Here is my first Podcast story in print, for those of you who prefer the written word to the spoken word. If you stumbled across this page and would like to hear the podcast version, you can find a link after the story.
Flipflop – by James Dunford
Ljubica Marić felt a familiar knot in her gut as the new arrivals began stepping gingerly onto the gang plank, their suitcases and carry-ons trundling precariously behind them.
For thirty five years, she had held herself aloof, spurning the advances of all, determined that her destiny lay not with the unsophisticated masculinity and ubiquitous chauvinism endemic in her dwindling island community, but rather in the arms of some cultured European, in a city where every face belonged to a stranger, every meal brought fantastic new flavours and the smell of carbon laced the air from a thousand, shiny motor cars.
She walked quickly back to her guest house, the angry buzz of a passing scooter the only hint of traffic. Rows of crumbling, empty houses stood in varying states of decline, the summerhouses of the middle-class and the derelict cottages of deceased islanders, their long-departed children locked in bitter disputes over the decaying shells of idyllic childhood homes.
She waited behind the counter, the front door open, as a small group of tourists meandered past the redundant schoolhouse where the music of children’s laughter was nothing more than a fading memory and the harsh calls of the bickering gulls that nested in the broken rooftop augmented the air of abandonment.
As the tourists drew closer, their wrinkled faces and sagging jowls brought a crushing sense of disappointment to Ljubica, hidden though it was behind the broad smile on her pretty, pointed face. Prince Charming was not to be found amidst this latest bunch of geriatric holidaymakers, nor, she realised at last, would he be amongst the next.
In a moment that was as out of character as it was defining, she stepped out from behind the counter and went outside to meet the approaching group.
“Sorry, so sorry,” she said in halting English, “no rooms.” The elderly tourists departed, grumbling amongst themselves as they made off towards the nearby hotel. Ljubica watched them leave for a moment then checked her watch and ran back inside.
From the top of her wardrobe she took down a dusty, old-fashioned suitcase that she had never had occasion to use, threw in a few hastily gathered clothes, a black and white photograph of her parents on their wedding day, and an envelope containing her birth certificate and identity card.
From the larder she retrieved a large stone jar and took out a roll of money tied with a red shoelace. She stuffed her meagre life savings into her purse and putting the case outside, locked the guest house door for what she sincerely hoped would be the last time in her life.
She stepped on to the ferry with two minutes to spare, taking a seat at the very front. As mutinous tears rolled down her angry, determined cheeks, she forced laughter to spite them and vowed to herself she would never look back.
If destiny would not come to her, she reasoned, she would just have to go out and find it.