This is the first in a new series of posts – little stories inspired by random happenings and observations from summer holidays. It might be something someone told me, something that really happened on one of my trips, or just an idea borne from a bit of people watching.
“Look! It’s a map of the world, can’t you see it?”
The girl squints down at his foot automatically, not thinking that this is in any way ridiculous. Then sense smacks her in the face along with his big toe as the boy shifts around so she can get a better view.
What is she doing? Of all the things she expected from their first holiday, trying to make out Africa from the pattern of peeling sunburn on her boyfriend’s foot was definitely not on the list. You couldn’t make this up.
He’s pointing. And he appears serious. The girl is just trying to remember if it was one large beer he had at lunch or two. The man’s delusional.
She’s already used an entire bottle of after-sun on his feet, but it seems the fun just never stops. Not for him anyway. Four days it’s been. Four days since she had to buy him a pair of cheap flip flops from a Greek supermarket at ten to midnight as they made their way from the taverna to that cocktail bar with the all night happy hour. His feet were the size of rugby balls; kind of like glowing, inflated pink marigold gloves stuck to the bottom of his shiny white shins. She’d imagined if she’d have stuck a pin in each instep he’d have flown around the seafront as though surfing on two popped balloons. At that point she’d wished he’d just fly home.
He had wanted to limp back to the hotel. She had wanted two for one cocktails in the vain hope that they’d help her see the funny side.
Fortunately, they did. And two hours later she warbled happily along while the boy sang his heart out on the karaoke. Turns out shots of Greek firewater are brilliant painkillers. But the alcohol always wears off, and after four days of him being room-bound, doesn’t she know it.
Now, while she’s admiring this apparent world map the sun has etched onto the foot attached to the supposed man of her dreams, she’s actually thanking her lucky stars that today is the first day he’s not still whining about never drinking again. The large beer from lunch has catapulted him right back into mischief, and the girl is grateful that the hungover zombie who’s hobbled around for the first part of the holiday seems finally to have had his skull crushed. But then again, this morning he woke her up by suddenly recoiling half way up the bed in horror as a solitary beam of sunlight shone through the gap in the curtains covering the open window. Crossing the threshold to the balcony seems decidedly off limits for him, and the girl wonders whether it might be fun to conduct an experiment involving garlic, you know, just to be sure she hasn’t swapped one supernatural freak for another. Either way, the situation is not exactly helpful when you’re on a Greek island in August.
She silently claims a small victory when she finally gets him poolside, but the boy’s insisting on buying a lilo now, and bearing in mind that this is clearly an idea conceived from watching two ten year old kids play air-bed surfing, she’s not completely convinced that it won’t all end in tears.
Still, off he trots down to the row of shops on the road that runs along the beach, bobbing along on his peeling pink feet, armed with a deadly combination of euros and fresh enthusiasm. The girl wonders what’s in store for her next.
Before they arrived she’d been dreaming of romance; of moonlit walks along the beach; of dinner in the restaurant up the hill that overlooked the sea. She’d mentioned that they should go there on the first night. But this was day five and the scorched foot drama had meant nothing but take away food since then. Mind you, those gyros from the place a few doors down were pretty amazing. She could make do with those again if she had to. Every cloud has its silver lining.
But for now, she thinks she’ll just sit and enjoy fifteen minutes of solitude, wondering what it is about the sun that seems to turn perfectly sensible people into crazy fools in swimming pools once they get themselves to a different country. She sighs and lies back, letting her eyelids close.
Soon, she’s aware that the sun on her face has become a shadow. And she looks up to find the boy blinking back at her. There’s no lilo, but he’s holding a little blue parcel.
“I’m a bit old for air-bed surfing,” he says. “And knowing me, I’d only end up with a broken toe or something like that.”
“I bought this instead”
The boy grins and hands over the little box. The girl smiles and begins to tear at the paper.
Inside is a silver bracelet with a charm shaped like a sun attached to it. It’s the one she saw in the jewellery shop on the first day, before they’d made it to the beach and he’d forgotten that you were meant to put the sunscreen everywhere, feet included. She didn’t think he’d remembered.
“Oh and by the way,” he continues, plopping down onto the end of the sunbed. “How about that restaurant up the hill that overlooks the sea for dinner tonight?”
And just like that it doesn’t matter that they only have two days of the holiday left; it might be their first trip together, but it won’t be the last. They’ve got the world at their holiday feet.