The Beach: Part 2.

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

the tall, assertive letters stood out from the smooth face of the stone.

“Stop the car Baba. Here, now please?” ‘Nia called from the back seat. The other three occupants turned to stare at the young woman with the exception of her father who did so through the rear view mirror.

“What, here? We’re not quite there. Are you ill or something?” ‘Nia’s father enquired of his middle daughter.

“No Baba, I’m fine. I’ll make my own way from here. There is someone, I mean, something I need to see,” she replied, gazing out of the window of the SUV.

‘Nia’s father pulled over to the kerb and turned to look at her directly. “Someone or something? What’s all this about Habibti?”

“It’s the graveyard, Baba,” piped up the youngest daughter. “She’s obsessed!  How can you be so morbid when we’re on holiday?”

“Shut up Nura. You know nothing! Thank you Baba, I’ll see you at the hotel.” ‘Nia glared at her younger sister then turned to her father and smiled.

“She can’t get a proper boyfriend. She has to visit a dead one,” the older girl butted in from ‘Nia’s left. Her two siblings laughed as the young woman opened the door.

“Girls I will have none of that type of talk. It’s disrespectful, both of the dead and your sister.” The older woman in the passenger seat addressed the two remaining girls, her serious expression silencing them immediately. Then turning to her other daughter she smiled warmly. “Don’t be long there, you have unpacking to do and I’ve booked a table for dinner. We may fit in an hour or so at the beach beforehand.” She handed ‘Nia a bottle of water from the air-conditioned glove box.

‘Nia bent down and returned her mother’s smile, then closed the door. The woman turned to the two passengers, her frown returning. She shook her head curtly and raised her eyes.

“You shouldn’t tease your sister like that. It’ll just set off one of her moods.” With that, she tapped her husband on the knee and gestured him to move off. The man obeyed instantly, shaking his head in bemusement. He was outnumbered, he always had been.

As the silver Hyundai pulled away into the holiday traffic, ‘Nia felt the oppressive heat of the mid-afternoon sun. It was like opening an oven door, following the air conditioned car. She looked up at the sign and her spirits lifted. Taking a deep breath, she headed in the direction of the arrow.

Now and again, a weak, cooling breeze found its way from the distant sea, offering momentary relief from the stifling heat. From time to time, she’d pass a bench, sheltered by the thick foliage of an olive tree. The mature trees, dense with fruit, had been planted at intervals along the wide, beige footpath after the war. They resembled green-clad soldiers, giving her a guard of honour on her short journey to the cemetery.

At one such refuge, she sat and took the water bottle from her bag. Sipping the still cold liquid, ‘Nia felt invigorated. The crowded noisy atmosphere of Cairo was far behind her, leaving with it, her anxiety. She thought about her new friend, the Englishman, wondering how he’d appreciate her itinerary. He was real, alive; unlike Alessandro.

The thought of them both made her shudder. Or was it the cool water and shade? ‘Nia stepped out into the glare and made for the entrance to the cemetery.

Entering the giant space, she gazed up at the massive sandstone monolith. Above the rectangular doorway, which cut into the structure, tall, assertive letters stood out from the smooth face of the stone.


To the fallen Italians

‘Nia’s throat closed and she tried to swallow. The bridge of her nose pinched and tears flooded her eyes. Taking the water from her bag, which was now warm, she forced several gulps of the tepid liquid down. It had lost its refreshing qualities but succeeded in lubricating her arid throat.

Replacing the water, she entered the cemetery to one side of the memorial. She memorised his place in the vast spread of identical stones, resembling erect dominoes waiting to tumble. Their occupant’s had already done that, she pondered. Eighty years earlier.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Childs



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive an email notification for new posts