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When a person dies on the island, a notice is put up on buildings around the town of Supetar with their picture and a brief account of the circumstances. Joy couldn’t understand all the words but she had already heard about the old man’s passing. She studied the bad photograph and remembered meeting him not that long ago. She knew him as Mr. Nico. She mentally sent a farewell to him in the great beyond and then went in search of coffee.
Sitting at the water’s edge at the Café Barbara, her eyes took in the little harbour with the boats bobbing, and the mountains in the background. Joy was on an island in the Adriatic, just off the coast of Split. A ferry boat did the run back and forth from Supetar to Split many times each day so that the locals could go to the mainland city for shopping, work, or, for some, school.
Joy had been here for a few months now, having left a cold and grey Toronto behind. The mild Mediterranean climate was like a balm for her weary soul. She had been the only tourist in town this winter and every day she made her way down from her tiny apartment in the hills to the town centre where she indulged in at least one, more often two, cups of the strong espresso coffee that she had grown to love. She sat in the sun surrounded by a few mothers with their babies in carriages and older men who smiled easily, but no one spoke to her. She was trying to learn the language but it was not an easy task. Croatian had proven difficult to learn. Joy heard the quiet chatter going on around her and understood a word here and there but not enough to get involved in anyone’s conversation. She was completely alone. And she relished her seclusion.
Retirement was such a drastic change. She wondered how she had ever managed to hold down her former job, socialize with friends and deal with her erratic family back home. Now, her only stress was to decide which little town to explore, which ruins, which old church to photograph. She finished the last sip of her coffee, left some money for her favourite waiter, and left. She slowly ambled around the corner to the ticket office and bought a return fare to Split. She had already been to Split many times, to visit a few museums and art galleries, and to shop, but today she wanted to photograph the ruins of Diocletian’s palace. She found a seat on the inside deck and sat by a window where the sun was streaming in. She put on her sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. She relaxed. A few passengers boarded but this crossing was not at all crowded. Mid-week never was. This was the best time to go to the mainland. Local pop music was playing on the sound system and Joy felt herself drifting into a semi-sleep.
“I’m going to kill you, you stupid bitch”, a voice from somewhere close behind woke her abruptly.