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.


3. Chapter 3

‘Are you hungry at all?’ Amelia asked, once again taking control of the group.

‘Well it is lunch time.’ Was Kyra’s simple response, met with agreement by a nod from John. ‘Why don’t we try walk towards the market, it looks like there are a few restaurants down there.’ Following the decision, they paced towards the colourful array of stalls set against the backdrop of the grey concrete buildings. Fruit, flowers and a range of fascinating items were laid out on coarse blankets atop portable tables. Biting back curiosity, they were led by their appetite towards a partially vacant café, decorated in nautical theme, with a meagre outdoor seating area.

Once balanced upon high stools at a wooden bar that facing inwards to the establishment, they all took a moment to survey the short menu which offered a number of rather elaborate sounding coffees and an adequate selection of sandwiches. Other people watched them from inside with vacant expressions as they enjoyed what was perhaps a lunch break before returning to another taxing day at work in one of the nearby real estate agents or car showrooms. The crowd at the café had a slightly superior air around them and apart from their initial glances upon the friend’s entrance, made the pretence of being too occupied to possibly pay them any further notice. From the doorway appeared a stiff waitress with the possible explanation of having to dress in a considerably uncomfortable looking white shirt with contrasting black trousers and bow tie. The entire compilation served its purpose of identifying her as waiting staff regardless of seeming a bit demeaning to the wearer. Overall the woman looked pretty exasperated by her occupation, which made the pressure to select something quick build into an awkward, tense, silence.

‘Can I have the cheese and tomato sandwich with a bottle of water please?’ Kyra spoke, her voice polite and warm.

‘I’ll have the same.’ Amelia seconded. Having allowed the girls to order first John felt his time to further push his knowledge of the language had come. He made his order in what sounded to the ignorant two beside him to be competent Spanish. Upon hearing this, the waitress gave him a pained expression and scribbled upon her notepad then lurked for a moment before departing.

‘I like this place.’ John stated, glancing around him at the working crowd then once more at the waitress while she departed. Seemingly oblivious to the woman’s rather impatient attitude, he smiled openly for the first time that morning. ‘And I am so happy that we don’t have to see that fat man until we leave.’

The chill between them vanished at the sound of laughter which erupted in unison. Their landlord was not the most charming fellow they had encountered and the thought of him owning the place in which they would be doing those things most intimately personal when one presumes they are alone, was an unsavoury one. Yet the comical nature of the man was too apparent to take his lechery past the obvious desperation a fellow of such strange nature and appearance must be consumed with. The humour was entirely bittersweet, and despite the man’s rather inappropriate behaviour a pang as sympathy was hidden under their cruelty. After all they were blessed with all things important to them, their money, their looks and most crucially a group of, for the most part, loyal friends. Yet none are as ruthless as the young, who want for nothing, after all when few have so much, so early, incomprehension of the way in which others live occurs.

‘What’s the plan for tonight? Are we going clubbing?’ Overzealous as always Kyra came eager with her question, fired directly at Amelia, to whom all the responsibility of the trip fell, be it a success or failure.

‘Well I thought we would take it a little easy tonight, perhaps go get some dinner then go to a couple of bars nearby?’ Her decorum was not what Kyra had hoped, she had the full intention of startling her friend into submission. Moving on from this technique she attempted more gentle means of manipulation.

‘Sounds alright I suppose. I mean what does John want to do though? I don’t mind. I just thought that we would, you know, hit the ground running.’ Her tone betrayed her intentions of sounding more casual than condescending.

‘Well ladies, I think that after such an early start a quieter evening sounds perfect. Besides we still have to unpack and I am sure we can have a great time near home.’ John dampened the threatening spark between them with his calm comment and before the conversation had to chance to evolve the waitress returned with their drinks. She placed them sternly on the table and escaped before anyone had the chance to ask for anything more.

He stared comically at Kyra who now sat flustered, before him, her gaze blazing with the inner conflict between her desire and her etiquette. John knew the expression well; whenever he witnessed it he was carefully reminded that even the sweetest of people had the ability to scorn. The intimidation of another more assertive woman kept her at bay, yet he knew someone would pay the price for what was said just moments ago.

They sheepishly sipped from their drinks whilst attempting to look distracted by the comings and goings on the street. No one was fooled; the tension lay thick in the air, for the reality of the trip tugged against their aspirations for it. John had not anticipated feeling so tired upon arrival, whilst Amelia had thought that the very air would invigorate her. Finally and most crucially Kyra had not ever thought her friends would be the cause of disappointment mere hours into the vacation, yet she swallowed the inevitability of clashes when personalities had to be kept in such close proximity.

What seemed like only moments later the waitress returned again, this time balancing precariously on a tray, three plates with sandwiches and napkins. She distributed the items then stomped off in her usual fashion, prompting some odd glances from the busy people seated by the door. Kyra eyed her food, her hunger seeming to have evaporated, yet she grabbed the fresh morsel and nibbled on it gently. This encouraged Amelia to start eating and making casual glances her way, suggesting her affronted behaviour was a gross exaggeration. Rather than admit to her dramatics, Kyra kept to herself for the meal, giving allowance to her friend’s discussion on the intricacies of the city’s metropolitan train system and the reviews of a few bars which were known to attract the alternative crowds. Her apprehension to speak came from her shame at feeling so emotional and her slight wonderment at the knowledge of her peers.

They finished their meals and pretentious repartee by rising from their seating and awkwardly rummaging for the money to pay. Kyra’s mood was lifted by then and she was once more smiling, exchanging unspoken words of kindness to Amelia. John baffled them once more with his discourse with the stocky woman behind the bar who was far more welcoming than her staff. They left with their stomachs full but their appetites not even slightly sated, as there was still too much ahead to explore and entangle with. Clambering down the metro stairs again, Amelia drew out a piece of paper from her bag of towels and other such beach accessories. It held the name of the stop in which they had to get off at for the beach. Their heading was a place called Barceloneta and upon arrival they knew that their directions were correct.

Congregations of scantily clad young people, wielding ice boxes and towels flowed in a smooth direction to the exit of the station. Following the throngs they found themselves at a zebra crossing right beside a small convenience store. Feeling the time was appropriate to begin the celebration Amelia dragged her friends inside to purchase sun screen and some cans of fruit cider. The sweet sugary taste appealed to their hatred of beer whilst the alcohol content, despite being exceptionally low, still allowed them the naughty feeling of being young and reckless. Armed with their liquor they began the long walk towards the sand. Crossing at the traffic lights, they came to a boulevard which stretched as far as the eye could see and was covered in eager beach goers. Shops and restaurants lined the left side of the walkway, some with people outside hollering their customers in with attractive offers of exotic meal deals. The noise was a hearty mix of music from the mobile phones of passing teenagers, lunch time conversation and the over bearing pleading of tourists for directions in every language imaginable.

‘How far do you think it is?’ Kyra asked anxiously, a little tired from the seemingly endless trek towards the seaside oasis.

‘Not too far now I’m sure, everyone is dressed for the beach.’ Assurance rained through every syllable of Amelia’s speech, she was desperate to brighten her friend’s sorrows from the previous confrontation.

‘I wonder how many people will be there. I bet there are loads of hot guys.’ Giggling followed her hardly audible remark which made Amelia chuckle even further when noticing John’s oblivion from their entire conversation. He had not been listening to the girls for most of the walk, he was too busy absorbing the sights and sounds of all that surrounded him to concern himself with the trivial female matters they were surely discussing.

The girls observed how his eyes seemed to be following the agile legs of the tall woman in front of them. She did not seem classically appealing, yet their view was only from the behind, where her body did not immediately offer reason for such open attraction. John’s taste in women was a mystery fuelled by the fact that he rarely confessed to any form of affection to anyone, let alone open admiration. Yet they still longed to see him loosen his firm self-control and truly indulge in more carnal pleasures, after all it was not every day that he opportunity so readily presented itself.

‘Johnny, you looking at a girl?’ The teasing voice drew him out of his observations and turned him towards Kyra.

‘No, I was just thinking about what a nice day it was to be at the beach.’

‘Are you sure you weren’t checking out that one in the red shirt and short shorts?’ She jeered, the vulgarity in her voice posed a crude sensuality he had only witnessed before briefly.

‘Positive.’ Ending the discourse there and then, but adding a gentleman’s grin to soften the blow. The girls once more returned to their gossip whilst his mind drifted further back to the shops on his left, paying even less attention to all the tanned beautiful people in passing.

The beach was approaching slowly on the horizon, as its faint yellow sand could be seen amongst the hordes of bodies sprawled upon it in all different stages of undress. From where they were all that could be clearly seen were the flashes of the trashy colours which were all the rage that summer, strewn over the figures as they lazed and baked under the mid-day sun. The aroma changed to that of sun cream, hot sticky hair and fresh sea breeze. In only a short distance they would be able to remove their flimsy sandals and plunge their tired toes into the hot, dry sand. Before that they had to manoeuvre their way past the beach bar strategically placed to force any one heading to the sea to stop and consider the cheap temptation of their diluted cocktails.

‘We should stop there for drinks tomorrow!’ Screeched Kyra, as always falling trap to the simplest of marketing ploys, yet regardless of her less than savvy quirks there was no denying that everything she said sounded so more appealing due to her bubbling and heavy American accent.  She sounded like an over enthusiastic Barbie doll and the very sound of her voice brought a smile to John’s lips. Her ignorance of her ways made her all the more adorable and he felt that he owed her some affection for her relentless ardour. Amelia was also hit by a wave of joy at her friend’s suggestion, almost relieved that she was not the one to put forth the idea.

‘We will if you want to.’ She replied whole heartedly, to comfort and appease her eager friend. ‘I’ve given us time to come here every day if you guys are up for it?’

‘Of course! I cannot wait to get tanning! We have to get a nice golden colour by the end of the week so we can look all luxurious when we go back home.’ Her speech was elated yet the perfect superficial topic to submerge them into holiday spirit. After all what did the young truly go on holiday for if not sun, sex and copious amounts of alcohol?

Passing the drinks shack they stood for a moment in decision of where to place themselves, amongst the drunken lads at the top of the beach or further down closer to the sea, but more in danger of being trodden on as people walked by. Feeling slightly unable to expose their bodies to middle aged men, severely under the influence, they chose the latter and began to walk right in hopes of finding a slightly more secluded spot. Their shoes kicked sand up, sometimes into the faces of reclining tanners; therefore they slipped them off and placed their feet into the hot sand. The feeling was not entirely pleasant as the heat was more than initially expected, but there was a sense of triumph in simply being there that made them invincible.

The sea was a beautiful sight which glistened and sparkled as rays of sun light hit it. Not many people where in the water, which made the view all the more special as it allowed the turquoise shimmer to be seen instead of cluttered with pink bodies. Every gust of wind off the sea was cool yet the heat from the sun kept them at the perfect temperature. Locating a small circle of uncovered beach the friends worked their way around hordes of people to their little tiny refuge. Working quick, the three pull out towels and claimed the patch as their own.

‘This is a great spot, right next to the sea.’ Amelia declared.

‘I think I might go in a second. Are you coming?’ His eyes alight with a playful joy, not yet seen that day.

‘Maybe in a little while, I want to get some sun cream on first.’ They followed the ritual of smothering each other in the heavily scented lotion before the girls laid upon their towels with their glasses on and faces towards the sky.

 The water rippled around his frigid figure as John lowered himself into the ice cool liquid. He had not thought it would be this cold, but part of him enjoyed the freshness. Diving into the crisp water, he held his breath and allowed the delicious chill to sweep all over his body. The sensation was invigorating but he soon longed for the warm air and came up, water dripping from his hair down the rest of his olive skin. Glancing to the beach he watched as the girls lay there stiffly, attempting to place themselves in the most slimming position they could. The things people did when trying to attract the opposite sex never ceased to astound him.

‘Are you two going to come in?’ His question distracted them from their hunt.

‘Sure, why not!’ Kyra stumbled up onto her feet and pulled Amelia behind her. Tightening her stomach to make her look more graceful and pacing towards the water with anxious eyes. ‘Is it cold?’

‘A little but you get used to it.’ He replied bemused. Dropping one pasty toe into the sparkling sea, Kyra let out a shrill shout.

‘It’s freezing! I don’t know if I’m going to get in.’ Entertained and curious Amelia followed her and waded in until her knees shivering a little from the bolt sent shooting up her spine by the piercing water. John urged her forward but her body contorted, frozen in her tracks and unable to move forward.

‘It really is very cold Johnny how did you get all the way in?’

‘Just jump and you will get used to it, come on!’ At this he paddled deeper and further away from the shore, teasing them with his ease of movement. The girls still felt reluctant, not willing to move towards him, for every inch of their skin begged them not to. With over exaggerated teeth chattering and a stream of constant exclamations concerning the temperature, they went back to retire on the sand and warm towels, leaving John to his own devices.

Once positioned comfortably on her front, Kyra replaced the sunglasses previous stowed atop her head over her eyes to view the population of the beach without being noticed. She baked in the soothing rays whilst watching the more appealing men who lay on their tanned backs revealing their sculpted figures to be carefully examined from a far by her eager eyes. Amelia followed her eye line and gave in her temptation to ogle whilst feeling slightly self-conscious; as if everyone knew she was in a relationship and were condemning her for simply looking at other men.Kyra had never felt the pressure or the passion involved in a true commitment to another person, but then again, occasionally in her very dark inner debates, even Amelia wondered if she truly knew what it was to love. Many scoff at the thought and tell her she is too young to know anything, but if she was so unaware why did she feel all the hurt and all the longing whenever separated from him. Nothing compared to the beauty of the love which poet’s write of, but artists never really mimic the truth, they only extract that which they wanted from it. As did everyone in most things in life she thought, returning to her guilty pleasures, aware that ignoring her paranoia was in fact the key to happiness.

Loathing welled up in the pit of Kyra’s stomach, as she brushed her eyes over any women approaching wearing more fashionable clothing or with slightly less cellulite on the back of their things. Girls in neon and Mayan print, a fad probably started by upcoming predictions of the apocalypse, specifically grated against her sensibility. Envy was an entirely animalistic emotion which showed itself keenly in teenage girls with their pouty lips and trendy attire, engaged in a mating dance to attract the opposite sex. That is all exhibitionism between the sexes could really be reduced to, a desperate scramble for the most appropriate sexual partner. Except due to human being’s love of always going against their own nature, they complicated the matter with contraceptives and the subjective creation of marriage. Relationships had always escaped her, because even though she openly admired and jeered, beneath all her rampancy the actual anatomical thought of sex made her squirm. A virgin at this day and age seemed like a rare oddity, yet she felt it less of a privilege, more of a condemnation on her sensuality.

Rising from the cool ocean water, John stepped towards them dripping with farcical contempt at their abandonment. He stared at Kyra whose attention was still dominated by an oiled Neanderthal, the appeal definitely wasn’t obvious, yet he let her to her fantasies and settled beside a rather despondent Amelia. Yearning to settle her he wrapped a damp arm around her shoulder.

‘You’re all wet.’ Her tone was flat yet affectionate simultaneously and he had a clue what she was pondering.

‘Stop worrying about him! A whole reason for being here is to forget about all that crap we left back at home. I am sure he is missing you to bits right now.’ His words reassured her of the commitment she knew her boyfriend so readily possessed, yet did nothing to enforce hers. The issue was not whether he was faithful in her absence for she knew there was not ample opportunity for such indiscretions when he lived surrounded by people who knew and respected her. Her fear was of darker, more narcissistic nature which consumed her with self-doubt.

John, having satisfied his fraternal urge to comfort, rooted through the plastic carrier bag and handed the girls their cider. He cracked the top and slid the bubbly liquid down his throat, letting it calm the heat now enveloping his body after his brief but refreshing swim. They sipped their drinks sheepishly whilst more people seemed to be congregating on the beach. Looking around for a moment his attention was drawn to the startling contours of a tanned, topless brunette only meters from where he sat. This public display seemed not to arouse him, but rather made him uncomfortable and shuffle in his place. His eyes stung with the frustration of not knowing where to look next.

Amelia noticed his discomfort yet ignored it, feeling it only right that he were to finally be exposed to some form of sexuality. She had tried for months in vain to pursue some form of suitable companion for him, yet he would have none of it, expressing he had particular tastes. She knew that not everyone was likely to take his fancy, but the idea that not a single woman in two years would have ignited his passion seemed odd, almost inhuman. After all even she, who made the pretence of being in love, had the occasional fleeting affections. Her guilt returned to make her redden all over, but this time instead of blushing away from it she welcomed the sense of freedom, entitlement almost, that it brought, therefore allowed herself to join Kyra once more in her observations.

They sat there soaking in the sun and chattering away about every man who walked by, sometimes in ways highly unbecoming of young ladies but they hadn’t the faintest care for common courtesy. John had gotten rather tipsy from the combination of his light alcoholic beverage and the early morning drive to the airport, which led him to drift into a fragile slumber on top of their bag. Taking the opportunity to go for a walk unmonitored by their male chaperon the girls both slipped on their dresses in a way which would still reveal an appropriate amount of skin and headed towards a group of Scandinavian looking men. They did not walk directly towards them for not even their alcohol induced confidence could make them jump that hurdle, but they did gingerly walk past in an attempt to draw some attention. Kyra had it set in her mind, by a vast quantity of romantic comedies, that if she made herself seen the man of her dreams would simply come through the crowd and sweep her off her feet in some form of chivalrous fashion. The sad reality was that men often did not understand her need for an all-encompassing story book hero. They did not after all live in the world of Jane Austen, but she lived in hope that one day someone would make himself truly worthy of her.

Amelia was rather wiser than her innocent counterpart. She had had enough time with men, boys to be frank as their age could not class them otherwise, to know that romance was not the type of foreplay they envisioned. She made no declaration that she knew much about people but from what she had observed things rarely turned out the way initially designed in a relationship. Nights of waiting by the phone whilst crying into her hypothetical ice cream taught her that the power lay in the hands of those who didn’t profess to want sex. She believed as soon as a woman made any advance or show of carnality her feminine charm dwindled, as a man would immediately recognize her as an equal on his stream of thought. Sex was not about orgasmic encounters or any form of reproduction; it was simply the metaphorical glue she used to piece her relationships together. It was the icebreaker to soften the awkward first months and the apology that need not be spoken. She used and abused her own body for the very purpose of making her men do exactly what she wanted, which was often entirely unknown to her, but the very feeling of having power over another was her ultimate aphrodisiac.

The blonde haired men who sat in all various postures of arrogant display paid little attention to the two voluptuous yet not entirely athletic teenagers beside them. In the less than flattering sun light they looked entirely out of their depth and a little lost, whilst trying to spin some form of mystery around themselves. Hot sand beneath their feet had begun to make them grimace and without much success they continued to walk away from John and the beach bar.

Amelia looped her arm around Kyra’s as they shuffled in the sand, they feet sinking then surfacing again after every step. Salty dried sea water made the bottom of her skirt stick to her legs as they stretched forward. Just in that moment the shift from the reality of her plane journey transformed rather suddenly into the stunning beauty of that moment. They were on a beach in Spain staring at strangers, totally devoid of any shame, simply because they could and no one would ever find out about it. A quiet smile crept across her rosy lips; she was happy; truly contented in that one moment to be right where she was with her best friend at her side. They stopped a moment, legs growing weary from lifting their burnt feet out of the scorching sand, and just listened to the sea. The waves themselves seemed not the prevalent noise as with most beaches they had been on. Barceloneta offered a buzz of chatter which was swept across the landscape with the ocean air. She never wanted to leave because she knew it would be a while before she felt this alive without the drudgery of the everyday to close in around her. Amelia allowed herself a fleeting thought that she enjoyed that moment so beautifully because her man was not the one beside her. He was not there to dictate a single thing she did and she loved it.

‘We shouldn’t leave Johnny for too long in case he wakes up and gets worried.’ Rationality got the best of her daydreaming and they meandered back to where a still unconscious John lay hunched over their bag of belongings. As shadows swept across his sleeping face he stirred and mumbled something indistinct which made the girls giggle as they sat back down next to him.

Kyra took a moment to truly look at John, now she he wouldn’t see her. His jaw hung relaxed, leaving his mouth slightly open as his slow breath jolted his chest up and down. Pink tender lips lay slightly apart just enough to make a whistling sound every time exhaled. His chest was dotted with fine brown hairs which traced down his chest to his supple belly and into the waistline of his swimming trunks. John’s Mediterranean skin tone meant that after what seemed only an hour or so he was turned a gorgeous golden colour, making every inch of him seem to glow in the light. His face displayed an expression of complete relaxation that Kyra had never seen before; after all she had never seen him asleep.

Eyelids fluttered open to reveal his eyes staring rather intently into hers. They were tired and bloodshot around the edges but still sparkled with impish charm. ‘What time is it?’ He asked in a muffle groan.

‘I don’t have a watch on me.’ Kyra replied sharply as she looked away, caught out by her friend’s stare.

‘Neither do I actually.’ Confessed Amelia, a thought that made her smile as time seemed immaterial. ‘We could ask someone.’

At this John of course took the initiative and stretched across only a few inches to a woman lying in a orange bikini beside them. She looked confused at first, almost anticipating he would attempt for form of pathetic flirtation but was happy to oblige his simply request. ‘Its three fifteen’ she replied in a blunt yet kind manner.

‘Should we get going soon?’ He suggested a little anxious to get started with unpacking.

They followed his lead and began to shake the sand out of their clothes and towels, placing them into the bag which Amelia dutifully wielded. Passing the beach bar the temptation of get a drink arose again but was side tracked by John’s observations on the buses which seemed to be carrying people from one end of the walkway to the metro station. Despite the urge to get off their feet they continued walking, too intimidated by the array of foreign names on the maps to possibly climb aboard a bus. Familiarity lead people to do all forms of things that probably cause them not a massive amount of determent but a fair deal of inconvenience. Staying in a loveless affair, keeping up old and inconsequential friends or even more simple tasks such as the one they were taking part in, all part of the same cycle of addiction to the safe and fear of the unknown. In entirely new situations people were especially prone to such irrationality whilst often well aware of their foolishness. People are just too insecure to explore. 

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