Part 2

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No. No thoughts of men, I counselled myself as I followed the path made out of planks of wood, like a rope-bridge embedded in the ground. Avert your eyes from any tanned, toned male bodies stretched out on sunbeds. Resist your hormones.

Men abdicate. They walk out on their wives and kids. They pretend to be with you when their minds and hearts are miles away. Aside from my brother-in-law Drew, I had no real experience of a decent male, and in theory it was still early days where he was concerned.

My dad, my ex-boyfriends, all scumbags. Men and boys were sleazy and sick and selfish.

But this, being a story, something interesting was about to happen. True? Otherwise, why would I be bothering to recount it? I may as well just be writing that the sky was so empty of clouds I could sense the universe that lay beyond it, or that the pool was such a clear and sparkling blue I wanted to rip off the sundress covering my swimsuit and jump right in. I could write that I reacted angrily to the brightly coloured beach ball that whacked me on the side of the head, or turned with indignation to the little boy who had thrown it. But he couldn't have been older than four probably, with white-blond hair and a wobbling bottom lip. A short, cherubic thing, who instantly apologised.

I'd forgiven him the moment I laid eyes on him.

'I'm sorry!' The man who leapt up from the nearest sunbed wasn't quite as good-looking as the boy. He was young, though, maybe in his early twenties, with the same fair colouring, but lacking similar impact. 'Zach's aim isn't great. He was throwing the ball back in the pool, it isn't ours.'

'Oh,' I said. 'It's all right. It didn't hurt.'

'Daddy, I didn't mean to.' Zach's bottom lip was still wobbling. He was wearing a sun vest that seemed to match his eyes, with a sailing boat print on the front.

The man bundled him into his arms and gave him a reassuring squeeze. 'It's OK, Zach. The nice girl says it didn't hurt.'

The nice girl. I hadn't been called that before, not that I could recall. 'Nice' wasn't a word I ever attached to myself. I could be cruel when provoked, or fiercely gallant when required. But 'nice' was a sort of wishy-washy, in-between thing I never strove to be, in the same way I never tried too hard to be pretty. I looked how I looked; some days better than others. Generally unpolished, though. Blackish hair too long and poorly tended; clothes that might have been fashionable once; legs and armpits shaven, just about. I didn't wax, buff or tweak the way Iris did. But for her, it was second nature to be beautiful, she'd been born with all the promise of a brunette Barbie doll.

'I'm Archie,' said the young man, and stuck out his hand towards me. 'Zach and I arrived yesterday. You haven't been here long yourself, have you?'

I blinked irritably at the outstretched hand. Why bother introducing ourselves? In a few seconds, after I walked off, we would revert to being strangers again. I wasn't in Maspalomas to make friends.

'Because I'm still a pasty white, like you?' I said, no intention of giving him my name. 'See, I can be Sherlock, too.'

He laughed. It was this sound that got my notice. Not his eyes, or the fact he seemed young to be the boy's dad, or the warmth of his accent, far more Welsh than mine. His laugh. It seemed to slice through all my outer layers until I realised I'd been standing there too long, staring up at him. I shook my brain back to reality.

'So,' I mumbled, 'I'll see you around, I guess.' And thankful for the dark, oversized sunglasses covering a third of my face, I scuttled off along the path.  

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