From under her large dark sunshades, Ellen looked across the sun drenched patio at the twenty women and few men who were participating in the group aerobic session in front of the hotel pool and groaned. She had no idea why she'd come, it had bad move written all over it, and now....here she was sat on a lounger in the shade of a parasol wishing she was invisible.
Facing the band of misfits was a lithe athletic woman, petite in height yet muscular in build, her black hair braided into dozens of tiny plaits, her dark skin gleaming with a fine layer of perspiration.
"Come on, lift those knees....two...three...four, and pump...two...three...four."
The menagerie of participants consisted of several middle aged women bouncing around in swimsuits, some younger women in athletic clothing purposely brought along on their luxurious holiday and the odd husband and child guffawing at the back of the group.
Ellen was amazed that so many had turned up on a hot sunny morning. Crazy the lot of them, she thought, here they were in a Mediterranean paradise and they were leaping around like fish out of water! She was no watercolour, she knew that, without her copper highlights her shoulder length mousy brown hair would be average, in its defence it was thick and in good condition and her heavy fringe framed her face well. She looked younger than her twenty five years, she had large bright blue eyes with thick naturally curled eyelashes and full dark lips. Richard had always said it was her kissable lips that had attracted him at first. Well at five eight she was average height and thicker built than she'd like, her hips were a little over rounded, and her breasts too heavy for her frame, average but far from repulsive.
She reached for her ice cold orange juice and sipped it gratefully. Why oh why had she come here at all? This was supposed to be her honeymoon, but instead she was here alone, escaping the pain and embarrassment of it all blowing up in her face. A huge ugly mess. Her mother had told her the holiday would be hard, both her sisters had offered to buy the tickets off her and travel themselves. But she'd been insistent, she'd slaved to pay for this, and enjoy it or hate it, she'd be the one to experience it.
The hotel and spa was described as the height of luxury. Intimate, opulent and with large portions being deemed adult only. She'd always imagined that she'd honeymoon in the Maldives, or the Seychelles, but she'd found a man who hated to fly, so this complex on the Balearic island of Majorca was as good as it got, only a two hour flight from home but hopefully good weather and a level of lavishness that befitted a honeymoon.
But since she'd arrived late the previous evening she had become aware that the whole place was governed by an Animacion team, organising events and competitions all day and rather loudly and enthusiastically encouraging everyone to join in. The aerobics was just the start.
Ellen knew that her place tucked away in the corner of the terrace was not safe enough. She'd have to move, investigate further. The haven that she'd hoped for was already a disappointment....why couldn't people have their own space and anonymity in this world?
Throwing her book, iPod and sun screen into her apple green straw beach bag, she retied her sarong around her neck, then stood slipping her feet into her flip flops. Steps led down from the large terrace, and at the bottom she wandered through a grove of fruit trees before bursting out onto a small idyllic beach. The sand was almost white; the water azure blue, rocky crags hid the bay from other buildings further along the coast.
Ellen dumped her bag and then kicked off her shoes, allowing her feet to sink into the warm sand. Curling her toes she sighed. This was more like it, peace and quiet. There were only a few sun beds here, but she found one under a rather weather ravaged large straw umbrella. Spreading out a towel, she unwrapped herself and lounged on the bed. She wasn't a sun worshipper per se but she enjoyed the tranquillity of the coast, and the warmth of the partial shade. She glanced down at her new bikini, one of seven that she'd purchased in earnest over the last few months, with each buy she'd imagined it being ripped off in by Richard in their newly married passion. Huh! So much for that!
Ellen wasn't sure how long passed, an hour two? She read eight chapters of her novel, a gritty murder thriller that made her heart race, and finished a bottle of water, so it'd been a while. Suddenly she was hungry, she wasn't one of those people who lost their appetite when depressed, unfortunately. Standing she rewrapped her sarong and slid everything into her bag.
Back on the patio, poolside, a game of darts was occurring, a dozen or more people competing to win an unknown prize. At the furthest part of the terrace was the table she'd vacated earlier. Returning she sat and picked up the menu. Wow, you could get anything you wanted here. Spotting Caesar Salad - her favourite, she smiled as the waiter approached, and ordered the food and a sparkling water and sat back again in the shade.
Ellen's confidence had taken a real blow the last few months, and as she waited for her lunch, the cacophony of the darts was blotted out by her regressive thoughts, as she searched for what went wrong, how long had it been on the rocks? Was the end inevitable? Could she have seen the signs earlier? She didn't think so, but then planning a wedding was a full time job, and Richard with his big family, big business and big ideas had pushed and pushed the boundaries. She'd been the one who'd had to deliver on a reception for two hundred, dancing for four hundred, and all the accoutrements that something of that scale required.
With a sigh, a common expression for her these days she glanced back up to the group playing darts, everyone was happy, laughing. Amelia, the organiser was encouraging everyone in rapid shouts, flicking between English, French, Spanish and German with a finesse Ellen knew she'd never have.
"Come on everyone, Klaus here is the leader, Klaus est le leader, Klaus es le líder, Klaus gewinnt. Does anyone else want to play? Hat jemand spielen wollen? ¿Alguien más quiere jugar? Quelqu'un d'autre veut jouer?"
Ellen could appreciate her excellent language skills, but it still didn't mean that she wanted to play darts with a bespectacled overweight German called Klaus. She should have been strolling hand in hand with her new husband, instead she had this!
The salad was divine, but after it she headed back down to the beach, strolling in the shallows and wallowing in her own self pity.
Later after a shower she headed to the dining room. It was full of families, couples, friends...at that moment Ellen realised how ridiculous this was, thinking that she could manage being here alone. She was so aware that she was conspicuous, so obviously a jilted lover alone! They'd picked this resort because it was isolated and fairly exclusive, they hadn't intended to shop, go to bars or discos, but now she was isolated.
The small snack bar near the pool was still open, so she sat on the terrace with an ice cold glass of Chardonnay and a cheeseburger, eating the fries with her fingers. It was only seven o'clock and the area was quiet, a few waiters were rearranging the chairs and tables around a small stage that sat the opposite end of the terrace, flanking the pool.
Within twenty minutes, Amelia was joined by Katrin, an equally language diverse woman with the same level of enthusiasm, a few families had spilled onto the terrace, and were gathering around
"Buenos noches, bonsoir, guten abend, good evening all! Tonight we have a special show...heute Abend haben wir eine spezielle show...ce soir, nous avons une émission spéciale...esta noche tenemos un show especial, Hollywood Dancers! But first we have the children's disco! En primer lugar tenemos la discoteca niños....zunächst haben wir die Kinderdisco...d'abord nous avons la discothèque enfants!"
With that the two women and the children present burst into action, dancing along to a variety of recorded tunes, all with elaborate actions. Ellen sighed; this really was the worst kind of torture.
Several glasses of wine later and she'd relaxed somewhat and also learned that Klaus DID in fact win the darts, but Mandy from Birmingham had won the shuffleboard, whatever that was, and a couple from Belgium were the day's champions in beach volleyball. Amelia and the more recent Katrin presented the certificates before another man joined them on stage. Jan introduced himself as the newest member of the crew, and led the crowd in a rousing rendition of 'We are the Champions' complete with swaying arms and singing in his deep booming voice.
Not keen on the thought of the Hollywood Dancers, she finished her glass of wine and gathered her things. As she entered the hotel lounge via the large French doors, she almost bumped into someone rushing towards the door.
The man reached for her arm as she wobbled at the force of the bump. Looking up she realised it was Jan. Waving a hand she mumbled "it's nothing!" Then tried to move away.
"Are you coming to watch the show?" he asked with a grin. She glanced up, energy and vibrancy emanated from him. He was tall, six foot, but slim with an angular face, harsh cheek bones and jaw, hollowed cheeks and straight lips. His eyes were too deep set, and a little beady she noticed as he studied her waiting for an answer. His hair was short around his neck but the top was pulled up into a sort of soft Mohawk.
"No!" she muttered, "I'm taking an early night."
He nodded with a smile, "maybe I will see you for aerobics in the morning?" His voice was heavily accented but his English impeccable.
She shrugged, "maybe!" Then she rushed to her room.
Sleep was elusive, cold sweats woke her every few hours as the feelings of embarrassment and desolation revisited her. All she could see was the look on her mother's face as she told her it was all over, the pity as she'd driven around returning the early gifts, or called to explain. Richard had disappeared, he'd set none of this up, so why should he help demolish it all. His parents had been mocking in their response, but then they'd never seen her as good enough for their Golden Boy, and relief at her not joining the family seemed to defeat the shame that their son had brought on them.
Ellen glanced at her watch, six am, bright sunlight shone through the slight gap in the drapes and she knew further sleep wouldn't occur. So she got up changing into a scarlet bikini, a sensible one, and a strapless sundress, found her towel then headed for the beach.
The water was cold yet invigorating, she gasped as it lapped at her knees, but as she reached mid thigh depth she dived under a gentle rolling wave. Emerging into the early morning sun, she started to swim cutting through the water heading out to a red buoy in the distance. As she left the protection of the cliffs and headlands she could feel the strong currents sucking at her dragging her deeper, she was a strong swimmer and not worried, but she didn't want to get stuck, so she turned and headed back to the calmer waters. She was breathless as she finally felt sand under her feet.
Ellen was more confident walking into the restaurant for breakfast, it was self service so she sat at a small window table and ate cereal, fruit and then eggs on toast, the swim had certainly livened up her appetite.
She was emerging onto the terrace when she heard a deep baritone accented voice call out, "Hallo." But it sounded more like Hah-low. Glancing up she saw Jan on the stage. "Aerobics time! Temps aérobic, zeit fur aerobic ...aeróbic tiempo! Come on everyone!"
And so it rolled on again! Day two of death by Animacion was upon her!
Ellen split her time between walking the resort to death, avoiding the damn happy tourists and their bloody games, and drinking Tequila Sunrise's in a secluded part of the terrace. She wanted to go home, more than anything, but she also knew she had nothing to go home to. The end of her engagement had seen the downfall of all avenues of her life. She hadn't told her family, but she had NOTHING to go home to.