The big four wheel drive bumped and lurched along the uneven track that appeared to have been hardly used recently.
The vehicle came to what looked like the top of a cliff and Daniel was about to yell out to his mother that she was taking them over the edge when he saw a steep track leading down to a ledge on the cliff, and on the ledge the cottage.
The track was worse than the one they had just driven over but Jeanette managed to negotiate it and pulled up outside the cottage.
They both got out of the vehicle somewhat shaken after their bumpy ride, and stood surveying the place.
It had been built by an island farmer for use by his family and friends, but recently he had died from cancer and his widow had sold the place to Jeanette.
"So this is it," Daniel commented. "Has father seen it?"
"You know he hasn't," Jeanette replied.
Daniel looked sardonic as he said, "As usual, you can do as you like just so long as you don't bother him."
"I don't think you should talk about your father like that, Daniel."
"But its true mother, it's been true for as long as I can remember. You go off on trips by yourself, or with me sometimes; he goes away himself without you, and now you buy this place and he doesn't even bother to come and see it."
"Well, he's always so busy darling."
"Is he...is he really. Well I can tell you this much, if I was married to a woman like you I wouldn't let her out of my sight."
"You've said that before and its very flattering darling, but I really don't think its something you should say to me."
Daniel shrugged, "The truth is always hard swallow."
Jeanette ignored this and said, "Well, what do you think?"
"Looks okay on the outside, what's it like inside?"
"You'll have plenty of time to find out since we're here for a fortnight."
"On our island paradise for a fortnight, God that ferry trip was rough; I didn't think it could get so bad out there."
"You think that was rough, they don't run the ferry when there's a storm. Now stop complaining and criticising and come and see the inside."
* * * * * * * *
It was plain to see that the farmer had done himself well given the circumstances: no mains electricity or gas and no telephone. Electricity was produced with a petrol generator and gas brought over in bulbous metal containers by the ferry from the mainland. By these means the lighting and power were provided for domestic needs. As far as lighting was concerned, if all else failed candles or a kerosene lamp were to be used.
Daniel had to agree that his mother had bought well, if remotely. The only town of any note was thirty kilometres distant and there were few habitations between cottage and town.
He went out onto what he assumed to be a veranda at the back of the cottage. It proved to be a platform and from it he could see the cliff dropping down to a small cove some forty metres below.
From here he could see the clear water of the cove. Cliffs in an arc stretched round the cove to almost but not quite meet on the seaward side and he could hear the thunder of the ocean rollers as they surged against the cliffs of the main coastline. But in the cove the water was calm and tranquil.
Jeanette came and stood beside him, her arm round his waist.
"What do you think, darling?"
"Its paradise, mother." He grinned and added, "Just so long as I can get that generator started."
She laughed and said, "We won't need it until evening, or when I want to start the washing machine."
Rather seductively Daniel said, "I've heard that women always look more attractive by candlelight, so maybe I won't start it."
Jeanette slapped him playfully on the cheek saying, "Then I'll start it myself, and in any case you're my son and you're supposed to think I'm attractive whether by candlelight or any other light."
"Oh I do mother," Daniel responded, giving her a gentle pat on her rather firm buttocks.
"Don't do that Daniel," she protested, "I'm your mother, not some girl you've just picked up."
"A pity," Daniel replied.
"Stop it and come a help me get something to eat, and you can check out whether that gas refrigerator is working and then unload the car."
"Which do you want me to do first, help you get lunch, check the refrigerator or unload the car?"
"Oh don't be so exasperating Daniel, just get on with it."
"Yes ma'am," Daniel replied, giving her a mock salute, and hastened off to peer through the little hole at the bottom of the refrigerator to see that the thing was alight. The refrigerator checked, the car unloaded, Jeanette had lunch ready by the time Daniel was finished.
Over lunch Daniel asked, "When's his royal highness coming over to survey this corner of his empire?"
Trying to suppress a smile Jeanette said, "Don't talk about your father like that, he'll come over when he can get away, and in any case, it's my little empire."
"Not for long," Daniel quipped, "he'll soon arrive as the conquering hero and take over, he always does."
"Well it is his money that paid for it."
"No it isn't, you bought this out of the money grandfather left you," Daniel said vehemently.
Jeanette struggled to find a response to this, and eventually said, "Well your father does provide a lot of..."
"And doesn't he make sure that everybody knows, including us."
"I won't discuss this anymore Daniel. I don't know when your father will come over, and we're supposed to enjoy ourselves, so let's leave it at that. Now we'd better start putting things away, and for goodness sake keep your room tidy."
"Don't I always?"
"No you do not. I'm always tidying up after you, but I'm on holidaying too so just...oh what's the use, you never take any notice of what I say."
"Yes I do, I looked at the refrigerator and unloaded..."
"All right mister virtuous, now just get on with the unpacking."
"You're word is my command," Daniel said solemnly, and then ducked at Jeanette flung a tea towel at him.
* * * * * * * *
When everything had been stowed away Daniel went out on to the platform again and surveyed the view more closely. Steps on one side to the platform went down to a steep foot track that ended at a small sandy beach. On one side of the cove the cliffs were sheer, but on the other side there jutted out a ledge of rock.
Jeanette joined him and pointing to the ledge he said, "A good place to fish from."
"Yes," Jeanette replied, "and to dive from."
"Didn't know you could dive."
"There's a lot you don't know about me my boy," Jeanette laughed, "and anyway almost anybody can dive -- or jump in." "Yes, I suppose so. I think I'll take a walk along cliff top and take a look at the seaward side, are you coming?"
"No, this place hasn't been used for some time and there are a lot of cobwebs, I'm going to get rid of them."
"Poor spiders, their homes destroyed," Daniel quipped, and went back through the cottage and made his way up the track they had recently descended to the cliff top.
He followed the cliff until it reach the point where it almost met the other side. The outward side of the cliffs rose steeply. Out to sea great ocean rollers came surging in to boil and thunder against the cliff base.
He could see the coastline in both directions for several kilometres and there seemed to be no break in the cliffs.
"We really are isolated," he muttered to himself.
He wandered along the cliff top for over an hour but came upon no other cove or inlet. He noted that the vegetation grew so as to lean away from the prevailing winds.
Back in the cottage he found Jeanette preparing the evening meal.
"You can peel those potatoes and carrots, Daniel," she said.
He went up behind her and saying, "Your word is my command," he parted her long hair and kissed the back of her neck.
For a moment she leaned back into him, and he felt her tremble and then pulling away she said, "Don't do that to me Daniel it makes me feel...feel...well just don't do it."
Daniel moved away from her and glumly sat at the kitchen table and started peeling a potato.
They worked in silence for a while until Jeanette, detecting his gloom, asked, "Why so silent Daniel?"
"No particular reason," he prevaricated, "just don't feel like talking."
"Uncharacteristic," Jeanette observed.
"No it's not, I often don't talk."
"I hadn't noticed, is it because I told you not to kiss my neck?"
"No...well yes, it was a sort of rejection."
"No it wasn't...oh I suppose it was in a way. I just don't think you ought to do that to me; it's something that should be reserved for your girlfriends."
"The one's you..."
"There aren't any girls here except you." "You knew that before we left, and I'm not a girl, I'm a woman and your mother and you've not right to make me feel..."
"Nothing, just get on with the peeling."
Silence fell between them again until Jeanette suddenly made a noise that sounded to Daniel like a sob and ran to her bedroom. He wondered for a moment if he should go to her and find out what was wrong, but decided against, thinking that she would tell him if she wanted to.
He continued his peeling and when he finished took over where Jeanette had left off and prepared the rest of the meal.
After a while she came out and entered the shower. He heard the hiss of water and it occurred to him that he had no idea where the water came from since along with the gas and electricity there was no mains supply.
Like someone puzzling over a word they do not understand, and who can't be bothered to look it up in a dictionary, even when one is close to hand, Daniel didn't bother to go and find out whence came the water. Had he been less of a townie he might have guessed.
Jeanette returned to find the meal partially cooked. "What's this, have you become a born again cook? I never knew you could cook."
Daniel grinned and parodying her earlier remark to him said, "There's a lot you don't know about me. By the way, where does our water supply come from?"
"Daniel, for a bright young man you can be incredibly ignorant, its tank water -- rainwater. Go outside and you'll see two tanks."
"I'll take your word for it. Do you mean if it doesn't rain we won't have any water?"
"Not unless we pay for a water tanker to come from the town to refill, but it won't come to that, the tanks are full, I checked."
"My God, we're going to thirst in more ways than one."
"What other ways?"
"Never mind, I'm going to serve the meal now."
* * * * * * * *
Over the meal they continued in this bantering fashion, but it was a bantering that covered what was going on in their minds.
Partly it was the realisation that they were together in a rather isolated place. Not since his childhood could Daniel recall being completely alone with his mother.
In their large suburban home there were people continuously coming and going, and there were always their two servants around the place somewhere.
It is in places and situations such Daniel and Jeanette now found themselves that we come to know the other person in ways that do not show up in the hurly burly of city life.
In a way they would be getting to know each other over again. For years Daniel had been at boarding school. This had been his father's idea, "It'll make a man of him," which being interpreted meant, "I don't want him round the place."
His mother had protested but his father had been adamant. "You don't want him growing up to be a mother's boy, do you?"
With the instincts of a child Daniel had always known that as far as his father was concerned he was a nuisance. He had once overheard his parents arguing vociferously and his father's words had stayed with him.
"You wanted the bloody kid, not me."
His father's dislike of him was reciprocated, and Daniel was always relieved when his father wasn't around.
Now he wondered if his mother had bought the cottage so that they could be together occasionally, knowing that her husband was unlikely to come calling. For a moment he considered asking her outright, but decided against. If that had been the reason for her purchase, she would no doubt eventually say so.
When the meal was over and cleared away, Daniel grinned and said, "I'll go and take a look."
"The tanks...the water tanks."
"I thought you said you'd take my word for it."
"I did, but now I wish to have full enlightenment."
He went outside and finding he tanks commenced to tap on them. Ascertaining by the sound that both tanks were nearly full he went back inside, announcing that all was well.
"Where's the television," he asked.
"Daniel, you're incredibly unobservant; there is no television set, only radio."
"No television," he said in mock horror, "I shall fade away without my nightly fill of garbage. You see, that's something else we shall thirst for."
"You'll just have to make do with radio, and I've brought the scrabble board and a few other board games."
"I'm not playing scrabble with you," Daniel said, "you always win."
"It'll help increase your vocabulary -- on second thoughts that might not be a good idea, you talk too much already."
They did however play scrabble, and of course Jeanette won.
By the time they finished the game it was time for bed. Having showered earlier Jeanette bade him goodnight. As she did so she seemed about to kiss him, hesitated, and then didn't. This puzzled Daniel because they had always kissed goodnight.
He showered and then clambered into bed. He didn't go to sleep immediately and lay thinking about the cottage and Jeanette.
During those years at boarding school he had seen little of her. Now finally released from that "man making" purgatory it was as if they were getting to know each other all over again.
While still at boarding school Jeanette had always come to that particular torment, the annual school Speech Day. On these occasions the principal assured the parents that "Here we develop the fully rounded boy."
Daniel remembered how proud he had been of his mother when he compared her to other boys' mothers; her features so regular, her nose was small and straight. Her mouth and chin looked as if they had been lovingly formed by an artist, and she had such lovely green long lidded eyes and long golden hair.
Five feet nine in height, when she was standing her figure was seen to be magnificent. In the latter part of his school years when he and the other boys his age were passing through puberty, the boys had thought she was his sister and often craved to be introduced.
On the occasions of her visits, or when his vacation visits home came to an end, he had always wanted to cry when parting from her, but he hadn't because it wasn't manly.
And where had his father been in all this? Nowhere; he hadn't attended a single speech day, but objectively one could hardly blame him for avoiding the boredom of a droning principal. But his father had always been nowhere in his life. True, he provided money, but that for him was the easy thing to do. Of affection there had been none; but when he became consciously aware of such things he came to see that his mother received no affection from him either.
Jeanette was a sort of prize he had won, and was happy to show off to others. At times it had sickened him to see his father display all the signs of a devoted and affectionate husband when in company and neglect her when the company had gone.
In some respects it had been the same with him. When he won awards for academic or sporting achievements his father had been quick to boast, "Of course, my boy came top of his year in..." In private there was nothing said, unless it had been to find fault.
His mother had been incredibly loyal to her husband, always checking Daniel if he made a critical remark about his father. He wondered why she defended him like that, even why she stayed with him.
Even more he wondered at his father's attitude towards her. She was not only beautiful to look at, she was warm and gentle. Of course his father wasn't violent, just offhand in a slightly caustic manner; he never seemed to miss the opportunity to make a cutting remark.
Did his mother love his father despite his casual treatment of her? Or was it because his father was financially well off that she stayed? He certainly was not mean with his money, but a year ago his mother had been left a considerable amount of money by her father, hence the cottage. He wasn't sure how much had been left to her, but he suspected it was enough to make her financially independent.
He had mulled these thought over many times before and had never reached a conclusion, and he reached none now as with the muted roar of the breakers in his ears he drifted off to sleep.
* * * * * * * * The day dawned fine and over breakfast Daniel announced that he would try his luck fishing. Breakfast over he took a hand line and went out to the rock ledge he had seen the previous day. He flung the line out and sat down to wait patiently for a fish to bite.
Several times he had to pull the line in, small fish having nibbled off the bait. It was a beautiful day and he sat quietly and appreciatively looking at the scenery.
He saw Jeanette come out onto the cottage platform dressed in a one piece backless swim suit. She came down the steps to the beach where she dropped her towel and then came along the rocky ledge towards him. Passing him she said, "And now you can see me dive."
She stopped about five metres from him and stood looking down at the clear water below. She was standing in profile to Daniel, and as she raised her arms preparatory to diving his breath seemed to catch in his throat. He thought he had never seen such a beautiful figure before. Slender with her breasts clearly defined and her long legs exposed right up to the top of her thighs, she looked so lovely that he felt near to tears.
In that moment he knew the depths of his love for her and, disconcertingly, his desire for her. His penis began to harden and he felt that he would willingly die if he could just once...just once...
She dived in a stylish arc and knifed cleanly into the water. Her entry disturbed the water, but he could see her as she struck out under water and then surface. She started to swim to the other side of the cove, moving quickly with powerful strokes.
"How gracefully she does everything," he murmured.
He watched her as she reached the other side of the cove, pause, and then begin to swim back. She headed towards the little beach where she had left her towel. Daniel, seeing this, looped the end of the fishing line round a small rocky projection and went to meet her as she came ashore.
"The water's wonderful," she said, "you should have a swim yourself."
"I will," he grinned, "after I've caught a fish."
She was drying her hair with the towel and she asked, "Would you dry my back?"
He took the towel and started drying her. It was a very sensuous experience and as he finished he dropped the towel and put his arms round her waist. She leaned back against him as she had done the previous day, but now he felt her firm buttocks pressing against his hardened penis and his hands went up to cup her breasts.
For a moment she seemed to yield to his touch, but then suddenly pulling away she cried out, "No...no...we can't, we mustn't..."
She turned to look at him for a moment and he thought he could see something akin to fear in her eyes. Then she repeated, "We can't, we mustn't."
She picked up the towel from where he had dropped it and fled up the track to the cottage. Reaching the platform she paused for a moment to look at him. She shook her head and then disappeared into the cottage.
Daniel stood staring after her, his face flushed with a combination of frustration and shame. What did she think of him now he had so blatantly revealed his feeling to her; how could he face her? How could they stay together in the cottage for a whole two weeks?