I get up early and leave a note for Cindy. Gone to the beach. I head straight down the now familiar path. The assault of the sunlight is most welcome. I need to see Kiri and make sure he doesn’t think I didn’t want to see him yesterday. I get to White Sands, and there he is, talking to a very sexy young blond girl. They are full of smiles. The little voice in my head has a whale of a time. I told you so. You are nothing for him. What did you think? Why would he care? Now crawl back under your rock. Act your damn age.
As I’m mentally crucifying myself, he raises his head, spots me, smiles and waves me over.
I put on the best fake smile I can muster and walk towards them.
‘This is my friend, Lisette, from France. She’s Ishan’s girlfriend and only got back last night. This is Maddy, the woman I told you about.’
‘Hi, Maddy. I’ve heard a lot about you. How was your safari yesterday?’
‘Oh, it was good, thank you. Do you come here often then?’
‘I’ve been coming here every couple of months for the past three years. It’s basically a home away from home. Kiri said you are from the UK. Where exactly?’
‘I live in Oxford.’
‘Ah. The Dreaming Spires! I did a three months English language course there not too long ago. I love the place. I still have a lot of friends over there. Sorry, I must dash, I have a meeting and I’m always late. I’ll see you later, yes?’ With that Lisette picks up her small rucksack, air-kisses Kiri and me, and runs off toward the road.
‘She is lovely.’ I really mean it. She has a fresh aura around her. Despite looking very young from a distance, when I got closer, I saw that she must be in her mid-thirties. Her laughter lines are endearing and look very stylish on her pale face.
‘Yes, she’s a good friend. She’s been with Ishan for a long time. They’re very happy.’
‘Has he been to France with her?’
‘Yes, they went there for Christmas last year. But he didn’t like it. He said it was too cold and too busy and he missed the spices.’ He winks and smiles.
A couple has just sat at the table in the far corner. Kiri takes over the menus to them and then comes straight back.
He gazes straight into my eyes. ‘I missed you yesterday. Why didn’t you come to me? Did you find someone else?’ I want to laugh at the insinuation, but his face is sombre. I’m not sure how to take it. His expression has changed; it looks as if his eyes have a different depth.
‘No, we had dinner in Tangalle, and when we got back, you’d gone already.’
‘How do you know I had gone?’
‘I came to look for you on the beach. Everything was shut, and Sanka told me you waited for me but had left.’
‘Sanka was here?’ I nod. ‘So you spent time with him, then?’ Again, my first instinct is to laugh, but I see his expression and feel a mixture of worry and sadness for him.
‘No, he just told me that and went home.’
‘Okay, look, I’m working now. I’ll see you later,’ and he abruptly waltzes off to the table in the corner to take the orders. He doesn’t glance back.
I’m a bit disoriented. I’m not sure what has just happened, but I need some space, so I get my stuff and walk on the beach.
I end up bumping into Eddie and Polly a few restaurants further down. They call me over, and I’m glad of the company.
‘Today is our last full day here. We’re leaving tomorrow morning. It doesn’t seem possible. Six whole months just gone like this,’ and Polly snaps her fingers. She looks sad.
‘Yes, but look at all the things we’ve done, the adventures we’ve had. And we’ll be doing it again soon.’ Eddie tries to cheer her up.
‘You will??’ I butt in. I’m intrigued.
‘Yes. We will just work our butts off for a few months, save everything and then put our few belongings in storage, rent our flat out and live off the rent and the savings. It’s really not rocket science.’
Wow. I need to think about all this. I feel something pulling in my gut. This is a significant moment for me. I need to regroup. I tell them I will see them later and I walk on. I know there is a small shack at the end of the beach where breakfast is good and cheap, and the coffee is superb.