‘So what is it we’re doing today?’ Cindy is finally up and looks already ready to take on the world. She joins me on the little patio in front of the room, which I have been sharing with a passing iguana and an assorted collection of geckos.
‘Anyway, whatever it is, I need a coffee and breakfast first’. She answers herself. So, we pack our bags for the day and head to the beach.
The walk takes less than five minutes, and it is a test for our senses. We walk past beautiful banana trees, playing children, burning rubbish, luscious hibiscus and tall coconut trees. The smells that come out of the houses make our mouths water. Kingfishers prime their beautiful blue feathers while holding on to the electricity cables. Monkeys are calling in the background and peacocks shout out for mates. We can hear the ocean well before we can see it. The temperature is just right, not the sauna-like heat which will greet us in a couple of hours.
I like mid-mornings. As we turn the corner at the end of the derelict wall, the golden beach greets us and the waves crashing on the shore are alluring reminders that the water is so warm and yet refreshing at the same time. I smile. I love it here! I can feel my shoulders relax and every cell in my body is ready to soak up the warmth and calmness of this small cosy resort.
We settle at our favourite table on the beach. Some of the bigger waves come all the way to our feet.
‘What more can you want from life?’ Cindy sinks into the chair, rearranges her sunglasses and grabs the menu eagerly.
‘A little holiday romance actually wouldn’t go amiss.’ As soon as the words have left my mouth, I feel myself blush, and I study the menu as if I have actually not said anything. I know Cindy is staring at me and I can’t help grinning.
‘Maddy Jones! You’re back!’ And she breaks into her pearly smile.
‘But I don’t know where to start. It’s been so long.’ I whine playfully, pulling down the corner of my mouth.
‘Some things never change, you know. And I’m sure once you’re ready for it, you’ll know exactly what to do. And to start off, the long-haired waiter over there has been staring at you ever since we got here.’
‘Well, that’s just over three minutes. I don’t think I can build a relationship on that, do you?’ Despite playing it cool, I feel my spirits lifting. I can do this!
‘Black coffee and toast for me, please. Do you know what you’re having Maddy?’
‘Oh. Mango juice and toast for me, please.’
‘Sure,’ and he strolls away, long hair flying, leaving us with a beautiful, friendly smile.
‘I don’t really feel like being an active tourist today. I have a book, and I could lay in the shade most of the day without as much as a twinge.’
‘Suits me, although I have a couple of calls to make around lunchtime.’
‘Cindy, the non-stop businesswoman.’ I muse, shaking my head with a smile.
The thought of just soaking up this beautiful place, topping up my tan, and reading my book seems more than I can hope for. This is what I need.
I know Cindy has explored this island far and wide over the years and is not too interested in doing it again. I have seen enough during my first week here to have a pretty good idea of where I am. I don’t really need to be a busy tourist anymore. If anything, I would love to immerse myself in the culture, really understand these unfathomable people. Something tells me that all is not quite as it looks.
I find a perfect spot under a tree. I check to make sure that there are no coconuts which can fall and re-adjust my skull and I settle on my beach towel. How many years have I dreamt of doing this?!
Cindy is still chatting with the short-haired waiter at the restaurant. The same one who was polishing our already polished table last night. Ah, things will never change. She is like honey to the bees. Good for her!
I was like that too. With my long dark hair, blue eyes and petite figure, I could command attention. Twenty years on, my hair is still long and stubbornly dark, but my eyes have grown craw feet and my forehead furs in horizontal lines when I concentrate. My figure is still good. I still look okay in a swimming costume. Despite my two pregnancies, my stomach is still flat. I don’t fare too badly for my age. But then again, one glance along the beach puts me in my place. Everywhere I look there are bikini-clad models who could easily be my daughters. The joys of getting old!
I doze off in the shade. The light breeze and the sound of the waves caressing the shore keeping me company. I jump when I hear a voice near me.
I must look confused and a bit dumb, because the waiter stares at me and says: ‘I asked if you would like your juice here? Your friend told me to bring it to you.’
I search for Cindy with my sleepy eyes, and I see her still at our table, engrossed in a call. She looks up and raises her glass to me. So I raise mine to her.
‘Thank you.’ I say to the waiter smiling up at him.
‘How long are you staying here?’ He crouches down and stares intensely into my eyes. He has tied his long hair in a high man bun.
‘Another ten days.’
‘You like it here?’
‘I love it! You are very lucky to live here. It’s a beautiful place.’
He looks around thoughtfully, gazes down at his hands. ‘Yes, maybe we are.’ He nods and goes back to work.
I sip at my juice and try to find the right page of my book. But I don’t feel like reading, I just want to soak all this up, so that I can fall back on the memory when I’m back in Oxford, freezing my butt off and trying not to slip on the icy pavements. How can two such different worlds exist at the same time and in the same universe? It’s fascinating to think how extremely different life is here compared to back home.
‘It’s me first in the shower!’ Shouts Cindy as we get back to the hotel. She looks like a young woman hungry for life. Her work phone-call earlier went well, and she is now more relaxed.
There is a party on the beach tonight. Apparently, it is impossible to sleep because the music is so loud, so I have been persuaded to give it a try.
‘If you can’t beat them join them!’ was Cindy’s way of making the decision for both of us.
I really don’t know what to expect other than an earache and tinnitus, but I can’t be the party-pooper now that I have admitted I want my life back. I just hope they are not all as young as Kyle and Lucy at the party.