I thought I had come for peace and quiet to try and get my head sorted out and some sort of stable base into my life, for sure as hell; I had lost it at so called home. I was only 35, recently divorced and running away with what little I had left after 14 years of, what I thought, was a happy married life with two kids in the UK.
She told me that night quite coldly I was boring her to death, had no consideration for her needs, and the children never saw me so I may as well not be there. Also this new man she met adored her, adored the children and was at an age when he needed to get security and settle down.
Stunned would have been a good word to use. I was bloody well stunned. I had no needs, or required no security? Or doted on MY wife, MY children? This guy seemed to want everything I had worked for and achieved over the years and with her cooperation and lawyers there was not a damn thing I could do except pay up and shut up.
Here I was feeling that I had just woken up, on a cooling beach in Benlamadena at ten at night. That is not conducive to a good nights sleep. What the hell was I going to do? I had simply taken the proceeds, very few pounds, all to show after 14 years running my own business, now sold, and the sale of a large house, now sold and that was it. All gone, sold to pay for an unwanted divorce and lawyers, no job, kids taken away and ex wife lying in my bed with another man.
With a cold shudder I realised that I had not finished my drink and as I reached out for it I heard her sigh. Turning, my heart stopped a beat. A young woman of about 32 beautiful auburn hair and a long rectangular face with a creamy skin colour, but it was her eyes. The depths of which seemed to go on forever. The brown sadness they reflected was heartbreaking. I felt I had to at least to smile and just as I caught her eye the corners of her mouth started to crease in a mischievous grin. I pushed my chair back and turned to her.
She was gone. I could not believe it. One minute she was there the next vanished.
I gulped down the rest of my drink which made my eyes water and walked outside into the cool of the evening. The tourists were now spilling drunkenly out of the bars and clubs and she was nowhere to be seen. Home to bed and another empty day.
I struggled down to the promenade at the harbour in time for a late breakfast the next morning and as I struggled through coffee and toast, I heard a laugh, which sparked something in my soul. Turning, there she was again laughing at a man with a little dog dressed as a clown, yapping at a huge hairy sheep dog. She turned and there it was again that smile and those deep eyes. She waved at me shyly and throwing a few Euros onto the table to pay for the coffee I rose to walk over and meet her. When I turned back she was gone.
I looked all around and there was nowhere for her to go. I felt ridiculous now and could not get the image of that beautiful face out of my head. As I retraced my steps I bumped into a man I had met during a drunken type discussion a few nights previously and he insisted to taking me out to lunch. I vaguely remembered him and had little idea what we talked about except it had something to do with running a construction company and marketing his apartments outside Malaga.
It turned out that he was an ex pat and had run his own company very successfully for a few years in a small way, enough to make a fair living. When the recession hit he discovered that he had bought at the top of the market and despite cutting corners and reducing costs he was in serious trouble and doubted if he would survive much longer. Instead of creating his dream in Spain he had built a nightmare. In my view very successfully.
Over lunch and a few subsequent meetings later, I told him how to update his attitude; pay more for his estate agent go up market to quality, not quantity and bring in staff who had original ideas they could actually see through to fruition.
A few weeks later he offered me a modest job and when I went back I saw my slightly sordid living conditions for what they really were. I cleaned up my act but still had time on my hands, which allowed me to indulge in self pity. I just could not shake myself out of my repeating the cracked record of self pity.
The laughter made all the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Without even looking I knew it was her. Turning slowly there she was. The glossy hair, beautiful long face with the aquiline nose. An old fashioned female figure and long, long legs. She was with some other women and bending over a table of a completed meal with half full red wine glasses and laughing at photos. She looked up saw me and smiled. If I did not know better I would swear she winked.
I turned back and swung my legs over the bench I was sitting on, this time determined to meet her face to face. When I stood on the footpath ready to cross the road she was gone again. This time I walked over and in my poor Spanish asked who was the young woman. I was told there was no one of that description with them. Puzzled and doubting my growing linguistic skills and my own sanity, I apologised and walked on.
Three weeks later, the job going well and spirits much raised I moved into an apartment used as a show home during the weekends and got a small car. I now felt that I should get to know my new country a bit better. That was when my lights went on in my head. My new country! I suddenly felt released from some burden I had been carrying unknowingly and felt a great sense of relief. I now felt as if I had moved on. I took the weekend to explore the Costa de la Luz. All I knew was that it was near Gibraltar and was not developed in the 60’s and 70’s. That alone would recommend it.
It was quiet and old fashioned in some strange way. The harsh side of the Spanish nature was not evident. I pulled over and sat on a little memorial bench to some poor sailors who died at Trafalgar, and sitting peacefully in the sun took a slow deep calm breath,
There she was again. I could hear her laughter following me like some relentless pursuing hound. She seemed not to want to leave me alone. Everywhere I went she was there as well to haunt me. I decided that it was the effects of a hangover or too much drink, but then I remembered that my life had slowed down and I was operating at a less frantic level. I turned and there she was.
Tall, sitting quite upright in a little café, a small fashionable leather handbag on the wicker table beside her. She had a simple white cotton top tied at the waist. She wore of all things a pencil type skirt, which, though it should be incongruous in this setting, had a sufficient old fashioned air to look stylish as well. She looked over at me, waved and blew a kiss. I pointed to her table and then at myself and she beckoned agreeably for me to come over and join her.
I got up and locked the car but when I got to the little café she was gone. I sat down abruptly and ordered a beer. The San Miguel duly arrived and with it the waiter gave me a hand written note in clear flowing bold handwriting.
“From lady Senor” he growled, as only good Spanish waiters can.
I opened the note
“Nunca es tan mal como piensas. Hasta pronto”
“What did she mean, not as bad as I think and when will she see me soon?”
By now I was getting angry and frustrated. What on earth was going on? Was I cracking up or hallucinating? This strange stimulating old fashioned woman with deep eyes haunted me. Was everything in my mind?
The weekend was quiet and refreshing and I felt calmer and more in control of what I was doing than since I had arrived. I looked forward to going to the conference in a hotel in Malaga on Monday to meet all our Spanish people.
We were all surprised at the reception we got from the local estate agents we had picked to represent us. We had increased their fees by 50% on condition that they gave our sales at least 50% more time. This had worked beautifully as everybody else was cutting their fees. With us they did not go for the hard sell. They knew with the retainer and fee increase they would do well and they took more time with our customers. The clients liked the idea of no ‘freebees no pressure, no obligation’ and they relaxed.
I stood up to ease my back and there it was again. That musical laugh seemed to be the only thing I heard. I turned my head frantically looking for her and my heart started to pound, as I could not even catch a glimpse of her. Suddenly there across the huge conference room she stood tall confident and elegant. She beckoned me to follow her out and with a little secret wave glided out through the swing doors. I pushed through the crowd of people nearly starting a row with some in my headlong rush, but bursting into the bright sun all I could see was the back of a taxi gliding around the corner.
As I told our elderly bookkeeper, in my faltering Spanish, over our daily siesta chat, this was driving me mad. She was very good and let me practise my Spanish on her on hot afternoons when everywhere was quiet and she took the quiet time to up date her computer accounts.
She asked me what this woman looked like and without thinking I told her in Spanish. I started to describe her features in more detail than I thought I knew, which I thought kind of strange. She told me that from my description and the places I had seen, my ‘mujer curiosa’ sounded like the daughter of a local businessman who mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago, her name was Bebi.
That night because it was so hot I chose to walk back home in the cool of the evening. As I entered the light escaping from a little café there she was. Sitting at a table with her legs crossed just looking at me with those deep dark brown pools of eyes. I walked straight up to the table, not talking my eyes off her in case she disappeared again right in front of me. She looked up at me with those compelling connections to her soul again. Smiling she nodded at the spare chair. I sat down and still dared not take my eyes from hers.
I asked her name. “Bebi” she said
I found myself asking her in perfect Castilian Spanish “Where have you been I have had terrible difficulty in finding you?”
“Waiting for you to learn proper Spanish, but they call me Bibiana now” she replied.