A Croatian Adventure – Episode 14

When Mel got downstairs, she felt very alone.

It had been a strange day, certainly. Or was this the pain of childlessness which had been highlighted by holding baby Ivo so close, knowing she would never hold her own baby?

Then again, maybe she was worrying about the note that was still safely tucked in her handbag.

When she got to her room she felt like a ship at sea, adrift without an anchor. Who would she have called upon when she was back in Italy, staying with her good friends Caroline and Antonio?

She knew the answer without thinking. Cesare’s kind, clever face formed in her memory.

He knew the answer to most things. He was a detective and there were undercurrents in the Villa Lavanda of a mystery that needed solving. Mel hadn’t spoken to him since they’d broken up, but it was on a professional level that she wanted to speak to him now. He could advise her what to do about the note.

She dialled his number. There was no reply, and the line connected to voicemail. Should she leave a message?

Would he even talk to her when she’d turned down his proposal?

Instead, she left a brief greeting, trying to sound breezy.

“Hi Cesare, it’s Mel. Long time no speak. I was wondering how you were, and if you’d like a chat. Perhaps, if you have the time, you could give me a ring.”

She rang off, feeling the need for air.

Severina had said there was a sun terrace on the roof, from which you could look out to sea. It might be cooler upstairs.

Mel went off and sat up there gathering her thoughts for ten minutes. She now felt able to have a bath and get ready for the evening’s dinner party.

Her thoughts turned to Ryan, the lovely American she had met that morning, and she realised how much she was looking forward to seeing him again.

In fact, as she chose a pale green cocktail dress, she knew she was choosing it because he’d said green was his favourite colour.

It was too soon after her relationship with Cesare to think about dating, but it was nice to be appreciated.

The time for dinner was almost here and Mel felt hotter than ever. The evening was so steamy. One last trip to the cool roof to get her courage up would help.

She climbed the stairs, opened the door and breathed in the scent of pine trees and sea air blowing in off the coast. The light was failing and she could make out only the outline of trees against the navy blue sky.

As her eyes began to adjust, she peered in the direction of the trulli houses to the secluded inlet.

That bit of coastline would surely be deserted, yet she could see lights bobbing on the water.

She moved closer and squinted her eyes. What was going on? Was that a truck kicking up a trail of dust?

She would have liked to take a trip down there and have a proper look. Then she heard footsteps, and Greg Brodie emerged from the shadows. He’d been behind one of the chimneys on the roof all the time.

“What are you doing here?” His voice was harsh and he sounded wound up. What was more, she caught a glimpse in his hand of binoculars.

I could ask you the same, she thought, but managed to keep her cool. She wanted to get away from this man as quickly as possible.

“Just taking the air.”

She tried to sound nonchalant before she blurted out, “I’m sorry I disturbed you. I have to go. I’m expected at dinner.”

She had caught him doing something odd, and she only felt safe when she was back downstairs, away from him.

“Oh, Cesare,” she whispered as she tried to stop her stomach filling with butterflies as she went to enter the dining-room.

“I wish you were here with me. I wish I weren’t so thoroughly alone.”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!