Pippa chewed noisily on a piece of gum as she tried to remember Chico without success – just a blank fuzzy face. Would he remember her?
‘Do you have to chew that foul stuff? You do know what it’s made from, don’t you?’
Pippa stuck her tongue out behind her father’s back. He was always grumpy when driving on the opposite side of the road. They were off on their annual family holiday to Ampurias in Spain.
‘I wonder if Maria and Carlos have changed…’ mused her mother out loud. ‘And who was that boy who took a shine to you, Pippa?’
Pippa’s face turned the colour of a thunderous sky.
‘Chico!’ piped up little brother.
‘Shut up,’ she prodded him between the ribs and watched his bottom lip tremble.
‘Well, it’s true, you love Chico – I heard you say so on the phone.’
‘Stop spying on me, you little rat. Mum, please tell him he shouldn’t listen into my conversations.’
‘And you wrote in in your diary.’
Pippa’s mouth opened and closed like their goldfish, Bob. ‘You’ve been reading my diary? It’s locked.’
‘I know where you keep your key. In your knicker drawer. So there.’
‘Now, Edwin,’ scolded her mother, turning round to prise Pippa’s hands from around her little brother’s neck. ‘I don’t think you should read Pippa’s private property. Now, say you are sorry.’
‘Shan’t, she goes routing in your drawers when you are out. Why can’t I?’
Her mother shot her a look, and Pippa released her hold. ‘I was looking for something…’ She burnt up, remembering find the packet of condoms in her father’s bedside table and feeling sick at the thought.
‘Well, you have to set the example, Pippa. You’re the eldest; you can’t blame Edwin if he copies you.’
They passed the rest of the journey in silence.
Pippa couldn’t wait to unfold herself from the car. Within 30 minutes she’d showered and dressed in a bright lemon sundress she’d begged her mother to buy her. It was strappy at the shoulders and had an elasticated bodice that helped give her flat chest some shape. The hem stopped just below the knee.
‘That looks nice, love. Look even better with a tan.’ Her mother pulled a tank top over Edwin’s head. It was a little too tight, and she caught his ear.
‘Ow!’ Edwin complained.
‘Sorry, dear, but it looks sweet? Doesn’t it, Pippa?’
‘He looks like a dork!’ Pippa shook her wet hair and ran her fingers through, air-drying it in the sun. ‘I’m going off down to the village… to see Maria.’
‘Oh yes,’ her mother levelled her eyes on her. ‘Well, that’s great, you can take Edwin while Dad and I unpack.’
‘No buts. You will do as you are told. Here, take some money and buy Edwin an ice cream. We are going to have a lovely holiday!’
Pippa’s heart was beating so loud as they walked into the dusty centre with the only café for miles. Edwin grasped her hand, and she wished she could hide him somewhere. She adjusted her bodice and pulled out her best smile. A group of boys were sitting on the wall, but without her glasses she couldn’t make them out.
‘There’s Chico!’ shouted Edwin excitedly.
‘Shut up.’ Pippa squeezed his hand tighter.
She sauntered to the wall as Chico came into focus. Long dark hair nestled on his brown neck and he lifted his sunglasses an inch off his nose. A wide grin spread across his face. He sat on the wall. From one foot dangled a worn flip-flop. Her palms felt sweaty, and she licked at her dry lips.
‘Hello, Chico!’ beamed Edwin.
Chico nodded as the other boys wandered away, snickering behind their hands.
Pippa couldn’t speak and even if she did, he wouldn’t understand. Did he remember her?
‘English girl, yes?’ Chico pulled a cigarette from behind his ear and offered it to her. Pippa shook her head.
‘Ah, no, too young to smoke? Yes?’
She started to protest as a Spanish girl in bare feet ran up to Chico. He swept her into his arms and kissed her full on the lips. Edwin stared at Chico and then at Pippa.
‘He’s snogging another girl,’ declared Edwin.
‘Shut up, Edwin.’ Pippa pulled him towards the café, trying to stem the hot tears that pricked at her eyes. Edwin pulled himself up onto the seat and leant his elbows on the table, chin on his hands.
She pulled her shoulders back. ‘I’m not bothered. There are plenty more fish in the see.’ She didn’t really believe that; her heart was breaking, but she had to put on a brave face, otherwise he’d only tell Mum. ‘If you promise not to say a word, you can build me a sandcastle and then stamp all over it. That will make me feel better.’ She would visualise Chico’s gorgeous face staring back at her.
Edwin looked up at her with wide eyes. ‘And I promise not to read your soppy book ever again.’ He stuck out his tongue.
Pippa half laughed and half sobbed and then held out her hand. ‘Deal. I’m done with soppy. Now what about that ice cream?’