‘So everything’s fine. Are you sure?’
Cindy asks me over the phone. She is still in Colombo, she needs a few more days to finalise the work with the client. She will be here with me soon. I assure her I am fine. I will tell her the details in person, but she insists she wants to know more about how my romance is unfolding, so I fill her in. I tell her I spent two full days on the beach working on my tan - as she instructed me to do – and how yesterday I was in Galle with Kiri. He took the day off, and we just jumped on the bus. Walking along the walls, high up on the shore and strolling around the cobbled streets holding hands, I felt like I was living in a dream world. His excitement at being somewhere new, at branching out of his little world, was so endearing and contagious that all I wanted to do was to hold him tight and bask in his happiness.
‘You’re kidding! Really?’ explodes Cindy when I tell her I took Kiri on a train for the first time in his life. I know it sounds incredible. Our lives are so different, and yet that is exactly what fascinates me about him. I’m discovering the world from a completely different angle.
It has only been four days since I got back, but I feel like I belong here, as if I have never left. Oxford seems a world away, a completely different life.
Kiri will be working a lot during the rest of my time here. The tourist season is still busy, though not for long. I just have to find things to occupy my days.
Lisette is still here and has been keeping me company on and off. She is busy finalising the lease on a guest house so she can work while staying here. And no, she is not planning on going into business with Ishan. Lisette is adamant they need to have their separate lives if their relationship is to last. He is perfectly happy carrying on working at the restaurant.
‘I know what it’s like to be with someone around the clock. It can drive you crazy, and then you start hating each other. Bad for business and bad for your personal life.’ She seems to speak from experience.
She says she has found just the place but is still not sure. Her friend from France was supposed to come over with her, but she has pulled out at the last minute.
’She found a man and decided to annihilate herself.’ She sneers with an expression of disapproval mixed with a hint of sadness.
‘It’s not the amount of work that worries me, it’s that I won’t have any time for myself. If you are running something on your own, there is no downtime. I’m not sure I really want that. It’s supposed to be improving my life, not making it harder.’
‘So you need someone to come in with you, is that what you are saying?’ I enquire, a little seed taking root in my head, as we sit sipping our fresh juices.
I look up and see it is that time of the day already when the beach is being transformed from the lazy daytime sun-seekers’ retreat into a romantic evening haven. Time has gone so quickly.
The past few days, I have been stealing moments with Kiri during work hours, but the evenings have been just ours to enjoy. We have been exploring ourselves and our bodies on an entirely different level. When I think of him, I quiver. His touch is electric, his kiss hypnotic. I think I’m ready.
I feel a mixture of the most profound love I have ever felt and the fiercest protection I thought possible. I feel like wrapping him in my arms and shielding him from the world that hurt him so much.
His jealous outbursts and sarcastic remarks are just what he learnt to use to protect himself from pain, from the grief of loss, from the neglect and abuse he has had to endure. I understand all this. I want to show him that the world has got a good side. That he can be loved, and that he deserves to be happy. I want to be there for him so that he will not feel alone any more.
Sanka has been on the side-lines most of the time. Apart from brief hellos, we have not exchanged anything else, nor have we been near enough to be able to talk. I’m glad we are tacitly avoiding each other. I think he is trouble even if I don’t know why.
I’m having dinner with Lisette tonight. Ishan and Kiri are working, and we will meet up with them when the restaurant closes. There is a party down the beach later, which we might be going to together.