A friend once said: “A touch, a gleam in the eyes, and a bright smile say more than words." That is a true statement. I know because I experienced this during a four-week holiday on the Costa del Sol in Spain. I was with friends who live in Letchworth, England.
We were in Salobrena, staying at the Hotel Salobrena. Situated on the top of a very high hill, the hotel overlooked the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. All of Salobrena could be seen on the right and a beautiful, active town, Almaqueca, on the left. If you looked straight ahead during the early morning, you could see the sun rising slowly, showing its perfectly shaped deep orange face, a little at a time. It reminded me of a juicy mandarin orange. While this process was taking place, there were small boats making their way to Salobrena. They carried the folks who worked at the hotel and lived in Almaqueca.
The Mediterranean Sea is fascinating. It is non-tidal. The water has a rippling flow, which creates an illusion of links in a chain that has no ending. The color of the water is deep blue with streaks of green flowing through, which gives the appearance of a soft drink with lime thrown in for an exotic effect. I loved sitting on the balcony of our room watching the activities taking place. It was a wonderful way to begin the day…talking to a loving and peaceful sea. Of course, like everything else, its reputation is not the best. I was told that it is known as a sea that invites all garbage, which makes it contaminated. But that news didn’t bother me. I felt the same. The Med is a beautiful sea, with a personality of its own. The few birds and seagulls that glided above the sea often gave the impression they were dancing to music only they could hear. A beautiful sight!
I was enthralled during the first few days. This place was like Paradise. It doesn’t get any better than this, I thought. The guests were older, primarily from the UK, with only a handful of Americans. That didn’t matter. It was more like a family reunion consisting of about five-hundred people. Professional entertainment was provided, as well as scheduled tours and activities for the guests. The service, personnel, and food were wonderful. The only thing we had to do was sleep, eat, and have fun!
One day, after we’d been there about a week, I had a very unusual experience. One of my friends and I were walking toward the restaurant for lunch. We were very heavily engaged in a debate about the history of Spain and the Moors. As we approached the bar, an unusual feeling encompassed my body. I shivered a bit.
“What’s wrong, Dee?” Bill asked with a furrowed brow. “Is my conversation making you shiver?” Rolling my eyes and smiling I said, “I don’t think so." Suddenly a very strange feeling came over me. Bill started chuckling saying, “I’m probably getting you excited because I’m winning.” “Yeah, right!” I said, smiling broadly.
We continued walking. As we were passing the bar my eyes locked onto a beautiful little girl. Her dark brown hair was in a pageboy cut and bangs. She looked to be about three years old and had beautiful large blue-green eyes and olive skin. She was leaning on her father’s arm, smiling. Her parents were engaged in a conversation in a language that sounded like French. She continued to stare. Her eyes and smile actually forced me toward her.
“Where’re you going, dee?” Bill said watching as I walked toward the bar. “Go on in the restaurant and join the others. I’ll be there shortly.”
I continued walking toward the little girl smiling. Her eyes widened as she watched me walk toward her. As I got closer she tucked her head in her father’s arms. This roused him. He looked up as I approached. When I reached them, I smiled, rubbing the little girl on her cheek and said: “Hello.” Her eyes widened and the look on her face was one of complete surprise. She was still smiling. "Mesmerized" describes the look! It was as though her entire world stopped! I learned later that she was the only child in the hotel.
Her father was a tall man, about six feet, with dark brown hair and a perfect physique. Very handsome!. He smiled and said: “Bonjour, Mademoiselle.” Her mother was a very attractive lady with dark hair, beautiful large hazel eyes, and a lovely tanned complexion. She was about five feet tall and a bit on the plump side. She was ordering drinks and turned when her husband spoke. Her face and eyes were smiling, but she remained silent. I felt so special at that moment! This is a very warm family, I thought. As I started walking away an older man, with hair so white it reminded me of snow, came closer, smiling, and said, “Bonjour.” I responded, “Bonjour.” Without saying another word, he gave a slight nod, turned, and walked away. What a distinguished looking man and such a gentleman, I thought. He was around the same height as the little girl’s father and extremely polite. This was the strangest experience I’d ever encountered.
I could feel the little girl’s eyes on me as I proceeded to the restaurant. I turned around and sure enough the entire family were watching. I smiled and blew her a kiss! She lifted her head. Those beautiful eyes widened and twinkled as a big smile surfaced. Then she turned to her mother and started talking. I was just as excited as she was. I thought to myself, My children never treat me like this. It’s about time someone appreciated me, and continued to the restaurant, with a pep in my stride and a smile on my face.
My friends were seated when I arrived. They questioned my strange behavior and my new friends. I didn’t know what to say other than I’d found a new friend. We all laughed. I went to the buffet. After getting my food and about to take my seat I noticed everyone staring. It seemed they were looking at me, but they were looking at something behind me. When I turned around, the little girl was watching me, twisting and turning, waiting patiently for me to turn around.
Janet, one of the ladies at the table, said, “I think she’s waiting for you to say something, Dee.”
“What can I say?”
“You’re asking me!”
There she was, watching me, smiling. I went to her, stooped, embraced her, and whispered something I thought I’d forgotten, “Je vous aime beaucoup.” Once again her eyes widened as she turned and ran toward her parents. Apparently she told them what I said because they all looked at me with big smiles. I have no idea why I said that. Maybe it was because that was the only phrase I knew in French.
“Where’d you learn French, Dee?” Janet said laughing. “Ha! Who says I know French!” “Wasn’t that French you spoke to the little girl?” “Yeah. When my brother was in the service, he’d end his letters to me with that phrase. Frankly, I thought I’d forgotten it.” “Well, you made a hit with that little girl and her family. My goodness, they’re still watching.”
I turned and smiled. Of course the conversation remained on the little French girl. She continued to run back and forth to our table. Pretty soon everyone in the restaurant was watching. The last time she came over, I beckoned her to come closer. She eased toward me, a finger in her mouth, with a look of apprehension. When she reached the table, I put my arms around her and gave her a big squeeze. She looked into my eyes with such love and compassion. She was saying “thank you” with her eyes. I felt another shiver and my heart started palpitating. It was strange! She broke away and ran to her parents. I had such mixed emotions. It was crazy! I sat there staring into space.
Janet broke the silence saying, “Hey, she’s only a little girl. She’s probably never seen an African American before and is amazed.” Still laughing, she continued, “You’re different, Dee.” “Aw shut up, Jan. Like you said, she’s just a little girl. A loving little girl who likes a loving woman," I said laughing. “Besides, her parents seem very genuine and compassionate also.”
Well, that session ended! The little girl and her family left the restaurant before us. We continued talking and drinking wine. We were about to leave when the mother rushed back into the restaurant and headed for our table.
“Mademoiselle! I speak little English. We are from Belgium and speak French. My daughter’s name is Megan. She loves you,” she said, smiling, with anxious eyes.
It was as if she expected me to be angry or hurt. I was not sure what she expected, but I gave her a big smile. She let out a deep breath and laughed, “Merci, Mademoiselle, merci,” as she walked away. We were all speechless. We didn’t see the family again until dinner.
They were not in the restaurant when we went in for dinner. I looked around before heading for the buffet to make sure. We made the buffet rounds and as I was about to sit down, up came Megan. She’d broken away from her parents and run to our table, ending up next to me. I immediately put my arms around her saying, “ Bonsoir, Cherie!"
Another surprise! She responded very quietly, “Bonsoir.” Her face was glowing. She turned, found her family, and we could see her jabbering away, arms waving. Her parents started laughing and waved. She came to the table so often that the people at nearby tables were teasing me. I felt like someone had given me a million dollars. When they left the restaurant, Megan ran to me, gave me a hug and said, “Au revoir.” I assumed that was “goodbye," so I repeated, “Au revoir.”
This went on every day, all day, for the remainder of their stay. On the days we went on a tour, her parents would inquire about me. The hosts would tell them where I was. She was always waiting for me when I went for dinner. One day the grandfather, whose name I never knew, approached me and in broken English said, “Married?” Smiling, I said, “non.” He waved his hands and raised an eyebrow as only Frenchmen do and said, “Bon!” then walked away. I thought he was going to ask me to marry him!
Megan and I became inseparable when I was around. She was in and out of my life. Her parents were very comfortable with this friendship. One day during lunch she ran behind me asking for a kiss. I had no idea what she was saying. One of the waiters said, “Senora, kees. Megan wants a kees.” I finally realized he was saying Megan wanted a kiss, so I stooped down and she ran into my arms and gave me a big smack on the cheek. The patrons started applauding. Megan ran to her parents and when I finally straightened up, I felt like a millionaire…. again! I smiled and thought to myself, The best things in life are free…really, really free!
The day before they were leaving, Megan’s mother came to me and said, “Leaving tomorrow.” “You’re going home tomorrow?” “Oui!” “Oh my! I didn’t know that. Wait! Where is Megan?” I asked anxiously. “Elle ici,” she said, smiling and pointing to the door. I was getting pretty good with the French. Well, understanding it at least. Speaking was a different story! “Stay here,” I said. “I’ll be right back.” I was gesticulating to make sure she understood. She started laughing while shaking her head OK.
I ran to my room and got one of my silver life rings, one that I’d had for many years. I knew it was large and I didn’t have a chain for it. It was all I had and I felt Megan was worth it. She’d given me something I hadn’t had in a long time - the feeling that I was special. One never realizes how much that is needed and missed until it happens. I ran downstairs, located Megan, and gave her the ring, trying to explain that it was very large. She grabbed my neck saying, “Merci, Cherie. Je vous aime beaucoup.”
Hugging her I said, “Il n’y a pas de quoi! (You’re welcome!) Moi trop (Me too).” Her mother told me what to say.
That did it! I would’ve given her the clothes off my back if I thought she needed them. When our goodbye scene was over, her dad asked if he could take pictures of me. I posed for him and then I took pictures of them with my camera. I also got their address because I wanted to stay in touch. They were more than happy to oblige.
I was scheduled to go on a tour the next day and failed to tell Megan. My friends later told me that when the Belgian family was about to leave, Megan came to the table and didn’t see me. She ran around the restaurant and when she couldn’t find me, she went to her mom and brought her back to the table. My friends told her I’d gone on a tour and wouldn’t return until late evening. The mother relayed that information to Megan and she started crying. Her mother apologized to the group, picked Megan up, and went back to their table.
When I returned everyone I saw told me about the scene. I felt so bad that I’d forgotten to mention it to Megan's family. However, before leaving Salobrena, I wrote Megan a letter of apology - in English. When I returned home to the USA, there was a letter from her family. It was a wonderful welcome home! Hopefully, I will see them again. It was an unforgettable experience for me.
And I do believe that a touch, a gleam in the eyes, and a smile expresses more than words. Megan and the Mediterranean expressed more to me than anyone I know!
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Dorothy's Story List and Biography