'Ready to go?’
‘Sure!’ Lisette and I stand up simultaneously, gather our bags and sandals and start off down the beach. We can see the lights at White Sands have been turned off already. Our boys should have finished work.
As I walk down the beach, shadows move on my right. The mangroves and palm trees are swaying eerily in the night. To my left is the endless lapping of the waves against the shore. On the beach, the sand crabs engage in a never-ending dance and game of hide-and-seek. Lisette and I walk on without talking. It’s a comfortable silence. We are both busy with our own thoughts.
As we approach White Sands, I have a strange feeling. Then I see him sitting on a stool at the counter. Next to him is Sanka. They are both facing the bar, so I can’t see their faces, but I can see there are drinks piled in front of them. Ishan comes toward us. He kisses Lisette and nods toward the bar.
‘We’ve finished early today; they’ve been drinking for a while.’
I look toward the two figures at the bar, nod at Ishan and make my way up the wooden steps.
Sanka spots me first and quickly slips off his stool and disappears without saying a word. Kiri turns around, and smiles, but I can see something strange in his expression. His eyes are slanted. They don’t focus on me, but on something inside themselves. The smile doesn’t reach them, and his lips are set in a smirk.
‘Where have you been? Did you have fun? Did you enjoy your time?’
The sarcasm in his words is palpable. I have no idea what has gotten into him.
‘So, do you have many friends here? Good friends?’ he continues.
‘What are you talking about? I had dinner with Lisette, and then I came straight here.’
I point limply over to where Ishan and Lisette are sitting. I can see they are checking up on us. There is a worried look on their faces, I don’t understand.
Kiri slides off the stool and stands in front of me, so close my neck hurts from tilting it up to look at his face. He grabs my stomach with his hand, nails piercing my skin. He tightens his grip and twists. With his other hand, he holds my arm as tight as a vise. I don’t know what is happening. His lips are twisted in a contorted smile, his eyes a slit. I’m not sure if it is hatred or disgust or both I can see in them. He is hurting my stomach and my arm. I try to pull away but he tightens his grip, leans down toward my ear and growls.
I can smell the alcohol in his breath. I’m paralysed with surprise more than fear. I have no idea who this person is. I manage to push him away a bit, Ishan calls him and his expression reverts back to the sweet Kiri I know. He releases his hold on me. His eyes become rounder, softer, his lips tilt into his charming smile. He looks up at Ishan and lifts his chin. I think I got him back, He must have been joking, so I relax and wait for him to give me his lovely smile. But he looks down at me, the hideous look back on his face. Quick as a snake, he grabs my stomach and arm again, and he hisses:
I push him away, his nails pulling at my flesh. I slap him, and he lets go. Lisette and Ishan are next to us now.
‘We are going to the party.’ she announces, takes me by the arm and frog-marches me to the road.
We leave Kiri behind. I can’t talk. I think I must have imagined it all. It can’t have happened. I nod silently when they ask if I am all right. I think I am, but I have no idea.
It is not long before Kiri turns up at the party too. His hair flying around him, he homes straight in on me, grabs my arm and pushes me toward the wall.
‘You hit me!’ he hisses.
‘What are you doing?!’ I plead.
I try to look around, but nobody is taking any notice of us. There are not many tourists, it is mainly locals. A man who looks foreign comes closer and asks him the same question. Kiri looks at him and releases his grip; I move off and try to stay where there are people. I spot Lisette and Ishan and try to make my way toward them, but I feel my arm yanked nearly out of its socket.
‘Where do you think you are going, bitch?’ And he is talking right into my ear.
He swings me around, still holding my arm in a vise-like grip and again digs his nails into my stomach. I have no idea what is going on. This is a pattern that gets repeated for the next half an hour. Small respites where I look for help, intermingled with moments of sheer terror when I get pulled by the hair and held in a tight grip. No words are said, he just looks as if he wants to murder me. I try to go toward the hotel but he grabs me, swings me around and slaps me hard on the face. I stumble against the wall and brace myself for more blows. To my relief, I hear Ishan’s voice. I had given up hope of finding help, everyone seemed to look the other way deliberately.
He grabs Kiri in a bear hug and drags him away from me before he has time to do anything else. I feel someone pulling me by the arm. Not the arm again! But it’s gentle. I turn around, and I see it’s Lisette.
‘I’ll take you to your hotel,’ she whispers, and she guides me to the road, pushing me gently by the small of my back.
We walk in silence for a bit, then I can’t control the sobs anymore and break down. What’s happening? What was that? She just hugs me and holds me tight.
‘Shhhh,’ she whispers, caressing my hair. ‘It’ll be ok.’
My body starts to shake, my breath catches and a flood of tears just pour out. We reach the hotel, and she sits with me on the patio. She looks nervous too, but she is in control.
‘You’ll be okay,’ she keeps repeating. ‘He had too much to drink. He will apologise tomorrow, and he won’t remember a thing.’
I’m too stunned to answer and just sit there, trying to control the remaining shakes. I’m feeling calmer, I’m not too sure what happened. The details of the last hours are fading, and glimpses of Kiri’s happy smiles are breaking through from my memory.
‘He’s sleeping now. We locked him in a room; he can’t come to you. You go to sleep, you’ll be okay.’ Ishan’s tone is reassuring. I bid them goodnight and go to my room, locking it securely with the key and pulling the latch across.