prophetic vision

(Lots of thanks to Dawnj for her suggestions, editing, help and general support – all mistakes are mine.)

They met outside Nancy’s little shop – the sort of place that sold everything you might want for food, and some practical things like matches and candles, and that was open most of the time.

Marguerite and Evelina had known each other all their lives; their parents had lived practically next door to each other. Marguerite had grown up with her mother and her brother, Rudy. Rudy, who had had a real education, had gone to the States, and she had never seen him again; he got killed when he was twenty-three. Marguerite’s mother was in her late sixties, and she was considered quite a beauty by the male half of the population, but since her sixtieth she wasn’t having any anymore.

Evelina was an only child who was raised by her father and mother together. They had sent her to the small international school on the island, and she was very well educated. Her parents had both died rather young, and Evelina had kept on their house as a holiday bungalow to be rented out. She usually had people in the holidays, sometimes for a fortnight, sometimes for three weeks – it supplied her with enough money to live on.

“How’s life, Evie?” Marguerite said.

“Oh, fine, fine. The house has been rented for six weeks at one go!”

“Brilliant. Who are they?”

“I don’t know. They’re from England, Rita, not from the States.”

“Oh wow – that’s a far way off!”

Evelina nodded. “I hope they like it here,” she said. “But if they don’t…”

“Yes. But what if they don’t turn up, like the last ones?”

Evelina shrugged and smiled. “Paid in advance,” she said. “If they don’t turn up I’ll find new people. That would be really nice!”

Then Marguerite looked at her sharply.

“Evie,” she said, “you’re not pregnant, are you?”

Evelina smiled and nodded. She winked at Marguerite.

“Four months! I’ll come some distance with you,” she said, and linked her arm in Marguerite’s. “Then I can tell you all about it.”

Tim Palmer taught English at a local comprehensive on the Isle of Wight, and he tried his hand at creative writing sometimes. He’d always liked teaching, but when this school year ran to a close he felt completely fed up with everything. He’d had enough of teaching for the time being, his attempts at writing having come to nothing and he wanted a change of air. He thought about the south of France, but it didn’t seem an environment that would be conductive to writing, not for him, and it was expensive. Moreover, most of his colleagues went to France and he definitely didn’t want to meet them in his holidays. And he would miss the sound and the smell of the sea. He had lived on the Isle of Wight for all his life. When he’d left home he had found a house in Totland, close to the Needles, and he always enjoyed rambling on the crest of the cliffs, to the Needles and then on to Tennyson’s Monument, and Freshwater Bay – the more he thought of it, the more he was convinced France was not a good idea.

Then he chanced upon an advert in the local paper for a holiday home on an island in the Caribbean. It was called Bougainvillea. There was a picture of the place, and it said it was on the quiet end of the island – just like his own home – and it immediately seemed exactly what he wanted. He made arrangements straight away and paid for a six-week stay. Good, he thought, just the place for me, in the tropics with the sea within walking distance, and palm trees, and quiet, and a totally different atmosphere form the daily grind he had wanted to escape from for some time.

He bought a relatively cheap ticket and when the holidays had arrived he went to Heathrow and found himself airborne on his very first day off. The plane touched down some ten hours later at a very small airfield, and after completing the formalities Tim took a tuk-tuk to the address he’d been sent. It was getting on for six in the evening when he arrived at Evelina’s house.

She had expected a family – there were a big bedroom with a double bed and two smaller ones with single beds, and she raised her eyebrows when she saw there was a man alone.

Oh no, she thought, not one of those, please – but she handed him the key and gave directions to the driver, and told Tim to come and ask if there were anything amiss.

Then she went into the house, shaking her head – they did have single men coming to the island now and again, looking for cheap sex – there were a lot of prostitutes in the tourist area of the island; some even came looking for young boys. She hoped to God he wasn’t one of those.

She needn’t have bothered. Tim had had a few short-lived relationships, but both of them had come to nothing, and he had decided long ago that love was a very overrated emotion. He was good-looking and soft-spoken but he kept himself to himself, and the few women who tried to strike up some rapport with him found it impossible to make any dent in his armour.

It was only a ten-minute walk from Evelina’s house to ‘Bougainvillea,’ and the tuk-tuk dropped him off in no time. Tim looked at the house with joy. It was peach-coloured, and there were a few large bougainvilleas and an African Tulip tree in the front garden. He paid off the driver and carried his luggage up to the front door. He unlocked it and went in. The house, built in the late nineteenth century, had high rooms and it felt relatively cool. He put down his suitcase and went around the house. It seemed very comfortable and well-equipped. Everything he could want was there – Evelina had even provided him with a huge bottle of purified water in an iron stand. He especially liked the big polished wooden table with a small reading lamp – the ideal place to get some writing done, he thought. He went around the bedrooms and decided he liked the big one best, got his suitcase and unpacked.

There was a folder on a sideboard with information on shops and sights, and he went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

It had gone dark, and the restaurant proved a good place to sit and read – and the food was good, too.

When he had finished his dinner – fresh king fish and a salad – he went home. He suddenly felt very tired and he poured himself a drink from one of the bottles he’d bought in the tax-free at Heathrow. He took his drink out onto the veranda and sat listening to the night sounds while he sipped it. Then he went indoors. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

The next day he went shopping; then he went walking in the neighbourhood. He found his way to the beach and sat on a big rock for some time, staring out past the surf to the grey blue sea and the bright blue sky, with the sun on his back.

When he had satisfied his curiosity, he went back to the house and installed himself at the table. To his delight he didn’t feel encumbered by all sorts of restraint; he started writing like mad, his head bubbling over with ideas. He grinned at himself a little – it had been a good idea to come here.

Tim developed a pleasant routine in the first few days – he worked all morning, took a break around noon in which he did some shopping or cleaning; then he worked some more until five when he’d go to the beach and stay there until the sun had gone down.

He went to the same restaurant every night. Linda, the proprietor, was a friendly woman in her mid-fifties, who smiled at the young Englishman and made him feel at home, and her food was brilliant. When he’d come in for the fourth time she asked his name, and Tim was happy to be greeted by name from then on.

Evelina couldn’t make him out. He apparently had not come for cheap sex – he’d gone to town once, they told her, but he had returned within a couple of hours, alone – and he seemed to keep himself to himself. The lady who came to clean ‘Bougainvillea’ told her she usually found him writing, or reading, and she had seen him on the beach in the evening.

Tim had been staying in her house for a week when she ran into Marguerite again.

“Hi,” she said. “Did your tenants turn up?”

“Yes – but there’s only one, a man alone.”

“Out for sex?” Marguerite said.

“No, apparently not. He only sits and reads and writes. I can’t think why he came here at all.”

“He doesn’t go out?”

“He goes to the beach every evening,” Evelina said. “And he eats at Linda’s.”

“Oh? Is he nice?”

“I don’t know. He never talks to anyone; even Linda doesn’t really know, and he goes there every day.”

“Why don’t you go and talk to him, then?”

“Oh no – I wouldn’t dare. He seems very stand-offish.”

“I’ll try and get him to talk, if you like.” Marguerite smiled a little at her friend. “He can’t be too dangerous…”

Evie nodded. “Tell me what you think, then,” she said.

Then they changed the subject and went to Evelina’s together.

That evening Tim went out just a little earlier than usual. He had reached a point in his writing that he had to give some more thought, and he expected he’d find some inspiration in the beautiful sunset he’d come to expect. It was great to watch the sun go down behind the palms, and to see the palm fronds move upon the breeze, dark against the sky – it gave him an immense feeling of peace, and it provided him with the quiet he needed for constructive thinking.

He walked along the dirt road between the bushes and hedges, looking at the hibiscus and jasmine flowers, and a few Poinciana trees. He loved Wight – but this was really something, he thought. Beautiful! Oh, man, he had been bloody right in coming here.

When he came to the beach, he wanted to go and sit down on his rock, but it was occupied by a woman in a long, red dress and flip-flops. She had wavy dark hair, and dusky brown skin, and when he turned to look at her he saw she had amber-coloured eyes, that seemed to looked straight into his soul.

“Hello,” she said. She had the kind of voice he’d expected – a little husky, low and melodious.

“Hello,” he said. He walked up to her. “You’re here to watch the sunset, too?”

She nodded. “It’s always beautiful on this side of the island,” she said. “Are you Evie’s tenant?”

“Yes, I am. I love her house. It’s a good place to stay in.”

“Yes,” she said. “You’re Tim, aren’t you?”

“Tim Palmer,” he said. “And you?”

“I’m Marguerite. I am a friend of Evie’s; we grew up next door to each other.” She smiled, and Tim saw she had beautiful white teeth. When her mouth was in repose her lips formed a cupid’s bow with two small lines at the corners, and she seemed rosy and self-contained to him.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said. “Do you live nearby?”

She nodded. “This is the better half of the island, you know. Not so busy, no hassle, just quiet.”

“And very beautiful,” he added.

She smiled again. “You seem to enjoy yourself.”

“I do.” He thought for a moment and then added, “I came here to escape for a moment, and to get some writing done. I succeeded in both.”

“But you are no writer.”

“No. I’m a teacher. Why did you ask?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “The idea just struck me.”

He looked at her and smiled back at her. He didn’t often smile, but when he did she saw his face light up.

“And you?” he asked.

“I grow fruit and sell it,” she said. “I have a stall at the Friday market in town.”

She looked away from him at the setting sun. It went down slowly and there was a thin line of hazy cloud across its centre.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Tim said. “I sometimes go to the coast at home to see the sunset. But it’s much slower than here, and there aren’t that many clear nights.” He stood looking in silence for some minutes. “And I don’t have the time to go too often, either -” Marguerite raised her eyebrows and looked at him questioningly. It felt to him as if she knew what he said wasn’t entirely true, and he said, almost stammering, “Or I don’t allow myself the time, to be more precise.”

She nodded and gave him a half-smile. “Sometimes it pays to forget about the things you were told to find important,” she said, “and to realise other things are so, too.”

Tim looked at her, fascinated by the uncanny way in which she read his mind. Her eyes were quite unlike any he’d seen before; not only in their colour, but also in the way they seemed to enter his perception.

“You’ve got beautiful eyes,” he said – and when he realised what he’d said he blushed a deep crimson.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile.

The sun had half disappeared beyond the horizon, and it was getting dark. Marguerite got up from the rock.

“It was nice to meet you,” she said.

“It was,” Tim said. “I’d love to talk with you again.”

She nodded. “That’s alright. I’ll be here tomorrow night, ok?”

“Please,” he said.

Linda thought he looked different, that evening; there seemed to be a bounce in his step. “Hello, Tim,” she said. “Everything eyrie?”

He treated her to one of his rare smiles. “Everything eyrie,” he confirmed.

When he sat at his writing that evening, the work on hand got overlaid by the words of a song from an old Buffy Sainte-Marie album he used to play a lot. He tried hard to remember the precise lyrics, and sat scribbling and crossing things out for almost an hour until he got them right. Parts of the song, “Eyes of Amber,” had nestled themselves in his consciousness from the moment he first saw her eyes there on the beach. He looked at the lyrics and softly sang the song to himself:

“Eyes of blue or eyes of green / eyes of amber / eyes of starlight / have come again / as they have come before

Heart of firelight / heart of the flowers of the jungle / heart of snow / you come again / and you are midnight wind

With hands of moonbeams / and clouds / and call me come to you

And though I never know you / wistful lover / until you’re gone / you’re here to teach me / how to love / a dream of loving love

Breath of jasmine / breast of silk / breast of music / the desert sands that take my tears /

are of your magic too

Eyes of blue or eyes of onyx, / eyes of amber / eyes of starlight / you come again / as you have come before.”

He sang the song once again and put the sheet of text on top of the other papers. Then he poured himself a stiff drink and went out onto the veranda to sit and think. Why on earth should he react this way? For over a decade there had been no woman that could make him even think of her for more than it took to give her the once-over, and here he was thinking of songs, and breasts of silk and music. But her voice was music, and her breasts – he had seen the swell of them under her dress, and he realised he’d love to touch them, to bare them and look at them… There was no one there, but he blushed furiously. Marguerite – it was a wonderful name. Marguerite…

Marguerite had gone home thinking about this foreigner she’d gone to meet to help out her friend’s doubts. She sometimes saw things with an unusual lucidity, but only when the people concerned meant something to her in some way or other. When her brother got killed in the US she knew. She’d already told her mother before the police came round to inform them. She understood why she knew; he’d always been an important factor in her life, and his end had been awful. She didn’t understand why she should know things about this foreigner, though. Because Evie was worried about him? She shook her head and tried to banish him from her mind. She didn’t succeed too well; she realised she was actually looking forward to seeing him again the next evening.

Tim woke up feeling light-headed. He wondered why, and then he remembered his meeting on the beach, and the song, and her promise to meet him again. He whistled while he washed and dressed, and spent all day writing furiously. There were a couple of poems that seemed to have arrived from nowhere, dying to be written, and then he continued with the piece of prose he’d been composing. It was a great distraction, and it was evening before he knew.

Marguerite had spent the day trying to behave placidly; when it was late afternoon she dressed in a long, dark red skirt and a thin, white, wide blouse, and she put up her hair in a bun. Smiling to herself, she went to the beach, and sat down on the rock, waiting for Tim.

She didn’t have to wait long; she’d only been there for a couple of minutes when she heard him. He was whistling a tune she didn’t know, and he was walking rather fast. She turned her head to look at him and he waved as soon as he saw her. To her own surprise she found herself feeling warm at the sight of him.

“Hi, Tim,” she said, “what were you whistling?”

“It’s an old song that reminds me of you,” he said.

She looked at him questioningly. “Can you sing it for me?” she said.

He blushed, but he nodded and said yes. He had a good singing voice – and she really enjoyed listening to him. It took only a moment for the words to sink in.

It was her turn to blush now. “Those words remind you of me?” she said. “That’s a great compliment!”

She looked at his face. He met her eyes, and looked back steadily. Then he smiled. “You do have beautiful eyes,” he said.

Marguerite passed her hands down her temples and cheeks. “Thank you very much, Tim,” she said softly.

He lowered himself unto the sand beside her, and they sat looking at the sunset in companionable silence, each filled with pleasant thoughts they’d rather not communicate – yet.

When the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon Tim got up, a little stiffly, and said, “Would you like to come and have dinner with me at Linda’s?”

Marguerite considered his question for a moment.

“Yes, I would,” she said. “That would be nice.”

They walked over to the restaurant. Marguerite had hooked an arm in his, and they talked about the island, and her house – it was a little like ‘Bougainvillea,’ she said – and his place on the Isle of Wight. At the restaurant Linda greeted them with a hint of a question in her eyes, but they pretended not to notice.

They had a lovely meal, but later neither of them could remember what it had been. Tim had asked Marguerite all about herself, and she told him about her mother, and how she’d only gone to school until she was twelve, as the money was needed for Rudy, and how he’d misused his education and got shot eventually.

Then he asked her if she had a boyfriend, and that really got her talking about the way she’d been misused by Joey, a former lover – when she had got pregnant he had kicked her belly so hard that she had miscarried. She had been glad to be rid of him, and she wasn’t sure if she could have been happy with the child – “it was really rough – but perhaps it was all for the best,” she said – but she did regret having no children, and there were tears in her eyes. Tim went very quiet; he could feel her hurt as if it were his own. He shook his head, and wondered how on earth anyone could do such a thing, and how anyone pretending to love someone could ever mistreat her.

She stopped talking, and they just sat and looked at each other.

“I knew he was a bad un’,” she said. “But at that time I still thought it was just some foolish fear; it took me just a little longer to realise I really know sometimes.”

They sat and smiled a little shyly after Marguerite’s story. Then they nodded at each other and Tim said, “Ay, girl, what a story. I’m so sorry for you. Life is a dubious pleasure, isn’t it?”

“It’s alright at the moment,” she said. “I really enjoy sitting here with you. And it hurt a lot at the time, but not too much any more.”

“Would you want any children now, given the chance?” he said.

Marguerite pulled a face. “Of course,” she said. “Oh yes.”

They talked about less emotional things after that, and she told him a joke over dessert.

When they left the restaurant together, she said, “Would you like to come and have dinner with me tomorrow? I can cook a mean fish soup.”

“I’d love to,” Tim said.

“Good,” she said. “Thank you for a lovely dinner, boy.” She took his head in her hands, pulled him to her – he was six inches taller – and briefly kissed him on the lips.

“Goodnight,” she said. “See you tomorrow on the beach.”

That night Tim wrote two more poems before he went outside to the veranda. He couldn’t get rid of the image of Marguerite and the feeling of her lips on his was so precious to him that he considered not to wash his face for a moment. Thinking of her made itself felt in his fingertips. “What a woman!” he said aloud.

He fell asleep with a smile, and when he woke up the song was in his head. He realised that he was falling in love – if he hadn’t done so already – and that he might have underestimated those emotions after all. When he closed his eyes Marguerite was in his mind’s eye, and when he opened them there was more poetry, and an eager anticipation – he would have dinner with her tonight at her place! He didn’t know where she lived and he was looking forward to finding out.

He spent his midday break to do some shopping. He ordered a new bottle of purified water, and he bought a bunch of flowers to bring along that evening. He wondered if he should bring some of his poems, too, but decided against it – if everything went well, there would be time enough.

Marguerite got up feeling very happy. She realised that there was no avoiding this stranger, and she didn’t want to, either. He was shy, but not too much so, and he didn’t look out of place.

Then she remembered she’d promised Evelina to give her the low-down on Tim, and she paid her a visit on her way to the market. Evie welcomed her with a big grin, and they sat on the veranda together.

“So,” Evie said, “did you talk to him?”

“Sure. You needn’t worry about him. He’s harmless. He is a teacher, and he’s come here to write.”

“So he’s no sex-tourist, then?”

“No. He’s not after women, but I think he likes me.” She smiled a little. “I’ll have him over for dinner tonight.”

“He invited himself?”

“Evie! Of course not – as if I’d be ok with that. He took me to Linda’s yesterday.”

Evelina looked at her friend. She knew Marguerite wasn’t the kind of woman to take her contacts lightly, and she raised her eyebrows. “You think he’s nice?”

Marguerite nodded. She smiled and looked at Evelina, and said, “I seem to know things about him.”

“Oh wow. Rita, that’s really right, then.”

Marguerite didn’t reply. She knew Tim must be important for her in some way or other.

“You’re going to do your fish soup?”

“Yes – I’d like to impress him.”

“You probably already have,” Evie said.

Tim was at the beach before her. He put the flowers down in the shade and sat down next to the rock. The sand was warm and the sky just a little hazy, and the late afternoon sun was on its way down. He stretched his legs, and put his hands behind him, and closed his eyes. He saw Marguerite before him and smiled happily.

After some time he heard the sound of her flip-flops on the path, and he got up to greet her. She smiled at him warmly, and kissed his cheek.

“I couldn’t wait any longer,” he said. “I had to go here and hear you come.”

He looked at her; she wore a dress similar to the one she’d worn when he first saw her, but the bodice was a little tighter and it had a lower neckline.

“That’s a beautiful dress,” he said.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “I’m glad you like it.”

They were silent for some time. Then Marguerite said, “I never get tired of these sunsets. They are so perfect, and they always make me feel a little solemn, and very happy.”

Tim nodded. “Yes,” he said. “I know. And they’re even better with you.”

She moved her hand his way, and he took it and held it while they watched the sun go down and disappear behind a low, distant bank of cloud. It was soft and cool, and it made his fingertips hurt, and his heart beat a tattoo for joy.

Then she got up. “Come,” she said. “I’d like to show you my home.”

She didn’t release his hand.

“One moment – I’ll have to pick up the flowers I brought for you,” Tim said. He went over to where they lay and then he took her hand again. “We do grow flowers at home as well,” he said, “but they are no way as abundant as those you find here. I’d love to live here, I think.”

Marguerite remembered the things he’d told her about his home. “You would miss the winters, and the bluebells in spring.”

“I could have a holiday in England sometimes.” He thought about it for some moments. “But there would be so many delights instead…”

Marguerite could read his mind like a book, and she squeezed his hand.

“There would,” she said. “Come.”

Marguerite’s home was not unlike ‘Bougainvillea.’ It was another colonial house, painted a light brick red. There was a medium high fence around it, with a garden gate and iron spikes that had grown a little rusty, and the garden was an abundance of flowers. Later, when Tim saw it in the daytime, he knew he hadn’t seen such an explosion of colour on the island before, and it was utterly lovely, he thought.

Marguerite beamed at him as she unlocked her front door and welcomed him to her house. It had a definite feminine feel to it, rather different from Tim’s abode on the island – but that had been left much the same as it had been when Evelina’s parents lived there together, and Marguerite had furnished it her own way, when she came to live there some ten years ago.

Tim gave her the flowers, and she went to the kitchen to put them into a vase, and then she showed him round. There were old family photographs, with a large picture of Rudy, and she had some beautiful furniture. When he’d seen enough she said, “I will go and heat the soup. We’ll have dinner outside.”

Tim went to the veranda. There was one lamp in the centre that must have come with the house when it was built. Tim liked its shape; as a source of light it wasn’t too fantastic, though. But the table had been laid with a couple of candles, and the night air was very pleasant. He went back indoors and drifted to the kitchen.

“Is there anything I can do?” he said.

Marguerite smiled at him and shook her head. “Give me just a moment,” she said. “I’ll bring out the food in a sec.”

Tim stood in the kitchen looking at her. He liked the way she moved, and he thought he had not seen so beautiful a woman before. He sniffed the smell of her fish soup; it made his mouth water.

Marguerite looked over her shoulder and smiled. “Ready,” she said.

They went to the veranda. Marguerite lit the candles and ladled out the soup.

“It’s spicy,” she said, “but not more so than Linda’s food.”

“It smells great,” Tim said.

“Can you pour the wine, please?”

Tim got up and took the bottle of white wine from the bucket on the floor. He walked round the table and poured Marguerite a glass, and then he had one himself and restored the bottle to its bucket.

He sat down, and Marguerite raised her glass. She looked at Tim earnestly, and said, “To the two of us.”

Tim nodded and touched her glass with his. “To the two of us,” he repeated.

They smiled at each other and they ate their soup in silence, both of them wondering how to say what was on their minds, and looking at the other with joy.

Tim was the first to put down his spoon. “I never had fish soup like this in my life,” he said. “I think you were too modest about it.”

She looked at him happily. “Good,” she said. “I’ll ask you round again!”

She finished her own soup and sat back. “I’ll have another glass of wine, please,” she said.

Tim got the bottle and walked over to her. He poured her another glass; then he put the bottle on the floor and stroked her shoulders. “Thank you very much for having me here tonight,” he said.

She turned her face up to him, and he understood what she meant; he put his mouth to hers and she kissed him hard, with her arms round his neck. She touched his lips with her tongue, and when he opened them she slid her tongue into his mouth, smiling into his eyes all the while.

They enjoyed their kiss for some time and then she released him.

“You taste good,” she said. “I’ll go and get us some ice cream.”

Tim sat down again. His heart was racing, but he felt wonderful. She felt the same about him as he did about her – he didn’t speak for fear he’d be incoherent.

Marguerite smiled at him warmly and went to the kitchen. She returned with two bowls on a tray.

“Hmmm,” he said. There was some ice cream with lots of fruit, and it looked delicious.

Marguerite briefly ruffled his hair and then she sat down to her own dessert. When she’d finished she looked at him with a Giaconda smile, and then she lazily stretched herself, with her arms over her head.

It made her breasts strain against the material of her dress, and it made her show rather more cleavage than before. Tim looked at her mesmerised. To his disappointment she lowered her arms again.

“Let’s clear the table,” she said, “and we can have some coffee afterwards – or would you prefer something else?”

“I’d prefer another kiss,” he said.

“Oh, you’ll get one, too – don’t you worry,” she said with an impish look. “I meant like whisky or something.”

“Yes, that would be nice. I’ve almost finished the bottles I brought. Where do you get it here?”

“I’ll take you there one of these days. Coming?”

They removed the dinner things and after they’d washed up, quickly, Marguerite got a bottle and two glasses and they went back outside. She poured two drinks and handed one to Tim, and then she took his hand and led him to a swing seat in the garden. They sat down, facing the house with the candles on the table. She put an arm round him and rested her head on his shoulder. He had his arm around her back, and sat still – he didn’t want to miss a single moment of it.

“Evie was afraid you might be here for the wrong reasons. I believe you are here for a reason -” She smiled at him – “but not in the sense she meant.”

She took a sip from her drink and continued, “And there is nothing wrong about it.”

She thought for a moment and then she said, “Before things went wrong with Joey, I knew they would. I know things sometimes; I don’t know how, or why – I just do. I knew other things about Joey, and he thought I was a witch…”

She was silent for some time. “I didn’t want to acknowledge I knew. It felt disloyal… It would have been better if I had; and I had seen things before. Later I realised that I only see things when people are important to me. When you said you’d come to write I saw you weren’t a writer… Tim, I want to get to know you better before I will give myself to you completely; but I think about you most of the day, and I love thinking of you.”

She smiled at him, and then she offered him her lips.

They kissed for a long time; then she sat up and they finished their drinks.

“We’ll meet tomorrow on the beach, right?”

“Please,” Tim said.

She accompanied him to the gate. “Goodnight, Tim,” she said, and kissed his cheek. He thanked her profusely, and said goodnight.

He went home with his thoughts in a considerable turmoil. So this is how it feels to be in love, he thought. He was too excited to sleep, and he walked down to the beach, and stood in the darkness listening to the surf and the sounds of the night. “I believe you are here for a reason…” Her voice was in his ears, and he saw her face before him, and he recalled with hot cheeks how beautiful she’d looked when she stretched herself.

He stayed on the beach for at least an hour; then he went home and turned in, and he dreamt about the island, a confused but happy dream of which he couldn’t remember anything when he woke up.

The next few days they only met on the beach, but they stayed there for a long time, talking and highly enjoying each other’s presence, getting better and better acquainted.

They didn’t kiss the way they had that night, but she often held his hand, and she stroked his hair sometimes, and it seemed just as pleasant to him.

After a week or so Tim brought his notebook with him; he wrote his prose on loose sheets, but his poetry was done in the notebook. They’d talked about his writing, and he’d told Marguerite about his poems, and she had asked him what they were like. When they were settled on the beach he read one of his poems to her. It was a short one about her eyes, and she blushed with joy.

“Oh Tim,” she said, “that’s really lovely. You are a sweet talker.”

But she knew that he meant it, and she felt very happy.

“Would you like to have dinner with me again?” Tim asked hopefully.

“Yes,” she said. “And I’ll come home with you afterwards – we need to talk.” She gave him a smile that made his knees go weak, and she took his hand and squeezed it. Then she put her head in her hands and looked at the sunset, thinking of the way Tim had made his way into her being.

Linda, who loved to know things, knew that Tim and Marguerite met on the beach every evening, and she smiled broadly when she saw them enter together, hand in hand. So that was the way the land lay. She gave them a table in a quiet corner, and nodded as she saw them sit down, talking all the while. The look in their eyes told her all she wanted to know. She wasn’t given to talking and she would keep it for herself, but she was glad a suspicion had been confirmed.

After dinner they went to ‘Bougainvillea’ together. She hadn’t been there during his stay, and she looked at table, his desk, with interest.

“So this is where you wrote about my eyes,” she said.

Tim nodded. “I do all my writing here,” he said. “And my reading, too. Well – sometimes I read in bed as well. But I haven’t read much lately -” he smiled at his beautiful visitor – “my head is too full to take it in.”

“Yes,” she said. “I know. Tim, I want you. You are on my mind most of the time, too. I want to grow old with you, and I want a child with you…”

She touched his arm as he stood at the table, rearranging his papers. He put his hand on hers, and turned to face her. She lifted her face and he bent over to kiss her, a moment he had been waiting for, ever since their meal at Marguerite’s house. She put her arms around him and pressed him close, and he felt her nipples against his chest. They stood enjoying the moment for a long time.

When she released him, he quoted: “Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another – / Let us hold hands and look. – Both for a moment, little lower than the angels / in the teashop’s ingle-nook.”

“Yours?” Marguerite said.

“No. It’s by John Betjeman, and I’ve left out the middle. These bits fit you; the rest doesn’t.” He grinned. “Oh girl, you’ve bowled me over completely. Shall I make us something to drink?”

“Coffee, please,” she said, and went with him to the kitchen. She saw he kept the place nice and tidy, and he was quite practical.

“You know how to use a kitchen,” she said.

“Yes. I’ve lived on my own ever since I left home. You have to know how to fend for yourself.” He looked at her over his shoulder. The kitchen suddenly felt alive. “It’s nice to have you here,” he said.

They had their coffee at the table; he had put the paperwork aside, and it was big and well polished, glowing in the lamplight. “So what do we do?” he said. “I could try and find work here. Maybe there is a school that can use a teacher…” He tried to envisage the future on the island. It seemed the best thing that could happen to him – he’d come to love the place unconditionally over the weeks.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about it for days. I want you so much, Tim, yet somehow I don’t see what we must do yet. But I do see that you are here for me…” She got a far-off look in her eyes, and she seemed to look straight through the wall. When she’d finished her coffee she got up.

“I have to see it before me,” she said. “Maybe I should try harder…” She grinned at him and kissed him again. Then she said goodnight and walked into the darkness.

The following evening she wasn’t there on the beach. Tim waited for her until the sun had almost left the sky, and then he went to her house. To his relief there was a note for him on the front door. It was in unpractised capitals, but it was legible and correct, and it said that she had gone to nurse Evelina who had fallen ill, and was afraid because she was pregnant. Marguerite said she would be alright, and her unborn baby as well, but she had to have someone to help her. If he wanted to he could come round and cheer Evelina up a bit.

Tim folded the note carefully and put it in his breast pocket. He went to Evelina’s house straight away, and Marguerite opened the door for him. She kissed him briefly. Then she said, “Come, I’ll take you to Evie. She needs to be distracted – could you give it a try? Just tell her about Wight. She’s very interested in England.”

Evie lay in bed under a lot of covers. She obviously had a fever, but her eyes were not too bad, and she clearly took an interest in what he had to tell. He sat talking and laughing with her for over an hour; then he took his leave of the women, kissed Marguerite goodnight and went home.

“Lucky girl,” Evelina said. “He is really nice, and I love his accent!”

Marguerite felt a pang of anxiety. She knew she was a lucky woman to have found someone she really, really loved, and who loved her just as much, and she still couldn’t envisage their happiness together. She shrugged it off, and said, “He is nice, isn’t he? Remember your fears about him?”

Evie did, and she grinned at the memory. Then she felt her eyes go heavy. “I’d better try and go to sleep now,” she said.

Evie stayed ill for a long time. She wasn’t ill enough to go to hospital, but Marguerite’s presence was very necessary, and Tim only saw her in the evenings, during the visiting hour, as Marguerite said.

Tim had decided he should take action, as Marguerite was too preoccupied with Evie’s illness, and he had gone to the town and ferreted out the address of the International School. The head appeared to be a Mr R. Murchkin, and he went home and wrote him a letter of application.

It took a long time before he got an answer. In the meantime Evelina slowly got well again, and Marguerite stopped her vigil at Evie’s place.

She returned to the beach, and that evening, finally, she came home again with Tim after another meal at Linda’s. They talked their heads off, about the future – Marguerite had resolutely decided to give it her own slant – and about children, and about their days together. Tim said he had applied for a post as a teacher on the island. If they’d employ him he would resign in England… He smiled at Marguerite. She made an effort to return his smile – but his words filled her with sad misgivings that she couldn’t really place. It didn’t feel good, though.

When she left she gave the situation a lot of thought. She was certain – she knew that it wasn’t Tim who was wrong – but she couldn’t get any further than that. It gave her a headache, and she went to bed with a couple of paracetamols.

That night Marguerite dreamt about Tim’s parents. In her dream she saw his mother stretched out on the floor, and his father looking at her, pale and distraught and completely helpless. He said something but there was no sound. She woke up in a sweat. “It’s only a dream,” she thought, and though it wouldn’t leave her alone she kept it to herself.

The next day Tim received an invitation to come and talk. It had been written a couple of days ago, and he had to be at the meeting that very morning. The letter asked him to bring some examples of his handwriting, so he put his notebook into a small bag and took a tuk-tuk to town. He had an appointment with the principal, Mr Murchkin, at ten thirty and he arrived at the building well in time.

Mr Murchkin was a portly expat, with red hair and a bluff manner. He had Tim sent to his office and interviewed him on his educational ideas for about fifteen minutes. When he had satisfied himself they were not unsound, he said, “So what do you do with the language?”

“Do?” Tim asked amazed. “What do you mean?”

“Hmph, I mean that any idiot can tell a group of children the rules of the game. I want people who have something over – call it Begeisterung – people with a truly marked enthusiasm for their thing. What do you do with the language?”

“Er, I write.”

“Poetry? Prose?”

“Both, actually.”

“Right. Anything you can show me?”

Tim pulled a face. “I’ve got a few poems on me – but they’re a bit personal…”

“I’m not a fifteen-year-old girl,” Muchkin said. “You can show me.”

Tim handed him the notebook; he read the poems and smiled broadly. “Does she live on the island?” he asked.

Tim nodded.

“Excellent,” he said. “You’re hired.”

When Marguerite met Tim that afternoon he told her all about his interview with Mr Murchkin. He was very excited about it, and he talked her ears off. He was going to write a letter of resignation, and he’d have his possessions shipped, he would go back to England during mid-term and sell his house… Marguerite felt to her dismay that he wouldn’t. She tried to decide whether she should tell him, but she was so upset about it that she didn’t. She kept silent for so long that Tim asked her if she was opposed to it.

“No,” she said, “of course not,” and she kissed him hard – but with a sinking feeling it took all her energy to hide.

The dream returned the next night. If possible it was even more vivid, and she thought she would be able to hear what Tim’s father said if she listened hard enough, and then she woke up.

When she told Tim about it the next day he said, “It’s the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. It’s just a dream.”

She looked at him dubiously. “I hope so,” she said. She was practically certain it was not just a dream, and she was thinking hard about the consequences if it wasn’t.

Then she shook herself free from those thoughts for the time being.

When the dream returned again that night she did hear Tim’s father’s words. He asked for Tim’s help, and he sounded completely desperate. She woke up again, convinced there was something terribly wrong. She saw with complete clarity what Tim should do, and what the consequences would be if he didn’t, and she went straight to “Bougainvillea” in the morning.

“Tim,” she said, “I’m so sorry – but you will have to go back. Your parents are failing and they need you. You just can’t stay.”

Tim looked at her and turned absolutely white. “But I want you – and you only,” he said. “I cannot go away; I have to stay. I can’t go!”

“No,” she said, “you must, Tim. If you want me, you’ll still do so at the world’s end. And no woman could be happy with a guilt-ridden man. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you.”

Tim looked completely crestfallen. Marguerite put her arms around him and hugged him.

“Tim,” she said, “I want you as much as you do. But I won’t have you unable to live with yourself. It would kill you, and it would turn sour what we feel for each other. You must go home. When is your flight due?”

“In four days’ time,” he said, almost inaudibly.

“Then we have three days left – let’s make the most of them! Come, pack your things. We’re going to spend them at my house.”

Tim did as he was told. He felt completely dazed, and he was close to tears. He didn’t want Marguerite to see, and he packed his belongings into his suitcase fast and efficiently.

They left Bougainvillea within ten minutes. It wasn’t quite light yet, and when they passed a small field they saw a white horse standing in the shadow of some trees. It echoed his feelings perfectly; with its dark eyes in its eerily white face it reminded him of a Chagall nightmare.

Marguerite opened the door for him. “Come,” she said. “Let’s take your stuff to my bedroom.”

She had a big, light room with a large double bed, and she showed Tim where to put his stuff. She stood looking at him all the while he was unpacking, close to the bed, and when he was done she remained silent for a moment.

Then she said, “Tim, er… would you like to take off my dress?”

He went to her almost mechanically – but when he felt her lips on his it was as if the spell lifted and the day grew bright. He smiled at her and undid the zipper at the back, and she put down her arms to let it slide to the floor. She wore no bra, and her breasts stood proudly on her chest. She had areolas the size of an Eagle, and big nipples. She stepped back to give him a look. She looked more beautiful than anything he could imagine, and he told her so. She smiled happily at that, and hooked her fingers in the elastic of her panties.

When she was naked she put her hands on his shoulders, pulled him towards her and shoved his T-shirt over his head. She pressed her breasts against him and found the fastening of his trousers while she did something magical with her tongue. Tim’s left hand was in her hair, and the right one had found her breasts.

“I have longed to touch these ever since you stretched yourself on the beach,” he confessed.

“I wanted you to touch them just as long,” she said, and then she sat on her haunches and pulled his trousers down his legs. “Wow, you’re hard.” She pulled his underpants away from his cock and it sprang forward; it almost touched her face. She quickly removed the last article of clothing, and then she took the pins out of her hair and let it fall down, tickling his chest and his cock – and she planted a kiss on its tip before she rose and pressed him into her. She took his hands and put them back on her breasts, and he took her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers and rolled them, softly but insistently.

“Ooohh,” she sighed. “Ooh yes – come – take me, and be good to me.”

Tim dropped a hand to her pussy. He cupped it in his hand to enjoy its warmth and then he pushed the outer labia apart. He ran his fingers through the rills between the inner and the outer ones, and Marguerite became more and more impatient for him to touch her inner pussy and her clit. When she felt she couldn’t take it any more he did, and she almost fainted with delight.

“Oh yes, please… please, Tim, stop teasing me… please…” She almost cried when he pushed two fingers into her waiting warmth and found her clit with his thumb. “Please…”

She felt between them for his cock and started to masturbate him while he teased her, and he had been waiting so long for her that he knew he wouldn’t last that way.

“Come,” he said. “Lie down.”

She went and lay down on the bed and Tim got up with her.

“Please,” he said. “Let me look at you for a moment.” She lay back expectantly, and he sat on the foot of the bed, looking at the woman he wanted more than anything else in his life. She was beautiful. His eyes went from her lovely face to her breasts, and from there to her navel – she was a little on the plump side, and her navel was a beautiful, tempting dip in the soft curve of her belly, and he bent over and stuck in his tongue. It made her moan with desire, and he smiled at her and sat up to look at her pussy. The skin around it was purplish and darker than the rest, and her pubic hair looked soft and tempting. Her inner labia were quite swollen and stuck out well between the outer ones, and he could see a hint of the ruby skin inside. He bent over and kissed her just above her slit; then he entered it with his tongue. He hoped he was doing it right – and judging by Marguerite’s reaction he was. Her hands were in his hair, and she pushed his face down into her soft folds as he eagerly lapped away at her juices. She tasted wonderful, and the smell of her arousal was in his nose and in his heart – he had seldom felt so happy before.

He heard Marguerite’s breathing go ragged. She moaned, and called his name, and when he looked at her face he saw she’d closed her eyes, and her mouth was half open. He nibbled on the edges of her pussy lips, and pulled them into his mouth, and when he caught her clit between his lips and moved the tip of his tongue across her nub, fast, she almost flattened his head between her legs and she screamed.

He stopped, and stroked her pubic hair. She opened her eyes and looked at him, and she smiled at him so warmly that it almost made him cry. “Hhhoh,” she said, still panting. “Phhh. .. That was really good.” She extended her arms to him, and he crawled her way on the bed. She put her arms around him and pulled him down on top of her.

“This was lovely for starters,” she said. “Now let me have your cock – please!” She grabbed his bum and pulled him towards her. “There,” she said. “That’s where I want you, boy!”

Tim needed no prompting. “I hope I will last,” he said as he spread her legs, put the tip of his cock against her opening and guided himself in.

He waited a moment to see if it was alright with Marguerite, but when she smiled at him encouragingly he lowered his weight and slid easily into her waiting pussy.

“That’s it, boy,” Marguerite said. “Now give it to me!”

He sighed deeply. Then he, too, smiled as she began to move her pelvis, and he fell in with her motions. She took his left hand and put it on her breast, and she rolled the muscles of her pelvis – and her actions triggered Tim on no end. He moved in and out of her slowly, enjoying the motions and her counter movements and the feeling of her body against his, and he tried to move in a slow arch as he entered her, rubbing all the intimate places. He stroked her breast and felt her nipple grow rubbery and hot, and then he bent her way and touched her lips with his, and when she kissed him back he really let go, to her great delight.

“Oh yes – yes – that’s it!” she moaned into his mouth. She loved to feel him move in and out, touching her pubic arch with his pelvis – she held him close and found his ear with her mouth, and she softly nibbled on his earlobe and whispered sweet words.

“Oh, darling,” he said when she started to milk him with her pussy – it was a new, wonderful sensation to him – and he contracted the muscles at the base off his cock to respond. She smiled when she felt it, and she found his mouth again and sucked his tongue into hers as far as it would go.

He panted and moaned as he fucked her harder, with her breasts pressing into him and her nipples rubbing against his chest. Then she let go of his tongue and whispered, “Oh please, Tim, come with me – give me your sweet come…” She squeezed his buttocks hard, and she pushed her pelvis up to meet him so hard that she drove him straight over the brink. When she felt his semen spurt into the depths of her pussy she came with a shudder. “Ohhh, Ted…” she panted, and she lay back and smiled, a small, private little smile, while the waves of her delight washed over her.

That morning they didn’t leave the bedroom – Marguerite taught Tim a thing or two about the things she liked, and he went down on her pussy twice while she whispered to him how to use his tongue to even more effect, which made him go hard again almost immediately. The second time she’d asked him to lie down so she could squat over his face, and when his mouth was safely on her pussy she took his cock into her mouth and sucked him to the brink – It made Tim feel he must be in heaven, and he explored her buns with his hands, touching every square inch of flesh lovingly. His face was plastered with her juices, and when she came over his face her smell was so overpowering that it almost made him come.

But Marguerite knew what she was doing, and when she felt it was almost too much for him she turned around and stuffed his cock into her pussy. She was so slick with her juices that she slid down on him without any friction and firmly dropped onto his hips. She rode him like a rodeo hand, her breasts swinging up and down, covered in perspiration.

“Oh yes,” she panted, “oh yes, I can feel you touch my cervix – oh Tim, please – yes, that’s it, answer my strokes, please – yes – yes – yes -”

Tim lay back and tried to push upwards every time she slumped down on him. He could see his cock come into view when she lifted her bum, glistening with her juices, and her pussy lips stretched round his cock, and he reached for her clit and touched it with a trembling fingertip.

“Oh yes,” Marguerite panted, almost inaudibly, “oooohh…” and then she came wetly around him, pulling him along with her, and he spewed all of his feeling for her into her waiting womb.

“Oh my love,” she whispered, “this was so good – oh Tim, I love you so much!”

When eventually she felt him slip out of her, she sat upon his stomach.

“It’s strange,” she said and looked at him lovingly, “but now it all just feels really alright – probably because I know now where my qualms came from.”

They had breakfast at one. That afternoon they went to Evelina, who was now quite visibly pregnant, and told her about their situation. Evelina commiserated with them, and wished them luck for their future, and Tim asked her to promise him she would write if something happened to Marguerite, a promise she readily made. They went to the beach as usual, and talked long and tenderly about their feelings, and Tim took her to Linda’s for dinner, but they were back in Marguerite’s bedroom before nine thirty, and they didn’t leave it until it was nearly noon.

Then they showered together and Tim went to town to tell Mr Murchkin he had to go back, to that gentleman’s great regret, and he went to the airline company’s office to reconfirm his flight. He bought some local rum, and he found a bottle of perfume for Marguerite, and a set of underwear he really liked.

When he returned with his gifts she almost flattened him in her embrace, and she took him to the bedroom straight away to try on the scanty clothes. She looked at herself in the mirror. “Oh,” she said, “you make me look very sexy this way, naughty boy!” She sprayed some perfume between her breasts, and then she held out her arms and took off Tim’s clothes, and allowed him to remove hers, and they made slow, sweet love, which lasted a long time before their love boiled over and their juices mingled in the sultry tropical afternoon.

That night they only talked and they lay together touching and kissing, but they didn’t fuck. They couldn’t sleep – Tim was to fly that day and they were both filled with the sadness of his imminent departure. But when they were in the shower together Marguerite turned her beautiful bottom his way and rubbed her buns into his pubic area, and Tim felt himself go hard and she pulled him into her. She knew it was her last chance for a very long time and she thought it might cause fewer tears if they didn’t make love face to face. It was a short, fierce joy, tainted a little by the impending separation…

They had breakfast together in silence. When the time arrived they took a taxi to the airport.

Tim checked in, and then he took Marguerite in his arms and held her close. She looked at him earnestly. “I’m not going to write to you,” she said. “It would make life more unbearable for you, and you might give up on what you ought to do.”

“Do you mind if I write to you sometimes?”

“No, that is ok. I’d love to get your letters. I’ll be waiting for you here, no matter how long it takes.”

Tim kissed Marguerite goodbye just before the customs area. She had tears in her eyes, and when he had passed through customs and looked back she had gone. He heaved a deep sigh and went to the gate straight away.

It was a joyless flight back, and he arrived tired, grumpy and cold. England had lost its shine; it looked no way like the Caribbean. He took a train from Heathrow to Lymington, and he crossed to Yarmouth. He was met by his neighbour, and on the way home he informed him of the situation of his parents. “They didn’t want to contact you so you wouldn’t get worried,” he said.

Tim learnt how bad it was. His mother had had a stroke; she was unilaterally paralysed and completely wheelchair-bound. His father had taken it hard, and he had to take heart tablets since. Moreover, he had lost any self-confidence, and was looking forward eagerly to his son’s return…

Marguerite had been right – as usual, he thought with a sad smile. He would have felt more than guilty if he had left them to cope. He went to bed straight away, got up early and went over to his parents’ house. It was a good thing he’d been prepared; it still was an immense shock to find his parents in so bad a state.

His father was almost pathetically grateful to see him again, and he felt overcome with remorse for having thought for a moment he didn’t want to return. He hugged him hard, and held him close, and told him it was all right, and then they sat down and his father unburdened his heart. He was completely lost without his wife, who had lost the capacity of speech altogether – he didn’t even know for certain if she still understood what he said. All the love they’d had together was completely out of reach, barred, locked, or that was how it felt, now that they couldn’t communicate any more, and he was desperately trying to make some kind of rapport, but it didn’t work out. Tim had never in his life seen his father in tears before; it was heart-wrenching.

He made all necessary arrangement that very day, and he fell into the old routine of teaching and writing when he had the time, which was increasingly less often; there were people to take care of his parents in the daytime but he was on for most of the remainder of the day, which sometimes meant he hardly had the time to mark his pupils’ work.

As soon as he found the time he recorded the LP with their song onto a cassette, and sent it to Marguerite with a long letter about his parents, and the situation at school, and he included his latest poems.

He thought a lot of Marguerite. Her absence hit him especially hard when he lay in bed, or when he saw the sun go down over Tennyson Down… Her promise kept him going, and he sent her some poetry regularly, and letters, and greetings at Christmas – she’d never told him when her birthday was, and he never asked.

Marguerite didn’t admit to herself that she missed Tim awfully badly, but she always looked in her letterbox whenever she passed it, and she always felt a pang of disappointment when it was empty. She loved the poetry he sent her, and the letters, and the occasional little presents; and she slowly acquired a reading habit. She played the cassette so often that it became slightly worn; but by that time she knew her song by heart.

A few weeks after Tim had left she was certain she’d got pregnant. She’d felt it might be very long before they’d see each other again, and as she was certain they would meet again she wasn’t taking any chances… She had given a lot of thought to the question if she should write and tell Tim about it; but she’d decided against it. He would feel even worse about their separation, she thought.

She spent a lot of time with Evelina, who knew how it felt, although she wasn’t so sure if she’d ever see Bunny again – he had sent her letter from the States twice, but the last on was seven months ago…

Evie got a son, a big baby with kinky hair and a broad nose. She called him Louis, after Louis Armstrong. Marguerite felt very glad for her, and Evie was obviously happy as a lark.

Marguerite gave birth five months later. Her mother had come to help out, and she delivered Marguerite’s daughter with tears in her eyes – she’d not expected to become a grandmother any more. It was a daughter. Marguerite lay looking at her with a quiet smile; Tim would love her, she knew. She had her eyes – eyes of amber – and her mouth, and Tim’s hands. She was a beautiful baby, and Marguerite knew immediately that she would be called Amber, as that was where it had all started… And then her mother had to hold and cuddle her when Tim’s absence became rather too much for her, and she cried, and cried, and cried…

July 2018
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