Under An Island Sun – Episode 13

The main characters from the story

Despite some inevitable butterflies at starting the first day in a new job, Mairi revelled in the sense of freedom as she and Hilary drove along the coast road, the sun on her arms and the breeze in her hair.

In some ways the scenery was as different from the Lake District as it could be, as if an artist had painted everything in scorched browns and ochres instead of soft green and greys, along with a vivid blue for the ocean.

Yet she had the same sense of the volcanoes watching benignly over her as she did with the mountains at home.

It was the best she had felt in a long time.

The fact that she was about 1,500 miles away from Liam and his new fiancée, Fiona, was an added bonus.

Mairi’s thoughts wandered to her first impressions of the rest of the team at the meeting earlier in the week.

Philippe was good-looking in a quiet way, so it wasn’t surprising that she’d felt a flicker of attraction when they’d shaken hands, but he seemed very reserved.

Antonio, on the other hand, was like a favourite, mischievous Italian uncle who enjoyed making everyone laugh.

It said something that, despite his joking around, Chris clearly trusted him implicitly.

Her cousin had seemed more serious than usual, possibly because he was worried about the business and Isabella’s pregnancy.

Isabella herself had looked exhausted.

All in all, Mairi was glad Hilary was involved. Mum had been right about having someone she knew for reassurance.

Today’s tour was at the far south of the island, stopping off at two large, modern hotels, fronted by neat rows of shrubs and palm trees, to pick up passengers.

Even from the outside she could tell how roomy and airy the hotels were, as floor-to-ceiling glass entrances allowed peeks into reception areas that could have fitted whole houses into their marbled space.

For a moment, she imagined taking a dip in one of their pools, bliss on a hot day like this.

That would mean missing being out on the open road, though, passing volcanoes that had been extinct for around five thousand years, smoothed and shaped by millennia of trade winds.

She smiled at the thought that at least some of the material Chris had instructed them to learn had sunk in.

At the first hotel, they collected an amiable German couple in their fifties, who beamed and waved as the Land-Rover approached.

Marcus and Astrid hailed from Munich and spoke near-perfect English, though they looked pleased when Hilary told them she spoke German.

There was no sign of anyone waiting for them at the second hotel.

Hilary was about to go inside and check where they were when a tall, friendly-looking lad with dark hair loped out of the entrance.

“Hello! I’m Graham, the tour rep here. I make sure everything runs smoothly – in theory, anyway,” he greeted them in a Yorkshire accent.

His face broadened into a wider smile as his eyes met Mairi’s.

“I must say, you’re a nice surprise. The last driver was a right old misery. When Chris told me he’d gone, I said he was better off without him.

“Anyway, I’m pleased to meet you.”

“Pleased to meet you, too, Graham,” Mairi replied.

Once everyone in the Land-Rover had introduced themselves, Graham’s expression became more serious.

He glanced back over his shoulder.

“I thought I should warn you about the two men you’re taking today. They’re already getting a bit of a reputation at the hotel.

“They think they know it all, expect things to have been done yesterday and complain loudly and endlessly if anything isn’t to their liking.

“Their wives have opted to stay by the pool today, and I don’t blame them.”

He looked round as two burly middle-aged men came out of the hotel and sauntered towards them.

Graham raised his eyebrows.

“Good luck,” he murmured, before turning to face the newcomers.

“Morning, gents! Looks like another cracker of a day. Enjoy your trip.”

“We’d better, given how much it’s costing,” one of them growled back.

They climbed into the back of the Land-Rover, barely even glancing at the German couple.

Mairi turned round and forced a smile.

“Good morning. I hope you’re looking forward to seeing the beautiful wild side of Fuerteventura.

“I’m Mairi, your driver, and this is Hilary, one of our guides.”

“Oh, great,” one of them said. “A woman driver. That’s all we need.”

To be continued…

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