“MÃE!” I yell for my mother, hoping she’ll come and help me with the mess in my childhood bedroom. I wait for a couple of minutes but she never comes.
Sure, choose today of all days to ignore me, Joan.
“Where the fuck are my work papers?” I ask no one in particular while trying to organize this chaos of papers, books, and notebooks.
It’s bittersweet to be back at my mom’s house after so long. I had moved in with my now ex-boyfriend. We had been living together for a couple of years already when we reached a point of no return. The memory comes to me like it was yesterday.
“Shit, where did I leave my sneakers?” I mumble while looking underneath the bed. “Babe, did you see my black Adidas?” I yell in hopes that John knows where I left them.
I am the cleanest freak you will find, but I always forget where I leave my stuff.
“Fucking hell, I need to get my brain checked,” I say to myself, sweeping my eyes under the bed one last time, holding my phone as a lantern to see properly.
Just as I am about to give up, I notice them in the opposite corner.
“Ah-ha!” I pick them up and stuff them inside my suitcase.
It appears that in my brain, clean does not equal organisation.
When I am finally done, I head to the living room, where I know John is waiting for me. I halt when I see him there, sitting on the couch with a frown on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, sitting right next to him on the couch.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he says without even diverting his gaze from the black canvas of the TV.
“What do you mean?”
I thought things were fine an hour ago when he was fucking me hard against the shower’s wall.
“I can’t keep up with this lifestyle of yours anymore, Mel. You’re away for weeks in a row and I can’t bear the distance anymore. You don’t even need to work, so what’s the point in being away for this long?”
“I need to work because I love what I do and it requires me to travel around. I am never away for more than two weeks at a time. Don’t make me choose, John, please.”
How could he ask me this? When we got to know each other, he already knew how much I loved this job, how much this meant to me, he also knew how hard this was going to be. Despite all of that, he was always supportive.
Not anymore it seems. So, what changed between then and now?
“Yeah, and you come home for two or three days before you leave again. You have to choose, either the job or me,” He states coldly, avoiding my gaze.
He’s blindsiding me to force a decision under pressure, one that he hopes will suit him and that’s the worst he can do to me. He knows it. My job, my freedom, and my independence are part of my identity and to make me quit on a whim, to be his housewife is not in my options.
I don’t break under pressure and I know what I want with my life and the choice he wants me to make is not it.
If he wants to be cold and distant, then so will I. If he wants me to choose then I will. I choose to leave in silence, to let him know in the hardest way that I am not an animal to be cornered. I am my damn person and I don’t need him for shit, even if I love him.
“Mel? Are you daydreaming again?” My mom’s voice brings me back to the present.
“Just work shit, you know the gist.” I lie but it sticks.
She knows how addicted to my job I am.
I am a Tourist Guide in Portugal; we show visitors the best the country has to offer. I like to think of myself as an ambassador, making others fall in love with my country.
A country I love so much.
This job can be romanticized by others quite a lot. Always travelling, meeting new people, seeing new places, trying new foods— oh, what a wonderful life. But they don’t see what’s behind all the wonders: studying until late at night, managing schedules, payments, making sure people don’t get lost or hurt, or even being aware of food allergies. Not to mention that it requires me to be away quite often and usually for no less than a week or two at a time.
Even though it’s hard work and lonely sometimes, I love it.
It’s also a seasonal job. This means that I have to work as much as I can during the high season, from mid-March to October because when the winter arrives, I have to stay at home. I like to compare myself to an ant sometimes.
So, for the last six months, I preferred to stay away from the city as much as I could, to just heal myself. I’d visit my mom and my grandparents on a couple of days that I had off, but always staying at a hotel.
I can say that this time was enough to put my shit together pretty much by myself. I don’t have many friends to rely on anyway, except for Sol. The other two friends I had, well, John had been able to push them away enough.
I still miss them though, a lot.
Solitude was my help in this period, and I’ve improved a lot. Granted I had tourists to make my company daily, but those would change every week. When you start to bond with the people in the groups, it’s already time for them to leave.
People find it funny how I can connect so easily with the tourists at my work and have such a difficult time connecting with people in my personal life. It’s because, in my perspective, there’s a difference between professional and personal connections. And I know I excel at my job.
I have always been very selective with whom I let into my life. That’s why my group of friends has been based on three people only. It’s hard for me to connect with new people but the ones that got in never let me down and I am happy to say that they’re enough.
“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” My mom prods and it riles me up.
We were together for five years and she loved him to death. She always thought I’d have the happy ending she didn’t have with my so-called excuse of a father.
I don’t know who took the news of the breakup worse, me or her.
“Yeah, I am thinking how much of an asshole you have to be to make a woman quit her dream job,” I mutter.
“Mel, he loves you and wants you close to him. There’s nothing wrong with that. You could have a carefree life, you could choose love,” she insists.
Where is this even coming from? She was always the one to encourage me to be independent and take shit from no one. I know she’s a hopeless romantic but love is not enough sometimes.
I know it because it wasn’t for us.
“Mãe, fucking look at me.” I put my hands on my hips. “What woman did you raise? A housewife? No. A quiet and obedient woman? Hell to the no!”
I do lack a filter but my mom has lost hope of correcting me after twenty-five years of life.
“Fine, you’re big enough to decide on your own.” She sighs in defeat and I go back to try and organize my things. “I just think you guys should talk and clear the air. It was a five-year-long relationship, not a five-month one.”
I roll my eyes and ignore her statement while at the same time my stomach growls. It gives me the perfect opportunity to change the subject. “Hey, what’s for dinner tonight? Do you need help?”
“Avó and I are doing Bacalhau com Natas.”
My favourite dish, creamy codfish, it’s cooked in the oven. I know it’s a very strange dish but I am Portuguese, what can I say? Codfish is kind of a compulsory food for us. Don’t talk shit until you taste it, that’s my motto.
“Cool. I am going out after dinner for a little bit just so you know.”
As my mom leaves my room after a confirming nod, I go back into organizing my things.
I don’t plan on staying here long. The fact that I have been living by myself for a while now has been imprinted on my way of living and that was decisive for me to start looking for a place to rent as fast as possible.
Also, if I find something close enough, my mom or even Sol can take care of it while I am gone during the working season.
Reminding myself of Sol, I call her to see if she’s free after dinner. She’s very similar to me, personality-wise. She’s strong-headed, selective with the people she hangs out with and doesn’t smile just to be seen as nice. No, she won’t care and if she doesn’t like someone, she won’t hide it at all.
“I’m back, bitch!” I shriek into the phone, as soon as Sol answers my call. “Low season has started, a.k.a winter is coming so, I’ll be home for a while. Do you want to go for a drink tonight, after dinner?”
“Oh, yes, please! Can Hugh come or do you want one-on-one time?” She asks.
Hugh is her boyfriend and they’ve been together for almost as much as John and I are - I mean, were!
“Fine by me. I’ll see you both at nine at the marina. Then, we choose which café-bar once we arrive. See you in a little bit!”
After hanging up, I go back into organizing my room as best as I can. The whole time I keep thinking of Sol and the other two friends I haven’t connected with, for two years now.
Shane and Wayne. They were all childhood friends and I used to hang out with them a lot too, but work got in the way. And even though he never admitted it, John would always sulk and stay in a bad mood, so we ended up just hanging out less and less. Unfortunately, the connection I had with them was strong and losing it is what I regret the most.
“Mel, come set the table, please.” My mom’s words snap me out of my thoughts, once again.
I do what she asks of me, no questions asked and once the table is set, we all gather for dinner. It’s been my mom, I and my grandparents since I was three and I wouldn’t have it another way. Meals are family time and we always make the most of it. So, I tell them the funny stories from my job and try to know how they’ve been lately.
After dinner, I help clear the table before showering. I decide to wear fitted black tight jeans and match them with a black tight tank top and a warm sweatshirt just in case.
At nine, I’m at the marina by the river. It’s chilly tonight, just like I expected. Lisbon is a city that is almost surrounded by water from a river that has its mouth close by. It becomes cold in the late fall and winter with the help of the cold winds that come from the ocean.
As I wait for them, the street has tons of people passing by on night walks or heading to the bars, just like we’re about to.
Then, Sol and Hugh come up to me. It’s been a while since I last saw them, so I can see all the differences from last time and now. It’s also funny how they are that type of couple that completely fits together.
There’s not much height contrast between the two since her head reaches his nose and their physiques are very similar: they’re both tall, fit with light skin and brown hair. Sol’s wavy hair touches her shoulders while Hugh has his cut short.
“Hey, Mel!” She waves from afar.
She’s the first one to notice me and smile, showing her bright set of teeth. She has an amazing smile even though only those close to her are the only lucky ones to see it. Her hazel eyes are shining as she comes closer to hug me and even though we’re not the sentimental type, we both know we needed it; maybe I needed it more than her but oh well.
Our hug is interrupted by dark brown eyes in a square face covered in a little bit of stubble.
Damn, Hugh finally looks like a man with a little bit of facial hair!
I hug him too before we head to the café-bar for some drinks, my head is squashed in his chest since I am short — exactly four feet eleven— I know, I know.
At the café-bar, we sit down outside and choose some Sangria and some snacks to entertain us while we talk. We have a lot to catch up on.
“So, you and John are done for good?” Sol asks me, I knew she had to touch the subject.
“Yes, we’re done. It’s been six months now,” I answer, looking at my drink. “I guess it was because of the distance. I mean, he did whine that he missed me often but he never showed it as an actual problem. It never caused an argument before. He decided he couldn’t take it anymore and wanted me to choose him because I didn’t need to work.”
Sol snorts and I know why. We both know how much my work means to me.
“Exactly my reaction.” And we both laughed.
“I’m sorry, love,” she finally says with a serious expression.
“It’s okay, it’s been a while now.” I looked at her and gave her a sheepish smile. “It has gotten better.”
“Man, how do you satisfy your needs now?” Hugh blurts out and Sol elbows him in the gut.
I know what he is trying to do. He’s trying to lighten the mood and I appreciate it. Since we are all close and blunt, it only makes me chuckle before answering him.
I raise my hands waving them in front of him before completing my answer with words.
“Well, they’re pretty skilled you know, not as big as a dick but they’re good enough for now!” I tease.
His cheeks redden and Sol and I end up laughing at his reaction.
“Don’t push her, you know how unfiltered she is.” And all three of us started laughing.
“And you guys? Still planning on moving in together?”
They both nodded and we spent a couple more hours talking about their plans and catching up. Sol was hesitant at first because of my breakup but I insisted. She shouldn’t hide her happiness just because of me even though it was very considerate of her.
When it reaches midnight, I decide to call it a night. I worked for fifteen days straight without a day off and I know I won’t be able to keep my eyes open for much longer. When I go inside the bar to pay for the drinks, I see a familiar redhead in a small group of friends. He slightly turns his head to the side and I recognize him instantly, my heart warms up at the sight of him because I haven’t seen him in a long while!
“You fucker, what are you doing here?” I call at the guy and he swivels to face me, with a wide smile on his face.
(A/N) - Hi there, if you just started reading this story. Thank you so much for giving it a chance. This work is my first book in a language that is not my own so it is bound to have mistakes. Feel free to point them out so I can improve. This is also for free here on Inkitt and Wattpad so if you enjoyed the story and feel like I deserve it, it would mean the world if you could support my work. Just go to my profile and support me by offering me a “ko-fi”. Thank you! <3
Translations from Portuguese to English :
Mãe - Mother
Avó - Grandmother
Bacalhau com Natas - Creamy codfish