Forever girl story

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 07:28 -- Starryl

Part one: I have often wondered about the proposition that for each of us there is one greater love in our lives, and only one even if that is not always true - experience tells most of us it is not real - there are those in legend at least who believe there is only one person in this world whom they will ever love with all their heart sincerely. Tristan persisted in his love of Isolde in spite of everything that happened; Orpheus would not have risked the Underworld, one imagines for anyone but Eurydice instead. Such stories are touching but the cynic might be forgiven for saying: yes, yet what if the person you love does not reciprocate? What if Isolde had found somebody else she preferred to Tristan or Eurydice had been indifferent to Orpheus in the end? The wise thing to do in cases of incomplete and unsatisfying affection is to look elsewhere because you certainly cannot force another human being to love you so choose somebody else then. In matters of the heart though, as in human affairs, few of us behave in a sensible way. We can do without love of course and claim that it does not really play a major part in our lives. We may do that but we still hope diligently and daily. Seeming indifferent to all the evidence, hope has a path of surviving every discouragement no matter what setback or reversal we face for hope sustains our souls and enables people to believe they will find the person we have dreamed of getting along with all the time. Sometimes in fact, this is what happens exactly. This story started when the two people involved were children. It began on a small island in the Caribbean, continued in Scotland and Australia and came to a head in Singapore. It took place over sixteen years, beginning as one of those intense friendships of childhood and becoming in time, something quite different too. This is the story of a sort of passion, definitely a love story and like many love stories it includes more than just two people for every love has within it the echoes of other lovers. Our story is often our parents’ story told again and with less variation than we might like to think. The mistakes, however often or few, are usually the same wrongdoings our parents committed before as human problems so regularly are. The Caribbean island in question is an unusual place like fairytale. Grand Cayman is still a British territory by choice of its nations rather than by imposition, one of the odd corners that survive from the monstrous shadow that Victoria cast over more than half the world. Today it is very much in the sphere of American influence - Florida is only a few hundred miles away and the cruise ships that drop anchor off George Town normally fly the flags of the United States or are American ships under some other flag of convenience. But the sort of money that the Cayman Islands attract comes from nowhere; has no nationality nor characteristic smell. Grand Cayman is not exciting to look at either on the map where it is a pin-prick in the expanse of blue to the south of Cuba and the west of Jamaica or in reality where it is a coral-reefed island barely twenty miles long and a couple of miles in width. With smallness comes some useful advantages, among them a degree of immunity to the hurricanes that roar through the Caribbean each year. Jamaica is a large and tempting target for these winds and is hit quite regularly. There is no justice nor mercy in the storms that flatten the houses of the poor places like Kingston or Port Antonio, wood plus tin constructions which are more vulnerable than bricks and mortar of the better-off. Grand Cayman, being relatively minuscule is actually missed although every few decades the trajectory of a hurricane takes it straight across the island. Since there are no natural salients, big part of the land is inundated by the resultant storm surge. People may lose their own possession to the huge wind - cars, fences, furniture, fridges and beloved animals can all be swept out to sea and never be seen anymore; boats end up under the trees, palm trees bend double and are broken with as much ease as one might snap a pencil or the stem of a garden plant somehow. Grand Cayman is not fertile anyway, the soil which is white and sandy is not so useful for growing crops and the whole land is left to its own devices, would quickly revert to mangrove swamp. Yet people have occupied the island for several centuries and scratched a living there. The original inhabitants were turtle-hunters who were later joined by various pirates and wanderers for whom a life far away from the prying eye of officialdom was attractive. There were obviously fishermen as this was long before over-fishing was an issue, and the reef brought abundant marine life. Then in the second half of the twentieth century, it occurred to a small group of people that Grand Cayman could become an off-shore financial centre. As a British territory it was stable, relatively incorrupt (by the standards of Central America and the shakier parts of the Caribbean), and its banks would enjoy the tutelage of the City of London a lot. Unlike some other states that might have nursed similar ambitions, Grand Cayman was an entirely safe zone to store money. “Sort out the mosquitoes,” they said. “Build a longer runway that allows the money to flow in, you’ll see. Cayman will take off soon.” Cayman rather than the Cayman Islands, is what people who live there call the place an affectionate shortening with the emphasis on the man instead of the word cay. Banks and investors agreed and George Town became the home of a large expatriate community, a few who came as tax exiles, but most of them were truly hardworking and conscientious accountants or trust managers. The locals watched with mixed feelings since they were reluctant to give up their quiet and rather sleepy way of life when they found it difficult to resist the prosperity the new arrivals brought. And they like the high prices they could get for their previous worthless acres. A tiny whiteboard home by the sea which was nothing special could now be sold for a price that could keep one in comfort for the rest of one’s life. For many, the temptation was simply great; an easy life was now within grasp for many Caymanians as Jamaicans could be brought in to do the manual labour, to serve in the restaurants frequented by the visitors from the cruise ships, to look after the bankers’ children. A privileged few were given good status as they named it, and were allowed to live permanently on the islands, these being the ones who were really needed or in some cases who knew the right people - the type who could ease the passage of their residence petitions. Others had to return to the places from which they came which were usually poorer, more dangerous and tormented by naughty mosquitoes. Many children do not choose their own names but she did when she grew up. She was born Sally, and was called that as a baby girl but at the age of four, having heard the nice name in a story, she chose to be called Clover for real. Initially her parents treated this indulgently, believing that after a day or two of being Clover she would revert to being Sally. Children got strange notions into their heads; her mother had read somewhere of a child who had decided for almost a complete week that he was a dog and had insisted on being fed from a bowl on the floor. But Clover refused to go back to being Sally and the name stuck until now. Clover’s father, David was an accountant who had been born and brought up in Scotland. After university he had started his professional training in London, in the offices of one of the largest international accountancy firms. He was particularly capable - he saw figures as if they were a landscape, instinctively understanding their topography and this smartness led to his being marked out as a high flier. In his first year after qualification, he was offered a spell of six months in the firm’s office in New York, an opportunity he already seized enthusiastically. He even joined a squash club and it was there in the course of a mixed tournament that he met the woman he was eager to marry. This woman was called Amanda and her parents were both psychiatrists who ran a joint practice on the Upper East Side. Amanda invited David back to her parents’ apartment after she had been seeing him for a month. They liked him but she could tell that they were anxious about her seeing somebody who might take her away from New York. She was an only child and she was the centre of their world. This young man as accountant was likely to be sent back to London, would want to take Amanda with him and they would be left in New York. They just put on a brave face on the prediction and said nothing about their hidden fears; shortly before David’s six months were up though, Amanda informed her parents that they wanted to become engaged. Her mother wept at the surprising news in private. The internal machinations of the accounting firm came to the rescue. Rather than returning to London, David was to be sent to Grand Cayman, where the firm was expanding its office. This was merely three hours’ flight from New York - through Miami - and would therefore be less of separation. Amanda’s parents were mollified. David and Amanda left New York and settled into a temporary apartment in George Town, arranged for them by the firm. A few months later they found a new house near an inlet called Smith’s Cove, not much more than a mile from town. They moved in a week or two before their official wedding which took place in a small church round the corner. They chose this church because it was the closest one to their home. It was largely frequented by Jamaicans who provided an ebullient choir for the occasion, greatly impressing the friends who had travelled down from New York for the good ceremony. Fourteen months later, Clover was born. Amanda immediately sent a photograph to her mother in New York: Here’s your lovely grandchild, look at her eyes and stare at her beautiful smile. She seemed perfect at two days! “Fond parents,” said Amanda’s father. His wife studied the photograph. “No,” she said. “She’s right.” He replied, “Born on a Thursday,” “Has far to go…” He frowned, “Far to go?” She explained, “The song you remember it, Wednesday’s child is full of woe; Thursday’s child has far to go in fact…” “That doesn’t mean anything much.” She shrugged, she had always felt that her husband lacked imagination recently, so many men did, she thought. “Perhaps that she’ll have to travel far to get what she desires. Travel far - or wait a long time maybe.” He laughed at the idea of paying attention to such small things. “You’ll be talking about her star sign next, what a superstitious behaviour. I have to deal with that all the time with my patients.” “I don’t take it seriously,” she said. “You’re too literal, these things like horoscopes are fun - that’s all.” He smiled at her, “Sometimes it is, but not every time.” Part two: The new parents employed a Jamaican nurse for their cute child. There was plenty of money for something like this - there is no income tax on Grand Cayman and the salaries are generous. David was already having the prospect of a partnership within three or four years dangled in front of him, something that would have taken at least a decade elsewhere. On the island there was nothing much to spend money on, and employing domestic staff at least mopped up some of the cash. In fact, they were both slightly embarrassed by the amount of money they had. As a Scot, David was frugal in his instincts and disliked the flaunting of wealth; Amanda shared this as well. She had come from a milieu where displays of wealth were not unusual but she had never felt comfortable about that. It struck her that by employing this Jamaican woman they would be recycling money that would otherwise simply sit in an account somewhere. More seasoned residents of the island laughed at this. “Of course you have staff - why so told? Half the year it’s too hot to do anything yourself anyway. Did think twice about the matter it seems.” Their advertisement in the Cayman Compass drew two replies yet one was from a Honduran woman who scowled through the interview which ought to last longer. “Resentment,” confided David, “That’s the way it goes. What are we in her eyes? Rich, privileged, maybe we will find anybody related…” “Can we blame her?” David shrugged, “Probably however but you can have somebody who hates you in the house nowadays?” The following day they interviewed a Jamaican woman called Margaret, she asked a few questions about the job and then looked about the whole room. “I saw a baby and it is extremely adorable and lovely.” They took her into the room where Clover was lying asleep in her cot. The air conditioner was whirring but there was that characteristic smell of a nursery - that drowsy milky smell of an infant. “Lord, just be mesmerized by her glowing body!” said Margaret. “That little angel.” She stepped forward and bent over the cot. The child now aware of her presence, struggled up through layers of sleep to open her eyes. “Little darling and sweetheart!” exclaimed Margaret, reaching forward to pick her up again. “She’s still sleepy,” said Amanda, “Maybe…” But Margaret had her in her arms now and was planting kisses on her brow. David glanced at Amanda who smiled proudly and exaggeratedly. He turned to Margaret, “When can you start?” “Right now, I start right now.” she said. They had asked Margaret everything about her circumstances at the interview such as it was and it was only a few days later that she told them about he lifestyle. “I was born in Port Antonio, my mother worked in a big hotel and she worked hard frequently, always trustworthy I tell you. There were four of us - me, my brother and two sisters. My brother’s legs ran a lot somehow one day he got mixed up with the crew who dealth with drugs and alcohol and he went all the way they went. My older sister was twenty then, she worked in an office in town and had a great job, she did it well because she had learned the most of English, computers, internet and science and had high memory. Until one morning she came home and there was a special letter, a message about her career and we just sat there and wondered what important clues to think. Someone had seen her and heard that she was professional and strong. Then we watched a movie on a cold night where a person drove a flying car that operates using solar system which we obviously fancied much to own the moments feeling light on the sky. Every day I reminisce the talented gifts from God above who controlled the widest universe ever, I understand he has his famous reasons to grant people the best techniques and shiny cars.” She continued her touching story, “Then somebody older reminded me I should travel to Cayman with her, this lady was a sort of talkative aunt to me and she arranged it with some relatives I was familiar with. I finally came over and met my charming husband who is Caymanian, one hundred per cent. He is extraordinarily good at fixing government fridges including bridges. He announced that I did have to labour because I want to sit in the house after that to wait for him to come back joyfully so that’s why I have taken this job, you see it made sense right?” Amanda listened to this conversation and thought about how suffering could be compressed into a few simple words: Then one day she just woke up and found someone new sitting next to her. And so could happiness be explainable in phrases such as a good young man who fixes fridges. There was a second child, Billy who arrived after another complicated pregnancy. Amanda went to Miami on the last day the airline would let her fly and then stayed until they induced labour. Margaret only came with David plus Clover to pick her up at the airport. She covered the new infant with red kisses just as she had done before. “He’s going to be very sincere and proficient,” she blessed, “You can tell it straight away with a boy child you know, you look at him and say: this one is going to be truly favorable and praised. Amanda laughed out loud, “Surely you must hope and rejoice for that but you will celebrate it someday.” Margaret shook her head, “You watch the birds and they know they feel their feathers are the main reason they are light in air. So they get to tell you when a storm is on the way every time.” And she could tell whether a fish was infected with ciguatera by a simple test she had learned from Jamaicans who claimed it always brings them up and enlightened. “You have to watch those reef fish,” she explained, “If they have the illness and you eat them you will get really sick and vomit. But you know who can tell whether a fish is sick? Ants. You eat the fish when it is thoroughly cooked or fried before ants let their sensitive gang gather around the tasty and delicious meal. You already know this fact as you learned in class.” Amanda said to David, “It could have been very different for Margaret.” “What could?” “Life, everything she had the chance to education was easy.” He was steady, “It’s early, she could go to school and the were relevant courses.” Amanda thought this was likely to occur, “She works here all day and there’s Eddie to look after and those dogs they have all this time.” “It’s her own life, if that’s what she craves for.” She kind of thought so, “Do you think people actually want their lives to the fullest potential? Or do you think they simply accept them? They take the lives they’re given mostly I assured you.” He had been looking at a sheaf of papers like figures and he put them to the talk, “We are getting philosophical are we?” They were sitting outside by the pool. The clear water reflected the bright sky, a shimmer of light blue lingered. She said, “Well these things are important otherwise.” “Yes?” “Otherwise we go through life knowing what we want or mean and that feels enough.” She realized that she had talked to him regarding these things they were doing so she suddenly saw he had something secret in his mind like questions. It was a single moment that she identify as the precise point when she used to fall in love with him. He picked up his papers, a paper clip that had been keeping them together had slipped out of position and now he manoeuvred it back. “Margaret?” he asked, “What about her? Will she have her children of her own?” She did answer him at first and he shot her an interested glance. “Need to tell? Has she spoken to you elsewhere?” he said. She had done so one afternoon but after extracting a promise that she would tell her heart there had been shame and tears. Two ectopic pregnancies had put paid to her hopes of a family. One of them had nearly killed her, such had been the loss of blood. The other had been detected earlier and quietly dealt with. He pressed her to reply, “Well? Even with me along.” “Yeah, I could discuss it later.” She looked at him, the thought of what she had just felt the sudden and expected insight that had come to her appalled her. It was like wind of faith must be for a priest to preach; the moment when he realises that he believes in many gods and everything he has done up to that point - his entire life really has been based on something that is visibly there; the grasp of time, self-motivation now all for the prize. Was this what happened in marriages? She had been fond of him and she had imagined that she would love him but now quite suddenly like a provoking incident it was as if he were a stranger to her - a disguised stranger. She relaxed her hands and seen him as an outsider so tall, well-built man who used to have everything in his way because others looked like him had the similar experience. But he might also be seen as a rather exciting person of habit, interested in figures and money and much more creative filming in between. She got dizzy at the thought of what, years of satisfaction ahead? Clover was eight now that Billy was four, fifteen years to go? She answered the riddle, “I swore to her I would mention it to anyone near that I assume you intended to know.” He agreed, “People think that spouses know everything and they usually do, people keep things from their spouses sometimes in cases of privacy.” She thought there might have been a note of criticism in what he said even of reproach but he even smiled at her and she was asking herself at that fast moment whether she would ever sleep with another man, while staying with David. If she could, then who would it be? “A bit, I mean she probably judged that you knew,” she said. He tucked the papers into a folder, “Silly woman, she loves kids too much and she is acting unfair and impolite.” There was an old sea-grape tree beside the pool and a breeze cool air from the sea, making the leaves sway just a little. She noticed the shadow of the leaves on the ground shifting, and then returning to where it was before. George Collins, if anyone, it would be with him. She felt the surge of disgust and disgrace, and found herself blushing shyly. She turned away lest he should notice but he was getting up from his reclining chair and had begun to walk over towards the pool. “I’m going to have a dip, it’s getting cozy, I hate this heat,” he said. He took off his shirt; he was already wearing swimming trunks. He slipped out of his sandals and plunged into the pool instantly. The splash of water was in that Hockney painting she thought, as white against the blue as surprised and sudden as that. George and Alice Collins had little to do with the rest of the expatriates. This was maybe because they were stand-offish or thought themselves a cut above the rest - it was more of a case of having different interests. He was a doctor but unlike most doctors on the island he was quite interested in building up a lucrative private practice. He ran a clinic that was mostly used by Jamaicans and Hondurans who had very little insurance and were eligible for the government scheme too. He was also something of a naturalist and had published a check-list of Caribbean flora and a small book on the ecology of the reef. His wife Alice was an artist whose watercolours of Cayman plants had been used on a set of the island’s postage stamps. They were polite enough to the money people when they met them on social occasions - inevitable in a small community, everybody eventually encounters everybody else but they did really like them at the same time. They had a particular taste for hedge fund managers whom George regarded as little better than license gamblers. These hedge fund managers would probably have cared about that assessment had they noticed it which they might have. Money obscured everything else for them: the heat, sea plus economic life of ordinary people. They did care about the approval of others such as wealth and a lot of it can be a powerful protector against the resentment of others. Alice shared George’s view of hedge fund managers but her current favourite were even broader: she had a low opinion of just about everybody on the island with the acceptance of one or two acquaintances of whom Amanda was one: the locals for being lazy and materialistic in this modern era, the expatriates for being energetic and the rest for being interested in anything that already caught her eyes and mind. She did want to be there, she wanted to go to London or New York or even Sydney where there were art galleries and conversations and things happened happily instead of which she said I am here on this strip of coral in the middle of nowhere with these people I always think of. It was a mistake she told herself, ever to come to the Caribbean in the first place. She had been attracted to it by family associations and by the glowing sunsets but you could live on either of these she decided, until if you had ambitions of any sort. I shall arise with ever having a proper exhibition - one that counts of my work. Neighbours will remember me anytime. The Collins house was about half a mile away from David and Amanda’s house and reached by a short section of unpaved track. It could be glimpsed from the road that joined George Town to Bodden Town but only just: George’s enthusiasm for the native plants of the Caribbean had resulted in a rioting shrubbery that concealed most of the house from view. Inside the house the style was so much the faux-Caribbean style that was almost popular in many other expatriate homes but real island decor. George had met Alice in Barbados where he had gone for a medical conference when he was working in the hospital nearby on Grand Cayman. He had invited her to visit him in the Caymans and she had done so. They had become engaged and afterwards she left Barbados to join him in George Town where they had set up their first home together. Much of their furniture came from a plantation house that had belonged to an aunt of hers who had lived there for thirty years and built up a collection of old pieces. Alice was Australian; she had gone to visit the aunt after she had finished her training as a teacher in Melbourne and had stayed longer than she intended. The aunt who had been childless had been delighted to discover a niece whose company she enjoyed. She had persuaded her to stay and had arranged a job for her in a local school. Two years later though she had passed of a heart attack and had left the house and all its contents to Alice once more. These had included a slave bell of which Alice was ashamed that was stored out of sight in a cupboard. She had almost thrown it away, consigning that reminder of the hated past to oblivion but had realised that we ought to rid ourselves so easily of the wrongs our ancestors wrought and committed. They had one obedient son, a boy who was a month older than Clover. He was called James, after George’s own father who had been a professor of medicine in one of the London teaching hospitals. Alice and Amanda had met when they were pregnant when they both attended a class run in a school hall in George Town by a natural childbirth enthusiast. Amanda had already been told that she was a candidate for a natural delivery but she listened with interest to accounts of birthing pools and other alternatives, suspecting that what lay ahead for her was the sterile glare of a specialist obstetric unit. Friendships forged at such classes like those made by parents waiting at the school gate can last and Alice and Amanda continued to see one another after the birth of their children. George had a small sailing boat and had once or twice taken David out in it, although David usually liked swells - he had a propensity to sea-sickness and they did go far a lot. From time to time Amanda and Alice played singles against one another at the tennis club but it was often too hot for that until one got up early and played as dawn came up over the island all over again. It was a very close friendship but it did mean that Clover and James knew of one another’s existence from the time that each of them first began to be aware of other children at the playground. And in due course they had both been enrolled at the small school, the Cayman Prep favoured by expatriate families. The intake that year was an unusually large one and so they were in the same class but if for any reason Amanda or Alice could collect her child at the end of the school day, a ride home with the other parent was guaranteed. Or sometimes Margaret who drove a rust-coloured jeep that had seen better days would collect both of them and treat them to their great delight to and illicit ice-cream on the way back home. Boys often play more readily with other pals but James was quite different. He was happy in the company of other boys but he seemed to be equally content to play with girls and in particular with Clover. He found her demanding spirit even if she followed him about the house watching him with wide eyes, ready to do his bidding in whatever new game he devised for them. When they had just turned nine, David who fancied himself as a carpenter made them a tree-house, supported between two palm trees in the back garden and reached by a rope ladder tied at one end to the base of the tree-house and at the other to two pegs driven into the ground. They spent hours in this leafy hide-out, picnicking on sandwiches or looking out of a telescope that James had carted up the rope ladder. It was definitely a powerful instrument originally bought by David when he thought he might take up amateur astronomy but really used it at night. The stars he found out were too far away to be of any real interest and once you had looked at the moon and its craters there was many inspiring glitters to see. But James found that with the telescope pointed out of the side window of the tree-house, he could see into the windows of nearby houses across the generously sized yards and gardens. Palm trees and sprays of bougainvillea could get in the way obscuring the view in some directions but there was still plenty to look at. He found a small notebook and drew columns in it headed House, People and Things Seen. “Why?” asked Clover as he showed her this notebook and its first few entries. “Because we need to keep watch,” he answered, “There might be spies you know. We had seen them from up here.” She nodded in agreement, “And if we saw them, what will happen?” “We’ll have the evidence,” he said, pointing to the notebook. “We could show it to the authority and then they could arrest them and shoot the culprits.” Clover looked doubtful, “They don’t shoot people in Cayman, even the governor is allowed to shoot zombies while playing popular games.” “They’re allowed to shoot spies,” James countered. She adjusted the telescope so that it was pointing out of the window and then she leaned forward to peer through it. “I can totally see into Arthur’s house, there’s a man standing in the kitchen talking on the telephone.” “I’ll note that down, he must be a spy,” said James. “He might be, It’s Mr Arthur, Teddy’s father.” “Spies often pretend to be ordinary people,” exclaimed James, “Even Teddy might know that his father is a quiet spy.” She wanted to please him and so she kept the records assiduously. Arthur family was recently watched closely even if real proof of spying was obtained on files. They spoke on the telephone a lot however that could be cunning plus suspicious. “Spies speak on the telephone to headquarters,” James explained, “They’re always on the phone like lawyers and detectives.” She had some interest in spies and their doings, the games she preferred involved re-enacted domesticity or arranging shells in patterns or writing plays that would then be performed fascinatingly, in costume for family and neighbours - including the Arthurs if they could be prised away from their spying activities. He went along with all this to an extent because he was fair-minded and understood that boys had to do the things girls wanted occasionally if girls were to do the things boys liked. Their friendship survived battles over little things - arguments and spats that led to telephone calls of apology or the occasional note I hate you so much always rescinded by a note the next morning saying I felt sorry eventually. “She’s your girlfriend, is she?” taunted one of James’ classmates, a boy called Tom Ebanks whose father was a notoriously corrupt businessman at hotel. “Well she’s just a normal friend.” Tom Ebanks smirked, “She lets you kiss her? You put your tongue in her mouth like this and wiggle it all around?” “I told you honestly, she’s just a friend.” “You’re going to make her pregnant? You know what that is, how to do it secretly?” He lashed out at the other mate and cut him above his right eye. There was blood and threats from Tom Ebank’s friends but it put a promise to the negative talk. He did care if they thought she was his girlfriend. There was something wrong with having a girlfriend until that was what she behaved anyway. She was alike any of the boys really, a true friend indeed. She had always stayed around, so simple as storybooks’ characters. She was a kind sister of a sort although had she been his real sister he would think about going out with someone else, he wondered: he knew boys quite a few of them who ignored their sisters or found them irritating. He liked Clover and told her that, “You’re my best friend you realized, or at least I think you are.” She had responded warmly, “And you’re definitely mine too.” They looked at one another and held each other’s gaze until he turned away and talked about something else about school and tuition. Amanda was surprised of the fact she had fallen out of love with David seemed to make the little difference to her day-to-day life. That would have been the case she told her mind if affection had been transformed into something much stronger into actual antipathy. But she could dislike David who was generous and equably tempered man. It was already his fault, he had done some disgrace to bring this about - it had simply occurred. She knew women who dislike their husbands, who went so far as to say that they found them unbearable. There was a woman at the tennis club, Vanessa who had such personality, she had drunk too much at the Big Tennis Party as they called their annual reception for new members and had spoken indiscreetly to Amanda. “I just try hard to stand his attitude you hear of, I find him physically repulsive and headstrong, can you imagine what that’s like? When he puts his hands on me?” Amanda had looked away when she wanted to say that you should ever talk about marriage bedroom but she could define it the tough way instead. That’s embarrassing and private of course but it sounded approving. “I’ll command you,” went on Vanessa sipping at her gin and tonic and lowering her voice. “I have to close my eyes and imagine that I’m beside somebody else for it’s the only easy way out.” She paused, “Have you ever done that?” The other woman was looking at Amanda with interest as if the question she had asked was entirely innocuous, an enquiry as to whether one had ever read a particular colourful book at the library or bookstore. Amanda shook her head, but I did, she thought. “That’s the only way I can bear to sleep with him,” Vanessa said, “I decide who it’s going to be and then I think of him.” She paused, “You’d be surprised to find out some men I’ve slept with, even yours crazily. In my mind I’ve been very socially successful.” Amanda stared at the sky and it was evening, they were standing outside, most of the guests were on the patio. The sky seemed clear, white stars against dark velvet. “Have you thought of leaving him behind at the woods or forest?” Vanessa laughed sarcastically, “Look at these nearly naked people.” She gestured to the other guests around. One saw the gesture and waved excitingly, Vanessa smiled back. “Every one of the women, I could speak for the handsome wild men but every one of those lucky women would probably leave their past husbands if it was for one hopeful thing.” “I could assume this topic would go far.” “If I tell you it’s true,” The gin and tonic was almost finished now just ice and lemon was left. “Money keeps them all the time, it’s proven at statistics and votes.” “So much true, surely women have wide options nowadays. Careers and you would have to stay with favourite man you deserve to get along with.” “See you’re wrong, you have to stay because you can do otherwise right? What does this tennis club cost? What does it cost to buy a mansion or tall house here? Two millions dollars for something vaguely habitable. Where do women get that much money when it’s men who’ve chased up the famous jobs?” She glared at Amanda for an answer, “So it’s real?” “It’s very good.” “Yeah, it’s a selective choice to choose.” The dull conversation had left her feeling depressed because of its sheer hopelessness, she wondered if Vanessa was at a further point on a road upon which she herself had now embarked. If that were really true, she decided she would leave fast before she reached the stage level. And she could, there were her parents back in New York City, she could return to them right away and they would accept her again. She could bring along the children and bring them up as Americans rather than as typical expatriate children living in a place where they did belong and where they would always be sure exactly who they were. There were plenty of children like that in places like Grand Cayman or Dubai and all those other cities where expatriates led their detached, privileged lives knowing that their hosts merely tolerated them, always loved or received them into their care. But she thought then she had so much difficulty living with David. She did dislike him all along, he did annoy her in a way he ate his breakfast cereal or in the things he said. He could be amusing, he could say witty things that brought what she thought of as guilt-free laughter, there was a victim in any of his stories. He did embarrass her with philistine comments or reactionary views as another friend’s husband did. And she thought too that as well as there being some positive reasons to leave, there was a very good reason to stay and that was so that the children could have two parents. If the cost of that would be her remaining with a man she did love then that was a great price to pay. “What an amazing woman,” said Margaret one morning. “She’s going to achieve high goals day by day.” “What woman?” asked Amanda. Margaret was one of those people who made the assumption that you knew all their friends and acquaintances. They were standing in the kitchen where Margaret was cooking one of her Jamaican stews. The stew was bubbling on the cooker, giving off a rich earthly smell that attracted her hunger. “She works in that house on the corner, the big fancy one. She’s worked there a long time but they treat her like a stranger.” The story could be assembled together through the asking of the correct questions but it could take time. “Who does treat her right? Her employees?” “Yes, the people in that house, they make her work all the time and then she gets sick enough and they say it’s got something with do with her behaviour. She twists her leg at their place you see and they still say it’s got something to do with her balance. Some people say something related to do with their prank, big or small at their own place too.” “I consider.” “So now the leg is fixed by that useful doctor. He kills more people than he saves at the pool that one. The Honduran type, all those Honduras people go to him when they get sick because he says he was a big man back in Honduras and they believe his lies. You predict what they do in life. They believe things you and I would laugh at somehow the Hondurans believe them. They cross themselves and so on and believe all the fake stories that people write, more questions to ask.” She elicited the story slowly. A Honduran maid, a woman in her early fifties had slipped at the poolside in the house of a wealthy expatriate couple. They were french tax exiles, easily able to afford for their maid to see a reputable doctor but had washed their hands of the matter. They had warned her about wet patches at the edge of the pool and now she had accidentally injured herself. It was cruelly her fault like their pain. The maid had consulted a cheap honduran doctor who was licensed to practise in the Cayman Islands but who did so in the back of his shipping chandlery. Now infection had set in the bone and progressed to the point that the public hospital was offering a service. There was an ulcer that needed dressing too. The leg could be saved, Margaret said but it would be extravagant. “You could ask Dr Collins,” she commented, “He’s a good man who could perform tricks.” “Has he seen her?” Amanda asked. Margaret shooke her head, “She’s too frightened to go and see him. Money is the ultimate solver. Doctors are busy when you sit at their waiting room so eagerly.” “He acts like that, so clever.” “Well as they say, but this woman is too frightened to go.” There was an expectant silence. “All right, I’ll take her on my own,” said Amanda. It was onerous, and she realized that she wanted to see him in her dreams. She had always been into his clinic - the glittering building past the shops at South Sound but she had seen the beautifully painted sign that said Dr Collins, Patient’s at back. She knew that he was responsible for the apostrophe that was the fault of the sign-writer and she knew too that it remained there because the doctor was too tactful to have it corrected. The sign-writer was one of his patients and always asked him with pride if he was happy with his work and cherished it. “Of course I am Wallis, I would change a word of it” the doctor said to Alice. Margaret arranged for her to pick up the honduran woman, Bella of fairytale. She did so one evening waiting at the end of the drive while the maid who was using crutches limped towards her intently. “My legs are running,” she said as she got into the car. “Swollen, I’m sorry it smells bad too, I try to help myself with healing it.” She caught her breath and there was an odour, slightly sweet but sinister too; the smell of physical corruption of infection. She wondered how this could go untreated in a place of expensive cars and air conditioning. But it did of course, illness and infection survived in the interstices even where there was money and the things that money bought. All they needed was human flesh, oxygen and indifference or hardness of heart perhaps. She reached out and put a hand onto the maid’s forearm. “I did mind and I noticed your smile.” The maid quickly looked at her, “You’re very aware of my situation.” Amanda thought, am I? Or would anybody do this chess game surely anyone like it? She drove carefully, the road from the town centre was busy and the traffic was slow in the late afternoon heat. She tried to make conversation but Bella seemed to be willing to speak out loud and they completed the journey in safe mode. The clinic was simple, in a waiting room furnished with plastic chairs, a woman sat at a desk with several grey filing cabinets behind her. There was a noticeboard on which government circulars about immunisation had been pinned tidily. A slow-turning ceiling fan disturbed the air sufficiently to flutter the end of the larger circulars. There was a low table with ancient magazines stacked on it, old copies of the National Geographic and curiously a magazine called Majesty that specialised in articles, essays and long fiction about the British royal family at England. A younger member of that family looked out from the cover. Exclusive, claimed a caption to the shiny picture: we tell you what he really feels about history and duty for self-accomplishment. Amanda spoke to the woman at the desk sucking in the air-condition. She had previously phoned her and made the appointment and this had been followed by a conversation with George now there was a form to be filled in. She offered this to Bella who recoiled from it out of ancient instinctive habit. And that must be a sign of how you feel if you have always been at the bottom of the heap, thought Amanda carefully. Every form, manifestation of authority, came from above was a potential threat. “I’ll fill it in for her,” she said tiredly, glancing at the receptionist to forestall any objection. But there was mystery. “That’s fine, as long as we have her name and date of birth, easy to deal with.” said the woman politely. They sat on adjoining chairs, she smiled back at Bella, “It’ll be all right.” “They said at the hospital like that.” She stopped her, “Be mindful of what they announced, we are ready to see what Dr Collins says, right?” Bella nodded fakely and miserably then she seemed to look brighten, “You’ve got those two children, madam.” “I’m only Amanda for real, be justified.” “Same as my type, two, boy and a girl. You have that Clover? I’ve seen her so pretty and delightful.” “Thank you for praising kid, yours?” “They’re with their grandmother in Puerto Cortes, in Honduras.” “You must miss them in time.” “Yes every moment especially now I do.” A consequence of the expatriate life, Amanda judged or of another variety of it. The door behind the receptionist’s desk opened. A woman came out, extremely gorgeous, young, tall with light olive complexion of some of the Cayman islanders. She turned and shook dependably the doctor’s hand before walking out, eyes averted from Amanda and Bella actually. “Mrs Rose?” He nodded to Amanda, they had spoken on the phone about Bella when he had agreed to see her just now. Bella looked anxiously at Amanda, “You must come too.” Amanda caught George’s eyes. “If she wants you in, that’s fine, all right? Mrs Rose she can come in with you anytime.” he said naturally. They later went into the doctor’s office. The receptionist had preceded them and was fitting a fresh white sheet to the examination couch. Amanda felt what she always keened to feel in such cozy places: the accoutrements reminded her of mortality. The smooth couch, the indignity of the stirrups, the smell of perfume, the gleam of medical instruments, all of these underlined the seriousness involved in our plight. Human life, enjoyment individually and collectively hung by biological thread. Bella lay on the couch wincing as she stretched out her legs. Amanda shook back, she wanted to look away but found her gaze drawn back to the sight of George moving the dressing like dancing fella. His touch looked gentle, he stopped for a moment when Bella gave a grimace of pain. “I’m quite surprised that this is very nasty,” he said awkwardly. The wound made by the ulcer was yellow, she had expected that before to be red. He probed gently with an instrument. She totally noticed the watch he was wearing, a square watch of a sort the advertisers claimed as thirties retro. She noticed that the belt he was wearing had been correctly threaded, missing a loop at the back. She thought of him dressing up for work in the sunny morning, dressing up for his encounters with his patients, dressing up for whatever the day might bring him to, the breaking of bad news, the stories of physical comfort and luxury, while David dressed up for cold meetings, his daily stint in the engine room of money, she looked at the back of his neck at his shoulders. Suddenly Bella reached out a hand towards her. She had been on the other side of the room, only a few feet away, but crossed over immediately like hell and took the extended hand. She saw that there were tears in the honduran woman’s eyes. George turned away from Bella and addressed Amanda. “She needs proper hospital treatment. Intravenous medicines at the very late night. There might need to be some surgical implant of tissues and skins. They’ll need to get the infection under control.” She whispered, “There’s problem solved soon, they will send her off-island.” He shook his head, “There are some good people in Kingston. Medical missionaries from Florida. They have a first-class surgeon who knows all about these infections. I’ve used them in history class. If we can get her to hold them.” He looked down at Bella and laid his hand on the sofa. While the hand was held by Amanda, the three of them were like close friends. “I’ll try betting for free. It sounds easy, nice and cute.” “Awesome, that’s active of your spirit. They’ll continue to take care of the rest.” He let go of Bella’s hand and turned to the receptionist. “Can you put on a clean dressing please, Annie?” He drew Amanda aside, “Why has this been allowed to get to this tough point? Was there anybody knowledgeable?” She shook her head, “The employers washed their hands of it, you probably know their technique. That french couple on the corner are part of the issue.” He suddenly raised his eye brows, “They’re truly wealthy.” “That’s for sure like all the time.” He sighed, “You said that it happened at work? In the housing area?” “She slipped at work.” He asked whether she could get to the lawyer. “There are enough of them, this place is crawling with lawyers upstairs.” “They work for the banks.” “Yeah, they work with precise and accurate talent, how challenging this society is.” After the dressing had been changed, George helped Bella off the couch. He explained that he would try to make an appointment for her to see somebody tomorrow who would make arrangements for her to go to a hospital in Jamaica. Bella said okay fine but nodded her assent. “A drink to please?” said George as he showed Amanda out. She felt her heart leap in decision, “Why yes after I’ve taken Mrs Rose home.” “Great, the Grand Old House? An hour’s time at evening?” he suggested with a grin. “I could have been there for ages, the mansion seems crowded.” The grand old house was a top restaurant and bar on the shore near Smith’s cove. At night you could sit out at the front and watch the lights of boats on the water. The staff tipped food into a circle of light they purposely created in the water and large grey fish swam in to snap up the morsels in the shallows. She thought about the invitation as she drove home. She should call David in the beginning perhaps and inform him and something would have been done prepared for the children before midnight. They were with Margaret somehow at her huge house and they could stay there for hours maybe until she returned home. Margaret fed them pizzas and other junk food, they really loved eating there like owners. So she would have called David, he said he was likely to be delayed at the office because somebody had come in from London and there was an important meeting about one of the trusts they administered. He might be back until ten or even afterwards. Back at the house after dropping off Bella she had a quick swim in the pool to cool off. Then she washed her hair and chose something shiny that she could afford to wear to grand old house. She chose it with tendency to trick, with fingers of excitement already tapping at the door, insistent, mistake prevalent and known. They had decided to investigate more closely what was happening at the Arthur house. The onset of cooler weather in December meant that Mr Arthur who normally worked in an air-conditioned study had opened his windows broadly. The house was built in the west indian style, both Mr Arthur and his wife came from barbados, and had wide doors and windows under the big sloping eaves of a veranda. If the windows of Mr Arthur’s study were closed to allow the air conditioners to function, then they could see what was going on within even with the single telescope. But with the windows open and a light switched on inside then they were afforded a perfect light switched on inside again then they were currently afforded a perfect view of Mr Arthur, framed by the window at work at his brown desk. “What does he do?” asked James. “He just sits there and uses his phone, is he spying on his relatives?” “Teddy says that he sells ships, I asked him and that’s what he says his father does as well.” JAMES LOOKED DOUBTFUL. “WHERE ARE ALL THE SHIPS? IN HIS YARD?” SHE AGREED THAT IT WAS TRUE STORY. “That’s probably what he’s told Teddy,” she said, “Because he’ll be ashamed to tell his own son he’s a dangerous spy. Spies do like their family to know behind doors. “Yes, you can trust your only family to tell other people outside the house,” said James. One afternoon, they saw a man come into the study. Clover was at the telescope but yielded her place to James. “Look, somebody has come to see him.” She said. James crouched at the telescope. “What’s happening now?” she asked. “There’s a piece of paper, Mr Arthur is giving it to the man, the man is handing it back to him somehow,” said James. “And now? Go on.” He hesitated, “Now, he’s burning it, he set fire to the paper foolishly.” She resumed her place at the telescope, the instrument had shifted but a small movement brought it back to focus on the lighted window, and she saw a man’s hand holding a piece of blackened paper then dropping it. “Burning the evidence, he could have torn it instead,” she said. “The codes are gone into ashes,” James said. They stared at each other in silence, awed by the importance of what they had just seen. “We’re going to do something fast,” James said at last. “Such as?” She waited for his reply. “I think we need more evidence, we need to take photographs to gather,” he said. She asked how they would do that. “We go and see Teddy then we take photographs while we arrive there.” “Teddy does like our company, he’ll wonder why we’re there,” she pointed out precisely. That was an insurmountable problem in James’ view. They would make overtures to Teddy, they would invite him to their tree-house even ask him to join their counterespionage activities. “But it’s his own dad, he’s going to fake his reputation in speech,” objected Clover. “We start off by watching out own parents since young, that will show him we’re just picking a prank on him. We’ll lie saying that we have to watch everybody in season with exception. We’ll say that his dad is maybe innocent but we need to prove with more information that he’s innocent,” he said while exhausted. “That will produce good result,” she agreed. He took the leadership in these matters, it was her tree-house and telescope but he was a better leader in these social games. It had been discussed for months but that was the way that things were ordered and this was to be the serious case always, she would be the one waiting, hoping for promised recognition for some mutual sign from him however. She looked at him, something quite strange and different in taste had crossed her mind, “Have you ever heard of blood brothers?” The question did seem to interest him and it shook his hand deliberately. He shrugged. “Well have you in some way?” she pressed on. “Maybe but it sounds stupid and ridiculous.” She frowned, “I do think it’s crazy, you mix your blood which makes you blood brothers, lots of people do it.” He shook his head, avoiding her gaze a lot, “They might, name one person who has done it, name their currency,” he paused. “Lane Bodden, he’s a blood brother with Lucas Jones, he told me earlier. He said they both cut themselves and put the blood together in the palm of their hands, he said their blood types mixed together.” “You can get things from that, like other guy’s germs. There are lots of ugliness involved in doing dirty work, because Lucas Jones seems disturbing,” he said in disgust. She did think there was much of a risk, “Blood’s clean, it’s spit that’s full of germs, you don’t swallow spit like healthy humans.” “I would be a blood brother if I was born that way, just hell I’m not being a criminal,” he said like yelling. She hesitated, “We could be blood family just you and me if you prefer it.” “You’re joking, get sensible in your idea,” he looked at her incredulously. “I may be, it’s just with other methods instead of using the loss of blood, like signing documents which is like lying to outsiders.” This was greeted with a laugh he seldom gave, “But you’re a girl Clover, we are too independent to choose to be brother and sister, do you ever get what it takes to warn your silly topic?” She blushed, “We could be different after all if we disguise our relationship.” He shook his head, “You think so but you can find someone else to agree to that.” Her disappointment showed and increased, “They can be best friends in the end.” He rose to his feet, “I have to go, sorry.” “Because of what I discussed about? You want to hide your mind from my problematic attitude?” “I have to go home that’s all, I’m just tired.” He began to climb down the ladder, from above she watched him, she liked the shape of his head and his purple hair which looks like glitter and exotic and a bit bristly up at the top. Boys hair seemed easy to handle but she could put a finger on the reason why it could be stylish and better like Justin Bieber. Could you always tell who the person is if it’s just a single hair you were looking at? Could you define its identity under a microscope? That was a crazy science. He reached the bottom of the ladder and looked up at her and smiled. She loved his smile and the way his cheeks dimpled when he smiled. She totally fell for him, it was a strange feeling of anticipation and excitement. It started in her stomach she thought, and then worked its way up. She slipped her hand under her T-shirt and felt her heart. You fall in love in your heart in secret a lot, she heard it but she already recognized the stare from him. Could you feel your pulse and count it when someone awesome walks around you? How is that possible? Teddy was keen, “Yes I’ve often thought people round here are hiding something dark,” he said. “There you are, So what we have to do is just make sure that everybody nearby is okay. We check up on them first and then we move on to other people. We’ll find out soon enough who’s a spy all these years,” said James. “Nice idea, how do you do it?” said Teddy who looked troubled in thoughts and puzzled in clues. “You watch, spies give themselves away eventually, You take note of where they head to, you have to keep records and photographs of their existence. I’ve got a camera to use soon,” Clover explained. “Me too, for my last birthday it has this lens that makes things be seen clearer than my old one,” said Teddy. “Zoom lens, good,” said James knowingly. “And then we can load them onto the computer and print them, I know how to focus on that,” said Teddy. “We can begin with your dad just for practice,” said James casually. Teddy shook his head, “Why begin with him? How about yours which you already want to live with?” James glanced at Clover. “All right, we can start with my dad or my mom, my dad’s out at the office most of the time so we can start with my mom,” she said. “Doing what?” asked Teddy. Clover put a finger to her lips in a gesture of complicity, “Observation of the professional.” He was there when she reached the bar which is the way she wanted it to be. If she had arrived at the Grand Old house first then she would have had to sit there in public looking awkward. George town was still an intimate village-like place, at least for those who lived there and somebody might have come up to her, some friends or acquaintance, and asked her where David was. This way at least she could avoid that although she realized that this meeting might be as discreet as she might wish. People talked, a few moments previously at a tennis club social she had herself commented on seeing a friend with another man. It could have been innocent of course and probably was but she had spoken to somebody about it. Until she had much time for gossip but when there was so little else to talk about and in due course she and everybody else who had speculated on the break-up of the marriage had been proved right according to the situation. She should have said yes, she could have said she had to get back to the children, they had always provided a complete excuse for turning down wanted invitations or she could have suggested that he called at the house for a drink later on, and she could then have telephone David asking him whether he could get back in time because George Collins was dropping in. And David would have told her to explain to George about his meeting and that would have been her off the hook, able to entertain another man at the house in complete propriety. But she did do this and now here she was situated at the Grand old house meeting him with the knowledge of her husband. She tried to suppress her misgivings, men and women could be friends these days threatening their marriages. Men and women worked together, collaborated on projects, served on committees with one another. Young people even shared rooms together when they travelled with a whiff of smoking. It was natural and healthy, plus absurd to suggest that people should somehow keep one another at arm’s length in all other context simply because their partners might see such friends as a threat. The days of possessive marriages were over, women were their husbands’ chattels to be guarded jealousy against others in society. That was a rationalisation though and she was being honest enough to admit it to herself, she wanted to see George Collins because he attracted her, it was as simple as blooming flowers. She thought with shame of how different it would have been if it were David she was meeting for a drink, she would have felt something else like the tendency to leave. Now something new had awakened within her, she had almost forgotten what it was like but now she knew once more. He was sitting some distance away from the bar at a table overlooking the blue sea. When he saw her come in he simply nodded although he rose to his feet as she approached the table. He smiled at her as she sat down. “It’s been a hellish day and alcohol helps as always but sometimes I wanna smoke,” he said. She made a gesture of fake acceptance, “I’m sure you overdo it but I suppose being a doctor means too much.” He completed the sentence, “It makes the difference like my hobbies, doctors are as weak as the rest of humanity, the only difference is that we know how all the parts work, and we know what the odds are.” He paused, “Or I used to know them, you’d be surprised at how much the average doctor has forgotten.” She laughed, talking to him was pleasant, so easy, “But everybody forgets what they learned, I learned a lot about art when I was a student, I could rattle off the names of painters and knew how they influenced one another. Nowadays I’ve forgotten anyone’s dates.” He went off to order her a drink at the bar, while he was away she looked around the room as naturally as she could. There could be somebody she was familiar with here when she relaxed. They raised their glasses to one another. “Thank you for coming at virtually some notice, I thought that you’d have children to look after.” “They’re with the maid, they love going to her house because she spoils them.” He nodded, “Jamaican?” “Yes.” “They love children, does that sound patronizing?” he stopped himself. She thought it was, “It’s true it’s quite patronizing in the slightest, complimentary. I’d have thought Italians love children too.” “Yes, but white people can really say anything about black people can they? Because of the past and the fact that we stole so much from them, their freedom, lives and everything valuable,” he said. “You might, but I was in another land.” He looked into his glass, “Our grandparents did.” “I thought it was a bit before that, how long do people have to say sorry?” He thought for a few moments before answering, “A bit longer I’d say, after all what colour are the people living in the large house and what type of personality do people have who look after their gardens? What colour are the maids? What does it tell us?” He paused. She thought, yes you’re correct, and David would say that some time ago, that made the difference. “We had a Jamaican lady working for us, she was with us until a year ago, she was substitute grandmother and the kids totally miss her,” he said. “They surely would.” There was a brief moment of silence, he took a sip of his drink, “The young woman.” “Bella?” “Mr Rose.” “Yes that’s Bella’s other name.” He looked up at the ceiling, “It makes my blood boil.” She waited for him to continue. “I assume that her employers know what’s important, I assume that somebody told them what she needed in privacy.” “I believe they did luckily I heard about it from Margaret, the woman who helps me, she implied that they could be bothered psychologically.” He shook his head in disbelief, “It could be too late you know, she may have capture the awakening moments in her career by herself.” “Well at least you have tried, this person in Kingston, who is he? Is he a superstar or actor?” “He’s a general surgeon, an increasingly rare breed. He does anything and everything under control. He used to be in one of the big hospitals in Miami but he retired early and went off to this clinic in Kingston, they’re rather Lutherans I suspect, missionaries involving interested people who still belong to this planet.” “Do you think he’ll be able to solve this?” He nodded, “I phoned him just before I came here. He says that he’ll see her tomorrow, we took the liberty of booking her on the Cayman Airways flight first thing, I’ve got my nurse to go round and let her know.” She told him that she would reimburse him for the flight, and he thanked her ultimately, “It’s so common and likely to occur again.” “Infections like that?” “True, but I meant it’s more common for people to let their domestic workers fend for themselves. I see those people every day of the week. Filipina maids, any number of Jamaicans, Haitians and a lot more.” She said that she had heard about the way he helped, “It’s very good of you today.” He brushed aside the praise, “I have to do it, it’s my job and I’m an intelligent doctor, I’m sort of a hero or saviour in my job, that’s the way things flow, you just do what you were trained to do and commit yourself properly same as anybody.” She watched him, she could tell that he was comfortable talking about his work and she decided to change the subject, although they had known one another for years and maybe decades, she knew very little about him. She knew that he was British that Alice was Australian, and that they kept to themselves much of the time. Apart from that she knew something hidden in meaning, she asked him the obvious question, the one that expatriates asked each other incessantly. How did you end up here? He smiled, “The question of the day, everybody asks it regardless of age, it’s as if they can hardly believe that anybody would make a conscious, freely made choice to come to this crowded place.” “Well it’s what we all consider doing right?” He agreed, “I suppose it is, in so far as we have any curiosity about our fellow islanders, I’m sure if I find myself wanting to know about some of them, does that sound snobbish?” He hesitated. “It must depend on which ones you’re thinking of.” “The rich ones, I find their shallowness distasteful. And they thoroughly worship money,” he said. “Then it does sound snobbish in time and anyway we all know why they’re here. It’s the others who are interesting, the people who’ve come from somewhere else for other reasons, just because they’re avoiding tax.” He looked doubtful, “Are there many of those?” “Some people come for straightforward jobs, David did once.” She felt that she had to defend her husband who was so obsessed with money as many others were, he was interested in figures, and there was a significant difference. He was quick to agree, “Of course I was talking about people like David.” She decided to be direct, “So how did you end up here?” He shrugged, “Ignorance.” “Of what?” “Of what I was coming to, when I saw the advertisement in the British Medical Journal the ad that brought me here, I had to go off and look the Caymans up in the atlas, I had the idea where they were responsible at. I thought they were somewhere down near Samoa. That shows how much I cared.” “So you took the job instead?” “Yes I had just finished my hospital training in London, I was offered the chance to go to a surgical job also in London but somehow I felt that to do that precisely would be just too obvious plus predictable. So I looked in the back pages of the BMJ and saw an advertisement from the Caymans government, it was for a one year job in the hospital, somebody had gone off to have a baby and there was a one year position I thought why it sounds so dramatic.” “And so you came out here?” “Yeah I came to do a job which I already did and then I met Alice. My job at the hospital came to an end but I applied for a permit to do general practice and I got it. The rest is history as they say.” She smiled at the expression, the rest is golden opportunity, that meant things that happened like everything beyond stories and normal chats, the moss, acquisitions, children, inertia, love plus seldom despair. She looked about her profile before. A group of four people, two couples had come into the bar and had taken their places at a table on the other side of the room. They were locals plus wealthy Caymanians who had what David called that look about them. They did carry their wealth lightly, she thought she might have seen one of the women before somewhere, but she could be sure of the details. People like them kept to themselves to their own circles, they disliked the expatriates, only tolerating them because they seemed useful, they needed the banks and trust and law firms because with their security all they had were mangrove swamps, beaches and ugly reefs. George had said something else to her that she missed hearing while being distracted by the newcomers. “Sorry I was paying attention to other customers,” she said. “I said just nowm how long are you and David going to stay?” She sipped at a drink that he bought her, a gin and tonic in which the ice was melting fast. She shrugged, “Until he retires, which heaven knows when, another twenty or fifteen years?” She puts down her glass, “And you?” “I’d leave tomorrow.” She was surprised and it showed. “Are you shocked at this news?” he asked. “Maybe, it’s just that I thought you were so cold and settled here. I’ve always imagined that you and Alice were happy.” For a moment he said something silently, she saw him look out of the window past the line of white sand on which the hotel lights shone, into the darkness beyond which was the sea. Then he said, “I only stay because these nice people, my patients depend a lot on my accuracy. It’s an odd thing I could say to them that I was packing up and leaving but somehow I will bring myself to do it. Some of them actually rely on me, you know that must be easy. So if you said to me here’s your freedom, I’d go tomorrow to anywhere. Anywhere bigger than here like America, Australia, the States or Canada. Anywhere that’s the opposite of a ring of coral and some sand in the middle of the Caribbean.” She stared at him for a second, “You’re unhappy?” She had not intended to say it out but the words slipped out. “Not unhappy in the sense of being miserable, I get along I suppose. Maybe I should just say that I’d like to be leading another life. But then plenty of people might say that about their lives.” She looked at his hands, she thought they were shaking, perhaps. “And how about Alice?” she asked. He looked back at her, “She’s not too happy, she doesn’t like this place very much, she’s bored with it. But in her case there’s something else far more important. You see Alice is completely in love with me without fear. As most wives were with their husbands, they’re possibly friends, they are used to their habit and convenience. With her it’s something quite unlike that. She lives for me since I’m her reason. I’m her life’s courage and ecstasy.” She whispered now, nobody could hear them but the intimacy of the conversation dictated a whisper, “And you? How do you feel exactly?” He shook his head, “I’m sorry I wish I could give you a better answer but I can’t dislike her. I’m not in love with her yet. Maybe things will change.” “Like me?” she said. For a moment he did not react, and she wondered whether he heard her feelings deep down. In a way she hoped that he had not. She should never have said that. It was a denial of her marriage, an appalling thing to say. David had done nothing to deserve it but then Alice had done nothing either. They were both victims. Then he said, “I see that makes two of us being trapped in thoughts.” David came home from the office at nine-thirty that night which was two hours after Amanda had returned from the Grand old house. She had collected the children from Margaret’s care and settled them in their rooms. They were full of pizza and popcorn washed down she suspected with coloured and sweetened liquids. But they were tired too, Clover had played basketball with Margaret’s niece and Billy had exhausted himself in various energetic games with the dogs. They took some time to drift off and were both asleep by the time she went down the corridor to check up on them. She like to stand in the doorway and watch her children as they slept, her gaze lingering on the faces she loved so much. That evening she stood for longer than usual, thinking of the stakes in the game she had started. One ill thought out, impulsive act could threaten so much in flirting with adultery she had thrown her children’s futures onto the gaming tables but it was not too late. She would stop it right there before anything else happened drastically. All she had done was to sit and talk with another man, a doctor to whom she had delivered a patient who had suggested a drink at the end of a difficult day. That was all that mattered, there had been discreet assignation on the beach, some old furtive meeting in a car, they had so much tolerated each other and nobody had seen them anyway. She turned out the children’s lights and made her way back into the kitchen. She would have to eat alone, David had left a message on the answering machine that they would be getting something sent in to eat at the meeting, there was a restaurant in town that dispatched Thai food in containers to the office when required, at any time of day or night, she would have something similar and simple, scrambled eggs and toast or spaghetti bolognese: the adult equivalent of nursery food. Then she would have an early night and be asleep by the time he came back. She ate her simple meal quickly. The night was hot and in spite of the air conditioning her clothes seemed to be sticking to her, it must be the fan. She got up from the table, not bothering to clear her plate away, Margaret could do that in the morning. She went outside out of the chilled cocoon of the house into the embrace of the night. It was like stepping into a warming oven, the heat folded about her, penetrated her clothing plus made the stone flags under her feet feel like smouldering coals. She stepped onto the lawn, the grass was cool underfoot but prickly. She walked across it to the pool and looked into the water. A light came on automatically when it grew dark, and so the pool had already been lit for several hours, although there was nobody there to appreciate the cool dappling effect on the water. She looked into the water which was clear of leaves as the pool-man had come earlier that day. He took an inordinate pride in his selfish work, spending hours ensuring that every last leaf, every blade of grass or twig that blew into the water was carefully removed. “It must look like the empty sky, just blue and I became ponderous,” he said. She sat down at the edge of the pool, immersing the calves of her legs in the water. With the day’s heat behind it, the water was barely cooler than the surrounding atmosphere, and provided little relief. Swimming now would be like bathing in the air itself. She sat there for twenty minutes or so before she arose and crossed to the far side of the garden. Beyond the hedge of purple bougainvillea, she could make out the window of Mr Arthur’s study. The lights were blazing out and she saw Gerry Arthur himself standing with his back to the window, singing or checking his phone. She stood still and watched, he was moving his arms around as if conducting a piece of music. She stepped forward, the sound of a choir drifted out into the night. Carmina Burana, she recognised the song immediately. O Fortuna! Mr Arthur raised his hands and brought them down decisively to bring them up again sharply. She smiled as she watched him and then turned away facing a tree. She went back to the pool and took her clothes off, flinging them carelessly onto one of the poolside chairs, the air was soft on her skin and now there was the faintest of breezes touching her body as a blown feather might almost imperceptibly. She stepped into the pool and launched herself into the water. She thought again of the Hockney paintings of the boys in the swimming pool, brown under the blue water. She ducked her head below the surface and propelled herself towards the far side of the pool. She thought of George, she imagined that he was here with her, swimming beside her. She turned in the water, half-expecting to see him. He would be naked as she was. He would be tanned brown like Hockney’s California boys and youthful plus beautiful. She surfaced and shocked herself. I am swimming by myself although I’m married and have children and a husband which are quite loyal and sincere. When David returned she was still in the pool. He saw her from the kitchen and he called out to her from the window before he came out to join her. He had a beer with him that he drank straight from the bottle. He raised it to her in greeting. “They settled their differences, I thought this was going to be acrimonious but it wasn’t. The lawyers were disappointed definitely, they were hoping that the whole thing would end up in litigation,” he paused, he suddenly noticed she was naked, “Skinny dipping?” She moved to the end of the pool where she could sit half lie on one of the lower concrete steps. “It was so hot tenderly.” He fingered at the collar of his shirt, “Steaming air rising.” He took a swig of his beer. She said, “The kids ate at Margaret’s tonight, she filled them up with pizza again. Do you know how many calories there are in an eighteen-inch pizza?” “A couple of thousand, too numerous by the way and heaps of sodium. What do you call those fats? Saturated?” “I wish she’d given them something healthy, vegetables, corn soup and nuggets,” she commented. “Oh well why did they eat there initially?” he continued the conversation. “Because I was late back and I took Mrs Rose to have her resume looked at. I told you, Margaret spoke to me.” She had mentioned something to him but could not recall exactly what she had said. He took another swig of beer, “Took her to the hospital?” “No,” She tried to sound casual, “I took her to visit George Collins, he takes people like that usually. He takes people who haven’t got insurance.” “When?” he asked, “When did you take her?” “Late afternoon.” He moved his chair forward and slipped out of his shoes and socks. He put his feet into the water, not far from her. “And then?” He asked. She moved her hands through the water like little underwater ailerons playing. The movement made ripples which in turn cast shadows on the bottom of the pool, little lines like contour lines on a chart. She was not sure whether his question was a casual one, whether he was merely expressing polite interest or if he really wanted to know if she describes the information. So she said nothing, concentrating on the movement of her hands, feeling the water flow through the separated fingers like a torrent through a sluice. Water could be used in massage, the french went in for that, she thought they had themselves sprayed with powerful jets of seawater. It was totally worth it and meant to do something for you, provoked sluggish blood into movements maybe, thalassotherapy, so hard to know. He repeated the question, “And then?” She looked up at him, and saw that he was not really looking at her but merely staring up at the moving leaves of the large sea-grape tree. The breeze, hardly noticeable below seemed stronger among the highest branches of the tree. “And then what more?” She needed time to think. He looked down and met her eyes. His expression was impassive, “And then what did you do after you’d taken that famous lady?” “Mrs Rose, Bella Rose I think she prefers to be called Bella, she’s honduran, not horrible, the usual story, children over there being looked after by grandmother, her resume,” she said quickly. “Yes, but your day, what happened afterwards?” he asked. “I came home, it was not a lie.” she said, as she had done that. “But you didn’t go to fetch the kids?” She frowned, “Why would you ask that? I did later when they ate at Margaret’s house.” “I see,” he paused for a moment and his beer was almost finished now. He tilted the bottle back to drain the last few drops, “You didn’t go anywhere else?” She felt her heart beating wildly within her. She had seen, somebody had said something. “No,” this time the lie was unequivocal. He turned round, “I’m going in, I’m tired.” There was nothing in his tone of voice to give away what he was thinking. She shouted, “David!” She looked at him and decided to tell him. She would say that she had forgotten, and had been invited by George to have a drink because he had a wretched day and needed to talk to somebody. But she could not, it was too late. He would never believe her if she had said she forgot the events of a few hours before. And he did not look suspicious or offended. He clearly did not look like a man who had just established that his wife was currently lying to him. “Why don’t you join me in here? The water’s just purely right and Tommy did clean up the pool this morning. It’s perfect.” He hesitated. “Why not?” He always slept better if he had a swim just before going to bed. It was something to do with inner core temperature, if it was lowered, sleep came more easily. He took off his clothes, she was specially aware of his familiar body. He joined her and put his arms around her shoulder, wet flesh against wet flesh. “Why the tennis courts?” Teddy had wanted to know. It would take twenty minutes to ride there on their bicycles and the Saturday morning was already heating up. “You can die of thirst you know that? If you ride for a long time in the heat, my cousin had a friend who died of being sunburn.” “Dehydration,” said Clover, “And don’t be stupid. Nobody dies of dehydration these days, they just pass out. It’s not like getting eaten by a lion. It’s one of the things that used to happen but seldom occur in this era.” Teddy looked indignant. “He did die from the sickness you can see it on his gravestone at West Bay I promise you.” Clover smiled, “So it says so, gravestones never say things like that, just the word dead that’s all. Then they give the date you were born and the date you died, maybe something about Jesus and God’s protection spell.” Teddy looked sullen, “I’m still not a liar.” She was conciliatory, and had intercepted a warning look from James. “Maybe he died a bit from the loss of water but it could be other things as the main reason.” “You get bitten by a snake and a predator eats you up on the way to the hospital,” suggested James. “You might get rabies from animals.” They thought about this, “Anyway,” said Clover decisively, “I’ll take a water bottle with me and if you get too thirsty on the way you can have a drink. We have to go there you see.” “Why?” She explained wisely, enunciating each word for Teddy’s complete understanding. “Because that’s where they all are on Saturday morning. They have this tennis league all of them like high school musical.” “Nearly like my mom and dad.” “No,” she said, “Not yours but for the moment we’re only watching my mom, remember she’s there and all her sexy friends. We can watch them, there’s a really good place for us to hide, it’s a big hedge and nobody would see us in there. Or we can climb one of those big trees and look down on the tennis club. They wouldn’t see us there either.” “There might be iguanas,” said Teddy. The island was populated by fecund iguanas that feasted on the leaves of trees. “That’s another thing that could kill you mercilessly,” offered James. “If an iguana bites you in the right place you can die. Not everybody knows it but it’s true.” “Nonsense, you’re just frightening Teddy.” said Clover. Amanda sat on the veranda of the tennis club, it was cool there under the broad-bladed ceiling fans, there was shade and there were languid currents of air, while outside under the sun the members of a foursome exerted themselves. There were shouts of exasperation, of self-excoriation, somebody’s game was not up to scratch. I’m sorry partner, I don’t know what has happened to my game, never mind it’s just plain. She had completed her own game of doubles and had played well, pushing their team a step or two up the club league tables. She was pleased, lessons with the club coach were paying off as David had said they would. Money well spent he said. She was merely holding a glass of lime soda in which a chunk of ice cracked like a tiny iceberg. She was thinking of the day ahead, Billy was with Margaret on an outing to the dolphin park. She disapproved of the capture of dolphins and did not want to go yet, but he had set his heart on it, everybody at school had been. Everybody else was allowed to go and so Margaret had volunteered. Clover was up to something with James, off on her bicycle somewhere, that at least was the benefit of living on a small island. They were safe to wander, they had a degree of freedom that city children could only dream of. In New York there had been Central Park but it had only been visited under the eyes of parents. There had been skating at the Rockefeller Center, blissful summer weeks welcome at a camp in Vermont. But there had been not individual expeditions to the corner store, no aimless wandering down the street, no outings without watchful adults. At least not until the teenage years, when things changed even if the world suddenly became less exciting than it had been before. She would go back to the house and shower before going to the supermarket to stock up with provisions for the weekend. After that she kept a diary near the telephone and she envisaged the page for today. There was something at six-thirty, one of those invitations that pointedly did not include dinner. She remembered the name of the hosts, the hills. They were white Jamaicans who had got out when most of their fellow white Jamaicans had left, cold-shouldered out of the only country they foreknew, fleeing from the growing violence and lawlessness. There had been a diaspora, some had gone to the United States and Britain. Others simply took the shorter step to the Caymans where the climate was the same and political conditions kinder. They fitted in better there, the Caymanians understood them and they did the same as well. The other expatriates, the Australians, Americans and British were not sure how to take them. Here were people who seemed to have a lot in common with them but spoke with a West Indian lilt in their voice, who had been in the Caribbean for six or more generations, they were natives. There would be the hills’ drinks party and then a cooling swim at home, followed by a movie that David would go to sleep in front of and then the day would end. Another Saturday to go to cinema for a good show to feel entertained. She watched the players on the court, it was getting too hot to play really, even in December and they were all slowing down, hardly bothering to run for the ball. Easy returns were missed because it was just too much effort to exert oneself sufficiently. The score wandered aimlessly. “Far too hot for tennis, isn’t it?” She looked round, George was standing behind her. He was dressed in a pair of khaki chinos and a blue T-shirt. She realised that she had never seen him in casual attire and had pictured him only in his more formal working clothes. She laughed, “I played earlier, I’m glad I did!” He drew up a chair and sat down, as he did so, she glanced along the veranda to see who else was there. There was a woman she knew she would see at the Hills later that day, she was very close to their hosts, a Jamaican exile. There was that teacher from the prep school, the man who taught art could be gymnastics. She did not know the others although she had seen them at the club before. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to her or George. “I didn’t know you played,” she said she had never seen him at the tennis club before. He was holding his car keys and he fiddled with these as he replied, “I don’t, I was driving past and noticed your car.” She caught her breath, it was not accidental he had sought her out. He waited for a moment before continuing, “So I thought I’d drop by when I was going somewhere else farther than here.” “I sold the yacht and bought an old powerboat, it’s seen better days when it goes, maybe you’ve heard of it.” She shook her head, “No.” “I thought maybe James had mentioned something to Clover. He’s terribly proud of it.” He slipped the keys into his pockets. “They seem to spend a lot of time together.” “They’re very friendly, there’s a bit of hero-worship going on I suppose.” He smiled broadly, “Him or her?” “Girls worship boys.” “Childhood friendships, they might not find it so easy when they hit adolescence. Friendship becomes more complicated then.” “Your boat.” “Is nothing special, I can’t afford anything expensive and it’s not a sailing boat like the one David and I went out in. It’s a knockabout old cruiser with an outboard that’s seen better days. It can get out to the reef and back but that’s its usefulness.” She said that she thought this was all one needed. “Where else is there to go precisely?” she asked politely. “Those great big monsters.” “Gin palaces.” “Yeah why do people need them?” He smiled, “They can go to Cuba or Jamaica. But it’s really all about extensions to oneself to one’s ego. Those are the looks at my boats.” He paused, “I was just heading over there to the boat, why not come and view it? We could go over to Rum Point or out to the reef if you liked.” She had not been prepared for an invitation and it took her some time to answer. She should say no and claim quite rightly that she wanted to go to the supermarket but now in his presence she found it impossible to do what she knew she should do. “How long will it take?” “As long or as short a time as you want, fifteen minutes to get there, ten minutes to get things going. Then forty minutes out and forty minutes in depending on the wind and what the sea’s doing.” She looked at her watch and panicked. “What is everybody doing?” he asked. She realised that this was his way of asking where David was. “I think that Clover’s with James out on their bicycles, Billy’s at the dolphin place with Margaret. David’s working part time.” “Does he ever take any time off?” “Saturdays, usually otherwise no, he’s pretty busy.” She stared at him. His eyes were registering pleasure at what she said. “How about it?” The sea was calm as they edged out into the sound, they had boarded the boat in the canal along which he moored it, a thin strip of water that provided access to four or five rather rundown houses. Dogs barked from the bank as the boat made its way towards the sea, a large Dobermann, ears clipped kept pace with them, defending its territory with furious snarls. She pointed to one of the houses, “Who lives in these places?” she asked. “You can tell from the dogs, that Dobermann belongs to a man who owns two liquor stores and a bar.” He made a calming gesture towards the do. “Dogs are aspirational here like boats.” She laughed, “That’s hit boat there?” She pointed to a gleaming white vessel, a towering superstructure was topped with a bristling forest of aerials and fishing rods. “Must be.” Once in the sound he opened the throttle and the boat surged forward across the flat expanse of sea. The sky was high and empty of all but a few cumulus clouds on the horizon, off towards Cuba. The water was a light turquoise colour, the white sand showing a bare six feet below. Here and there, patches of undulating dark disclosed the presence of weed. In the distance, a line of white marked their destination, the reef that protected the sound from the open sea beyond. That was the point at which the seabed began to drop until a few hundred yards further out, it reached the edge of the deep and fell away into hundreds of feet of darkness. The dive boats went there dropping their divers down the side of a submarine cliff. It was dangerous act, every so often divers went down and did not come up, nitrogen drunk on beauty, they went too deep and forgot where they were. It was hard to make oneself heard against the roar of the engine. He signalled to her where they were going and she strained to make out the break in the reef that provided a passage out into the open sea. A small cluster of boats congregated not far away, the boats that took people out to see the school of giant stingrays that swam into the sound to be fed by the boatmen. The rays, accustomed to people would glide obligingly round the legs of swimmers, taking fish from the hands of the guides. They had taken the children there on numerous occasions, it was one of the few outings the island afforded, and the memory reminded her that she was a mother. She looked away and thought, I should ask him to go back, she wondered why she had said yes to this adventure. It was folly and childish to take such trip. He had showed the boat to negotiate the difficult passage between the outcrops of coral that made up the reef, it was a clear enough route and everybody who took a boat out there learned it soon and easily enough. One had to line up several points and keep a careful eye on which way the current was flowing. One had to read the sea, which provided all the necessary signs particularly on a calm day like this. “Are you all right with this?” she asked as he steered them towards the gap. “Yes, I’ve done it a few times you have to watch out but it’s simple enough,” he said. “I won’t distract you.” She looked over the side of the boat, the water was shallow enough to stand in, she thought there was weed, lines of drifting black. A large shell, a conch, pearls, a blur of white against the sand. There was a flash of colour as a school of bright blue fish darted past. There was the shadow of the boat on the seabed below. “There,” he had brought them through, and the reef and breaking waves were suddenly behind them. He opened the throttle again to put water between them and coral. The sea now was a different state and colour. A darker blue and it was rougher too with a swell bowling in towards them. He throttled back, making the bow drop down then glancing at a dial on the console, he switched the engine off entirely. “We might as well conserve fuel, these big outboards are thirsty.” She leaned back against her seat and closed her eyes. She felt the sun on her face, the breeze made her silent. “It’s peaceful and soothing, isn’t it?” she muttered to herself as much as to him, “It’s the serenity combined with acceptance.” She opened her eyes, he was struggling with the catch of a small cool box that he brought with them. “Somebody gave me a bottle of champagne, he was a grateful patient,” he replied. The catch shifted and champagne was revealed. Two glasses nestled against the ice alongside the bottle. She wondered why he had packed two glasses. He had the cool box with him when he met her at the tennis club, but he would have known that she was there. So this could not have been planned for her, but his wife, Alice? The cork popped shooting up into the air to fall into the sea beside them. She watched it float away on a swell. “I didn’t mean that to occur, I disapprove of people who shake champagne and pop the corks. It’s one of the biggest causes of eye injury there is,” he grinned, “Not that I’m fond of sport.” He handed her a glass of champagne, “Here, for you take it.” She took the glass which was cold to touch. She raised it to her lips, it’s too late she thought, that’s it. He took a sip, “You don’t mind? Do you?” he asked. “Mind what? Being here drinking champagne instead of being at the supermarket?” He looked serious, “You don’t mind that I asked you?” She shrugged, “Why should I?” He was studying her reaction, “Because I pretended that I hoped to find you at the tennis club recently.” For a while she said nothing, it thrilled her emotions, she must mean something to him. There was no dismay just pleasure. When she spoke the words, it seemed to come from somewhere else that echoed. “I hadn’t envisaged this happening but it happened and I never thought it would. I just wondered too much.” He nodded, “I may anticipate this either way.” “So what do we do?” The question hung in the air like odourless smoke. “Do? What are your plans?” he said. “Neither do I figure out, because we both have children to consider,” she put down her glass. “Yes and others.” he said. “By that you mean.” She thought that he did want her to see his wince but she did, “Alice or David.” It was a mistake to mention these sensitive names. They had been present just now but here there were only two glasses of champagne. She drew in her breath, “I think maybe we could take this further next time, sorry.” His mouth opened slightly, she saw that he was gripping the glass tightly as his knuckles were white. I’ve said the wrong thing entirely, so corrupt. “Is that what you feel now?” She nodded, and glanced at her watch, “I think it would have been nice but this sounds dumb.” “If that’s what you have in mind.” “It sure is, I’m sorry George, I wish I was free to say yes but I don’t think you’re free.” He looked down at the deck, “You’re possibly correct.” He drained his glass and put it back into the cool box, then picking up the bottle of champagne he stared at it, held it up against the sun and poured it out over the side of the boat. She watched in astonishment, noticing the tiny bubbles playing around, visible against the surface of the sea for a few instants before they disappeared. “I’m truly apologizing.” she said. He replaced the bottle and took her glass from her. "You don't have to feel sympathy, I'm the one responsible for this event." he said. "Maybe you're right." He reached for the ignition, "I suggest we write the whole thing off to experience. That's the civilised way of dealing with these things I think." It could have been said bitterly, but she did not detect any bitterness in his voice. He was a kind man and she hoped he'll bring her joy and fame. When George turned the key in the ignition the outboard engine spluttered into life briefly, but did not catch. He attempted to start it again. Sometimes it took a second try for the fuel to get through, a small blockage, a bubble of air could starve the injectors of fuel but these would right themselves. This time there was no response at all. He looked down at the safety cord, this was a small key-like device that operated against a sprung switch and had to be in place for the engine to fire. It was correctly slotted in. He tried once more and again there was no response. She had not noticed the first failure, but now she did. "Trouble?" He raised an eyebrow, "I don't know it won't start." "Are we out of fuel?" He pointed to the gauge, "We've got at least ten gallons, maybe more. "Perhaps you should try again." He reached forward and turned the key, there was complete silence in between the air. "I can check the batterires, a lead might have detached itself." He opened a hatch, exposing two large twelve-vole batteries. All four leads were in positions and secure, he tried using the key again with the same result. She glanced over her shoulder, after they had cleared the passage they had gone half a mile or so out onto the open sea. Now carried by the swell, they were little more than several hundred yards off the line of surf marking the location of the reef. In ten minutes or more, they would have reached the point where the waves would carry them onto the reef itself. "Have you got a radio?" He shook his head, I've got my phone, we're not too far out because we'll get reception." She felt a surge of relief, "Then phone somebody." "Who?" She frowned, "The cops, they'll certainly know what to do." He reached into his pocket to retrieve his phone as he did so, he looked about, scanning the sea. On the other side of the reef, in the protected waters of the sound he could see three or four boats still bobbing at ancho round the sting-ray feeding grounds He could make out the heads of swimmers in the water. "Could we attract their attention?" she asked. "I'm not carrying any flares, if we had a flare they'd see it but I haven't." She stood up and looked over in the direction of the knot of boats. She had been frightened but the human presence not too far away reassured her. If the worst came, they could abandon the ship and swim back through the passage in the reef. They would be seen then or they could even swim over to join the boats at the anchor. It was not as if they were far out at sea, and the water as usual was invitingly warm. She saw that George was looking anxiously at the reef towards which they were slowly being carried by the swell. She looked down, they were in about forty feet of water. She thought but as they approached the reef that would diminish. Could they not anchor and just wait for help, boats regularly used the entrance to the sound and they would not have to wait too long. "Your anchor, could we try another method?" she suggested. "Yes I was thinking about that." he said. He moved to the bow and opened the locker. Reaching in he lifted out a rather shabby looking anchor to which a line of rusty chain was attached. He looked over the side of the boat. "We'll have to get a bit closer to the reef, it's too deep here." he said. The swell seemed to pick up, and they found themselves being pressed closer to the breaking waves and the jagged points of coral. When they were only a few boat's lengths from the first of the outcrops, George heaved the anchor over the side paying out the chain and line. She felt the boat shudder as the anchor line took the strain. "She might drag a bit, we'll have to watch." he said. But it held and the boat was soon pointed into the incoming swell, riding it confidently. George sat down, he wiped his brow and smiled at her. "There we are, emergency over." She scanned the sea, "No sign of anything." He seemed confident that help would not be delayed. "Something will come by, a fishing boat, yatch, less than an hour I'd say." He looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry about all this mess, you went off to play tennis and ended up shipwrecked." "Not quite." "Near enough and I rather wish I hadn't disposed the rest of the champagne." She made a sign to indicate she did not mind. "I'm fine." He was about to say something, but did not. She was pleased that he did not as she did not wish to discuss what had gone before. Some lovers have their private affairs. She steered the conversation to neutral topics, they discussed the plan to extend the system of canals to sensitive mangrove swamps. They discussed the ambitions of the developers who were setting out to cover the island with concrete and pastel-coloured condos. He became animated on the subject of corruption. She listened and found herself agreeing with every word he said. David was far less harsh in his judgement of developers. In fact, he spoke up in favour of them, that made the difference. She looked at the time, they had been anchored for forty-five minutes and there had been no sign of any boat. It was barely noon and there were another six hours of daylight, but what if nobody came? Who would report them missing? David had no idea where she was and she did not want to ask George whether Alice knew he was going out in a boat. If she did, then she would raise the alarm and they would send out a search party but if she was ignorant, then it could be the next day. Did they have enough water, she wondered and there was no food, although one could last for a long time without anything to eat. "You aren't worried?" he asked. "Not really, maybe a bit," she hesitated. "We'll be all right, besides, help is on its way," he broke off as he had seen something and stood up, shading his eyes with his hand. She stood up too and he pointed out the direction in which she should look. He took her hand in his to do so which was not strictly necessary, he could have pointed. But she felt a stab of excitement at his touch. There was a boat in a distance, a powerboat churning the sea behind it heading their way. She squeezed his hand in relief and he returned the pressure. Then he leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. "See, we're saved," he said. She felt herself blushing at the kiss like an innocent schoolgirl. He should not have done that because they agreed not to take friendship further. But she was glad the kiss made things feel right and wrong at the same time. As the boat approached, George began to move his arms from side to side in the maritime gesture of distress. Figures could now be made out on the deck of the other boat and there was a response. The boat slowed and changed course towards them. "Thank God," said George. "A relief," said Amanda. "I'm going to have to get a new outboard after this," George said. The other boat was a rather larger cruiser, set up for deep sea fishing althougn not sporting any rods. Gingerly it came alongside taking care to leave sufficient distance so as not to be pushed by the swell on to the anchored boat. "What's the trouble?" asked the man at the controls. "Engine failure, we'll need a tow." shouted George. The man nodded, "We'll throw you a line, ready?" Amanda had been looking at the other skipper, now she looked at the crew of whom there were four. With a start she recognised John, one of David's partners in the firm. He saw her and waved back. "Amanda!" he called out. She acknowledged the call. "I didn't expect to see you, all you okay?" he shouted out. She cupped her hands and shouted a reply, "Absolutely fine." John gave the thumbs up sign and then busied himself fixing the line to a cleat at the stern of the boat. Then the other end of the line was thrown across to George. It went into the sea the first time but was retrieved and thrown again. This time it was caught and secured to the bow of the stricken vessel. The anchor was pulled up and rescuing boat took the strain. Progress under tow was slow but once through the passage in the reef there was little to do but to sit back and wait. Amanda went to the stern and sat by herself deep in thought. The implications of what had happened were slowly sinking in. The odds against being rescued by somebody she knew were not all tha high. The island was small and people get to know one another fast. If she had imagined that she could go anywhere and not be spotted, then she was mistaken. Yet it was particularly bad luck that it should be John of all the people. He and David saw each other every day, most of the time on Skype. He would be bound to mention that he had rescued his colleague's wife. She felt raw inside, dreadful. That's what dread feels like, rawness plus hollowness. She would have to speak to John, and ask him not to blurt out anything. And that meant her presence on George's boat was to be kept secret from David. It was nothing short of an admission of adultery. The rescuing boat took them all the way back to the canal. One of their crew jumped out onto the dock and pull them in and they were soon safely attached. Amanda went ashore, the other boat was standing off and was about to leave to go back to its own berth at a marine some distance away. John waved to her, "Happy ending but I'll have to claim salvage from David." he yelled. She shook her head, "Better don't" she called out. He laughed, "Only joking." The other boat was beginning to pull away, she looked at John desperately. She was unable to shout out a request that he say nothing. She waved again, trying to make a cencelling gesture. He waved back giving her a thumbs up sign. Then they moved off leaving behind them a wake that washed sedately at the edges of the canal. She heard the barking of the liquor store man's Dobermann, and laughter from the other boat. George was at her side. "You knew him?" She nodded miserably, "David's partner." He was silent for a while, "Oh that's terrifying." "No." He looked at her expectantly, "What do you want me to do?" "Just relax." She thought of what she must do, she would go back to the tennis club, collect her car and then drive straight to a house and wait for John to come home. She would totally explain to him not to mention anything to David about George's boat. She would tell him the truth that there was honestly nothing between their friendship even though it sounded suspicious. She must appeal to him through truthfulness. John lived on his own in a bungalow overlooking South Sound. The house was older than others around it, having been built when the land in that area was first cleared. It was extremely modest in scale compared with more recent constructions and less ostentatious. A recent storm had brought down several of his trees but the house itself was still largely obscured by vegetation when viewed from the road and it was only once on the driveway that one could see the full charm of the Caribbean style bungalow. A deep veranda ran the length of the front giving an impression of cool and shade. The exterior was painted light blue and the woodwork white, a local combination that could still be seen on the few remaining old Cayman cottages. It was a perfect colour scheme for a landscape dominated by sea plus sky. John who was in his early forties had been in Cayman for almost fifteen years, having arrived several years before David and Amanda. He was now the senior local partner in the accountancy firm in which David worked and would become an international partner before too long, as rumour was spread. He was unmarried, a fact that led to the usual speculation, but none of it substantiated. There were rumours about his private life about boyfriends but if these ever reached him, he showed only indifference to gossip and cheerfully enjoyed the company of women who found him sympathetic and a good listener. Amanda encountered John socially at drinks and dinner parties. She and David had been to his house on some occasions and had entertained him themselves. As a spare man who was good company at a dinner party, he was much in demand by hostesses seeking to balance a table. He could be counted on to talk to any woman he was seated next to without giving rise to any complications. He could be counted upon never to mention business, which formed the core of many other men's conversation. People said there had been a tragedy in his life somewhere but nobody had discovered what it was. There was one wild theory, risible Amanda thought that had killed somebody in New Zealand where he originally came from and had come to Cayman to escape prosecution. He was not in when Amanda arrived. She had thought that she would probably arrive too early, it would have taken time for them to dock the other boat, but she wanted to be sure she did not miss him. She had no idea what plans he might have, but she thought there was a danger that he had been invited to the hills, she knew he was friendly with them and she would have seen him before that. At the hills it would be too late as he might reveal something to David. She parked the car on his driveway under the shade of a large Flamboyant tree and began to wait. The minutes dragged past after half an hour, she got out of the car and stretched her legs after an hour she began to wonder whether she should write him a note and slip it under his front door. It could be brief, a request that he say something about seeing her in the boat and offering to give him her reasons later on when they could meet to discuss it. She had a notebook with her in the glove compartment of the car and she took this out to began to compose the note. She was writing this when she heard the car and looking up, saw John's dark blue Mercedes coming up the drive. He slowed down as he drew level with her and peered into the car. Recognising her, he gave a wave and continued to the garage at the side of the house. Amanda left her car and walked up the drive to meet him. "Twice in a day, is everything all right?" joked John. "I wanted to thank you but you dashed off." she replied. He smiled, and gestured to the front door, "Come in I'll make some coffee or something cooler?" She followed him into the house. "I must say, that I've often thought about what happen if one lost power out there. I don't have a boat myself but I'd always have an auxiliary engine if I did. Something to get one back through the reef." She agreed, "It seems reasonable." He led her into the sitting room at the front of the house. From the windows at the end of the room, there was a view of a short stretch of grass then framed by trees, the sea. On the walls there were paintings on Caribbean themes, a picturesque Jamaican street scene, a small island rising sharply out of the sea, a couple of colourful abstracts. He invited her to sit down while he went to prepare coffee. "Where's David? Working I suppose." he asked, his tone remained level. "Yes." "Not my fault, I keep telling him to work and he puts the rest of us to shame," he continued. "Yes I think so but." He looked at her expectantly. "This isn't easy for me," she said. He stared at her and sat down, he would make the coffee later. "It's about today? About the business out at the reef?" She nodded, "I know what you're thinking." He held her gaze, "I try to keep out  of other people's private affairs, it crossed my mind that it was a bit surprising that you were out with George." he said. He tried to speak, "I hardly know him, I've met him once or twice at the usual functions but they seem to keep to themselves for the most part, don't they?" "They do." He sighed, "I don't think it was any of my business what was happening on that boat." "But there wasn't anything happening, we just went out in the boat together." she blurted out. He stared at her for a second, as if he was deciding whether to say something. Then he shrugged, "Well that's fine, you've made the point that David didn't know I went out plus I didn't tell him." He stared at her, "So what?" "Yeah I didn't tell him. George bumped into me at the tennis club and asked me on the spur of the moment." THat was not strictly true she thought but it would become too complicated if she had to explain further. "He just suggested it? So easy?" He seemed to be weighing up the likelihood of her telling the truth, "so what you're saying is this was an unplanned outing that you didn't tell David about. And now you think David will be jealous." "And suspicious and angry." He looked out of the window, "You must forgive me, as a bachelor I'm not sure I understand how these things work, are you saying a husband would automatically be fed up if his wife went off on an event with another man?" he said. She wanted to laugh, was he that unaware how relationship works in this world? "Yes that's exactly what I'm telling you, and he would give up." "Always?" She thought about this. "Well it depends on the circumstances. You couldn't go out for dinner with another guy, for instance until you discussed it with your husband first." He asked about the position of an old friend of both husband and wife. Could he take the wife out for dinner if the husband was away? "Of course, an old friend does that, it depends on the circumstances." "Then that seems reasonable enough but you're telling me David will think you and this doctor George were having an affair?" he frowned. She did not answer him immediately, it was possible that David will not form that impression, but there was a good chance he will. She explained her anxiety to John, who listened attentively but halfway through her explanation she faltered. "I suppose I should tell you the truth." She saw the effect that this had on his face. He drew back slightly, as if offended. "I would hope you'll tell me the truth, who likes to be lied to anyway?" he said stiffly. "I'm sorry of course you won't want to be lied to, the problem is, I've felt attracted to George like a boyfriend. I'd go far as to say I'm interested in him but I haven't been having an affair with him. We discussed it and talked about it, but it hasn't gone anywhere." He looked at her intently, I'm sorry you feel you can't trust me with the truth." She was aghast. "But what I've just told you is absolutely true. "Is it?" She became animated, "Yes it is the truth." He held her gaze, there was an odd expression on his face, she thought it was as if he were just about to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Well if that was the case I must imagine what I saw from our boat," he said evenly. She looked puzzled. "I saw the two people in the boat kissing, I'm sorry but that was real. I just happened to be looking through my binoculars at the time. We'd seen the signalling and I was interested to see what was going on, I just observed." he continued. She stared at him in silence, George had kissed her that brief, entirely chaste kiss of relief. It was not even on the lips, but cheek and he saw it. "That's not what you think it was," she stuttered. He spread his palms in a gesture of disengagement, "I saw the scene, forgive me for jumping to conclusions." "He kissed me when he saw that you were coming to our rescue, it was equivalent of a hud, that's all, there was nothing more than that, I promise you John, I gave you my word," she paused. She could tell that he did not want to believe her. And had she been in his position, she would not believe herself either. "Well I don't think it has anything to do with me, as I said I like to avoid getting involved in other people's entanglements. I know these things happen inevitably, by the way I'm not standing here being disapproving." he said. "I fell so powerless I can't make you believe." He interrupted her, "You don't have to make me believe anything Amanda." "I'm not cheating on David, you gotta know that," she said, putting as much resolution into her voice as she could muster. "Fine so you've told me." "But I need you to know, will you tell David about what happened today?" He rose to his feet, his tone was distant, "I'm sorry but I can't lie. I know you have little time for it but I hold a religious position on these things. I will not tell a lie." He looked at her, "Does that make me sound pompous, but that's where I stand." She struggled to control her mood, tears were not far off, she felt she didn't want to break down. "You don't sound pompous John, and I'd never ask you to lie. All you have to do is don't tell David about my event at the boat. That's not a lie." "Still is concealment." She tried to fight back, "We don't have a duty to tell eveybody everything, for heaven's sake." He seemed to reflect on this, he walked to the window and looked out across the grass to the sea beyond. She thought he has never been involved in the messiness that goes with relationships, he doesn't know the trauma. He's a monk with fussy understanding of life, which is not how life is to most of us. "I'll not say anything and I won't mention the incident to David but I'm sorry I said I won't change my mind just now. Yet if he asks me about it I might tell him the whole truth." He turned to face her, "And it will be sincere." She knew what he meant about this, if he was asked, he will mention the kiss. She nodded her acceptance, then she said, "John may I say I haven't lied to you today, I promise I've got nothing to hide." He raised an eyebrow, "Apart from what you're hiding from David." She looked down at the floor, she would not lose her temper. "You know something? You think you understand everything basically but you don't. You've knept yourself apart from messy business of being an ordinary human being with normal temptations and imperfections plus conflicts. You're looking at the world through ice John," she confessed. His look was impassive but she could tell she had wounded him. She didn't mean to do that and she immediately apologized, "I'm sorry that came out more harshly than I intended." He held up a hand, "But you're right, I have kept myself away from these things. Have you any idea what that has cost me? You don't know how I've come back here sometimes at night and cried my eyes out like a boy?" "I'm regretting it John." He shook his head, "I didn't mean to burden you with that, it's nothing to do with your personal issue." She got up and went towards him, she put an arm around his shoulder and comforted him. He flinched at her touch. "I understand," she whispered. "I don't think people do." "They do but some may not." After that, they were for a time remained silent, she moved away from him and said she didn't stay for coffee. He nodded and accompanied her to the door without words. The heat outside met her like a wall. Teddy's father was arrested four days later, it was done with the maximum unnecessary fuss, with two police cars and sirens wailing, arriving at the front of the house shortly after eight in the morning. Amanda was taking the dog for a walk round the block at the time and saw what happened. "Thay made a big thing of it," she said to David that evening, "There were six of them, some senior officers and the rest constables. It was totally over the top." He snorted, "Role playing." "Anyway they bundled Gerry Arthur out of the house, put him into a car and then drove off, sirens going full tilt." "Ridiculous." "Then one constable came out carrying a computer, put it into the other car and off they went." "A show that's what it was." She looked at her husband, he had built in antipathy to officials. "What was it all about? Have you heard the news?" she asked. "I met Jim, he told me Gerry Arthur is being charged with being party to some fraud or other. Something to do with the scuttling of a ship to get the insurance payment. Apparently that sort of thing happens, you sink your boat and claim the insurance." he said. "I'm surprised, they go to baptist church, don't they?" David laughed, "Baptists are every bit as capable of sinking ships as anybody else, but I woul have thought Gerry Arthur did that sort of thing anyway. He's one of our clients, we audit his books and they're always scrupulously clean. This'll be a put up thing." She asked him to explain. "You know what it's like here, you make a remark that offends somebody high up in the political food chain, all of a sudden it's discovered that there are problems with your work permit. Gerry has status, which means they don't chuck him out even if he's not an actual citizen. So the next best thing is to get him into trouble with his friends." She pointed out that it would be difficult to set up the sinking of a ship. "See, the ship will sink anyway, so all you must do is to create some evidence of an instruction to the captain that points to the thing being deliberate. You've got your case, you leak something to the police and they're delighted to get the possibility of a high profile conviction, off you go." he said. "What will possibly happen?" He was not sure, "I heard that they've let him out on bail, they might drop the charges if he agrees to go off to the British Virgin Islands or somewhere like that, it'll die down like usual." "It's very unfair." "Of course when you compare it to something else." She stared at him, "To be accused of doing something you didn't do, that must be very hard." He returned her gaze, "Yeah, your reaction suits this topic." She caught her breath, "I suppose so." He was still watching her and it was this moment that she became certain that he knew. Clover said to Teddy, "Your dad was taken off to jail, is he okay?" The boy bit his lip, "They brought him back because they made a mistake." "Really? Why did they take him anyway? Was he spying?" Teddy shook his head, "Don't be stupid." "It's not too lousy, we know there are spies living around this area." Teddy kicked at the ground in his frustration, "He didn't do anything to deserve punishment, they said he sunk his boat but he was asleep. No one sinks boat for fun." She nodded, the world of adults was opaque and difficult to fathom but the proposition that one will sink a boat seems unreasonable. "I'm sorry for you, Teddy it must be awful having your dad taken away last time." she said. "Thank you but he didn't commit a sin." Later she talked to James about it, he agreed with her that the sinking of the boat might be a cover for the real charge of spying. Now the authority had become involved though, he thought there was little need to continue with their observation. "It's in their hands now, we can stop anytime." he pronounced. He lost interest she sensed and so the notebook plus photographs they collected were filed away in a cupboard in James' room. The pictures were many pieces, had been printed on James' computer and labelled with the date, time and place when they were taken. At the tennis club on Saturday morning, suspect one got into the car with another boy. Then they talked but the conversation was unknown. She felt he was more concerned with other things, she invited him to the tree-house, but he rarely came now when he did, he seemed detached as if he wanted to be somewhere else, he never stayed long. She made suggestions, "We could fix the tree house, I could get some hard wood. We could take more things up here if you wanted I could make a shelf of your own for your nice stuff." He shrugged, "Maybe." She persisted, "We could take walkie talkies up there, I could leave one there and you could take the other to your house. We could easily speak to each other." He looked bored, "Out of range, you have to be able to see other people or they don't work, those are simply useless." he said. He looked at his watch, "I can't stay for long." She said, "You're always saying that you have to go somewhere else to do something." "You're being judgemental." "You do it all the time. He looked at his watch again, "Because I've got stuff to do and it's true." She felt utterly frustrated at not being able to pin him down, she wanted to have his full attention, but he seemed somewhat reluctant to give her that. It was like he was holding back, and living in another world, a place where she could not enter or understand. Yet he was not rude to her, he was just kind and behaved gently without any pushing or shoving that other guys do. That was part of his appeal, the way he looked made her think he's the only most beautiful person alive. She had hidden away a photograph of him without his knowledge. Amanda sensed her daughter's unhappiness. "Something's wrong darling I can tell." "Nothing." "You can't just say nothing if something's not working out, you should reveal." "I told you everything's fine." Amanda put an arm about her, "Has James been nasty to you?" She shook her head, the denial was genuine, "He's never nasty, he's obviously too nice for that." "Doesn't want to play anymore? Is that why you look upset?" This was greeted with silence, which was an answer in itself. Amanda gave Clover a hug, "My kid, here's something you must get used to, boys are crazy, they have things that keep them busy a lot and sometimes don't seem interesting to girls. Boys can ignore you and make you feel hard to breathe. They break our hearts in the end, they make girls feel sad because they don't want to be with them. There may be no special reason for that. They might just want to be alone, you're just beginning to see this now, when you're a teenager, maybe you'll see it clearer from your view point. There's no magic wand to change the story that much, I can't really make him your best friend, even though I wish I could." She nestled into her mother, she just wanted to be James' loyal friend. He was happy with that before but now it doesn't last anymore. Amanda kissed Clover's forehead, so precious and unlucky. She tried to remember her history but the problem was she was quick to forget that even young children have intense feelings for others. Passionate adoration does not suddenly arrive when one is merely fifteen or sixteen, the stage of the first fumbling romance. Falling head over heels for other can occur years earlier and we will understand these things better if we bothered to remember. The intensity of feeling for a pal was not expressed in physical way, but it definitely represents a yearning that was already knocking on the door. Clover knew all along that there would come a day when she had to go away to school. The Cayman Prep School took children up to thirteen before handing them over to high school. Many children made the transition smoothly and completed their education in the senior division next door but for a considerable proportion of expatriates the expense of sending children for their secondary education abroad was outweighed by the risks involved in staying. The island had a drug problem, as well as a problem of teenage pregnancy. Stories circulated of girls who stayed being seen as an easy target by boys from West Bay. Sending children abroad might have its drawbacks but at least the teenage years will be passed for the most part in the supervised conditions of boarding school. The day to day headaches of looking after adolescents were borne by people paid to bear them, and experienced to do so. Clover was smart and accepted the boarding school awaited her. She was ready to go, several girls who had been in the year above her at the prep school were already there and seemed to enjoy it. They came back each school holidays and were full of stories of a world that seemed to her to be unimaginably exciting plus exotic. There were stories of school dances and trips to London, there were accounts of clandestine assignations with boys, meetings that took place under the threat of dire punishment if discovered. It all sounded to her like a rather fun prison camp in which girls and boys pitted their wits against the guards. But unlike a prison camp, you could have your own pictures on the wall, perfectly good food and outings, admittedly restricted to cinema and shops. Her parents talked to her about the choice of school, David wanted something in Scotland and identified a school in Perthshire that seemed to offer everything they wanted. They showed her the pictures in school brochure. "You see how attractive it is, you'd be staying in one building over there, see those are girls' dormitories." said David. She looked at the photographs, it was an alien landscape, all hills and soft colours but it was a world that she had been brought up to believe was where she belonged. The Caribbean with its dark green and light blues was temporary, this was permanent. "And that's pipe band, you can learn pipes if you like or violin, or any other instrument, they have everything." said Amanda, pointing at one photograph. There were misgivings, "I won't know anybody, nobody close to me is going there seriously." "You'll make plenty of new good friends, it's a very friendly place." Silence, "And if I'm sick?" "Why should you be sick? they have a sick room. There is nurse and you'll totally do well." "I guess so." "What about James? He's going off to school too right?" asked her mother. James had not told her very much in detail. "I think he's going to a school in England, I don't know the exact name yet." She looked at her mother, "Can you tell them about the cool school, can you show them this?" She pointed to the brochure. Amanda smiled, "It's nothing to do with us," she said, "They're not Scottish, like dad. James' father is English, he'll want James to go somewhere in England it's only natural." "But Scotland and England are close together like they are situated just next door?" "They are but schools are different, they want him to go to English school." "They could change their minds if they saw this brochure." Amanda looked at her daughter fondly, "You'll be able to see James in the holidays, he'll be here and so are you." Clover became silent, she stared at the photographs of school and imagined that it was her face in one of the pictures. And standing next to her was not the boy with ginger haid who was in the picture but James. She wanted to share what lay ahead of him, she did not want to be with strangers at all. Her mother touched her arm lightly, "You'll get over it soon," she whispered. "Get over what?" "You'll get over what you feel for James, I know right now he's a very special friend, but we meet other people who are better. There'll be plenty of boys and they're funny and you'll know their attitude also." She stared at her mother, how could somebody as old as that understand what it was like? WHAT did she find out? That night lying in bed, she closed her eyes and imagined for the first time that James was with her. It made her feel warm to think of his being at her side, under the covers like they were lost children. His feet felt cold as she moved her own feet against his. She held his hand and she listened to his breathing. She told him about school and he told her fantastic tales. They could be together one day and nobody would take his love away from her. No school in England could keep him from her forever. THeir friendship will endure eternally. It was the day following the conversation about schools again. Amanda and Clover went to supermarket near the airport to stock up for the week. Outside in the car park, as they were unloading the trolley into the back of the car, a car drew up beside them. A woman got out. Amanda paid her no attention and was surprised when she realised it was Alice Collins. Amanda moved to the side of the car to greet her, "Sorry I didn't recognise you behind those sunglasses." Alice took off the sunglasses, folded them and placed them in her hip pocket, "Better?" "Yeah I wasn't paying that much attention." She saw the other woman was not smiling, there was tension in her face. "Is something wrong?" Alice turned away, it was like she didn't hear the question somehow. Then without saying anything she walked off, Amanda opened her mouth to say something. But Alice walked round the side of another parked car and was lost to view. From within the car, she could hear Clover operating the electric window. "what did Mrs Collins say?" "she didn't say anything yet, she's in a rush perhaps." said Amanda. She finished the unpacking of her trolley, she felt quite weak with the shock of the deliberate snub. It was the feeling one has after some driving error on one's part brings a snarl from another driver, a feeling of rawness, of surprise at hostility of another. Clover was listening to music apparently, her ear buds in place. Amanda drove off with her heart racing after the encounter with Alice. She must know but how? Had John said something? She was not confident John could be trusted, it was not that he would gossip there was a far greater possibility that he would speak about what he saw on principle. But if he spoke to anyone, could it be David rather than Alice? She considered the possibilities, one was that John was friendly with Alice and felt he had the duty to warn her. Or he could have spoken to David who told Alice in order to get her to warn George off. That was feasible only if David will want to warn George, which was far from clear. Another possibility was George decided to make a clean breast of things and told Alice he almost embarked on an affair but had not done so. He might have done that if he thought the news will leak out someways, probably through John alone and that will better raise the matter himself rather than to protest innocence once his wife was aware of it. "Look out!" Clover had spotted the car making dangerous attempt at overtaking. Amanda pulled over sharply and two vehicles that were heading straight for one another avoided collision by a matter of a few inches. "Did you see him?" Amanda looked at the mirror, the other car now behind them was being driven erratically, far too fast and halfway into the other lane. "That was totally his fault, he shouldn't have been overtaking there, the road's clearly marked." "Maybe he's wild and drunk." "Could be." They drove on in silence, as was always the case with such things, notions of what she should have done came after the event. She should have pursued Alice and asked her what was wrong. She should have said to her that whatever she heard was not the real truth, the real thing was there was nothing blooming between her and George and there had never been accepting the brush off was tantamount to an admission of guilt. Clover switched off her music. She looked at her mother. "I hate this place." she said. Amanda turned to look at her daughter, "What place?" "Here, this whole place named Cayman." "I thought you liked it?" Clover shook her head vigorously, "There's nothing much inspiring, I've got no friends." Amanda's gaze returned to the road ahead, the plane from Cayman Brac, a small twelve-seater was coming in to land, its shadow passed across the road and mangrove swamp on the other side. "You need to get away to school, that's soon enough, and you will get some friends like Holly," she paused. "she doesn't like me anymore, she spends most of her time with american girls." "You've got James besides." This was greeted with silence. Amanda shot her a glance. "You still like James, don't you?" Clover moved her head slightly. Amanda spoke gently, "He's special to you, it's good to improve your mood." Suddenly Clover turned to her mother, "Do you think that we're both grown up?" "Yeah, when you're both grown up?" "THAT maybe James and I will get married? Do you think that might happen?" Amanda suppressed her smile, "Possibly but it's far too early to even think about that. You never know whom you're going to marry, but what you really must do is marry someone kind, that's the most important thing while they don't have to be good looking or rich or anything like that, just must stay friendly." "James is the type who makes me feel awesome." "Yes that can be true, but it's very early to talk about things that will happen, you're going to meet plenty of other boys and it's highly likely that some will be as nice as James. You still have years to go on and you shouldn't make up your mind yet." "But he's the one I want deep down." "That could change someday, you think differently when you're adult. You'll stick to fresh ideas." "I will?" "totally, just like singers who used to date young boys who were shy." The conversation ended there, they had reached the turnoff to their house and Clover will shortly have to get out to open the gate. Over the next few weeks James' visits, which became less frequent anyway, stopped altogether. Clover waited several days before summoning up her courage to call him on his phone. He sounded friendly enough when he answered, but when she asked if he would like to join her to listen to some pop music he sounded wary. "Maybe I can't." he said. "Why? It'll be half an hour." "Because Teddy's coming around." He replied her feeling sensitive. She waited for him to invite her too but he didn't. "I could come too." He felt ashamed. sO HE simply said," Actually it'll be just me and Teddy, we're sort of on a mission." "What kind?" "Teddy got a metal detector." She persisted, "Can I help?" "Sorry Clover maybe next time." There was pitiful silence. "Do you still enjoy being with me?" It was a wild gamble, he could say no easily but that would end the friendship. But he just said, "Of course I like you, but my mother wanted us to separate now." She absorbed this. "What's on her mind?" He sounded surprised. "You don't have to do everything your mother tells you, James," And with that she hung up, she hoped he would call her back chastened, apologetic but he didn't. Instead she sank her head in her hands. Why did she feel so empty and unhappy? Why should boy be so childish and misguided? She nearly got the chance to see him laugh again but this thin chance is blown away to earth. We all want love, friendship, happiness and beautiful moments to last forever but sometimes things get real tough and disobedient to our commands. It is the same as feeling controlled by invisible wind when we are trapped by insecurities and mistrust. There was nothing in David's behaviour to indicate that he knew. She watched him closely over the days that followed the encounter with alice in the car park. But there was nothing unusual in the way in which he spoke to her, nothing to suggest a change in his polite but somewhat distant relations between them. He was busy preparing for a business trip to New York that would take place two weeks later, a trip that he said will be awkward. There were internal Revenue service enquiries into the affairs of one of the firm's clients and he had been requested to attend a hearing. It was entirely voluntary, the Cayman Islands were outside the jurisdiction of American tax authorities, but the client was asserting his innocence vigorously and had waived any privilege of confidentiality. David was sure that the client had nothing to hide but he knew he will be treated as a hostile witness that he will be disbelieved. She heard that John will be going too, he disclosed this casually but her heart thumped when she heard it. "Why does he have to go? It's your client right?" "I took him over from John, he looked after him for part of the period they're interested in," he replied. She searched around for something to say, "John will be good in court." "It's not actual court proceedings, it's an enquiry." "He'd be good at that." He was looking at her, they were sitting in the kitchen he had just returned from work. Late and was driving a beer at a kitchen table. The air conditioner wheezed in the background, he said, "The damn air conditioner, has the man been fixing it?" "He only came and looked, he did something to it, he was here probably some minutes ago. He was singing some sort of hymn while he worked. I heard him." "They've got all religion." "well at least they believe in something, what do air conditioning men believe in New York for instance?" He raised the bottle of beer to his lips, "Dollar and that's real." She turned up the gas under the pasta she was reheating for him. The smell of garlic was too strong for her, and she wrinkled her nose but he liked to souse things in garlic, he always had. "Is John travelling with you?" She tried to make the question sound casual. "Yes, there but he's coming back before me." "And staying in the same hotel?" He looked up sharply, "What is this about?" "I was just asking." He smiled, "What's it with John, do you think we share a room?" She brushed this aside, "Of course not." "yOu think he's gay somehow." She shrugged, "How can you tell? I know people say so but he didn't admit it ever." "He was bored of the rumour." She wanted to get off the subject, but he had more to say. "He's discreet, people like that are often have conventional, high achieving background, from a very prominent new zealand family. His father's general I think, or an admiral, something of the sort. He used to not give anything away." She didn't react. "For example, if he knew something he won't speak it," David continued. "I see," her voice was small and she thought he might not heard her but he did. She had her back to him but she felt his eyes upon her. She stirred the pasta it was already cooked and it will spoil if she overheated it. But it was hard for her to turn round. "That's good." "Do you care what I think?" She struggled to keep her voice even, "What?" He finished the beer, tilting the bottle to get the last few drops, "I think he rather likes me." She reached for the plate she put on the side of the stove, "Like you as a friend or a colleague?" A mocking tone crept into his voice, "Amanda come on." She dished out the pasta, the odour of garlic rose from the plate, drowning the tomatoes, onion, slices of italian sausage. "So it's just friendship matter." He nodded, "Who knows? I've done nothing to encourage him in that view, and he knows i'm not interested." She put the plate in front of him at the table, she and Clover had eaten earlier but she usually sat down and kept him company when he came in late like this, "He may not know or he might think you like him." He began his meal, spearing pieces of pasta on his fork, "I doubt it frankly I don't care too much to try." "I'm glad to hear that." "I'm going to have another beer." she rose to her feet, "I'll get it." It was while she was reaching into the fridge that he told her, "He came to see me the other day, in the office. He stood in the doorway pretending to hesitate and he confessed he wanted to tell me something." She was holding the bottle of cold beer, her hands were wet and she tried not to turn around. "then he kind of clammed up, he shook his head and said there was nothing much to discuss. He said someday I'll realize something strange." She straightened up, "Your beer is here." He opened the bottle, "It must be something to do with John's life to make him so discouraged privately, I could have listen to him, maybe he doesn't have someone else close to talk to, as he lives alone only." She sat down. "Mind you it could have been something to do with the office, Jenny is being a real pain in the neck right now, She's taken it into her head that we need to change all out internal procedures, it's so chronic." He went on to describe Jenny's plan and nothing more was said about John. After some minutes she made the excuse of going to check that the children had finished their homework. She left the kitchen and made her way along the corridor that separated living quarters from the bedrooms. She stopped halfway, in front of the poster listing the islands of Caribbean, she remembered how she stood in fron of it every day, with one child in her arms and read out the list of names and pointed to the islands on the map. They had been taught to identify them all from Cuba down to Grenada. Now she found herself staring at Tortola, a small circle of green in the blue of sea. She thought inconsequentially of something a friend said the other day: "Tortolans, they're the rudest people in Caribbean, by a long chalk. They have a major attitude problem." But could one generalise like that? And people sometimes appeared rude for one reason, here and there, history left the legacy of hatreds that proved hard to bury. If John didn't tell him already, then he might do so on the trip to New York. They will be together, at close quarters. He will say something when they drink beer but why? The answer came to her almost immediately because John was jealous of her and will prise him away. Perhaps he thought they will separate then David might move on with him temporarily but when you had to rely on scraps of comfort, that will be consolation enough. She lay awake that night not getting to sleep until two in the morning. David slept well as he always did, and she woke up earlier than him. That was when she found sleeping tablet in the bathroom, she didn't take pills before but these ones worked and were for emergencies. The next morning she slept in and by the time she woke up David had gone to work, the children were up but Margaret fed them and prepared them for school. They came into her bedroom to kiss her goodbye, while Margaret hovered at the door saying she would drive them and go to supermarket to buy things they needed for the kitchen. Amanda lay in bed in quiet house, staring up at the ceiling. If she had been uncertain what to do last night, now her mind was made up. She would speak to John and ask him once again to refrain from telling David. She would remind him that David told her John wanted to reveal her dark secret. She would shame him and accuse him of breaking his promise. She dressed quickly, she knew John was always one of the first to get into office in the morning. She would phone him and arrange to meet him for coffee somewhere down near the harbour. There was a place that she knew they sometimes went to with clients. She reached him but he sounded hesitant when he realized it was her voice. But he agreed to see her anyway. "I can't be long, I have a meeting and there are some people coming in from Miami." he said as he sat down opposite her. "I won't waste too much time." He looked at her enquiringly. "It's about the other day when I came to see you." she said. He cut her short, "We don't need to go over that ground again, I told you my position was my way, it hasn't changed." She raised an eyebrow, "Seriously? You sound annoyed." He frowned, "Maybe and David didn't say anything yet. It's water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned." "David told me you want to tell him about my event last time but you kind of changed your mind." He seemed puzzled, "Me? You guess I want to tell him something real?" She thought that his surprise was genuine, now she was not sure she should have sought him out. "He told me you went to his office that day and he got confused." The waitress brought them coffee, he reached for his cup and half raised it to his lips, then he put it down. "Yeah, I remember. That was just coincidence I think." He seemed relieved. She looked at him silently. "It was an office thing, someone had taken money from the petty cash. I had an idea who it was but the name got stuck in my mind. I consider my action wrong to simply voice my suspicion to David just because he acted like a boss sometimes. That person I suspect used to work for him but it could amount to casting an aspersion over an innocent person's character if he was innocent, that's the main detail. Until somebody unearths proof against us." He just talked non stop. She realized she was holding her breath in sweat. Now she released it, "So it's just your hallucination?" "That word is too childish to describe my situation." "I thought you were going to tell him everything for I jumped to conclusion actually." He looked at her over the rim of his coffee cup, "I'd better dash, something's important is waiting for my rescue." he glanced at the watch. She nodded, "May you hear my clear opinion again? My friendship with George is just low profile, it doesn't serve you the best food to tell David what I was going through." He sat quite still, looking at her he said," I tried to believe you but this time I don't think it bothers me." He paused, "is that clear?" She reached out to take his hand and held it briefly, squeezing it in a gesture of gratitude and friendship. "Thank you John but you gotta allow me to live my life wonderfully, not under your control." He smiled at her weakly, so tired like forty three."The problem with Cayman is it's too small. We all live on top of one another and spend too much time worrying about our bad friends." he said with warning. "You're right." "I know you'll forgive me if things get worse, I'm quitting my job one day. I may consider taking part in other international position that provides me the convenience to own an office room if they approve my resume." She was not sure how to reply. "I've been dreaming of living in Portugal, I know who moved there and bought a vineyard to enjoy the fresh fruits, which is why I got attracted to their lifestyle." "I can see you happy there." He seemed to weigh what she said. "You won't feel unhappy anymore if you succeed." she said hurriedly. He smiled and stood up, "But you know why unhappiness is something we don't admit feeling nowadays?" She shook her head. "To cheer me up?" he prompted. She met his gaze, "Maybe we don't want others to feel left out." He agreed, "Sort of, but we should give them their favourite space alone too." "Definitely," She let her gaze wander. It was bright outside, as it almost was going to rain because from afar the clouds were darker. It was the light that seemed to demand cheerfulness, that somehow went well with steel band, just inside the door the bored waitress answered her phone starting an animated conversation that turned louder as emotion behind it rose. John caught Amanda's eyes and the glance they exchanged was eloquent. She looked away when she didn't feel superior to other women, which is what she felt the glance implied. "She's a victim in disguise," she muttered. He shrugged, "Unlucky." he said. Something rose within her, "You're above all that?" He studied her, she noticed the coldness that appeared in his eyes. "You don't imagine I have feelings inside?" she back tracked, "Sorry I didn't say that. You seem so detached and you own the choice to rule your life." she hesitated. He looked at his watch, "I don't see what's wrong with self control, do you have problems?" For a moment she wondered whether this amounted to a retraction of what he said earlier, when he assured her he did believe in her lies. Was he now implying that it was lack of self control that led to an involvement with George? Did he really help? She answered him quietly, "No, but there's difference between self control and repression, do you think so?" Her words seemed to hit him physically, as words can do when they shock the person to whom they are addressed. It can be as if invisible gust of wind or a wall of pressure has its impact. For a short while he did nothing, but he looked at his watch fiddling with the winder, as if to adjust it. She relented quickly, "I must have thought of saying other things." He raised his eyes to hers, "But it may be true," He paused, "Repression may have something to do with lack of confidence. But I decide to live with it. It's a different story." She reached out to him again, "But I want you to shut up." "I don't mind." "I don't want to fall down because of your big mouth." She spoke without thinking, "I don't love David at all." The coldness disappeared, the distance between them seemed to melt away, "I'm sorry to hear that." She suddenly felt reckless, the initial unplanned admission seemed to lead quite naturally to what she went on to say, "I love somebody else ever since David became a worshipper to money and I never want to care about his well being." "I guess you're right." "It just happens, it's like finding another world to fit my desire." "You could judge it that way, is it reciprocated?" he looked at her with interest. "Your feelings for the other are reciprocated? True?" he asked again. She hesitated, "I think so." "So do you mind telling me who?" He immediately said, "Maybe it's none of my business." It did not occur to her to keep it from him now, it was too late to dissemble. "George only, but I can't lie to you, he's off limits." She went on. "Because he's married? That doesn't stop people around her to chase after current lovers." She smiled, "Maybe but we have children. Alice is totally in love with him and he's good, to put all that together you'll have a fairly impossible picture to turn to." He looked thoughtful, "Sorry." "So whatever your situation is John I understand." He looked at his watch again, "I really have to go, people from Miami need me." He signalled to the waitress, who looked at him, vaguely irritated by the disturbance to her call. He stood up, which persuaded the waitress to act. He paid for them both. "I don't want to talk to you anymore, don't worry." he said as they went out into the light. She felt he was closing off two subjects, her and him. The ceremony at Prep school to mark the end of the school year took place while David was in New york. The leavers now aged twelve or thirteen, like Clover and James were presented with a certificate bearing the school motto and a message from the principal about embarking on a journey that was life. The governor attended and the school band played a ragged version of God save the queen, the governor in white tropical suit stood stiffly to attention and seemed to be interested in something that was happening on the ceiling. One or two younger children fidgeting and giggling, attracted discouraging looks from the teachers. Then the choir trooped onto the stage and sang "Lord dismiss us, with thy blessing." Hymns had made little impression on Clover, but the words of this one were different and touched her because she sensed that it was about them. "May thy children, those whom we will see no more." The children were sitting with their parents, Clover was with Amanda and Margaret because David was away. Margaret knew the hymn and reached for Clover's hand. "That's you, leaving your friends and saying goodbye." she said quietly. Clover turned away embarrassed, she didn't want to be told how she felt. She looked around the hall searching for James and found him just a few rows away, seated between his parents. He was whispering something to his father and George nodded, whispering something back. She watched them willing him to turn his head slightly so he would see her, I'm here she thought. At the end of ceremony, the parents left and children returned to their classrooms. The leavers were each given a large bag in which to put things they wanted to take away with them: drawings, exercise books, pictures from the walls that teacher said could be shared out amongst those who wanted them as mementoes of the school. James was in different class, and once outside in the corridor she lingered until she saw him emerge from his own classroom with some other boys. They were talking about something under their breath, one gave a snigger, boys were always doing that laughing at something crude, or physical. She waited until the other boys were distracted before she approached him. "Do you feel sad?" she asked. He looked around, "Clover." "I mean do you feel sad about leaving everybody? All your silly friends?" He shrugged, he was smiling at her, he seemed pleased to talk to her, this encouraged her. "I feel alright like normal." she continued. "we'll see them in the holidays, we're not going away forever." "But." She felt her heart beating loud within her, she could ask him, there was no reason why she won't ask him. They were supposed to be friends and you could ask someone to enter your house anytime. It was like somebody else's voice was speaking, "Do you want to come to my place? we could have lunch there. Margaret made one big cake." He glanced at other boys, "I don't know." "You gotta decide." He hesitated, then replied, "Yeah that sounds great." She felt a rush of joy, he was going to be with her, Teddy wouldn't be there anyway. No one really goes actually. Her mother was out, she said something about lunch for the humane society after the event at school, they were raising money for homeless dogs shelter. Billy was with Margaret being spoiled. "those dogs are rich by now," she said as they went into the kitchen, "They raise all that money for them, just some mangy dogs." "It gives them something to do," said James. "The fellow dogs?" "Parents, old people, raise money for dogs because they don't have anything else to do." She frowned at the thought, did adults play? Or they just talked. "Have you ever thought what it'll be like when we're old?" He sat down at the kitchen table, watching her as she took Margaret's cake tin out of the cupboard, "Do you guess we feel the same?" She nodded, "Well we could think the same things at the same time." "We'll feel the same inside maybe but we won't think too much, I think you'll get tired easily when you're super old, like running out of breath." "I think that's when it starts after I'm twenty." She cut two slices of lemon cake that Margaret had baked the day before, and slid each onto a plate. He picked his slice up eagerly. "everything is going to get different from today onwards." She said. "just because we're going to boarding school?" She said there would come other new things. "Such as?" "Maybe timetable." "I don't care." he said. "Neither do I," But it was bravado, she did, she had lain awake the night before and fretted over what it'd be like to be with a group she never met before, sharing a room with another girl which would be new and confusing experience. "How do you decide when you turn the light out?" she asked. "when?" "At school when you're sharing." He was not sure, but he thought the truth was, "There are rules to follow." She watched him lick the crumbs off his fingers, "Are you nervous?" He affected nonchalance, "About going off to school? No, what's there to be scared of?" Everything, she thought. He finished the last of the crumbs, "I'd better go home." She caught her breath, "Why?" "I suppose I should." She asked him whether he would stay just for a short while, he looked at her, he likes me, maybe. "we could have a swim." He looked through the open kitchen door, the pool was at the back of the house, on the edge of the patio and water reflected the glare of the sun back into the building. "I haven't brought my swimming trunks." "there are some in the pool house, we could keep them for visitors. Come on." He got up reluctantly, following her to the pool house under the large sea grape tree that dominated the end of the garden. Inside it was dark plus cool, there was a bench used for changing and shower was nearby. The shower could not be completely shut off and dripped slowly against the tiles beneath. There was the smell of water. She opened the cupboard, there was a jumble of flippers and snorkels used for the sea, a rescue ring half eaten away by something, a long poled net for scooping leaves from the surface of water. The net slipped and fell onto the floor. "The pool men bring their own stuff, they come to clean the pool every week. The man who supervises them is almost blind now. My mother says he'll fall into a pool one day." she said. "He should stop, you shouldn't curse." said James. She moved the flippers looking behind them, "There were some trunks, maybe the pool men took them." "It doesn't matter." she looked away, "You don't need them?" He hesitated, "I don't want to swim." She felt her breath come quickly, "Have you ever skinny dipped?" He didn't answer for a moment, and she repeated her question, "Never?" He laughed nervously, "Maybe I did, once at rum point off my dad's boat too." "I dare you," she said. "You're acting serious?" She felt quite calm, "Why?" He looked about him, "Now?" "Yeah you'll be alone." "And you too?" She nodded, "Of course, I don't mind. Turn around though, just begin to." she added. He turned his back and she slipped out of her clothes. The polished concrete floor was cool against the soles of her feet. She felt goose bumps on her arms although it could not be from cold. Is that because I'm afraid? She asked herself. This was the most daring thing she ever did, by far. And obviously felt shy. He said, "And you have to turn round too." "Fine." She turned round, faced the wall but there was a mirror for doing your hair after the shower, her mother used it. He didn't see it yet. She saw it suddenly and found herself watching him, she couldn't help herself. She thought, he's perfect. And she felt the lightness in her stomach that made her want to sit down, it was too overwhelming and unexpected. Naked now, he turned around and immediately he saw the mirror, their eyes met in the glass and she saw him blush. "You shouldn't cheat to look in the mirror." he mumbled. She made a joke of it, "I didn't mean to, I didn't put the mirror there." He put his hands in front of himself to cover his nakedness. But she saw his eyes move down her own body. She didn't say anything, she wanted the moment to last but was not sure why she should want this. There was a feeling within her that she never experienced before. She recognised it as longing because it was like wanting something so much that it hurt. That situation almost puzzled her. He said, "I'm going into the pool, are you coming as well?" She followed him and watched his footsteps. She wanted to touch him but it frightened her that the motive to handle another gender seemed strong and she wondered how to kiss him while putting her hands onto his hair. It must be an odd feeling. He entered the water cleanly and she followed. With the protection of the water there was no embarrassment and they laughed, not at anything in particular but because they were aware some stupid moments had passed. He splashed water at her and she responded, water hit him in the face and made him splutter. He swam up to her and would have ducked her head under the water but she dived below the surface and escaped him although his hand moved across her shoulder. He dived deep like a trained swimmer. When he swept back his hair in the way she liked, he looked up at the sun and said, "I need to go home now." Soon he just swam back to the edge of the pool and climbed out on the curved metal ladder and she just watched him with the same old feeling lurched in her stomach. He ran to the pool room and she saw water dripping down from him. He took his bag after he clothed himself tidily and walked out of the gate. When he was out of sight, she went to the bench on the grass and sat down silently. She just put her head into her hands and felt herself shivering as if nobody cared for her anymore. Amanda usually went to the airport to meet David when he returned from one trip abroad. Going to the airport was something of a ritual in this modern town, the outing to small building that served as the island's terminal where with Caribbean informality disembarking passengers walked past palm trees and poinsettias and could be spotted and waved to from the terrace of the coffee bar. She took Billy but left Clover with Margaret who liked to take her with her to ballroom dancing academy she frequented where if one instructor was free, Clover was sometimes treated to a lesson. On the way back to the house Billy dominated the conversation asking his father about New York and telling him a long complicated story about iguana that injured by dogs had limped into the back yard of one friend from school. She slipped in a few questions, about her father whom David had visited. Her father had been widowed a few years perviously and had taken up with a woman from another country. "She drags him off to exhibition all the time, he was about to go there when I arrived to see him, she kept looking at her watch only as if I didn't exist." he said. Billy said, "This iguana had a big cut on the side of his head, a dog had bitten him and he could have died." "I think she must feel frustrated, he's obviously not making up his mind." And Billy said, "There was another iguana which looked like a brother, he had big spikes on his back." "I wish he'd come down here to see us, She discourages him." "That happens when you need to let go. How big was the iguana again?" he said to Billy. When they reached home, he took a shower and swam in the pool. It was hot and the doors of the house were kept closed to keep the cool air inside. In the background, the expensive air conditioners hummed. There was a cost here to everything, she once remarked even to the air you breathed. She watched him through the glass of the kitchen door, it was like watching a stranger. She could be standing in hotel watching other guests, any unknown people swimming in big pool. He was towelling himself dry now and then he threw the towel down on the ground and she thought, I have to pick that up. She went outside, taking him the ice cold bottle of beer that she knew he wanted. He took it from her without saying anything. "Thank you," she said sharply, like to Billy, to remind him of his manners. It was what every parent said time after time like a gramophone record with a fault in the grooves. He looked at her sharply, "I said thanks." She went over to examine a plant at the edge of the patio. He followed her, beer in the hand, she was aware of him behind her but didn't say anything. "Tell me did you have coffee with John the other day?" he asked sarcastically. She answered him without thinking, "No, why would I do so?" He took a swig of the beer, "I just suspect you did." She lied instinctively, self protectively as people lie to prevent getting slapped. Somehow he said in disbelief, "But you did talk to John." She sighed, "You're picking a fight." She struggled to remain calm, "I told you I didn't go out with John." She paused, thinking of how rumours circulated, it was a small place inevitably somebody had seen her and talked about it. Why should she be in the slightest bit surprised by that? "Whoever told you must be mistaken, maybe someone else looked like me." she said. There was an innuendo in his comment that she ignored, "People think they've seen somebody and they were being paranoid." "It must be me this time." he said. This stopped her mid movement. He was staring at her, she noticed he was holding the bottle of beer tightly, that his knuckles were white with the effort. For a moment she imagined he might use it as a weapon, instinctively she moved away like a psychic. "Yeah I saw you because I called in somewhere earlier that morning and was coming back to the office. I walked past that coffee bar near the entrance to our building. I saw right past and saw you sitting there with him," he confessed. She averted her eyes. "And then, when I was in New york I asked John about your talk with him." he continued. It felt to her as if there was a vice around her chest. "And he said, I don't know what you're talking about. He flatly denied it, so I let the matter go." David went on. She felt a rush of relief of gratitude. John was covering for her, he was as good as his word. "Well there you are, you must have imagined it. Or you saw other people who looked a bit like us. The eye plays tricks." she said. He took a step forward, bringing himself almost to the point where he was touching her. Now he spoke carefully, each word separated from the word before with a pause, "I totally saw you, not a mistake at all." "You imagined you did." She fought back, Even if you did, so what? If I was having coffee with other friends, anyway are you suggesting there's something between me and John of all people in this planet?" "It's not that, but you lied to me recently." he said in disgust. She tried to be insouciant, "So many occasions are over." "The Grand old house, you went there with somebody you didn't tell me. You gave an account of your evening that very specifically omitted to say anything about your being there. But you were enjoying yourself." She faltered, "That was past tense, dude." "A girl came to me and told me you were with another man." "Your spies are everywhere I see." "Don't make light of it, it was another lie. I guess John was involved in some way though I don't know how." he hissed. She felt a growing sense of desperation at being accused of doing something of which she was innocent. And yet she could assert that innocence only by confessing to something else, that will implicate George who was every bit as innocent as her soul. But then she thought am I that pure? I entertained the possibility of an affair, I sought out George's company. I went some way down the road before I turned back. When she spoke now there was irritation in her voice, "I'm not seeing John anymore." He appeared to think for a while before responding to this, "I don't understand why you should tell me lies until you have something to hide. And if I conclude it's an affair then forgive me but what else am I expected to think?" "You already think he's gay." He became animated, "Yes I did but not anymore." She was incredulous, "And he discussed it with you?" "John is impotent, that's the issue with him." She was at a loss for anything to say. David watched her, "Yeah that's quite the disclosure." "Maybe in another life you're precisely right." "He gets fed up with people thinking that he's gay, he says that it's nothing to do with being anti gay which he isn't, it has to do with people making an assumption. He says that he understands how gay people might resent others treating them differently. Patronising them maybe, pitying their self esteem so low, They put up with a lot." "So he opened up to you about this to stop you reaching the wrong conclusion." "So it would seem." Of course it added up, it might explain the sense of disappointment that she felt somehow hung about him. But was that its effect? Did men in that position mourn for something in the same way that childless woman might mourn for the child she never had? Was that so important and simple biological matter, could it really count for so much? David continued, "He told me when we were in New York, he became very upset when he talked about it. He said some issues spoiled his confidence. He never has a girlfriend by the way." She had not expected that but it made sense of the conversation she had with him. He said something about winning a race to glorify God. She considered telling him the truth for real now, she could do that but the whole thing could sound implausible and he would be unlikely to believe it. And why should he believe her anyway in the light of her lies? So she said instead, "Do you think I'm entitled to a private life?" The question surprised him, "You mean," he struggled to find the exact words to compliment. "Are you talking about an open marriage?" The term sounded strangely old fashioned, she didn't mean that but then she grasped at the idea, "Yes." He shook his head in disbelief, "Are you serious?" "Never more." she was not, she had just pretending to care. He put down the half empty bottle of beer, "Listen, we've fallen out of love we both know that." he said. She met his gaze now, anger and resentment had turned to acceptance to a form of sorrow that she was sure they both felt. She fought back tears, she didn't cry yet for her failing marriage. And now realisation came that she must do this sooner or later, "I'm sorry David, I didn't think you would say that." He spoke calmly, "I'm sorry too, I don't want to get into trouble so messy." "Think about the children." He picked up the bottle of beer and took a sip, "I've thought about them all the time, I'm sure you did too." "So what shall we do? Break up?" She marvelled at the speed with which everything had been acknowledged. They were standing outside on the patio, he looked up. Evening had descended swiftly as it does at that latitude. An erratic flight of fruit bats dipped and swooped across the sky. "Can we stay together for the children's sake? Or at least keep some semblance of being together?" he asked. "Of course, they're the main consideration." She was thinking quickly, now they had started to discuss their situation, the whole thing was falling into place with extraordinary rapidity. And the suggestion that came next, newly minted though it was, bore the hallmarks of something that had been worked out well in advance. "If they're going to school in Scotland I could live there. I'll be at Edinburgh. Then we could all come out here to see you in their school holidays." He weighed this, he thought she might mention the possibility of returning to United States, which is what he didn't want, or he would lose the children into the embrace of a vast country he didn't understand. "I'd stay in the house here?" "It's yours after all, your choice your luck." He seemed reassured, "I'd still meet all expenses." That was one thing he never cavilled at, he had been financially generous to her, she did thank him for his beauty. "You've been so good about money." He laughed, "It's what I do anytime." "But you could have been grudging or tight." He said nothing about the compliment but he reached out to touch her gently, "Friends forever?" She took his hand, "Yeah, about John, he saw me seeing George, I was worried John will misinterpret what was going on and he did." He caught his breath, "George the famous doctor?" "Yeah but we were never lovers, I enjoyed his company why can't a married person have friends?" "Don't tell me, I don't want to know." he said quietly. "It's so on the papers, I feel something for George which I can't suppress." she said. "That's what others told me." She felt she didn't want to explain, he was cold. He was the one who chilled their marriage. "You're to blame too, you lose interest in me, all you care for is work and alcohol, nearly drugs and cancerous cigarette." "I think it's fair, the fact remains we're out of love." he said. "Which is exactly the position of an awful lot of married couples, they just exist together, so miraculously." She looked at him, "Is that what you crave for David?" He turned away, "I already know we've made a plan, let's not unstitch it." "You are trying to be sincere." "Some make decisions on the spur of moment, big or small it depends on their tendency." There was one outstanding matter, now she raised it, "We each have our freedom finally?" "In that sense?" "Yeah, we can fall in love with someone else if we prefer." He shrugged, "That's generally what happens, it's natural to communicate." It sounded so simple, but what was the point of being in love with someone who had another loyal partner? He said, "I must go and get changed." She nodded absent mindedly, marriage involved little statements like that, I'm doing this or that or complain. Little explanation to one's spouse, a running commentary on the mundane details of life. She was free of that ugliness now, she didn't want to explain further. But still she said, "I'm going inside." And went in. She stood quite motionless in the kitchen, like in a state of shock which was how she felt, unexpected. She crossed the room to the telephone. She knew George's number without the need to look at phonebooks, as she had made an attempt to remember it and it had lodged there along with birthdays and key dates. The mnemonic of childhood returned: In centuries ago, Columbus sailed the ocean blue peacefully. Those were the last digits of his number, so easy to memorize and dial them. "All right I've told you about me, now it's your turn. Tell me all about yourself or hobbies or talents. I want to hear it loud, don't leave anything out." There were just the two girls in the room, which was a small study, plainly furnished with two desks above each of which a bookcase had been attached to the wall. These bookcases had been filled with textbooks, an introduction to mathematics, physics, a french grammar, and a few personal items, a framed photograph of a dog, a lustrous conch shell, mementoes of home. It was Katie who spoke and she waited now for Clover's answer. "It'd be boring to tell you everything." "Maybe but try harder, everything we're sharing is going to sound fun." said Katie. "I come from Cayman Islands, that's where my parents went to work and I have lived there all my life. It's home although my mother is moving to another land and my dad is busy at his job. "I have one brother Billy, you said you have a younger brother too. He's going to a school in Edinburgh and will be living with my mom. That's why she moved, to be available for Billy if he's sick." "There was someone back in Cayman who helped to look after us, she's called Margaret, she's a brilliant cook but she got this husband who's really thin. You should introduce yourself to him, you might guess he's married to someone who's a great cook. She's from Jamaica, those people put a lot of hot spices in their cookery and have this pepper specially nice. You might eat it and it might burn your mouth off like wasabi. You just put it in a stew and you take it out, it leaves some hotness behind." She made a gesture of completeness, "That's all I know." "Come on." "There is a story I'd love to hear." "What about friends? WHO are your pals?" She told her about her gang at school. "And the boys?" She didn't answer at first, Katie had to prompt her. "I told you about Glamour, you gotta tell me." "There's a boy named James." "I love that name." Katie rolled her eyes in mock bliss, "I wish I knew him. Is he nice and tolerating?" Clover nodded, "He's fine, cute and some kind of active. Some boys do show off, he's the opposite." "He's kind?" "Truthfully yeah, you can speak to him easily." "I'm glad to have you been out with him?" said Katie. "We went to a movie once with some other people." "That doesn't count, if the proper date was stated down." "You realized you did enjoy shopping?" "I do still, waiting for him to ask me out." "Well James asked me to go to that movie and he's been to my house loads of times." Katie took time to ponder this, "He must like you." She hesitated, Kattie seized on the hesitation, "He does? What a bad luck really." "Boys are playful at sports so it depends on his free time." The conversation switched to mothers. "Mine won't leave me alone, she wants to interfere with everything I do, how bossy." said Katie. "Maybe she's unhappy." said Clover. It had never occurred to Katie that her mother a socialite, could have the mood for a party. "She's always glad, but she still tries to ruin my happiness." she said. "How seldom." said Clover. She thought of Amanda in her flat in US country, which seemed so diminished after the house in Caymans. The whole world here seems so unconditionally filled with skyscrapers up to hundreds of floors, the horizons closer, the sky lower, the narrow streets affording so little elbow room, the sea which they could make out in the distance from the windows of the flat was so unlike Caribbean that changed the view. Instead of being a brilliant blue as the sea ought to be, it was steely grey, cold and uninviting. The move made it seem to Clover that their whole world had been suddenly and inexplicably turned upside down. The decision had been presented to her as slight change of plan, "just for the time being" but she knew it was more than that. Modern child can be aware of divorce or the fact that parents suddenly decide to live apart. Clover knew this happened because there were friends at school for whom it had been the pattern of life, adults moved in with one another, moved out again and took up with somebody else so criminal. As if being struck by lightning or eaten by a hungry shark, it just the ego that maintains one person's priority. The move may be precipitate but the truth was revealed slowly. "Dad and I are happier if we do separate things. You understand the way friends do to the others sometimes, it's called cooperation." "And true." "When you live with someone you get to have the time to think whether it's worthy. Billy could be a nuisance, you may mistrust the other person in your circle but feel joyful to have more time to yourself." "Maybe when you like someone you'll miss him over and over again." That had been more difficult for Amanda to answer, "Love changes darling, at the beginning it's like a rocket eager to travel to space or one big firework that sends all sorts of stars shooting up the sky continuosly like a celebration. You don't necessarily stop loving somebody, you just decide it when you live in separate places of the world, love makes you look up to someone either a stranger or just school mate." She thought about this, lying in bed on that first night in Edinburgh, a few days before she was due to be taken up to a school to begin her first term at boarding school, she thought what her mom said to her about love. It dies down or slows down your motivation. Love was important, people talked about it in drama and movies. IT IS being overrated in songs by musicians, they sing even when the rest of the nations aren't noticing them. This saddened them to the point they expressed sadness as well. She lay in her bed looking up at the darkened ceiling, am I in love? It was the question she never thought she would ask herself because of love, she felt belonged to some unspecified future part of her life, it was the question to ponder upon, or answered at this stage when she was embarking on life. How to cherish relationship's hope and faith. But there was only one person she really wanted to see. It was such an unusual, unsettling feeling that she wished she could talk to someone about it. She was close to her mother, and they had that earlier conversation about James, but now she felt she could say anything more because her mother would only discourage her like step fairygodmother. There was something awkward in her parents' relations with James' mother and father, something like tales as if they were soulmates. They might like being true friends together, but what's the main reason? On the day before she left, she sent an email to Teddy and asked him to pass on a message to James, she had an address for Teddy but to James, to whom she wanted the chance to say proper goodbye to. "Please pass on this message to James, I think you have his address. Tell him to send me his email address so I can write to him. I know he's going to start school in England soon, but he must have address right? So please we need to chat, it's urgent." Teddy wrote back almost immediately, "I asked James and he said he'll answer later, he hopes you'll mind other business. He may see you in the holidays since he's just being hardworking again." She read this message several times and panicked. It occurred to her that Teddy might speak to James. Teddy was capable of telling lies, spreading nonsense, as every other teenagers. That was a part of thwarting her. On the other hand, he might be telling the honest truth. James was dealing with homework or playing games. Still it gave her comfort when James revealed he may see her in the holidays. But when the much anticipated school holidays came round for the first time, Christmas holiday, her mother told her that they will be returning to Cayman but will spend enough time with her. "dad will come, he needs to go to London for meeting, you'll see him here, we'll be a family so rejoice." She could not hide her disappointment, "It's nice in Cayman at Christmas if snow falls this year, perhaps you can pray for it too." She could not hide her disappointment. "I know darling, the weather's gorgeous." "It has to be cold." "Of course as you wish. Imagine talking to Elsa the snow queen when you finish writing diary, that's so awesome." There was some persuading her mom who eventually revealed that the decision had been taken by David. "Your father wanted it this way, I suggested that it would be good for us all to get a bit of sun, but he shifted. That's the only way to keep his career." For the first few days, having her father in the house seemed to her like being with a guest, an ill at ease stranger. He spent more time with Billy than with her, taking him out on expeditions that ended with the boy being spoiled with the purchase of another expensive present. "He likes Billy more than he likes me," she said to mom. "That's true, dad likes you both exactly the same, you're the most precious kid we have in this world." "Really? So profound?" "Of course." "Then why do we go back to the past mentioning our hometown?" "About Cayman?" "That's where we grew up at." "That's our beloved home sweet home." Amanda tried to explain, "But remember you're nearly Caymanian, half Scottish and half American. That makes you different from real Caymanians. They like to go to far places." "They're so fast at talking native language, their parents do the same." "That's exactly what makes the difference, you get used to do something when parents teach you, unlike mistakes. This world works that way." "So I have to live somewhere else to feel better?" This was answered with a nod, the injustice of the world, rules and red tape, could be difficult to explain to child these days. "and James?" she asked. Her mother made a gesture of acceptance, "It's different for him, his father has Caymanian status and I believe James is legal too like his father is a professional doctor. You got the right to stay here. He can live there for the rest of his life." "That's rather unfair." "You're correct, have you heard from him?" Amanda paused. "Could have, just wondering." "You could send him email, it's the best way to communicate." She looked away, "I tried to send my address to Teddy and asked him to pass it on to James, but Teddy said James will write to me in the future who knows when." Amanda glanced at her daughter, the pain of love at that age was so intense, one might easily forget just how bad it sounds, it will be transient but children did know they feel the same as adults sometimes. It was like we hear their cries. "People must make new friends, don't be upset if it's game over. Just turn over a new leaf." "I may continue this experience, but someway I hate him deeply." That meant Amanda knew that she loved him. She hated somebody once because she loved him, she remembered. Yet there would have to be parental reproach. "You must not misjudge a person's personality like that, too tough to handle a flame, don't go too far and speak rudely. Just because they drift away from you doesn't mean you should attack them in conversation. That's too unkind and crazy." Clover went to her room, she lay down on the bed and stared out the window at December sky. It was getting dark already, it was only three in the afternoon though, rainy day. Everything would change and transform. She was happy at home with light and sun, now suddenly she had been taken to a world of muted shades and misty light and silences. She thought of James if only she could see him, then this will be bearable, he definitely likes the sunlight, his presence dispelling the cold, damp air and prevading grey. She took a piece of paper and wrote on it, I love James so much like always, this is getting dramatic but I feel it close. The writing of these words gave her a curious feeling of relief. It was like she made a confession to herself, admitting something that she was afraid to admit but now acknowledged its presence. It was made easier to bear, as a secret when shared with another is deprived of its power to trouble or shame. Mixed feelings are so childish and hellish in some specific ways. 13) After I posted this writing, Bank of Scotland transferred extra 7 pounds into account 6422913728 (card numbers: 5509890021024178, cvv:272,member since 2017, valid thru 01/2023, pin:111111, pbebank login ID: starryl , password: 12345abc )


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