The heat was the first thing to hit me in Alicante. Breathing in hot air . . . it just felt wrong. I'd been told it would be hot but I didn't expect the air to be hot. I'd never left England before. O well Higgins knew what he was doing; he was in control of the situation, in his element. That was fine by me . . . until I realised his having control was a necessity. He carried on as if he were at home, except in Spanish, of course; very loud Spanish at that. We were tired and hot. Until now, I'd never seen Higgins having to deal with "real life", only lazy evenings. I couldn't see why he was so stressed . . .
Three hours later we were still dragging our suitcases around the cheap pensions of Alicante. Everywhere was completo; it was the eve of some music fiesta. When wasn't it? Higgins was irritable; he'd peaked at ten O'clock that morning on the train down to London. A bottle of Courvoisier and a dictaphone had kept him and a few other passengers amused; mostly him. Acting out some kind of interview with me, or rather without me. I was way too shy and embarrassed to play the part. Some parts I could play, some parts were easier than others. And I wasn't on the Brandy. Yet.
I sat with the luggage whilst he went off alone to find somewhere for us to stay. I wasn't bothered . . . I didn't know any fear, I just sat and waited . . . I was intrigued to see somewhere so un-English. I was fascinated by the language, their clothes, every little difference. Darker skin contrasted with light green and blue eyes, colourful clothes, warm smiles and a warm breeze, just what I needed. I'd never fitted in England, maybe I would fit in here . . .
We finally crashed in some grotty pension with huge windows and a big bed. Across the courtyard, a classical pianist played for hours on end. I wasn't to know how much I would come to love, and then dread that music. . . . A soundtrack to this room.
Higgins had a contact in Alicante, I never got to meet this contact but within a few days of us arriving, a few meetings and I dare say a few bottles of Brandy with this "buffoon" they had fallen out. I suspect that it was a control issue . . .
"Don't worry Twiddle, I have a plan . . . We don't need his vulgar hotel and contacts . . . His so called protection . . . The man is a no more than a crook, a fat crook. A simpleton."
Maybe it was a money issue. Money and control. Power.
Higgins did have a plan. Why should we pay a middle man, he could soon find contacts . . . keep it simple.
Higgins would disappear most afternoons, searching for property for "The Old Thing" . . . That was all good with me, I enjoyed sunbathing on our balcony, sometimes going down to the beach where I gradually sidled along into the company of a group of Gitanes. They gathered there every day underneath a huge canvas, supported at each corner by a long pole. Perhaps they lived there. To say they played guitars and sang would just not cover it. They put their entire bodies and souls into every single sound. Music came from everywhere; hands, fingers, feet and souls. . . This was special. Raw and special. I just listened. I sort of wished I had my bodhran with me, but I wouldn't have played it anyway. I suddenly missed Silverhip. I recognised the music from somewhere . . . I trusted these people.
We would meet at one of our favourite restaurants every evening and the game would begin. It wasn't difficult to find someone out there looking for "fun" . . . Expensive fun. Simple. There were the odd occasions when it worked out just fine . . . for me. Just wrong enough. Most of the "just fines" were one-off tourists, heading back home in a few days. The "just fines" did nothing at all for Higgins. Vile mediocrity. Naturally, Higgins selected the regular contacts, who could come back, who excelled on the casting couch . . . There was a common theme. Sadism. Abuse. Fun and games indeed. O, I soon learned how to act . . . role play was high on Higgins' agenda. All sorts of twisted, weird and varied role play. Always involving a degree of pain.
On and on went the "fun" night after night. Only ever one person per night, that could range from half an hour to two hours. I decided I did like wine after all, white wine, maybe I would have liked any wine. I even began to enjoy a swig of Brandy at bed time, sleep time.
I did wonder where all of this was going . . . I knew that it wasn't about the money for sure. Yes, certain scenarios assured that we were both sexually satisfied; let's remember he was forty nine and impotent, I was nineteen and bonkers. He enjoyed the psychology of controlling sex and pain; the madness of the obedience. The high of the power. There was much more to this than I could fathom. I never did see where the fun was in it . . . Fun? That had always been the wrong word for me. I associated fun with laughter. Shit, I thought Silverhip was mad when he laughed once during sex. . . . I didn't mix sex and laughter. To me sex needed to be a dark place. The pleasure was always in the wrong of it. If the sex wasn't tinged with some kind of weirdness, there was no pleasure. Simple. The more wrong, the more pleasure. Surely that must mean the darker it became, the better it would get. This had nothing to do with fun, I couldn't see or hear anyone laughing. Not in our room anyway.
There was always laughter and music outside. Spanish food. Spanish music and dancing. Spanish rhythm and Spanish eyes. Flamenco and wine. Music fiestas, dancing, parades and the bullfights with trumpets. The ritual and the music of the bullfight, the passion and the glory. Then the celebrating, eating and drinking and drinking some more. Cold fresh white wine, mussels and garlic. Our ritual, our fight. Enticing with the cape . . . dancing and prancing like the matador, twisting and turning . . . maiming with the picadors lance . . . taking away their strength. Taking control. The raw wailing, the stamping and banging, castanets . . . And then back to the pianist, sometimes playing beautiful music and sometimes racing and crashing relentlessly through complex scales. O God.
One afternoon I smoked some spliff and drank some wine with the Gitanes and began to relax. I decided to go for a swim, I'd been sunbathing earlier on our balcony and had my bikini on, although I wore a tunic type thing over it on the beach . . . In my excitement, at the thought of enjoying something as normal as a dip in the sea, (some fun) I totally forgot myself . . . I stood up and took off the tunic with my back to the group . . . I didn't understand much Spanish at the time, but the gasps of disbelief made me wonder what on earth they had seen . . . I turned round to see what they were "Iy Iy Iying" about. "Que es eso?" . One of them said, striking an imaginery whip and gesturing me to turn around again. Shit. Bollox. Whippings. O My God . . . How had I forgotten? I pulled the tunic back over my head, collected my pack of Fortunas and walked away feeling naked . . . I didn't go to that part of the beach again.
I got sick in the August. I had sun-stroke and the fun stopped . . . I was in total darkness, blind and deaf. All I could hear was a loud ringing in my ears. I didn't know about sunstroke . . . enough people had warned me to keep out of the afternoon sun, to heed the siesta, but I didn't know this would happen. I was dehydrated, delirious . . . Everywhere was pitch black. Where was Higgins? I felt my way along the wall from the bathroom to the bed, over and over through the night. Spewing and pouring with sweat. Shivering and shaking. Calling out yet not hearing my own calls, like some kind of waking nightmare. He just wasn't there. I never knew where he went, I didn't usually care either . . . but this wasn't usually, This was the absolute unknown. I sat all night on the tiles and the loo waiting for the ringing sound to stop . . . listening out for something familiar, straining my eyes into the darkness to find something. Eventually the sun came up and I finally saw a flicker of light. A glimmer of hope. I was angry . . . How could he leave me in such a state? Why would he want to leave me so unwell and confused . . . Did he not care? Did he not love me? Had something happened to him?
The next morning he was back . . . something had changed for us both. I questioned him for the first time ever, and was worried by his reaction; not worried enough to stop the questioning. Something was going on and I wanted to know what. I'm sure I would have accepted whatever was . . . I was dumb like that. But he wouldn't tell me when I asked, he made it clear that I wasn't to ask questions. How bad could it be? The more he refused to talk, the more I needed to know. I couldn't even come up with a suggestion to test him. To taunt him. Shit, he knew I was tolerant, I wouldn't be shocked, would I?. . . whatever was it? He was distracted, losing his charm and his temper. I was focused, finding my voice and my feet . . . I persisted.
"Where have you been going? Why were you away all night? you knew I was ill . . . Why? Where? Who?" . . . Whack . . . and I was on the floor, pitch black all around me again and a ringing in my ears. It wasn't sunstroke.
He said he needed to fly back to England for a few days. Something to do with trust funds and power of bloody attorney. Scottish law and all that. That's all it ever was, or was it? Estate agents and lawyers . . . I went down to the beach the evening before he was due to go to England. It felt like the end of something. Everything. I felt sad and alone. Totally alone here in this town, this country, this world. . . . I started talking to a couple of English guys, they were teachers, well, one taught English at a school in Nice . . . The other gave private English lessons to students in Nice. They asked me what I was doing here . . . "dont ask" I joked. I laughed.
"O well . . . if ever you're in Nice or passing through, the old part of Nice "Le Vieux Nice" . . . Rue de Jesus, 7 . . . call in on us!"
"Yeah, I might; I mean, Yeah, I will" . . . even as I said these words, I was making plans. I knew I wouldn't forget that address; I took it as a good omen. I'd never heard of Nice but I was sure I could get there. Well, sort of sure, not that sure really. I knew if I could get away from here, the rest was easy, I could go to the ends of the earth. Could I? I didn't even think about what I was going to do in Nice. Did it matter, really? No.
I never had any money of my own . . . Hell, I didn't even have a purse. According to Higgins the money "we" made kept us in this hotel and fine restaurants . . . fine Brandy more like. Maybe it did, I really didn't care for money. I never had. I carried my cigarettes around with me. I had a couple of souvenirs from england; a brass candle holder that Silverhip had made for me and a silver cross that he had made too. I had three or four rara dresses that we'd bought in Spain, none of which were "running away" clothes. Higgins dealt with all the money of course; anything to keep the peace, to give him control. I didn't mind . . . Until now. I wouldn't need much money, I mean I wasn't planning on trying to fly to this Nice place . . . There was no sea between me and Nice, I'd found out that much. There was a border and I would need my passport . . . where was it? I would need a bit of money and I could only think of one way to get that. Of course, I would have to be alone this time . . . and it would have to be a total stranger, but it would be the last time.
OK, I would wait until Higgins was on the plane to England the next evening . . . then I would go to the Plaza where the other "Senoritas" paraded. Just the once, surely that would be OK.