Living Between the Lines

The Girl in the Red Towel

From the minute she placed one, inelegant, bare foot on the restaurant steps, she was bound to be caught.

Not everyone could see her as yet. The crowded, Portuguese/Italian, restaurant spanned two streets with an entrance set at either end. Long and narrow, it afforded a central rite of passage, flanked by tables spreading out each side and set between tall pillars.

We heard, rather than saw her entrance. The girl was apparently falling down the steps judging from the kerfuffle around her. A low murmur erupted from those tables closest. Hidden behind our own pillar, we waited. Muted murmurings reached us from the inner sanctum of the restaurant.

Her unsteady approach continued, down the steps, along the aisle, bumping into tables…squeals of consternation escaping her lips as she slipped again. I saw her as she came into view. She was tall, though bent in the stance of someone trying desperately to keep control even when control has long since fled. Her hair was tousled, her eyes unseeing and her mouth gaping. One hand reached behind her to grasp the sides of a large, red towel that was draped round her body, the towel appeared to be the only thing that separated her from our gaze. It was quite apparent that she was naked beneath it.

As she spun round in confusion—drunk? drugged? had something happened to her?—she did not appear to see any of us. Her sole aim seemed to be to thread her way through the tables and out of the restaurant.

As she lurched forward, passed our table and into the dim interior, a huddle of waiters materialised and collected around her, discretely leading her away. The last we saw of her, was of her struggling to keep the towel around her person. I would say she struggled to keep her dignity but that, alas, was long since dispatched.

The incident provided us with some entertainment it has to be said, coming as it did in the midst of a relaxing and chilled dinner. We hardly had time to wonder where she had come from before she had gone. Uncharitable accusations of wanton, drunkenness were tempered with thoughts that perhaps she had suffered in some way, perhaps she had been attacked or drugged. I don’t suppose we will ever know, as by the time we had finished our meal and paid the bill, she had long since gone, hopefully, somewhere safe.

Our meal continued with waiters diligently pouring wine and clearing plates, with never a mention of the incident.

The next day, I couldn’t help but scan the faces of those holidaymakers who fitted the description of the girl in the red towel – had it been any one of them? I’d like to know the story behind her unscheduled appearance but alas, I suspect I need to write it and perhaps the story I write will one day be read by that girl and she will recognise she was its inspiration.

Inspiration often comes from the most surprising places.

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • patricia

    What an interesting event. We recently had a family dinner at a new local restaurant on the pier at the port. While we were sitting inside a fisherman arrived in his skiff and unloaded some huge fish onto the dock. It was fascinating to watch/entertainment, but when we pondered the smell we thought it wonderful to be inside watching him work. Not quite as puzzling as a woman in a red towel, but both are bound to catch the eye

    I want to read your story for sure

    Maybe she was blind and coming from the pool? or tricked?

  • Andrea Carlisle

    Deborah, did you ever read Joan Didion’s piece on the inspiration for “Play it as it Lays?” It so reminds me of this – an unexplained appearance by a woman, the inspiration for a novel. If you can find it (I just looked for it briefly; no luck), it might be fun to read. Meantime, good luck with this. I hope you do write the who, why, and what of it.

  • hilarymb

    Hi Debbie .. how interesting – but what turn of events – where from, where too .. she must have been known if the waiters encircled her …

    Fascinating thoughts – I see Penelope Cruz and red towel and red lips – in a film …

    Glad you enjoyed the dinner though – and a good gossip … and hope she makes a story sometime .. cheers Hilary

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