9 May, 2016Issue 31.1Original Short Story

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Eva Hibbs


Jed’s lying on his bed, reading ‘The Irony of Spartacus’. I’m sitting up on mine, watching him. A twin room, Crete, dusk. He’s still sunburnt, cream around his neck yet to soak in. He gestures to a napkin bundled on the bedside table – oil’s soaked through.

‘You’ve missed dinner,’ he says, then continues reading. I move to sit at his feet.

‘Have you had a good evening?’ I ask.

‘Where’ve you been?’

‘I took myself on a walk, like I said I was going to.’ His eyes keep travelling through the lines. I move closer, whisper in his ear. ‘Which part are you on now?’ He turns the book towards me, showing me the page. Chapter Four: To Be Known Only in War. I nod, pause, and take a deep breath. ‘How would you feel if we did it with the doors open tonight?’ He sets the book face down on the bed next to him, making sure to keep his place.

‘The way the OAPs watch us eating breakfast in the mornings? It already makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want sit across the dining room from the seventieth birthday party clan, deskinning their dates, and have to wonder which of them has seen my wang.’ He raises an eyebrow. I set out to prove myself right.

‘What about doing it in the pool?’ He shakes his head. ‘The beach? The gardens?’ He’s laughing now. Everything in here is too bright, too obvious.

‘Since when did you say “do it”?’ A chuckle.

I move outside to the balcony, choose the seat without the cushion, rest my legs on the short table. I think more about the couple I watched this afternoon. They were so loose they spilled over one another. I try to invent histories for them in my head, but nothing comes. Their present overwhelmed.

‘Are we really having an argument about this?’ He’s followed me outside, claims it was me. I was the one who wanted to go for the cheaper option. The room with a ‘Lowered Privacy’ rating.

‘Ever thought that was for you, Jed?’ I reply. ‘Just to please you?’ We compromise on our experiences to save money.’ He groans. ‘Me?’ I say, ‘I think life is too short.’ I pull my knees up into my chest. ‘You know, I used to be adventurous.’

‘What is that supposed to mean?’

‘I used to turn up without having booked. I wouldn’t plan every single weekend. I would go on holiday on a whim.’

‘Well, yes. There’s such thing as having a responsibility now, though.’

Before I’d even properly approached, I could see two naked bodies from the windows, writhing over one another. As I angled myself around the house, I noticed double doors swinging wide open. There was an ice bucket, two opulent glasses with white wine that was near translucent. A plate of seafood, also iced. The fan teasing the bottom of the curtains. The tail of the sheet. I watched him slither his head down between her legs. The woman moaned and writhed towards the doorway. I took a few paces back, hid myself behind a tree. I held it between my palms and peered around it, like a child. Closing my eyes, I imagined myself as her, breeze tickling my chest.

‘Christ, Mel. I would have sex with the doors open if an entire complex of people weren’t going to see me.’

‘Do you even think we’re compatible?’


‘Maybe we’re holding each other back.’

‘Why is all this coming now?’

’Nothing is coming.’ I drape the airy sarong over my shoulders. ‘I’m going out again for a while.’ I take myself past him, back into the apartment and gesture to the beds that we haven’t got around to pushing together yet. ‘I want you to think about what’s really here, Jed.’ He goes to stand up, but I open the front door too quickly for him to continue.

Outside, I skid down the bank to the kitchen, crushing little insects underfoot. Snooping around the back, where I’ve seen workers take huge vats of rubbish, I step over some angry wire. A couple of young, Greek men smoking go to scarper. I tell them to wait.

‘I was actually looking for you guys. Wondering if I could pay one of you for a cigarette.’ They open their packet towards me. I try to hand them a five, but they refuse. They light it for me, too, and spark the leafier vessel they were passing between themselves before I split their circle. They take a few steps back so they can’t be seen from the kitchen window. From behind the bin they pass the body of a plastic dinosaur, offer me some of what they’re smoking. I shrug and take a couple of steps towards them. I feel almost too dainty accepting it; I’ve never felt dainty before. My brittle fingers brush theirs. I have a single toke and blow the smoke up into the air. They are smirking, but not laughing. Us here tapping into the same abandoned toy? We aren’t together. I just happen to have caught on the end of their wave. Sun’s almost set. Tomorrow night I’ll slip this money to one of the waiters. Hopefully it’ll stay with them.

Back in the room, I lie awake listening to Jed breathe deeply. There’s an occasional snort, a splutter. I get up. My legs ripple with chill from the air conditioning. I shut the door to the bedroom and fill the kettle with water that trickles from a plastic faucet. I turn on the hob and wait for its whistle. Mediterranean getaway. My tea accompanies me out to the balcony. Together we overlook the pool area, mountain range in the distance. Wind disturbing palm leaves. Waves lapping. Then the hum of a siren. Sirens. Three police cars race up the mountain track. The sound fades back out. The cars speed from sight.

I try harder to put a story behind that couple’s mountainside existence. So… Rich and/or treating themselves. From what I could see, they didn’t look Greek. But equally, they could’ve been. They had a darker complexion than Jed and I, ribbons of chestnut hair. Maybe they’re from Orthodox families and having their sexual premiere. You would make it the best occasion of your life, wouldn’t you? Yes, they could have been celebrating – a one off. The only time they’ll ever do something like that. Either way, they must be early in their relationship. First night of their honeymoon. Or perhaps they’re not even in a relationship at all. An affair. They’re having a sordid affair that only can exist carved into a mountain. One of them is an escort. Or both of them; they’re escorting each other. Last night of their lives. Why else that kind of decadence, that level of privacy? But… They knew each other well – the way they were navigating each other’s bodies. You have to know someone to tessellate into them like that.

I regard the mountains once more, reshuffle the balcony furniture that I’ve conquered, and tell myself that I have to be satisfied without an answer. I drift back inside, climb into the empty twin bed and lie awake for hours, attempting to empty my head.

Morning, I walk over to Jed, in the shade, with a wet t-shirt wrapped around his head. He sees me from across the courtyard. I have to squint at the sun reflecting off tiles.

‘Finally risen then?’ He says, quietly enough for no one else poolside to hear. I hand him the newspaper I routinely picked up for him on my way down. The hotel sells British newspapers at the front desk. He appreciates that. I sit by his feet, dangle my legs in the pool, disconnected.

‘Telegraph says they’ve caught the biggest fraudsters to grace the United Kingdom since the economic crisis hit.’ I spin around, wetting the hot ceramic. ‘Italian couple had been living in Britain under false names. Close to billions worth of pounds,’ he says.

‘Really?’ I say, leaning up against him.

‘They were caught close by to here, in fact. In the next town.’

‘What are the chances,’ I say, and put my hand firmly on his leg. He says he wishes we had known about it before. Instead of me going off on an existential ramble, I could have looked for the criminals. Apparently, there was a hefty reward. I nod, feeling limp under the midday sun, and kiss his hand holding the newspaper. All the way down his arm. I almost knock a glass of wine with my foot, hiding in the shadow of his sun-bed.

‘Early, I know,’ he retorts. ‘But it was given to me. There was a couple lying down here before – such a glamorous pair,’ he says. He describes their flawless pale skin, and blonde hair that fell to the shoulders on both. ‘Scandinavian, I think… The man had on a white linen suit, which must have cost a fortune, and the woman was wearing a swimsuit which could have been straight from the back of a sixties supermodel, the sides cut out like a lantern,’ he gestures an algebraic x into the air. ‘Didn’t look like a couple that would choose this resort.’

‘Anyway,’ he continues, ‘they had a bit of wine left in their bottle so they offered it up to me.’ He lifts the glass. ‘I wonder if they could tell I’d been looking at them, if that was the reason they offered it to me. Sometimes, you just can’t help it, can you?’ He smiles, waiting for me to respond. ‘Funniest thing was,’ he says, ‘I asked them what they were celebrating and they said, “Nothing.” That blew my mind.’ He repeats, ‘Nothing at all!’

He offers up the wine to me, creasing his eyes at the sun. Asks me if I want some. I shake my head.
He sighs as if to confirm that he knew I wouldn’t want any. We don’t do this kind of thing even when we are celebrating. Jed finishes what’s left in the glass, and tells me I can have his sun-bed. He needs to go and change for his walk.

Eva Hibbs is a writer from Oxfordshire. Her poetry has been published in the international literary journal The Lamp and the Irish Literary Review. Two of her plays have featured in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as part of theatre company, Portmanteau.