The Woman on the Beach
I met her on the beach. The most beautiful woman on the sand, standing sleek and wet. Her feet were still being lapped by the Mediterranean waves. It didn't look like she was with anyone. So I spoke to her.
'Not coming ashore?'
'I'm not Spanish,' she said.
Her English was accented, with the careful fluency of someone who had worked hard to have it.
'Neither am I, but are you then? Coming ashore?'
She laughed, 'For a while.'
I tried to be discreet and noted she wore a black one-piece. A striking thing in contrast to the day-glo, multicoloured bikinis all over the beach.
'Do you like it?'
She ran her hands down her sides as she spoke. So I swallowed and said I did.
'Let's get your towel and things, I'll buy you a drink!'
I waved in the direction of a nearby chiringuito.
'No towel, I have all I need. Let's go!'
So I followed behind her confident stride and admired the view.
We ordered cocktails and I suggested lunch.
'Sardinas?' She asked as she ran her tongue over her upper lip.
We ordered twelve and I ate two. She devoured them. When I asked her if she liked them she told me that she preferred raw herring and then laughed.
'Silke, my name is Silke', she said when I asked her.
'No, you'll never guess.'
And I didn't
Later, we walked to my hotel. I wondered why the hot pavements didn't burn her bare feet.
In the morning, I took her one-piece to a laundrette below some nearby holiday apartments. The Spanish matron used to do me a service wash once a week. She said nothing as she put the swimming costume in with my faded shorts and singlets, just smiled and gave a slow wink.
'Una hora y media, vale?' she croaked and I promised I'd be back in an hour-and-a-half, for sure.
My hotel room looked like Hurricane Katrina had passed through it. The dressing table mirror was smashed. Silke was sobbing on the bed, which at least looked no worse than when I'd left.
'Where is it?' She screamed.
She rubbed her hands down her sides as she had done yesterday. It seemed much less provocative now.
'Your bathing suit? It's safe. I'll have it back in an hour or so. I thought maybe...'
Her clawed hand missed my face by a feather-breadth and I realised that maybe we wouldn't. My hands were locked around her wrists and she was spitting something Scandanavian that I didn't recognise - although I had a few words of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. The kind of thing you picked up from girlfriends.
'Calm down.' My voice was a little hoarse.
But she didn't. She lay on the bed for all the world as if she'd suffered a catatonic fit. No movement at all for well over an hour, not even when I left fot the laundrette.
My plan was to use humour to defuse the situation, so I dumped my clothes on the floor after I got back and held up the black one-piece against my body.
Silke almost knocked me over on her way out. Maybe she put the swim-suit on in the lift. I don't know, I never saw her again. She left me with only the memory of the smell of kelp and the ocean on my fingers.