Barcelona (Sony young movellist of the year)

A coming of age novel surrounding three friends on a trip to Barcelona celebrating the departure from their childhood school lives. In the exotic surroundings of the vibrant Spanish city the trio face questions about friendship, sexuality and their unpredictable future.

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1. Chapter 1

The plane glides into a steady halt on the runway of Barcelona El Prat airport. As the wind crashes into the metallic form, a deafening but all too familiar sound booms through the aircraft, welcoming passengers to their destination. Greedy eyes explore the sweltering tarmac, as people begin to unbuckle their seatbelts regardless of staff instruction. Noise increases into a steady buzz of chatting, laughing and wriggling to get free from the restraints of the miniature economy seats. The light of the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign dims and a soft yet substantial beep alerts everyone they are free to collect their baggage from overhead compartments. The struggle begins and people leap, stretch and shove their way to the front of the aisle. All casual courtesy seems forgotten in the savage scramble between tourists as they, seemingly by accident, bang suitcases onto the heads of the unsuspecting.

Excitement wells up from the very pit of her stomach as she removes the fabric belt strapped below her navel. Her fingers stumble with anticipation sneaking a cheeky grin at her friends beside her in the adjacent seats. Amelia knew they were all in that moment sharing a curiosity that had been brewing for months about that the trip held for them, hopes of moonlit dancing on the beach and meeting a sultry Spanish companion. Though at the very core of the trip was a carnal longing for freedom from the constraints upon of their home town’s familiarity. False modesty was a chain in which all three had been bound with and for the first time in their short, yet privileged lives the opportunity to be truly shameless lay before them. The city held something deliciously unique, a population entirely strange and unknown to them. After all, consequence only occurs when people learn what another has done, with silence comes the destruction of responsibility. The three had made the solid pact to not speak a single word of any immoral or distasteful events and that promise freed them from their restraint while binding them entirely to one another.

Having waited for the majority of the impatient travellers to depart, the three got ready to stand and take their own luggage. Balanced awkwardly in the aisle John stood aside to let his friends go forth first, holding their suitcases in his able hands while they stumbled out of their seats. Ever the gentleman he followed the girls courteously off the craft but his demeanour dropped slightly when the heat hit him as they paced through the tunnel to the first terminal. John was a curious boy with short brown hair framing an almost pixyish face, which often showed a cool bemused expression when around those whom he was not well-acquainted. The girl directly in front of him on the other hand shared his chestnut hair but none of his disposition. Kyra had large features which she often used openly to comfort and smile at all those around her. Like moth to a flame people where drawn to her carefree, almost childlike innocence which exuded out of her every pore. Clichés aside Kyra was the opposite of John in all social sense, while Amelia seemed like a strange hybrid of the two personalities.

‘I’m so glad we’re here’ sighed Amelia once they reached the large glass terminal building which housed a selection of homogenized cafés and clinical grey seating. The relief was evident in her tone and correctly relayed her inner calm having escaped the stress of her studies and precarious relationship.

‘I know! It still feels so unreal.’ Kyra’s voice was loud in a way that seemed inappropriate for the banal airport waiting area, yet her enthusiasm was contagious. John simply smiled in return to the girls comments and kept his small grey eyes ahead on the path towards the exit. ‘I have to go to the bathroom.’ Kyra whispered.

‘Me too.’ Amelia agreed, then turning to John. ‘Will you wait with the bags?’

‘Of course girls.’ At this they left him and headed towards the small, empty airport bathroom next to the café.

Once within the bathroom the two stood in front of the mirror and practically mimicked one another with their actions, checking their glossy hair and adjusting any small make up imperfection. Amelia smirked at her reflection, her pale complexion was warmed by a couple of applications of fake tan from the previous night and she felt radiant. The euphoric glow could also be put down to her slow relaxation since the finish of their final year exams. She gazed for a second at her friend while she applied a thick coat of coral lip gloss, slightly envious of the way her skin seemed so flawless compared to Amelia’s pale and often blemished face. Kyra’s eyes met her friends and softened into a gentle smile.

‘So you know which way we’re going?’ asked Kyra.

‘I presume we follow the exit signs.’ This made Kyra giggle as she flipped open her powder compact.

‘But then where? Like how do you get to the city?’

‘Did you not check the itinerary?’ Amelia posed an entirely rhetorical question; of course she could not expect her friends to have memorized a 10 page complete schedule of events. She had meticulously planned the trip through hours of internet research and hunting for cheap ways to get into all the recommended nightclubs. Deep down, she arrogantly stroked her ego with the knowledge that she was the one who the entire affair would be lost without. ‘We exit the building and look for the signs to the train station. From there we get a shuttle to the centre of town, and then take the metro to our new apartment.’

‘I can’t wait to see the place; it looked so nice on the website.’

Despite their happy high from the arrival, there was a carefully concealed uncertainty about what Barcelona had to hold for three friends on the verge of adulthood. The apartment had been booked with the assumption of it holding four people but there was surprise cancellation from their fourth companion. They all knew that it was inevitable there would be a considerable inconvenience from the money that would have to be paid for their friend’s incompetence.

‘I’m happy that Elena isn’t here though.’ Amelia spoke with cruel humour.

‘I know! I thought I was the only one.’ The two chuckle as they adjust their outfits and proceed out of the bathroom back to where they had left John. He is standing attentively by their luggage with a patient grin on his face, as the girls approach. They each grab their bag and step onto the moving walkway that transports them through the large glass and metal building. The structure is cold and sterile, yet perhaps it was their anticipation or the brightly coloured posters welcoming them to Spain, which made them feel at ease. All official airport signals bore three languages, Spanish, Catalan and English to ensure that those challenged by the native tongue would still be able to follow simple instructions.

They walked slowly through terminal one until coming to large staircases which lead into a tunnel to the airport train station. Having exited the clinical building this suspended walkway looked older and more worn, with the moving walkway in the centre appearing to have been broken years ago. The heat was more intense than within the building which was cooled by massive air conditioning units. Still Amelia found the temperature a relief after the Italian summer sun which caused everyone in Milan to flee their homes for the whole month of August.

They arrived at a train station which had two tracks surrounded by concrete platforms dotted with benches. Before heading inside John walked towards the large red ticket machine and scanned all the options. None seemed in the least familiar, therefore in a panic he went over a short, rather fierce looking woman in a conductor’s uniform.

John had previously boasted of his Spanish linguistic skills but the girls knew from experience that not all information he put forth was accurate. They had rather meagre expectations of his capacities in the language, which meant when he casually strolled over and had a full conversation about the ticket prices to Passeig de Grácia, they felt a little silly. Rather strongly the woman snapped at him and pointed them towards the ticket machine, quickly muttering the name of the specified one they needed to purchase. Following instruction John thanked her then collected all the money needed to purchase three one way tickets to the centre.

Stepping through the barriers, being watched closely by the butch conductor, they headed straight for some benches out of the sun. The full glory of the beautiful weather could be appreciated from the stations location on a vast empty plot of land next to the airport, which could be viewed from the open air platform in which they sat. The buzz from finally being on their long-awaited holiday was beginning to wear off and Amelia knew that because of their early arrival, they would most certainly have to wait for the apartment to be prepared. Remembering her promise to the landlord she retrieved her phone from suitcase pocket and dialled his number.

‘Hello.’ A stern male voice with a heavy Scottish accent greeted her.

‘Hi, this is Amelia about the apartment at Poble Sec, we arrived pretty early so I was wondering when it would be possible to go into the apartment.’ There was the sound of the man on the other end of the phone breathing heavily and a large amount of background noise coming from the street Amelia presumed he was walking, before he spoke again.

‘Well check in time is supposed to be at 1 but I reckon I can let you in at about 12, but if you want to put your bags in the flat earlier that would be possible.’ His voice was strained either from the exhaustion of walking or the annoyance at his newest tenants.

‘It would be fantastic if we could just put our bags in the room and get changed to go to the beach.’

‘Fine, meet me at the apartment in about an hour and a half then?’

‘Sounds great, thanks.’ As soon as she spoke he hung up the phone, barely waiting for her to finish the sentence.

Immediately after Amelia placed her mobile back into the pocket the train arrived. It was modern, bright and full of people ready to depart from the airport to a varied range of international destinations. Once on board the journey was a quick one as they gossiped quietly about the other passengers and how their weariness from the 3am journey to Milan Malpensa airport had not yet kicked in.

On arrival at Passeig de Grácia they went through to the metro station and bought a ticket to cover the first three days of their travels around the city. They moved shiftly through the tunnels and stairways and hopped on to the first green line metro heading in the direction of Zona Universitaria. Kyra glanced around the partially crowded carriage, surveying the different types of people before her. She remarked to her friends on the way they seemed more relaxed and bright in their attire, in a way that made her feel more relaxed despite being surrounded by complete strangers. Her eyes washed over a man with golden hair and skin sitting near the doors directly in front of her. She toyed with the idea of what may happen if she met someone as good looking as him on a night out and the very thought made her blush. Kyra had never been with a man before, in any sense of the word. Her innocence was not a secret amongst friends, but when alone she often wondered what people thought of her and why she never truly felt affection from the opposite sex.

Lights flashed on the overhead map, to indicate which stop the train was currently at, they had to get off in a moment so Amelia told all her friends to stand near the exits. The doors slide open and they fall out into Poble Sec station, dazzled by the array of exits and arrows pointing in all separate directions. Paused for a moment Amelia stared vacantly down at her hand on which the scrabbling of their address were written. Carrer de Manso 4 were the few words she could see despite the smudging from the plastic suitcase handle. Her gaze lifted up towards the arrows finding the one that said Salido Manso, hoping that this would be the right direction; she guided her friends up through the station walkways onto a pavement on a street corner.

 

 

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