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.