Friday, 15 March 2013


When I returned to Nerja from my London-Italian trip and opened the door of my bachelor flat, I found a note on the floor from a friend informing me that Eve was not at all well. Mobiles, in those days, did not exist and no one had been able to contact me while I was on the road. 
 I went straight to see her.  
Both boys were in their room building a puppet theatre which was original and creative, they were quite pleased to see me, but not as overwhelmed with joy as I expected. 
 'Mummy’s been ill in bed but Maribel has looked after her and she’s better.' I was told. 
 'Who’s Maribel ?' 
 'The ‘practicante', a sort of nurse . She gives injections to people in the bum,' they said in amused unison. 
 I found Eve in her studio attic lying on her mattress propped up by a quantity of cushions wheezing painfully. She managed a smile, raised the glass of wine she had in one hand and waved the cigarette she had in the other.. 
'It helps me relax and sleep,'  she said.
 Easy Rider was stretched out on the floor under the window dead to the world with several empty beer cans and a dog close by. 
 'I understand you’ve been having injections of something,' I said. 
 'Of something, yes. I’ve been close to getting pleurisy. A funny little Spanish nurse comes regularly twice a day to see how I am. She’s very good.'
We exchanged banalities, her news, my news, whispering so as not to disturb the corpse or dog and, when I turned to go, I came face to face with the girl in question - well, not quite face to face as she was small, the top of her head coming level with the bottom of my chin. 
 She was a tough little number and to my surprise got very angry with Eve for smoking and told her off in a mixture of Spanish and what she thought was English. She then turned on me, grabbed my arm, more or less pulled me down the stairs and,  in the hallway, accused me in quite good French of not looking after my family properly. 
'Your wife is fast becoming an alcoholic, her boy friend is on drugs, the dog has fleas and both your sons have lice which is why they continually scratch their long hair. It is time you did something about it.'
 She left, not quite slamming the front door.
 The next time I saw her was at a party where she was dancing by herself to the music of an African combo. I sat in the depths of a sofa and watched her, fascinated, never having really studied her before. 
 She was dressed in a simple t-shirt, long colourful skirt and sandals, had wild, curly, raven black hair, was dark enough to suggest an Arab origin, large brown eyes and, from her movements I guessed had a store of boundless energy. Petite, instantly lovable, I wanted to put her in my pocket and take her home.
When the party ended,  I offered to walk her back to wherever she lived and she shrugged her shoulders,  indifferent to whether I did so or not. 
 We started off down the street at a great pace. 
 'You know,' she said, 'I am Spanish and not like your English girls who go to bed with you immediately. In fact, I am half Mexican and you are old enough to be my father.'
 I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so remained silent as I followed her down various alleys till she stopped in front of a church unsure, it seemed, why we were there. 
 'Is this where you live ?' I asked lightheartedly.
 'No, but it’s only two o’clock in the morning and I don’t want to go home yet.'
  I had been in Spain long enough to know that any fiesta that finished before 6 a.m was regarded as a failure, and that going to bed before dawn was considered sacrilegious.
 'What do you suggest ?' I asked. 
  'Why don’t we go down to the beach ?'
 So we went to one of the beaches, sat down on the warm sand and stared at the sea and the stars and she told me her life story. 
 Her full name was Maria Isabel Martin Lagos Rodriguez, but was known to everyone as ‘Maribel’. She was the daughter of the local doctor who was from a wealthy conservative family in Granada. He  had served as a medical officer in the Nationalist army during the civil war though he was a Republican sympathiser.. Some twenty years ago he had gone to Mexico where he had had a clandestine relationship resulting in her unwanted birth. To avoid  problems he had returned to Spain with her,  a babe in arms, and had married a woman who had brought her up with indifference. . 
 She fell silent at this point and, when I looked at her saw that she was in tears. Unsure why, I reached for her hand, she leaned her head on my shoulder then hugged me. I hugged her back, surprised by her emotional need for comfort .
 'My father died a year ago' she managed, 'and I miss him terribly, and I don’t get on with my supposed mother who does not understand how I feel....'
 'Have you ever tried to contact your real mother in Mexico ?' I tried. 
 'I don’t know who she is,' she said and pushed herself away, laughing off her behaviour. 'Can we go to your flat now ?' she asked. 
 To my surprise she knew where I lived and had heard that I had been successful with a book about a middle aged man who falls in love with a very young girl. She had also been told  that I had had a number of extra marital affairs which is why I was separated from my wife. 
 Once inside the flat she went straight to the bathroom, the reason why she had wanted to come up. I waited, unsure what she might want to do next, and when she reappeared, all smiles, refreshed, her sadness forgotten, she went  to the bookshelves and examined the titles. 
 'Droo Launay, is that you ?' she asked, pulling out one of my early detective novels. 
 'It was the name I used for my first books. I’m a little more serious now and call myself AndrĂ©, my real name.'
 She flicked through the pages and replaced it with a shrug. 'I will have to learn English. My father used to read me a lot of Agatha Christie and Dickens but in Spanish translations.'
 For a moment I thought she was going to cry again, but she turned, smiling and just said 'I must go now.'
 I walked her home to an unprepossessing apartment block. She unlocked the entrance door and turned to say goodnight. 
 Was it too soon to give her a kiss ? Did she regard me as too old perhaps ? 
 I leaned down a little to peck her on both cheeks. She pecked me back, and disappeared into the building.
 On my way back to the flat I calculated, from what she had told me, that she could not be more than eighteen. I was perturbed by this as I felt a warm affection for little Miss Mexico and unsure whether it was a fatherly, protective feeling or, simply, wanton attraction. Her energetic dancing to the African music earlier had certainly aroused something in me. 
    The following morning it became clear that I would have to see her again. I needed to satisfy myself that my interest was just a passing fancy. 

Maribel age 22

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