WE DROVE THROUGH EDESSA AN HOUR AGO, stoping quickly to eat; the bus was headed straight to Macedonia. There was a spring digging into my back and the moving bus made my head knock against the window if I slept.
I liked the other bus more – at least you could sleep on it. This bus was the sort that would have chicken’s squawking and children screaming. I poured my handbag out onto the seat and squeezed it inside out; it was one of those reversible bags.
I sifted through the items on the seat, pulling out a passport and a sandwich I racked when we were in Edessa – I had ten Euros left and I wasn’t wasting them on a sandwich. I stuffed the other items back into the bag and placed it next to me on the seat.
I opened up the sandwich container and took a bite. It was entirely dry lettuce with one slice of ham; I choked and spluttered as the lettuce clung to the back of my throat. I hadn’t eaten in two days, verging on three so I forced myself to swallow. I took another bite and put it away, it had to last.
I picked up my passport and checked that it was the right one. Callia Makris, age: 25, Gerolimenas, Greece. Wrong one. I pulled my purse out of my bag; the new passport was tucked beneath the fabric. Adina Hallias, age: 24, Kavala, Greece. I tucked my real passport beneath the folds where the other one had sat and stuffed the passport and purse back into my bag beside me. I looked out of the window – the scenery consisted mainly of farm land and trees.
I leant back on the seat, curving my spine around the spring and pulled the bag onto my legs and kept a tight grasp on it. I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep to the sound of things clattering and old women speaking in dialect.
THE WIND WAS COMING STRAIGHT OFF the water creating a soft gust of air that made my hair float. I fixed up the shawl around my arms and leant on the banister. The restaurant was built right on the water and had a beautiful view of the Mediterranean.
He stood in the corner of the railing, hands in the pockets of his suit. I took a good look at him, well groomed; he looks like cash, handsome. I caught his eye and turned calmly back towards the
ocean, enticing him to walk over. It worked. I saw him walk towards me out of the corner of my eye. I waited until he was close enough and slowly turned my head towards him, I smiled sweetly.
“Hi,” I said, slowing down my words and articulating – I’ve made the mistake of talking too fast before.
“Hey,” he said, looking up at me slowly.
“I’m Alicia,” I stated, elegantly turning my head on its side slightly. He grinned.
“Marko,” he replied. He flashed white teeth. “Can I get you a drink?”
“I don’t drink,” I smiled again. He looked disappointed. “But I do eat,” He smiled triumphantly.
“Lead the way,” I pushed away from the banister and moved towards the doors of the restaurant.
IT WAS A SIX HOUR BUS RIDE TO THE BORDER of Macedonia, where my passport was quickly glimpsed at and recorded. The bus drove through Macedonia and I transferred busses on the border of Albania. The bus travelled along the coast for a while until we reached Montenegro. Over two days of travelling.
We stopped in the town of Budva, along the East coast of Montenegro. The ocean was stunning here. I checked my watch, 5:30 PM. The bus drove off and the passengers slowly dispersed. I stood with my bag, staring out at the ocean.
The town was to my right and I started to walk along the road, headed for the centre of the town. The heart of the town consisted of narrow streets covered in cobblestones and I came upon a
building that had a small English motel sign hanging from the wall outside. I walked towards it, pulling my suitcase behind me. I was greeted by a middle-aged lady who spoke a little English.
“Room 10 Euros.” She stated. I looked up at her. I pulled out five Euros.
“I can do five.” I bargained. She huffed and snatched the money from me. I faked a signature in the sign in book.
“Fine. Room two. First door on right.” She said, slamming a key down on the table. I smiled and swiped it up.
The room was small but clean. I pulled away the thick curtains and opened the window. My view was the building across from this one, but I didn’t mind. I opened up the suitcase and looked at what I grabbed. I had a few toiletries, some casual clothes, a Rolex, a pair of Gucci heels, a g-string, assortment of bras, pillow, six wigs in different hair styles, a long red dress, a silver shawl, his Dolce and Gabbana suit, a laptop, and an expensive looking phone.
I opened up the back of the phone and took out the sim card. I clicked the back of the phone back into place and chucked it onto the bed. I chucked the sim card out of the window and started on the suit. There was a silk handkerchief in one of the pockets but that was all. I put it onto a coat hanger and laid it on the bed. The Rolex would go for a lot at a pawn shop. I changed into a plain white dress and zipped up the suitcase. I put the Rolex, phone and laptop into my bag and picked up the suit.
I walked for hours looking for a pawn shop until I found one on the edge of the town. I lay the objects on the table. The man standing behind the counter picked up the suit and looked at it. He
held the watch up to the light and flipped over the laptop, he didn’t even touch the phone.
“I’ll give you...ah, four thousand Euros for the lot,” he said, scratching at his bear belly.
“But the suit alone is four thousand!” I protested.
“Look, it’s four thousand or nothing,” he said, leaning on the counter. “Do we have a deal?”
“Five thousand,” I bargained. He sighed.
“Five thousand, sure,” he said, counting out five thousand from the cash register. He handed it to me and I recounted it.
“You only gave me four-nine-fifty. Where’s my fifty Euros?” I asked accusingly. He handed me another fifty.
“Take it, just get out of my shop,”
“Thank you,” I replied sarcastically. I put the money in an envelope and walked out.
The sun had already set while I walked; it made the previously white buildings turn a dark, milky grey. The car had been following me for about fifteen minutes but I pretended that I hadn’t noticed it; the key to not being seen is to act as if you aren’t being seen. I turned into an alley and kept turning, running when I was out of site from the car.
I ran through countless alleys and streets, turning as randomly as possible. I ran around for about ten minutes until I hid in a door way. I listened but there were no footsteps. I walked cautiously along the cobblestones back towards the motel.
When I reached the motel sign I checked my watch again, 7:30 PM, I walked into the reception and dug out ten Euros. I left it tucked into the sign in book and walked up the stairs. When I was in my room I pulled out the sandwich and ate the last two mouthfuls of it. I collapsed onto the bed and cuddled my bag beside me and tried to sleep.
The moon was shining through the window and a chilling breeze followed it. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. My body shivered and I checked the cheap digital clock beside my bed, 11:30 PM. I unpinned the wig I had slept in and put it back into the suitcase and placed the bobby pins in a small container.
I stood and walked into the bathroom and had a steamy shower, washing off the make-up with the motel’s complementary soap. I dried off and used the hairdryer on my head. I changed into a pair of skinny jeans and a nice top, topping it off with the Gucci heels and the starchy black jacket.
The bathroom mirror was covered in steam but I managed to pull my blonde hair into a ponytail. I walked back over to my bed and yawned; shrugging my handbag over my shoulder and wheeling my suitcase towards the door. I walked downstairs into reception quietly, and out of the front doors, I picked up a bus timetable on my way out.
The next bus to Bosnia was at 12:30 PM, it was 12:15 now. I hurried through the cobblestone streets, passing by bars and restaurants where people were laughing and drinking. I exited the heart of the town and rushed along the pathway by the ocean, looking for the bus stop.
I kept walking along the road and almost ran into the bus stop pole. It was 12:32 AM now and I looked down the road to see the bright bus roll down the street. I held out my vulnerable arm to signal the driver and straightened the starchy jacket.
The bus pulled in and I handed my bag to the driver who slipped it under the bus while I walked up the clean steps into the warmth of thirty-year-old air-conditioning. There was an older woman sitting by the window in the middle of the bus and I sat on the aisle across from her; she appeared to be reading a religious book. I placed my handbag on my lap and leant back into the seat and sighed. This was going to be a long bus ride. I closed my eyes and embraced the thirty-year-old stench of the bus.
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