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A CHRISTMAS PRESENT It was Christmas time.We were sailing on the Atlantic Ocean, coming from New York , on the way to Algeciras, on board the Esso Saint John ,a twenty thousand- ton tanker, on board which my husband had the post of chief engineer, and where I was spending a few months. The sea had been very heavy for days, therefore all the gear had been kept inside the drawers and cupboards, because of the rolling of the ship but it kept clicking ,all day long. That bleak night I was feeling so sea-sick and home-sick, in other words, so desperate, that I resorted to taking a sleeping pill. In my dream,I was dozing in the shade of the luxuriant chestnut tree, in our garden, hearing my family talking, and Ambar, our Labrador, barking and barking, far away . I failed to pay any attention when my husband was called for watch, and I tried to stick to my dream , but, at eight o´clock in the morning I woke up, as usual. The sea had calmed down, so I dared to go to the dining-room for breakfast. I was chewing my toast , when I heard the barking again. I stayed pat, and was about to choke. Was it the side effects of the pill? It wasn´t. During the night,we had rescued three castaways : a German couple,and their dog. They had left Germany, where they had sold their farm,to buy their brand-new yacht, bound for the Canary Islands , but the tempest came on their way. Luckily,the pilot on duty had heard their MAY DAY call when their yacht was about to sink, and we happened to be near enough to rescue them. No trace of their yacht, however. They spent Christmas on board the Saint John, they left us in Algeciras, and we have not heard of them any more. (Adriana Caparrós)


A slice of my life I am not a guy who could be called a religious person. I’m not sure whether God exists or not but I’m not an atheist either. In fact I’ve just written the word God with a capital letter… just in case. Anyway, I do believe in some kind of natural tendency that people follow. Sometimes it’s called fate. During the Christmas Eve in 1984, two friends of mine and I went to a disco in Madrid, near Callao Square. I had never been there before. I was a laid-back youngster in those years and, after several drinks I was ‘a bit tipsy’ … or, to tell you the truth, as Bill Bryson would have said: ‘I was so drunk that a doctor invited me to a convention in Cleveland the following week as an exhibit’. I still don’t know how but at about 4 a.m. I saw in the distance two twin sisters dancing on the dance floor. I went up to them but when I got there there was just one girl… Alcohol was playing a dirty trick on me again. She wore a black hat and smiled at me. I made an extraordinary effort and, drunkenly, said something like this: -

‘Do you know a boy called Gerardo who comes here very often?’ ‘No, I don’t. I’ve never been here before.’ She replied. ‘It’s me, merry Christmas.’ I said. And she burst out laughing. She had understood my particular Larios-Coca Cola accent… and she had also found me funny. I had to go on: ‘What’s your name?’ I asked. ‘Alfonsina…but I’m sorry, I must go home now.’ She said. Could you give me your phone number? I asked with no faith at all but, incredibly, she gave it to me and I memorized it.

1) Neither she nor I had ever been at that disco before that day because neither of us liked that kind of music and atmosphere (in fact we’ve never gone back there again…). ‘That’s a bit strange!’ I thought. The following day I realized that I had forgotten her name. Damn hangover! However I was able to remember her phone number. I dialled it and a man’s voice told me that no one called Antonia nor Azucena nor Alicia nor Aurora nor three more names beginning with A lived there. Eventually (I still can’t understand how he could take me seriously) he told me that he had one sister called Alfonsina and he put me through to her. 2) I had forgotten her name but when I was about to give up trying to get in touch with her I perfectly remembered her phone number…(which is much more difficult to memorize when you’re drunk than a forename, I can tell you). ‘How odd!’ I told myself. We decided to meet in a café called Ruby, close to Cuatro Caminos Square, that evening at eight. At that time I was there, with my best clothes, my best smile and a rose in my hand. A couple of hours later I was still there, with my best clothes, no smile and the fourth gin and tonic in my hand playing football with a dog and the flower as a ball. I phoned her home and her brother just told me ‘you’d better not call her again’ and he hung up on me. During those years I was working for the Navy and I was on leave. I decided to forget about her and go back to Càdiz. But at Easter I went back to Madrid. I’d been restless all that time and I knew why. I set about to discover what had


happened. I had let my beard grow and I showed up in her neighborhood without phoning her. After a half an hour walking up and down close to her house I saw her with two girls, friends of hers. She saw me in the distance, came up to me and asked me for a cigarrette … she didn’t recognize me with the beard! 3) I still don’t know why I went there that day. I don’t know either why she came up just to me and not to anybody else. At that very moment she didn’t know who I was. ‘Is there any hidden strength here?’ I wondered. -

‘ Don’t you know me?’ I asked. And when she heard my voice she stared at me and snapped: ‘Of course I do! You’re the prize idiot who stood me up at Christmas!’ And slapped me …. twice. I looked at her in astonishment but I knew on the spot that she was my soul mate. ‘It was you who stood me up’. I replied. ‘I was waiting for you for more than two hours. I added. ‘Not only are you stupid but you’re also a liar.’ Said she. ‘Come on! Ask the waiter! Perhaps he still remembers when he kicked me out after having broken three glasses while playing with the dog!’ I was almost shouting at her. ‘What waiter? What dog? Are you dumb? There was no waiter there; there was a waitress and of course there weren’t any dogs either.’ Little by little she didn’t look angry anymore. ‘Where were you?’ She inquired. ‘In the café Ruby at Cuatro Caminos. The one with big red letters at the entrance, where we had arranged to meet!’ I answered. ‘But it’s not possible. I spent there most of the evening and there are no big red letters at the entrance. Let’s go there to check it!’ She was absolutely determined to work out the mistery.

4) We couldn’t believe our eyes. There were two snack bars called Ruby within 100 meters of each other. We said nothing for a while. I guarantee you I’m not a superstitious person but in that very moment I asked myself whether all those events could mean something more than mere coincidences. We have been married for more than 20 years. As Gregory Burnham would have written: ‘Number of unusual coincidences numbered above: 4. Number of minutes we had spent together since we met in the disco until we decided to go to check that there were actually two bars with the same name: 15. Number of times during those 15 minutes that I thought that I knew her perfectly: 328. I don’t know if this can be called fate but if it can’t…then it’s something very similar. Isn’t it? PS (postscript): This story is 90% true. (Gerardo Carrera Polo)


My

friend

ELENA

When I was a child my parents had a couple of very close friends who had three children: Elena, her sister and her brother, so she was the eldest of the three. Elena was much older than me, especially during our childhood. But time flies and after some years Elena and I met again because we had common friends and went to the same places. In those days it was when I knew her better; she was a very friendly and lively person and very nice, optimistic and talkative, I liked her. Some of our common friends decided to arrange a birthday party for her; of course she didn’t know anything about it. We booked a lounge in a hotel, ordered the dinner, bought some beautiful presents for her, took a group on for a musical performance and made a picture with all our photographs from the time when we were babies, just to see if she recognized all of us. The party was a complete success; it was a lot of fun, all of us enjoyed ourselves and Elena was very happy, excited and grateful for all. Her birthday was the last day of October and she was 45 years old. Two months later, on December the 27th, we had an unusual warm, sunny and even hot day, without any wind, so I went out with some friends at midday, before lunchtime, to have a snack outside. After lunch, at 5 o’clock, I was trying to have a nap when a very strong wind began and in only a few minutes I started to hear a lot of noises, police sirens and fire engines and a heavy rain started. Since the first hours of the day there had been a gale warning for all the Cantabrico Sea; the weather forecast said at midday that the gale was already in Asturias. All the afternoon and evening the weather was awful: very windy and rainy. The following day, very soon in the morning, a friend of mine called me and told me that something horrible and very sad had happened the day before: Elena went sailing in the bay with a friend in a little sailing boat and at the very moment that the strong storm began, the little boat turned over, they managed to put themselves on the hull, but they were completely wet and the temperature had dropped a lot, nobody could see them and nobody helped them in several hours, so, unfortunately, Elena died. For me, even now, it was a terrible death: first of all, of course, because Elena was a very good friend and, secondly, because I love the sea and sailing and, only a week after she died, I began to go out with a friend who had a little boat and we were every day sailing and fishing, so I think that what had happened to Elena could have happened to me. Santander, 7-January-2.008 Irene Sainz-Terrones


THE SECRET Recently a piece of news has brought to my mind an awful story my mother told me many years ago. Then she was a young woman who had left her village, getting away from a predestinated life as housewife and mother. Since the first moment she could remember, she had wanted some new and exciting plan for her future and one day she heard about a wonderful hospital built in Santander by a wealthy and philanthropist Marquis. Strong and healthy women were requested to be nurses in this hospital. Many years later, my mother remembered that the only requirement for the job was the possession of a fountain pen and a watch (as well as the rudimentary knowledge learnt at the village school). So, she went to Santander and started a new life of hard study and work, strict discipline and absolute subjection to the doctors and to t he nuns who ran the hospital at that time. And she found out that she loved her job, no matter how exhausted she felt every night when reaching her bed. A few months after finising her studies, the Civil War broke out and my mother offered her services as a nurse to Franco´s faction,–she was a fervent Catholic- and she was sent to work at a hospital in Castellon, near the battle front. She was an anaesthesist nurse and remembered that they often went on with the emergency surgeries even when the bombs were falling near the hospital. And yet her worst experience referred to the time she returned to her post at a hospital in Cantabria. One day, she was in surgery and the operation was ending. Everything seemed to go smoothly when the surgeon, after having checked the perfect last stitch, dropped an exclamation: “We have mistaken the right leg for the wrong one”. The patient was a young girl, the director´s protégé moreover. They were all terrified for a moment, but the surgeon immediately said: “Nobody, apart from us, will ever know of this mistake”. They committed themselves to hushing it up and that´s how this story was kept in secret up to now. Marisol Benito


THE MAGIC COUNTRY

by

Mª José Escudero

I was going to be seven when we arrived in Marselle. My mother and I had had a long and exhausting journey but finally, there we were in “La France”, the mythical France where everybody had a car, every home a television and where all the people could enjoy themselves freely. There we were, where many Spaniards had moved to escape from poverty or simply to live far from Franco´s dictatorship and there we were to spend Christmas season with our Spanish immigrant relatives. I had never seen such a big train station -it was enormous- and my mother hadn´t seen her brother for ages. Both were a little apprehensive beforehand. There were people all over the place coming and going aimlessly and I was so puzzled that I clung to my mother´s hand nervously but I realized she was as lost as I was. Fortunately, among the crowd a cheerful and familiar voice named us and at that very moment all our anxiety disappeared. It was the most wintry day in all that winter: dark, cold and windy. It was freezing and it was Christmas Eve. My mother´s brother lived on the outskirts of the city in a small but solidly built house which was ideally located: it nestled cosily in the middle of an unspoilt pineforest and quite near an icy lake where only a few wild ducks seemed to enjoy. The day was getting dark and I felt as if I were in a Christmas picture. I only missed the falling snow. We received a hearty welcome at the door. All our relatives and acquaintances with their smiling faces were getting in line to greet us. I was squezed and I had my cheeks full with wet kisses –three kisses per person as French tradition requires- My mother thanked them for their kindness and hospitality but I couldn´t utter a word. There were twenty of them altogether including three rowdy dogs and an apparently lovely cat. They were staring at me as if I was the most interesting person they had ever met. Obviously I was delighted. Indoors everything was ready for dinner and everyone was willing to enjoy the night. Later, hardly had we finished our special supper when the doorbell rung. Then, out of the blue, a peculiar chubby man with a long white beard and dressed in red turned up on the doorstep. I couldn´t believe my girlish eyes. It was Papa Noel in person and he was coming straight to me, calling my name and bringing me a very, very pretty “poupée”, just the doll I had asked for in my letter for The Three Wise Men. Oh my God! Papa Noel was really wise. How could he know what I wanted? Everybody gave me a knowing look and I felt over the moon. That night I didn´t stop tossing and turning in bed . I was looking forward to telling my little Spanish friends that France was really a Magic Country.


Deep Impact Thinking of my oldest memories, I could return back to the age when I was three years old. My mun had to travel away with her sister who needed ear-surgery in Madrid. I lived those three months as an eternity ( the concept of time in the mind of a child is so different...). I was left in a village with de family of my mother´s aunt, an affectinate and tender country woman. I could tell you about what I did every day and a lot of specific moments I had to cope with at that time. I missed my mother in every inch of my mind and body. My dear aunt and her familymade everythind they could to help me to feel better, but I would like to explain to you one event which was painfully remarkable. Whenever I was not as I was suppsed to be, for instance, when I did not eat enough according to my aunt´s point of view, who wanted to make me fatty and chubby, or I did nor want to sleep siesta,... then she mentioned and threatened me with a curious figure, " the man of the sack " whose description made feel horrified , but whose " presence " was evan worse. Yes, every week this huge man was coming to the house with a black linen sack where he carried coal for the cooker. He looked like a dirty and ugly beggar. His face was dark with coal dust and his eyes stared at me furiously. He always asked: " How was the behaviour of this boy this week ? Can I take him with me ? " . I looked up to my aunt wishing for her protection. But the fateful day arrived. That day the answer was negative. So, this beast grabbed and forced me to get on a horse-drawn carriage full os sacks of coal. I was mute, speechless, paralysed with fear, horror. Iwas confused thinking that my sweet aunt id not let that man do me any harm but we were going further and further. Finally, we stopped in front of a house I understood was his. " Now you are going to learn to be a good boy. This dog of mine has eaten a lot of boys and you will be the next one ". Afterwards, he took me to the first floor climbing through some stairs to the dark straw loft. I could see an open door directly to the street and I could hear the furious, the desperate bark of the savage big dog just below. I started to cry laudly and beg his mercy promising I would never disobey again but that insensitive brute did nor pay attention and holding me up by my hands suspended me the void where the dog was jumping and grumbling, trying to break the chain he was tied to. My torturer suddenly realised he was crossing the line of his macabre joke and started to laugh and tried to make me feel calm and took me quickly back to my aunt´s. This three months had a deep impect in me. When my mum came at last, I had learnt her importance in my life. Since then a strong bond of affection and intimacy has grown between us and I have never taken for granted her love and attentions.

José Luis Oria


THREE PUNCH- LINES I have always liked to travel abroad with my children for some days in the summer. At the time I was a lucky thirty-some-year-old woman with four wonderful children. I felt I was at the best stage of my life. Jana, the eldest, was eleven and she was the little woman I shared confidences with. Manuel was nine and he was all cocky and laid-back, he just didn’t care much about anything. Next, Alejandro was six, nearly seven, and he was the typical absentminded intellectual, and finally little Pablo was “the baby”. He was three and he always said the last and most relevant word. At the beginning of July we decided to visit Italy. None of us knew an Italian word but we thought we would get by. Our first stop was Nice. There I asked for everybody’s lunch in French. When I finished Pablo stared at me, really frightened to death and told me : Mom, why are you speaking like them ? The second stage was in Montecarlo. All boys get mad with cars, and there you see the really most luxurious-ones. Then Pablo said at once : It’s just as well that Grandad let us his new navy blue Volswagen Passat, with our Renault 11 we would have looked ridiculous. When we arrived at Florence, we chose to have dinner in a very nice restaurant with six daily menus to choose from. We read them and some dishes sounded bizarre. No one wanted to taste Penne alla Italiana for instance, it seemed disgusting. Then I suggested asking for the six different menus and so, each of us could try all specialities. All of us accepted that amusing way of having dinner but just at that moment Manuel said : Here I read sausages and it’s just what I want. We tried to convince him but he said flat : “ I don’t share my sausages with anybody”. We all said : you’ve got a nerve !!. But he replied again : “ I don’t share my sausages with anybody “ The waiter looked at us in astonishment thinking what a bizarre family !!. The dishes went up and down, from the left to the right side of the table and vice-versa. The last dish to be served was Manuel’s. All of us were expecting the forbidden sausages and when they arrived we looked at him.


The famous sausages dish was actually a big amount of white beans with a small sausage on the top, and for dinner !!. It looked lousy. Manuel’s face looked serious and very unfriendly. We couldn’t stop laughing. He got upset and disappointed. Unexpectedly Pablo started singing : “ I don’t share my sausage with anybody “.

(Rosa Abascal)


The Blue Dress Africa Gondra Bolado

It was going to be a good day. There must have been something in the air because I could smell it perfectly. I slowly opened my eyes and took a quick look around and a deep breath. Everything was exactly as it had been the day before and every other day of that summer, but for me every single thing had a special shine that day. It wasn’t something I could explain easily but it was there. It was early when I woke up but my body was still adjusting to the time difference and waking up p later than 6.30am was impossible. I could feel the wet grass under my toes while I was walking towards the showers. I enjoyed every drop of the warm water that came out of the tap, which was a reward for waking up so early and, of course, before anyone else. The sun was rising and I couldn’t stop smiling. I walked slowly back to my cabent and got dressed in silence, trying not to wake up any of my campers or the other counselor who was sleeping right next to me. “You look great”- said a tiny blonde head that was staring at me from the top bunk. I looked at myself on a small mirror and smiled. I certainly did. At first, I had refused to wear that dress but I had made a promise with my best friends and even though they weren’t there, I had never thought of breaking it. It was a plain blue dress and I had to admit that it seemed made for me. I couldn’t understand why I had to wear it that day. I suddenly remembered what the card that had come with the dress said. “Let it help you achieve your dreams”. How could a dress help me? Nothing of that made any sense. “You’re gonna be late”- the blonde head was staring at me again. Late, for what? It was only 7.15am, how could I be late for anything? I looked back to that tiny head waiting for an answer but it looked like she had fallen asleep again. Suddenly, I remembered that I was assigned at the pool before breakfast that day. I grabbed a towel and started to run. I don’t know how I did it but I certainly arrived on time. Everyone was already there but I wasn’t late and that was the only thing that mattered. I looked around me and I realised that everyone was staring at me and that there were more people that I thought there would be. Someone had told me the day before that the rumour had spread really fast. Without realising what I was doing, I started to walk towards my friends with a big smile on my face. I sat next to them and started receiving compliments of all kinds. I felt secure next to them. There were so many staff members at the pool that morning that I could sit down and watch the kids playing because my help was totally unneeded.


I looked to my right and saw him getting out of the pool, he gave me a quick look and jumped again inside. I smiled. He had been my goal for the past weeks. Maybe that goal was the dream my friends were talking about. How could they know? Of course they knew it, they were my best friends! I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I made up my mind and made a decision. That day was going to be his last chance. I had waited enough. I knew he liked me and I was sure he knew that I liked him back. I was tired of waiting and waiting. And by the way those other guys were looking at me it was not going to be difficult to find someone else. What? That was not me. I was not the kind of girl that thinks those things about guys. What was happening to me? I needed to have breakfast, so many things without food in my stomach were giving me a headache. And there he was again, looking at me. He was staring without a word. Being simply himself, Max. Why couldn’t he make a first move? We had been playing this game for too long and I was tired. There it was again! That was not me! I felt weird since I had put that dress on. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea. I went down the hill with my campers for breakfast and everything seemed normal. We chatted and decided what we wanted to do during the day. Going back to the pool was the first option but we also wanted to go to the beach because it looked like it was going to be a beautiful sunny day. I made a note for myself and decided to take the dress off before going anywhere with the girls. Too risky, I added. A pair of shorts and a t-shirt would be more appropriate and, of course, much more comfortable. I told the girls to go up and change while I did a few things and then we could spend the morning together. I took the stairs to get to the top because they were normally cleaner than the muddy road. He was there. Staring, like always. He smiled and I smiled back. I tried to remember when we started to play this game. I was sure it hadn’t been that summer, maybe the one before. It was always the same way. We were alone, he was about to say something and he would stay in silence or somebody would appear or whatever. I was starting to get tired. There had been other guys in my life and girls in his but when the summer came it was only him and me. My friends were right, I had to achieve my dreams and that was my dream. That was going to be the last day, his last chance. I had waited for too long. I stopped, looked at him and asked myself how was I going to tell him; but when I saw the way he was looking at me I knew he had understood everything perfectly. That was something I loved about us, with only a glance we could say so many things. “I knew today was the day”- he said. He smiled and looked away. How could he have known? I didn’t even know it myself! How could he? This morning was being too weird. I ran upstairs, went to my cabent, changed my clothes and headed


to the pool to meet my girls. I needed a break and nothing could make me feel better than a couple of hours in the water. My girls were waiting for me in front of the fence and I helped them with their stuff before getting inside. There were a lot of campers over there waiting, mostly girls. Chris must be on duty, was my only thought. That made me happy. Chris was above everything my best friend and talking with him for a couple of minutes would make me feel better. From time to time we would think of the possibility of being more than friends but we would always deny it because we knew our friendship was one of the most important things we had in our lives. He was everything that a girl would want and even more. For me, he was simply Chris and thinking of him like something more than a brother was too weird. Although, we had promised to ourselves that if we couldn’t find our true love before we turned 30, we would get married. Who could love me more than my best friend? And our kids would be gorgeous. That’s something we both liked joking about when his mom was around. She certainly loved me. Chris jumped from the trampoline when he saw me and dived all the way to where I was standing to get out of the water, shook his head and smiled me in a sexy way. The girls outside the fence started to faint and I laughed at him as I always did when he tried to impress me. He looked at me and asked why I seemed worried. I explained to him that I was tired and that I was considering giving it up with Max. I knew he was shocked. He knew how many things I had done for him and that didn’t seem reasonable but he was my best friend and he understood I was tired. We never used to talk about our feelings for other people to each other because we were really confused of the strength of the feelings between us but once we realised that friendship was the strongest feeling, things turned out to be much easier. He was worried because he knew that I only told him about Max because he was really important for me. We tended not to talk about the people we dated if they weren’t going to stay in our lives. And Max and I weren’t even dating. I didn’t want to worry him but that issue was driving me crazy. I knew he could understand me perfectly and his silence was the best answer, followed by a hug and a big smile. There it was, Chris was making his magic again. Suddenly, Chris changed his mind. I felt it because we were still hugging. I looked at his face and searched for what he was looking at. Max was standing in front of us. Anyone that didn’t know us wouldn’t have found anything strange but maybe understood everything the wrong way. Max knew he shouldn’t be jealous of Chris and Chris didn’t have any major problem with Max. The problem was Max being at the pool at that time in the morning. I had asked him millions of times to come to the pool with us and he had never done it. He preferred to go rock-climbing or to help the kids feed the animals in the nature centre. But that day he was there, in the pool and I hadn’t asked him to come. That was what Chris found so shocking. At first, I didn’t know how to handle the situation but I decided not to think about it. Maybe he just wanted to go for a swim. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. Although he must have known that I was going to be there that period.


A whistle was the signal that told us that it was time to start working. We divided all the children into groups. It was only me to help all those kids with their swimming technique because Max was making sure that the 3 youngest ones didn’t draw before midday. I loved teaching kids how to swim but those were certainly too many. I got into the pool and with a few floatable toys, the promise of Chris to help me from the lifeguard’s chair as much as he could and a big smile; I ended up having a great time with all those kids but once I got out I could hardly breathe. Another whistle told the campers it was time to head for their cabents and get ready for lunch. I had spent little time with my campers but I had made sure they had a great time playing with other kids and I was sure they had thousands of things to tell me during lunch. I didn’t want to turn around. I knew he was staring. I knew it was time to talk and I didn’t want to. Not that day unless he really had something to say. He looked changed. He came to talk to me and didn’t seem nervous. He asked if I was thinking of wearing the dress the whole day and when he got the answer he looked disappointed, but only for a second. He understood it wasn’t appropriate for a camp. We went to the dinning hall together talking and laughing. This kind of things made it so difficult for me not to change my mind about this last chance but I had made a decision and I had to be faithful to it. I left him at the south door and I went to the north one where I was supposed to be meeting my girls. They were already waiting for me and, as I had supposed, they had a million things to share. We enjoyed an awesome meal arguing about water fights, sun burns and parties. They were great kids and I was having an incredible time with them. Chris and another friend of mine came to my table and handed me something. I couldn’t see what it was because it was surrounded by bags and tape everywhere but they said that they were sure I was going to like it. I didn’t have time to ask why because they had already gone. After almost 15 minutes of unwrapping, I finally opened it. They were right, I loved it. A card and tons of chocolate. I ran towards them and gave them a huge hug. They were great friends. To their present followed a bunch of letters from my friends that were back home. A treasure. The afternoon was relaxing and I spent most of the time with my girls. We swam in the lake, looked for rocks, lay in the sun… We had an amazing time together. The girls were ecstatic for dinner and we were waiting in front of the door before anyone else. The food was really tasty but my campers couldn’t wait for the announcements. They helped me clean up and ran to my boss to remind her what she had to do. Of course, she hadn’t forgotten. Slowly all the counselors in the area were in a line behind my boss. They danced all over the dinner until they reached my place. It took them a while to paddle me because many of my friends couldn’t resist paddling me for a bit. Everyone sang, I blew my


candle and went back with my girls. We laughed and ate the cake while the directors tried to explain what we were doing that evening. The girls wanted to go and buy some candy and asked me to wait for them back in our cabent. I headed to the south door and met Chris and the guys over there. Chris’ new girlfriend and her friends were reading horoscopes and we decided to join them and laugh for a bit. She was a nice girl and a friend of mine but she was really scaring us trying to find if her horoscope and Chris’ were compatible and a thousand more things. After a couple of minutes during which she said no word but her face changed every second, she decided to give an opportunity to their relationship. Chris looked at me asking for an explanation but I could do nothing but laugh. Max really had understood what I had tried to say that morning because he was everywhere I went. He was now standing right next to me and Chris gave me a look that meant I should be careful. Chris knew the game we had been playing and loved me too much to let anyone hurt me. I smiled, my decision was still unbreakable but I didn’t know until when. I gave a bite to his ice-cream and gave him a small smile. He smiled back and invited me to head back to the hill where we should be in a couple of minutes. We walked slowly talking about nothing. When we were about to say goodbye, he reminded me that night we were going to hang out together. How could I have forgotten it? But I remembered that was something that happened a few nights a week and that we weren’t going to be alone but with a lot of friends. Why did he say it then? He was driving me crazy. I had a fantastic evening with my girls doing a couple of water fights and by the end I was so tired that I couldn’t remember how I got to the shower safely. I was about to put my pyjamas on when I remembered that was my night off. We were just going to stay in the staff lodge, play cards and maybe go down to the beach for a while. I put a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, hanged up my hair in a ponytail and looked for my glasses. I had taken my contacts off and I was too tired to put them back on. Max was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. He was on the right path. He had that look on his eyes, the one that says that he wanted to do the things right. He was looking at me as if there was nothing else in miles around and I could only think that I looked horrible. He didn’t seem to think the same because as soon as I reached him, he grabbed me from the waist and we started to walk to the staff lodge. Soon, we met another friend and we started joking as we always did. He was still grabbing me from the waist and it didn’t look like he was going to let me go. The other guy said something against me and Max tried to punch him on the face. I stopped him. What was happening? He murmured a quite sorry and walked away from Max and me. He asked me why I was still friends with that guy if he said things like that. And I told him he was just kidding and that was something he did too, often. “He doesn’t love you as much as I do”- that was all that he said. I had no clue if he was serious or not because it was all dark. We soon arrived at the staff lodge and decided to play cards with Chris and his new girlfriend who were always


fun. She gave me a quick glance and murmured something. Chris didn’t hear her and came to give me a hug. He was like a huge bear that needed tons of love every second. Her girlfriends always used to see in me a threat and not a friend but I wished this one was a bit more intelligent although there was nothing that affirmed my theory by the way she was staring at us. I took the chocolates out of the bag and we started to eat, laugh and play. It was being an awesome night except for the fact that those chocolates came with a small paper that said things like “kiss somebody” or “looking good”. It was then that I understood why Chris wanted me to save them for the night. The papers were ok but Max and I were all the time getting the “kiss somebody” ones and it was starting to be a bit of a violent situation. I had realised that all the impressions that Max had given me that day were wrong and we only had 15 minutes before we were supposed to head back to our cabents with our campers. I excused myself and decided to go to the beach to check if I had any new messages in my cell phone from my friends. Max asked me to wait for him. We went to the dock and sat in a bench that had a great view of the beach. We had been there before. Just both of us, talking. I repeated to myself that it was his last chance. I wasn’t going to wait any longer. We both sat on the bench and looked at the stars. He didn’t find that position comfortable and preferred to lie and rest his head on my legs. He started to talk about his feelings for me and the entire situation. I couldn’t believe that was actually happening and I did nothing but play with his hair. It was not an embarrassing situation. It was pure and serene. Talking about our feelings was the right thing we had to do in that right moment. That was our moment and I knew that night nobody was going to come and interrupt us. It was only Max and me. The taste of chocolate that impregnated every kiss and the promises we made. It had been his last chance and he had done the right thing. At that moment, I realised that had been the night, it couldn’t have been any other. Maybe the dress helped, maybe he thought Chris was a threat or maybe he understood I wasn’t going to wait forever. I closed my eyes and felt everything around me. It all still had that shine. The shine things have on a great day. Without asking for it, I got what everyone wants. I got love. From my friends, my family and from Max. I enjoyed the best birthday ever. I discovered the magic of a simple plain blue dress.


A FUNNY TRIP (Diana) We had a long vacation period, so my boyfriend and me decided to make a trip to the cheapest place the plane could get us, which happened to be Frankfurt. I thought it would be wonderful to stay in a colder place during the Christmas holiday but I was definitely wrong. You will see. The plane arrived at a snowy and cloudy airport, so it was starting well according to our planning. Although it was incredibly cold, we were still confident. But with the first hot dog eaten while waiting for the coach to reach the city two hours later, we started to think if it had been a good idea or just destiny. In fact it was not as much fun as we had imagined up to this moment while we travelled in a soporific old coach. Whenever I reserve a flight I have the feeling of a short-time journey. But at the end, it is more boring than going by car because you don’t have the opportunity to change anything, not even to move inside that means of transport. So being destroyed, we arrived at the hopefully wonderful 4-star hotel‌and it was crappy too! After having been searching for it for a long time because, at the end, it is not as easy as it seems to be doing it via the internet, they can cheat you as any other searcher does. And it was particularly hot (not warm or friendly) but not very comfortable or new. Anyway, apart from those technical problems, the town was not so different to any other European and lineal city. And the weather forces you to stay inside the hotel much more than to visit it. To sum my first Christmas trip up, I keep the good memories and the good mood to face the experience. Wherever we go, that’s what we need to find happiness.


THE MAGIC COUNTRY

by

Mª José Escudero

I was going to be seven when we arrived in Marselle. My mother and I had had a long and exhausting journey but finally, there we were in “La France”, the mythical France where everybody had a car, every home a television and where all the people could enjoy themselves freely. There we were, where many Spaniards had moved to escape from poverty or simply to live far from Franco´s dictatorship and there we were to spend Christmas season with our Spanish immigrant relatives. I had never seen such a big train station -it was enormous- and my mother hadn´t seen her brother for ages. Both were a little apprehensive beforehand. There were people all over the place coming and going aimlessly and I was so puzzled that I clung to my mother´s hand nervously but I realized she was as lost as I was. Fortunately, among the crowd a cheerful and familiar voice named us and at that very moment all our anxiety disappeared. It was the most wintry day in all that winter: dark, cold and windy. It was freezing and it was Christmas Eve. My mother´s brother lived on the outskirts of the city in a small but solidly built house which was ideally located: it nestled cosily in the middle of an unspoilt pineforest and quite near an icy lake where only a few wild ducks seemed to enjoy. The day was getting dark and I felt as if I were in a Christmas picture. I only missed the falling snow. We received a hearty welcome at the door. All our relatives and acquaintances with their smiling faces were getting in line to greet us. I was squezed and I had my cheeks full with wet kisses –three kisses per person as French tradition requires- My mother thanked them for their kindness and hospitality but I couldn´t utter a word. There were twenty of them altogether including three rowdy dogs and an apparently lovely cat. They were staring at me as if I was the most interesting person they had ever met. Obviously I was delighted. Indoors everything was ready for dinner and everyone was willing to enjoy the night. Later, hardly had we finished our special supper when the doorbell rung. Then, out of the blue, a peculiar chubby man with a long white beard and dressed in red turned up on the doorstep. I couldn´t believe my girlish eyes. It was Papa Noel in person and he was coming straight to me, calling my name and bringing me a very, very pretty “poupée”, just the doll I had asked for in my letter for The Three Wise Men. Oh my God! Papa Noel was really wise. How could he know what I wanted? Everybody gave me a knowing look and I felt over the moon. That night I didn´t stop tossing and turning in bed . I was looking forward to telling my little Spanish friends that France was really a Magic Country.


SLICES OF LIFE (AND PAIN) 2

The bricklayer and the barrel. When I was building my house, back in the nineties, this peculiar thing is what happened to this guy who was supposed to be laying bricks. That is what he told me. A strong wind had knocked off and broken some bricks on the top. So he rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a barrel to be loaded with the broken bricks. He hoisted the barrel back up and secured the line at the bottom, and then he went up and filled the barrel with broken bricks. Then, he went to the bottom and cast off the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was heavier than he was, and before he knew what was happening, the barrel started going down, jerking him off the ground. He decided to hang on, and halfway up he met the barrel coming down, and received a severe blow on the shoulder. He then continued to the top, when he got to the top he banged his head against the beam and got his fingers jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground, it burst its bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out. Now, of course, he was heavier than the barrel, so he started falling down at high speed. Halfway down he met the barrel coming up, and received severe injury on his back. When he hit the ground he landed on the bricks, getting several painful cuts from the sharp edges. At this point he let go the line. The barrel came down, giving him another heavy blow on the head that finally put him to hospital. MIGUEL GOMEZ HIGUERA


INNOCENCE (Mila) There have always been nightmares, unknown terrors, hallucinations, but at the age of six I didn´t even know the meaning of these words. Have you ever listened to the voice of the night inviting you to fall into a deep sleep? Sure you have. It was a dark night. I was wandering around a long narrow street, looking for someone to tell me the way back home. I just could perceive my own breathing and my heart beating. Suddenly, at the other end of the street there was a group of people staring at a stone wall. I moved towards them, but they didn´t realize I was there.” Please, please, can you help me”, I cried desperately. They went on looking at the wall with a blank look on their faces. Then they left the scene. I was hopelessly shaking with fear. There was only a long dark narrow street and a never-ending wall. Hanging on it, there was a picture, a portrait of a girl. She was staring at my anguish. I tried to avoid her gaze but I couldn´t. I was mysteriously attached to her. My horror increased when she opened her mouth and left her tongue out. I felt horrified by the view and tried to run away up the never ending street. The voice of the night turned kind and friendly. She invited me to the bright of the day and my childlike monsters disappeared. Two days later my mum suggested me that I should visit my friend the doctor because I had strongly decided never to sleep again. I tried to explain to the doctor the story of my nightmare. Smiling sympathetically, he prescribed me “Magic pills against bad dreams”. Of course they really worked. Thirty five years later I wish I could have kept one of them in my pocket.


A SLICE OF MY LIFE, RAQUEL GOMEZ VALVERDE. A TRIP TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD Once I was invited by a friend who was living in Thailand to visit her. I was so excited, about the airplane, the country, culture…and about jail. Yes, jail. What do we hear on TV nowadays? All the information that it gives us, “DO NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG IN THAILAND OR YOU DO NOT COME BACK ANYMORE TO YOUR COUNTRY”. Most of my friends were warning me._”Be careful with your luggage, do not leave it alone, carry it yourself…”_I think too many people had watched Bridget Jones. Anyway, I took my plane and during my flight I was watching through the window and thinking about the different countries below me, their culture, their wars..How different are humans? After a nice landing I packed all my belongings and of course, the air company blanket…Why did I do it? It was awful when I had to pass through security control. How stupid I was! I was nervous and sweating all the time thinking of that stupid blanket. The ten days' vacation was wonderful but I knew I had to visit Bangkok airport my last day, which means security controls. It was not easy to go to the airport. My taxi driver was so disoriented and his car so old, I almost didn’t arrive on time. When he parked, the car started to smoke. I just gave him a few coins from my wallet and I started to run to check-in. Once in the queue I was thinking of the driver, maybe the money was not enough; uff… maybe he is looking for me now. The airport isfull of people, policemen with their dogs… It was time for security, and my heart was beating so quickly and a knot in my throat didn’t allow me to swallow properly… Once in the airplane, I knew I was 12 hours closer to my house, my sweet home.


THE BOMB IS STILL ALIVE (Ruth)

On August 6th, 1945, the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima. She was five, and it was very warm. She was born in 1940 and now she lives in London….well…I think so, because she was my neighbour five years ago in London. Yukino was her name and she told me what happened at the time of the bombing. She was in the hospital that day as her mother was a nurse. At 8.15 the sound of the propellers of B-29’s came to her ears from the blue sky. The plane came closer and closer toward the hospital. She saw it drop a big block just above her. Instantly she felt fearful. Her mother ran into her room right away. The moment she tried to track the dropping object again a pallid glow flashed. She also heard something snap. She felt more pain than heat from the flash. When she came to she was under the crumpled hospital. She thought it was already night time, but in fact she was surrounded by clouds of dust. Frequently spurting flames made the area bright, but at the same time increased the heat. Yukino told me that her mother was seriously injured with numerous glass chips jabbed in the breast- while preparing a cup of tea -. She had no other choice except to repeatedly shout for help. Before long, she noticed someone approaching from the direction of the river running behind the hospital. “It looked like a red ogre.” She said. The body was entirely burnt. It was a naked female with blisters all over her skin. The skin hung peeled off here and there. She took Yukino and her mum to a safer place. Then, she died. Because the fires weakened due to the rain, her mother was able to carry her on her back toward their home along the river –bank. Houses under the bank collapsed and were on fire. Such a chaotic situation forced evacuating sufferers to choose that path. Someone was coming that way dragging obi (belt for kimono). After looking closely she realized that the obi was the intestine that had been blown out of his stomach. Another man was covering his face with his hands as he was walking. He stumbled and one of his eyes popped out of his socket and hung far below his cupped hands. A crying baby was clinging to her mother who was lying dead on the ground. She suffered many physical symptoms: high fever, severe diarrhoea, hair loss, bleeding through gum and pores, pain all over the body, many purple spots and the blood vessels turning whitish. But they survived…..and her name is Yukino, (which symbolizes luck) and she was five when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, on August 6 th , 1945.


She had had a hell of a day. Lately, her working shifts seemed endless, specially on Fridays. It had all started with her father illness and, although he had already got over it, his long stay in hospital had left her a deep mark. Only country life appeared to relax her. For this reason, her husband had decided to spend a week end there every month. He would pick her up at seven and she was looking forward to that moment because she knew that the trip meant a relaxing nap. She left her work. It was pitch dark and raining heavily, but she could see her husband´s car parked in the usual place. She approached it, opened the door, got in and just uttered “Hello”. She was too tired for anything else; besides, this was her habitual behaviour and he was used to it. After a while, and in spite of being asleep, she realized that the car had stopped So, she thought, we have already arrived. Then, she opened her eyes slowly and was about to kiss her old man when a scream came out of her throat. She was terrified. It wasn´t him. She tried to unfasten the seat belt and run away but a sound stopped her. It was the muttering of the guy sitting next to her who, using words barely audible, was repeating: “Oh, my wife…, where is she?” Although you may think it unbelievable, this is the way she met her second husband. (Teresa)

2007-2008 1st term  

2007-2008 1st term

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