A CASE OF SPOTS by Jill Douglas

     Only three hours to go before Jan got the taxi. She had started her packing ten days ago and it was almost done! The trouble is a girl needs so much. Not like blokes. Tom would have thrown a fortnights worth of shirts and a few pairs of new trousers in his case in three minutes flat. Jan hoped he had some space in his case for al the souvenirs she intended bringing back. Goodness knows she didn’t! . Her little black suitcase was bursting at the seams. Actually it was a massive great beast of a suitcase and she had no idea how she was going to drag it out to the taxi. Well a girl had to look her best and she had no intention of Tom’s eyes wandering towards the myriad of Italian beauties that she would have to compete against.

     She had prescribed herself retail therapy on a regular basis for the few weeks leading up to her holiday and she had gone drastic with her plastic. A few little sun numbers, a sophisticated black and gold dress, a few floaty tops and lingerie guaranteed to keep Tom’s eyes out on stalks but firmly riveted to her. She just couldn’t understand how such flimsy material had managed to max out her baggage allowance as she sat on the case, bouncing up and down on it willing it to shut. After a bit of wrestling she finally got the better of the beast and locked it with a resounding click. Job done!

     Just in time too, for the phone rang then to signify the end of the bout.

     “It’s Tom,” the voice on the other end said.

     “Tom, are you packed, have you got everything, have you got your passport out have you labelled the baggage. I can’t wait!”

     She heard a big sigh, ” I can’t go”

     She listened stunned as he said, “I’m sorry darling, I woke up this morning covered in spots. It’s that nephew of mine’s fault; I have caught his chicken pox. They wont let me fly”.

     Jan couldn’t believe it. It was to be a fortnight of love and romance and he had gone and gone spotty on her! So it was with a heavy heart and an even heavier suitcase that she set off to the most romantic coastline of the most romantic country in the world for two weeks of romance – alone. “Chickenpox, do grown-ups get chickenpox?” she thought as she stood by the conveyer belt waiting for the case to come off. She was surrounded by couples, twenty somethings, thirty somethings, up to seventy somethings. All couples.

     She espied her huge black suitcase coming through the flaps. She grabbed it when it came round and creaked and groaned it off the conveyer belt and onto her trolley. Good grief, she had overdone it with the weight. It must have been the sexy silk number that tipped the scale. Fat load of use that would be now, but after going ten rounds with her suitcase before getting it shut there was no way she was going to open it again just because her frillies were redundant.

     Pleased and astounded that it hadn’t taken long to retrieve her baggage she walked out of the airport and into the bright Italian sun. There were reps everywhere with clipboards above their heads and tourists frantically scrabbling about trying to match the logo on their suitcases to the reps clipboard. Jan looked down at her suitcase. No logo, the label must have come off on the conveyer belt. Then she heard, “Seasun holidays, Seasun holidays”
     “That’s me!” she thought and dragged her suitcase in the direction of the voice.

     “Madam, you have all but the sink unit in her, no?” the driver panted as he lugged her case into the hold of the coach. Poor man!

     As she settled back to enjoy the journey to the hotel, the Neapolitans were going about their daily business after their siesta; they were the epitome of style. Not a spot amongst them she mused. By the time she got to the hotel she was passed herself wanting to get out of her travel clothes and get into something more fitting to the setting. Who knows, she might even indulge in a little fling with a native in the absence of Tom. Well it would be rude not to!

     She got off the bus and waited for the driver to qualify for Italy’s strongest man by grasping her suitcase with both hands on to the pavement.

     “Don’t buy any souvenirs,” he advised her as she tipped him.

     She looked up at her hotel, “Vesuvius View”. She knew why. The steps were certainly a challenge. She looked down in dismay at her suitcase and looked round in vain for a porter. “I should have gone to weight training to prepare for this” she muttered as she started to drag her case up the steps, hoping she didn’t look like an old fish wife dragging her catch up the beach. That would ruin the image. Thankfully there was lift to her room. All it would take was one last effort to get her case on the stand. One two three. Done.

     She sipped her buy the gin get the tonic free courtesy of duty free as she dried herself with the fluffy white towels after her shower and prepared to unpack all her lovely new clothes. Strangely, she had terrible trouble getting her case opened but finally managed it after a bit of key waggling. At last, she thought as she opened it up. Then her face fell! Instead of her new wardrobe she found that her case was full of paper. Envelopes, cards, sticky labels.

     She took a large gulp of her gin and plonked herself on the bed. How on earth could this have happened? She felt like crying. She had got a case of a salesman’s samples and he had got all her lovely new frocks. Well it looked like her suitcase! She poured herself another gin as she frantically ruffled through the case. There must be some clue to the owner’s identity here somewhere. Right at the bottom, nestling between fluorescent labels was a card. Naples Conference Centre invites you to a Stationary Fair.

     She scrabbled back into her travelling clothes and rushed down to reception.

     “Quick, it’s an emergency, I need to get to Naples”

     This was not the way she wanted to start her holiday. The taxi driver was delighted to get a tourist to take into Naples and point out the sites, “See, the museum, it has ze treasure of Vesuvio and Hercolano in eet. You stop and visit” “No” she grumpily replied. The taxi driver dodged the numerous scooters and finally got her there and managed to get the suitcase out of the boot.

     Luckily the conference centre was all on the flat so she was able to pull the offending article through the doors without too much difficulty. The conference centre was immense. There were stalls everywhere and people milling about waving envelopes and coloured paper. She did not realise there were so many people who were in the stationery business. She had expected there to be about half a dozen stalls. She thought it was going to be easy finding the salesman whose suitcase she had, but there were hundreds of stalls. How on earth would she spot him and how would he spot her. She would just have to drag the case around in the hope that someone recognised it.

     Then she had a brilliant idea. She parked the case outside the coffee bar, opened it up and got hold of a pack of large fluorescent orange round stickers and ripped it open. Then she stuck them all over the suitcase. By the time she had finished it looked like Mr Blobby’s luggage but boy did it stand out!

     She got some funny looks from the salesman going in to get their espressos then she heard a roar of laughter. She turned to see a gorgeous tall dark haired man laughing like a drain. Well she was glad she amused someone.

     “Very enterprising! I wondered who had picked up my case. I think I have your clothes! Don’t worry I haven’t been rummaging through them. I realised I had got the wrong case when I got to my stall and tried to set up, I’m Alan by the way.”

     “Thank goodness,” she said, “I thought I was going to have to spend all my euros on a new wardrobe,” as she looked up into his dark brown eyes. “Wow”, she thought.

     “What a great idea about the stickers. It is a shame I didn’t think of that before I set off them I wouldn’t have made off with your luggage”

     “Tell me about it”, she said.

     “Look, the least I can do is to buy you dinner, unless you have some lucky chap waiting back at the hotel for you. Not only have you brought my case back but you have given me a brilliant idea for a new product! Never lose your luggage again! This needs some serious consideration. We could make our fortunes!”

     “No,” Jan said, I mean no I haven’t got anyone waiting for me back at the hotel and yes, I would love to go out to dinner with you. I will have to slip into something more suitable though, now have reclaimed my baggage!”

     Her holiday was starting to hot up! She might be able to show off her new wardrobe after all. All of it, she thought, as she slipped the sophisticated black and gold number over her silk camisole.

     And she couldn’t help but laugh and think of Tom’s chickenpox when Alan raised his glass of champagne and proposed a toast, “Here’s to a case of spots,” he said.

ENDS © Jill Douglas