Recently widowed Kate King wandered through the market and unwittingly became separated from her guided tour party of twenty-four and only when she came to the last stalls and saw the edge of the jungle did she appreciate she was adrift.
God, how stupid.
Kate had not idea where she was, spotted a cab and grabbed it.
The cabbie couldn't understand English apart from yes and no and dollar and seemed confused which word to use. But he understood when she checked her watch in panic and said, "Ship."
He nodded and blasting on the horn sent people ducking.
"Much yes no?"
Kate assumed that meant she would have to pay much dollars and accepted that and tried "Si."
The guy drove like an idiot for fifteen minutes whereas Kate thought a slow 10-minute ride would have brought them to the port.
Finally the guy stopped the vehicle. Wiping away sweat and drinking from a bottle that looked suspiciously like whiskey he pointed expansively and said, "Ship."
Kate looked at a bunch of motley sheep and groaned "Omigod."
They arrived back at the port ten minutes after the cruise ship had cleared the port.
Kate paid off her repulsive cabbie and hurried to the office of the cruise line and a haughty woman behind the counter said, "Ah our lost passenger. You're in big trouble if the authorities find you because you'll be declared an illegal over-stayer."
"Well don't stand there. Get me out of here."
"Mr Thomas," yelled the bitch.
A sweating manager in a soiled white suit came out and said, "Ah our delinquent Mrs King."
Kate poised, ready to hurl abuse but she thought pull in your horns woman.
"Please get me out of here."
Mr Thomas said he'd do his best. The only guy capable of driving her across the island to the capital in one and a half days before the cruise ship left Port Somerset would be Ned McGee. It was the rainy season and the rutted highway was near impossible to negotiate by anyone but Ned was the exception because when the route became tough Wally got going knowing he could charge a big premium.
"Then please call Mr McGee and tell him he's hired."
"He got drunk at lunch today and will be asleep."
"Mr Thomas," Kate began icily and Mr Thomas was well aware what that tone meant when coming from a woman.
"I'll see what I can do."
Kate could see through the glass Mr Thomas was on the phone, wiping away sweat and gesticulating. Mr Thomas finally smiled hugely and put the phone down and dabbed water on to his face and toweled his face dry before re-emerging.
Smiling he said, "My dear Mrs King, all arranged. One thousand American dollars is the price and our hard-ass Mr McGee said if you don't wish to pay that then go to jail."
Kate said icily, "Tell the insensitive jerk I agree but won't pay him a cent of it unless he gets me aboard that ship."
"I anticipated that response and told him just that."
"And he accepted that?"
"Well he did say if you don't pay he'll stick a knife in you but he'll get you there, never fear."
Kate wondered why Mr Thomas looked doubtful.
Looking at Kate's sundress and sandals, Mr Thomas said she should rush out and buy jungle clothing.
She returned fifteen minutes later dressed in a khaki shirt and skirt, boots and a floppy hat as recommended by the saleswoman.
Outside the agent's offices was a dilapidated Land Rover.
Mr Thomas came out and looked at her approvingly but the tall sandy-haired guy in shorts and a mesh singlet (vest-like undershirt) grinned at her and said in an Australian drawl, "Mrs Livingston from darkest African I presume?"
"I'm Mrs King but you may call me Kate Mr McGee."
"Okay Kate but only if you call me Ned."
"Get me to my cruise ship Ned and I'll call you anything, even darling."
"We need to get you some supplies. We can probably get four hours in before dark and will camp on the road. You'll need bedding, a mosquito net, tooth brush, bottled water, change of underwear, toilet tissues, make-up, food and anything else I can think of for your creature comfort."
"I take it that expense is not included in the one thousand dollars."
"You have to be kidding."
"Right here's two hundred bucks. Buy and load what I need and please return any change."
They set off and Ned asked, "Comfortable?"
"Barely but it has to do. Why don't you have more comfortable and luxurious Range Rover?"
"Lady this TD5 Defender is an indefatigable vehicle, built like a tractor and will get us through to Port Somerset in current conditions when I can say with absolutely certainty no other FWD model would achieve that including your fancy Rover model."
"Well I guess that convinces me. Will you cut my throat and take all my money if we fail to get to the dock in time?"
"I doubt it."
"So you promise to be lovely to me?"
"Thank god I can relax now."
He grinned and said, "You didn't ask if I lie?"
Kate managed something that sounded like a laugh.
During the exchange of pleasantries they established she was forty-one and her second husband had died three months ago. Australian-born Ned was thirty-five and had never married although at least three women who'd lived with him had been under the impression they were married to him.
Kate said she doubted that claim.
"Not all women have your intelligence Kate and after a couple of days on the booze with me and they wake up in a hotel suite and hotel staff tell them it's the honeymoon suite they can assume they got married."
"Omigod what attracts you to women like that?"
"I'm slowing down now but it always was tits and pussy."
"Oh god," Kate laughed. "That sounds so gross but I admit coming from you sounds like a straightforward confession."
"What about you Kate, do you like sex?"
"Yes I was big into it at college and that established my high regard for it as a recreational activity. My first husband was a glutton for it and when I found I was sharing him with two of my girlfriends I ended the marriage, I married Arnold for money and prestige and despite being much older than me he turned out to be a delightful lover. He was a friend of my father's and died two months ago from a sudden heart attack when at a health clinic waiting to be called in for his annual health check-up."
"Yes and I grieved and missed him but am getting over it. This cruise was my first time away from home since Arnold died. I have one married daughter who is twenty-one and another daughter who is at college freshman from my first marriage and Arnold never had children. His brother and sister challenged the will in court hoping to get much larger slices but they failed as my attorney said they would."
"That was a shame they contested," Ned said. "Well here we are leaving the sealed road. As we climb we get into the real rain belt. Don't be afraid if we lurch heavily and even get bogged. We have winches to pull us out and it's just normal conditions for this time of year. We won't attempt to drive beyond nightfall but will be underway again at 5:00. Do you want to sleep inside with me or outside? I can rig a small tent for you."
"Is it safe outside?"
"Yeah no predators but there could be a problem with spiders but the tent is snake proof."
"Oh inside will be fine. I hope you're not expecting sex?"
"Nah of course not. We'll only have sex if you make that decision."
Kate made no comment. She did however think Ned's dick was the more acceptable alternative to big spiders, whether or not they were poisonous.
They only mired the once and Ned managed to back up a bit and then lunge forward and that freed them.
"Well there's your toilet," he said, waving a hand when they stopped on flat ground. He promised her no other vehicle would be coming through.
"Anywhere you like. I suggest you squat in front of the vehicle while I prepared our dinner at the back.
"Makes you regret missing the boat doesn't it?"
"Yeah right. Hand me the toilet tissues."
"It's a roll. Don't drop it because it's the only one we have."
They settled for the night side-by-side on a piece of thick rubber under separate sheets. Ned was just in his briefs and Kate was in bra and panties.
Kate had been asleep perhaps for an hour when she rolled up against him and that awoke her. She heard him say, "Are you sure?"
To hell with it. She'd been without sex for a couple of months.
Kate flicked on the torch he'd given her and said she'd get a condom from her handbag.
He didn't ask why was she carrying them. Instead he said, "It's okay I have one here. I didn't think you'd be able to resist me being the kind of fellow I am."
"What sexy for your age?"
"That's one way of describing it I suppose. Get your bra off. Um please."
"Certainly. I'd like to be really satisfied Ned. It's been quite sometime for me. When was the last time for you?"
"Lunch time today."
"Omigod," she giggled.
Kate's head went almost into a spin when she felt the size of his dick. She practically panted thinking of that big piece pushing her lips apart. She pushed his head harder against her right breast and yelped as he bit a nipple, although not too roughly.
Ned lifted up and they kissed and gradually increased their passion as they tongued. His chest was pretty smooth and she loved rubbing her hand across it and banging against his nipples that were up.
She broke away and pulled off her panties and invited him to push into her.
"Position on your side and hold your upper leg up high."
As he removed his briefs she fingered herself to get wet and he must have heard the squelching because he said, "Give me that finger to suck."
She pushed that finger into his mouth and didn't mind having been found out because with sex it was stupid to be secretive and so she said, "I often masturbate."
"Me too. We probably have other things in common, some not even relating to sex."
Kate though that was a solid statement.
Ned thrust into her strongly and she pushed back and they both climaxed, he just seconds after her, and Kate slipped off to sleep drained and content she'd received exactly what she'd had been after. It had been better than expected. Because it was so warm they parted to sleep. Alas there was no encore in the morning. Ned was moving about outside making coffee when she awoke and stretched and called hi.
"Hi. Please get ready. I'd like to get off within fifteen minutes; dawn is breaking."
"Right I'll just bath in that small stream we went through last night."
"Kate believe me, you won't want to be told of the bugs and after nasties that lurk in that water. Use bottled water to wash but do that out of my sight because I have no wish to be diverted."
She thought ooh, a compliment, um more or less.
As they had coffee and bread rolls stuffed with cold meat she said hopefully, "How was I at sex?"
"Baby you were a little ripper and that's no lie."
He grinned looked at her blushing and smiling at him gooey-eyed.
Kate was exhausted when they arrived at Port Somerset just before 2:30 that afternoon, two hours before the ship sailed. The last hour had been great, back on a sealed road. They had gone through farmland raising goats and cattle, making Kate aware that the alleged 'ship' the cab driver had shown her the previous day had been goats and not sheep.
The farmland had then changed into coffee plantations and then as the land flattened they went through banana plantations. It was so delightful after the grueling journey of more than eight hours traversing mountain ranges and winching the vehicle out of the grip of deep mud and climbing agonizingly slowly over two hillside slips, one that was still moving and edging them towards a 400 ft drop off the side of the roadway underneath the spread of slush and uprooted vegetation and boulders. At least Ned had said it was a 400-foot drop. She couldn't bear to look.
They stopped at guarded gates to the dock.
"Rather than argue who you are, relying on your passport to convince the guards and officials, wait here until you can join some of your fellow passengers arriving back from Chang Beach of the 700-ft falls and Urella."
"What a sound idea. What will you do when I go?"
"Start back immediately. We have another cruise ship arriving on Sunday and I manage the pre-ordered ship's provisions for the English Tea Trading Company, all that's left of a British tea growing enterprise that failed in the late 1950s. Those intrepid families came around by ship to this more favorable side of the island and having had their fingers burnt once were more successfully establishing coffee and banana trading."
"Oh god you poor guy, having to return over that route."
"A ferry connects the two ports twice a month but I can't wait for that to take me and Milly back."
"Milly is that you call your Defender?"
"Yeah a woman called Milly Isle sold it to me when I arrived here from Cairns, Australia. "I know a good vehicle when I see one. There are only fifty-three vehicles on the island but Milly is just the best."
"Look here's the one thousand and I'll give you a tip of another thousand."
"No thanks, the deal was one thousand."
The tone used to say that was easy but gave Kate the distinct impression there was no way she could make him accept a tip.
"Look you have been great to me, magnificent really. He's my card. I live in Los Angeles and here's my gift of 500 dollars for you to come to LA and stay with me for as long as you wish."
"Well I don't know but I've always wanted to visit the US."
"Ned you pulled me out of the crap, a really big rescue. Please allow me to show my gratitude by giving you incentive to visit America."
"Okay so when does the offer expire?"
"Never," Kate laughed, watching with huge relief a tourist bus arrive and stop just in front of them.
Ned said he needed a deadline otherwise he'd keep putting off going to LA.
"Twelve months from today."
"Then you're on baby. Give me a big fat kiss now. You won't want your fellow passengers to see you've been shagging a local guy."
"Oh I think I could reveal that with pride Ned my hero."
Some of the gathered passengers recognized Kate and then out of nowhere her tour guide appeared and was hugely excited, crying in relief and saying never in twelve years as a guide had she lost a client.
"What I can't understand is how have you managed to get here," Nora said.
"I came across the island in that vehicle," Kate said, pointing to the disappearing battered blue box-shaped vehicle.
"God it looks unlikely to go beyond this flat sealed road."
The bus driver who'd been listening to the conversation said, "Ma'am that's Ned McGee who's a legend on this island for his hard-drinking and womanizing and brilliant rendition of Aussie bush poetry when he's drunk. He's also the only person who can get across this island during the Big Wet as he calls it but we know it as the rainy season. That Defender with Ned at the wheel can go places where only wild goats can negotiate. Once during a monsoon he came across here with a guy and his wife who was expected to have problems delivering her baby. It took them three days to get through and the woman was in labor when they arrived."
Two female passengers listening in awe asked what was a Defender and how much did the baby weigh.
Kate looked in the direction when the Defender had disappeared round a bend and whispered, "Safe journey home my hero."
Four months later Kate was fiddling in the garden when she took a call.
"Hi baby, it's Ned. I'm at LA airport."
Kate recognized his drawl immediately. "Omigod Ned McGee."
"That's the one."
"I'm on the way. Stay there."
"Where. This airport is a big place."
Kate told him to look around and name a place where he could have coffee.
"Right stay there. I know it."
"In case you don't recognize me I'm wearing a black Acubra."
"A hat like a Stetson except mine's Aussie made, probably out of a Roo skin."
Kate was appalled; fancy skinning a darling kangaroo to make hats.
"You know it could even be a croc skin. You know, a saltwater crocodile."
Kate felt much better although she didn't know whether to believe him. She offered, "Or perhaps a ship skin?"
He asked what and then laughed when remembering her story about the cabbie taking her to see 'ship' or rather sheep that turned out to be goats.
Kate touched her newly braided auburn hair in delight thinking Ned would think she was modern. She showered quickly and changed into her red cut-offs, high-heeled sandals and cream satin shirt over a tight bra, quickly applied make-up and was off, choosing to impress him by taking the rebuilt 1963 all-white Cadillac Eldorado.
At the airport she couldn't see Ned as she approached the café but a group of four flight attendants suggested they would be hovering over Ned.
She was correct guessing that and looking at Kate approvingly the women left, cooing goodbye Ned.
"God you look a million bucks, straight out of Hollywood," he charmed and she giggled and said she'd left Hollywood when she married for the first time.
"We you a star?"
She giggled and said no, she'd been part of the support crew around two screenwriters.
They kissed softly and both kept their eyes open and the magic remained until the asshole said, "Nice tits."
Kate sighed and he apologized.
She sighed and said she ought to be thrilled someone had noticed.
"But you are outstanding."
"Darling think of this as young babe territory."
"Darling? Are you not living with a guy?"
"Nope I've been waiting for you."
What a beautiful use of that word, Kate thought, basking in such explicit praise.
She called the valet guy to bring her vehicle to the exit.
"Did you come by a twin electric motor city car or merely a hybrid?"
"I think you won't be one of the few people who would exclaim 'Dinosaur' when taking one look at my choice of vehicle today."
Ned had arrived with only a backpack so they went out and she pointed to the arriving convertible with the top down.
Ned said instantly, "Oh boy, Cadillac Eldorado, early sixties."
"Correct," she said. "It's a re-engined '63 model upgraded to high specs. Arnold my late husband loved cars."
"I love Arnold," Ned grinned. "Keys please."
"Ned are you sure? We drive on the opposite side of the highway to what you're used to."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes as sure as I know you're not a virgin."
Kate snickered, tossed him the keys and only then wondered what kind of answer was that.
"God this is wide," he said, getting behind the wheel. "It's wider than that butt of a mama lead gospel signer from Tennessee."
Although laughing, Kate smacked his hand and told him to stop being so rude. She then gave him directions to her new home in Redona Beach, three blocks back from the beach. She'd purchased a house with large pool and palm trees built seven years ago on the site of two demolished homes and had taken possession only three weeks before she went on the cruise around islands of the South Pacific.
Several people waved as they went by.
Ned said, "Why are they waving? Are you that famous."
"Oh it's not that," Kate said. "Californians still love their cars and many were brought up on the so-called 'American Dream' their parents and grandparents talk about with great fondness when from the mid-1950s it became an ambition of people to own their own home, rather than rent, and to own an automobile, the longer the better."
"Some dream that not so many people would have obtained."
"But that's just it Ned and what is so precious about a dream. You can dream without having to ultimately own it."
"What did you study at college?"