This is the start of a story I wrote while in Spain in the summer. Please enjoy, comments and feedback most welcome!
The hot blustery air held a hint of promise. Strolling along the parched street, trying to avoid the halting step of thronging tourists, she felt a twinge of hope. The promise of unlimited sun had already become mundane. It hadn’t taken more than a few weeks for the oppressive heat to become a hindrance, the sweat pooling in the deepening crevices of her skin. Simply walking to the local Mercadona to collect provisions for the impending visitors had rendered her sluggish and woozy. She no longer needed to practice the phrases she needed in her head on the way to the checkout. Gone too was the twinge of panic that threatened to arise in case she was asked a question she didn’t understand. Walking back, she shifted her shoulders awkwardly, slipping a thumb under the damp strap of her dress to rescue her bra strap. She wiped the sheen of sweat off on her faded floral dress.
The thrill of the exotic still struck on her when entering her small apartment, even though she hadn’t been able to afford a beach view. Her feet had acquired a rough cushion to accommodate the hard flooring and the frequent grating of coarse sand. A smattering of melody escaped her lips as she clattered in the kitchen. Large bags of pasta and several cartons of tomate frito took up most of her kitchen storage. She squeezed the bright bags of sweets next to the crackly pasta bag. A large box of Cheerios and three large cartons of milk and she felt better prepared. Opening the fridge, she fingered the single blue gem around her neck. Her other hand beat a rhythm on the plastic, suddenly unsure that her purchases would be right. The sharp shrill of the phone interrupted her cold musings.
“Hola,” she answered, slightly breathless,
“It’s just me, no need for that,” a sharp voice quipped,
“Oh hi Harriet, how’s the journey going?”
“Horrific, totally…” The speaker turned, the harsh voice directed elsewhere,
“Will you sit quietly! No, I don’t have any water.” A muffled voice could just be heard, filled with indignation,
“Well give it back then! Sorry about that,” the voice was weary.
“Don’t worry. How was the flight?”
“Delayed, hundreds of screaming kids, total nightmare. Just waiting for the bus, this heat is just too much, I don’t know how you cope.”
“Well, you get used to it, you just…” a smile crept into her tone.
“Can’t talk, got to see to the kids. Bus station at 4?” She hurried on.
“Yup, absolutely, see you there.”
The phone rested back with a sharp click as a small sigh escaped her lips. Pressing her head against the cool tile of the walls, she resisted the call of wine and cooling soda.
It had taken quite a while for her to convince Harriet that a visit with the kids was a good idea. A slave to routine and schedules, she had insisted it was impossible until they were older. Despite her assurances that she saw much younger families here all the time, her opinions were rebuffed due to lack of experience in such matters. She preferred the calm acceptance of children she had found here. They were not seen as a hindrance, a constant barrier to adult enjoyment, but rather a welcome addition that took part in all areas of life. She had often seen youngsters barrelling around the confines of an intimate restaurant, adding their yells to the general hubbub that seemed to accompany food. Only last weekend she had been sat at her usual small table in the corner, savouring the last of her wine, when she had jarred forward from the impact of a game of chase that had got out of hand. The injured child had burst into a flood of anguish. Her hands had felt warmed as she stroked the lump on his head, muttering nonsensical English until his dark-haired mother swooped him away. Once Harriet found out her husband would be away at a conference for several weeks it had been easier to bring her round. Her current fad had been for familial bonding through games, especially of the paternal kind. This now seemed to be defunct for the time being. She had sensed her angst across the miles, masking insecurity through a new fad someone had shared on Mumsnet.