Third, and I think last, in my series of stories inspired by my recent trip to Andalucia is ‘Black Widow’. The idea for this one originated in a visit to one of the region’s famous ‘white towns’.
These beautiful places, seemingly clinging to the rock itself, are scattered across the steep hillsides, shining like beacons in the sunlight. Definately worth the effort if you are ever in the area. Please feel free to comment at the end.
The first crack appeared in Señora Alvirez’s monochrome existence during her daily visit to the village mini-market. Entering innocently under cover of her black umbrella during an unseasonable downpour, she caught the tail end of a conversation about the recently- deceased Señora Fernandez.
‘Of course,’ said the girl behind the counter, ‘you know she was Señor Alvirez’s lover for years.’
So engrossed in their gossiping were the women that Señora Alvirez managed to steal away from the shop unnoticed.
‘That Puta,’ she muttered, making her way carefully down the rain-soaked cobbles towards the Iglesia, ‘and to think I lit a votive for her salvation just this morning.’
Señora Alvirez entered the church quietly, but found herself alone with Santa Maria who was perched, as always, above the altar, surveying her peaceful domain.
‘You’d better look away,’ whispered the widow to the icon, before approaching the votive stand and blowing out her recently-lit candle. ‘That’s one soul who’s getting no more help from me.’
Stepping out of the church, Señora Alvirez shielded her eyes against the searing whitewash of the village, now pulsating again with the sun’s full force. She gave her retinas a moment to readjust before making her way back up through the winding streets to her house, where she was greeted by her neighbour, Señora Montero, sitting, as usual, in her doorway.
‘You haven’t bleached your step Señora,’ said the widow, ‘have you forgotten it’s Wednesday today?’
Later, as she heated some soup for lunch, Señora Alvirez studied her reflection in the side of the pan; a distorted image loomed back like a ghastly dark spectre draped in widow’s garments, bulging obscenely as if in a fairground mirror.
‘Ugly clothes for an ugly philanderer,’ she told herself, ‘surely a little colour wouldn’t hurt.’
The revolution began placidly enough: her pink petticoat that Sunday visible only to God and the spider which had spun a web underneath her regular pew. The following week however, she added some pink lipstick purchased brazenly from the village pharmacy.
‘I expect this is for your daughter-in-law,’ suggested the assistant hopefully, desperate for gossip to nourish the local grape vine, ‘I don’t suppose they get colours like this in Malaga these days.’
Señora Alvirez remained silent, angry to have been reminded of the angular girl with the sharp tongue who had turned her son’s eye. Even so, the lipstick felt good, luxurious and soft like thick chocolate.
The following week, Señora Alvirez availed herself of the bus service to a nearby town where she experienced her first manicure ‘with colour polish’. She marvelled at how even her step-scrubbing nails could be transformed so boldly, holding them up to the light like ten glorious stigmata.
Alighting from the bus in the village square, Señora Alvirez felt every eye watching her from shrouded windows. In any other place her smart outfit – a sensible skirt and jacket in deep burgundy – would be unremarkable, but she could sense the ripple of condemnation spreading upwards through the narrow streets. A quick visit to the Iglesia confirmed that the Virgin Mary at least remained unmoved by her daring; but she lit a hasty votive, just in case.
The kaleidoscopic changes in Señora Alvirez’s life gathered pace as she raided her widow’s pension to fill the house with vivid colours; curtains, rugs and a joyous bedspread all found a home inside number six, Calle San Pedro. The outraged gasps and muttered disapprovals drifting in through the open window brought a guilty smile to the listening owner’s lips.
When she placed an order for fifty litres of blue paint at the local iron mongers, the town’s committee was, as she anticipated, quick to react.
‘It’s the tourists, you see Señora Alvirez,’ said the deputation sent to plead their case, ‘they only come here because we’re a white village. It’s our unique selling point.’
Señora Alvirez had a limited understanding of modern business terminology; her insight into human nature, on the other hand, had increased considerably of late. After a timely pause she acceded to their wishes; nevertheless she took delivery of the paint the following Wednesday.
‘In case I ever feel the need for colour,’ she explained to her neighbour, who had observed the paint’s arrival with pursed lips from behind her freshly-bleached step, ‘it’s the same blue as our Holy Mother’s eyes in the Iglesia. Imagine that!’
© flyingscribbler 2012