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Saturday, 17 January 2015

'The Busker of Torrevieja' - part 2 of 2

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Part 2 of 2

Nik Morton


The programme for the following night was a mixture of Debussy, Ravel and Haydn, and I soon got lost in the music.

            At the end I bowed and peered into the auditorium as the lights went up. I noticed the distinctive headdress of a nun in the back row. Without another moment’s thought, I hurried off-stage, rushed round to the exit doors and nudged my way through the crowd.

I was in time.

            “Excuse me, Sister,” I said, tugging at her black cotton sleeve.

            She turned and her bright brown eyes gazed straight at me. “Yes? Oh, Mr. Jacobs, this is a pleasant surprise–”

            “Sorry to interrupt, but...”

            And then I saw the young woman alongside the nun. How had I missed her? The nun’s habit had drawn me, I suppose. I guessed that the nun was barely in her thirties, while the elusive busker was about eighteen, shorter than the nun, with long curling black hair, staring grey eyes with long lashes, a flawless complexion and thick full lips. There was a bruise on her temple, and yellowing under the eyes. “It’s this young lady I’ve come to see,” I explained awkwardly.

            The young woman smiled and shook my hand. “Thanks for coming to my aid.”

            “Sofia told us all about it,” said the nun. “You rescued her, didn’t you?”

            “Yes,” I said sheepishly.

            “I’m Sister Teresa from Santa Clara’s hostel for the homeless. Sofia is one of our charges.” She held out a hand and we shook firmly.

            “Hola.” I turned back to Sofia. “Well, I’d just like to say that your playing...” I paused, staring.

            Sister Teresa said, “There’s no need to be embarrassed, Mr. Jacobs. Many people don’t realize at first. Sofia’s been blind for a number of years.”

* * * *

After mild curiosity on our arrival in the tapas bar round the corner from the theatre – it isn’t every day a nun sits and eats fast food, after all – nobody paid us any further attention. I ordered coffees and portions of tortilla.

            I couldn’t keep my eyes from Sofia’s face. Eyes are supposed to be the windows of the soul but her windows were blank. Yet the tenderness of her smile, the slight tilt of her head as she listened to conversation and the background sounds of her surroundings, tended to diminish the shock of her unknowing stare. Besides, she had found an outlet for her soul through music.

            “I’m sorry, Sister, I didn’t realize Sofia was – couldn’t see...”

            “Mr. Jacobs,” Sister Teresa said in a tone that gave me the distinct impression that she’d like to wring my neck. “We don’t subscribe to the absurd politically correct lobby. Sofia’s blind. Has been since her drunken father threw her downstairs on her sixth birthday. She isn’t deaf. Talk to her.” She tempered her words with a smile that put me at ease. “She’s too polite to say so,” she went on, “but Sofia probably gets pretty irate being talked about in the third-person, just like I’m doing, you know?”

            Sofia leaned forward, touched Sister Teresa’s sleeve and shook her head, as if to say, “Let it go.”

            Suitably chastised, I said, “Sorry, Sofia.”

            “Stop apologising, Mr. Jacobs!” Sofia laughed, a tinkling musical sound.

            “Your music yesterday, it caused me to turn the car round – if I hadn’t, God knows what would have happened!”

            Sister Teresa nodded. “God knows, indeed.”

            “Er, yes, well...”

            Sofia’s lips curved and her eyes crinkled at the corners and my insides seemed to somersault. “Sister Teresa has asked me not to busk...” She shrugged. “I’m just stubborn!”

            “Amen to that!” said Sister Teresa, and both women clasped hands spontaneously.

            I’d never met anyone like either of them. Sister Teresa possessed the serenity and poise of a devout religious person. As for Sofia, I simply marveled at her good humor in the face of adversity: blind, homeless, the victim of a mugging and God knows what else, yet she smiled out at the dark threatening world.

            “Don’t you feel anger?’ I asked her. ‘After what those men did?”

            Sofia shook her head. “I feel sorry for them. They’re obviously incapable of appreciating music. Their lives are probably empty, loveless, while mine has the love of the hostel’s sisters. They doubtless steal to feed their drug habit, while the sisters feed and clothe me. Their souls are barren, while I have music...”

            “Yes, music,” I echoed, moved by her words. “Your violin, though; it was smashed.”

            “I was upset about that, naturally. It was a generous gift from one of Sister Teresa’s benefactors. But my main concern was to get away. I’m used to running away – well, before I found the hostel...” She sighed. “I’ll just have to save for another violin.”

            Inescapably, I thought of Milly, of all the material riches she and her society friends possessed, and suddenly I understood how poor they were in contrast to this stubborn young woman.

            “Don’t worry about Sofia’s violin. Somehow, the Lord will provide a replacement.” The determined set of Sister Teresa’s chin made me believe she could achieve anything she set out to do.

            “I believe you. Please call me Adrian. Both of you.”

            “Adrian.” Sofia smiled beautifully and I felt something unravel inside me.

* * * *

When I returned to the Cabo Cervera hotel I felt lonely, empty and strangely unfulfilled.

            As I entered our room, Milly stormed at me for missing the after-show party. She accused me of being uncaring, of being selfish.

            She was so right, of course, though not in the way she meant. “Yes, Milly, I have been uncaring.”

            She stamped her foot. “Don’t call me Milly!”

            “I haven’t cared about people for a very long time, Millicent. Real people. You know, those who live in the actual world, those who suffer from real bruises not bruised egos–”

            “What’s this rubbish?” A cunning tone entered her voice. “It’s that girl – that busker – she’s got to you.” She sneered, her lips twisting. “Wait a minute, now I remember, someone said they saw you with a young woman and a nun...” She laughed. “It isn’t the girl, it’s the nun! Are you kinky – does the habit turn you on?”

            “Please stop this–”

            “A frustrated old nun!”

            “Sister Teresa’s not old, Millicent. She’s a good honest–”

            “You’ve gone and got religion, is that it?”

            Saddened, I shook my head. “No, Milly, I haven’t. I’ve gone and got my humanity back. I’d lost it on the way to being famous.”

            I heard the vase shatter against the wall as I shut the door behind me.

* * * *

My savings account was bulging. Expenses came out of a separate bank account – Milly could have that to settle the hotel bills, I thought as I booked into a somewhat cheaper pension.

            The following morning, on my way to the Santa Clara hostel, I bought a reproduction baroque violin. Its tone was nasal, but pure.

            I felt surprisingly self-conscious as I was shepherded to Sister Teresa’s office. My pulse raced at the prospect of speaking to Sofia again. I was being foolish; it was probably misplaced pity that impelled me to come.

            At that moment, the office door opened and Sofia came out with Sister Teresa.

            I smiled and could feel my heart fluttering.

            “Oh, Adrian!” exclaimed Sofia. “How nice to see you!”

            “How’d you know–?”

            “Your after-shave. It still lingers in the memory after yesterday.”

            You’ve lingered in mine, I wanted to reply. Instead, I said, “I brought you this.” I glanced at Sister Teresa and she nodded okay. “It’s a new violin,” I ended lamely, thrusting the instrument into Sofia’s hands.

            Her eyes could not light up with pleasure, but her smile was radiant and her complexion took on an attractive flush. “Thank you, Adrian.”

            Excitedly, her long hands ran over the instrument, smoothly gliding across the maple back-plate, fingers daintily plucking the strings.

* * * *

After lunch, Sofia played Tartini’s Devil’s Trill sonata for the inhabitants of the hostel. They all sat enraptured by her amazing control of the music. The final movement, where she trilled on one string while executing swift passagework on another, was extraordinary, performed with exquisite assurance. I was thrilled by her choice as poor Tartini had been sadly neglected for too many years.

            However, more than the music captivated me.

            I never went back. My purpose in life shifted quite dramatically. I left behind Milly and the world we had inhabited.

            Later, I wrote to Milly, apologizing for ending our personal and commercial relationship on such a sour note. I made a point of saying that I’d always be grateful for her sponsoring me and making it possible for my music to touch so many people. She never replied. Later still, I saw her photo in Hello and she was on the arm of a young handsome film star. She was smiling and seemed happy.

            From that moment when I listened to Sofia playing, my destiny was sealed.

            Sofia and I are very happy. We now tour the world, putting on concerts for the benefit of several charities. And we send a percentage of our fees to help fund Santa Clara’s hostel for the homeless in Torrevieja.


This story won 3rd prize in the Third International Story Writing Competition, Torrevieja, Spain. Published in the anthology Another Look, May 2007.

Reprinted in When the Flowers are in Bloom and Other Stories (out of print), 2012
Copyright Nik Morton, 2007, 2012, 2015
If you liked this story, you may like my two Spanish themed books published by Crooked Cat:

Amazon UK :-
Amazon COM here                   Amazon COM here


Jackie Roche said...

I have just read "The Busker of Torrevieja" and loved it. I came across it purely by accident. I live in Torrevieja so could picture where the events took place. Funnily enough I live opposite the Cabo Cervera Hotel. I will be following your blog from now on.

Nik said...

Hi, Jackie, thanks for responding. I greatly appreciate your comments. I'm glad you liked the story. You may see some other familiar places in SPANISH EYE (plug!)