Life seemingly went on, children got sick, women got pregnant, and the damned tsetse fly kept infecting poor people with a horrible illness, Lex made it through each day and hoped that her mental anguish would improve. Every video call with her sister led to them falling out, which she hated, but she had to believe she was doing the right thing.
It was four weeks since Peter’s visit, and a huge four months since she’d been home, she’d not had a day off other than weekends, and she was missing Henrietta and her mother desperately, then there was the fact that she hadn’t spoken to her father since Stockholm. He was the sort of man who’d give her a wide berth, he’d wait out what he dismissed as a tantrum, but for the first time in her life Lex had been as stubborn as him. And she missed him!
Then there was her nephew, darling Oscar! Her sister was the best emailing photos and videos of every cute or quirky thing he did. It was as good as it got, but he was ten weeks old, and she’d missed too much of his life already. The thought made her sad.
The commute back and forth to one of the clinics, in the hills of Rio was something she’d never get used to, it was hot, humid, and SO busy. Some evenings it could take over an hour, others just half of one. But this Friday she wanted to be back in super quick time as she’d taken a half day’s holiday. Luiz was taking her out of the city for a weekend. In the weeks since Peter’s arrival things had remained strained on times, and it was his attempt to iron out the rough spots. She’d packed that morning, for a weekend down the coast, staying in a Pousada, an inn in a town called Paraty, somewhere that she’d read loads about, and Luiz’s uncle kept a small boat. She couldn’t wait to see the beaches and islands that every tourist guide displayed, and she couldn’t wait for some time alone. It seemed that until now she was only getting odd snatched nights with him, and she hoped that a few days away together would be exactly what they needed.
But she had to get to home asap, as he warned her that traffic got worse the later it got, and he didn’t want them driving in the dark. Fortunately there were no hold ups, and she was ready when Luiz’s battered car pulled up outside the apartment block.
“That’s a small bag!” He offered, “my sister would have one three times bigger for one night!”
Alexis smiled, “a bikini, a dress and some sunscreen! Do I need anything else?”
Luiz smiled at her sassy wink, “nope, I think you’ve got it all covered.”
Within ten minutes Lex was rigid with fear, she’d taken taxis and buses in the city SO many times, but here, in the passenger seat she saw firsthand the chaos that was driving in Rio.
Luiz, relaxed and smiling beside her offered, “having been to some US cities I realise that this may seem like chaos, but hey, I learned to drive in traffic like this!”
“Are there rules?”
He laughed out loud, “there are, but in some places, they’re not that important!”
She couldn’t fathom that explanation, and was amazed, relieved and a little less uptight as the car hit the highway leaving the hectic roads of Rio behind.
They pulled into the town as the sun was setting, and immediately Lex fell in love. Luiz parked his car on a side road, then grabbed their bags, leading her through the cobbled car free streets of the town. The buildings were whitewashed, all decorated with bright shutters and doors, bold primary colours, most were shops, their wares spilling out onto the narrow high pavements. It was calm because of the lack of vehicles and the sense of serenity that the aged walls gave, but was still filled with tourists and holiday makers.
“You like?” Luiz whispered in her ear, and when she nodded enthusiastically, he laughed and tugged her down a side street to the Pousada he’d booked for them.
After unpacking and dressing in a light dress for the summer evening, she followed him out of the hotel and to an open fronted restaurant where a band played loudly in the corner. It was such a stark contrast to Rio where everyone was in a rush, everything was hectic. Here the music was a dirty bossa nova, the food simple, and the staff laidback.
Luiz was also different, sat across from her, a beer in his hand and a relaxed smile on his face, “it’s so long since I’ve been out of the city, and I share your enthusiasm for the place.”
Lex smiled, “thank you for bringing me here, for sharing this with me!”
Smells of barbecuing meat wafted through the open sided restaurant, as the beats of bossa nova a wizened old man crooning along to his guitar, presumably about lost love melded with it, and her senses were overwhelmed.
They ate amicably, talking between songs, washing down the perfectly cooked meat and fish with ice cold beers, and later caipirinhas. A beautiful romantic night.
“Dance?” Luiz asked once they’d finished coffee. A few tables had been moved creating a makeshift dance floor, and a couple of older couples were moving slowly, but expertly to the music. “I’ll look ridiculous! They’re really good!”
He shook his head, “you’ve had the best teacher!”
It was the perfect ending to the evening, swaying, spinning and sashaying to the music, Luiz was a great partner, and several people applauded when they finally left the dance floor, much to Lex’s embarrassment.
Back at the hotel, Luiz pulled her into his arms, slowly divesting her of her dress, then the lacy underwear, and he devoured her like a hungry man. For the first time in ages she didn’t think of Peter Marlow either in anger nor lust. Result!
The hotel consisted of rooms feeding off a central open square containing a central swimming pool, with a large patio flanking it, and it was on that patio that they found breakfast the next morning. Hot covered skillets of scrambled eggs and spicy sausages sat next to platters of papaya, mango and guava, cut into shards. Coffee, as always was strong and dark, and there were fruit juices and ice cold water.
Lex sat opposite Luiz, a plate full of fruit her choice that morning.
“I think you should eat more, it’ll be a long way to any food out at sea!”
She contemplated that as she watched him attack his second plate of hot food, then agreed, selecting a small plate of the hot option.
She felt full as a bean when he led her out of the hotel and towards the marina, a surprisingly modern place, in contrast to the colonial historic town.
The boat wasn’t huge, but it had a galley, a small bedroom and a lovely deck to bask in the sun. So Lex settled herself sliding sun cream onto her skin as Luiz started the engine and turned the boat out to sea.
They cruised for a few hours, past dozens of beautiful islands, idyllic beaches, and headlands, some of which looked completely untouched. Luiz knew the area fairly well, and told her stories about places, pointed out interesting places, and named some of the more prominent beaches.
Early afternoon, he pulled the boat into a bay, and Lex was surprised to see several other boats moored there. This beach, unlike others, had two bars, as well as men with boxes full of cold beers, selling to the tourists who landed there. two of the boats were small like theirs, but the other was huge, Luiz explained that it was a tourist cruise, under the guise of visiting places of beauty, they served beer and travelled between places like this one, purpose built to provide for such tourists. But it served a purpose to those travelling in a quieter fashion.
“How do we get to shore?” she asked with dread. He had moored about fifty metres from the shore.
Kicking off his flip flops he laughed, “how else?” Then he dived off the boat and into the delicious looking blue sea.
It took Lex a little longer to make the jump. She was a strong pool swimmer, but had never swum that far out at sea. It looked cold, not that that was an issue, it was a hot day, but it also looked deep! By the time she had built up the courage to consider jumping (not diving), Luiz had reached the shore and was stood on the sand watching her with amusement.
Hating the snarky look, she raised her arms, and dived into the sea, cleanly, thankfully. And it was beautiful, cool, but not cold, and clear. She was on the sand in a few moments, smiling at Luiz who took her hand, leading her to one of the bamboo hut bars.
He had money in a water proof container, on a string around his neck, and they were both glad of the time out of the blazing sun as they sat eating olives, meats and bread and drinking beer, watching the beach games being organised further along the sand.
It was only as they were preparing to head back to the boat that the rowdy tourists, who’d finished their game starting making their way to the bar, as loudly as they’d done everything else that day...sacrilege in such a idyllic place. Luiz reached out for her hand, wanting to help her across the hot sand, when someone called out her name.
“OH MY GOD! Alexis Carmichael! What the fuck are you doing here?”
Alexis froze, the voice causing her heckles to rise, turning she pasted on a smile as she came face to face with Steve Mackenzie, last seen five months ago heading for Mexico. Unbelievably coincidental! And very awkward!
“Wow! Steve! I presumed you’d have finished your trip months ago.”
He laughed, “nah, managed to get some work here and there. Loving the loafing life, you know! What are you doing here?”
Suddenly she was aware of Luiz by her side, “I’m working in Rio... this is Luiz, we’ve come here on his boat. Luiz, this is Steve...”
The two men checked each other out for a moment before Steve smiled and shook his hand, “we were inseparable in college...but really we’re SO different! Who’d have thought it, hey?”
“So who is he?” Luiz asked once he’d started the engine and turned the boat back to town.
She shrugged, “we dated in college. That’s all!”
“Just dated? You’ve moved thousands of miles from home, and TWO ex lovers have arrived in town. Am I to think that’s a coincidence?”
Lex was stunned at his anger, his jealousy and it took her a moment to compose herself, “I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here Luiz. I didn’t know Peter was coming, and Steve has been bumming around South America for months. Statistically there was no chance of our paths crossing, but they did. And that is a fluky thing. I’ve not told them where I am, and I have no interest in seeing either of them again. You need to get that into your head. Ok?”
He nodded, but Lex was concerned that he wouldn’t. Three hours later, back at the hotel, she knew she was right.