Under An Island Sun – Episode 09

The main characters from the story

Now, in contrast to the cold weather she’d left behind her, the sun’s heat washed over her as her aunt met her at the airport.

“I’m so glad you decided to come, Mairi. How are you?”

“Mum’s told you what’s been happening?”

“Of course. Don’t be cross. We’ve always confided in each other.”

Mairi pushed down the sadness and frustration that had been welling up over the past days.

“I feel such a fool. As for running off into the cold night like that . . .”

“Don’t beat yourself up. Being here will do you the power of good.

“I could feel the place getting to me within minutes of arriving.

“Now, let’s get settled into our home from home.

“The hire company has provided me with a little car that’s perfect for our needs and handy for shopping.”

As they left the building, the familiar outlines of volcanoes towards the interior of the island could be seen from the car park.

In a strange way, Mairi felt as if they were greeting her, just as the Cumbrian mountains always had whenever she returned from being away.

Palm trees waved in the ever-present breeze. Fuerteventura wasn’t known as “the windy isle” for nothing.

Soon they were travelling along the coast road, heading north towards the capital, Puerto del Rosario, where Hilary had rented a simple two-bedroom apartment for them.

“It would be a squash to stay with Chris and Isabella, and they need their family time.

“Chris is paying us the going rate, so we can afford something reasonable.”

Mairi’s mum had told her that Aunt Hilary wouldn’t be driving on the tours, and Mairi could understand why.

Although careful and reasonably proficient, she had a tendency to hesitate at junctions, to the annoyance of other drivers.

She oversteered on several bends, and the less said about the way she occasionally crunched the gears the better.

Thankfully she seemed to have got the hang of giving way to the left at roundabouts.

Mairi was glad when they parked in front of an apricot-painted block of apartments, all with balconies, some with pots of geraniums or bougainvillea trailing over the rails.

“We’ll relax this evening, pop out for some tapas then get a good night’s sleep before meeting at Chris’s house to find out what we’ll be doing.”

Hilary insisted on lifting Mairi’s suitcase out of the boot, despite her protests.

“I’ve already met the other new driver, a young Frenchman I interviewed when I was in La Rochelle.

“He’s very intelligent and, I suspect, a man of hidden depths – in a good way.

“I haven’t met the other driver, but he’s Italian and has been with Chris for a while. He’s about my age.

“I imagine there are plenty of younger people on the island, though. I’m sure you’ll soon build up a good social life.”

Did Mairi’s aunt give her a sideways glance?

She forced a smile.

“Auntie Hilary, romance is the last thing on my mind at the moment.

“Fair enough. A quiet life has its good points.”

Arriving on the same day as Mairi, Philippe texted Nicole as soon as he was off the plane to let her know he’d got there safely.

She had reacted furiously on learning he was taking the driving job, but had calmed down when he gave her a silver locket as a token of their love.

They had parted on an uneasy truce, with Nicole convinced he would be back within a month.

“Attending to the whims of dreary tourists? That’s not for you.”

In the terminal, 20 or so people were holding up cards.

One middle-aged man in jeans, with cropped, greying hair, bore a card with Philippe Durand written in marker pen.

Its owner had the tanned, rumpled face of a man who lived life with a capital “L”.

This must be the other driver Hilary had told him about, and with whom he would be sharing accommodation for the time being.

The man’s face broadened into a wide grin.

“Hello! You must be my new colleague, Philippe. I am Antonio, your brother in crime!”

As they shook hands, Philippe took to him straight away.

“I apologise if I am a little worn around the edges,” Antonio began as they walked towards a Land-Rover Defender.

“I’ve been taking passengers round the northern part of the island today and haven’t had time to freshen up.”

Philippe cast an admiring glance over the vehicle.

His grandfather had owned several alternatives over the years, but had always hankered after the original.

“You’ll be staying with me in my apartment in Puerto del Rosario, not far from the two women also on our team,” Antonio added as they set off.

“It’s not luxurious, but it’s comfortable and near shops and bars.”

To be continued…

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