Sitting on the Sea Wall

Eileen Earnshaw

Rosa loved the new sea wall. She loved the way it curved round the bay, a gentle shape, much the same as the outline of her breast. She loved the way it gradually nuzzled into itself giving way to the harsh columns that supported the fish dock. Since they had opened the restaurant, she had sat on the wall most mornings waiting for the fish to be landed, her money firmly at the bottom of her pocket. The fishermen liked dealing with Rosa, she paid for what she bought, never wanted credit and apart from a slow remorseful look never really complained about price. Today was a special day. Today Mercedes would come home.

Of course, during her three years at Malaga University she had been home for visits, but today she’d be home for good. She smiled to herself. Tomorrow she would bring Mercedes with her, they would sit together waiting for the fish as she had sat with her mother. They would take it back to the restaurant, prepare it side by side, prep the veg together, check the tables, then a lovely long siesta break to plan menu’s for the week and do the costings. She could hardly wait for the next day, or maybe the day after. After all, Mercedes would be tired after her journey, yes, she thought, I’ll tell her to rest the first day, soon enough the day after. She bought the fish and set off home her heavy basket bumping against her leg, the fish covered by the tea-towel still rich, shiny and glowing from the sea.

In the prep room she checked her phone was charged and turned the ringer as far as it would go then put it carefully on the shelf. Mercedes would ring when she needed to be picked up, there was no way she wanted to miss that call. Even so, as the morning progressed she continually checked. The sous-chef smiling at her every time and shaking her head at her disappointment.

1pm. Still no call. Rosa started to walk the short distance home. Of course there was no reason to think that Mercedes had got early out of bed to start the journey. The trains were many and the service good, there would be no reason to rush, besides the trains were quieter as the day wore on. She may not make it home before night, there was no reason why she should. She did her book work then settled down to rest for the afternoon. The restaurant opened for business at 7.30pm, the customers would want food then so at 6.30pm she would return to work. It would be so much easier when Mercedes came home, maybe she’d be able to do a shift on her own, in time of course, she must be careful to give her time. She put the phone next to her bed and slept.

There was no call that night either. It was gone midnight when the last customer had left. She wanted to contact her, but that didn’t seem right, after all Mercedes was a grown woman and if there’d been an accident she would have been contacted. Her thoughts were scrambled and she slept little that night, visions of possibilities, of accidents running through her head. The following morning she sat on the sea wall, her phone clutched tightly in her hand. It was 2pm when it finally rang and there, at last, was Mercedes.

‘Thank god! She said. Mercedes. Where in hell are you?’. There was a giggle on the other end’.

‘You’ll never ever guess, she said, not in a million years, guess mum, go on guess’.

‘I don’t want to guess Mercedes. I want to know where you are, I’ve been going mad here, I expected you yesterday, I was….’

‘Mum! Hush hush, I’m trying to tell you where I am. Give me a chance. I’ve had the most enormous stroke of luck mum. You won’t believe it, honestly’.

‘I don’t care right now. Where are you, tell me where you are first, then you tell me the rest, and you can also tell me why I don’t even warrant a phone call. I’ve been on pins now for days’.

‘No you haven’t mum, I wasn’t coming till yesterday anyway, and I’m twenty-one mum. I can do what I want!’

‘Ok, ok, just tell me where you are and we’ll go from there’.

‘Cordoba, I’m in Cordoba mum and it’s great!’

‘Right, Cordoba, ok, what are you doing there?’

‘Oh mum! I’ve got this fantastic job. You’ll never believe it in a million years. It’s amazing mum, just amazing, it’s what I wanted all these years. I was so fed up you’d never believe. I was packing for home and then I got the letter, it had been ages getting to me. I can’t believe how near I was to missing it. Mum, it’s amazing, fabulous’.

‘What is it, what sort of job are you talking about. You always said you wanted the restaurant and it’s doing so well now. We always said, when you’d finished Uni we’d run it together. You and me Mercedes’.

‘Oh mum. Why would I want to work in the restaurant? I didn’t have to go to Uni to do that, I could have done that anytime. Anybody can work in the restaurant, you don’t need me and this job, it’s wonderful, you wouldn’t believe how good it is. I’m going to be P.A. to the guy who runs the whole of Zara Fashions! What do you think of that! Mum, I’m ecstatic! I start in the morning and for the next couple of weeks, till I get my own place, they’ve booked me into a hotel that is stupendously glamourous and the salary. Mum, the salary, more than you pay yourself for a year and slaving till midnight’.

‘Mercedes, when are you coming home? Do you have to start at that place straight away. I was expecting that….’

‘That’s what I’m telling you, I don’t have to come home now, I can be here, in Cordoba, doing this fabulous job. You can visit me now mum, instead of me visiting you. I’ll be able to take you round and show you the place, isn’t it wonderful?

‘You’re not coming, I was so looking forward to you being here. I’ve made plans and, is it so wonderful this job? After all it’s only sorting out this man’s appointments isn’t it?’

‘Oh mum! Of course it’s more than that. They don’t pay this sort of money for just sorting out appointments. Look mum, I’m going have to go, he’s waving me over to him. I’ll ring again soon, promise, I didn’t want you to wonder where I was, that’s all and don’t, don’t worry, I’m fine. Bye mum, see you soon!’ Just before the phone went dead, she heard in the distance a man’s voice, it sounded to her staccato and had harsh tones. She tried to ring back but the phone was switched off. She held it in her hand for a few moments, put it into her pocket then sat down. She had a pain in her stomach and her breasts felt tight.

She got a good price for the restaurant. The new owner doesn’t sit on the sea wall and he always demands credit.

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