Ceri rolled over on her sunbed and groaned. "Another text from Rob. Another proposal of marriage."
Emma sighed. "He doesn't seem to want to take no for an answer."
Emma smiled to herself. Most would be jealous of a friend being bombarded with offers of marriage. But she didn't envy Ceri one single bit. She reached for the suntan cream and sat up to apply another layer. The sun sparkled off the blue sea, and in the distance the mountains loomed, a purple smudgy mass further down the coast. Perfect weather and picturesque scenery, two ingredients that went into the mix of the ideal holiday.
Emma and Ceri were enjoying their week in Turkey. It was a bit of time out for sunbathing, shopping, the occasional Turkish bath, followed by yet more shopping. Girl stuff. But Ceri's "man friend" Rob didn't see it that way. Ceri knew he had visions of his girl being chatted up left, right and centre, spending every night drinking and dancing with men of all nations. Sure, they both got plenty of attention from the opposite sex, but they weren't interested in a holiday fling. That sort of thing was all too false. They wanted to know they had the real thing.
Her mobile phone trilled again, announcing another text.
Ceri groaned again. "It's Gareth. Wants to know why I haven't text back. Says he wants to be with me forever and ever. Oh, Em, what am I going to do?"
Ah, Gareth. The other man in Ceri's life.
"What about an ice cream? Would that help?" suggested Emma, knowing there was no simple answer to her friend's complicated love life.
Ceri shrugged. They rose from their sunbeds and ambled across to a nearby shop. And by chance they got chatting to an English girl who heard them bemoaning Ceri's surplus of marriage proposals. She introduced herself as Rose.
"My fella has also developed a sudden over-interest in getting married. What is it with these men?" she said with a shrug.
Rose hired a sunbed and settled herself next to Ceri and Emma for an in-depth discussion of the male psyche. Before long, they knew all the details of each other's romantic attachments. Rose and her partner Cameron were resident in Turkey, having given up their jobs and homes in Bradford.
"Everyone thinks it's so romantic, but believe me, it's been hard work," said Rose, licking rapidly melting ice cream off her fingers. "We've had to cope with a lot of red tape getting settled here, and that's on top of all the complications at home. Now Cam is pressing to get married, he wants a ceremony on the beach some time this summer. But I think it's just too soon. We haven't been together that long, and I feel as though I need to get to know him better first. You never really know someone until you've lived together a while."
Rose paused to crunch the last of her ice cream cone. "You know, Emma, you're lucky that your husband doesn't mind you going off on holiday with Ceri."
"I know. It'd be different if we had kids. But that's on hold for a few years at least. I'm lucky Lewis trusts me."
"And no doubt you trust him not to get up to mischief while you're away," mused Rose.
Emma and Ceri laughed. The thought of computer nerd Lewis getting up to any mischief beyond spending too many hours on his PC was quite ridiculous. Emma let Rose into the long-standing joke about her husband and his computer addiction.
About five o'clock the sun began to slip low on the horizon, heralding the end of the day's sunbathing. Emma pointed out that at home in the UK at this time of year they would get more hours of daylight.
"Yes, but what we're after is quality, not quantity," said Ceri, folding her towel into her beach bag.
"Do you fancy coming out for a few drinks with us this evening, Rose?" asked Emma.
"Mmm, that'd be nice. Cameron's working until ten, promoting a new restaurant. I get a bit fed up with my own company all the time."
They exchanged mobile numbers and went their separate ways.
A couple of hours later, Rose rang.
"I'm sorry, I'm not going to be able to join you tonight after all. Something's come up. But would you like to come over to my apartment tomorrow? That is, if you have nothing else planned."
Emma and Ceri thought this sounded like a good idea, particularly as they knew Rose had a pool at her apartment complex.
Sure enough, the apartment was everything they had expected. Stylish, with clean, plain lines, and tastefully furnished. And the pool was something else!
"Mmmm. I could be convinced to move here if I had a place like this," said Ceri, floating on her back.
"There's something that bothers me, Cer. I'll tell you later," whispered Emma, hoisting herself up on the ladder.
"I've got a confession to make," said Rose after her guests had dried off. "You must be hungry, and there's absolutely nothing in my fridge."
"No problem," said Emma. "We know a nice little restaurant not far from here."
The girls dined on chicken kebabs, spicy rice and salad, with sticky cakes and coffee for afters. The waiter looked about fifteen, with a shirt collar that was two sizes too big and his hair slicked down with oil. To their amusement, he brought a set of bathroom scales with the bill for their meal.
"You want to weigh yourselves, ladies? Only cost you ten lire."
They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Rose acted as their spokeswoman, explaining to the hapless youth that bathroom scales and big meals were not good business partners.
Over the rest of the week Ceri was continually pestered by text messages from both Rob and Gareth. She made a point of responding to each suitor once a day, keeping her replies low-key.
"Does Rob know Gareth exists, and vice versa?" enquired Rose.
"No. They live in different towns. But the situation is bound to backfire the longer it goes on, it's a small world we come from."
"I've never been to Wales," said Rose wistfully. "Does it really rain as much as they say?"
"I'm sure it's no worse than Bradford," replied Emma. "I've never been to Bradford, but from what I see on the weather reports for the North of England …"
The next day Rose invited the girls to lunch. "I've been to the supermarket," she announced proudly.
Emma and Ceri made the most of the swimming pool while Rose trotted in and out of the apartment, setting up lunch at a poolside table.
Emma pulled a face as she bit into her ham sandwich. After some investigation which involved consulting a Turkish/English dictionary, it turned out that Rose had buttered the bread with yoghurt.
"I thought it looked a bit pale for butter," said Rose with a giggle.
Ceri couldn't help marvelling that the three of them got on so well. They had the same sense of humour.
Through the week Ceri and Emma had managed to meet Rose's partner, Cameron. The four had been for coffee one afternoon, and Ceri and Emma had entertained Rose and Cameron to dinner one evening. They were both in agreement on their opinion of Cameron.
"It's our last night tonight," said Ceri. "Will you come out with us, Rose? For a girls' night out, I mean."
"Of course. I was hoping you'd ask."
"I hope Cameron won't mind," said Ceri.
"Too bad if he does," replied Rose with a determined glint in her eye.
Ceri and Emma arranged to meet Rose at a bar on the sea front. Emma consulted her watch as she drained her second drink.
"She's late. I bet she's going to let us down."
But at that moment Rose appeared, resplendent in a red dress.
It was a night for drink to loosen their tongues. Emma decided it was time to say something.
"Rose, I hope you won't be offended, but Ceri and I both think Cameron is just using you. Look at it this way. Back in Bradford he lived in a rented house. You owned your own home, and you sold it to buy your apartment here. As far as we can see, he's made no financial contribution. And he lives the life of Riley, coming and going as he pleases."
Rose nodded. "I know. You're right. But what can I do?"
The following day Rose went to the airport with Ceri and Emma. And she took her suitcase. She was in luck, there were a few spare seats on the flight to Cardiff. She had had a busy morning engaging the services of a locksmith to change the lock the apartment door, and putting Cameron's possessions in the care of one of the neighbours along with a note of explanation.
"I'm sure to be able to find a buyer for the apartment without too much difficulty," she said with a grin as the plane roared into the air. "I'm grateful to you both for giving me a wake-up call. And grateful to you, Ceri, for the offer of somewhere to stay until I can buy my own home in Wales. That is, if the place is anywhere near as good as you say it is. So, Ceri, any idea what you're going to do about Gareth and Rob?"
"I'm not going to marry either of them," said Ceri determinedly. "They're not what I'm looking for, either of them. I just had to put a bit of distance between myself and the situation in order to realise that they're a pair of turkeys."
The three girls laughed fit to split their sides, and ordered another round of drinks
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015