47˚ East 18˚ South
The photographs hadn’t lied. They’d promised beauty, tranquillity, a different world……the perfect holiday. It was so remote it didn’t even have a postal address, only the longitude and latitude.
The pool was warm and there was no one else in it but her, which is the best way for a pool to be. As if to prove it, she turned on her back, spread her arms and legs wide, like a starfish, and let her body float gently, knowing that there was absolutely no risk of accidentally bumping into anyone else.
She closed her eyes, to shut out the hot African sun, and instead, concentrated on her other senses. The silkiness of the water was deliciously cool, lapping gently over her body, between her toes and fingers; calming the slight burning sensation on her face where it magnified the rays.
The smell of fluoride was there of course, but that was quite faint. Over and above the chemical was the scent of exotic flowers – the blossoms from the trees that surrounded the place. She wondered if they were natural – reminders of what had been, before they’d carved the hotel grounds from the forest that surrounded it on three sides – or if they’d been deliberately planted there during the landscaping.
She listened carefully. All she could hear were the very faintest noises from the main building – the chinking of cutlery being placed on tables ready for lunch, even though it wasn’t anywhere near lunchtime, a few muted voices – and that was it.
No crowds, no children screaming, no muzack. That’s what you pay for. Her fingers met something slippery, and she turned herself upright and opened her eyes to see what it was. A pink petal – one of the handful that they sprinkled fresh on the surface of the infinity pool every morning.
You get what you pay for…..you pay for what you get….all the same really. She turned in the other direction, away from the low thatched building, towards the ocean. Leaning on the edge of the pool looking across, there were one or two palm trees separating her from the beach – the endless white sand beach. Totally deserted. Then her eyes followed the line of the horizon – perfect blue meeting perfect blue. It was all fucking perfect, except for what was inside her, what she’d done – and it would always be there, forever, like the ocean.
She didn’t want to think about it. She pushed herself off and swam hard for ten minutes, trying to forget. It didn’t work of course. Nothing was ever going to make it go away
“Ok. I’ll make it work. How about that then? I’ll turn myself into a saintly person. Never answer back, never say the wrong thing. It takes two to argue after all”.
“It won’t work though – sometimes I don’t know what the wrong thing is – and sometimes it’s not what I’ve said - it’s what I haven’t said. Jesus – I can’t spend my whole life pretending. But what to do?”
She couldn’t see a way out. It was nobody’s fault but her own. She’d known right from the start. Should have walked away – had had endless opportunities to. The thing is – the thing is…..he’d been so kind – he could still be. And all the rest had been so ..
She remembered how awful it had been before he’d come along – being poor. She was so bad at being poor…..and him standing there, at the beginning, refusing to take no for an answer
“There isn’t any need – take it. I want you to. You don’t need to worry ever again. I want you to have it – everything. It would make me happy”
It hadn’t though had it – it hadn’t made him happy. He was the angriest person she’d ever met, mainly with her these days. And it hadn’t made her happy either – just guilty, and ungrateful. She looked at the sparkling water in front of her, her brown arms as they pushed their way through it, making the surface ripple. As she reached the end of the pool again and turned, she saw that someone had come to the edge furthest away from her, and was sitting, dangling their legs in the water.