Ben climbed from the Metro up to the street and took a deep breath of the Spanish spring air. He headed north into L’Eixample, looking forward to collapsing in his room after a long day of sightseeing. His mind wandered back to the lovely young lady he had briefly encountered earlier that morning and he wondered whether he might, by chance, run into her again. He smiled as his long lost libido reared its head.
Ben had taken this trip at the suggestion of his family and friends after the break-up of his 15 year long relationship with Sally. While they had not had to undergo the trauma of divorce, it still wasn’t easy for a long term relationship to dissolve. Ben had spent his forties and half of his fifties living with Sally and he was having a hard time adjusting to being single again. He had finally bowed to the pressure and agreed to a three week European trip to clear his head and, perhaps, meet some new people.
While he hadn’t really met anyone to speak of – being a relatively quiet person by nature – the solo traveling had improved his mood and gotten him out of the considerable funk he had been in since their separation four months earlier, just after the New Year. His plan had been to start in Lisbon and work his way through Andalusia, up the east coast of Spain and Catalonia and into the south of France. His flight back from Nice was flexible, but he had given himself three weeks to meander and explore.
He had been in Barcelona for a couple days and was enjoying it immensely. He found it lively and engaging – a clean friendly city that spoke to his needs at the time. The food was great, the wine cheap and plentiful, the sites historic and engaging and the city itself a pedestrian’s paradise.
While most of his accommodations to date had been hotels, he had followed the advice of a friend for Barcelona and booked four nights in a B&B in the L’Eixample section of the city. While he still had plenty of privacy, he had chosen to have breakfast each morning with the other guests.
The B&B was actually two large flats in one of the typical five story buildings that lined the streets in that section of the city. The owners, a gay couple, had a large semi-public flat on the first floor with a number of rooms and a central breakfast room, as well as their own flat on the third floor which had two additional larger bedrooms as well as their own quarters. Ben’s en-suite bedroom was in the latter, down toward the end of a wide tiled hallway. It was a large, white high-ceilinged room and had its own small balcony accessed through French doors. The brief interaction at breakfast each morning was a small price to pay for the luxuriousness of the accommodations. He was quite pleased with the selection.
That morning, his second in Barcelona, he had had a chance encounter with a young female guest who must have been in the other bedroom down his hallway. He was just opening the door of the flat to leave, and as he opened the door, he came face to face with a beautiful young Spanish woman on the other side; a look of surprise on her face as she stood poised to insert her key into the door. Ben only got a glimpse of her, and only of her face. But he was struck by the full mane of dark brown wavy hair and her large brown eyes framed by tortoise shell glasses. They each said a cursory “Hola”, as he stepped aside to let her in, then closed the door behind him as he left the flat.
Ben had seen his share of beautiful women on his trip so far; he’d always had a soft spot for dark-eyed Hispanic women. But his brief interlude with this young seniorita stayed with him as he wandered through the city that day. He wasn’t sure what it was about this particular young lady that seemed to stick with him, but he found himself wondering who she was and what she was doing in Barcelona – alone.
He found out a little more about her that afternoon when he returned to his room and ran into Nico, one of the owners of the B&B, on the stairs up to the flat. When he asked casually about the young lady he had encountered earlier in the day, Nico explained that she was the daughter of a friend of theirs and was in Barcelona looking for an apartment. She would be moving to Barcelona for a new job in June and was using the B&B as a home base as she searched for appropriate housing.
Ben hoped to run into her again and he did, fortunately, that next morning at breakfast. It was his last full day in Barcelona and he had tarried a little longer than usual at breakfast, hoping his young neighbor might show herself. He had talked up the Australian mother and daughter for some time and had just had a second cup of coffee as he traded stories with an elderly Belgian couple when she walked in.
Ben, Nico and the couple were at one end of the table as the young lady strode into the breakfast room and squeezed behind the Belgian couple to take a seat down toward the end of the long rectangular table. Ben couldn’t be too obvious in taking notice, but he glanced long enough to see that she was wearing, high leather boots, tight casino şirketleri hip-hugging jeans and a very full gray knit sweater. The jeans clung to a beautiful ass, curvy and luscious. Her wild mane of wavy brown hair was an intoxicating sight and the large tortoise shell glasses gave her an intellectual flair, warranted or not.
Nico, ever the good host, made brief introductions and Ben caught her gaze for just a moment as he was introduced to Gracie, pronounced “grah-si”. Gracie did little more than smile and nod and Ben tried to give her the privacy she seemed to seek. She ordered coffee from Nico’s young assistant and the conversation at their end of the table continued.
Ben found himself in a conundrum. He wanted to engage the young lady in conversation, but he wasn’t sure what to say, or even if she was fluent in English. She sat to his side, one empty seat between them, and he would have had to purposefully turn to her to talk to her. He was milking the last vestiges of his café con leche, trying to figure out what to do, when he glanced over at Gracie.
She had reached both arms above her head to tie up her hair. In doing so, the short loose grey sweater that she was wearing rose up with her arms, exposing her bare midriff. Ben’s coffee cup was halfway to his lips when he found himself face to face with the most beautiful stomach and hips he had ever seen. The jeans were low rise and sliced across the curve of her waist. He could see that the denim sloped dangerously low in the back, but his profile view didn’t allow him to see that particular spot. She had a small piece of silver jewelry dangling from a piercing in her belly button and the sinful flair of her hips from an impossibly slender waist held Ben’s gaze in check. Even though this all occurred in a matter of a few seconds, Ben found himself transfixed by the view and her smooth light brown skin.
As she finished tying up her hair, she lowered her arms and turned her gaze to Ben, catching him staring at her mid-section. Her large brown eyes glared at him through her glasses as he unfroze himself and lowered his cup to the table, almost missing the saucer in his embarrassment.
He had to think quickly. Nico was still in spirited conversation with the Belgians. He could turn away, ignore what had just happened and slink away to his room. Or he could do something quite out of the ordinary for him and address what had just occurred. In a moment of clarity – and one he’d come to be thankful for in years to come – he opted for the latter. She was still glaring at him as he turned back to her.
“Senora. Pardon my gaze. Lo siento.” He looked in her eyes and found he had no inkling on how to gauge her demeanor at that moment. “I have to tell you this. I have been in Barcelona for several day now – admiring the architecture of Gaudi and the art of Picasso and Miro. But, I have to say, I think the most beautiful thing I have seen in these past days is the brief view you just afforded me. I’m sure it was inadvertent and unintended. And it was wrong for me to stare. But…I couldn’t help myself. Please forgive me.”
Ben sat back nervously, unable to gauge exactly what Gracie was thinking, or if she had even understood what he had just said. Would she complain to Nico? Perhaps just get up and leave? Would she berate him in Spanish for being so ungentlemanly and uncouth? For staring?
He was unsure what to expect and thought the worst. Perhaps he should just get up and leave; his tail between his legs. Gracie turned to him, her face still stern, and Ben felt he was about to be told off.
“What was your name again?” she said in perfect English, but with a lilting Spanish accent.
“Ben,” he replied meekly, still unsure of where this was going.
“Ben,” she repeated. “Hmm. Where are you from, Ben?” she asked.
Ben heaved a silent, but heavy, sigh of relief. It seemed an awkward moment had passed and he and Gracie began to converse in friendly terms. He told her he was an American on holiday.
“And tell me about your name, Gracie,” he implored.
“Oh, my name is Graciella, but my friends have shortened it to Gracie,” she replied.
Ben gently prodded for information and found out that Gracie was from Cordoba and had accepted a job in a school that began in June. She was in town looking for an apartment and her parents knew Nico and his partner well and had arranged for her to stay here. She had been successful in her housing search and had signed a lease the previous day. She wasn’t leaving until the next day and now had a free day on her hands before heading home. Ben’s head spun, but he wasn’t sure how to best respond to this information.
They continued to talk and Gracie finally turned to Ben and asked him a pointed question.
“So what are your plans today, Ben?” she asked with a steady gaze. Ben tried to process the tone of the questions and decided, once again, to take a chance.
“Well, I was going to head down to Barcelonetta and walk down the beach for a ways, casino firmaları then wind my way back through El Born and the Ribera – just taking in the city,” He paused for a moment as she held his eyes in hers. He decided to go for it. “You’re welcome to join me if you have nothing else planned. I would love the company.”
He waited with bated breath for a reply and tried to gauge her body language and facial expressions for some hint of how she might reply. She started to grin as she replied, the first time Ben had seen her smile and her gorgeous teeth.
“Why, thank you, Ben. That’s very sweet of you. But…” Ben’s heart sank as he felt a rejection coming on.
“But I wouldn’t want to intrude on your day. I’m sure you’d rather be alone.” Ben’s heart was pounding in his chest.
“Oh, no, quite the contrary. I would love your company, Gracie. Sincerely, please.” He could see her mouth turning up in a subtle smile. “I’d even buy you lunch…to make up for my inappropriate stare earlier. Please,” he implored, trying his best not to show his desperation – trying to seem as natural as possible under the circumstances.
“Well…okay. I’m flattered,” she said, with the sexiest smile Ben thought he had ever seen.
Gracie still needed to eat her breakfast and Ben felt it might feel awkward to stay longer under the watchful eye of Nico, so they made plans to meet outside the front door in half an hour. Ben left the breakfast room with a spring in his step. He was on the border of disbelief that such a turn of good fortune had come his way.
Half an hour later, Ben was on the street and before long, Gracie emerged through the large wrought iron door. She looked even more beautiful than he had thought as she strode toward him with a huge smile on her face, wearing sunglasses. Ben couldn’t help but smile himself. They were off.
They decided to head down to stroll along the beach, an area of Barcelona that Ben had yet to visit. They hopped on the Metro and emerged at the Barceloneta stop, climbing up into a full on sunny May morning. As they strolled along the beachfront they admired the stunning modern architecture and the lovely curving beach. It was still early, but the beach was already covered with bodies as they strolled toward the W Hotel at the end of the strand, shaped like a giant sail.
Along the way they got to know one another better. Gracie shared a bit of her past, growing up in Cordoba and attending college there. Her entire family was there and she was expected to settle down there, but she had wanted to leave, at least for a while, to live on her own in a new place. She had settled on Barcelona after getting a position at the University library. Her parents, ever watchful, had insisted that she stay with their friends in Barcelona, so Nico and his partner, Juan, had put her up for the few days she was in town. Fortunately, she had found an apartment the previous day, otherwise she wouldn’t be wandering the beach at this moment with an older American man.
Her English was excellent, yet still tinged by a strong Spanish inflection. Ben felt a little embarrassed that he was typical of so many Americans who had never sought to master another language, as most Europeans had done.
Ben grinned as he listened to her talk about herself. She was wearing the same outfit as she had at breakfast and her dark beauty was stunning. She smiled easily now – a beautiful smile – that had been hidden under a very serious demeanor when she had first come down to breakfast. He was delighted when he took occasional glances at her lower body, curvy and statuesque. Her upper body was still somewhat hidden by the full flowing sweater she was wearing. Ben had not forgotten the brief glimpse he had gotten at what lay beneath.
Ben shared a bit of his past, as they strolled, and told Gracie about his graphic design business back in Connecticut and his recently failed relationship of 15 years. While he’d met quite a few people in his two weeks of travel to date, this was the first real conversation of any substance he had since he arrived. He was hoping it wouldn’t end.
They turned around at the “Sail” and headed back in the direction they’d come, watching people as they meandered. La Barceloneta wasn’t a nude beach, but there was plenty of casual topless woman adorning the shoreline. In America, this would have caused an uproar – here in Spain, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.
They finally angled away from the beach and emerged onto Passeig do Joan de Borbo. They wandered along the endless stretch of sidewalk cafes and gazed across at the yachts lined up in the Marina. At one point Gracie twisted her ankle slightly – her boots had a heel – and James offered her assistance. As she steadied herself, he extended his right elbow and she accepted it, grabbing on as Ben hoped she would.
They eventually crossed the street and walked past the Nigerian vendors selling their knock-off wares on blankets, then past a line of small vendors under tents. They güvenilir casino sat on a stone ledge and watched people walking by. They talked about what a lovely city Barcelona was.
“You are very fortunate to be moving to such a lovely place, Gracie,” Ben opined.
“Yes, I know. My parents might not agree with you, but I’m very excited for what the future holds,” she said with twinkle in her eye.
As they continued their walk and headed into the old part of the city, Gracie continued to latch onto Ben’s arm. They must have been a pair – a tall older gray-haired gentleman, definitely not of Spanish descent, with a lovely young Spanish woman on his arm. He certainly didn’t care and, fortunately, it didn’t seem to faze Gracie either.
The more they walked, the more she grasped his arm and pulled herself close to his elbow. Ben could feel the softness of a very full left breast pressed against his right elbow. Sometimes she would pull away for a moment to look in a shop window, then re-engage. Each time Ben could feel the fullness of her bosom beneath the flowing gray sweater. It was beyond subtle, but very real, and it made his heart soar and his mind wander places it probably shouldn’t.
As they strolled the narrow all pedestrian streets of La Ribera, Ben finally acknowledged their proximity.
“You know, I think I have the happiest right elbow in all of Barcelona right now,” he grinned.
Gracie smiled and lightly slapped his forearm.
“Yes, you are quite lucky, aren’t you,” she stated, pulling him just a tad tighter.
It was early afternoon and they had been walking for some time. They decided a light lunch was in order and found a lovely outdoor café near the cathedral. Children were squealing and chasing large bubbles that a man was making from a pail in the street and another young man was playing a nylon string guitar on the steps of a nearby building. They sat at a table for two under a large umbrella. It was a magnificent place to be in public, yet have total privacy of conversation.
They ordered some tapas and each a glass of red wine. Gracie traded her sunglasses for the pair she had had on at breakfast. Ben could once again see her gorgeous eyes and he couldn’t help but smile.
“You are a gorgeous young woman, Gracie,” he blurted out. He couldn’t believe some of the things that were coming out of his mouth, but he was loving this new found freedom of expression.
“Thank you, Ben.”
The wine arrived, they toasted glasses and Gracie looked Ben in the eye.
“So tell me, Ben. Have you used that line from breakfast before?” she asked with a bemused look, taking a sip of wine.
“Oh, no. I know you may not believe me, but I have never done anything remotely like that before. I’m not sure what came over me this morning. Normally I would have taken a quick peek at your exposed skin and gotten up in embarrassment and left without a word. Or turned away and pretend that I hadn’t seen a thing. I’m not sure what it was this morning – taking a chance I guess.”
Gracie peered deeply into his eyes, trying to ascertain the honesty of his statement. She could tell that he was speaking the truth.
“Well, I’ve heard my share of lines – mostly in Spanish, of course. But that was a good one and took me by surprise.” She paused and lifted her glass. “Here’s to you, Ben.”
They toasted once again and took another sip before Gracie continued.
“Have you been seeing anyone since your split?”
Ben sighed. “No. I’m afraid not. I think that was why my friends and family urged me to go on this trip – to get me out of my funk.”
“So, you mean you haven’t been with a woman since…?”
Ben could see where she was going with this. “Well, if you’re asking when the last time I had sex was, it would be several months before our split. So…seven months?” he said in a questioning tone.
“Oh, my. I’m so sorry,” Gracie said, almost apologetically. “So how did an innocent glimpse of skin cause this sudden outburst?” she asked, obviously still curious about Ben’s comments that morning.
“Gracie, I was just stating the absolute truth. I have been appreciating all the beauty – architecture, art, sculpture, urban planning – in this wonderful city. But nothing made me catch my breath the way you did this morning. You’re, well…” He was at a loss for words for the first time that day and Gracie smiled at his innocent embarrassment. She decided to probe further, her tongue loosening with the wine.
“So tell me, Ben. What went through your mind at that very moment this morning? What did you want?”
Ben stared into Gracie’s eyes and saw that she wasn’t playing him. She was serious and curious. He decided, not for the first time that day, to reply honestly once again. He took a sip of wine and replied.
“Well, I thought about how much I wanted to touch you. Feel your skin. Kneel down there beside you and run my hand over your curves. I just…wanted you at that very moment.” He hesitated for a moment, then continued. “To be honest, my libido has taken a nose dive during the last months of my failing relationship. And sex has really not been on my mind for some time now. But something just clicked when I saw you this morning. It was like a switch went off and I was alive again.”