A Croatian Adventure – Episode 32

“If Severina’s in any real danger, she’ll speak to you in her own good time. She knows that while you’re there, she’s not alone. It might be better just to keep an eye on things from a distance but stay her friend.”

It was sage advice.

As Mel and Ryan waved goodbye to the two Americans, leaving them heading for the ship, Ryan pulled her away.

“Come on, let’s take a proper look around Rovinj. We can go up the hill and take in the view. It’ll take your mind off things. Perhaps you need a rest from thinking about all that stuff.”

Mel wasn’t so sure. She was trying to digest the news Joshua had imparted and decide on the best time to mention the new note to Ryan.

She desperately wanted to go to the trulli houses on Wednesday as the new note had beckoned her, but if she told him, Ryan might try to warn her off.

She could have told the local police. The only thing was, if it was just some domestic quarrel between Makso and Ivan that had upset Severina, and Mel involved the police, she could lose her job.

Her mind was a jumble: so many decisions, so many different paths to take.

Although Mel and Ryan had a lovely walk up the hill, in and out of the shops, Severina was constantly at the back of her mind. The only moment Mel relaxed was when Ryan presented her with a pair of turquoise earrings.

“They’re beautiful! You shouldn’t have!” she exclaimed.

He winked.

“I went back to that shop while you were looking at the sarongs. I could see how taken you were with those earrings, so I couldn’t resist.”

With a deft touch, he helped her when she found the butterfly clips fiddly. As he did so, his hand touched her neck. His expensive cologne filled the air, an intoxicating mix of lime, basil and mandarin.

The closeness of him made her dizzy. Even though they were in a crowd, it was as if, for those few blissful seconds, they were in their own private bubble.

He spoke quietly.

“They look great against your dark hair. You’re a pretty girl, Melanie.”

He nodded then looked away, the only time she’d known him to be shy. It sent a flurry of butterflies through her tummy and brought a lump to her throat.

In a short while, Cesare would be visiting, together with her friend Caroline and her fiancé Antonio. She didn’t know when yet, as he was always so busy it was difficult for him to get time off.

But with Ryan being so attentive, it was as if her heart was divided down the middle, one half belonging to Cesare, the other reserved for Ryan.

They strolled back down the streets. Mel wanted to hold Ryan’s hand and she was on the verge of making the bold move of slipping her own into his unbidden.

Then she was distracted by a lady wandering by with a babe across her middle in a sling. He was fast asleep, and his father lovingly adjusted his sun hat.

Mel noticed Ryan looking at the pair.

“Isn’t that baby sweet?” she remarked.

“Yeah, they’re cute at that age, but when they grow up they can be a real handful. I’m the eldest of five and I spent enough of my teens looking after little kids.

“I reckon I’ve had my fair share of diapers and bottles. I couldn’t wait to get away to college and travel the world. Kids aren’t on my agenda.”

So that confirmed it: he was the complete opposite of Cesare. Ryan didn’t want children. He would make a woman like Mel, one who could never have children, an ideal husband.

She could feel herself well up. She’d despaired of any man being happy with a girl who was infertile.

If only she could share those thoughts with Ryan.

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!