Professional darts could pay quite nicely if you played well enough, and by the time Paul and I were spending most days shouting at each other and sleeping in separate bedrooms he was earning fairly good money on the circuit. Which meant I hadn’t done too badly out of our divorce. I’m really not one to bear grudges but I wanted to bleed that bastard dry at one point, when the pain of losing him was still incredibly raw and I hated everything about him. But then I grew up, settled things like an adult and took what was rightfully mine, which wasn’t a bad amount of money – we’d been together over seven years, after all, and married for five of those. I’d loved him for all of them, despite of what he’d done. I just couldn’t live with him anymore, not when he spent every day believing his own hype. The darts groupies were welcome to him and yes, they do exist. Good looking, sexy darts players are pretty thin on the ground so when one appears on the scene it’s like they can pick up his scent from miles away and they’re onto him like dogs on heat. It’s quite scary. I’d laugh about it if it hadn’t been my husband they’d been tracking down.
But thanks to his cash I’d bought myself a beautiful little villa in Costa Adeje, a resort I’ve fallen in love with. It’s small, upmarket, and quiet, and not that far from Playa De Las Americas – the party area of Tenerife – but it’s a whole different world away in reality. Whenever anyone mentions Tenerife, Las Americas can sometimes be the first place they think of and there are still people out there who assume the whole island has that image, that it’s just bars and clubs and partying until the early hours. But there’s so much more to it than that. Tenerife is an island of contrasts and there really is something there for everyone, 365 days of the year. I’m in love with the place, and in love with my own little corner of this island.
Antonio moved into my villa just over a month ago, and so far it’s going ok, because he’s nothing like Paul. He tidies up after himself, shares the cooking, thinks of me all the time. Like I said before, sometimes he’s too good to be true. I was lucky to get a cup of tea out of Paul on our anniversary, if he wasn’t at a tournament. I get tea and so much more from Antonio.
The villa itself is on a small and private residential complex situated slightly back from the sea front, but because we’re built on a hill we have amazing views of the sea and La Gomera, a neighbouring Canarian island. It’s not a huge house but it’s big enough. It’s got two floors with the ground floor practically all open plan - something quite common here because of the heat - with huge French windows giving us the most of that view, and a small but beautiful little terrace and garden area with a splash pool and a wealth of pink and purple bougainvillea. It’s my haven, my little piece of heaven, somewhere I can come to to get away from everything. Thank you Paul Parker. You did something right.
“What have you got planned for today?” Antonio asked, coming out of the en-suite shower room with just a white towel wrapped around his extremely well-toned waist. He has one hell of a body. Nothing like Paul’s. I mean, Paul wasn’t exactly lacking in any department but he’s not built like Antonio. He’s not as tall, he’s more of a slight build, and he doesn’t have the tan. He does have tattoos though, and I always found those incredibly sexy. Antonio doesn’t have tattoos but he does have a six-pack you can’t take your eyes off and biceps I love running my fingers over. I do love a sexy arm. It’s something of a turn-on for me, I have to say.
“Fran and I are just going down to the sea front; maybe have a spot of lunch, go for a bit of a walk. We might venture into La Caleta. They’ve got some lovely little fish restaurants there.”
He smiled, coming over to me and slipping his arms round my waist, kissing me quickly. He smelt of lemon and honey and if I hadn’t promised Fran I’d spend Sunday with her I’d have thrown him back onto the bed and held him prisoner there for the rest of the day.
“Well, if you’re going to La Caleta you will be passing Paco’s, won’t you?”
I nodded, smiling too, playing with the top of his towel, loosening it slightly. I knew what I was doing and he wasn’t putting up much of a fight.
“So, are you going to come and see your fiancé at work?” he asked, pulling me closer.
“That depends,” I replied, wishing I hadn’t spent so long on my hair that morning because it was obviously going to get messed up any second now.
“You play hard to get, Molly,” he smiled. I loved that smile. Perfect teeth in a perfect face. He really was extraordinarily handsome.
But, hard to get? Me? I’d hate to see his interpretation of fast and loose because right now I was about as hard to get as a three-legged tortoise being chased by Speedy Gonzalez. I’d never been hard to get. One quite exciting twelve dart finish on the first night we’d met was all it had taken for Paul to get me up against the wall of his Aunty Mary’s spare bedroom for sex the memory of which still makes me shiver now, that’s how hard to get I can be. Christ, that makes me sound as bad as those darts groupie’s I was talking about before, but boy, it had been good. It had been very good. Not sure his Aunty Mary had shared our excitement though. I can still remember her yelling up the stairs at us to keep the noise down ‘cos she couldn’t hear Question Time for the banging.
I pulled away from Antonio slightly, those fleeting memories of Paul somehow killing the mood, which didn’t escape Antonio’s notice.
“Are you alright, Molly?” he asked, gently touching my shoulder as I stared out at the clear blue sea, focusing on the jet skis and the boats out in the distance.
“I’m fine.” I turned around and smiled at him. It wasn’t his fault I was having unwelcome flashbacks of life with Love Rat Parker, darts bastard and all round cheating prick. Maybe it was just because all this wedding planning was bringing back memories that I was going to have to learn to file away at the back of my mind. Nobody had said it was going to be easy.
“You can talk to me, you know that, don’t you? If you have something on your mind. I am always here.”
I kissed him slowly, letting him hold me tight, letting him erase those memories with that wonderful voice of his as I shut my mind to anything else except what was happening here. Paul was my past, Antonio was my future and I wasn’t going to let my inability to forget ruin everything I had now. I was going to marry Antonio, and I was going to have a future here in Tenerife. So, grabbing hold of Antonio’s towel I ripped it away from that incredible body of his and ceased caring about the state of my hair. Fran was just going to have to wait.
La Caleta is a small, quaint little fishing village just a short walk along the beach from Costa Adeje with fabulous fish restaurants and a lovely, calming atmosphere. It’s mainly residential with just one hotel, and it’s the perfect place for a peaceful walk away from the majority of tourists.
Neither Fran nor I had mentioned what she’d said the other day, about me still being in love with Paul, because it’s ridiculous. I’m not. I don’t know where she’s got that idea from and I think she’d guessed that it was something I didn’t really want to talk about so she’s dropped it, for now. She’s known me long enough to know when to let things go but then I’ve also known her long enough to know that she won’t keep quiet for long, that’s just not her. If she’s got something on her mind that she wants to say she’ll say it, whether anyone else likes it or not so I’m bracing myself for a reprisal. It would just be nice not to have it today because we were having a lovely Sunday afternoon. It was sunny and warm and we’d just had the most perfect lunch of fresh sardines and Canarian potatoes with a bottle of gorgeous, dry white wine between us (it’s early, we don’t do one each until at least 7pm!) in a little fish restaurant overlooking the sea. We’d talked about the barbeque Jo’s organising and whether or not we should start Christmas shopping yet, but not about Paul. I’d quite like it to stay that way, too. I’ve got a wedding to finish arranging and I can’t do it with him on my mind.
As we walked slowly back along the sea-front path that leads down onto the beach we could feel the sun warm on our backs, both of us a little light headed from the wine and it was a lovely feeling. Weekends here are so different to anything we used to have back home. Back in the U.K. a Saturday or Sunday usually meant shopping or cleaning or, when Paul and I had been together, travelling to some darts tournament or another, but here everything is just so much more relaxed, less hectic, less stressful. I loved the weekends here and I’m not sure I could ever go back to what I had before. Not all of it, anyway.
We decided to visit our favourite little beach bar for a coffee before we started the walk back to Costa Adeje but as we looked down onto the sand below us, things seemed to have got a little bit more hectic than they had been when we’d passed it on our way here a couple of hours ago. Something was going on, something that seemed to be attracting quite a bit of attention and we both leaned over the railings that faced the beach, shielding our eyes from the afternoon sun as we tried to get a better look at what was happening.
“Are those cameras?” Fran asked. “They weren’t there when we walked past before, were they?”
“No, they weren’t.” I squinted slightly as I watched the crowd around the beach bar below us grow larger, people seemingly appearing from nowhere to get a closer look at the activity. “It looks like they’re just setting up.” I turned round as a large blue van pulled up beside us and people hurriedly started pulling big metal boxes from the back, carrying everything from lights to big mounds of cables down onto the beach. Years of working in a media department at a university back home told me this was definitely some kind of film or TV shoot and I was curious now, the nosy part of me wanting to know exactly what was going on. So I walked over to the van, smiling at a dark haired young man who was ticking things off on a clipboard as people continued to unload equipment.
He turned to look at me, smiling a friendly smile as I stood there with my hands in the pockets of my denim shorts. “You want to know what’s going on, don’t you,” he asked, sticking his pen behind his ear.
“Kinda, yeah.” He looked over onto the beach, where the last of the equipment was being carried down, and slammed shut the doors of the van, shoving his clipboard into the bag he had slung over his shoulder. “It’s filming for Simon Sutherland’s new TV series. We’re shooting here in Tenerife for a few weeks. Not a bad gig this one,” he grinned, before running off in the direction of the beach.
I walked back over to Fran, who was still watching the goings on down on the sand.
“Have you seen who’s down there?” she said, not taking her eyes off what was happening.
“Simon Sutherland, I know. They’re filming his new TV series here on the island.”
Simon Sutherland was a somewhat posh British TV actor, known mainly for his portrayals of good looking, upper class characters in costume dramas. Tall, dark and about as handsome as you can get in an incredibly arrogant kind of way, he made his name in a popular soap opera playing a particularly unconvincing bad guy – my Paul plays a bad guy better than Simon Sutherland ever has and he’s only throwing a few darts in a room full of drunken spectators and I really must stop calling him my Paul, it’s becoming a very irritating habit – but for some reason somebody saw something in Mr Sutherland that must’ve passed the rest of us by because he was given a role in a Sunday evening costume drama that turned him into one of the country’s biggest, and most fanciable, TV stars. Personally, he doesn’t do it for me. I always think he just plays himself because whether he does costume drama or not he always seems to come across as an egotistical middle class snob, but then, what do I know? The closest I’ve ever got to acting was when I dressed up in an arse-skimming PVC nurses uniform from Ann Summers for Paul’s 30th and I can’t begin to tell you what we did with that syringe but it took every ounce of my acting talent to let him do it. It was his birthday after all.
Anyway, all I do know is that Simon Sutherland has a reputation with the ladies, and he’s never usually seen without one hanging off his arm. He apparently goes for brunettes but I’m sure he’s not overly fussy, as long as they’re beautiful and look good beside him – although, not that good. I also hear he’s not one to be upstaged. He’s never been married, plays the bachelor playboy to the letter and drives one of those cars that single middle-aged men usually drive when they’re trying to pull something younger. Enough said.
“Shall we go down and have a look?” Fran asked, suddenly turning into something resembling over-excited and star-struck. She’d never told me she fancied Simon Sutherland before. Mind you, she’s starting to fancy anything with a pulse at the minute so Simon Sutherland is probably right up there in her book.
“I don’t really feel like it, Fran.” And I didn’t. Suddenly I just wanted to get to Paco’s and give Antonio a big, long kiss. I was thinking about Paul far too much lately and that was probably because I was spending far too much time away from my lovely Spanish fiancé. I just wanted to sit down with him and talk about our wedding. There was still so much to be sorted out and we were only weeks away now so if I didn’t get a shift on Antonio’s mother was going to start taking over and I had absolutely no desire to go into battle over table settings with her. I didn’t have the energy.
“Oh, come on, Molly,” Fran said, grabbing my hand and pulling me down onto the path that led to the beach. “We’ve got to walk past the bar on our way back to Adeje anyway so we might as well see what’s going on.”
“I’ve told you what’s going on…Fran! Hang on will you!”
I had to run to keep up with her as she dragged me down onto the sand in almost indecent haste. She hadn’t ran that fast since the time she thought she’d seen Jason Orange in Pizza Hut on a shopping trip to Manchester in 2007. I was beginning to wish Dave would just haul her down to the laundry room and have his way with her amongst the piles of discarded beach towels because it was evidently what she needed.
“Oooh, look!” she squealed, stopping dead in front of me causing me to run right into her and almost send the pair of us flying! “He’s over there! And he’s even sexier in the flesh than he is on TV!”
I looked at her. I’d really had no idea that she fancied Simon Sutherland. And I thought she told me everything. “Since when did you start finding him sexy?”
“Since he played an MI5 agent last January in that TV drama. Did you not see that shower scene?”
I wrinkled up my nose as I tried to remember the programme she was talking about, but at the time it had been broadcast Paul and I had been in the middle of heated negotiations as to who was getting the Queen CD boxed set so it had probably passed me by.
“He’s just not my type, Fran. And I had no idea he was yours.”
“I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating toast.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t. But two days ago I thought you felt exactly the same way about Tinseltown Tony so forgive me for thinking you’re erring on the side of desperation here.”
She wasn’t listening to me; she was now standing gawping like some demented, love-sick teenager as Simon Sutherland flashed what can only be described - in my eyes anyway - as a smarmy smile at the ever-increasing throng of women who’d gathered around him, flinging themselves at him like they’d never been near a bloke before, although judging by the state of some of them they’d certainly never been near a bloke like him before.
“Isn’t he dreamy?” Fran sighed.
I couldn’t have been more relieved as a middle-aged man wearing a head-set and a rather unbecoming floral shirt started asking people to move back away from the set and I finally managed to drag Fran off in the direction of sanity and Paco’s for a much needed cup of coffee. She seemed to have regained her composure by the time we arrived and I left her sitting at our usual table texting Connie and Jo, doubtless about the fact Tenerife had a bit of a celebrity gracing it with his presence for a few weeks.
I walked over to the bar where Antonio was drying some wine glasses. He looked up as he saw me, smiling that smile as I leaned over the bar to kiss him slowly. Just what I needed. Normality.
“Had a nice day?” he asked, flinging the tea towel he’d been using over his shoulder as he turned to get some cups for mine and Fran’s coffee.
“Not bad.” I couldn’t be bothered to tell him about the appearance of Simon Sutherland. Antonio wouldn’t care anyway. He was only famous in the U.K. and it was highly unlikely anyone except the British holidaymakers would know or care about who he was and what he was doing here. “But it’s just got better now I’ve seen you.”
He smiled again. “My mother has been on the ‘phone, Molly. She wants to know if you have your dress sorted. She’s coming over in two weeks and if you still need some help she can bring along my cousin Rosa, she’s a dressmaker. She can give you some advice if you need it.”
I didn’t. I’d already chosen my dress when Fran and I had popped back over to England for her brother Billy’s wedding so that was one job done. No interference from anyone else and I was trying to keep it that way for as long as I possibly could. My family weren’t involved in my life at all, in fact, I hadn’t spoken to my mum in years after a falling out over a row about my dad’s affair with a barmaid from the Flying Horse. But they’d never really been what you’d call attentive parents, even though I was an only child. I’d learnt to stand on my own two feet from an early age and that’s the way I liked it. So I wasn’t used to any assistance when it came to organising things, but I was fast learning that the Spanish were very family orientated indeed, and it was something I was just going to have to get used to.
“She is also wondering when we are going to give her her first grandchild.”
Whoa there, mister, I thought. Who mentioned anything about kids? Had I not told him about my diversion to small people? Could have sworn I’d said something so maybe he was just choosing to forget it. Well, he was going to have to start remembering very soon or we were going to be having words.
“There’s plenty of time for that, isn’t there?” I said, fiddling with a beer mat on the bar as Antonio frothed our coffee.
“By the time my mother was your age she’d had five children,” he shouted over the noise of the milk steamer.
I wanted to say, well she should have kept her legs shut more but decided against it.
“And you are getting no younger, Molly.”
Cheeky sod! Like I need reminding of that. I was suddenly being surrounded by conversations I had no interest in, and as far as kids were concerned I never would. I wasn’t in the least bit maternal, and that was probably my mother’s fault ‘cos neither was she.
Antonio turned round and placed our coffees down on the bar, picking up on my change of mood. He tilted up my chin and gently kissed my mouth.
“Do not worry about my mother,” he smiled, stroking a strand of hair from my eyes. “We do whatever makes us happy, nobody else.”
Yeah, but was he going to tell her that because she was a formidable woman, his mother. His dad had legged it all the way to Fuengirola once just for a bit of peace after he’d lost an argument with her over floor tiles. You just didn’t mess with Senora Hernandez.
I was suddenly beginning to feel more than a little bit stressed but I smiled back at Antonio, knowing he loved me, knowing he wanted to make me happy, even though we’d only been together a short time. And I loved him back, he was everything I needed right now but sometimes I wished we could just run off to Gibraltar or somewhere and get married on our own, just the two of us, with no family around to interfere. But there was no way anyone around here was going to let that happen.
I kissed him gently, feeling his fingers tighten around mine and as he pulled away slightly and whispered something dirty in my ear – in Spanish, some things I recognised without any trouble – I relaxed slightly. How could I not? He was gorgeous and kind and mine. He was all mine, and all I had to do was relax and look forward to becoming Mrs Hernandez. That’s all I had to do. And surely even I was capable of that.
© Michelle Betham 2011Tweet
Too Much Trouble in Paradise is available to download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
Too Much Trouble in Paradise is available to download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com