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Put the Blame on Gaudi

by Cornelia 

Posted: 28 September 2010
Word Count: 1347
Summary: A couple are accidentally separated in Barcelona

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The metro train gathered speed and vanished into the tunnel. Sally, watching it go, felt a wave of panic. Her husband was on board, and she was still on the platform.

It would be bad enough in London, but as this was their last day in Barcelona, it was a disaster.

Then shock turned to annoyance as she realised she’d left her mobile phone in the hotel. How many times had Alan reminded her to carry it around with her?

If only she hadn’t stopped to pick up the brochure, dropped as she rushed to get onto the train, she wouldn’t have been a split second too late before the doors closed. The last she saw of Alan was his exasperated face as he realised she wasn’t behind him when train moved off.

It’s fate paying me back, she thought, sinking onto a bench. I should never have told him a lie in the first place. She glanced down at the brochure she held, illustrated with photos of Gaudi's distinctive harlequin tiles and the beautiful buildings he'd designed.

Alan had been very patient, trudging round Barcelona all week, not once suggesting they try to find a Bridge club, although the rain never let up. Even Senora Mirri had felt sorry for them, when they returned to the hotel every evening, damp and weary from trekking round Parc Guell or sitting in one of the cafes that lined the ramblas, hoping for a break in the clouds.

It was no use pretending that the multicoloured ceramics looked better in the rain. They both knew that they would sparkle like jewels when the sun shone.

Now she felt doubly to blame – not just for persuading him to come to Barcelona instead of their usual week in Benalmadena. She'd also lied about the telephone message Senora Mirri had passed on that morning.

She’d known that if she told him the truth he would have cancelled their last day’s sightseeing. As it was, she was just glad he hadn’t understood Senora Mirri’s Spanish when she appeared at breakfast to tell them the news.

‘What was that all about?’ he had mumbled through a spoonful of muesli.

‘Oh, just something about planes and the possibility of bad weather. So we must be sure to be on time at the airport this evening.’

Alan laughed. ‘She doesn’t know what she’s talking about’ He added more milk to his bowl, shaking his head. ‘Rain doesn’t stop planes taking off - unless the runaways are flooded, of course’. Sally knew he didn’t mean to be unkind.

Besides, Senora Mirri had said nothing of the sort.

It served Alan right, in a way, for not coming to Spanish classes with her; Sally had hoped they might develop some new interests together now they were both retired, with no children at home. He’d even been reluctant to come to Barcelona, saying he might be needed to join some tournament at short notice.

Anyway, now was not the time to think about that. Because she had lied about the message, it was even more important that she should find Alan and come clean. She tried to guess what he was most likely to do. Would he get off at the next stop and come back for her, or would he go on to the station they were headed for, and wait there?

In the end, it was the thought of the cathedral, that helped her to make up her mind. Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece – the Sagrada Familia – had obsessed the Spanish architect for 40 years. Sally had been fascinated by what she'd read in the travel guide.

It was good of Alan to go with her to the sites of Gaudi’s gorgeous constructions, dotted around Barcelona. He even seemed to have caught a little of her own enthusiasm. Now she regretted saving the best until the very last day.

Well, this wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She’d already attracted some attention on the platform. ‘Que pasa, Signora?’ asked a woman in a smart suit. When another train burst from the tunnel, Sally sprang to her feet. As she boarded, she couldn’t help noticing the stylish, bright yellow seats. Everything in Barcelona, even the street graffiti, seemed to have a distinctive elegance.

Outside the Sagrada Familia Metro station her eyes searched the crowds, but there was no sign of her husband. More indecision. Would he be at the cathedral itself, possibly waiting on a seat near the entrance, for her to catch up? Or would he have gone back?

She knew she couldn’t enjoy looking around the church if she knew that Alan might be waiting anxiously at the hotel. Well, there was nothing for it but to walk towards the cathedral and check.

Then she saw him at the entrance, sheltering under the façade with a crowd of sightseers about to enter. The entrance gate was out in the open. She quickly paid for a ticket and joined him, folding her umbrella.

‘Alan, how did you know I’d come on after you? I might just as easily have gone back’, she said. But when he turned a puzzled face towards her, Sally saw that it wasn’t Alan at all – just someone with the same build and the same colour of raincoat. She mumbled an apology and again began to wonder what to do next.

'What's this, talking to strange men in foreign cities? Seems I caught up with you just in time'

The familar voice and a tap on her shoulder made her turn, to find Alan smiling down at her. He looked quite dashing with raindrops in his hair.

‘Alan, I was sure you must have gone back to the hotel.’

‘What, and not see the Sagrada Familia? There wouldn’t have been time to go back and come out again, not if we wanted to leave in time to catch the plane.’

‘I know. I almost thought we shouldn’t come at all, you know – that you should have stayed at the hotel whilst I came on alone.’

‘Oh? Why on earth would I have done that

‘Alan, I’ve something to confess.’

Senora Mirri’s message had been in her mind all day. Alan’s friend Bob had rung, she said, to say the club’s ‘maestro’ was without a partner for the tournament. Was Alan willing to stand in at short notice?

Sally knew that if she’d passed on the message Alan would probably stay indoors with the Bridge books he always brought on holiday. She’d assured Senora Mirri that she would tell Alan later. How much later, she hadn’t said.

She had expected him at least to be annoyed at the deception. Instead, he laughed so loudly that it caused the nearby tour guide to turn round and make a shushing noise in their direction.

‘Oh, so you got Bob’s message, as well?’ Alan gave a low chuckle

‘You knew about it? How?’

Well, he sent me a text message on my mobile to say that Bruno needed a partner for the International Pairs event. I told him I’d be delighted. I don’t turn down the chance of gaining points like that in a hurry, as you know, and with him as my partner we’ll stand a good chance of being in the first two or three pairs.

‘But I thought if you knew you’d want to stay behind and revise up on defence play or conventions or something. Surely you’re a bit nervous?’

Alan looked at her astonished face, still wet from the rain.

‘You must be joking! I wouldn’t miss coming to see this with you this for the world - not when I’ve already seen the build-up. Just look at that wonderful façade! I’ll take up Spanish myself if this is what Spain’s like away from the Costa del Sol. Come on, let’s make the most of the time we’ve got left. I think the sun’s coming out at last’

He laughed as he took her hand. ‘Oh, and if you do get lost, meet me back here in an hour!’

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Comments by other Members

Desormais at 10:18 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
I'm very impressed with this Sheila. It's nice and tight, and very realistic. I've often imagined what it would be like if we got separated in a foreign place, and like your MC, I never seem to have my mobile with me when I need it, and I spend a lot of time second guessing whether to wait until I'm found or head on to the destination. And I like the bit about thinking you've found someone when you haven't; that's happened to me too.

It's a lovely taste of Spain too, some good references to the essence of Barcelona, a bit of Spanish language. I would have thought this would stand a very good chance of being accepted. Well done!


Katerina at 17:55 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
Blimey you're whacking these stories out aren't you!

I'm getting deja-vu here; I've seen this story before too - again when I hosted WF I think.

It’s pay-back time, she thought, sinking onto a bench. She should never have lied to him in the first place.

I'm not sure about the payback bit as it doesn't tell us who is being paid back. Why not rephrase this to something like -

Well that's Karma, she thought sinking onto a bench. That's what I get for lying to him in the first place.

Because you change it slightly so that she's referring to herself as 'I', we know who is being paid back.

Now she felt doubly to blame – not just for persuading him to come to Barcelona instead of their usual week in Benalmadena, but also for lying about the telephone message.
what telephone message? You haven't yet mentioned it.

Why not rephrase it to -

for lying about the telephone message she'd received at breakfast that morning.

Besides, the Senora Mirri had said nothing of the sort.

I would delete the word 'the' from this sentence and maybe it would sound better if you added some action from Sally. Something like -

Sally smiled at her husband and tried hard not to look guilty. Senora Mirri had said nothing of the sort.

now they were both retired, with the children married.

Would - with no children at homesound better?

Then a tap on her shoulder made her turn, to find Alan looking down on her, his hair flattened by rain.

Maybe after this we can have some interaction between them, Alan could joke with her about accosting a strange man (te one she thought was him) you could have some more dialogue from him, something like -

'I don't know, what are you like. I leave you alone for a bit and you go chatting up complete strangers!'Alan teased her.

Okay not those exact words, but something similar.

I get the sense that really they are quite a devoted couple and this bit of teasing would bring that out.

I'd like to see just a bit more interaction between the couple so that we warm to them as characters and get that sense of what they really feel about each other - God I'm so soppy at the moment, lol, but do you know what I mean?

It's a nice story and a bit more interaction will make it more heartwarming

I'm sure any of the mags would like this Sheila, well done.

Kat x

Cornelia at 18:11 on 28 September 2010  Report this post
Excellent revisions, Katerina. I will implement them asap and then have a go at sending this to Woman's Weekly by the end of the week.

You are right - this was written some time ago. I think foreign-parts stories were not so popular then. In those days I thought that if you had one rejection for a story that was it. Now I think have another edit and send it off again. I've got another idea for a Spanish one.

I'm quite keen to do some submissions because I'm intending to work on a novel after Christmas crime novel I won't have much time then. So I want to get a few 'laid down' now. They do seem to improve with age.

But I can only do a couple of hours in the morning at present. Just as well, you're thinking.


JaPe at 21:30 on 29 September 2010  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I enjoyed reading this but I wanted more.

I rather think this is the start of a story or perhaps a middle. I didn't think I had a whole story here.

I was a little confused about when the bridge tournament was to be held. I also thought that Alan might have mentioned the text message to Sally as he was so excited by it. If Senora Mirri has spoken enough English to get her message correctly I would have thought she might have told Alan in English.

And yet I did enjoy this piece.

I would like it worked into a longer story where something else shifts and causes more story. I'm so greedy!


Cornelia at 23:06 on 29 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks, Janet. I sent this off to Woman's Weekly today, but if/when it comes back these are good pointers for revisions.


fluffyduffy at 17:30 on 30 September 2010  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I know I'm late to comment again, sorry about that

That's not much more I can say that hasn't already been said except that I liked this story and thought it flowed nicely.

Good luck with the submission


Cornelia at 18:17 on 30 September 2010  Report this post
Thanks, Alana. I know you have a lot to contend with.

I expect I should have worked on that one more - my husband thought it was a bit tame 'Not as good as some of the others you've shown me,' was the way he phrased it. However, I'm sending a longer one to Woman's Weekly tomorrow, which is better. The standard of some of their stories is quite high, so I won't be surprised by a rejection.


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