Technology Terrace (November story)

Technology Terrace

Lisa called it technology terrace.  The terrace of the fast-food chain at the top of the hill overlooked the bay and it was the place everyone with a computer or iPhone came to check their e-mails, Skype their friends or generally surf the net.  It wasn’t the only place in the beautiful beach resort that offered free wi-fi, but it was the one with the loveliest view, she thought, as she gazed out over the sunlit Mediterranean, watching diamonds of light dancing on blue water.

The terrace was full with families, the children eating ice-cream while their mums sipped coffee or cola chatted and worked on their laptops, tablets or phones.  Lisa frowned as she set up her iPad. What terrible news would her e-mails bring her today?

It was the first week of her holiday. She’d come away with her best friend Melissa to get over breaking up with her boyfriend Marc. Her whole world had unravelled when he dumped her for a long-legged blonde with modelling aspirations. ‘Eye candy’ Melissa called her. ‘No conversation at all’, she said, but Lisa’s heart ached at the memory of him. “I’m off men,” she said to Melissa. “I’m not looking for a holiday romance.”

“Of course not,” Melissa said, although Lisa knew Melissa thought that was what holiday’s were invented for.   “No men. Just you, me, sun, sand and Sangria. Two weeks in the sun and you’ll have forgotten all about him.”

Lisa wasn’t sure she believed her, but Melissa had put on her upside down face and Lisa giggled, unable to resist. So they’d booked the holiday. Then Lisa heard that her mother had been taken into hospital. “I’ll cancel,” She said but her mother wouldn’t hear of it.

“Don’t be daft,” she said.  “You can’t disappoint Melissa.”

Mum was right, a wave of guilt washed over Lisa at thought of letting Mel down.

“It was a last minute booking so there’s no refund.  We’ll lose our money,” Mel said¸ “and I don’t fancy going on my own.”  There was no way out.  Her sister Ali promised to visit Mum every day and e-mail Lisa, so reluctantly she went.

Any doubts she’d had about taking the holiday evaporated when they arrived. The sun shone with healing warmth. It was a million miles away it away from home with its dreary clouds of disappointment and shattered dreams. If only she didn’t have the worry of her mum, she could relax like Melissa and enjoy herself.

Today she was deeply engrossed awaiting Ali’s daily e-mail, when the chap at the next table called out to her. Lisa glanced up.

She’d noticed him there every day.  Quite attractive, she thought, in a scruffy schoolboy way.  His face was pleasant enough but his sandy hair had a wild rumpled look about it, his t-shirt, although clean, was creased, his khaki shorts baggy and he was wearing socks with brown sandals.   She couldn’t help comparing him to Marc, suave sophisticated Marc with never a hair out of place, shirts ironed to perfection, shorts cut to flatter, who wouldn’t be seen dead in sandals, let alone with socks.  She sighed. She shouldn’t be thinking of him, after all she’d come away to forget him. At least there was no danger of getting involved with this guy.  He wasn’t her type at all.

“Sorry – what was that?” she said.

“I asked if you were connected,” he said.   “I can’t seem to get on today.  Is yours working all right?” A frown creased his brow.

Lisa checked her connection. “Hmm yes – I’m connected.”

He grimaced.  “I don’t know what wrong with it.  I’ve never had this problem before.” He gazed at Lisa with a helpless little boy lost look. Reluctantly she went over to help.

She had no trouble finding the problem. “You’re working off line,” she said. “Simple to fix.”

“Wow,” he said.  “You must be some sort of computer genius. Thanks.”

Computer genius, she thought as she returned to her table.  That’s not what Marc thinks. He’d called her a ‘geek freak’. She shuddered at the bitter sharpness of the memory.

The man shrugged again.  “I’m hopeless at this,” he said, “Thanks anyway.”   He tapped the screen a few times and glanced up again.  “Can I get you a coffee or something?” he said, “by way of thanks.”

“Really, it was nothing. I’m fine,” Lisa said attempting half a smile.

“Please.  It’s the least I can do after all your help.” He stood up. “Coffee or a cold drink if you’d prefer.”

Lisa sighed.  Ali’s e-mail was late and she didn’t know how long she’d have to wait to hear from her.  “A cold drink would be nice,” she said. “Thanks.”

‘Hopeless at this’, she thought.  Marc would never say those words.  He was expert at everything.  A scratch golfer, expert horseman, diver, aviator – you name it Marc excelled at it or thought he did.  That was the problem.  She couldn’t compete with his physical ability, but she was quick witted and academically bright.  She could beat him hands down when it came to mental agility.  He hated that.  He just couldn’t bear for her to be better at anything than him. His resentment at her achievements left a sour taste in her mouth.

The man returned with two cold drinks.  “I’m Steve, by the way,” he said.

“Lisa,” she replied.

“Hi Lisa,” he said. His lips stretched into a smile.  Hmm, he looks quite appealing when he smiles, Lisa thought.  They sat chatting while they had their drinks.  Lisa told him about her mother and how worried she was and saw genuine sympathy reflected in his face.

“Must be difficult, being so far away,” he said.  How different from Marc, she thought, all he cares about is his male pride and macho image.

Her iPad pinged.  Ali’s e-mail had arrived.  Engrossed in their e-mail exchanges she didn’t notice Steve leave, but felt strangely disappointed when she noticed he’d gone.  It felt as though she’d lost a friend.

The next day when Lisa arrived at the terrace the table she’d come to think of as ‘his table’ was occupied by a boisterous family complete with grandma and grandpa who were studying their laptop while the younger members of the family chatted over cold drinks and the children played in the playground.

Lisa glanced around at the other tables but he wasn’t there.  Shame she thought.  Today I was going to offer to buy him a drink.

It was nearing the end of their first week. Mellissa had hooked up with a bunch of young lads and was having a brilliant time taking every opportunity to try jet-skiing and snorkelling in the clear blue water.  Lisa felt a stab of envy. She wouldn’t mind a bit of fun herself.

The next day he was there again at his usual table. He was wearing a shirt that at least looked as though it had seen an iron.  Lisa took the table next to him.

He raised a hand in greeting “Hi,” he said. “It’ working today, thank goodness.  How about yours? Have you got a connection?”

She checked.  “Yes fine,” she said.  Actually when she saw him she had felt a connection but it wasn’t the sort he was talking about.

“I don’t suppose you know how to download music onto this thing do you?” he asked.  “A mate tried to show me but I can’t seem to get it right.”  His soft brown eyes reminded her of a puppy she used to have.

She swung into the chair next to him and quickly located a music website.  “Brilliant,” he said.  “I owe you another drink, coffee or cold?”

She laughed.  “My turn I think.”

But he insisted.

Ali’s e-mail was late.  Lisa was beginning to worry but it arrived just as Steve returned with the drinks.  Her heart lifted and her worries disappeared as she read it.  She turned to Steve.  “Mum’s fine now. They’ve let her home from the hospital,” she said.  “Ali’s been to collect her.”

“Fantastic,” Steve said and looked as though he genuinely meant it. “A good reason to go out and celebrate,” he said as he started packing up his things. “I don’t know what sort of music you like, but they’ve got Country Western tonight at the Sun Seekers’ on the front. What do you think?”

Just then Lisa’s iPad pinged again – it was an e-mail from Marc. ‘I’m having second thoughts,’ he said.  ‘Perhaps we could try again.’ Hmm, Miss Tall Slim and Gorgeous must have dumped him, Lisa thought. Marc hated Country music.  She tapped delete.  “I’d love to,” she said to Steve.

It wouldn’t be a romance or anything like that, just a couple of friends going out for a pleasant evening. Of course she wouldn’t tell Steve about her MSc in Computing.  That was the mistake she’d made with Marc, being smarter than him.  No, she’d play dumb and wait until she got to know him better – didn’t want to scare him off did she?

***

Steve was just packing up his things when a young lad passing by called out, “Hi Professor – you’re going to be late,”

Lisa stared at him.  “Professor?” she said, eyebrows arched.

Steve  reddened and shrugged.  “It’s just a nickname,” he said.  “I read a lot.”

Phew, that was close he thought.  He’d been watching her all week, her features taut with concentration. Fronds of dark hair fell across her face hiding her puckered brow. It’s amazing how she improves even the loveliest of views, he thought as he watched her. Pity she looks so gloomy. Then he’d had the stupidest urge to try to put a smile on her face. Such a beautiful face deserves a smile, he’d thought. Now at last he’d screwed up the courage to ask her out.  Her frown when that lad called him Professor almost blew his chances.  Well, he wasn’t going to tell her that he had a summer job teaching Computer Science at the International School, was he?  No he’d leave that until he got to know her better, which he was sure he would do after tonight.  His heart lifted at the thought. Wasn’t that what holiday’s were invented for?

If you enjoyed this story there are 20 more in The Cappuccino Collection available here.