It was another hot day as Richard left the villa and stepped into the strong sunlight. It was about eleven o’clock and over on the north side of the harbour a queue was already forming for the boat trip around the island. It usually left at mid-day, or whenever the captain thought that enough tourists had shown up, and the weather, as it was today, was calm and just right for a cruise.
The warm air seemed to cover him like a new skin. It wasn’t just on his neck or legs, it was everywhere. The first few weeks had been uncomfortable, but after getting into a routine of rising early to begin his writing, Richard swam before breakfast and then relaxed. Later, he strolled into town and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Bar Cappuccino, with all its character and flavour of a true Spanish cantina. It was the sort of place, Richard decided, where Ernest Hemingway, the famous writer and lover of all things Spanish, would have been at ease. There he chatted in Spanish, badly at first, with customers and staff while some, especially Consuela, asked him to, ‘Help me Inglish, pleeze!’ He always tried to help her and was very happy to notice that his drinks began to arrive a little quicker than before, and the measures somehow seemed to get a little bigger too. Bueno!
He was spending some time in Port D’Andratx, Mallorca, in an attempt to finish a book he was writing. He had accepted the invitation from a friend to stay in the villa and ‘get your head together.’ The town, that only twenty years before was a small, sleepy fishing village, was now one of the most desirable holiday centers in the Mediterranean. Picture-postcard houses clung precariously to steep cliffs, and below yachts and fishing boats dotted the blue water. It was easy on the eye and no surprise to Richard that so many people had made it their home. If peace and quiet were what you were after then this indeed was the place to spend time in. The smell of seaweed from one of the colorfully painted sloops stung Richard’s nose and brought him back to reality – it was hot, again.
He strolled under the shops’ canopies and paused at the tobacconists before going inside to buy a packet of cigarillos. He liked the smell in the shop, which like all the other smells about the town seemed so intense and raw. Whether it was from the bakers, florists or fishmongers they were always interesting and made Richard grin.
‘Hola!’ greeted Consuela, as Richard sat at his favourite table. It was on the pavement near the front door and afforded him a full view of the harbour in all its bright and colorful glory. The sound of boats at anchor, bobbing gently on the clear waters, was broken only by the chat and laughter of passersby. A light breeze blew at Richard’s fringe which he flicked away casually before running his fingers through his thinning, fair hair. He ordered his usual drink, sat back and lit a cigarillo. Smoke slowly drifted across the well-stained table before drifting into the blue sky.
The heat and languor of the place dulled Richard’s senses and he soon began thinking about her. He didn’t want to, but she still intruded into his thoughts like a cold finger sticking into his side. It nagged at him and disrupted his ideas for the book, while all the time, deep down in the pit of his stomach, the ugly question of what happened to them needed to be dealt with – if only to end the pain – once and for all. He took a long, slow mouthful of beer and then a drag on his cigarillo before exhaling the bluish-grey smoke in a perfect ring.
Ten months and it still hurt.
How could he have known that she’d say no? They had dated for nearly two years and enjoyed holidays, weekends away and conversations late into the night, and it seemed obvious to Richard, that they had a future. But the, ‘I don’t think so, Richard!’ had stunned him. It was a like a kick in the teeth. He changed after that in a way that he wasn’t quite sure of, but he was definitely different.
Tears, countless tears had been shed, but when no clear answer arrived the pain lingered, slowly eroding his confidence. He discussed it with friends in the pub and over endless dinners but nothing seemed to make any sense. He lost weight and tried to occupy himself in senseless activities until his friend Dave said that he should ‘finish that damn book.’ It didn’t seem possible at the start, but after a few weeks of intense, numbing effort, he was on his way. There was now light at the end of the tunnel and he was beginning to enjoy the experience. Finally, he felt that he was heading in the right direction. The weight had started to slip from his shoulders, and for the first time in a long time, he actually felt like smiling.
Keep going, he reminded himself a thousand times a day, and each day he focused a little easier and with more conviction.
It felt good.
‘Paella tonight?’ asked Consuela.
Richard was jolted out of his daydream and found himself looking directly into Consuela’s beautiful, big brown eyes. If ever a man got a pleasant surprise then this was it, he thought.
‘Gracias, mucho gracias,’ he answered with a smile. A warm feeling of anticipation crept up his spine, and he quivered with delight, as Consuela sashayed effortlessly between the tables before casting him a nonchalant glance over her shoulder. At the edge of the quay, tall palm fronds swayed lazily in the warm breeze. Richard blew another smoke ring, closed his eyes and was lost in the moment.