Cathy Vella’s New Short Story – Sunrise in Capaddocia

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Sunrise in Cappadocia


Cathy Vella

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The coach was unbearably warm, despite being advertised as fully air con.  Brian fiddled with the air vent above them for at least half of the journey, which meant his growing gut and sweaty armpit continually invaded Hannah’s personal space.  He seemed to invade her space a lot these days.  Just being in the same room was enough to bug her sometimes.

Since the kids left home they lived separate lives, so they booked the holiday to try and find some common ground. They needed something to enjoy together, but it meant that now she had no escape from him.  She swore that if he messed about with the air con one more time she would smash his face in.

A rancid smell wafted into her nostrils.  It made her retch.

“Jesus Christ, Brian, is that you?”

“Sorry, love, it’s all this spicy food I’m eating.”

Hannah’s lip curled in distaste and she looked out of the window.  The sky had turned a deep blue and was now discernable against the rocky horizon.

“Leave the bloody air con alone, Brian.”

“How long now?  We’ve been stuffed on here for ages.”  He heaved back into his seat.

Hannah looked at her watch, the watch that Brian had bought her for their last wedding anniversary.  It wasn’t the one she wanted, it was a cheaper version and it made her wrist itch.

“We’ve been on here forty minutes, not long now.”

They sat in silence for the next twenty minutes.  Brian regularly jostling around in his seat, fiddling with his crotch, letting off more farts, groaning and generally getting on Hannah’s nerves.

The bus finally came to a stop, and the travellers started moving around, chatting, and grabbing bags.

“Ok, ladies and gentleman, thank you for your patience, and welcome.  If you would all like to get off the coach and gather near the door, we’ll have a short talk about the area then head off on our walk.”

“I’ll get the bags luv.” Brian stood up, unleashing the journey’s stock of farts from their resting place.

The air outside the coach was still and warm.  The rep chatted about the valley but didn’t tell Hannah anything that she hadn’t already read in the Rough Guide.

They walked, they observed, they waited for sunrise, but they didn’t chat much.  Brian seemed very impressed with the views.  He couldn’t tell that she was still seething because of his embarrassing behaviour the night before in the hotel bar.

Hannah’s mind was elsewhere, planning a life that could have been, different choices she should have made; pursued maybes and what ifs.  She imagined herself in another life, with another man, in another place.  She felt no twinge of guilt at her imagined infidelity.

Ahead of them walked the young couple that had got on the coach last.  They were staying at one of the cave hotels.  Brian said they couldn’t stay in a cave hotel as they had already paid for their accommodation and it would be a waste of money.

Hannah watched the young woman, in her perfectly fitted summer dress; her hair was tied back with not a strand out of place, her face was without make-up and flawless.  The heat didn’t seem to bother her either.  Hannah felt at her armpits, they were soaking, and what bit of makeup she was wearing had run.

She watched the couple, how they moved perfectly around one another, gently touching each other as they moved.  How they caught each other’s eye, smiled, exchanged something that didn’t need words.  They were like two butterflies dancing around one another.

She had wanted this, but Brian wasn’t like a butterfly, they were like…oh she didn’t know what they were like but they weren’t butterflies.  They were those stags that crash horns. No, even they were majestic and purposeful in their movements.  She decided Brian was more like a baboon, yes, a baboon flinging shit around a cage.

“Ooo, love, take a look at this.” Brian beckoned her over and handed her the binoculars.  He pointed in the distance.  “Look at the light, how it moves across the rock, changing the colour of everything.”

“I don’t need binoculars to see that.” Hannah grabbed them anyway and scanned the horizon, closing in on the young couple that had wandered off into the distance.  She was surprised to see that they both wore wedding rings.

She handed the binoculars back to Brian and he moved nearer the edge of the viewpoint for another look.  Hannah considered what might happen if he fell, if she helped him fall.  Was it far enough for him to die instantly? Probably not. Knowing her luck she’d just end up with him in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.  Was that irony?  She wasn’t sure.

“I don’t feel so good, luv. I might head back to the coach.” Brian hung the binoculars around his neck.

“We’ve only just got here for goodness sake.”

Hannah watched as the blood drained from his face. He dropped to his knees, letting out a barrage of farts.

“Get up Brian, you fool!”

“I ca – oh, Jesus.”

“You’re showing me up, get up for goodness sake.”

Brian’s tanned face now looked ashen and Hannah saw the fear in his eyes. She knelt beside him.

‘What is it?”

“Paaain…” he clutched at his left arm.

The young woman with flawless hair appeared from behind and her young man placed his hand on Hannah’s shoulder. The woman bent over Brian.

“I’m Sue, now try to breathe easy.  I’m a doctor.  Where is the pain?”

Brian clutched at his arm. The doctor removed his binoculars and camera, and undid his shirt. A group began to gather and fuss.  Another woman sat fanning Brian.  Hannah wasn’t sure how she felt, and she realised that she didn’t know what to do.  Everyone seemed to move around them, to organise, to help, but she just sat next to Brian doing nothing. The rep was on the phone, she recognised the word …ambulansa.  Then the tears came.

“What’s your name?”

“Hannah.”  She realised the doctor wasn’t talking to her.  “Oh, his name’s Brian.”

They had missed the sunrise.  She wondered if it would be Brian’s last one.  He had even ruined that for her.  She was comforted by how organised and decisive everyone was; she just felt numb.

She held Brian’s hand in the ambulance.

“It’s going to be ok, love.” he promised.

She hoped so.

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