A Croatian Adventure – Episode 33

She looked at his hand again, held empty by his side. She wanted him to make the move. She needed that confirmation from him. Her heart was still so fragile after the break-up with Cesare.

Just being near Ryan this afternoon had filled her with happiness. She decided to forget the mysteries at Villa Lavanda and enjoy the moment.

Everything here in this fairy-tale town was perfect: the colours vivid, the sounds of the birds entrancing, the faces of people smiling. It felt as if people were sharing in her feeling of hope.

For the first time, hope had bubbled up that one day she would be happily partnered with a good man, and she allowed that hope to grow and flourish.

Mel didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but it didn’t matter. She was floating on air.

Mel and Ryan finally ended up at the original café where they’d had coffee earlier. The cruise ship was long departed.

“I just need to use their rest room. Please excuse me for a minute,” Ryan said, and he left her sitting with a glass of chilled wine outside the café.

Now would be a good time to show him the second note. She had taken it out of her handbag and spread it on the table ready for his return, when a waitress came up to her brandishing an item in her hand.

“Miss, I so pleased you come back,” she said in broken English. “Your friend, she leave her expensive sunglasses. You give them back to her when you next see her?”

“Thank you.” Mel took them, thinking of the kindly Kaylee. “Oh, but she boarded the cruise ship. She’s going on to Italy, I think.”

“The lady with the sunglasses?” The waitress looked perplexed. “But she and her man friend do not go back on the ship.”

“They must have done. They were on the late afternoon sailing.”

“No, they did not.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“Very sure.” The girl nodded. “I remember very good. I watch them because she had on pretty dress and such lovely shoes. They go off that way in car and drive away. They no get on the ship. The ship leave without them, I am very sure of that.”

“Did they have luggage with them?” Mel asked.

What on earth was going on? Who were Joshua and Kaylee, and why had everyone lied to her? She had trusted them, and she’d trusted Ryan.

A sick feeling settled in her stomach. The sky had been forget-me-not blue, but now a large white cloud had come in from the sea and settled over the sun.

“No, no luggage at all.”

“Thank you.”

Mel shivered. Who was Ryan Peacock, she thought, seeing him emerge, smiling, from the café. Mel instinctively tucked the sunglasses in her handbag.

She’d believed she was getting to know him, but suddenly felt duped. In reality, she didn’t know him at all. He’d arrived out of the blue – a man she had contemplated losing her heart to.

Could there be a simple explanation for any of this? Or was she in real danger?

As Ryan approached, the wind whipped up and the second note which had been sitting by her hand flew into the breeze, circling round. She jumped up to catch it, but missed as it skittered away along the ground.

Ryan ran to get it for her, but she didn’t want him to see it. She no longer trusted him.

She chased after him and the note, watching it turn and tumble crazily towards the quayside where it danced over the cobblestones, tantalisingly out of reach.

Then, just as Ryan put his foot down to stop it, the wind whisked it away and down into the harbour waters where it floated away out of reach.

He laughed.

“What was that piece of paper all about anyway?”

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!