Friday, 10 October 2014


Whistling in tune to the latest Ed Sheeran song on his iPod, Darren skidded round a couple, who were taking their time to select some cheese, so he could grab some milk from the next shelf. “Watch it,” the male half of the couple said, shaking his head when he realised Darren was just a kid. “Kids,” he continued muttering. Darren said he was sorry but the man just glared at him. Darren picked up a carton of milk and quickly moved on. Clinking the coins that were rolling around in his pocket Darren detected that he had enough money for four pints of milk, two more than his mother had asked for but he knew it would be used and would save his mother a trip back the next day, so he went back and replaced the smaller carton with a larger one.
In the checkout queue Darren was tapping his foot in time to his music as he waited for the old girl in front to pay for her shopping it seemed he was again annoying the bloke he’d nearly ran into earlier. “Impatient little so and so,” he mumbled to his wife not too subtly as they stood behind him. Darren ignored him this time, not wanting to antagonise anyone but he refused to stop tapping his foot as he turned up his music another notch. The little old dear in front was still counting out her change and the couple behind moved to another aisle in the hope of being served quicker. “Hypocrite,” Darren thought as his iPod skipped to Jessie J.
Forgetting about the couple he moved up in the queue and handed over the money from his pocket to pay for the milk. Shoving the carton into his backpack he thanked the cashier, giving her a flirtatious wink as he took his change and sauntered off. Checking his watch he noticed that he had already used up fifteen of the twenty minutes his mother had given him to do the errand. Being just eleven Darren’s mother would not ordinarily send her son out on his own but she’d had no other choice, being ill with the flu, barely being able to function and having a screaming, thirsty, three year old, with no milk in the house. After Darren had offered she had reluctantly given in and let him go. Picking up speed he was almost floored when he tripped over his shoelace just outside the automatic doors of the supermarket. Groaning he bent down to tie them up, hearing his mother’s nagging voice in his head. As he looped the strings he was distracted by some shopping, tins and fruit, rolling around up ahead and he wondered who could have lost all of that and not have noticed. Standing up he now noticed a dropped carrier bag with a distinct hole in the bottom with more shopping lying in and around the bag.
Walking closer to the dropped load Darren now saw a woman, collapsed on the floor. He rushed to her side but not before seeing how people were looking but not stopping. As he started the basic first aid training he had been given at his Cubs group he found it difficult to comprehend that grown adults would continue to walk past like there was nothing they could do. Using his training he established that she was unconscious but breathing. A bang to the head as she had fallen had caused her to be knocked out. Ignoring the ignorant passers-by, he pulled out his mobile phone and called the emergency services. The operator asked him what service he required and he told them. As he waited he pulled his hat out of his pocket and used it to apply pressure to the wound the lady had received when she had fallen. Within seconds he was explaining to a man at the end of the phone what he thought had happened and what he thought was wrong. He sounded so grown up that no-one asked him his age and just told him he was doing a great job and paramedics would join him shortly. Hanging up he dropped his phone back into his pocket with his free hand, his other one still applying pressure to the cut on his patient’s head. His left leg had gone numb but he didn't dare move in fear of restarting the bleed that he seemed to currently have under control under his right hand.
Still no one had stopped to help or even offer assistance despite being nosy enough to slow down and take a good look. Yet he, a selfish little kid had stopped to care whilst the so called adults had walked on by.
The ambulance was finally pulling into the supermarket car park and Darren, who now had two dead legs, was grateful to see them. A young blonde got out of the driver’s seat whilst a slightly older red head got out of the back lugging a huge medical kit behind her. On seeing him crouching on the ground next to their patient both paramedics did a double take. Seeing their looks Darren just shrugged his shoulders and said, “No-one else would help her,” before looking away, afraid he would go red and embarrass himself. The women however were no longer worried about him and moved next to the woman lying on the ground. Firing questions at him as they worked he told them all he knew which wasn't actually that much. The wound, they said, was superficial and they hoped it wouldn't be long before she regained consciousness. “Keeping the pressure on that wound was clever stuff young man. Where’d you learn that?”
“Cubs,” he mumbled.
“Well young sir you showed maturity beyond your years today and looks like you saved the day along with it. This lady will be just fine. Now get yourself home and make sure you tell your parents how great you were today.” And that was it. He was dismissed. The professional had taken over and he was surplus to requirement. He picked up his backpack and broke into a run knowing his mother would now be really cross about how long he’d been.            

Friday, 31 January 2014

Boxed In

Boxes were usually useful for packing or storing or both. Staring up at me was a large brown storage box which I had laced with a measly, thin, tartan blanket that I had found earlier that day. My lovely, large brown storage box for packing or whatever was, for now, my home. It was ripped on one side but if I angled the torn side to the floor it wouldn't be a problem, I hoped. My box was littering a far corner of the multi storey car park for the town’s shopping centre. I hoped the security attendant would not find me, having spent the last few hours hiding from him before the car park closed. I tipped the box onto its broken side and slid inside, trying to create a cocoon with the blanket, but no matter how hard I tried I could not cover all of me. Fortunately at least the box just about housed me if I forced myself into a tight foetal position. Once I was as snug as was possible in these vial circumstances I felt around until I found my pocket and retrieved the orange I had managed to swipe from a skip earlier. Trying to ignore the cellulite ridden looking skin which showed how old the fruit was I peeled it and let the wrinkled strips drop to the floor of the box. It might keep a toe or two warm later, I thought to myself wryly. As I snuggled further into the box, as best as I could, I thought about the day behind me. I wondered if my quick, rash decision would come back to bite me considerably hard on the backside in the days to come. I had at the time thought I had no choice but had I?
     I’m here in my new makeshift home because I had yet again refused to leave school at the tender age of sixteen before my exams had finished and get a job, subsequently funding my father’s habit of abusing alcohol, amongst other things. Him being much more keen on pouring said substance down his throat, punching me when I couldn't replenish his stock and hitting on anything with a pulse not caring that his sixteen year old daughter, me, was witnessing his every disgusting move. Since mum had passed away any strumpet would do. Today’s argument had been like all the others, starting out because his latest stash of vodka had disappeared and his benefits with it. All his doing of course yet it was anybody’s fault but his. Being a Saturday I had been at home reading, studying for an upcoming exam but this was not good enough. I should have been out earning money. Feeling braver then normal I had said, “You’re a fine one to talk. There are plenty of jobs out there you know and once I finish school I’ll be better equipped to get one too.”
     “A little scrubber like you can clean bogs without needing the likes of these fancy exams you insist on sitting,” was his drunken response. When I ignored him the book I was turning the page of was wrenched out of my grip leaving me with one page still in my hand. Then he had launched the book at me and told me to “sod off until you come back with enough dosh for a voddie and a chippy tea,” before going back to chewing off the face of his latest blonde stick insect.
     A piece of ice brought me back to the present, causing me to shudder for more reasons than just its coldness. It had fallen into my box and I flicked it away as I tried to utilise the small blanket to warm as much of me as possible. The wind was picking up and neither the box nor the roof of the car park was doing much to shield me from its sharp wrath. It was racing round the building, showing off as it accelerated through the open gaps in the walls, screeching in mockery as it dared me to try and sleep. My teeth chattered as my body struggled to get a grip on how cold it was. I could feel the hairs on my arms standing on end as goose bumps invaded the skin, covering every available inch. Closing my eyes and edging my head further inside I tried to ignore how low the temperature felt, encouraging myself to sleep so that I no longer had convince myself this was not all a big mistake. It was a big mistake, I knew that, but so was staying, like the last time and the time before that. I got thrown out on a daily basis and usually sat on the front step until things had calmed down or some buddy or another had come round with a four pack of beers swapping those for a stint on the couch to watch some filth or other on the television. I usually got called in at that point to put the kettle on or the oven as his lordship was too lazy to do it himself. He would have got a shock tonight when I didn't answer his shouted demands. I wouldn't be missed for longer than the time it took for him to get over the fact that he would have to do something himself or go without.
     Tears stung my eyes like salt to an open wound as the horrid truth hit home once again. It was a hard concept to grasp as my family had at least always been a unit until my mother had died and then my father had fallen to his knees and never properly stood up again. Now I had to stand tall and fend for myself as any sympathy I’d had left for my father had disappeared when he’d used his anger against me once too often. Today’s attack had been mild but it took the times I got off lightly to realise how bad it could be next time. Hence my decision to leave and rather than sitting on the steps waiting for the next time to be used and abused I took off. Walking to the end of the road had quickly led to walking out of the village and before long two hours had gone by and I had managed to walk the seven and a half miles to the next town. I had never intended to walk that far but the further I walked the more I realised I didn't want to go back. I couldn't go back. Yet I had nothing with me and what about school? Wasn't that the whole point of the argument with Dad? The reason he bullied me was because I wouldn't get a job until I finished school, but if I stayed away like this I could hardly go to school could I?
     My toes were freezing. It felt like little lumps of ice were stuck to my feet. The blanket was doing nothing to warm them, partly because I was using it to warm the rest of my body but my feet only had thin pumps for cover. This was another decision that I could have thought a bit harder about if I’d been thinking at all. My stomach growled fiercely then, the orange having barely filled a hole. I hadn't eaten before that since breakfast and that had only been a piece of toast.  I tried to block out how hungry I was by listening out for sounds that might let me know if anyone was coming. I didn't want to be caught sleeping rough in a car park. I hoped I had positioned the box and settled far enough within so that anyone looking this way would just think that it was an empty box left as rubbish. To be fair there was plenty of other litter lying around. Perhaps nothing such an eyesore as a huge box but still enough to think that people left their rubbish wherever they thought they could get away with it. I wrinkled my nose as I tried to distinguish the smell of the rain over the smell of urine where someone had obviously felt the need to relieve themselves in the nearby corner. I heard the sounds of drunken laughter in the street below and the constant flow of traffic over the rain drenched roads. Despite being so late by now there were still plenty of people out and about. I tried to block all the noises out and get some sleep but the cold wind was freezing me to the bone and I felt sore and consequently I felt sorry for myself. I was uncomfortable. My legs were getting cramp and my arm had gone numb from my lying on it. Lying crouched up small was not keeping me warm and was not making it easy to sleep. If this was going to be a long term thing I would need to rethink my sleeping arrangements. A bigger blanket for a start would be good. Out in the distance the sound of a metal bar or something similar hitting the floor made me flinch. This wasn't safe. Anything could happen to me. Why did I feel that this situation was more acceptable than going home? How was it fair that my own father scared me so much I’d rather be here then there? Tears fell down my face. I missed my mum and I missed the man my father used to be. He’d always been lazy, granted, but he had turned into an angry drunk and his violent streak was out on a mission. Another thud of metal hitting concrete made me jump again and I edged further into my box hoping nothing would happen until the morning and I could take the day and the advantage of daylight to find somewhere a little better. I tucked my head under my arm and closed my eyes. The noises were still there, the wind, the traffic and the idiot insisting of kicking metal pipes about. Sleep was a far off concept but at least I was ok. For now.
    Obviously I had managed to sleep after all and was dreaming as I could smell coffee and bacon. My tummy rumbled loudly at the thought. Within seconds though I was alert and on the defensive as I heard someone say, “What’s your name love?” I retreated further into the box pretending that no one was there. I was going to be carted back to Dad’s and I’d only managed one night away from it all. Although the last few hours had been hell, going home was a worse concept to comprehend. The voice floating down to me though was kind. “Come on love, it’s just a coffee and a bacon sandwich. It’s yours if you want it. Just tell me your name.” The pull of food was too great so I edged out so I could at least see who my breakfast benefactor was. I panicked as I saw that it was the security attendant I had been hiding from the day before. I burst out of my box and jumped up onto my feet. “I’m s…sorry,” I stammered. “I’m off now.” I turned to leave but the coffee and the bacon was still staring at me. The guy was still holding it out to me. I hesitantly held out my hand and he placed the coffee in it. I reached out for the bacon sandwich with my other hand. “Carly, and thank you,” I said.
     “Lee,” he replied. “I saw you come in last night but I was on duty so I couldn't help you then. I’m sorry. Although unbeknownst to you I kept an eye on you to make sure you stayed out of harms way. I work here to earn a bit of extra dough but I also work at the YMCA and if you’ll let me I’d like to see if I can help you.” And there it was. A spark of kindness. No blame, no condescending look, no need for explanation. This man was willing to help before he knew what my deal was. Also unbeknownst to me he had seen people like me many times before and was one of the few who worked for an institution that was willing to help. I’m a lucky one. By the end of my first night I had someone who might be able to get me back onto the right track. Others, I later found out, didn't get help until their one hundredth and first night or their five hundredth and first night. And some… never got the help they deserved, because they were never asked, or simply never took it or they just never made it at all.

I wrote the above in light of a charity event that the YMCA are running which my sister is a part of. This is the Sleep Easy campaign where members of the YMCA are sleeping rough so others don't have to. This is to raise awareness of homelessness in the young. If the above means anything to you and you would like to donate then please do so at the following address: 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


You made the sun shine even when the day was overcast.
You were always so calm, like the sea when the tide is out,
Gently lapping at the edge of the beach,
Always able to diffuse difficult altercations.

You were the heart of our family.
I wish I’d told you this when you were alive but I always thought you knew.

Living two hundred miles apart might have made us distant,
Yet on the bottom step, we spoke like no time had passed.
Your cheeky chuckle, with your dry humour,
Made for great talks on those stairs even when I was little.  

You were the heart of my childhood.
I wish I’d told you this when you were alive but I always thought you knew.

The weekends we visited were few and far between but,
Our Christmas visit was one we never missed, catching up
With tea, cakes and lots of chat and giggles
In your warm, homely living room with you in your armchair.

You were the heart of those visits.
I wish I had told you this when you were alive but I always thought you knew.

Two summers in a row I spent two weeks with you and Nan,
Following you to one or other of your many jobs.
The little clothes shop was my favourite.
You never knew this, but I tried on all the shoes in there.

You were the heart of those summers.
I wish I had told you this when you were alive but I always thought you knew.

When we weren’t together you sent letters or postcards,
Reminding us you were there, telling us your recent news.
I always wrote back with pages of words,
An excuse to write anything knowing you would read it all.

You were the heart of my teenage years.
I wish I had told you this when you were alive but I always thought you knew.

In life you were the best granddad any girl could wish for.
In death you left the best memories to remember you.
Everyone who knew you misses you.
Everyone who loves you wishes you were still here.

You were the heart of all our lives.
I wish I could tell you that now but I know you know.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Best Worst Day

Richard was pacing. He was holed up in a room in a guest house trying to make the biggest decision of his life. He sighed heavily. Actually the decision was made it was more whether he had the courage to go ahead and do what needed to be done. Still pacing he grabbed a bottle of water off the small cubed table by the bed, uncapped it and brutally threw some back against his throat before recapping the bottle and dropping it on the bed. It landed with a satisfying thud despite the softness of the mattress. Finally standing still he picked up his tie from the back of the armchair situated under the window, pulled up his collar and put the tie into place, getting more and more frustrated as he got the two ends tangled up. Ripping it from his neck he tossed it back onto the chair and slumped down on the bed. With his head in his hands Richard decided that a tie was unnecessary for the task ahead. Since he would not be turning up as a guest he did not need to look smart.
Half a mile down the road Dawn was just about to step into a beautiful white classis Austen, provided by a friend of her father’s for the occasion, when she stopped, a sudden cold, fearful, feeling in the pit of her stomach and she turned looking wistfully up the driveway towards her parent’s house wishing she had a more honest and open relationship with them so she could tell them her reservations but she didn’t and it was too late now to back out. She was dolled up to the nines, wearing an expensive dress and jewellery all picked out by Ryan. Someone across the road called out, “Congratulations,” interrupting her thoughts and making Dawn smile weakly in thanks before ducking her head so she could get herself into the car and as she now positioned herself so her dress spilled out around her she painted a look of happiness on her face just in time for her father to get in beside her.  “Ready,” he asked her, taking hold of her hand. She nodded, unable to speak in fear of her voice breaking and giving her emotional state away.
At the church Ryan was stood at the altar with just five minutes before Dawn was due to arrive. Everything was in place. The guests were all seated and his best man was at his side. He smiled smugly. He was going to pull it off and marry the love of his life. He checked his watch and let out a sharp sigh. Four minutes. He hoped she would not let him down by being late. He had planned this day to the last second and it would not do to have anything overrun. He straightened his cravat and then he checked his watch again before turning to look towards the back of the church. He could see movement in the porch. She had arrived. Good.
Dawn took her father’s arm and together they walked up the aisle towards Ryan. Her bouquet was shaking as nerves consumed her and her father tapped her hand reassuringly. She couldn’t look at any of their guests, keeping her eyes forward yet trying not to meet Ryan’s gaze. When she reached him, her father kissed her cheek and Ryan grabbed her hand. She tried not to grimace at the tightness of his grip. Instead she smiled at him, concentrating on his handsome face so she could remember why she had fallen in love with him. If she concentrated hard enough she would be able to get through the day and then they could go back to the ways things were yesterday and before. She would find a way to be happy. As the ceremony started Ryan loosened his hold and finally returned her smile.
The vicar had barely finished his welcome when the church doors burst open and a voice behind them yelled, “Stop.” Despite Ryan trying to force her to remain facing the front she turned round to see who had shouted. Everybody behind her turned to. They were intrigued by the drama about to unfold. Her heart fizzed with emotion as she saw who stood at the back of the church yet her voice was cold as she asked, “What is it you wish to say Richard?” He seemed nervous now but managed to remain calm as he said, “Dawn, you cannot marry a man who hits you and controls you like he does.” He spat out the words and there were a few gasps from his audience but he continued. “Don’t bother denying it because I know he does. I love you Dawn and I promise I can give you a great, safe life if you’ll only let me.” And there it was. The excuse, the way out she had been looking for had just fallen in her lap. The man she knew she had loved since she was sixteen years old stood before her and the man she had tried to love for three years stood behind her. The choice was such a simple one yet she still hung back, but just for a second. Turning to Ryan she whispered, “I’m sorry, I can’t marry you.” With no other explanation she took a step towards Richard who was now half way up the aisle with his hand held out to her. Ryan tugged her arm and swung her back round to face him. His face was stern and his eyes fuelled with fury. “You will not leave this church until you are my wife. We are meant to be together.” Dawn gently shook her head. “No. We’re not. Richard has just shown me with just a few words the life I want. I’m sick of walking on shattered glass with you trying to make you happy. It should not be this difficult.” Still he would not let go, a redness seeping into the skin around his grip. “So what would you have done had he not shown up?” Dawn shrugged. “I guess I would have married you, but that does not make it right.” With that she pulled away from his hold and took another step towards Richard. One final glance back at Ryan told her everything she needed to know as his fist came smashing into her face. Hearing her nose crack she grasped hold of it as pain consumed her and blood spurted out. Dawn pushed Richard backwards so that he could not throw a punch no matter how badly he might want to before turning back to Ryan, who was now being restrained by his father who looked both embarrassed and shocked. Calmly she looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Now everyone can see what a fool I’ve been and why I really can’t marry you. The first time you did that to me I convinced myself it was a one off. The second time, I told myself you were under pressure with work and the third I put it down to the stresses of planning a wedding. Quite frankly I should have left you the first time and then no-one would have had to witness this debacle of a wedding, but through all of my doubts I was willing to put other people’s opinions before my own feelings. Well no more.” Grabbing Richard’s hand she pulled him up the aisle behind her and burst out of the church, not caring about the reactions coming from the guests. Ripping off her veil she threw it into the garden along with her bouquet and kept running. When they were far enough up the narrow road away from the church she stopped and faced Richard. “So you love me huh? Could you not have told me three years ago?” she asked laughing at him. He laughed too but said nothing. Instead he pulled her towards him and kissed her. He was so gentle, his touch soft and his arm around her was loosely protecting her back. A far cry from what she was used to. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Hidden Treasure

Sat in the centre of a busy town
Lay a secret. A hidden treasure chest
Of perfect silence and beauty.

Four long avenues all lined with pine trees
Lead away from the stone steps playing host
To the rocky water fountain. 

A palm tree stands tall with a chunky trunk.
Stunted yet broad branches look like many
Tongues sticking out from a monster.

Ugly. Yet beauty lies in the large leaves,
As, pretty and green, they spill out, waving,  
Like jazz hands at a dance soiree.

This secluded haven has been soundproofed
From anything not relevant to now.
Now being this rare chance of peace.

The only sounds are the trickling water
Some crunchy footsteps on the gravel paths
And the light breeze rustling the leaves.

Laughter erupts as a child interprets
A tree to look like a person in mud,
Head first. “A bum tree,” he giggles.

The tree indeed has a torso like trunk.
Where the bark has split it gives the look of
Two legs kicking for a way out.

In the depths of an Italian town,
Hidden away behind trees and bushes
Lies this little secret garden.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Room

I was in the room again. Having upset my mother for the third day in a row with there still being five and a half weeks left of the summer break I was beginning to feel I would never see the outside world again. I’d only eaten my breakfast. I didn’t think I’d had time to annoy her but here she was shoving me down on the floor against the width of the wall which separated my parent’s room from the one I shared with my brother and then she closed all of the five doors tight so that no light would spill out into the hall I was in. I was all in darkness and barely able to make out my surroundings but no matter how dark it was I could always see the black plastic laundry bin in the corner in front of the huge airing cupboard, like a guard. It was less than a metre from where I was sitting and it was like it was edging towards me as I tried to inch away from it in fear of the spiders lurking behind it. Once I become accustomed to the darkness I became less rigid as I tried to see the hands on my Mickey Mouse watch and wondered how long I would be in here today.
            The room was my enemy. In here I was secluded. I was unable to play with my brother or my toys. Lego was my favourite as I could build roads that I could pretend would lead me away from here or houses that were bigger and better than this one. I would imagine I lived there with a family who loved playing. Here all I could do was twiddle my thumbs and think about what I could be doing. I always sat with my back pinned against the wall and I was usually afraid to move as I was always wondering how long the seclusion would last, always wondering when one of those spiders might attack.
Yet the room was also my friend which may seem odd but in some ways it was my safe place. When I was here I was not dodging harsh words or flailing fists. I love the word flailing, I mused. I’d heard my teacher say it and was always looking for a chance to use it. I like words especially in books where I can lose myself in the story. Here though I can only make stories up in my head. Some were silly, some not so much. I closed my eyes whilst I was imagining things. Well sort of. I always kept one eye half open and focused on the laundry bin in the corner.
            Today though was the third day in a row. I was bored of sitting in one place. Today was adventure day. I got onto my hands and knees and pretended I was a nice bright red sports car. Crawling around the small T shaped room, using my eyes as indicators when I thought I needed to go left or right, I was able to pretend I was on a road trip with a friend who I whispered to on my travels around the room. Don’t get me wrong the room was small and so there was not much travelling ground but I had a great imagination. A friend from school had told me he had gone on a long plane journey to go and see Mickey Mouse so I turned my ‘car’ in the direction of the airport. I passed bright green fields and big square houses with lots of windows and children playing in the garden. I admired the view all the way to the airport and when I got there I stopped, in awe of the jumbo jets. I could not wait to fly away in one.
            Even with my imagination there was nowhere far enough away for me to escape to so it wasn’t long before I came back to reality to the sound of clashing dishes as my mother aggressively did the washing up. I sat back in my place against the wall. I looked at Mickey on my wrist and saw that actually time hadn’t moved on that much. I sighed and put my head in my hands and rested them on my knee, still with half an eye on the corner. However I must have managed to doze off because before long I was jolted awake some time later with my mother now banging cupboards. Her mood had obviously not improved but it did mean that hopefully this time in the room was coming to an end as it was lunchtime. Well I guess a little boy like me can hope hey?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

No Introduction Neccessary

Stepping onto Italian soil for the first time was refreshing and exciting. I grabbed my sister's arm as we left the plane and skipped to the coach which would take us across the wide runway to the arrivals terminal. In less than twenty minutes I would meet the girl I had been writing to since I was eleven years old. This is a friendship that holds no boundaries, despite the distance, a friendship which has stood the test of time. We had written over fifty letters over ten years with each of the ones I had received carefully stashed away in a little purple case with Winnie the Pooh on the front. In those letters we had shared everything there was to know about ourselves. This girl knew more about me than anyone and reads every word I write without conviction as do I with her.
            As Victoria and I boarded the coach we sat down and I now had a chance to absorb our surroundings. The airport itself looked barren with patches of brownish green grass mixed in with long, wide areas of dull grey tarmac. The sky however was a brilliant, bright blue with no sign of any clouds and in the distance a view of green forestry and mountains broke the secret of the beautiful sights that Italy had to offer. In the middle of the Italian summer the sun was high in the sky and beating down ferociously. I took off my jacket and the heat seeped through the window and onto my skin. I smiled. I could not wait to enjoy my first holiday without my parents, but more importantly I could not wait to enjoy some time with my best friend. In front of us was the terminal and Victoria and I soon descended from the coach and made our way inside. The terminal itself was quite ordinary, decorated simply and plainly. We queued for a short while before our passports were checked by a rather sullen looking man. I smiled as he handed me back my documents but he was already checking Victoria's therefore not noticing. With the formalities taken care of we were free to get our luggage and I watched the screens to see where we had to go. It took forever but eventually we were wheeling our suitcases towards the exit. We walked through a heavy wooden door out of the quiet baggage collection area and into the noisy chaos of the arrivals lounge. I quickly shut the door behind me almost afraid to let the noise seep into the peace of the previous room.
            I glanced around and saw people everywhere. As we battled through the crowds I had a nervous feeling in my stomach. What if I didn't recognise her? What if she didn't like me? Would we have as much in common as our letters showed? All of this was spinning in my mind as my sister pulled me forward. “Come on,” she said moving on ahead. Finally I could see the exit which would lead us back out into the glorious sunshine. My eyes paused at the main doors as we walked towards them where stood in front of them was a man in his fifties and a girl in her early twenties. It was her short black hair which made me stop and focus for a second before a wave from her confirmed my suspicions. It was Gloria. My first worry could be scrubbed as we ran towards each other with excitement. Her face seemed to mirror what I was feeling. She didn't give me a chance to stand still, immediately folding me into a hug as she said, “Rebecca, finally we meet.” She held me for a moment or two before kissing me on both cheeks. The Italian way, I smiled to myself. I was much calmer and wondering why I had ever thought an introduction would be necessary. It was easy to tell that we were not strangers. Our letters and photos had been the basis of our friendship and this meeting was just the start of a new chapter. As Gloria stepped aside to hug Victoria, her father hugged and kissed me also. With everyone now knowing everyone we were led away from the terminal, with Gloria not letting go of me, as though wanting to make sure I was real. I smiled as I realised I was probably doing the same. As we entered the car park she did break free to help her father to locate the ticket machine and as I followed Gloria I could not help but study my friend. I kept glancing at her so as not to make it obvious. She was a slightly older version of the photo she had sent a few years earlier. She was stunningly beautiful with her tanned skin, large dark eyes and slim physique. She was dressed in jeans and a black top and her skin was soaking up the rays of the sun. Her father on the other hand was wearing casual jeans and an oversized checked shirt. He was medium height, perhaps slightly shorter than me at five foot six and slightly round at the middle. He had a booming laugh; this I learned quickly, which enveloped all that was in his company making his mood infectious. It was clear to me that despite being in a strange country I was amongst friends.
            The drive to Gloria’s house took an hour but it seemed a lot less than that as we enjoyed a four way conversation because although Gloria’s father could not speak English he wanted to know more about us so with my friend translating we told him what he wanted to know. I was trying to talk as clearly as possible whilst looking out of the window to see where we were heading.
            Soon we arrived at Gloria’s house and I gasped at its size. “Wow, this is such a beautiful house,” I praised whilst Gloria laughed at my reaction and it was. The first difference I noticed from some of the houses we had seen on the way back was that from the outside this did not look like a two storey house. The garden was well cared for and there were two gorgeous dogs running around trying to lick our hands off. Laughing, Gloria grabbed my hand and eagerly ushered me inside to meet her mother who was in the kitchen cooking. She wiped her hands on her apron and welcomed me into her arms much the same as her daughter and husband had at the airport. I was overwhelmed by the reception we were receiving. It didn’t feel like we were all meeting for the first time. It was like I was already a part of their family. It was surreal but wonderful. Next Gloria’s mum hugged Victoria and then she shooed us out of the kitchen so Gloria took this time to show us our room so we could freshen up. This was when I noticed that this house was actually two floors but the second was located downstairs at an underground level so the bedrooms were able to stay cooler. Ingenious I couldn’t help thinking.
            Our bedroom was huge. It had space for three beds, a sofa and it also held a small kitchenette with a small table. Across from the bedroom was a bathroom which would be ours also. It was amazing. It was like another little home at the bottom of the house.
Gloria wasn’t yet letting me out of her sight so I searched my suitcase for the present I’d bought for her which once located I suggested we go out to the garden. Once there we chilled out at the table which was already laid out with food and drink ready for dinner and I handed Gloria the small gift I’d found for her. It was just a small book of poetry about friends but she loved it. She kissed and hugged me and thanked Victoria also, not wanting her to feel left out. My sister however was more intrigued by all the food and drink on the table and almost on cue Gloria’s father offered us some homemade wine. There was a choice of red and white and we both chose white whilst Gloria chose red. You could see the pride on his face as he poured the wine and talked about it animatedly in Italian whilst Gloria translated for us. As I sat back listening I tasted the wine and eventually ate the beautiful pastas, breads and salads spread before us. I felt I now knew what heaven was. We were surrounded by good people, fantastic weather, beautiful scenery and amazing food.
            After such a warm welcome from these wonderful people I could not wait for what the days ahead brought. This holiday really was going to be one of a lifetime as I realised once again that this friendship that Gloria and I had formed was much deeper than the written words in our letters.