Wishing You Well

Cuckoo in the Canaries

Posted on: January 21, 2013

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Meg was tired. The placement job at Primo Computers had been fantastic, but it was hard work. Now it was coming to an end, and there were still four weeks before the new University year started. ‘What you need is a holiday.’ Jon’s comment brought her back abruptly from wherever she had been lost in her thoughts.

Later, waving him goodbye as she made her way down the High Street, she realised he had made a good point. But how could she have let him see that, knowing he would expect it to be a cosy couples’ holiday; just the two of them? Two whole weeks. Before she could help it, Meg gave a little shudder. Oh, that wasn’t fair, thought Meg guiltily, he is a perfectly good bloke. Just not perfect for me. And that’s not good.

Her boss was waiting as she returned to her office, grinning as he thanked her for the report she had finished that morning. His relief was palpable; they had been working flat out getting that report ready, and it had meant many late evenings in the office, but at last it was finished. Mike was such a sweetheart, but she couldn’t very well confide in him. No, she would have to settle this business with Jon once and for all. Tonight.

Friday afternoons were traditionally times for everyone to slow down, conserving their energy for the week-end. Meg chatted amicably with the project team, unwelcome thoughts about her impending confrontation with Jon pushed thankfully to one side. ‘Look at this. Wow!’ Marcia was a no-nonsense New Yorker, to whom everything seemed worthy of an exclamation or two. They had become firm friends in the past year.

Meg wandered across to see the latest source of amazement. ‘If I had any leave left I would be on that plane like a shot!’ Marcia went on, the emphasis continuing upward. Meg peered at the screen, apparently travel services had struck some kind of deal with their booking agency, and this was the latest list of last-minute holiday deals. This week, it was to Lanzarote the Canary Islands. Meg let the name roll around in her head for a while. Hmm. Sounds exotic.

Even ‘Cool-Hand Meg’ as Marcia liked to tease her, had to admit they were very good offers. And hadn’t she just agreed (with herself at least) that she needed a break? ‘Do you think I can book it? Even though it’s my last day?’ Lanzarote had taken up residence and punched the question out before Meg had time to think. ‘Sure, no problem. Let me put travel services straight, and you’ll be all set’. Typical Marcian efficiency, smiled Meg to herself.

By mid afternoon she was indeed all set. A pre-emptive Marcian Invasion of travel services was rapidly followed by a call from HR, asking Meg to ‘pop down’ for a moment. Meg knew the drill, a short lecture on your rights and responsibilities, and how any ideas you’d conceived while at Primo stayed with Primo. A quick ‘thank you’ and you were escorted off the premises, door pass to be left at reception. Meg didn’t mind, farewell drinks had been arranged at the wine bar off the High Street straight after work. Plenty of time to say proper goodbyes later.

She stopped by Marcia’s desk on her way out. ‘Thanks for sorting out the tickets, Marcia. I’m going for my exit interview now. See you at the wine bar in about forty-five minutes?’ Marcia’s brow furrowed, ‘Can you hang on for just one second, Meg? You need to pay for your trip before 5pm.’ Meg blanched. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Of course it had to be paid for immediately. Her mind’s eye rested on the hall table at home, her maxed-out credit card lying next to the phone. Sensing something was up, Marcia hurried on, ‘Actually, forget about it, I’ll sort it out and explain the details to you later, OK?’ It wasn’t a question. Marcia was so organised, mused Meg on her way to HR, she could safely leave it all in her hands and just know everything would be fine.

Laura took a sip from her second cup of tea and pushed another crumpled tissue into her pocket. Her Mum was wrong, of course. Laura knew that it was over between them. Had known for some time if she was honest. But it still hurt. Perhaps Mum was right, getting away for a couple of weeks would help to clear her mind. Put some space between her and her problems. Between her and Michael. Sniffing, she picked up the phone and dialled her Mum. ‘ I’ve decided.’ She said. ‘ I’m coming with you to Gomera.’

After ten days, Meg was feeling quite refreshed. She had many amusing anecdotes for friends back home, mainly stemming from her being mistaken for a local with her dark features. A deep golden tan had replaced the pallor of office-grey and most definitely made you look slimmer, more toned, if not Spanish. Meg stifled a chuckle. She had gone for a swim in what turned out be a quite bracing sea every morning since her arrival, and certainly expected to be more toned, tan or no tan. But she also felt a bit restless. Maybe because the holiday was coming to an end soon. Maybe because of the text messages from Jon, pleading at first, but by yesterday his tone had turned quite chilly, angry even.

In search of a diversion, Meg wandered along the little road from the beach, her dark hair already beginning to dry. Just before her ‘regular’ café-bar was a tour organiser’s office. The board outside advertised a coach trip around the island, leaving in about an hour. Just the thing to keep me occupied, thought Meg. She had been careful to eke out her meagre spending money, and this was just a bit less than her ‘special holiday treat’ fund, courtesy of a collection from her former colleagues. Not quite the leather handbag Marcia had urged her to look for, but a good deal all the same.

Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

At the end of what had actually been a very enjoyable and educational tour (Meg had learned a number of new things: don’t carry food in your pocket when going on a camel ride, for one) Meg found herself in the huge volcanic cavern known as ‘Jameos del Agua’. The underwater lighting of the deep pool in the pit of the cave reflected onto the cavern roof, creating an eerie turquoise glow. Meg approached two people at a table in the café area. She recognised them from the coach party, and knew they were English tourists from a neighbouring island, on a day trip to Lanzarote. It was all very well getting by with broken Spanish, but now Meg was longing for some effortless conversation.

Not wanting to interrupt, she felt slightly awkward as they exchanged glances until she got the nods of approval that meant it was OK for her to join them. They were deep in discussion: ‘I can’t see why you still won’t give him a chance to explain, dear.’ the older woman was saying. ‘Look, Mum, I’ve told you I don’t know how many times..’ the younger woman was barely concealing her frustration. ‘ You’ve always thought Michael was beyond reproach, but I’m telling you, I know something was going on!’ Meg shifted uncomfortably in her chair, flashing a shy smile when they glanced at her. Their conversation was far from over. ‘You didn’t hear that phone message from his assistant, but I have it etched into my brain, accent and all: “I think breaking up has been hard on her, Mike, and she needs to get away. Thanks for agreeing to pay for the trip. But after everything she’s done for you lately, I think it’s the least you can do.” The nasal twang of New York seemed incongruous on this English girls’ tongue.

Meg’s mouth opened slowly, the colour radiating from her neck to the roots of her hair in a bewildered tide. The sound of her chair scraping across the stone floor of the cavern told her she had somehow stood up. Again two pairs of eyes beheld her. Meg’s brain shifted a gear, keeping her knees locked while she returned their look and spoke: ‘Adiós señoras, voy al autobús.’

Originally published 1 September 2005 under the pen name “Rebecca Holmes” on noon spool

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