Jane and Julio
Jane and Julio was a short story I shared with readers on Tumblr in 2018. It was written very casually in a series of text posts and Tumblr ask responses, as oppose to a traditional prose style. It explores the backstory of Tori, Charlie, and Oliver’s parents – Jane and Julio – and how they met in 1980s Mojacar, the Spanish town Julio’s parents live in. I hope you enjoy it!
today i’ve been thinking about what to name Charlie and Tori’s parents and now i can’t stop making up an entire backstory about them and how they met and fell in love god damn it
so Julio and Jane met in the summer of 1986 in Mojácar, Spain…. Julio was a bookish literature student with round wire-rim glasses and wildly curly black hair staying at his parents’ house for the summer before heading back to uni in the uk… Jane was an introverted young woman who’d taken a solo detour while inter-railing to get away from her overbearing friends and family….. Julio can’t bear to see this random English girl who never smiles eating alone at the local restaurant every night……………
please tell me julio try to woo jane through spanish serenades. he probably learned the lute for her
That would be a very Michael Holden thing to do HOWEVER Julio is not Michael, he is an awkward nerd and probably just sat on the other side of the restaurant with a falling-apart copy of Brideshead Revisited, absolutely definitely NOT there because he really wants to know what the HELL this English girl is doing here all by herself in this quiet Spanish town… especially when he quickly realises she CAN’T EVEN SPEAK SPANISH
*AND THEN WHAT*
Well then of course a few days later he runs into her at the local market, where she is getting MONUMENTALLY ripped off by a local vendor because she is very clearly a tourist and can’t speak Spanish, so he can’t stop himself intervening and preventing her from spending like three times too much on a god damn churro, so he just buys the churro for her to save time and hands it over to her and walks off, not even giving her time to say thank you (or try to give him the money for it), super embarrassed because WHY the HELL did he do that!?!?
Please tell us more about Jane and Julio, I’m in love with their story (also as someone who has Spanish heritage I’m loving that Tori, Charlie and Oliver do too!)
I AM VERY GLAD TO HEAR THIS
So Julio goes back to his parents’ house to sit in the pool and cringe in solitude for a few hours. He’s also kind of annoyed at this girl for being so clueless and forcing him to do something so awkward. He stays in the pool for so long in fact that his parents think he’s gone out for dinner again and they don’t cook him anything. Julio is kinda craving some seafood anyway so he goes out to the local restaurant and is pleased that throughout most of his meal, the girl is nowhere to be seen.
Until he’s finished eating, that is. He’s sitting quietly with a glass of wine, re-reading his battered copy of To the Lighthouse, and then suddenly there she is, standing in front of his table totally unsmiling, with a bit of paper in one hand. He says nothing – he’s sorta shocked and cringing at himself all over again – and then she holds up the piece of paper and starts to read off of it what sounds like nonsense words. It takes him a moment to realise that she’s attempting to thank him in Spanish for buying her a churro, so after she’s been going for a little while he finally interrupts to say, “Er, actually, I speak English?”
She stops talking and just looks at him, absolutely expressionless, then she says “Oh,” slams down onto the table what she owed him for the churro, then practically runs away.
Julio really doesn’t look after his books does he haha
He re-reads them until they literally fall apart and he has to patch them up with sellotape (He probably has a bad habit of dropping them into baths and pools. He’s also a corner folder -_-)
Ok I’m way too invested in this story to not hear more…what next??
Julio is officially VERY INTRIGUED. Not only is this girl just… super out of place in Mojácar, but she’s also just… REALLY weird. She doesn’t seem to be here with a friend or family member. He’s yet to see her smile, and writing out an apology in Spanish and then reading it to him? That was weird. Still, it’s not like he wants to go searching for her or anything – he’s not a stalker. He’s just… a little concerned for her mental wellbeing and general safety.
Wandering around town the whole of the next day is definitely nothing to do with her. He’s absolutely not hoping to run into her or anything. He just fancied a walk. That’s all.
It’s close to the evening when he decides he needs to distract himself, so he heads to a local cafe for a cold drink and a chat with some of the locals, who always welcome him in for a few games of snooker when he’s around. But who should already be there when he gets there? THE GIRL.
He almost runs out of there immediately – could his luck get any worse!? But then he realises that… she’s actually interacting with some people? She’s mid snooker game, actually, looking a little bit lost, a little nervous even, as the usual middle-aged crowd of Spanish locals chat happily around her. How the hell did she get roped into this? Then again, Julio remembers the first time he’d been roped into a four-hour-long snooker tournament with the locals when he first came here… but he’s been fluent in Spanish his whole life.
The girl suddenly catches his eye, seeing him standing awkwardly by the door. She widens her eyes at him and shakes her head a little frantically, the universal signal for ‘get me the HELL out of here’. Great. Now he’s involved.
He heads over there, trying to calm his nerves. Why’s he even nervous? He greets the locals he recognises and kisses a lot of cheeks, before finally reaching the girl’s side, where she’s standing, feet turned inward, clutching the snooker cue like it’s a sword and looking like she’d absolutely rather be anywhere else.
The first thing she says is, “Help me. I just wanted a cold drink.”
very important Julio question. is he from mojácar or is it like his family’s summer residence? also they’re officially become my new oseman characters otp
Julio’s dad is Spanish, his mum is English. Julio’s life has been pretty much split between Spain and England so far – he was born in England, spent his early years there, then moved to Spain and lived and went to school there until he was about twelve, then moved back to England to go to secondary school there. When he went off to university, his parents moved officially back to Spain while he studied in the UK, but he still goes back to stay with them during the uni holidays. So this place in Mojácar is his parents’ actual home. He also has an older brother, Antonio, but he’s married and living in England by this point.
Omg they are social nightmares. What happens next?
(i know right… trapped in a room with a load of people whose language you cannot speak…)
Jane is absolutely mortified to once again be running into the nerdy-guy-that-she-thought-was-Spanish-but-maybe-he-isn’t, but she can’t help but feel relief that there’s another English-speaker in the room. She knew she should have left her friends at Bordeaux rather than waited until Spain – she at least knows some basic conversational French. Everyone in this little town is so irritatingly friendly. Even if she spoke their language, it’s not like she wants to talk to anyone.
She stays silent as the guy effortlessly converses with the locals for several minutes. It’s pretty impressive, actually. He must have lived here for a very long time. Eventually, he seems to swerve the conversation towards a goodbye and manages to get the both of them out of the cafe, but not before Jane has to kiss the cheeks of far too many old people who smell of cigarette smoke.
Once outside, she quickly realises that she’s escaped one awkward situation only to land herself in another – walking silently through town alongside this guy with unfashionable glasses and unfathomably tangled hair. She notices suddenly that he has a book tucked inside his shirt pocket, folded outwards so that the spine is slightly coming apart. Has she ever seen him without a book on him?
It’s him who speaks up first. “Sorry about that. The locals love new blood.”
Why on earth is he apologising? It’s her who’s managed to cause precisely one hundred percent of all their awkward encounters so far.
“Also, you look very tourist-y,” he says, then looks at her and sees her frown. “I- I mean- that’s not a bad thing- you’re just- you’re very pale and clearly not Spanish, so… I mean, you look like an English person and they love getting the tourists involved. So, yeah.” He looks away and shakes his head a little.
“Sorry… for looking too tourist-y, then?” Jane says.
“Um.” The guy looks a bit flustered all of a sudden. “It’s fine.”
They come to the end of the street, the left turn leading to the steps that would take Jane to the little hostel her sister Wendy had found a listing for when Jane called home before she left Bordeaux, and the right turn leading down to the beach.
The guy points vaguely towards the sea. “I’m that way.”
Jane smirked. “Do you live in the sea?”
“Er… no, I- my parents have a house, um,” he points more specifically into the distance, where the town spread out into more rural houses. “Oh. You’re joking.”
“Yes. I don’t actually think you live in the sea.”
There’s a significantly awkward pause. The guy shuffles on his feet for a moment, then yanks his book out of his pocket and promptly rips a page out of it, making Jane actually flinch – she’s never been a big reader, but seeing someone just tear out a page like that…
The guy stares for a moment, as if shocked at himself, then looks at Jane and says, “Do you have a pen?”
Jane rummages in her bag to find a pen. She also has a notebook, which she could have given him a piece of paper from, but she doesn’t tell him that. The guy scribbles something on the piece of paper and then hands it to her.
“That’s- that’s my phone number. No need to call me. It’s just, er, if you get lost, or, I don’t know. You need help with any… Spanish things.”
Jane takes it and looks at it. Sure enough, he’s written a phone number, and even drawn what appears to be a rudimentary map of where he lives, though Jane has pretty much no idea how she would go about following it or why she would want to. At the bottom he wrote ‘J. Spring’, then crossed it out, and wrote ‘Julio’ next to it.
“Okay, thanks-” But when Jane lifts her head, Julio is already gone down the steps and heading out towards the ocean. She pockets the piece of paper and turns to head back to her hostel. Well. Maybe she wouldn’t be totally alone here after all.
In case a million other people haven’t already asked, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? Tell me Jane managed to call that number!
Julio’s night is spent restless and full of regrets. Firstly, he’d ripped a page out of the book so frantically that he hadn’t stopped to realise that it was a page he hadn’t read, meaning that he couldn’t really continue reading the book. Secondly, he knows the map was too much. Absolutely too much. He drew in trees, for God’s sake.
Thirdly, he isn’t sure he even wants this girl to call him. At the time, he didn’t see it as any sort of move on her – he was genuinely just trying to be helpful after seeing her look of absolute distress in the cafe. But now that he thinks about it, that’s probably how it came across, and oh God. What if she actually does call, thinking that he wants a date or something? She’s probably lovely but it’s not like he’s particularly looking for a girlfriend at the moment, he’s had enough of the stress of that after- well, he doesn’t want to think about Tracey right now. Or any girlfriends, past or potential. He just wants to have a relaxing summer, as usual, reading a ton of books while listening to the stereo by the pool. The idea that he might have to go on some sort of date sends his mind into Absolute Anxiety Mode.
But of course, she calls. The next morning, barely 10am, even. Julio’s mum gets it, shouts at him to come in from the pool because there’s a girl on the phone, Juli! An English girl!!
The first thing the girl says is, “Just so you know, the page from the book you gave me has a sex scene on it, and if that’s some sort of move, I’m choosing to politely ignore it.”
Julio nearly hangs up the phone and melts from shame.
They agree to meet at the market in half an hour and at the end of the (very short) phone call, Julio learns that the girl’s name is Jane. He ends up making himself ten minutes late because he can’t decide which of his rather tattered baggy shirts and shorts to wear, and almost leaves the house wearing his Adidas on the wrong feet.
The first thing Julio notices when he sees Jane again is that she’s a bit sunburnt, which is kind of hilarious, because it makes her look even more like a tourist, but also sort of tragic, because that has to be kind of painful. Julio had spent most of his childhood in the Spanish sun – sunburn was somewhat of an unknown to him.
Aside from that, she still looks just as unsmiling and aloof, and Julio’s hit with a fresh wave of curiosity about why she is here.
“Sorry I’m late!” he says as he approaches, and she looks up from where she’s leant casually against a wall in the shade.
“Were you busy reading?” she says.
“You’re always reading.” There’s a pause. “I always see you reading in the restaurant.”
Julio’s genuinely taken aback. “I didn’t realise you noticed me in the restaurant.”
“How could I not with you sitting there like… I dunno, Edgar Allan Poe.”
Julio snorts. “I like to think my aesthetic is slightly more modernist than gothic.”
Jane shakes her head resignedly and starts walking off, seemingly talking to herself. “He’s a literature nerd. Noted.”
Julio stands still for a moment, just watching her walk away. Maybe she doesn’t want to spend the day with him after all. But then she turns and widens her eyes expectantly, then gestures with her head for him to follow. Which he does, like a gormless idiot. Because, as reluctant as he is to admit it, he’s intrigued by her, and he thinks, maybe, she’s intrigued by him too.
(i’m tired & going to bed but thank u for joining me on the chronicles of janio tonight and i will definitely continue this story tomorrow, just message me and i’ll write the next part when i get a spare moment!!)
just caught up w jane & julio, im far too emotionally invested in them already. please write more i beg u
HERE WE GO LADS
Jane isn’t sure whether she just wants company or if she’s been getting tired of having to gesticulate wildly every time she wants to communicate anything in this town, but for whatever reason, she’s glad to spend the morning with Julio. They wander around the streets of Mojácar chatting idly, Julio showing her the various areas of interest among the white, dusty buildings that she’s failed to find herself – the good cafes, the best shops, the occasional bit of historical Spanish architecture. This is all very interesting but honestly, Jane doesn’t care that much about this town. Jane can’t help but want to know a little more about this guy who was fluent in both English and Spanish and liked to spend his time sitting alone eating tapas and trashing his own books before he’s even finished reading them.
She learns he’s a final year literature student – only a year older than herself, then – and is some sort of unknown mix of Spanish and English ethnicity with a few other things thrown in there as well, due to what sounds like the enormous and complicated family tree of his father. She learns that he’s quite chatty when talking about his interests – namely, literature or music – but stumbles over his words when she tries to talk to him about his university life or friends or why he’s decided to spend a whole summer in a dusty Spanish town by the sea with only his parents for company.
Still, she can’t really talk, can she. She’s doing something somewhat similar and she certainly doesn’t feel like explaining herself and getting into the details about Lisa and Colin and what happened in Bordeaux to this guy she only spoke to properly for the first time last night.
By midday it’s getting too hot to stay out in the sun for too long – Jane doesn’t have a hat and her skin is already burnt enough, so they head for lunch. Julio suggests trying a new place, but they both decide to go back to their usual restaurant. It sort of feels like theirs, now, with its white tablecloths and San Pellegrino umbrellas and Duran Duran always playing on the stereo. Their waiter even smiles and greets them when they get there – albeit in Spanish, so Jane just has to stand there while Julio has a full-on conversation with him, awkwardly turning and translating to her every few sentences with an apologetic expression on his face. They end up sharing seafood paella and Jane realises, after they’ve been chatting for a good half an hour, that it’s not really that awkward between them anymore.
It’s nice, even. She feels more relaxed in this moment than she has been since she got here one week ago, because, she realises, she doesn’t feel alone anymore. She doesn’t feel like she has to act a certain way or pretend to be anything she’s not. She can just be Jane here.
Toward the end of their meal, she can sense that he’s trying to bring up the guts to say something. She’s already learnt that Julio has absolutely no poker face – he’s the most easily readable person she’s ever met.
“What?” she asks, with a smile.
“What?” he says back, failing to pretend that he’s not got a burning question on his tongue.
Jane takes a sip of wine. “You want to say something.”
Julio looks embarrassed for a moment. “Well… okay.” He looks down, then back up at her from beneath his mass of curly hair. “I just wanted to know why you’re here, really. Why you’re in Mojácar all by yourself, walking around like… I don’t know.” He chuckles. “I mean, you can’t even speak any Spanish.”
“I know gracias,” Jane snaps.
“You didn’t even pronounce that correctly,” Julio points out.
Jane knows she should have expected the topic to come up. She recognises that her solo presence here is odd, to say the least. But… she just doesn’t want to get into it. She doesn’t want any of the situation with Lisa and Colin to cloud this guy’s view of her. She doesn’t want to be that Jane – the Jane who’d lost her lifelong best friend to a smarmy graduate student and had to literally jump ship to get away from them without explanation. She just wants to be this Jane. Who can tease a guy about his battered books and drink wine leisurely before three o’clock, who can wander the white streets alone without having to talk, who can swim in the ocean just as the sun sets and not have to think about friends, or uni, or going home to her mother who will only despair at another of Jane’s summers wasted and spend the next few months ignoring her. She wants to be this Jane, who doesn’t have to try to push away the loneliness that has grown with her ever since she can remember. She can choose to be alone here. There is power in that.
“Do you mind if I don’t get into it?” she tells Julio. “I just… I just like being here. Just hanging out.”
Julio looks a little disappointed, but he says, “Yeah, yeah of course. That’s fine.”
They finish up their wine a little more awkwardly than they’d started it, split the bill, and head out onto the street. Jane thanks him for hanging out with her, then gets the odd impression that he’d thought they were hanging out for the whole day, but the mistake has already been made, and it’s too awkward to admit that she wouldn’t mind that at all, she just thought he’d have better things to do. They part ways, and Jane wanders down to the beach, where she’s been spending most of her afternoons so far, stretched out on the sand with her shirt rolled up, re-reading the only book she brought with her this summer – Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, a fantasy novel that Julio would probably have some very negative opinions about.
But only an hour after she and Julio parted ways, Jane’s bored. She can’t stand to read any more about Garion and the God damn Orb of Aldur, and she’s annoyed that she so quickly assumed that Julio would have had enough of talking to her, but would it be awkward to go to the phone booth and call him again? Twice in one day? Was that a little desperate? That was a little desperate.
She did it anyway.
“I thought you’d probably had enough of hanging out with me,” she admits to him over the phone. “But I feel like… maybe you wanted to hang out for the whole day.”
There’s a pause. She wishes she could see his face so she could know exactly what he’s thinking.
“I did,” he says, “I-I mean, I do. Want to hang out. With you.”
“I’m at the beach by the children’s park.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Oh and… can you bring me a book? I only brought one with me and I’m on my fifth re-read.”
This time she can hear the smile in his voice when he says, “I absolutely can.”
janio. Janio. JANIO. JANIOOOOOOOO. I LOVE THEM. Please write more when you can!!
the saga continues…
Julio dusts off his old bicycle because he foolishly promised he’d meet Jane at the beach in twenty minutes when it is, in fact, at least a good half hour walk away. Even Papá gives him a funny look from the patio when Julio waves and cycles off down the empty road. He and Mum are definitely not used to seeing Julio do so much physical activity.
He cycles through the faded streets and down long, barren roads, a copy of The Great Gatsby tucked under one arm – a safe pick, he thought, since it was pretty enjoyable even if you weren’t into old books. He feels sort of nervous again, but that’s nothing unusual, is it? He’s never been that great at relaxing around other people. But, he realises, he’s not nervous in an I’d-rather-be-at-home way. Because he likes Jane. And hanging out with her isn’t awkward and stressful, like it normally is with most people.
He finds Jane in the beach play park. She’s swinging quite enthusiastically on the swing set, kicking her legs high into the air, her hair swirling around her as she flies through the air. A couple of kids are watching her from a corner, mouths dropped open. Julio wonders whether she’s having a bit of a ‘moment’, so he waits until she notices him rather than interrupting. She slows down a little before leaping off, landing like a cat on the tarmac, and walks over to him.
Julio can’t stop himself from smiling. Who is this girl and why, exactly, is she like this?
He presents The Great Gatsby to her and she seems to approve of the choice. She tells him about Pawn of Prophecy, which Julio threatens to throw into the ocean, and Jane calls him a serial book murderer. They go and get ice cream and sit on a bench and eat in silence for a little while and it’s peaceful, God, it’s so, so peaceful. Then they can’t stop chatting again, first about Julio’s mum’s ambition to get a sea kayak, then about how much money there’d be in an play park designed for adults, then about Jane’s summer three years ago working at a seaside arcade, and then more, and more, things that don’t matter and Julio can’t remember.
They spend the rest of the afternoon like that, moving onto the beach itself and sprawling out in the warm sand.
“What did you do here before today?” he asks her at one point.
“Just this,” she says, eyes shut, “but by myself.”
“Have I ruined your peaceful alone time?”
“No. It still feels like peaceful alone time.”
Julio isn’t sure whether that’s a good thing or not.
They go for dinner at a small cafe, since they had a big meal for lunch. They sit outside at a plastic table and chairs so the ocean is still in sight. Music spills out of a nearby restaurant, the locals laughing and drinking merrily as the sun goes down. Julio knows he and Jane haven’t really talked about many important things, and really, he still doesn’t know her very well – he doesn’t know much about her past or future or why she’s here. But he knows that she saves her smiles for good jokes, and wrinkles her nose at mistreated books even though she doesn’t read much, and believes an empty swing is an irresistible invitation. He knows she doesn’t like owing people (particularly for churro), and respects languages deeply despite being terrible at them, and is honest when she makes a mistake because she doesn’t like miscommunication.
He knows those things. And he likes all of them.
They sit for a long time after their meal until the sun has set.
“I think we should go for a swim,” says Jane eventually.
And Julio could not agree more.
hey alice….. how about some more janio 👀👀👀 (if u feel like it ofc im not gonna force u to do anything lol)
The beach is almost totally dark. Jane can only just see the fuzzy shape of Julio in front of her, the moonlight shining on the tips of his hair. He’s the only thing she can see, really. Him and the moon. She feels hyperaware of him, his too-big sun-faded shirt, his long legs, his dark curls, left too long after a haircut maybe, his hands and elbows smattered with tiny freckles that go away in the winter, and, in his back pocket, a book. She feels used to his presence already. Attached to him. Safe with him.
They start just by kicking their shoes off and paddling. The water is cool and feet sink into sand. They dare each other to wade out further and further, until Julio’s shorts are half-soaked and Jane’s sundress is floating around her, and then Jane decides to bite the bullet and remove her dress entirely, in one fell swoop, and run back to the shore to tuck it safely underneath her shoes before jumping back into the water.
Julio watches, saying nothing, and when Jane returns to him, she can see the wide-eyed astonishment through his glasses. Jane isn’t expecting anything from him though – she knows that he knows that. She knows that Julio won’t take it as an invitation or a suggestion of anything – he’s not that sort of guy.
“You’re going to get your book wet,” she tells him, gesturing to his back pocket
He stares, taking a moment to realise what she means, before letting out a laugh. He rushes back to the sand and, like Jane, strips down into his underwear, before joining her again in the sea.
They just float for a while, drifting further out and then letting the waves push them back. And they talk, something that seems to grow both easier and more wonderful every time it happens. Words join the gentle rush of waves and the faint echo of music from restaurants up on the seafront. Julio has to keep wiping his glasses, and Jane laughs when he dunks his head in the water, entirely flattening his untamed hair. They lay in the shallows for a while, letting water and sand cover them, blending them with the darkness. They hold hands and whisper secrets. Then they swim as far as they can before Jane can only just reach the sea floor and they don’t dare go any further – not when they can’t tell the ocean from the sky at the horizon.
Jane has never felt so at peace with the world.
Jane had thought from the start that she might end up kissing Julio. She’d thought it from the first time she saw him sitting alone in the restaurant, leg tucked up underneath him and a book three inches from his nose. She had imagined it would happen under the Spanish sun in the sweltering heat – sticky, awkward, maybe a little premature.
But instead it happens under the moon in the cool water, when Jane looks up and they’re a little closer than she thought, and there are drops of sea water in his curls, and he smiles so wide.
Soft. Quiet. Inevitable.
How are Janio doing? Also you are a word magician and even this small side story is a masterpiece
Julio cycles back to his parents’ place that night feeling light-headed and jittery. He can’t stop smiling.
He’s never kissed anyone like that before. As in, it felt different somehow. New. Even with Tracey, his ex, who he’d been with for over two years, it hadn’t been like that.
Kissing Jane had felt natural. Like this was his place in the world. He wants to do it again. And again. For the rest of his life.
He collapses into bed, seawater still drying in his hair, and has happy dreams.
And he wakes up eight hours later practically shaking with anxiety.
What if she’s not really into him? What if she just wants a summer fling? What if she’s just the sort of person who kisses whoever’s around? Where does she even live in England? If they end up together, are they going to be immediately a long distance couple? God, he doesn’t even know her last name. He doesn’t even know why she’s here, alone in Mojácar. He doesn’t know when she’s going to leave.
Does she like him as much as he likes her?
Does he like her as much as he thinks he does?
He can’t call her – she’s the one with his phone number. So he spends the morning floating in the pool, too restless to read, cursing himself for getting so attached to a person he still barely knows. But if that’s true, why does he feel more connected to Jane than he ever felt to Tracey? Or anyone in his entire life?
He eats lunch with his parents for the first time in several days. Mum lays out the usual continental spread, Papá smokes lazily at the head of the table. Mum can tell something’s up with Julio, but she doesn’t say anything. Julio eats quietly, praying for the phone to ring.
It does so at 2pm.
“Sorry I didn’t call this morning,” she says. “I felt nervous.”
There is the honesty Julio likes so much.
“That’s okay,” he says, sinking down the wall to sit on the tiled floor, wrapping the phone cord around his wrist.
They pause for a moment, listening.
Then she says, “I have to leave in two days.”
There it is. The timer is set.
Julio lets out a breath. “I’m glad you told me that.”
“What d’you mean?”
“I felt like you’d just disappear forever. No phone number or… surname.”
“And you wouldn’t like it if I did that?”
The careful optimism in her voice is unmissable. Julio smiles. “No. Not at all.”
There’s another long pause.
“Meet me by our restaurant?” she says.
“My surname’s Driscoll. Look me up in the phone book, if you want.”
Then she hangs up. And Julio laughs and his heart aches. He likes her so, so much.
And it’s probably going to end in heartbreak.
May you continue the Jane and Julio story?
Jane spends the night in two minds.
One half of her is buzzing with joy. Reliving his fingertips on her cheek and his laugh as he wiped the seawater from his glasses so he could see her better.
And the other half?
The other half knows she needs to end it. As soon as possible. Before she gets too attached.
The scribbled-on page ripped from the middle of a book, tucked safely under her pillow, argues that it’s already too late for that.
As soon as Julio appears at the end of the street at 2:30pm the next day, all those bad thoughts are forgotten. Instead her mind is filled with the billowing folds of his shirt (seriously, is it four sizes too big?), the book in his breast pocket (closed, thankfully for the spine in question) and the dimples in his cheeks when he smiles at her (she only noticed them for the first time yesterday – a pleasant surprise). She gets the sudden urge to just kiss him in the street. It’s not like anyone here knows her or would care.
They don’t bring up last night’s kiss. They just stroll gently through town and down the dusty roads until they get to Julio’s house. Or his parents’ house, she supposes. It’s a big, beautiful Spanish villa with spacious grounds and a pool. Julio’s father is out, but Jane meets Julio’s mother, a tall English woman who smiles at Jane with such kindness that it nearly breaks Jane.
She came here to be alone, so she couldn’t do any more damage. But here is another relationship she’s about to destroy.
Julio’s pool is modern, clean, and cool. They change into swimwear – after yesterday’s ocean exploits, Jane thought it pertinent to bring a swimsuit along in her bag. Julio settles onto an inflatable with the practised ease of someone who has done so a hundred times before. Jane paddles awkwardly in the deep end, not sure what to do with herself, before Julio offers to blow up another inflatable for her, leaving the pool to do so.
Alone in the pool, Jane wonders what it would be like to holiday here every summer with a family that loved her. There would be overflowing meals round a big table with a gingham tablecloth. Five people in the pool at once and a game of volleyball. Strolls on the seafront. Farmers’ markets. Waking up to the sound of children’s laughter and the smell of fresh pastries. Nights curled up with a warm body beside her, the steady sound of someone else’s breathing.
It’s a dream. That’s all.
Julio reappears with a tiny inflatable shark, babbling about how it was the only thing he could find and he thought it’d be a bit bigger once he blew it up, but he quietens when he sees Jane sitting on the edge of the pool, legs in the water, hastily trying to wipe tears from her eyes before he sees. It’s too late. He’s seen.
He leaps straight into the water, making a splash so loud it actually makes Jane jump. He swims over to her, putting his hands either side of her legs and gazing up at her with an expression of deep concern.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, his voice a low almost-whisper, the voice of their nighttime conversations in the ocean.
Now that the tears have started, it’s impossible to get them to stop. And Jane always cries when people ask her that question. Not that many people ever have, though.
“I like it here so much,” she manages to croak out, half hiding her face with one hand. “I really… really like it here with you.”
Julio’s concern doesn’t let up. He just laces his fingers with her free hand.
For a moment she thinks he’s going to question her. Demand answers, force her to share what’s wrong.
But it turns out he doesn’t need to.
“This is something to do with the reason you’re here,” he says. A guess, maybe, or maybe he just knew. Maybe they’re already getting good at communicating without saying anything.
Jane just nods, eyes on her knees.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Jane nods again.
“Do you want a hug?”
Jane thinks about it, and then she nods a third time.
She slides into the pool and into his arms. They both sink down into the shallow end where they can sit on the pool floor, half submerged, and Jane can rest her head on his shoulder and concentrate on the warm comfort of his arms around her. He’s stiff for a moment, but then she feels him relax and pull her closer, wrapping around her like a protective blanket. She lets herself close her eyes and listen to the soft buzzing of cicadas and the calm rhythm of Julio’s breathing.
This. This is what it would be like, she thinks. That dream, with the gingham tablecloth and the pastries in the morning. That’s what this feels like.
Any Janio today perchance?
They sit in the pool for a long time before Jane tells Julio her story.
Not that there’s much to tell, she says to him before she starts. But Julio can see she needs to get it out – he’s become painfully aware of how much she keeps buried inside, unsaid. So she tells him that she hates her parents and does everything, anything, to stay away from them and their manipulative behaviour. She tells him how she booked the first train she could with her best friend at the beginning of the summer, hoping to take off with her for the next three months, but Jane’s best friend invited her new boyfriend along, who turned out to be overly flirty and made a move on her at least once a day behind Jane’s best friend’s back. The best friend noticed, and thought Jane was flirting back. Things escalated until Jane ended up pouring a whole strawberry daiquiri over the boyfriend’s head on a boat trip on the Garonne river in Bordeaux, and when her friend and the boyfriend had both started shouting at her, Jane had just stood up, jumped off the boat, and swam to shore.
She tells Julio she thinks that was when she hit rock bottom.
She tells him that she went straight back to their hostel, packed her bags, and got on the first train she could find and stayed on that train all the way to Murcia. Then she looked at a map, picked somewhere she thought she could disappear, and got on a coach to Almería.
She tells him she doesn’t think she has ever enjoyed being around a single person in her life. She tells him that she’s gotten so good at being quiet and passing the time, shutting everyone out so she doesn’t have to process anything anymore. She tells him that she just wishes she could feel at home somewhere, she wants to feel safe, loved, and even happy, sometimes.
She thought that coming here would save her from being constantly reminded of what she doesn’t have. But she can’t escape it anywhere.
She tells him that she thinks this will follow her for her whole life.
And Julio doesn’t know what to say. He honestly doesn’t. He tries to think of something he could say to make it better, but, he supposes, sometimes things are just beyond that. There’s no way to make it better with kind words. There’s no way to reverse years of bad feelings.
So he can only hold her in his arms and wait.
any janio tonight?
Jane doesn’t regret telling Julio all that. Probably because, after tomorrow, she’ll never see him again. And she quickly picks the mood back up, splashing around in the pool with him and making jokes, flicking water at his glasses and dunking him when he’s least expecting it. And they’re both smiling again, for now, at least.
They go out for dinner to their restaurant and it feels like a goodbye. Their conversations seem to be reverting back to how they started – awkward. Maybe Julio’s a bit put off now. Or maybe Jane just can’t see the use in trying anymore. She’s scared him off. And she’ll be gone tomorrow.
This is how it always goes for Jane.
After they’ve paid their bill, Julio gives her a smile and says, “Want to go to the beach?”
Jane assents. Might be a nice way to end it, she supposes.
The moon is high in the sky as they stroll across the sand. She takes his hand. It already feels familiar and warm to her and she gets a pang in her chest. She doesn’t want to leave. She doesn’t ever want to leave here.
“You’ve met me at my worst,” she tells him at some point in their idle nighttime conversation.
And he says, “Then you can only get more wonderful.”
It nearly breaks her.
They sit on the edge of the pier and dangle their bare feet in the water. Julio reaches out suddenly and hugs her close to his chest. And they sit there for an hour or so, talking, laughing a little. If Jane didn’t have that feeling of dread in her heart – the knowledge that she has to go home – she would feel happy, maybe.
She kisses him one last time, running a hand through his untamed hair, trying to commit all of this to memory. As she kisses him, crazy thoughts spring to her – maybe they could meet up again in England, maybe they could work something out, maybe she doesn’t want to say goodbye, ever – no. This is just a meagre summer fling. Even if they carried it on, she’d just ruin it, like she does everything.
When they say goodnight, Jane is relieved he doesn’t ask her to call him in the morning. Because she’s not going to.
so….. how about some janio 👀
Julio spends the next day drifting in the pool with a book on his chest, waiting for the phone to ring. It rings once, at 5pm, but it’s only a neighbour, calling to see if Julio’s parents are still on for dinner. In his rush to get to the phone, Julio’s book falls into the water, and when he returns to the pool to fish it out, seeing all the text smearing together, he just starts crying.
He knew she was going to go.
If it had just been a summer fling, Julio thinks he’d be able to deal with it. When he was seventeen he’d had a ‘summer fling’ with a Spanish girl he met in this very same town – it was all giggles and ice cream and hand-holding. And when they had to part ways, it had been sad, sort of, but he hadn’t felt the ache in his chest that he does now, the ache that just makes him want to cry and not stop crying.
He knows this thing with Jane wasn’t a summer fling. And it wasn’t for her either.
She wouldn’t have talked to him like she had in the pool yesterday if she’d thought this was a summer fling.
But she went anyway.
He doesn’t know her phone number, so he can’t call her. He doesn’t know her address, so he can’t even write to her.
He can’t remember her surname. He can’t even find her in the phonebook.
He gets out the worst of the tears before laying out his book to dry in the sun. Then he settles back into the pool, letting the calm pull of the water soothe him until he’s half-asleep on the float. Trying to forget it all. Trying to forget her.
The rest of Julio’s summer stretches out like that. Hazy days spent in the pool or laying in the sand at the beach. He reads twice the number of books he normally does every summer. He takes idle walks around town, through the white streets of Mojácar, running a few errands for his parents but mostly just walking for the sake of it. His parents chastise him for not wanting to socialise. His mum asks him where that nice English girl went. He tells her he doesn’t know.
And six weeks pass. And summer is over.
Julio packs up, as he has done every year, and goes back to England, back to the run-down flat in Cambridge he shares with a young lecturer and a flighty international student. He’s pleased to return to his bookshelves, at least. And maybe throwing himself back into his studies will help him forget the girl he still can’t forget.
September turns into October. Leaves begin to fall, lining the cobbled streets of Cambridge. Julio gets used to dressing warmer again – jumpers, jeans. He gets a haircut. But everywhere he goes, he feels the ghost of summer following him. He wonders how he’d been so unaware of the depths of his loneliness until now. Maybe because he’d finally gotten a little taste of what it was like to have found your person.
Julio shakes all these thoughts from his head as he leaves the library one late October night. He wraps his coat around him and examines the books he borrowed – a couple of academic texts on W.H. Auden. That’ll keep him occupied for tonight at least.
When he rounds the corner to his flat, though, he’s surprised to find that the door is blocked by a figure who appears to be examining the buzzers, trying to find the right one to press. The figure turns abruptly at the sound of Julio approaching, a little startled, swamped in a huge denim jacket.
Janio pretty please. I need my babes to be happy
Jane regrets everything the moment the train leaves the station.
She regrets ruining their last day with her pathetic grizzling. She regrets getting used to the warmth of his palms and the feeling of his hair between her fingers. She regrets that moment in the ocean when the moon reflected in his glasses and she pressed her forehead against his arm for no reason other than she felt safe, and at home.
She regrets leaving him behind without even a phone call.
She cries into her rucksack as the train soars through the Spanish countryside.
Summer continues as it always does and Jane tries to do what she always has – press down her feelings and just get by. Her mother is angry at her for a long time, but it’s not like that’s anything new. Her sister isn’t there to be on her side. And she doesn’t hear from Lisa and Colin at all – not a phone call or even a postcard. Jane wonders whether that‘s it for her and Lisa. She wonders whether it’s bad that she doesn’t care that much.
At the back of her mind always is him. Julio. J. Spring, an untidy scrawl of letters underneath a hand drawn map on a page torn out of a book. She keeps the page in her bedside drawer. She imagines she can smell the sea salt on it, or feel his skin when she brushes the letters. The sun high in the sky, warming her cheeks. Fantasies, fantasies.
She goes back to university in Bath in September as early as she can just to get away from her parents and their snappy words, their constant annoyance at her presence. She finds a little comfort in being alone again in the studio flat she’s rented for the year. She can cook her own meals and curl up to sleep to the hum of the radio without her dad skulking round like he’s ready for a fight or her mother frowning down her nose at her. She’s almost at peace once she’s alone again. She even might have been, were it not for him.
She had found a good person, and she gave up because she was scared and tired and so, so used to being alone.
Her classes start in early October but she feels like time has stopped. Like nothing at all has happened since she said goodbye to him on the streets of Mojácar and the world is waiting until she fixes it. Until she fixes everything.
In the second week of October she buys a map of Cambridge. That’s one of the things she knows about him – he’s a nerd, of course, and got into Cambridge University. She doesn’t know why she buys the map but she ends up sitting up for a few nights, scouring over it, imagining which huge Cambridge college building he lives in. She imagines him in big leather armchairs with a tweed jacket on and a decaying book in his hands. She imagines him sitting up by candlelight, writing passionate essays in that nearly illegible scrawl. She imagines herself there with him, staying warm under scratchy blankets.
In the third week of October she feels so restless that she doesn’t go to any lectures at all. She ends up tracking down the book that the ripped out page had come from and reading the whole thing, thinking it’d give her some sort of closure. It doesn’t. It just makes her crave him. And it’s not even a very enjoyable book.
The fourth week of October, she wakes up fully intending to go to her morning lecture as normal, but ends up walking to the train station and asking the ticket office about getting to Cambridge. She buys a ticket, and the day after that, she goes to Cambridge.
She doesn’t know what she’s doing or what she expects. She’s not even sure he’d remember her if she found him. More and more their brief summer days are starting to feel like a dream, like they happened in another universe. Maybe she would stand in front of him and he’d look at her blankly, strangers again. Maybe then she would get some closure. Or maybe that would just about end her.
She locates a cheap B&B owned by a cheerful and unquestioning elderly woman. And then she roams.
The first day, she holds out hope of just running into him. She hovers by the library, outside some of the larger colleges, by a few tearooms and even a bookshop. But there’s no sight of that dark hair. She lays in flowery sheets that night almost at the point of giving up and going back to her tiny flat in Bath.
And then what? Never seeing him again? Another lonely year?
The second day, she swallows her pride starts asking people. She targets students mostly, asking whether they know a literature student with wild hair and silly round glasses. She asks over twenty people before someone tells her yes.
He points her towards the south of the town and writes down an address on her leaflet map of Cambridge.
She goes without hesitation. It hits her then as she’s striding through the cobbled streets, crunching leaves beneath her feet, that she is here because what she felt with Julio was the best thing she’s ever felt. Maybe that’s selfish, or maybe he felt it too. And, for once, Jane doesn’t think she can live with not finding out.
She’s just trying to decide which flat she should buzz first when she hears the footsteps, and turns, and finds him there, bundled up in woollen coat with a stack of books under one arm.
The first thing he does is drop all his books on the ground. Then he bends over, hands on his knees, and just starts crying.
‘Oh no,’ Jane says. ‘Oh God.’ She doesn’t know whether to go for the books or the tears first, but ends up going for the books, jogging up to Julio and picking them up from the ground one by one while he’s frantically rubbing his eyes and trying not to sniff too loud.
‘Er, here.’ Jane hands him the books, feeling her face burning. ‘Sorry.’
Sorry. So many things she’s sorry for.
Julio shakes his head. ‘You surprised me.’
There’s a silence while Julio wipes his glasses on his sleeve. Jane takes in his slightly altered appearance – his hair, a little shorter and more tamed, his skin, a little paler without the Spanish sun, his body all wrapped up in thick autumn clothing, but still with the awkward bookishness of his linen shirts and shorts he’d worn in the summer.
‘Are you angry?’ Jane asks him, not specifying what he might be angry for. Leaving him. Coming here unannounced. Letting them fall for each other in the first place.
But Julio shakes his head. ‘I keep thinking I should be,’ he mumbles. ‘But… I think I understand you too well already.’
This makes Jane more flustered than she could possibly have imagined.
‘Not used to that,’ she admits immediately.
Julio chuckles. ‘Did it scare you off?’
‘Maybe. Or maybe I was just a sad idiot who doesn’t know what’s good for her.’
Julio meets her eyes again.
‘It wasn’t just a summer fling, was it?’ he asks.
‘No,’ says Jane. ‘I don’t do those.’
‘How the hell did you track me down to my flat in Cambridge?’
‘With great effort. Learn to give a girl your phone number, for God’s sake.’
And then they’re both smiling. It feels like the first breath of brisk autumn air.
‘Do you want to come inside?’ Julio asks, his voice somewhat breathless.
‘Yes,’ replies Jane.
He nods awkwardly and steps past her to unlock the door. She stands very still for a moment while he’s doing so, just watching his startled profile. And then she does something very unlike her.
She slides her arms around his waist and buries her face into his coat. She closes her eyes and Jane feels warm all over, just like she had in the summer. Maybe it hadn’t been the Spanish heat that had done that.
Julio freezes for a small moment, unsure. Then he murmurs her name, ‘Jane,’ and bundles her into a hug, wrapping himself around her like that afternoon in his pool. ‘I’m… so glad you’re here.’ His voice breaks halfway through. ‘I’m so glad…’
He presses a kiss to her forehead. Then she tilts her head and presses a kiss to his lips. Then they stand there in front of the unlocked door for a few minutes, close together in the autumn air.
That’s not the first moment Jane thinks she’s found it, nor is it the last. Much later, years later maybe, she realises it is one of the many, many moments in her life she knows that she’s found home.
Thank you so so SO MUCH if you’ve been following along with this little story of Tori and Charlie’s parents and how they met. I have had immense fun telling it and I’m so grateful to you all for being here to enjoy it with me 💕💕💕