Anthony on Cleopatra’s Beach by Carla Kovach.
He swallowed, dry as a dust rag. Water, he needed water. As he turned, the sand scratched his sun-burned back. “Bloody hell,” he murmured. He prised his left eye open and flinched as the golden rays attacked his pupil. As he closed his eye, he turned back onto his stomach and lay with his cheek pressed against the sand. “Stephen,” he croaked. There was no answer. “Stephen. Where the hell are you?”
He screamed as a cold, slimy, ball, drizzled down his back. As he reached over he scooped up the ball and threw it aside. His hand now smelled of vanilla ice cream.
“Ben, get back here now. Say sorry to the man,” a woman called. He opened his eyes and focused on the pair of red toenails in front of him. A smaller pair of feet followed.
“I’m sorry. Can I have another ice cream now Mum?” the boy asked.
“Here you are, go and ask that man over there for an ice cream,” she replied. The small feet ran off, kicking sand in Anthony’s face as they went.
“Is Stephen with you?” he asked as he spat the sand out and wiped his head, before sitting up.
“Sorry, I don’t know a Stephen? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Here have my water. You should get your sunburn looked at too,” she called as she ran after the boy. He nearly choked on the water as he gulped. The sun’s rays beat down on his forehead. He looked out at the blue sea. The sun glistened off the ripples and a couple of boats bobbed on the surface. Why was he wearing nothing but his boxers on a beach he’d never seen before? He ruffled the sand out of his hair and splashed the last few drops of water on his face.
He shifted to the left. There was something sticking into his butt. He reached under and pulled out his phone and wallet. He smiled, he had a phone. As it lit up, he found himself staring at Stephen’s face. Stephen stared back at him with his tongue sticking out. The background was filled with neon lights. A flash of pain shot through his head.
Did he remember a car? Or a bus? No, it was a taxi. He remembered going out with Stephen. He remembered the parties, the drinks, and then being bundled into a taxi. He remembered it stopping in the dark wilderness for him to vomit. He selected Stephen’s number and held the phone to his ear. Nothing but a long beep, he had no signal. He threw the phone into his lap. “You just wait.” He felt his face redden. “When I get back to that bloody hotel, you’re in for it Matey.”
“You still here?” asked red toes.
“It appears so, you’re talking to me aren’t you?” he replied as he shook his head and punched the ground.
“I was only asking,” she said as she walked off.
“Wait,” he called. “I’m sorry, I’m Anthony.”
She stopped and turned. He took a deep breath.
“Tina,” she replied as she walked back and kneeled beside him. “You know, your back looks terrible. Do you want some lotion?”
Was she offering to rub his stinging back? “I’d love some,” he replied as he closed his eyes and waited for her soft fingers to massage him. A heavy bottle landed in his lap.
“There you go,” she said.
“Thanks.” He opened his eyes and squirted cream into his hand. He knew a back rub was too much to expect.
“Ben. Don’t go too far,” she called.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“What do you mean? I’m,” he paused for a moment. “I’m sunbathing.”
“Yeah right. We’re the first bus here today. There was no one around except you, face down and snoring on the beach. Are you lost?”
He looked at her. Her light brown hair fell over her bikini straps. “Sort of. Would you believe me if I said I’d been kidnapped by aliens?” he asked. She stared at him before looking down. Was that a grin he spied? “They baked me in their big alien oven, then they dehydrated me. I was going to be ground into a powder to make packet soup for aliens.” He was doing something right, she smiled again.
“I don’t know what planet you’re really from, but I suggest you put some of that cream on before their plan works and they come back for their packet soup.”
Several groups of people bathed in the sea, others walked along the beach saying how soft the sand was. Children yelled, ran and laughed. A ball flew past; he flinched as it narrowly missed his head.
His face reddened again. He was as lost as a lost thing and he had no phone signal. Did he have any money? He grabbed his wallet. Five lira and a business card from their apartments. Truva apartments, Içmeler. What would five lira buy him? He knew five lira might have bought him a couple of instant coffees back in Içmeler, but what would it buy him here and how would he get back?
When he got back Stephen would pay, he’d pay big time. Their idea of a joke had gone too far. He remembered Stephen and Pete, laughing and plotting; but he couldn’t work out what they were up to at the time. He reached his hand over his shoulder and struggled to rub the lotion on his back.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“You don’t know where you are, seriously?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t have asked if I knew,” he said.
“Wow, this is where they dumped me.”
“They, who are they? The aliens?” she asked as she laughed. She bunched her hair up with her hands and tied it up with a bobble.
“I wish. I’m struggling to recall everything. I was with my mates, Stephen and Pete. We were out drinking last night and…” he paused. He remembered them plying him with beer first, then Raki; the Blue Lagoon was followed by the Sex on the Beach. Did he have the Blow Job before or after the Black Russian? He remembered the sparklers, the cherries and the plastic parrots. He was sure he could still taste the kebab. Debbie, he remembered Debbie. What had he done? He picked up the phone and gazed at the time through his blurry eyes. “I’m getting my marriage blessed in an hour” he yelled.
As he got up, he almost stumbled forward.
“In an hour?” Tina asked. “Where?”
“Içmeler. I have to get back.”
He ran across the beach, stumbling occasionally on the sand. “How do I get back to Içmeler?” he yelled.
“With great difficulty,” called Tina as she followed him, dragging her young son by the arm. “You’re best bet would be a boat.”
“I’ve let her down. I promised that I wouldn’t get drunk. I promised her I’d be there on time. We’ve been married twenty five years. When we got married, we couldn’t afford to do it properly. This blessing was meant to give us the photos we never had.”
A bell rang as a small boat chugged round the island. “There he is,” yelled Stephen as he held up the wedding suit.
“Looks like your ships arrived,” Tina said with a smile.
“Did I thank you for the water and the sun cream?”
He pulled the five lira from his wallet and gave it to the little boy.” Thank you. I’m getting blessed,” he yelled as he kissed Tina on the cheek and ran to the boat.
“You tosser,” he said as he climbed in the boat. Stephen laughed and began dressing him.
“You know you love me Mate. We couldn’t let you have the wedding you’d always dreamed of, without giving you the stag do you’d never dreamed of. We were never far. Wait till you see the clip we’ve put on You Tube of you snoring on the beach, oh, and the pictures on Facebook. Nice sunburn by the way,” Stephen displayed a huge mouth full of white teeth as he bent over laughing. Pete joined in. With one swoop, Anthony pushed Stephen over the side of the boat and watched him crash into the sea.
“Nice belly flop by the way. I can tell that was the end you never dreamed of,” he yelled as he grabbed his trousers and began pulling them on.
“Okay, I asked for that. But for now Anthony, you’d better reel me in. Your Cleopatra waits for you.”
Anthony laughed. Facebook photos, You Tube, the stag do; maybe he’d laugh about it one day but not yet. He looked at his phone, forty five minutes.
“We arranged it so that you’d arrive by boat, in style. This is your boat mate. Get your jacket on, drag your best man out of the sea and let’s go,” said Pete.
As Stephen brought half of the Aegean back into the boat, he used his soaking hands to slicken Anthony’s hair down. “Sorted,” he said with a smile. “Get this ship going before Debbie starts planning your divorce. To your bride, we go.”
He watched as Cleopatra’s beach got smaller. In the distance he saw Tina and Ben waving. He waved back. It was going to be the best day of his life.
If you enjoy a crime thriller, why not check out my novel ‘Whispers Beneath the Pines’ which is set in Turkey.