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On the last night of the holiday I decided to ask for what I really wanted. I suppose you’d say they were ordinary things, really—certainly not what we’d done the previous nights, and not what you’d think a woman like me should have to pay a 20-year-old boy to do.
So I knelt on his futon bed and I told him to kneel behind me and just massage my scalp. Then, shouting over the racket from his ceiling fan, I blathered out my home troubles: getting passed over for the nurse manager promotion, and how my younger married sister never helps with our widowed mother. A tale of woe, for sure, but he said that so long as he got paid his usual, it was all the same to him.
Afterward I didn’t pay him straight away, but for the first time, I had him walk me back to the Bougainvillea Resort, hand in hand up the empty beach, my dress fluttering in the hot wind.
“Real gentlemen walk a lady all the way to her door,” I said. It came out tetchier than I’d intended, and I heard how funny and awful the “gentleman” part sounded. But he didn’t seem vexed at all, and anyway, back home or abroad, I believe in reminding those kinds of people who’s the paying customer –who’s helping him to pay the rent on his little flat with the corrugatedroof and the bloody hens clucking under the window.
“Local boys not allowed on resort property.” He said it like it was a megaphone announcement. Or something he’d been told and told, or that he’d told to a dozen pale women like me.
“Sure, I won’t tell,” I said, suddenly bolting across the sand, praying for his breath and his steps behind me. He caught up and took my hand again, and when we reached the resort’s wooden steps, we stamped the sand off our feet.
“Goodbye fine Irish lady,” he whispered. We were standing at the bottom of the outside stairwell; he wouldn’t risk it any further. So I gave him his money and for the first time he actually kissed me before he turned and ducked under the palm trees and walked away into the island dark.
It was the dead of night when the noise woke me. I got up to cross to my veranda, half expecting to see him down there, pitching pebbles or whispering my name.
There was only the slow creep of the sea.
In the morning the street outside was barricaded, a constable in his khaki uniform and white gloves diverting all traffic around the Bourgainvilla Hotel.
“What happened?” I asked young Sophia, my favourite waitress, who always gave an extra boil to my tea water. Sophia said she would miss me very much. That I was a lovely lady guest.
As usual I took my last cuppa to the pool patio, where it was already roasting hot and there was a buzz of gossipy news around the umbrella tables.
“What?” I asked Anthony the barman.
“A most regrettable occurrence, Ma’am, but our Bourgainvilla lady guests are always safe. And now, I make for you my goodbye guava cocktail?”
Most of the other guests were already sucking on their umbrella drinks and pints of cold beer. But I reminded Anthony that I didn’t mix booze with my morning tea, and that I still had two suitcases to pack for the flight home.
The hot wind rustled the newspaper on the taxi’s back seat. My airport driver was just pointing out the roadside sugar cane fields when I picked up their little paper and turned it over to the front page: POLICE SHOOT RESORT INTRUDER.
I rolled it up and stuffed it into my carry-on, wanting to be alone when I read his death story, when I saw that young face.