I need a juice and a coffee, maybe not in that order. I really can’t wait for Cindy to decide to surface from her slumber today. I leave her a note and head for the beach.
The sun is glorious. There are no clouds in the sky, and there is no wind whatsoever. I get hot and bothered on the little path to the beach. I can’t wait to put my feet in the ocean! The morning light is blinding and joyous. It reflects on the waves like gold speckles dancing. The beach is alight with a sparkle, and the sounds of the birds and the waves are surreal.
‘Hey! Good morning!’ As I turn toward the greeting, I get blinded by the sun and stumble in the sand. Just my luck, looking foolish in public and I don’t even know who is there yet! As I move away from the sun rays in my eyes, I spot Greg, Eddie and Polly at a table, clearly enjoying an enormous breakfast. I think the alcohol-induced hunger is being appeased by tucking into everything on the menu.
‘Want to join us for breakfast, lass? We will be here for a while yet.’
Embracing my new self, I smile at the trio. ‘Sure!’
I order a continental breakfast, hoping the coffee at least will turn up soon. I lack a bit of energy after last night’s lateness.
‘So where’s Cindy? She did get back with you last night, right?’ Greg is smiling, but I can see he is not saying this as a passing comment. He really wants to know.
‘Of course, she did. But she loves her beauty sleep. She will be ready for the world in a bit.’
I can see relief in Greg’s face. He is quite handsome for a forty-something Scot, and once I figure out his accent, he also says some interesting things.
Eddie explains that he and Polly have been married 14 years now. They agreed to give up trying to have a family a couple of years ago and decided to go on extended travels instead. They have been away on two six-month stints already. This is their third one. He is in sales, and she temps as a secretary. Polly is quiet. She doesn’t say an awful lot, but I expect Eddie does most of the talking for her.
‘We met Greg in Thailand and have travelled through Laos and Cambodia together. This is our last stop. We are going back home on Sunday, but Greg is still a free spirit.’
‘Well, yes, I have another month before I head back to Glasgow. Best make the most of this heat as it’s been quite chilly back home.’ He has his own printing company and is doing well enough to be able to take three months off every winter. His children are in their early twenties and are very able to manage the business without dad.
My breakfast arrives, and I tuck into my toast without hesitation. I’m famished!
I love the company, and it makes a surprisingly nice change to listen to other people talking instead of to my constant internal chatter.
My three companions are planning to go on a day trip tomorrow. They are renting a car and travelling to the national park.
‘It should take a couple of hours to get there. We’re leaving mid-morning to be there for the afternoon safari. We should be back for dinner. Eddie and I will be driving, Polly doesn’t want to try the thrill,’ smiles Greg.
‘I think it’s a thrill enough to sit in the car, let alone drive the damn thing through the onslaught of local traffic. Hey, do you and Cindy want to come? It’d be great to have some girlie company.’
‘We don’t have anything planned for tomorrow. I’ll ask her and let you know.’
Right on cue, Cindy appears on the beach. She is wearing a floating batik dress. The blue colour matches the sea. She is raising one hand to shield her eyes against the sun as she heads in our direction. I wave, and she waves back and breaks into her magic smile. I notice Greg’s expression has changed too. He looks happy and relieved.
‘We’ve been invited to go on a safari tomorrow, is that okay with you?’ I greet her as soon as she is in earshot.
‘Sure, as long as we don’t have to start at the crack of dawn.’
‘We’ll be leaving mid-morning. We’re renting a car; Ed and I will be driving. Hope you are brave enough.’ And Greg winks at Cindy before downing the last of his third coffee.
‘Be careful not to burn.’
I lower my book and turn to my right. All I can see is a dark silhouette with a halo of flowing hair. I sit up on my sunbed and lower the sunglasses that were resting on my forehead. Kiri is looking serious and amused at the same time.
‘It’s good to see you, Maddy.’ His smile broadens, and his eyes are gentle.
‘Hi.’ I stumble for words. It’s good to see him too, but surely, I can’t tell him that! He would think I’m flirting.
‘I... I have factor 30 on, and I don’t usually burn anyway.’
‘I brought you a bottle of water. Do you prefer anything else?’
‘Water is perfectly fine, thank you very much. How did you know I was here?’
‘I started working an hour ago. I’ve been watching you all this time. That’s why I know you’ve been laying in the sun and haven’t been drinking. You have to be careful. Our sun is stronger than yours.’ I’m touched at how considerate he is, and I thank him again for the water.
‘I want to get to know you, Maddy.’ He crouches next to me. ‘I know you are only here for one more week, but I need to know who you are.’
I’m not sure how to answer this one. It leaves me dumb. I blink a few times, and all I can muster is ‘why?’
‘Because I feel I’m connected with you at a deep level. I don’t know why, but I know that I can’t ignore the feeling I have.’
‘But I’m a lot older than you, Kiri.’
‘Age is only a number. The body changes but the person you are inside always stays the same. You are a beautiful person with a beautiful body. What more can I ask for?’
I’m tempted to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake. True or not, these things are exactly what I need to hear. Hell, they are probably what every woman over 40 needs to hear!
‘It’s kind of you, but my home is so far away, and I’m leaving soon.’
‘I’ll be here, and you’ll come back. I’ll wait for you. But in the meantime, we still have a few days, and I want to spend them with you.’
He sits in the sand next to my sunbed, and we chat for ages. Talking to Kiri is easy. He is focused and seems to want to know my innermost feelings. I end up telling him so much more than I would ever have thought possible. I tell him about finding out I was pregnant with Kyle when I was 21 and studying law in London, and how I was scared but Ben took it all in his stride. I tell him how we had to move to Oxford when Lucy was born, as our London flat was too small. How I managed to finish my degree and work in a fun legal firm. How I haven’t seen my mum very often since she moved back to her native France fifteen years ago. He listens and asks questions. But he wants to know more about my married life, about my life before Ben, about my lovers. I have led a pretty normal life, so there is not much to tell, aside from a one-off extramarital affair I’m not proud of. It was all due to boredom and alcohol, and it only lasted a few days. I was a young mother then, and I needed to reassert myself as a woman. Nothing much happened, and we parted amicably. I came clean with Ben about it then, so I certainly don’t have to hide it from someone I won’t see again.
I tell him I’m not ready to talk about Kyle and he respects that.
Cindy finishes her call and strolls back to the beach.
‘Hi, Kiri. Maddy, do you want a drink? I think I have earned mine.’
‘Yes, just give me a minute.’
’I’d better go back to work. I’ll see you later. Can you come to White Sands for dinner, please? I want to see you as much as I can.’
‘I’ll try, but if I don’t come for dinner, I’ll see you after work. Is that okay?’
As soon as these words leave my mouth, I freeze. What on earth am I saying? Am I flirting? I’m not sure it’s flirting, but I want to see him, and I want to find out about him. So far, we’ve talked mainly about me. I know there is a depth to him I can’t quite fathom yet. I’m intrigued.
‘Sure! I look forward to it!’ He bends down puts his lips near my cheek and inhales sharply with his nose, he then saunters off back to the restaurant. Mmmh. That is strange. I’ll need to ask him what that meant.