That Luscious Moment
“Where are you
off to this afternoon?”
Lanny peered up at me from the chaise lounge with that accusatory look she had been using of late any time either I or any of the other expat wives had a social engagement. We had just had coffee in her back garden and I was getting ready to leave, wishing I hadn´t drank it so quickly. The thick espresso lay like a lump in my stomach. I already had eaten a hearty amount of churros and drank two cups of espresso as a late breakfast at the local bar in front of the marina in Cambrils.
“Jean Pierre´s. He´s having a barbecue. The usual crowd.”
“Jolly good for you! David, my darling husband, is working as usual, even though it´s Sunday. You, my so-called best friend, are off to a party. I wasn´t invited, in case you didn´t know.”
Lanny sighed loudly, placing a hand underneath her legs. “Where did I put my sunglasses?”
“Why don´t we go together? My husband is also working.”
“Why should I? All they ever do is talk about me behind my back; brag about the great social life they have.”
She slumped deeper into the chair. Her white halter top and shorts accentuated her beautiful tanned skin and she smelled of yellow flowers and coconut. She offered me some delicious looking red cherries.
“Don´t go just yet. Try some of the cherries, they´re simply luscious. I had them for breakfast.”
“I´m sure Jean Pierre meant to invite you.”
“Yet he didn´t, did he? He sees David at work every day. He could have told my dear husband about this barbecue.”
“Men - you know what they´re like.” I knew David only too well. He had probably forgotten about the invitation, so involved he was in his work and other things.
“I never wanted to come to Spain. We´re only here because of my husband´s job. And I think that Jane´s purple lip liner is absolutely awful!” Lanny picked through the bowl of cherries perched on her lap. She spat the seeds into her hand and tossed them with great finesse, looking every bit the lady with good taste that she was. “I honestly do not like Jane´s lip liner.”
“I wanted to come to Spain.”
“Why on earth would you want to come here? The weather´s good, but that´s about all. I´m bored out of my mind.” She gave an even louder sigh.
“I lived in Spain before.”
“And you came back? Are you mad? You must be. I can´t wait to go home, to the dull grey skies of England.”
“Then you´d lose your tan.”
“Oh, really? So what? I could always come here on holiday.”
“Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.”
“I haven´t lived in Spain all that long. I wouldn´t have any problem going home, no, not any problem.”
“I lived in the United States after I lived in Spain.”
“I thought you were American. I mean, your husband is, isn´t he?”
“I was born in Scotland.”
“Oh, so you´re a first generation American?” Lanny mulled this observation and stared up at me with a puzzled look. “You don´t sound Scottish.”
“It´s best to adapt.”
“I don´t believe in adapting. I like the way I sound. People, Spanish people, tell me I speak proper English. And I do. That´s all I know, coming from Oxford, is proper English.”
“Don´t you want to learn Spanish?”
“What on earth for?! I speak a little, enough to get me what I want. Anyhow, everyone here on the coast speaks English.”
“I like foreign languages.”
“Well, good for you. Chacun a son gout
. (each to his own) I learned to say that at boarding school.” Lanny laughed shrilly. “I prefer to get a nice tan, eat good food, drink expensive wine, and buy nice clothes.”
“I´ve never had a tan. I just go red.”
“I have noticed. God, I´d hate to look like you. You could get a tan out of a bottle, you know. They make them a lot better than they used to. Not so orange nowadays.”
The way folk went on about tans is something that I´ve never comprehended. I met tourists in Salou who didn´t believe that I could possibly be living on the Mediterranean coast. Their eyes practically popped out of their heads as they stared at my blotchy sunburned skin.
Lanny nodded. “At least my tan is real. I´m sure that Jane´s comes out of a bottle. She´s simply too dark in places.” She licked her lips as she scoffed down more of the luscious-looking red cherries. “My husband has a university degree. I´m almost certain that most of these other husbands don´t. And that´s why they´re always having barbecues together and why they never invite us.”
“Do you have a university degree?”
“I beg your pardon, what did you say?” Lanny shifted in the chaise lounge. “Oh, not really. I mean, I did study, but I never quite finished.”
“I guess it was too boring.”
“Exactly! I met David, he got a good job, then an even better job. And now we´re here, in Spain. He´ll get a promotion when we go home. There´s really no need for me to have a university degree.”
She shrugged her shoulders.
I left Lanny´s and sauntered a few blocks to Jean Pierre´s house. Already some twenty people were sitting around the pool, smoking, listening to the hi-fi. I spied Jane chatting animatedly to someone who obviously could not have been her husband for any time he was around she would sit quietly, her head down. I couldn´t help but stare at her mouth, to check out the lip liner that Lanny disliked so much. It did accentuate her lips, made them look as if she were pouting, and somehow she appeared pretty, in a handsome way.
The man she was with looked up and called out, “What´s Jean Pierre up to?!”
I recognized him. He was the Yugoslavian who had just arrived in Spain to work for Westinghouse. My husband had introduced me to him. He certainly had brought Jane out of her shell for she was giggling as she sipped on wine, her eyes sparkling in merriment. The power of strangers to soothe the soul. He spoke congenially, his large mouth opening widely as he carefully pronounced the words in English. His eyebrows met in the middle, right above his large nose, and this, together with his long hair, gave him the appearance of a shaggy dog looking for affection. He inhaled his Benson and Hedges cigarette and tapped the ash into the plastic ashtray.
“He´s got a new toy, that´s all. Heck, he left his wife of twenty years for the young Spanish girl. He likes new things.” The Swede from Malmo spoke as if he were reciting the weather forecast from some American TV Station.
Jean Pierre puffed intensely on a Marlboro cigarette as he showed off his brand new camcorder. He struggled with the clumsy machine and hoisted it onto his shoulder, then yelled out, “Look natural!”
We immediately stopped what we were doing and became like images frozen in time.
He grunted, groaned loudly, then muttered, “How does this damn thing work?!” He waved his hands at us as if directing an orchestra. “Got it! Pretend I´m not here!” Then he walked around the edge of his swimming pool pointing the camcorder at everyone.
Jean Pierre was the only person I knew back then in 1981 who had a camcorder and it felt quite thrilling to pretend that I was part of the new art movement that was flourishing in Spain. We smiled and waved as if we were movie stars, whilst others laughed and told him to get lost or they´d throw him in the pool. His girlfriend, the sexy, skinny Spanish girl from Alicante wearing a skimpy bikini, skipped in front of him, teasing him, before diving into the pool.
How could Jean Pierre leave his wife of twenty years for her?
Maybe he loved her, I supposed. But, I couldn´t help but wonder how long the Spanish girl would hang around the balding Jean Pierre who was more than double her age. For now, she was impressed by him. She was probably even more impressed by his camcorder which he strode about displaying proudly to everyone.
“If I can figure this thing out, we can all see ourselves in the television later!” He laughed loudly, the sides of his eyes drooping, revealing the fatigue he must have been experiencing after lugging the machine about and keeping up with his young girlfriend who had boundless energy.
On a whim, since I had to go by Lanny´s house on the way home after the barbecue, I stopped by to see how she was. Her husband, David, had spoken softly to me one night, telling me how he was worried about Lanny for he was afraid if she found out about us she would be capable of doing harm to herself.
“I´m out back! Whoever you are at the front door! I´m out back!”
She was still out in the garden?
There she was, still seated in the chaise lounge. The bowl of cherries, now empty, lay on the ground at her feet.
“Oh, it´s you! I thought it might be someone important; someone from David´s work telling me that he has to work even later than normal. How was the barbecue? Don´t answer. I take it that you had a FABULOUS time! Was Plain Jane there, the one with lip liner and dark tan? Don´t answer that, either. I´m sure she was. I just hope nobody said anything too awful about me.”
The late afternoon sun spread its golden hue over the roof tops, over Lanny´s tanned body making her look like a film star or some famous person you´d see in Hola
magazine. “I´m seriously contemplating going back home. My husband is always working. And I don´t have any friends here. Well, apart from you, that is. At least I have a tan.” She stretched out her arms to show how brown they were.
“You´re going to leave David?”
“Not exactly. But there´s no reason for me to stay here. I´m utterly all alone.”
Lanny slid her large, circular sunglasses up over her forehead and squinted her eyes as if she were seeing me for the first time. She placed the sunglasses back over her eyes and extended her legs out in front of her. Her long fingers fumbled with the cassette player on the little table next to her. She found the play button and pressed it. ABBA sang vibrantly. “I´m not sure that I really like ABBA. Do you like them? Not that it matters.”
“You should meet Jean Pierre. He knows lots of people. He´d introduce you to them.”
“Why would he do that? For God´s sake! He didn´t even invite me to his bloody barbecue!”
“He told me he think´s you´re so, so elegant.” I lied, hoping that flattery would make up for so many things.
“Really? He thinks I´m elegant? Well, I am. I mean, he´s quite correct. It´s just a simple thing called ´breeding´.”
“He´d like to film you with his new camcorder.” I couldn´t stop making up stories.
“I´ll think about it. There are more cherries in the kitchen. Could you get me them? Oh, and there´s a cassette tape on the kitchen table somewhere. Gosh, I’m exhausted.”
I gathered a pile of the luscious cherries, placed them in a large red bowl, and went back out to the garden where Lanny was lounging languidly.
“Sorry, couldn´t find the cassette tape.”
“I´m bored listening to music, anyway. Thank you for the cherries. You´re wonderful! Thank God I have one true friend. You are my friend, aren´t you? You never know these days.”
“It´s not really any of my business, but...” I hesitated, unsure how to phrase my question without sounding too eager.
“What isn´t? Hell, my hair is long. I simply do not like how the Spaniards cut hair. I really don´t.” She tossed her hair and spread her fingers through it. “What were you saying?”
“Are you really going to move back to England?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. I´m not one hundred percent convinced that I can trust David surrounded as he is by luscious, nubile Spanish girls. And you know men. If they can´t get it from their wife, they´ll take it wherever they can.”
“I´m sure you can trust him.” I spoke firmly, trying to thwart suspicions that perhaps Lanny was correct that he could be tempted. He was indeed surrounded by gorgeous women. If he were unfaithful to her with me, then couldn´t he also be unfaithful to me?
“You seem somewhat definite about that.” Her tone was curt as she eyed me carefully. “Do you trust your husband? Does it ever cross your mind that he might be having a relationship with one of those Spanish women? They´re everywhere. I know some of the men hang out at the Nudist Beach. They tell their wives that they´re working.” Lanny laughed. “David is working right now and your husband is, too. At least that´s what we´re led to believe.”
“You do what? Oh, you mean you trust your husband?! Well jolly good for you. And I assume your husband trusts you? I take it that you are trustworthy?”
“Have some more cherries.” She handed me the bowl and added, “They´re divine, simply luscious, don´t you agree? You might as well stay awhile. The sun isn’t so strong now, so you should be fine. Let’s enjoy the cherries whilst we try not to wonder what our husbands are up to.”