Summer Encounters

Summer Encounters

A Story by Georgina V Solly
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The story of the relationships between friends on their annual summer beach holiday.

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SUMMER ENCOUNTERS

 

Six women (and their husbands) knew each other through their children because they lived in the same district in the town. One of them bought an apartment on the beach, and the other five followed suit because it meant that they didn’t have to make new ‘friends’. They already knew each other.

 

They had arrived so late the previous evening that they had had no time to greet each other. They all had well-paid posts, except for Marina and her husband, a fact that was commented on amongst the others. Nevertheless, Marina and her husband were very happy, and what eyebrows were raised every year when they saw her arrive in new dresses, new bathing suits, and jewellery. Marina’s jewellery was the subject of many conversations, as her husband was poor in comparison with theirs.

That first night was passed in silence, which was only broken by the sound of the waves breaking on the rocks. Each one had their own thoughts, other than about the holiday.

Gloria, who lay beside her husband who snored enough for six men, wondered why they were spending another holiday at the beach. Gloria felt the need to go abroad, a holiday in the tropics for a change. He had agreed, and during the winter she had accumulated enough money to take them both to the tropics. Gloria was thunderstruck when the man in her life said he had changed his mind.

As soon as she was sure her husband was asleep, Sonia got out a large torch and a book and began to read. She had known about the other woman for some time, but had kept this information to herself and told no one, not even him. The last thing she wanted was to see the looks of pity on the faces of the others. Sonia had done everything to dissuade him from going to the beach, but he said that with friends was where he felt best. She had lots of books, and when she was tired of the others she went up to her  apartment and read.

Tina and her husband were sitting in bed, both reading. He had a book of sexational photos and she a romantic novel, between them was a huge box of chocolates. Once in a while there was the sound of their hands not searching for each other but for the chocolates. Some years had passed since instead of making love they read books and ate chocolates in bed. If he had a lover Tina didn’t mind, because nothing could be as exciting as what could be found in novels. A forever young and handsome hero, and a needy heroine. As soon as the box was finished they said their goodnights. Tina had never had a sleepless night in her life. And so the two sweet-toothed fatties slept the sleep of the angels. The night silence was broken a few times by soft footsteps going in search of water.

Clara was angry because her husband took no notice of her. She knew it was her own fault by being found kissing that young executive too effusively and the romance that had followed. Clara didn’t know whether or not he knew about the affair. He understood that she couldn’t bear the other woman, so why had they come? Was it revenge?

Paula based her life around cooking. If she wished to remember something she thought about what they had eaten that day and then remembered everything. That’s how she managed to know when her husband had begun distancing himself from her after she had made him a strawberry and cream tart to welcome him home after a prolonged trip. He hadn’t eaten the tart as he should have done and it wasn’t because it was bad but because he had another woman to think about. Paula didn’t know what to do, so she began to make cakes, lunches, cocktails - anything except think. She still felt hurt but Paula thought that sooner or later things would work out one  way or another. Meanwhile there was cooking to do. She didn’t mind whether he ate it or not, she did it for her own personal satisfaction.

Of all the women that night, Marina was the most relaxed. She had brushed her hair and sprayed herself with toilet water before going to bed. Her husband thought she was the most wonderful woman in the world, and she was determined to keep him thinking that way. He had never asked her anything about the clothes or the jewellery. If he suspected anything he had never shown any sign of curiosity. Marina kissed him on his ugly nose, smiling at him. Every night for several years Marina had performed as the woman most in love. She deserved an Oscar, at least, she had thought so many times. With her satisfied husband at her side Marina got up and went for a shower, then for a long time she sat by the window looking at the sea, and when she was too tired to watch any more she went back to bed.

 

In trying to avoid Sonia, Clara had tripped over Paula. She asked herself what was worse: books about cooking or books about thinking. Paula tried to make conversation, but Clara’s eyes were on Marina’s swimming costume. “Look at her in the latest fashion. It must have cost a packet.”

“I don’t think so. A costume can’t be that expensive.”

“Oh, no? Well, that model is fantastic, I wanted it for myself, but my husband said no.”

Paula tried sympathising with Clara and said, “Husbands are all the same. They don’t like their wives to wear flashy things.”

“I don’t agree. Mine’s a horrible man. Marina’s husband’s nothing out of this world, but at least he gives her enough money to dress well.” With these words Clara went off to the beach.

Gloria and Tina were sitting on the beach. Gloria still had visions of exotic places in her head and therefore took no notice of the continuous munching from Tina. They didn’t talk, each one was in her own world.

Marina with her hair dancing around her shoulders and wearing the beautiful swimsuit of a pale grey and in a shimmering material, lay down on a lounger with her legs stretched out in front of her. Tina had a portable fridge beside her lounger, and received criticism from the other females in the group. But on the other hand they were not above accepting a drink or an ice cream or a novel from her. Clara was face down, both angry and jealous at the same time. She was wondering what the others had that she didn’t. They were happy, or at least they appeared to be.

“My husband and I were going to go to the Pacific,” Gloria said in an attempt to get the others’ attention.

“Why haven’t you gone?” Sonia looked at Gloria over the top of her sunglasses.

“Because he can’t. He has a lot of work, and at any moment we might have to return to town.

“Mine has a lot of work, too, but it’s with other women,” Clara burst out.

“I don’t believe it, he’s such a good person.” Paula lied to herself more than she did to Clara.

“He’s a good person! D’you know what he gave me for my birthday? A book, How to organise your home. What d’you make of that? Very funny!”

Sonia asked her, “Have you read it?”

“Of course not. It’s with the old magazines, waiting to be thrown away.”

Sonia couldn’t understand how any man could be capable of putting up with Clara’s permanent bad moods. “Don’t you think it’s time you grew up instead of always behaving like a spoilt brat?”

Clara remained silent. The person she was most envious of was Sonia, although she was jealous of Marina for her clothes.

Tina asked Paula, “Have you made any interesting dishes lately?”

“Yes, Tina, and you and your husband can come round and try them when you like.”

“Thanks.”

Paula took out of her large bag a cookery magazine.

Marina was not beautiful but she was relaxed. She was nowhere near as astute as Clara, nor a great reader like Sonia. She couldn’t cook like Paula, neither did she read romantic books like Tina. Well then, how did she manage to avoid the pitfalls that her companions had fallen into? Marina was not only relaxed physically, but in her mind too. Whilst the rest of the world was shouting, complaining, or eating, she simply saw everything around her as a huge stage, and she was in the centre. There was only one person in Marina’s life, and it was her.  That’s why she could put up with the silliness and lies of the others. She went out with the others’ husbands without feeling at all guilty. Her ulterior motive was to spy on them, not sleep with them. Her ultimate motive, money.

Marina’s husband was neither handsome nor intelligent, the only good thing he had, as far as she was concerned, was that he never asked questions. However, she never took him for a fool, just in case.

Gloria’s husband had been to the tropics, but not with her. Marina had met him one afternoon with a stunning blonde, coming out of a restaurant. Marina, the discreet, said nothing. When she met him on another occasion alone, he asked her to say nothing, and for her silence he had given her a beautiful ring and a huge bunch of flowers. Marina had no problem in accepting these presents, as she thought Gloria was the loser and in some way to blame. Gloria had no idea how to dress nor how to speak in public, while her husband was climbing the ladder professionally, she was not even on the first rung of the ladder. Now it was too late, there was a huge abyss between Gloria and her husband.

Sonia had no other interest in life except books. How many times had her husband arrived home to find the breakfast dishes still unwashed, and the beds unmade, with Sonia lying on the sofa reading. He knew about the torch and the reading at night and then staying in bed till ten in the morning. Sonia didn’t give him any problems but neither did she give him any happiness. They almost never spoke. Sonia on one planet and her husband on earth. His reason for visiting Marina was so as to have someone to speak to, and she often relaxed listening to him. Marina had to put up with questions on how he could win Sonia back again. Although it was all in vain, he had presented Marina with a lovely doll.

A short time later he had met a girl. He never told Marina, but she guessed there was something going on when he stopped visiting her.

 

Marina and some other friends usually went to a disco after going to the cinema, and on one occasion in one of the most spectacular discos, she made out the figure of Tina’s husband sitting at one of the tables nearest the stage. A waiter went over to him and whispered in his ear, and Tina’s husband followed him to the dressing-rooms. Marina thought, well, well, fancy that - the fat one up to no good. Some time later Marina found out that Tina’s husband visited certain night clubs with girls who pole-danced and did other things to stimulate middle-aged men’s flagging libidos. The girls were always busty blondes. One night he saw Marina in the club. They didn’t acknowledge each other. The next day Marina received a pair of diamond earrings. There was no name on the card, only the words ‘Silence deserves a gift’.

 

Marina told her husband the same old story “I got them with my savings.” And so he was happy, and proud of her.”

Marina loved clothes, and one day while looking in a shop window she met up with Clara’s husband. He was handsome and kind. Marina liked him very much. He told her all about Clara’s problems: that she was unbalanced, neurotic, and at times extravagant. So that he could save some money he had opened another account in secret. He was petrified of Clara ruining him. Clara’s jealousy had no base, apart from inside herself. That day he bought Marina her first present. He enjoyed buying dresses for Marina not because of the appreciative way she received them, but because of how Clara would react if she knew. The latest gift had been the grey swimsuit. Marina would have chosen another colour but he had insisted, and as it was he who was paying Marina had accepted. He had done it on purpose to get some sort of reaction from Clara. It had no effect, she still complained and every day he distanced himself more and more from her. Marina maintained her silence thinking that they had to sort things out for themselves.

Long before the incident of the strawberry tart, Marina knew about Paula’s husband. The new woman in his life worked in the same company. She had been widowed two years before, and little by little they spent more time together. At the beginning he felt sorry for her, but then later on because she let him help her in the house and the kitchen. One of the things he liked about this woman was that she let him do things for her. For the first time in his life Paula’s husband knew what it was to feel useful. Something that Paula would never have understood. Marina thought it was sad, but that’s life, and what’s more, she had just spent some days in a 5-star hotel as a gift from the happy pair for her silence.

 

Marina stared at the sea through her sunglasses. The others were eating or talking. It was midday. The sun was beating down. In her mind, Marina saw each one of these women’s husbands as friends, but the women were of no real interest to her. They had always laughed at her husband who was in their eyes a person of little value. She had never forgotten Clara’s words, “How is it possible you’re married to such an ugly man!” Marina had not answered but it had hurt her deep down inside. Marina’s hand slid down over the smooth swimsuit. Marina could feel Clara’s eyes on the swimsuit but she kept her eyes on the waves.

Gloria was silly, if she had played her cards right she would now be enjoying the good things in life. She only had three subjects of conversation, and one of them was her children. Marina didn’t approve of Gloria’s husband, he should have paid her more attention instead of just climbing to the top and leaving her behind. As it was now too late, Marina knew she had to face up to the fact she couldn’t do anything to help.

Marina looked on Sonia as a weird creature, and she didn’t like her or dislike her, she was just weird.

At one o’clock Tina and Paula picked up their things, said see you later to the rest, and left the beach. Seen from behind, Tina was like a pink hippopotamus. Her swimsuit didn’t favour her, and from the way she walked it was clear that every step was agony. Paula was not thin but at least she didn’t carry double weight. They entered the apartment building where they breathed in the cool air. They got into the lift in silence. Marina thought that Paula’s air of affability was not all what it was made out to be, but that it hid something quite different. It would be interesting if one day she found out by herself. If I told her she would say I was inventing it all. Tina knows about her husband, but she doesn’t care.

One by one the other four women left the beach. The water was now not at all refreshing and Clara was tired of swimming in it and got out. Picking up her things she said “See you later,” to the three supine bodies and left.

Gloria, with the pretext of having to prepare lunch, was the next to leave. Sonia said, “See you later, Gloria.” But Sonia didn’t raise her head from the lounger. In spite of the heat, Sonia didn’t stop reading.

 

Marina got to thinking. Every summer it’s the same. Arrive at the beach, sunbathe, lunch, later on play cards, watch television or go to a restaurant. What did they really know about each other? Almost nothing. We are strangers who barely know each other. They all show off about one thing or another, but there’s nothing behind any of it. The years they never spoke to me for not having as much money as them and a husband in a job with no future. Well, now, ladies, it’s over.

What do you think of the swimsuit Clara? Well your husband bought it for me because he felt like it.

Look at this ring Gloria, guess who bought it. Hasn’t he bought you any jewellery for a long time? I’m sorry, but there must be a reason for it.

Sonia, the doll is lovely, isn’t it? You don’t like dolls, do you? Well, I like them. Why don’t you try asking him for a book and see what he says?

Tina these earrings are made of fine stones. Too fine for you, perhaps.

Paula, if you knew about your husband’s trips. No, I haven’t been anywhere with him, although I have been treated to an hotel by him. He goes to the most beautiful places you could imagine. Wake up! He takes no notice of you!

Marina was wondering whether their eyes should be opened up to their real situations with their husbands. Marina hadn’t wanted to go to the beach that year and her husband had put their apartment up for sale. Marina had said nothing about this to the others. It was between her and her husband. After all, she didn’t want to know anything more about them or their husbands. They will soon have to put up with another type of beach neighbour. I hope they are noisy and scandalous, the kind of people who will not tolerate the boredom and the bitterness and the wounds they have caused. The time to say goodbye has arrived at last.

 

At two o’clock Marina said ‘see you later’ to an indifferent Sonia. The lift smelled of the sea, there was water on the floor. Marina’s husband had prepared the lunch, their daughter was already sitting at the table. Marina kissed both of them. She thought, I know why I got married, but I don’t know why they did.

 

Four o’clock, siesta time, silence reigned.  Even Sonia had gone up to her apartment. The white and shiny beach was deserted. In her shadowy bedroom Marina’s eyes were open looking towards the window. She felt like an accomplice for having accepted the presents, but she was not ashamed for having done so. The problem was not hers, but theirs and their wives. Turning in her bed, Marina could see the half-open door of her daughter’s bedroom, and beside the sleeping child was the doll from Sonia’s husband. The jewels would come in handy for her daughter, or to sell in an emergency. Revenge is a dish better when it’s served cold, and it mustn’t dominate you. Anyway, these people don’t interest me. I’ve had my revenge against them without any of them realising it.

 

This is the beginning of the end of all the past summers. At six o’clock the first cocktail, conventional conversations, dinner, cards, and reality. Tonight I’ll have a better time than ever because enough is enough. It wouldn’t do any good to tell the other women that their husbands no longer love them. If they know, good. If they don’t know, then perhaps ignorance is a protection against the cruel and cold reality of a broken fantasy. I can do no more harm than these women have done to themselves.

So say nothing, then after forget, and goodbye. And when one day we meet in the street, each one of us will tell the white lie, “How are you? You look fantastic!”

And then each one will continue on her way.

© 2012 Georgina V Solly


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Added on May 27, 2012
Last Updated on July 8, 2012
Tags: envy, jealousy, indifference, lies, rich, poor

Author

Georgina V Solly
Georgina V Solly

Valencia, Spain



About
First of all, I write to entertain myself and hope people who read my stories are also entertained. I do appreciate your loyalty very much. more..

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