No point trying the door, I knew that was locked. I looked down from the window, no fire escape, no nothing escape . . . just a long way down onto a small courtyard, packed with skips, bins and cardboard boxes. Most of the shutters were closed to the afternoon sun, and there was no sign of life in the rooms that were open to the sun. I banged hard on the door, four floors below the man on reception snored through his own siesta.
I changed into my old clothes and sandals, they felt good and smelled reassuring. I immediately had more faith in myself. I kicked my dress and heels under the bed, that was the end of them and, hopefully, all that went with them. A few splashes of cold water onto my face, my neck and arms, I rinsed through my underwear and I was ready . . . Now, all that stood between me and freedom was an old heavy, wooden door. Come on, there must be someone in this place other than me? My hand was hurting from hammering the door, it seemed to absorb the sound. I tried kicking with my back to the door but that hurt my heel, there was nothing in the room that I could use to bang on the door. Maybe if I stood by the window and waited for someone to dump some more rubbish in the courtyard, I could get their attention.
"Hola!" . . . "Oi!" . . . "Ello?!" . . "ELL LO!!"
"La puerta!! . . . Oi! . . . Cerrada!!"
I knew the word for closed as everything always seemed to be closed in Spain . . . What was help? I knew what it was in French, at least one of my O levels was paying off. I followed my rule that rarely let me down; use the French word with a hint of Spanish, stick an "a" on the end, or an "o" for Italian.
"Secorra!" . . . "Woi!!" . . . O come on, I mean what if the place was on fire . . . Aha!
"Fuego!!" by the window . . . "Fuego!!" by the door . . . and back again to the window yelling.
I'm clouting the door with the metal frame of my rucksack now . . . holding it above my head ready to strike again, I heard a voice, something was being said in Spanish . . . Yes!! Yes!! This is it, I'm gone. I didn't care who was on the other side, the devil himself would not stop me now.
"Bueno, bueno" A key turned in the lock . . . It was the greaseball from reception. I would have stopped to hug him but I didn't want him getting the wrong idea. With no backward glance to see if I had left anything other than the Brandy and those clothes, I flew down those stairs, leaving greaseball looking for the fire, he would be satisfied with the Brandy . . . maybe even the clothes and heels. I had a road to find.
It was an ideal hitching spot, a toll road with plenty of traffic, many cars pulling in for a break. Within five minutes a car pulled alongside me, A couple in their early 50's, both tanned and wearing way too much gold, looked a little too pleased to see me.
"You English?" the woman called from the window. O No. I didn't want to make conversation, but I did want a lift. Need a lift.
"Yeah, I need to get to Barcelona . . . or further, to France really"
"Jump in the back, we're going that way . . . Calp"
"Calp?" . . . I hadn't noticed Calp on the map, but we were headed North and the quicker I put some miles between me and Alicante, the better.
The couple lived in this Calp place, they told me it was a busy town, near Benidorm, which I'd never heard of back then. They might be able to get work for me there, a friend had a bar . . . Did I dance? O hello, here we go . . . No-no go-go. No more dancing . . . for now.
"Come and have a look, have a drink, see what you think eh? You're not gonna get to France today, you can stay overnight with us, see the bar, meet some people"
As she carried on planning the rest of my life, I saw a sign for Calp and he indicated to turn off the main road. I couldn't have been in the car for much more than half an hour . . . No way, this was too close.
"Erm . . . I think I'll just stay on the main road, if you could drop me here . . . thanks, I need to go further"
"Yeah, well, I'll get out here then if that's OK?! . . . OK??"
I was mentally calculating the distance, knowing I had to walk back to the main road and getting a bit frantic at the thought of wasting any more precious time. Strengthened by my old clothes, the smell of patchouli and having come this far, I barked.
"Could you just stop your fucking car and let me out! I don't want to come to Calp, I don't want to work or dance in Calp. Not for your mates and not for you . . . Thanks, and all that, but I'm running away, I need to go NOW! as far as I possibly can!!" The bark rose to a screech.
I felt like the gingerbread man; I've ran from Higgins and the laughing weirdo in a rented room . . . and I'll run from you pair too.
That did the trick, they didn't want to get involved in anyone else's mess, I suspect their own was enough.
"Thanks then, bye" suddenly polite again, now I had one foot out of the car. "Thanks for offering to help me, but I really can't stay here"
They weren't so chatty now . . . "Good bye, and good luck, young lady"
Back on the main road was not such a good hitching point and I felt pissed off with myself for having accepted the first lift, without knowing how far we were going. An utter waste of time. I stood at the roadside with cars whizzing past for almost an hour before a car pulled over . . . This time Spaniards, three of them, all male and middle aged.
"Barcelona?" I asked, having decided anywhere closer would not do.
"Si, Si Barcelona!" ah well at least I wouldn't have to talk . . . like that was my biggest worry (!). I jumped in. The car smelled of Brylcreme, hardly surprising looking at the black plastic shapes they'd sculpted from their hair. I studied them in turn, looking for something that might tell me I was safe, or not. Not a hint, nothing. A mixture of their limited English and my limited Spanish told me they were off on a fishing holiday near Barcelona . . . did I want to come with them?
"No, Gracias , I have to go to France. I must to go to France".
I imagined the type of English middle aged men that might take a fishing holiday together . . . I felt safe. I sat back, accepted a cigarette and enjoyed a couple of hours of Euro-pop.
The evening was getting late, they were turning off towards a coastal town . . . was I sure I didn't want to holiday with them? I was almost tempted. It would be dark very soon . . . Then what?
Once again I was at the side of the road. I was beginning to feel weary and sad and hungry . . . maybe I should have gone with the fisherman, or headed to Barcelona for the night. Maybe I should have waited in Alicante . . . or England. Gentle spots of rain fell. How had I even got to this point. What was so wrong with my old bedsit, in my city, with my safe job and friends?. Before I could regret or wallow any further, a big comfortable looking car pulled over. He was alone. Nice eyes.
"Si, Francia, entrar" Nice voice.
The radio played Abba and I felt safe. It was raining now, he didn't seem to want to talk, that suited me fine . . . I never had much to say. The music and rain were comforting. I sat back and closed my eyes . . . until the sound of hail stones beating on the car woke me almost an hour later. It literally poured sheets, reducing visibility to almost zero. The wipers on full speed were useless. The noise was awesome and exciting. Surely he couldn't drive in this?
"I stop" he said . . . "We wait, no es posible, I sorry".
"OK" who was I to argue? I certainly wasn't about to protest and walk. He turned down into a lane with woods on either side and inched his way along to a place where he could stop . . . . He switched on the inside light and showed me how to recline the seat so I could sleep. The light went out and I lay there stiff and still, waiting for something to happen. I began to reason, in my own style of reasoning; if it weren't for my period I'd just get on with it, and hope it was just straight sex he was after, well straight-ish. I might even enjoy it, I mean he was clean and handsome, I'd had worse, he had a strong, deep voice . . . interesting eyes, neither too kind nor too vicious . . . and I was feeling lonely . . .
Maybe I could stay with him, I had no other plans. Maybe he had a nice place somewhere . . . We could fall in love and live happily ever after . . . I was nineteen and that was most definitely on my agenda, it would happen one day. I relaxed some and curled onto my side. I began to drift; images of his villa, me beside the pool with a cocktail or two, a little bit of madness . . . well, yes, my contribution alone would see to that!, but a little of his own too, not too much . . . Somewhere between Silverhip and Higgins. Yes, perfect. A loud stammered snore pulled me from my reverie . . . Oh OK, maybe not.
My dreams, built on the shaky foundations of a sexy voice, fine profile and nice eyes, were shattered by a single snore. I soon recovered, I'd be in France tomorrow . . . In Nice, hopefully. A whole new dream began to form in my fickle mind.