It is mid-morning, and all the bars and restaurants are already in full swing. The sunbeds are out, the parasols are scattered around them, and the tables are lined up under the shade of the coconut trees. The young waiters are pounding the sand backward and forward as they take and deliver orders. Families are already down to the tasks of sand-castle-building and cleaning sand from babies’ mouths. Want-to-be surfers are dragging boards up and down the beach, not quite sure where to try out their luck. Sun worshippers are already spread on their towels, palms up, chin up, legs slightly apart and plastered with tanning lotion. The coast guard block is full of activities, but the guys up on the rescue tower stretch and yawn, before settling in their chairs overseeing the cream skinned tourists scattered around below.
The stray dogs are playing, chasing each other up and down the beach, occasionally barking at the odd local individual and relieving themselves on the towels and belongings of unsuspecting tourists.
I have come to love these rituals. This place feels a bit like home. I look around and shield my eyes with my arm. The sunglasses are not enough to protect my eyes from the glare of the morning sun.
‘Looking for me, beautiful lady?’
I know it’s him even before his arms encircle my waist.
‘Good morning young man.’
‘Good morning. Have you missed me?’
‘Yes,’ and I feel myself blush when I say this. I have really missed him. I’m not sure whether it is my imminent departure that is unnaturally accelerating my feelings, but it is like I have known this young man forever and he has been a part of my life forever. I long to hold him and to bury my head in his hair, but we are in the middle of the crowded beach, and that is hardly the done thing, especially around here.
‘Are you working?’
’Yes. Can you come for breakfast at White Sands? I want to see you.’
He pulls my hand while he is already walking in the direction of the restaurant. He wouldn’t have listened if I had said no. He is determined he will get me to do what he wants because he thinks that’s what I want too. And he’s absolutely right!
The restaurant is already quite busy. Ten tables are occupied by tourists intent on chomping on their breakfast.
I spot Lisette on the table nearest to the kitchen, but she is sitting with a local couple and is deep in conversation. She is talking animatedly, gesturing the typical French way and pointing at some sheets on the table. She looks excited. I wonder what they are discussing. I leave her to it; I don’t want to intrude.
I order a plate of fruit and a coffee. I want to make the most of this food. The fruit here tastes like fruit, quite a surprising revelation after a lifetime of cling-film wrapped colourless shapes all tasting the same.
Kiri brings me my breakfast, but he is in a rush.
‘Sorry, we are very busy, and Sanka hasn’t come to work today. I’ll come to talk to you later, okay?’
I put my hand on his, look up and smile at his furrowed face.
‘It’s okay. I know you are working. I’m perfectly fine.’
His features relax, he smiles his perfect smile and saunters off. I can’t keep my eyes off him, but I am aware of the two ladies at the table to my right who have clearly spotted the intimacy between us and are looking alternately at him and me. I bet they are trying to work out the extent of the age gap between us. I know I shouldn’t mind, and when we are together, I never really think of the difference in age. I never feel there is any difference, really. But when people so clearly notice it, I become self-conscious. What would I be thinking if it was someone else and I was watching them? Well, who cares? I hear the little voice in my head scolding me. I have been hearing a lot from her lately. Maybe it’s my true self from years ago, coming back. I really hope so!
Trying to read my book is a mammoth task. I’m too distracted by the colours, the noises and the chit-chat around me, but mostly by the chatter in my head. I surprise myself at how easy it is to let go of the past. I catch myself thinking of now and not dwelling on bleak thoughts. It is refreshing to notice what is happening around me, but I’m scared of letting go of my memories and images. What if I lose them? What if by not thinking about Kyle every day of my life, I lose the sense of him, the essence of him?
‘That’s never going to happen. He will always be with you. You need to show him that you can reserve his place and still have space for everyone else.’
Cindy has just popped over. She wanted to tell me she and Greg were planning on going to the Secret Beach and to ask if I wanted to join them.
When she saw my face, I couldn’t hide what I was thinking.
‘I know. Thank you, Cin.’ I put my hand on hers.
‘I know I’ve been a bit distracted lately.’ She looks sheepish and then smiles looking me straight in the eyes. ‘But I’m always here for you. You know that, don’t you?’
I nod. I hate it when I well up in public.
‘It must be my hormones.’ I smile while a couple of tears abandon my eyes. I wipe them away with the back of my hand.
‘Anyway, where is it you are planning on going?’
‘Secret Beach. Apparently, it’s not very far and not very secret. We can walk there or take a tuk-tuk. Want to come? It’ll be different.’
The idea of going somewhere where I can’t accidentally bump into Kiri or watch him from a distance doesn’t really appeal to me, but I don’t want to admit the real reason for my declining the invitation
‘I’m sure you two would be quite happy on your own. I’m fine here. I have my book. I’m all set.’
Cindy looks up over to the counter, where Kiri is standing, writing bills for the various tables.
‘Okay, as long as this is what you want. You know where we are if you want to join us. See you later.’
She pushes the chair back, stands up then bends down to wrap her arms around my shoulders. It is a brief hug, but it carries a thousand feelings. I know she is there for me. I look up and smile into her face.
‘See you later and say hi to Greg for me.’ She nods and walks off.
As soon as she is gone, Kiri stops by. ‘Is she okay? Are you okay?’
‘Yes, I’m perfectly fine.’ And despite the emptiness at the pit of my stomach, I know I’m all right.