All The Single Ladies

Encouraged by everyone, Janice went on holiday to catch a man, but found there was no one there worth catching

Janice wasn’t sure she’d done the right thing by coming on this holiday. But she’d taken Rita’s advice and booked it anyway. Rita believed it was the best way to find a man. She’d gone to Spain and come back engaged to Selwyn.

“Don’t bother with all this on-line dating,” she told Janice. “Take a nice long break. Somewhere warm and sunny. You can get some good deals off season.”

“But I’m not looking for just any man,” Janice protested. “He has to be Mr Right.”

Rita tutted and told her to get real. But she’d put the idea into Janice’s head. And a nice holiday in the sunshine did appeal.

“Go on, Mum,” her daughter, Sam told her. “Treat yourself. Enjoy retirement. A bit of sunshine will do you good.”

She hadn’t told Sam she was looking for a man. She wasn’t sure she was really.

It was just a bit of fun, the internet stuff. Gave her and Rita a bit of a laugh. But she’d been on her own for three years now and did sometimes get lonely.

She knew she was lucky, with a lovely family and her dear friend Rita. But they weren’t there all the time. Not on the long dark evenings in winter.

So here she was on the Costa Blanca in a lovely hotel in a small resort. Her room overlooked a backdrop of dark rugged mountains with the beach just across the road. She’d managed a stroll after arriving that afternoon. It was warm in the sun even though it was only April.

After a shower she put on a dress. Haven’t worn one of these for ages, she thought to herself. But Rita insisted she had to make an effort if she wanted to attract a man.

She wasn’t sure if she did or not. Want to attract a man, that was. But it was nice to have the opportunity to dress up a bit and meet some new people.

Tonight was Mix and Mingle. This event was specially laid on in the small lounge off the bar for all the singles. Get to know each other, their hostess, Julie, told them at the welcome get-together when they’d arrived.

She felt nervous, but it’s what you had to do, so Rita had said.

It was a pleasant room overlooking a floodlit garden. Soft music played in the background. A waiter handed Janice a glass of champagne from his tray.

She took a grateful slurp as she surveyed the gathering. There were more than she’d expected. Some were already forming groups, chatting loudly with the odd whoop of laughter.

You have to be bold, Rita warned. Pick the most likely man and go for it.

None of them looked very likely. But there was a tall thin one standing on his own.

Maybe. She pulled herself up straight, gripped her handbag under her arm and walked boldly over to him. Before she lost her nerve she came straight out and introduce herself.

He looked down at her and forced a smile. What am I supposed to do now? she wondered in some alarm.

So she gabbled on about the hotel, the weather, anything that came to mind. Well, they couldn’t just stand there and look at each other, could they? She was in full flow and feeling proud of herself when her companion cast a glance over her shoulder and his smile became more animated.

A slinky blonde appeared and wrapped her arm round his waist.

“Well, hello, Dwayne,” she drawled.

“This is Lavinia. We met earlier on the plane,” he told Janice, a sparkle now touching his eyes.

The blonde grinned at her, a satisfied smirk on her face.

After passing some pleasantries Janice made a hasty retreat and bumped into Walter. Or rather came into contact with a large paunch.

“Steady on, darling!” he bellowed, grabbing her by the shoulders. She wriggled free. Julie appeared in the nick of time to jolly the party along.

“Well, now, you two seem to be getting along. That’s what it’s all about,” she trilled and moved on to the next group.

Walter told her he came every year. He hadn’t met anyone special yet but he was ever hopeful.

When Julie suggested they go in for dinner Janice excused herself and dallied in the cloakroom until she was sure the coast was clear. Then she found a table in the far reaches of the enormous restaurant, finished her meal quickly and escaped to her room, certain now that booking four weeks in this hotel had been a very bad idea indeed.

Rita phoned and reassured her things would get better.

Next day Janice sat on the coach which was to take them for a day trip up into the mountains to a monastery.

Walter began edging his way down the coach so she hastily plonked her bag on the seat beside her.

He glanced at it as she turned to look out of the window then he settled with another lady near the back. Janice heard him telling her it was her lucky day.

It was cool up in the mountains, a peaceful place among orange groves and almond trees.

Janice watched enviously as couples strolled hand in hand round the terraced slopes and through the cloisters of the crumbling monastery.

Elsie patted her on the shoulder. Janice had shared a breakfast table with the little lady as the restaurant had been busy. A bit older than Janice, she was sprightly and full of lively conversation.

They spent the rest of the day together sight-seeing and then planned to meet in the hotel bar that evening for pre-dinner drinks.

Each afternoon there were classes in line-dancing. The first one was a bit intimidating but turned out to be a lot of fun.

Walter told Janice how nice her hair looked. Elsie had persuaded her to go to the hotel salon and have blonde streaks put in. It had been a long time since a man had paid her a compliment. It felt good and it certainly put a spring in her step.

There were some lovely walks from the hotel. Janice liked to get up into the mountains where there were spectacular views.

Scottish Jim enjoyed that too. She’d met him on her second day there. He was coming down the path as she was going up.

It turned out they both belonged to rambling groups back home and loved fell walking in the Lake District.

He was good company and Janice marked him down as a possible.

“Do you live on your own?” she asked tentatively as they ambled back down to the hotel after one particularly strenuous climb.

“Och, no, lass. I have ma goats and ma donkeys. Little Susie has just had four wee kittens. And there’s ma old dog, Rufus. They’ll be awfy pleased to see me home.”

Janice pulled back in astonishment as he reeled them off. Maybe he wasn’t the one. The closest she’d ever got to owning a pet was a budgerigar her mum had acquired when she was ten.

One day when it was warm enough to sit by the pool in the sun, Walter came strutting along in his knee-length swimming shorts. He gave the girls a jovial greeting and then plunged into the water creating a tidal wave.

Janice and Elsie exchanged looks.

Percival usually came down to the pool at this time of day. He nodded towards them, placed his chair in the shade of a sun umbrella, spread his newspaper meticulously on the table then peered at them over his glasses.

“Excuse me, ladies, but I need to catch up on the markets,” he announced.

Janice and Elsie stifled a giggle.

“Don’t think he’s talking about the one we went to in Benidorm yesterday,” Elsie said.

Each evening Janice and Elsie would sit in the bar with their pre-dinner gin and tonics. It was a good place to watch others coming in.

They gave them names, fun ones that seemed to fit, when they couldn’t remember what they were called.

“I see Miss Bling’s been to Benidorm again,” Janice would comment as they watched her flash her three-euro diamante rings at anyone and everyone.

“Looks like Walter’s been there too by the risqué slogan on his T-shirt,” Elsie said.

“Bit of a stretch. Pity he didn’t get a bigger size,” Janice giggled.

“Oh look, Slinky Blonde seems to have dumped Dwayne.”

“Don’t blame her.”

Janice watched children with black shiny hair playing in the gardens on their outing to Moraira and a sudden longing brought tears to her eyes.

She was missing her little granddaughter and felt a great yearning to hold her in her arms.

Elsie noticed and gave her a hug.

A mist hung over the mountains as they wandered back to the coach. The sun was sinking low on the horizon turning sky and sea a deep flamingo pink.

Spanish music filtered out from the larger hotels as evening approached.

They made the best of their last week, packed in all their favourite walks, visited their favourite bars and danced the night away.

Elsie and Janice were firm friends now. They contemplated doing the same holiday again next year. She and Elsie even managed to wangle a seat together on the plane.

“I’m ready for home,” Elsie told Janice.

“Me, too.”

“Not what you expected?” Elsie said, giving Janice a knowing smile.

“It’s been great,” Janice said. “We’ve had such fun.”

“But you didn’t catch your man.” Elsie said, patting her hand. “He’ll turn up one day when you’re least expecting it.”

This took Janice by surprise. She’d forgotten she’d divulged this in one of their heart to hearts. She’d even forgotten it was what she’d come for.

A cold wind struck as she trundled her case into a chilly April morning. The pre-ordered taxi cruised up and, once her case was stowed, she slid in beside the driver. He was the one who’d delivered her there a month ago.

“Had a good holiday?” he asked. His friendly smile raised her spirits. She liked the tangy smell of his aftershave.

“Yes, it was a nice change.”

“Bit of a shock coming back to this,” he observed as rain battered the windscreen.

They chatted amiably as they drove along. He told her about his daughter who had spent a week with him before going back to Portugal where she worked as a holiday rep.

He missed her. The house seemed empty without her lively chatter.

Janice told him it was the same when Zoe, her little granddaughter, went home after a weekend with her.

They agreed they both watched TV for company even when there was nothing worth watching.

“I often go to the pub for a meal to save eating on my own,” he confessed.

Janice laughed. “That’s not something a woman would do.”

At the traffic lights he turned to her.

In the shadowy light something passed between them that had Janice’s heart beating a little faster.

She felt she’d known him forever. They were comfortable.

“Fancy coming out with me for a meal tonight?” he asked tentatively. His eyes searched hers. When she nodded his face broke into a smile.

The phone rang as she stepped into her hallway. It was Rita.

“Had a good time?” she asked.

“Great,” Janice said.

“Catch your man, did you?” Rita asked.

“Nobody worth catching.” Janice tried to keep her voice neutral.

But Rita wasn’t fooled. She knew her friend too well.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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