Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

        Edwina missed all the excitement over the engagement as she was studying art in the Canaries during the winter months. Something to do with the use of light with colour. To finance her art work she also worked part time as a bar maid in some taverna in Playa de L'ingles. She and Cuan are still an item as far as I know, and for some people absence does make the heart grow fonder. But in my case Iíd even forget what the other person looked like, so I donít think that would work out for me. Cuan has given up the drink and taken to doing some spiritual development workshops to tide him over the winter months. He swears by cold showers and white light visualisations as the road to his salvation. Still if it keeps Cuan away from the drink, who am I to judge.

        My mother rang Edwina and Grace to tell them the good news. Grace was ecstatic, Edwina suspicious. You can see now why Edwina is my favourite sister. Of all the clan sheís the one who knows me best so when I told her that I was engaged she was shocked to say the least. Maybe it was the speed of events that surprised her as after all I had gone to Dublin as a single girl and now I was getting married.

         "Are you pregnant Anna? Just say 'yes' if mother is listening, and look Iím here for you. You know that."

         "No, Iím not Ed. Iím doing it the right way, well the conventional normal way for a change, marriage then babies."

         "I cantí believe you found the man of your dreams and you never told me. How could you not? Me Eddie favourite sister."

         "Look I wanted to be sure the bubble wouldnít burst before I told anyone. Grace has only met him twice so there hasnít been any grand conspiracy keeping you in the dark or anything. Eddie listen, this guy is perfect, good looking great job, owns his own house. Youíll love him."

         "Do you know what Iíve realised Anna being out here on my own having a lot of time to think. Sometimes weíre held hostage to our dreams, like they can blind us to other possibilities, alternative paths."

        What the fuck was she talking about--Me or her?

         I hate that about Edwina the way she can plunge me into confusion and doubt by the way she questions everything. I was living proof that you can go after your dream and make it come true. I didnít need an alternative path at this stage in my life plan. Just cos she and Cuan are going all alternative, having their own space etc doesnít mean that I have to follow suit. Christ Iím sick of my own space, bored to tears in fact.

         "Well if youíre absolutely certain heís the man for you then Iím happy. Honest I am. Maybe its since you left Dingle that weíve drifted a bit and I miss us Anna. I miss us."

         Edwina has always been there for me when I needed her in the past and now that I was happy I had gone on my merry hedonistic way without considering our sisterly relationship. I always hate it in other women, who once theyíve got a man everyone and everything else is put to one side. Men donít ever seem to do that. They keep in with the boys and continue playing football or golf or what ever it is they do. Women become part of their lives but not the whole of it.

         I was guilty of neglecting my sister and friends so when Edwina suggested that Assumpta and I join her for a weekís holiday in the Canaries I felt duty bound to accept. Horrah I could have a hen night of sorts in the sun, well maybe a pre hen night cos I couldnít leave out Ruth and Claire from work or some of my clients like Maura Murphy from Ranelagh who lives for romance and dreams despite the fact that sheís divorced from her former husband who battered her throughout her marriage. She is such an incredible woman for she continues to believe in true love despite what destiny threw on her path.

         "It's the luck of the draw darling. You win some you loose some. Sure didnít I think Mick was great and he was for a while but just cos things didnít work out for me doesnít mean that thereís not a lot of good guys to go around. When you find yourself a good guy Anna, you just nab him girl and have yourself a fine old time."

         Well I was planning on having a good time but not with Connor. I sort of expected him to feel a bit peeved when I told him I was off with the girls for the week. But he thought it was a great idea for me to get away for to the sun for a while and relax. He said it might give me the chance to decide where weíd get married and the guest list although it turned out he had the whole thing planned all along.

         When he suggested a short engagement and a July wedding and a marquee at his parents place I felt a bit put out. I thought weíd get married in Dingle to the envy of the neighbours who knew me. But at such short notice it would be nigh on impossible to book a hotel so a marquee it had to be. Connorís mother knew the chaplain in Trinity College so Connor could organise the church part. I wasnít too comfortable with the way it all seemed to be taken out of my hands but hell donítí I hate organisation.

         If I had my way Iíd just step into my dress the day of the wedding and march up the aisle. I just wanted to play the starring role after all and not get too bogged down in details like who to invite and what food people would eat. Connorís mum Cora is a cordon bleu cook so I guess she could arrange the food and nibbly bits.

         Connor was too busy to take us to the airport, some business or other at the office so we had to say our goodbyes the night before. This was going to be our first full week apart since we began dating so I felt rather forlorn especially and maybe because he didnít say heíd miss me without me asking him first.

         "Connor?"

        "Yeah?"

        "Are you not going to miss me then?"

        "Sure arenít you only gone for a week and youíll be back in no time at all."

        "Wonít you miss me even a tiny little bit?"

        "'Course I will, now come here and give me a hug."

         That was it one big hug and one giant kiss. I promised to ring him as soon as I arrived and we so we parted company in a most ordinary way. I wanted him to tell me how much he was going to miss me and then I could then have reciprocated passionately. Perhaps itís for the best that one of us is more emotionally restrained in this relationship. Hmmm. Iíll have to obsess about this later.

         Elliot offered to drive us to the airport to save us the hassle of getting the airport bus. I could tell he despaired when he saw my three bulging suitcases but I was going for a full week after all. Dear Elliot nothing is too much trouble for him and as he said himself he had nothing else to do. One of the advantages of living outside the corporate world is more freedom although the trade off is less money. Still Elliot seemed to earn enough with his music to get by and never seems short.

         I love packing for a holiday. I always wait for an hour before I go and then I throw everything higgly piggly into the cases in a few mad panicky sessions and then sit on the cases Ďtil I can shut them and then Iím away. Assumpta packs almost a week in advance, with everything planned methodically. She has a checklist to make sure she doesnít forget anything. I just pack everything that way thereís no chance of leaving anything out. Assumpta even has graduating levels of sun tan creams bought. Christ even her sunbathing will be planned with military precision. I buy my lotion at the airport as its all part of the excitement of getting in the holiday mood. All this rushing and frenetic activity makes me feel Iíve earned the holiday.

         At least there are the shops at Dublin airport to divert our attention from the fact that our flight has been delayed by four hours. Four hours! This really upsets Assumpta who hates it when her plans are disrupted. I on the other hand view disruption and the chaos that ensues as one of lifeís little hiccups more to be savoured rather than abhorred.

         I especially love Dublin airport. I love the noise, the smell, the sense of anticipation, feeling important cos Iím on my holiday. When I die I want some of my ashes scattered in Dublin airport and the rest on Fionn tra. Even though I request cremation I still want to have a grave stone with an epitaph." She did it her way." Nobody need know I fucked up a lot. Still Iím being very good now. Very adult and responsible. What if I am becoming terminally boring. No I will not ask Assumpta if Iíve become a bore cos she thinks I Ďm crazy wanting to get married at all.

         Assumpta is totally pissed off and refuses point blank to join me on my shopping spree. Assumpta hates impulse shopping whereas Iíd never buy anything unless it was on impulse. I leave her nursing a jaded coffee in the canteen and arrange to meet her later in the bar. Make way for Anna, sheís engaged you know but about to let her hair down and have a little mini break from her fiance. Yes me Anna Moran has a fiance. My fiance Connor."Let me introduce you to my fiance Connor." I love that word. Itís freer happier and not as serious and heavy as the word husband maybe because fiance has an escape clause written into it.

         Going through customs Iím stopped and bloody frisked by this ultra thin acne faced female officer who got some crazy idea into her head that I looked suspicious. I am a respectable engaged woman Iíll have you know. I was subjected to the usual grilling, like where was I going and who was I staying with. And that was it, interrogation over. I think some of these lady officers get a cheap thrill feeling us women up. Still it was the only grope I was going to get that day.

         I head straight for the cosmetic section to cheer myself up and buy some nice treats for my holiday. The thing with me is I find it impossible to choose which brands of make up to buy so much so that I end up with a Clarins cleanser and a Clinique toner and a Lancome moisturiser. Itís only the advertising companies who say you have to stick to the same range. I like to mix and match my beauty products much to the horror of the assistants in attendance. I also have the habit of trying on the make up before I decide what shade and this can change with my mood.

         Having four hours to kill gives me the chance to go to every counter and try on the various shades. Beige is a bit too wishy washy. Hmm. Golden brown, too tartish. Pretty soon Iíve used up the available space on my face with multi shades of orange and beige. At least its taken away the pale pasty look, although mind you a little out of place with my white skin. Now I wonder how I can make my eyes stand out. Maybe if I just pencil over my eyelid and use some pink and green for effect on my brow I'll...

         "Excuse me madam. You canít do your face up with the cosmetics here. You have to buy them first."

         "Iím testing them out first before I buy them" I retort defensively. Besides we should be given some freebies to compensate for us having to wait in the airport being bored out of our tits. I would have loved to have said this to her perfectly smug made up face but I didnít. Instead I pandered to her vanity and asked her about her make up and if she could give me some samples I could try out at home. I ended up leaving with samples of Clinique cleanser, toner, moisturiser and a small vial, especially made up by the shop assistant of the latest sport foundation, the sort thatís been designed to stay on your face all day. What I did buy was a bottle of factor four and a bottle of factor eight to safeguard my skin from ozone burning and my moles from mutating. I also bought this divine white skimpy bikini to show off potential tan.

         My next port of call was the bookshop and choosing some books for the holiday. I didnítí want anything too taxing so I ended up getting a load of magazines instead. I love magazines, especially Cosmopolitan and She and Hello and Bella. I couldnít choose so I had to buy them all and ended up spending thirty pounds on magazines alone. Sure couldnít I share with Assumpta and give some to Eddie once I arrived on the island.

         I think magazines keep us women sane. They keep us in touch with what we want and what we think we want and what others think we want. We read magazines to know we are not alone in our cellulite ridden angst and our relationship problems. The models inside are our new icons. We donít pray to them but we can aspire to them as they are above us mortals on our journey to perfection. They inspire us, but on a bad day they can totally piss us off, especially me. But not today. I love the whole world today.

         Assumpta was tete a tete with a some gorgeous Spaniard by the time I got to the bar. He was feeding her some Irish liquors and Assumpta was making all sorts of gooey sounds in response. Straight away I noticed his wedding ring. What is it with Assumpta and married men? She must get off on the thrill of the chase and once they want more of her than sheís willing to give she dumps them.

         I even felt sorry for poor Mickey, her former lover. The silly sod was heart broken spending hours trying to woo her back with phone calls, flowers, even sitting outside the house in his car over night. I had to tell him she didnít want to see him or hear from him again but it was only when she screamed out the window at him " Go back to your fucking wife you adulterous prick " did he finally get the message and leave her alone. Still you have to be straight with some guys or they donít get the message.

         "Mmmm. I like that choc choc. Anna you must meet Pedro. Heís on our flight to the Canaries"

 

         "Ah SeŮorita. Delighted to make the acquaintance of yet another beautiful woman." He said as she shook my hand holding it a trifle too long.

         All thoughts of loving the world have taken a severe nose dive. I didnít like Pedro at all. He was a good looker all right but a right sleaze in the manner of one who not only strips you with his eyes but he also gives you the impression of knowing what heíd do once he had you stripped. Pedro was a walking clichť, tight white pants and an open shirt with a gold medallion. Yeuch. Not only was he on our flight but he was also sitting beside us on the plane. Iíd have thought Assumpta would have waited to get to the island before she found some bloke but sheís insatiable when it comes to men.

         It seemed to take forever to board. The thing with flight delays is that the people who have to wait are tired and worn out by the time they got on the plane. So tempers are sharper as people shuffle along in the queues. There was a woman in front of us with two squabbling boys who were belting each other and howling. The mother was probably worn out listening to them and had opted for ignoring them. But it seemed that the more she ignored them the worse they got.

         "Mammy he called me 'snot face'."

        "No I didnít. Heís just making it up. Anyway he said 'fuck off' and thatís worse, isnít it mammy?" saked the elder of the two.

        "Youíre a stupid snot face back and I hope the pilot throws you out of the plane and youíll fall and your head will split open and the rats will eat it."

         With that the eldest boy stuck his finger into his brothers eye and far from shutting him up he went ballistic and bit him on the arm. That was it. Iíd had enough.

         "Listen boys why don't you be quiet for your mother and try not to fight so much. Look weíll soon be on the plane and away on holidays."

         I only succeeded in shutting them up for a few seconds before they launched into hurling abuse at each other again. Please God donít give me any sons. Maybe a token one but not two boys. I couldnít handle them at all. I hope that by the time I have babies I can choose the sex of my children, delete the XY and inject the XX. It can be done and in all fairness if I have one boy I will have to genetically engineer a girl. Christ the things Iíll have to worry about in the future. I think its an active man that Ďs supposed to sire daughters so I might have to get Connor to take up jogging or some other aerobic activity.

         I take the window seat without asking as I wanted to at least be able to look out the window while Pedro and Assumpta whispered to each other and laughed. I hate it when she does that as if everything she says is so top secret and funny to boot. To make matters worse the boys from hell were sitting in front of me. Their mother who was more or less like some brow beaten zombie in the waiting area now seemed to come back to life and realise that she had two children to look after. I watched her attempt to stop them whining and bickering and although I would have liked to have seen them slapped just to bring them to their senses...

         "Listen you little shits. I worked hard for this holiday and you two are not going to destroy it for me. Over my dead body," she screamed as she banged their two heads together a bit too violently for my liking. But it did the trick and pretty soon they were making nice drawings for their lovely mammy who had all but mashed their brains. Still whatís a bit of child abuse if I can fly in peace.

         Assumpta and the Latin Pedro were deeply ensconced in each other for the entire flight so much so that I may as well not have existed. Not once did they include me in the conversation, only when Pedro was ordering a drink and asked me if Iíd like one. I ordered a double vodka and soda and as I hadnít had any alcohol for a long time it went straight to my head.

         I had forgotten how relaxed and happy I get with alcohol. I love the way reality dissolves and I quite literally melt. Alcohol does that you know, it melts the cell wall, releasing whatever has been hidden and held back. That is the main reason as part of my B. A. V plan that I had to give up drink as I knew that I couldnít trust myself. Whatís inside my cells is a sexual fiend, quite possibly a nymphomaniac. A nymphomaniac is a nymphomaniac by virtue of the fact that she has no control over her sexual desires. After four vodkas that just about describes me.

         So once the alcohol kicked in I felt suffused with desire. I think flying is supposed to exacerbate the effects of alcohol so my cells were releasing their desires at a very rapid rate indeed. I looked over at Pedro and took note of his sexy pouting lips. Mmmm very kissable and lickable. Ahhh. You know the way that thought forms are supposed to travel well maybe they travel quicker in the air cos when I looked down at Pedroís trousers I could see his bulge beginning to inflate like a life boat. The guy must be fucking huge. I could also see Assumpta looking down at his truncheon secretly relishing the effect she thought she was having on him but I knew it was coming from me.

         I couldnít believe it when I started to get aroused myself. It must be the high levels of carbon dioxide in the airoplane air that are having an adverse effect on my genitalia. My pulse was quickening my heart racing, I was flushing in the manner of heroine from a Victorian novel. I try to concentrate on the story I was reading about a serial toe sucker on the Enquirer but my eyes keep squinting over to Perdroís trapped member. Get thee gone penis thoughts. This is virgin territory. Shit why is my body betraying me like this. I try to think pure thoughts but they elude me. I donít even like Pedro so why do I feel like lowering myself down on top of him.

         As if he could read my thoughts he looked over at me asking me if he could take a look at one of my magazines. Hmm. Was the guy trying to connect to me or was he just asking for a magazine? I need to seriously train myself not to read into things too much. I know the guyís a creep but his penis certainly has me spellbound. I wonder what altitude does to erections?

         Assumpta announced she was off to the loo while discreetly winking at Pedro. The lusty Pedro in the meantime waited for a nano second before handing me back my magazine and following his wicked willy down the aisle. I might have known Assumpta would pull a stunt like this. She who prides herself on being a grand connoisseur of experimentation was about to join the mile high club. Lucky bitch.

         I was left to imagine what was happening between the two of them although I was pretty sure Assumpta would fill me in on all the details once we landed. Thatís one of the pleasures of being single, you can just screw who you please and thereís no hang ups. Itís when you want more than sex that the trouble begins because youíve got to think about relationships and working on them and commitment and what brand of toothpaste the other person likes. Itís when sex becomes part of a larger picture that complications naturally ensue. I used to have a great sex life with no strings attached and there was no problem, mostly cos I never saw them the guys again. Now I am desperately trying to figure out how I can integrate sex into a relationship thatís actually going somewhere as in up the aisle.

         Being left on my, thoughts began to assault me from all angles. Any repressed thoughts that could threaten my cosmic plan came shooting through my cerebellum with a vengeance. I hadnít yet made love to Connor. We had touched and groped but we had never done it. Not really. Not at all in fact.

         Now what sort of guy would marry without first sampling the goods? A simpleton? A saint? A latent homosexual? A psychologically damaged person? Halt you insane unkind thoughts. Connor is none of the above. Heís kind and considerate and he respects me. There. Thatísí shut you up. Why we will have the rest of our lives to make love and to explore our sexuality together. Just because he doesnít jump me each time he sees me means nothing. Nothing at all. No worries. Connor wants me as his wife, not some floozy who makes out at the drop of a hat.

         I squirmed awkwardly on the seat, not that it gave me any relief. This must be what happens when you stay celibate for a long period of time. All of a sudden oneís libido bursts forth without warning and all you can think of is fulfilling those desires. I pictured myself in the toilet with Perdo and how heíd have to sit on the toilet while I sat astride him and how his hands would hoist me up and down until we both exploded together. Or I could be the one who moved rhythmically up and down teasing him goading him, controlling him.

         "You should try that sometime Anna," whispered Pedro in my ear as he returned to his seat and wrestled me from my reveries. Assumpta looked flushed, her hair a trifle too dishevelled for her but she sat there with this ridiculous smile on her face for the rest of the journey. I was no saint however so it wasnít my place to judge. I know for a fact that if Pedro had chosen me, Iíd have gone with him.

         By the time we arrived in the Canaries. I was cross-eyed with exhaustion. In fact I was so tired I felt like throwing myself on the conveyor belt and having a bit of a snooze before the bags came around but somehow I didnít think the authorities would be too happy with all that. I hate arriving in the middle of the night. Thereís no buzz. Everyone is too tired and disgruntled to feel anything other than numbness and apathy and an overwhelming desire for sleep.

         Pedroís wife was waiting for him in the airport lounge. The two faced gigolo practically ignored us as he swept his wife, a small pretty dark lady off her feet and kissed her passionately. I watched him slip his card to Assumpta before he disappeared into the night leaving us to find our own way to our hotel in Playa De LíIngles. Assumpta said that being in the air heightened her orgasm but Pedro came too quickly so she tore up his card and threw it in the bin. Another one bites the dust and thereís plenty more fish in the ocean.

        I didnít remember much about the journey to the hotel that night only that Assumpta arranged to meet a crowd of Scottish lads by the pool the following day. Where she gets the stamina I donít know. All I wanted was my bed and blissful oblivion.

        Meeting Edwina was a shock to say the least. I have never seen a white person so brown in all my life. She looked so fabulous that for a moment I was fleetingly jealous. She had lost weight and had toned up from swimming and walking on the beach. I just looked so unhealthy in comparison. She looked stunning in the meantime dressed in an navy and orange cotton wrap round skirt, I want one for myself and her toes adorned in toe rings, I also want some of them. I also desperately want a tan.

         We always tend to get a bit emotional when we meet each other after any extended period of time. I just love her to pieces cos sheís kinda funny like me and real emotional and I can trust her. Tell Grace anything and sheís immediately on the family grapevine, gathering other family membersí reactions to something I did or said or was supposed to have said. But you could torture Ed and sheíd never repeat a word.

         Weíve always been close and have shared many adventures together, although our last one cost her a driving license. Ed was so nervous before she sat her driving test that she thought sheíd mess it up. She was crying hysterically saying that if I was there in the car with her sheíd be ok. Now passengers are not normally allowed for a driving test so without mentioning anything to the driving inspector I hid in the boot of the car and went along to the test centre with her. I was comfortable enough with a pillow and a blanket to keep me warm and two packets of rollos to stave off any low blood sugar in response to confined area.

         I could hear the inspector drooning on about reversing and three point turns and what with it being so dark I felt very drowsy. When I woke up I mistakenly thought that hours must have passed by and that Ed had forgotten all about me. There was no sound of voices anymore and the car was stopped. How was I to know that the inspector was in the middle of signing the form to say that Ed had passed. I started to shout " Ed, Ed will you let me out please." Needless to say Ed lost the test and we were the talk of Dingle for many months and referred to as the crazy Moran girls. Actually I donít think thereís a rule saying you canít carry people in the boot during your test so maybe she was failed unjustly.

         Most evenings before she went to work I went over up to her room over the taverna. It was so small but as she said herself it was cheap and functional and the price included an evening meal downstairs. We sat huddled on her lumpy bed and I showed her photos of Connor and told her a little bit about the man I was going to marry. When I confided that I hadnít had sex with him yet she thought I had flipped but I assured her it was part of my plan to get a husband this time and not just a temporary lay. She begged me to sleep with him now that I was engaged and assured me that of course he wouldnít think any less of me.

         I had a suspicious feeling there was something she wasnít telling me but I wanted to wait for her to tell me in her own time. Life on this Island obviously suited her as I had never seen her look as glowing and healthy.

         Edwina worked in Peteís taverna every evening from seven til midnight. Pete and his family had been very good to Ed since she arrived and seemed to take her under their wing. In the evenings before Assumpta and I hit the town I would sit there sipping some sangria and watch her as she worked, stopping to ask customers if they needed anything else, picking up empty glasses and flirting with the young lads. She seemed to belong here in this land of endless sunshine and incredible sunsets. Funny isnít it when you see a person you know in another context. Itís almost like youíre seeing them for the first time and you have to get to know them all over again. I had to learn about her life here and how that life had changed her.

         Ed painted during the afternoons when she made her way onto one of the many beaches and attempted to capture her surroundings on canvas. I must say she certainly managed to capture the light through her use of colour and style. My sister was becoming quite the artist. A friend of hers who had seen her work when she was over on holiday had given her a commission to paint a series of landscapes. Art has never brought much money Eddieís way but it has always brought her happiness and now she was actually being paid for being happy.

         We went to the usual pubs and clubs that women of our age are wont to do in a place like this. Assumpta had swarms of guys drooling over her, wanting to take her out at night. Most nights after we had been out together she disappeared onto the beach or went back to some guyís apartment. Assumpta became even more highly sexed with all the sunshine. She was in her element. The clubs were her main pulling ground so by night we danced like some crazed over sexed banshees.

         Weíd devised a lesbian act designed to drive the men wild. Of course we were drunk when we did and it was nothing too intimate, just a bit of nibbling on the ear lobes, kissing on the lips and dancing very close together. One night we won a prize of a bottle of champagne when we danced on a table and men stuck money down our bras and knickers. I got so drunk I ended up crawling back to the hotel on my hands and knees and crying for my mother. If Connor could have seen me...

         Not once did I succumb to the temptation of other guys. I was taken. I had my man. I could look but I couldnít touch. Not that I didnít want to. I did especially after a few drinks when these gorgeous bodies danced with me and caressed me and then I had to tell them fuck off and maul someone else. Yes I was very stoic indeed. Also incredibly sexually frustrated. I was becoming obsessed with sex. Without being able to throw myself into work I was having horny thoughts every three minutes. Not good. Not good at all.

         Three days into the holiday I still hadnít got a tan despite the fact that I was sunbathing for up to seven hours a day. To make matters worse my white bikini turned out to have a thong knickers. Although I looked fabulous in the front, from behind and I had to check in the mirror for this one, I was frightening. A thong is for people without cellulite who can proudly parade their bare cheeks with confidence. My cheeks on the other hand resemble the craters of the moon, they are not pert and they wobble uncontrollably from side to side.

         But, hey, thongs are in, and I did see some pretty horrendous arses parading around whose owners didnít seem to mind. Not in the least. This can only mean two things. They are too short sighted to see their own bottoms in the mirror or they have friends who donít tell them the truth. Assumpta could sport a thong as perhaps being Scandanivain she has no genes for cellulite while I am unfit for public viewing. Still being on holidays and feeling perhaps an un natural sense of liberation I wore my thong but nobody saw my bottom as I covered it with a hand towel and I never walked across the poolside in my swim wear.

         We did the same thing everyday throwing ourselves out of the bed for the last breakfast and then booking our sun bed by the pool for the day. This was serious work getting a tan so sightseeing was confined to late afternoons until we had drank enough of the best rays of the sun.

         Assumpta had the sunbathing ritual organised to a tee. We had half an hour on our front and half an hour on our back. All my moles and large freckles had to be covered with plasters so I had at least ten plasters covering as Assumpta calls my dangerous parts. After an hour she had us reapplying the sun tan cream so that we wouldnít burn. Burn. We werenít even getting a blemish. At least I wasnít. I seriously wondered if I was suffering from reflective light syndrome because I had no results for all the time I was spending lying there. I was still pasty white and bordering on getting an anxiety attack seeing as I had only four days left.

         Assumpta in the meantime was getting a light golden all over tan and when in the evenings we examined our dayís work she was the only one with a colour. It was time to reassess my situation and plan my tan logically. Assumpta was of Scandinavian origin which meant she had whiter genes than me. Hence she needed more protection from the sun than I did. Factor eight meant you could stay in the sun eight times longer than it would take you to burn. So I would burn after fifteen minutes so multiply 15 by 8 =120 minutes =2 hours. Hence with factor 8 I could stay out for two hours Assumpta had us reapplying so much that we couldnít absorb any rays at all.. I know sheís a control freak and all that but she surely hadnít the power to manipulate the sunís rays in her direction. Sod her. From now on I was going it alone. No more reapplying, just slap it on once and let the sun lick me all over.

         What the manufacturers of these creams donít realise is the amount of stress sunbathing becomes. Why not just stay out for fifteen minutes and be done with it. No the whole procedure involves hours spent roasting in the sun and never in my life have I managed to get an all over even tan. Christ when I do tan I only tan in instalments and in stripes. So my right leg gets a colour but my left leg gets one stripe of colour that may not even go in a straight line up my thigh but it wanders off around the back of my leg. Piebald tanning. Assumpta says its all to do with careful application of the sun tan lotion but no matter how hard I try I canít get it right.

         I decide to go down to factor 4 which would give me an hour in the sun without burning. I face my bed full face into the sunís rays and take off anything like glasses that would stand in my way. Come oh glorious sun and fed me with your wondrous rays. My pores are ready to receive your essence. Iím tired. Time for a little snooze but continue your work while I take some time out. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. I go to sleep and think of the sun and the sea and the gorgeous tanned bodies on the beach mine not being one of them.

         Shit I canít open my eyes. Theyíre stuck. I feel very hot and cold at the same time. My throat hurts, my lips feel dry and all I can manage is a croak.

        "What time is it Assumpta?"

        "Two oí clock. Fancy some lunch? Iím starving."

        I do a quick mental calculation. I have been lying underneath the most dangerous rays for an hour longer than my factor permits so I can only be scalded. I open my eyes slowly. I Ďm ok just a bit red. Assumpta looks up from her sun bed " Jesus Christ Anna youíre scalded. Why the hell didnít you reapply like I told you to?

        I had to lie in the hotel room in the dark for the rest of the day with natural yoghurt smeared all over the front of me. Iím dying. There are tiny blisters on my lips and eyelids. Oh I feel so sick. Why did I do this to myself. Iím so stupid. How could I have let myself burn like this? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

        The only consolation is that my cellulite looks much better burned, itís just about bearable. Sometimes stupidity works cos by day six I had lost the lobster look and was going a golden brown. The last day I was determined to go factor fuck all. Full burnage cos we donít get any sun in Ireland and I had to make up for the deprivation thatís all.

        While Assumpta went off for one of her afternoon delights with some well endowed Scot I went to the beach and found Eddie lying on her stomach sketching a dead crab. As if sensing my presence she turned around, eyes squinting under the glare of the sun." Iíve met someone else Anna. Right here on the Island."

        "Oh...right."

        I hate the way I go all monosyllabic when Iím told earth shattering news. Itís almost like Iím not responding so I try to gather my interrogating thoughts and spit them out.

        "What about your Cuan?"

        "What about him. Heís nothing to do with my life here."

        "But Cuanís your childhood sweetheart. Youíre hardly going to throw that away for a holiday romance."

        "This isnít some holiday romance as you put it. For the first time in my life Anna Iím in love."

        "Christ Eddie youíre going through the classic stages of infactuation. Thatís all. Your heart skips a beat when you see the person and you feel like youíre riding high on the roller coaster of emotion. I know I used to be addicted to the highs but you know what they donít last. You just wake up one day and wonder what you ever saw in dragon breath and you want him deleted or chopped into little pieces."

        "Jesus Anna give me some credit for knowing the difference between a chemical induced high and love. True love is different. Itís not dependent on some emotional swinging from elation to despair. This is real Anna. I wouldnít have thought it only Iíve experienced it."

        "Ok Ok First things first. Whatís his name? Where did you meet him?"

        "His name is Luca and we met not long after I arrived to the Island. Heís a flying instructor who gives lessons every afternoon and who also writes.. We met while I was painting on the beach on my evening off and he sat down beside me and we talked about my work. His sister is an artist so he knew quite a lot about art. Anna this might sound strange to you but this incredible feeling passed though me the minute I set eyes on him, as though a part of his soul rushed through me. I know it might sound insane but thatís exactly how it was and you know what he felt it too cos he wrote about it the following day in a poem."

        I didnít know if I could handle all this soul talk so I tried to steer the conversation back to like the reality of the situation.

        "But what about Cuan. Donít you love him anymore?"

        "Yes I love Cuan. We go back a long way but Iím not in love with him Anna. Come to think of it I was never in love with him. For the first time in my life I have learnt what it is to be truly in love with someone and for them to be in love with me. Anna this is what inspires the great writers and artists because they know that the power of being in love is overwhelming. It lifts you right out of this world Anna "

        I watched her as she spoke about Luca and the way her eyes lit up and how beautiful she looked and I knew in my heart that she had tapped into something that I hadnít. But its all very well to have lofty out of this world emotions and itís another to destroy someone elseís dream.

        "So what are you planning on doing? Are you going to stay here and just abandon Cuan while he thinks youíre coming back to him soon?"

        "Iíll sort something out when the time is right. You wonít tell a soul about this Anna will you. Look I can only follow my heart and my heart is not with Cuan "

        A part of wished she hadnít told me about Luca. I hate the burden of secrets although I would keep my word and not tell a soul. It was the things that she said that bothered me the most about falling in love for the first time.

        "Anna you fall in love because part of your heart lies within the other so you can never feel complete unless you are with them. Oh Anna this feels so like kismet, an intervention of the Gods. It feels like I donít have a choice."

        Excuse me? What about being in the driving seat? What about telling Eros and Aphrodite to naff off and pick on some other poor unsuspecting mortal? Maybe the sun had driven Edwina mad. What with the hours spent in it painting maybe she was following in Van Goghís footsteps. Unless of course love is a kind of madness after all and my sister cannot help herself.

        Here on the sun kissed Island my sister Eddie and her new guy Luca were creating the magic, living the dream, riding high on the crests of destiny. While I Anna Moran had opted for the driving seat cruising along at my own pace, being ultra adult for a change making my own decisions and choices. Yet all this talk of love and being in love was confusing me. Was she right and was I so terribly wrong?

 

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