The rocky landscape overlooking the sea had become a place of promise for those who believed in magic. Not the magic of casting spells, but the kind of magic that is possible to experience when out and about in foreign territory. Heat and dust do a lot to stimulate the sensation that something magical is on the point of occurring. Nevertheless many times magic can be found in a cold, watery place where the sun shines in the summer, and if there is a tiny piece of luck in the autumn. Trees also have the necessary ingredients for an experience of magic. Therefore, if magic is to make its appearance metal, plastic, and glass shouldn't be present. If water is present, then it has to be water from any natural source, not from a tap. Nowadays, when all is noise and there is no sense of peace and quiet, many ask themselves whether the rush and hurry are worth all the worry and anxiety. That was why the ancient place, looking out to sea, still exercised a power over those who lived nearby, and the visitor who was looking for something to help him through hard or difficult times. Even the most sceptical of people were enchanted by the eerie and yet somehow extraordinarily beautiful and magical spot.
Rae stood under the spray emanating from the powerful shower head that she had had installed just a month ago, after moving into her new flat. When she had finished with her partner of the last five years, she had decided to live alone in a new place with no memories of the past to come up and take her by surprise. She wanted and needed a new start. Rae had come to the conclusion that the last thing she needed was a problematic person in her life.
At first it seemed as if everything would be hunky-dory but, as usual, it hadn't been anything of the sort. Like most women, she had thought that she would be able to wear him down by pestering him with pleas for marriage, but he kept to what he believed in. Marriage had never figured in his plans. Rae had come to the truth about him, and that he was being honest with himself. She had destroyed what had been a good relationship by persisting on taking it to the next level. What had she done? He was being true to himself, but she wasn't being honest in any way. Rae had the idea that if they were together for a certain amount of time he would give in. He hadn't given in, he had gone. Rae was alone again.
On the morning in question, Rae wasn't the only one under the shower. At the same time there many others who were doing exactly the same thing. They were mirror reflections of each other whether they were men or women. Not everyone was washing away the presence of an ex-boyfriend. The vast majority were washing away dead skin cells, unwanted dirt, and body odours. Even, some of these were more psychological than physical. But the truth was, that every single one of them felt a great deal better after the morning's ablutions.
Trevor was elderly and well off. He was no longer interested in anything other than, that every day had to be the same as the previous one. In Trevor's life there was not much room for anyone else, he had discovered that he could avoid trouble and pain if he remained without getting too involved with others. So Trevor kept his distance. He wasn't without his charm and people liked him, but he was far too careful to take an extra step in his relationships. His equilibrium was what mattered, and he wasn't prepared to sacrifice one jot of it, to lose his precious balance and fall into another's arms. That was not for him.
Jobeth was Rae's friend, and when they were in 'between men', they were to be seen together eating in restaurants and cafes. At other times they would go shopping together, but they had got tired of trekking from one shop to another and were now buying a lot of clothes online. Thus they avoided getting caught up with crowds and mothers with children on Saturdays.
They met at lunchtimes sometimes, for a quick chat and coffee, nothing to eat. They were both on diets, hoping to be lovely and slim for the summer.
"How are you today?" Jobeth greeted Rae, as they met up outside one of their usual haunts.
"Hello. Well, better than yesterday, but not as well as I'll feel tomorrow," Rae greeted her friend.
"While we are still in winter, we'd better have a good think about where we are going for our next summer holiday," Jobeth said before taking a sip from her coffee.
"Have you any ideas? Don't forget I shan't be all that flush with money this year after moving to a new flat. I've spent quite a lot on it to get it how I like it. When I think of all the changes I made to the other flat, only to wind up back out on the street."
Jobeth sighed, "You've got to forget him and the old flat. It didn't work out, and that's that. It's the story of my life too. Well, I'll go and pick up some brochures on my way home tonight. Same time, same place tomorrow?"
Rae sat in a trance before answering, "I think I'd like to go to the hairdresser's. It's time I had a haircut. See you in two days' time. Bye." Rae got off her stool and left the café, with Jobeth trailing behind her.
True to her words, Jobeth went to a travel agent and picked up some travel brochures.
Shaw, who was a younger version of Trevor, was in the travel agent's at the same time, also picked up some travel brochures. Neither of them saw the other one. They were too absorbed in what they were doing. Shaw was a high-flyer, or that was how he saw himself. He had no time for marriage or girl friends in the romantic sense. Berry and Laney were two girl friends who gave him no problems. What Shaw didn't know, was that he wasn't all that attractive to women. So we can say he was wasting his time with his distant attitude. Nevertheless he was happy, or so he said, in his own way. Both Berry and Laney had other boyfriends, and Shaw was the 'spare' they used when they were 'in between' boyfriends.
As the motor launch crossed over from the tourist resort, the waves were being churned up on its way to the magical place. On board were the first tourists of the season. It was much too early to go there, the sun hadn't had time to warm up the air or the sea. The wind in their faces still had the coldness of early spring. Those early tourists, who take two or three holidays, and go only to have the boredom of being retired or out of work, didn't receive any of the magic and went home complaining that the place was a lot of hype. The tourists who would go later would be welcomed with hotter weather.
Meanwhile, Rae and Jobeth were sitting in the restaurant of a department store. It was better than sitting in a ground floor café, being above the shopping galleries gave them a view of the other people and shops they wouldn't otherwise have had.
"I see you've been quite drastic with the haircut," Jobeth said.
"It's a common reaction when a relationship ends. You try and rid yourself of everything that reminds you of the old relationship. Haven't you noticed I've changed the colour a bit too?" Rae said and turned to look down at the gallery below them.
"By the way, I've got some holiday brochures, if you're still interested," Jobeth ventured.
Rae was still gazing down at the people walking around the gallery, and then said, "Oh, yes, great. I'll take them home and have a look at them. Have you seen anything that might be of interest to us, including the fact that money is the first consideration?"
"Yes, of course I have, and have put markers on the pages that might be possible for us to visit. OK?"
Rae was standing up, "I'm off now, and I'll let you know what takes my fancy. I'll ring you either tonight or tomorrow."
The two friends parted and went their own ways.
It was a Thursday, the day when a lot of shopping centres stay open late. Jobeth went into an underwear shop and stood gazing for a while at what was on offer. Berry and Laney were also looking, but being younger had different ideas in their heads as to what constituted underwear from the ideas that Jobeth and Rae would have. Jobeth turned round to look at them as they stood laughing and giggling at some of the models.
"Do you think Shaw would like this?" Berry laughingly asked Laney.
"You know what he's like, he's not anyone's type, although he fancies himself as a lady's man. Perhaps one day he'll meet someone, and that'll be the end of our 'spare'."
"What'll we do then?" asked Berry.
"Two things can happen, either we get ourselves a permanent boyfriend, or we find another Shaw." Laney said with the wisdom and experience of being just two months older.
Jobeth listened to their inane chatter, and for minutes after they had left the shop perused the more appropriate underwear. Jobeth hoped that Rae liked one of the places that she had marked as of interest, then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of shops. She noticed how many women, young and old, were alone in the centre. Where were the men?"
Trevor had once owned a dog, but when it had died, he hadn't felt that he wanted to repeat going through the process of loving and caring for a pet that would eventually die. In spite of his anti-getting involved attitude, Trevor was quite popular with the ladies. He also had the idea of going away on holiday, but was still undecided when he saw the first signs of spring. It must have been the sight of winter still making its presence felt. The air and wind were cold, and he hadn't found anything that had caught his eye.
Shaw was sitting at home alone and gazing into space. What to do the coming summer? That was the question he had been asking himself since he had got a job and a flat, and had become independent from his family. Shaw went into the bathroom and stood staring at his reflection. He was under no illusions as regards his appearance. What he needed badly was renovation from his head down to his feet. Some areas could wait, but the hair couldn't, so he made a list of 'must do's' to keep active, apart from work, and to up-market his appearance.
The very next day Shaw went to the hairdresser's and had his hair cut in an ultra-modern fashion. He then took himself to a gentlemen's outfitter, and bought some new shirts, socks, and ties. His suits were not too old, and he didn't want to spend out too much.
He rang Berry and asked her, "Fancy coming out later on for a drink, and bring Laney too, if she likes?"
Berry, who was alone at home due to her latest boyfriend's having gone out with his friends said, "I'd love to. I'll ring Laney, but I think she's got something on this evening."
Berry rang Laney and got the ringing tone. Laney was out.
Shaw and Berry went out together for a drink. When Berry saw Shaw she was delighted and asked him, "What have you been up to?"
"I bought some new things and had a new hair cut, in an effort to renovate myself. What do you think?"
Berry stood admiring Shaw for a few minutes, and thought that maybe he wasn't so bad after all, but as he wasn't much interested in getting married then it was better to let things stay as they were - friends for ever."
Rae was sitting on her sofa and leafing through the brochure from Jobeth. She loved the coloured photos of sun and sea, and tried to imagine herself on such fantastic holidays. She then looked at her bank account and thought that with a bit more belt tightening she would be able to go away with Jobeth.
Laney had no such worries, she was a good spender and never saved anything. If Berry wanted to go on holiday to the most expensive place in the travel agent's, she would somehow manage to get the money. The evening Berry and Shaw were out in a local pub having a drink, Laney rang Berry, only to discover that her mobile was switched off. "I wonder where she is," Laney asked herself.
While the undecided were still living their normal lives, going to work and out for drinks, at the magical place the sun was becoming hotter by the day, as the calendar moved from spring into summer. The new visitors were wearing thinner clothes, and quite happy to sit on the rocks staring at the rocks and the sea, imagining what was happening below the waves. The visitors were larger in number than those who had gone in the spring. Some went to the resort with no interest in the cave or cleansing, it was just their summer holiday.
Trevor was desperate to get away, but not in a hurry to do so. However, he went along to the travel agent and booked himself on a two week stay at the nearest resort to the magical place. He thought, at his age, it would be amusing to see whether life had any surprises left for him. The deposit paid, he went into the shopping centre and walked around looking at the summer clothes, which were just entering the shops. He went upstairs to the café and sat down to enjoy a drink and observe those who were strolling around on the ground floor.
At the same time Jobeth was sitting in the hairdresser's looking at magazines while the girl was blow-brushing her hair. She felt a terrible urgency to get Rae to make up her mind whether or not about the holiday. If she didn't have the money then, all right, she, Jobeth, would go by herself.
Laney was in a similar frame of mind as Jobeth. She was wondering about Berry, but not for the same reason. Berry had money, but she was indecisive.
All of them wanted something new in their lives, although they weren't sure what it was. They were all in one way or another reinventing themselves. Rae had begun by changing her flat and then her hair. Now she wasn't sure of anything much any more. She decided to take on a new job instead of going on holiday with Jobeth.
When her friend heard the news, she wasn't all that happy about it. "Why is this new job so important to you?"
"I need to get new things and people into my life. The new job is offering more money and I need that."
"What do you know about your new boss and the company?" Jobeth asked.
"The company isn't new, in fact, it's a long established business concern. Why are you so worried about a change of job? We do it all the time, and yet now you're behaving like an old mother hen, instead of my best friend."
"I'm not worried about your change of job, only that it's this particular one you've chosen. Are you sure you're not rushing into things?" Jobeth asked, more worried than ever.
"And are you sure that your worrying isn't because I shan't be with you on holiday?" asked Rae.
"Like it or not, I'm not going on holiday with you this year and I'm going to start my new job. I'm sorry you're not happy about it, but we're friends and we can't live in each other's pockets. I'll see you when you get back from wherever you go. I'll ring you, and let you know how I'm getting on. OK?"
Jobeth watched her friend sadly as she left the pub, and wished she had insisted more on paying something towards Rae's holiday with her. It seemed to Jobeth, that Rae really did consider the job more important than a holiday. She only hoped Rae was right.
The travel agency was very happy with the number of people going on holiday in July. Taking into account the economic situation, the holidays sold was even better than the year before.
Trevor was happy with the holiday-clothes he had purchased. He laid everything out on his bed the night before the start to his holiday. That was the yearly ritual he had before every trip. He hoped he hadn't made any sartorial mistakes, it would be easy to do so living alone as he did. When his packing was over, Trevor looked up his holiday destination for the weather report for the next two weeks. It looked pretty good. He went to bed late, and had to admit to himself that he was excited at the mere thought of going on holiday.
Jobeth had packed her case with a profound feeling of despair hanging over her. She had rung Rae earlier in the evening. "Hello, Rae how are you?"
Rae had delayed in answering, and then, "Hello, I'm just fine. A bit tired learning the ropes."
"Are you happy in the new job?"
"Yes, I am. Nevertheless, it'll take me some time to get used to all the new things. How are you?"
"I'm fine. Packing my holiday clothes. I've been hoping we could have a drink before I set out tomorrow. I don't seem to be able to get in touch with you these days," Jobeth said.
"You can't imagine how much work there is. I've never seen anything like it. The boss is run off his feet, and so are the rest of us. Everyone here is doing two jobs. There used to be more personnel, but due to cutbacks many have lost their jobs. The new people, like me, don't get paid as much as the older members of the staff, who they are sacking from time to time. So, tomorrow you're going away on holiday! Have a nice time. See you when you get back."
"Don't work too hard. You're supposed to enjoy life as well. See you in two weeks," Jobeth said, wondering how Rae was going to keep up with such hard work. Well, money might be a good enough incentive.
Berry had told her latest boyfriend that she was going away on holiday, and then waited for his reaction. There wasn't one. He just said, "Have a nice time."
Berry wasn't sure how to take that, so she rang Laney. "What do you think about what my boyfriend said?"
"He's either telling lies or he has another girl friend, or he really means for you to have a nice time. Anyway, don't be silly! We're going away to have a good time and try to clean up some areas of our lives. They say the magic over there is really strong, and there is a strong belief in it."
"All right. I'll finish packing and stop thinking about the boyfriend and his words. I'll come for you in a taxi tomorrow morning, and we'll go to the airport together."
"Fine. See you tomorrow bright and early," Laney said.
Laney, Berry, and Shaw, went together in the same taxi to the airport. The trio had thought it might be better if they all went together on holiday, and then the girls would protect Shaw from any unwanted female attention, and the girls could say he was their brother or cousin. That was a way of making sure that none of them would be prey for holiday romancers.
The plane, fully loaded with holiday-makers, took off punctually and the feeling on board was one of excitement at the thought of two weeks in a sunny, hot, beach area with blue sea and no worries about what to eat or drink.
Jobeth felt anything but joyful at the holiday without her friend, and she constantly worried about Rae and her new job. She knew that Rae had only left her old job because she wanted a higher salary. What bothered Jobeth was, that Rae said that her boss drove himself and his staff too hard, and everyone was stressed out.
Trevor was sitting across the aisle from Jobeth and he saw that she was in another world inside her thoughts, and wondered what she was worried about.
Shaw, Berry and Laney were sitting all together and making idle chat. Everyone was eager to arrive.
The magical place was reached by a motor launch that left the resort and travelled quite fast across the sea till it arrived at a hidden bay beneath the rocks. In order to get to the top, there was a flight of stairs cut into the rocks, and all around were small trees that almost hid the stairs and the building that protected the magical spot. From anywhere on the islet the sea could be seen spreading like a big, blue, skirt from the rocks below. There was an abundance of plants and trees and, of course, rocks. There was a cave with dripping water where the cleansing took place.
On the first days at the resort, none of the five went very far from the hotel. Jobeth asked about the cleansing at the reception, "How is it possible to get to the rocks, please?"
The receptionist replied, "There are boats that go all day long to the rocks, but you have to book a place, as it's prohibited for more than a boatful to land at any one time."
"Is there a free place tomorrow? I'd love to go," Jobeth asked anxiously.
The receptionist looked through the next day's details on her computer, and said there were a couple of places free.
Jobeth booked herself on the first boat going out the next day. "Done," she thought to herself as she went back to her room. Jobeth checked the time difference and rang Rae, but as there was no reply, she left a message. "Hello, it's me. This is just to let you know that I'm booked to go to the magic place tomorrow. Hope everything's OK with you. Please let me know how you are," and rang off.
The next day Jobeth, Trevor, and a few others eager to get a cleansing, got into a motor launch and sat watching as they neared the rocks. The sea was a bit choppy, but apart from that, it was a pleasant little trip. They all managed to get to the top where the sanctuary was situated.
The guide explained, "The cleansing cave is right here, you can stay in it as long as you like, there is plenty of room. That's why we only bring a few people at a time, so that inside the cave everyone has some space and there's no cramming."
"Is it very cold in there?" Trevor asked.
"Yes, it is. You have all brought a jacket or something thicker to put on when we leave to go back to the hotel, haven't you?"
Everyone said yes, and leaving their bags with their clothing inside, they were then all in swimming costumes and flip-flops, and entered the dripping cave.
Trevor shivered as he had never been a lover of cold wet weather, and then while he was wandering around the drips from the ceiling didn't feel quite so uncomfortable and he began to enjoy himself. What Trevor really wanted as a cleansing, was to be less distant with people and become more understanding of others' weaknesses. He knew, and was aware, that he had never surrendered to anything or to anyone - he had maintained a steady resistance to it. He knew that at his age it would be hard to change, but at the same time he realized that he was badly in need of reinvention in his attitudes and be more flexible. Into Trevor's mind came visions of the past, rather like watching an old film reel. He was reminiscing about other holidays he had taken when he was very much younger, when there had been more people in his life than he realized. He gave an involuntary shiver, he could feel the cold drops of water running down his back. He saw Jobeth standing in another part of the cave, and thought she didn't look old enough to have need of a cleansing. Trevor knew that the magic cave was famous for curing the negative in a person's life, and hoped it would somehow have the desired positive effect on him and his life from then on. He shivered again and left the cave and went to look for his clothes. He was happy that he had managed to stay so long inside, because the superstition was that the longer you stayed the stronger the cleansing.
Jobeth had entered the cave, and stood, uncertainly, beneath the dripping ceiling. She felt like crying but didn't know why. She was there because her life hadn't turned out in any way at all how she had imagined it would. The men she had known weren't at all interested in getting married and forming a family. Perhaps that was her fault for wanting those things so much. Now she was getting less and less interested, and becoming more and more insular, and the men she met were for short distance only. Jobeth wanted to be free of negative influences and have a general clean up of her life, both interior and exterior. She looked around her, but as it was so dark it was not all that easy to make out who the others were, not even if they were men or women. As Jobeth stood under the drips and from time to time moved about, she felt the cold less and less. Jobeth had always worked at the different jobs she had had, but her social life was becoming more and more barren. She was fed up with meeting men who were born liars and never said they were married or in a relationship, till she had become fond of them. The cold drops of water perked her up quite a bit, and she saw very clearly what her mistakes with men had been. Rae had turned very negative after the break up with her boy friend. This negative attitude had affected adversely her relationship with Jobeth because she knew that Jobeth would have managed much better. Jobeth felt tired and shivered a little, the sound of the dripping water was somniferous. Feeling that she had shed an unpleasant weight from her shoulders, Jobeth left the cave, walked out to where she had left her bag. Inside the changing room she dried herself, put on underwear, and a white T-shirt, trainers and a tracksuit. The air outside was warm, and Jobeth walked down to where the launch was waiting to take them back to the hotel.
Trevor and the others were already there.
Jobeth had received the longest cleansing. "Let's hope it lasts," she thought to herself.
Meanwhile back at base, Shaw and Berry were diving and were delighted with everything they saw beneath the sea. They were getting closer and closer, but poor old Shaw wasn't aware of it. Laney went to the magic place on a later excursion and laid her emotions open to be cleaned up, so that she would be able to tackle her old problems after the holiday. The place was famed for getting rid of negative energy.
That evening, before catching the launch back to the hotel everyone sat on the rocks and watched as the sun went down. Trevor was thinking of how many more sunsets he would see. Jobeth thought how it was that: as night was moving in where they were, dawn was coming up on the opposite side of the world, creating a new day. The night brought with it a warm wind with the perfumes of flowers and wild plants.
On arriving back at the hotel, the receptionist approached Jobeth and told her she had a message. Jobeth saw that she had to ring England. There was a leaden feeling inside her as she lifted the phone, "Hello, I'm Jobeth. I was asked to ring this number."
"Jobeth, don't you remember me? I'm Rae's mother. She was with her new boss going on a business trip this morning, and the car overturned as they were turning a corner. The police say they were going too fast."
Jobeth swallowed hard, "How's Rae?"
"She's bad. But he's dead."
"Listen. I'll try to get back as soon as I can. It would be impossible for me to stay here not knowing how she is. I'll let you know as soon as I have a plane ticket. Thank you for letting me know. Good night."
Jobeth explained to the receptionist and the tour guide what had happened and that she needed to leave immediately. They weren't too happy, but seeing the situation was a strong one, they granted her wish to leave.
Trevor saw what was going on and recognized Jobeth from the cave. He asked her what was wrong and she told him about the accident. He was very sympathetic and thought, who would go to see him if he were in a situation like Rae's. He couldn't think of anyone. "Please take my card, and let me know how your friend gets on. Let me know if I can help you in any way. I think your gesture as a friend is the best I've seen in a long time. I hope she gets better soon. Have a good trip back home. Good night."
Jobeth went upstairs to pack, and thought about how she should have paid the holiday for Rae, but what was done was done. There was no going back to the past.
Later that night, some of the guests were outside the hotel in the dark, looking out over the black sea, that a couple of hours before had been blue. Jobeth walked along the beach for the last time. She saw Shaw with Berry and Laney. Trevor was strolling, wrapped up in his own world.
Nobody was speaking, for those who had visited the cave, words were superfluous.
The cave had lived up to its reputation.