Beyond the FrangipanibyScotsman69©
Author's note: this is her valediction. My thanks to her for her editing skills, and everything else.
This story has been published in 'Kerouac's Dog' magazine.
He stroked her slippy thigh as they sat at the pavement cafe sipping cheap local beer. The day was humid and grey, as the previous days had been: hot and sultry but unsunny on this busy tropical island. The smells of the street pervaded them: spices and sweat, the flat sourness of the open street drains with just a hint of sewage. Sweat dripped from them both after a morning sightseeing on foot. They had explored a mosque and a Chinese temple positioned cheek-by jowl, bartered cheerfully for batik in the market. He wiped the beads from her brow delicately, his eyes unwaveringly on hers.
- I think it's time love.
The woman started. She'd been expecting this, had agreed before they arrived here that it was the time and place to take things a step further. But the blunt statement still caught her offguard, and she shivered, holding his gaze, a frisson of fear and excitement running up her spine. She sipped her drink.
- Yes love. I want us to push things further, you know that.
- In the top of this -- he touched his rucsac -- there is something which confirms your acquiescence. You will have the opportunity to use it, or not. The choice is yours.
She bowed her head:
- Yes love. I understand perfectly.
- Thank you darling. Now pay the bill. Let's get back to the hotel before the rain starts.
She rose. The short cotton skirt scarcely covered her arse as she walked to the Chinese lady and paid for the beer, the little lapdog licking her toes through the sandals. He smiled, knowing the effect of this unsought-for addition to the script, watching her face carefully for its betrayal. But her smile remained fixed as she took the change.
Her arm slid possessively round his waist as they wandered down the street, thronged with vehicles and people of every description in this once-outpost of the British Empire: Chinese, Tamil, Indonesian, Malay. Only the occasional white tourist in a teeming working city far from the top of the list of must-see places in the guide books. That was precisely why they were here: because it was off the tourist trail. And for the deeply personal reasons they both understood.
Street-smells engulfed them as they walked.
When they turned into Love Lane, they were faced by an untidy phalanx of uniformed schoolchildren escaping for their lunch-hour, spilling from uneven pavements onto the street. He stroked her arse under the skirt as they stood aside in the doorway of a crumbling building to allow the throng to pass. Felt her delicious shiver. Noticed the fading lettering beside the door: 'Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China'. Overcome by the familiarity of the woman in the incongruous strangeness of this place, he breathed faintly:
- Soon, sweetness.
His fingers dug momentarily through the silk and into her arse. He relished her trembling. She was fragile, a bit frightened: very excited. She couldn't speak. She was ready.
Then the sky opened. The thunder had been rumbling all morning, occasional lightning streaks across the lowering grey, but there was no herald to the downpour. It just came: hard rods of warm liquid turning buildings yards away into shimmers, like reflections on disturbed water. The streetsmells exploded with the moisture. The woman tugged his arm and they ducked into a cafe.
A table under the thrumming awning cleared of card-players as they entered the space, and a smiling Malay lady bowed them to the empty table. He smiled at his woman as they took their seats:
- That was providential. I think you need something stiff?
- A G&T darling -- she hesitated -- a large one.
- Careful. We don't want you pissed, do we? But a large G&T you shall have.
He gazed at this woman who meant so much to him. He was amazed that he had found someone as remarkable who just accepted him. She was accomplished in every way, intelligent, perceptive, sexy beyond any man's dreams. Perfection. He was always surprised and elated that this woman had chosen him. She gave him everything he needed, everything he'd ever dreamed of in a partner. At his age. She was his. He shook himself from his reverie and looked at her again. Today they would go somewhere they had never been before. She was frightened and excited. So was he.
They sipped their drinks, looking on as the horde of schoolchildren in the street dwindled; bags, jackets, anything, stretched over heads as if the diminishing downpour could damage human skin; till all was back to normal. Occasional passers-by, ubiquitous badly-driven Proton cars in this patriotic country. The woman shivered, reflecting on the dislocation of her past few days in this new world with her man. She took his hand from the table and kissed the backs of the fingers:
- I've finished love. The rain's stopped. Let's move.
He drained his beer and stood:
- Yes. Time to move.
Her head was a turmoil as they stepped onto a street running with rainwater. She had an idea where this afternoon might go: wasn't sure if she was ready for it. But it was happening, and she had already chosen. And whatever occurred then... she shivered, for what seemed like the fiftieth time in ten minutes. She had no choice.
They reached the main road and dodged traffic to reach the triangle of green parkland in front of their hotel. The building rose stark and new above the jumble of two-storey colonial buildings beside it: an architectural statement that the external world had penetrated the post-colonial but still Victorian outpost.
She paused by the fragrant blossoms they'd noticed the night before:
- You said you wanted a photo of me with the frangipani. Now?
- Yes please, now darling. At your most alluring, please.
The woman adjusted her clothing so her nipples pressed the cotton top and thigh showed at the closure of the short skirt.
- Perfect. Thank you.
A muffled click from the electronic shutter announced the picture. He stood for a second, breathing heavily, then stowed the camera in the rucsac. And unzipped the top pocket.
She reached in and her face blanched, but her hand withdrew the collar. She inspected it carefully, sniffed it, and drew it carefully round her neck till it was buckled under her long hair. Her eyes didn't leave his, and she drew breath at a vision she hadn't seen before. He was rooted to the spot, his face a strange hungry blank. But his eyes. Fuck, his eyes. She felt them seeing through her, through the tits they were fastened on, through her body and away, far away, somewhere she didn't recognise in him at all. She was nobody, but she was his nobody.
The Sikh nodded them through, smiling, holding the door as though they were royalty, and they were engulfed in the cool of the hotel's air-conditioning. Her head was in a different place, trying to cope with the churning in her viscera. So she didn't hear what her man said to the young Malay at the desk, but she saw the boy's face widen at the words. Then they were both in the lift, she was being swept to their room, and she followed his instructions, knowing what they were before the words issued from his mouth.
The Malay boy tapped hesitantly at the door. This was a strange request, and he wasn't quite sure he should have acceded to it, but he was here now. The white man opened the door, shook his hand solemnly, ushered him into the room. The white woman lay on the bed. Completely naked, splayed lasciviously.