This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 717 words. It may contain some swear-words.
After almost twenty-five years in Spain, Alan was living in a bigger villa. It had a decent-sized pool, and a local woman came in twice a week to do the cleaning, and his washing and ironing. She called him ‘Senor Ricardo’, which always made him think of the old actor, Ricardo Montalban. He had given up the flat in Barcelona some years before. The winters could be cold and wet, making the city feel dismal, and his girlfriend had long since deserted him for someone who had a nice motor yacht.
Of course, she had no idea how wealthy Alan was. Even though he didn’t stint on his very comfortable lifestyle, he continued to pretend that he got by on the income from his hire business. So when she met some East European waving money around and boasting about his yacht, that was her cue to scarper.
For the last three years, he had been seeing an English woman who had worked as a holiday company rep in Tossa, and then settled there. Chrissy was ten years younger than him, and rented a flat in the old town. She helped out in one of the English bars, serving beer and full breakfasts to sunburnt tourists as they watched British football or cricket on large TV screens dotted around the place. Chrissy was very much her own woman, and knew the area like the back of her hand. She had turned down Alan’s suggestion to move in with him, but regularly stopped over a couple of nights a week.
Rosa was still running the business. She was pushing fifty now, but you would never guess.
The truth was, Alan was lonely. Back in London he had known a lot of people, even calling some of them friends. In Spain, he still had to be careful. Live the life of Richard Alexander, never talk about Islington, or what he did before he arrived in Spain. And he was feeling his age. He had been there so long that one of the restaurants saved a table for him, just in case he turned up. The waiters called him ‘Mister Richard’, and they all knew what he liked to drink.
Before Vince died, Gloria and him had taken their holidays in Spain, but never close to Alan. Vince preferred Benidorm, so Gloria said. That was five hundred miles further south, and although Gloria would always phone him to let him know they were there, it was never once suggested that he drive down to visit them. Alan knew Vince didn’t like criminals. He had never made any secret of his disapproval of his brother-in-law’s choice of career, or the fact that he had skipped to Spain, leaving Gloria to care for their mum and dad as they got older.
Vince worked as a market porter at the New Covent Garden Market, in Nine Elms. He had worked in the old market near Charing Cross, before it had moved in seventy-four. Starting in the early hours, Vince lugged around fruit and vegetables for one of the wholesale companies. He was a man who believed in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. A phrase he was often heard to utter. They never had any kids, even though they were married at eighteen, when everyone thought Gloria must be up the duff. Most people presumed Gloria had something wrong that stopped her having babies. But she had told Alan it was Vince who couldn’t father any.
When he died, Gloria took it hard. Alan offered her to live with him in Spain, but she wouldn’t leave the family in north London.
He had always got on well with his sister before he left England, even though there was no love lost beteen him and Vince. He had to admit that he missed Gloria, but he would never have admitted that to her. He hoped she knew.
The phone call saying his mum was seriously ill shouldn’t have been such a surprise, but it was. He didn’t have long to sort things out with Rosa, transfer some money into an account he could access easily, and book a one-way flight to London.
On the plane going over, he felt anxious, and not just about his mum.