherently to Graham, hoping against hope that he would leave before Ted arrived. But again luck was against her. Graham swung his tall frame over the side of the small convertible and followed her into the hotel's lobby. "Wait a minute Sandra, what's all the rush?" there was humour in his voice but also a hurt and confused sound. "I'm sorry Graham," said Sandra quickly, "it's just that I feel very tired. It's been a lovely afternoon, really it has. But all good things must come to an end," and she leant forward slightly to gently squeeze his arm. She turned quickly back to the elevator. Too late.