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Thrill Seekers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
They were thrill seekers. I wasn’t surprised when they told me they were going native in a remote bamboo hut.

Adult Content: sex and virus

Photo: Crook & Maker on Unsplash

Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Submitted: April 21, 2019

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Thrill Seekers

Friday 31st May:

They were thrill seekers. I wasn’t surprised when Alix and Josh told me they were going native in a remote bamboo hut for twelve nights. They were always off gallivanting somewhere or the other. The Amazon, The Outback, The Mekong, The Serengeti. But that had been part of an organised group where there was safety in numbers. This time they were going it alone. I asked them if they thought that was such a good idea, given the recent spate of violent attacks on backpackers travelling alone.

Although Josh could take care of himself, he behaved irresponsibly at times. He was a wild horse. As an old gipsy woman once told me in a transport café: ‘you can take a wild horse to the trough, but you can’t make him drink’. Josh drank far too much for his own good. I tried to tell him the drink, and the hard drugs he injected, would be his downfall. He didn’t listen. We went to school together, fought side by side. I thought I knew Josh inside out: his frailties, his weaknesses, his lust. Outwardly, he came across as smart, a wise-guy, but the Josh I knew was an impatient, vain braggart. Still, he always landed on his feet.

When he was forced to quit the Army, he set up a successful fitness empire in Essex, made his first million, became interested in green politics: Save the Planet, Beautiful People, those sorts of beliefs. And met his beautiful person, Alix. She influenced him, changed him, introduced him to wanderlust, her thrilling, erotic, interpretation of feeling earth, going native, being at one with nature, setting herself free. Alix freed the inner spirits in him, taught him her secret, sacred, tantric kind of loving. I knew: she confided in me, told me Josh disliked being told by her what to do, but went along with it because it made her happy. She was greedy for him, possessive, made him give up soccer. Alix taught him her kind of sport. She tamed him, using one word to control his lust: behave.

I wondered if she discovered his dark side, his overwhelming nightmares: the defeats, deaths, pain and suffering. The loss of loved ones at war. I wondered if she knew his vital secret. What he did alone. His euphoria when he cheated on others.

I was concerned for Alix. She was emotionally vulnerable, cheeky, teasing in the extreme. I suspected Josh had an ulterior motive for taking her off to their tropical paradise. He usually did. What was the reason this time? I wondered. A final fling before he ditched her? An exotic marriage proposal? You never really knew with Josh.

They were madly in love. Seemingly made for one another. They’d been going steady for four years. Alix Bright worked as a receptionist at the green glass prism head office of a blue-chip law firm in the City. I knew she wanted to have his child. She told me over a glass of wine.

Josh confided to me over a beer after a late-night workout at the gym that the time had come for him to grow up, settle down, buy a house, marry Alix, and start a family. Why didn’t I want to believe him?

They were both in high spirits the night before they left civilization to become castaways. We met in a musty old wine bar in Leadenhall Market, The Traveller’s Rest, an old-fashioned hostelry with stained teak tables, empty seats, sawdust all over the floor. Alix’s favourite haunt.

She was infantile in her excitement that night. She gazed into Josh’s eyes, adoring him in much the same way that a faithful puppy adores her owner, made him blissfully happy. It was hard for me not to feel jealous of him. I stared into her face. God, but she was beautiful. Petite, with a shock of buttery, blonde hair which hung all the way down her back, a widow’s peak, cognac brown eyes. Alix wasn’t perfect. She had this twisted, turned-up nose. Her left nostril was smaller than her right. A scar graced her mouth - the residue of a hair lip from birth. She tried to hide her aberration with gloss, failed miserably, accentuating her divine pout.

Alix was beautiful and she knew it, clean of drugs, the classic Essex schoolgirl made good. Fun-loving, lovable, loving and loyal. Josh showed her off, she lapped him up, so much in love. And nervous. I could tell she was preoccupied. I knew her darkest fears. She shared them with me: death, illness, pain, loneliness. She was bad in a crisis. Alix told me what she did when she was alone. Her wild dreams. She bit her top lip, blushing hard, spat out a stray blonde hair into her empty glass. I baulked, finding her immaturity embarrassing.

Don’t tell me, Alix, you’re going to share your wildest fantasies with him? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to feel happy for them. I lifted the smoked green bottle of Shiraz and refilled her glass. Josh leaned heavily into her, swaying about like a palm tree in a hurricane. He’d had more than enough to drink for one night. He raised his glass, slopping red wine over me, dousing my shirtsleeve crimson.

‘Our holiday of a lifetime!’ he slurred. His face contorted into a gormless grin. I looked on, infuriated, as he kissed Alix full on the lips, his slobbering mouth smearing the sheen off her thin, pink upper and puffy, red lower, lips, slitting her cheek into a rouged rainbow. He ran his hands down the small of her back, squeezed her hips.

She giggled, flashing her shining white teeth, then stuck her lean scarlet tongue out, teasing me unashamedly. And she smiled the smile that used to make me cry, the smile that said, ‘I still love you, David.’ I choked up inside, didn’t know what to say. My stumps hurt. Time I left. I made an excuse, hauled myself up and turned to go. Josh stood and wrapped me in a bear hug, pressing my left cheek against his, like old times.

‘I’ll never forget what you did for me in Helmand,’ I said.

He gripped my shoulders. ‘Take care, David.’ That’s all he said.

I wished them God’s speed. Alix let me peck her soft cheeks. Tears stung my eyes. I turned away and walked out of her life. I tried to warn Josh, like I did in Helmand about the IEDs. He never listened to me.

Saturday 1st June:

Alix treated herself to a lie-in, convinced Josh would remain comatose from drinking himself under the table well into the following afternoon. She arrived at his apartment at 3pm, roused him, and set about packing their rucksacks. They went to bed early, only to find they couldn’t sleep. They were too excited. Eventually they did fall asleep - at midnight.

Sunday 2nd June:

Their alarm went off at 4am. Exhausted by her lack of sleep, Alix drove her sleepy-head the full circumference of the orbital motorway, taking the M23 exit for Gatwick. She parked in zone D, woke Josh, and checked in at 6am. Alix was in a foul mood. She suffered from terrible stomach cramps. Despite the warm, humid weather, Josh managed to acquire a head cold. To cap it all, their flight was delayed by an hour and didn’t depart until 1015am. Being stuck in aisle seats neither of them managed to sleep during the 9-hour flight. They watched a bloody BBC tv drama, all nine episodes, and dined on glutinous Chicken Madras, chocolate pots and bendy sticks of slow-maturing cheese.

Monday 3rd June:

The plane landed in Goa at 1am local time. By the time they’d collected their rucksacks and staggered as far as the airport hotel it was 3am. Josh and Alix unpacked the bare essentials and went straight to bed to sleep.

They slept through the alarm, didn’t breakfast until 930am, missed their taxi and ended up having to hitch a ride to the fishing village where they were due to meet the boatman, Gujerati, at noon. He was about to leave when they arrived. Alix, who was still suffering, needed the toilet, which turned out to be a filthy hole in the ground inside one of the wooden beach shacks.

The beach was crowded with merchants selling everything from baseball hats to gaily coloured printed yarns, gossamer sarongs. Alix despaired at the natural pollution: the dog faeces, cow pats (cows roamed the beach), human excrement; littering the sand, along with broken glass, bits of rusty metal, old toilets and garbage. Gujerati warned them not to venture into the contaminated sea.

Instead, Josh and Alix were hoisted unceremoniously into his vessel by a group of smiling fishermen. Their rucksacks stowed in the bow, Gujerati took the helm and they were launched. He perched behind Josh at the stern manning the rudder as the old fishing boat chugged slowly out to sea, his beaky face as dark as a shrivelled date. Protected from the baking hot sun by a wide-brim straw hat, cotton shirt and knee-length khaki shorts. Only his nut-brown matchstick calves and knobbly feet were exposed. He gave Josh a gappy grin. Why didn’t the English ever wear sun-hats?! Then he stared at Alix’s bare legs, burned dark caramel, wishing he was fifty years younger. Now there’s a good looker, he thought.

Josh let his hand drag through the cool seawater slopping lazily against the side of the boat. He closed his eyes, reflecting privately on how he saved David’s life in the field of battle. When they returned home, David spent six months in hospital undergoing countless life-saving operations. The two men became lifelong friends. Josh was there when David was fitted with robotic legs, watched his friend take his first steps to recovery, and found him a flat: a home fit for a hero. Then he took away the woman he loved. For he could give Alix his most precious gift, the gift of life, which his closest friend could never give. He felt for Alix, enduring David’s wrath and frustration, before they met.

Josh sat facing Alix, his hairy calf between her legs, enjoying the sensation of her smooth skin rubbing against his. How lucky can a man be? he mused. To be alone, floating on a calm, turquoise sea, in a private paradise with the most beautiful woman in his perfect world. The afternoon sun was hot, mildly humid. Josh felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back under his flecked grey tee-shirt, into the hairy crevice between his buttocks, dampening his jersey shorts.

Alix, dozing, slumped on the thwart of the wooden boat, her feet either side of the oars, scantily clad in an oily denim shirt, and the tiniest, tightest, sawn-off denim shorts. So tiny, the cream pockets protruded out of her gusset. Her shirt slipped off her shoulders, exposing her tanned, round breasts, a tantalising glimpse of her almond nipples. He thought of Gujariti, ogling Alix’s natural wonders, the smug grin spreading over his wrinkled old face. He felt himself rise, the cylindrical growth in his pants. They had not had sex in seven days. He quickly reached forward and pulled her shirt around her, to protect her from his swollen lust. She stirred from her sleep, yawned, and lightly stretched her arms.

‘Are we there yet, Josh?’ she asked.

He took her dainty hands in his, ‘Not long now.’

They’d set out from the fishing village, with its enticing restaurant, bar and beach café, over two hours ago. It was early evening, but the sun was still fiery hot. The boatman tapped Josh’s shoulder and pointed at two spume-washed shadows, arcing smoothly through the waves alongside the boat. Josh’s heart jumped at the sight.

‘Look, Alix, dolphins!’

One of the mammals leapt clear of the sea, the other tail-walked, turning its head to face them, smiling, fixing it beady eye on Alix, before crashing back into the waves. 

‘Oh, aren’t they beautiful!’ she gasped as they submerged and disappeared from view.

They rounded the headland, straining as the secluded cove came into view: the white beach, three palms shading a pair of sun loungers, a dense wooded grove, surrounded by a precipitous rock face. Gujariti told them the only ways to access the beach were by boat or a one-hour walk along the shoreline at low tide. As they neared the shallows, he dropped anchor, smiled, and gestured for them to leap out of the boat. Thrilled, they held hands and jumped into the warm water. Gujariti followed with the rucksacks, shook their hands warmly and said he looked forward to seeing them at that exact spot, in twelve days’ time.

‘Happy holiday!’ he cried, in a rare expression of emotion, then he waded out to sea.

Alix gripped Josh’s hand tightly as the boat disappeared on the horizon. She’d never felt so alone. Sensing her fear, he took her in his arms and hugged her to his chest. He beamed. His voice shrilled with excitement.

‘Come on, Alix! There’s nothing to be afraid of. Let’s find our hut, shall we?’

She shook herself dry, pinched his arm. ‘Who said anything about being afraid?’

They trudged up the beach, past an oval love-hammock which swung from a palm, until they reached some sandy boards. The boards ended at a dirt path which led to the shady grove. To reach their hut the couple had to walk round a green, murky lagoon. Alix stared at the clouds of black insects hovering over the stagnant water and shuddered. She looked at Josh, pale with shock. The holiday website hadn’t mentioned a lagoon. They didn’t speak. Their hut was yards from the water. There were other huts, beige shadows in the background, strangely silent. Josh reached into his rucksack and produced three teak plastic spray-bottles with orange caps.

‘Just as well I brought extra supplies,’ he said seriously, ‘Anyway, we’ll be fine, we’ve had our jabs, we’re taking all the right tablets.’

‘I guess you’re right,’ Alix conceded. ‘It’s getting dark. Let’s go inside, shall we? This place gives me the creeps.’ She took one step forward, and screamed, ‘Josh! What’s that?!’

‘It’s nothing. Just a dead branch. Cut it out, will you? You’re scaring me now!’ He kicked the snake-skin into the undergrowth, took off his rucksack, lifted Alix off her feet, and carried her up the wooden steps. Over the threshold. Into the safety of their bamboo hut.

The micro-climate was hot, humid and sultry in the palm grove. Alix sensed there was a storm brewing, a growing sense of unease blemished her mind. She tried to shake off her doubt. Still plagued by her dreadful stomach ache, she felt drained, negative. She couldn’t forget the snake, it’s hood, those distinctive diadem markings, wondered how many snakes dwelt under the hut, primed to attack. Alix couldn’t remember seeing any boats moored along the coastline.

The tide was high. Josh produced a tide table. Low tide wasn’t until 1.25am. They were trapped, inside a paradise.

Josh led the guided tour around the hut. There was a majestic honeymooner’s bedroom, a small room off the side with a single bed, and a bathroom, which looked out across the lagoon.

‘Is that it?’ Alix remarked. ‘Bit basic, isn’t it?’

He sounded edgy. ‘I’m sure we’ll survive. What do you think?’

 She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, ‘I think it’s perfect, Josh! Just perfect!’

 They stepped into the main room to unpack. There was a welcome note, lying on the bed…

 No plastic! No aerosols! No electricity!

 Great! So, this is paradise, is it? Alix thought.

 … and a huge basket of exotic fruit: mangoes, pineapple, bananas, lychees, guava, a note:

 Welcome to Paradise! Have a great stay!

 Attached to the note were details of the local beach cafés, bars, restaurants, a nightclub, the daily market in the local fishing village, a few optional excursions. Alix began to change her mind, intent on enjoying every minute of their stay. She glimpsed Josh, sorting out his clothes, medication and swimming gear. Every minute!

As they unpacked, there was a loud crash of thunder. Rain splashed down on the bamboo ceiling. The sun set at 7pm. There was no torch. It was dark. Alix quickly brushed her teeth, slipped on some clean chuddies and a nightie, and snuggled up with Josh in bed, falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Tuesday 4th June:

Alix’s holiday in paradise was pure magic. Josh hoisted her up onto his broad shoulders, threw her in the sea, then drew her in again, as if she were his private catch. He held her sopping-wet, blonde head to his heaving chest, crushing her senseless in his gorgeous, bulging, muscly arms. He splashed her with surf, holding her steady. She jumped the crashing waves.

They swam the copper-crystal sea, then slouched in the shade on their love-hammock, hugging and kissing neath a gently swaying palm. Josh wore his best baggy royal blue beach shorts, jet black shades, five o’clock shadow. Alix traced her index finger down his conical nose, resting her soft tip upon his dry, cracked lips. She was wearing a complicated scarlet swimsuit, a halter neck which covered her boobs and tummy yet still offered a foretaste of her curvaceous body: the tiny waist and small hips. Alix crossed her left leg over her right, so that he could rest an arm on her thigh, admiring him through her silver sunglasses.

He was fit, stocky and stumpy-necked with a he-man body. Magnificent! If only. She studied the display of intimate tattooing, etched in black and red into his light tan skin. Under his collarbone, the inscription:

It is a man’s own mind not his foe that lures him to evil!

Across his sunken, barrel, hairy chest: two eagle’s wings flapping either side of a sacred red heart and crown. On his stomach: the mandala, the shape Buddhists make out of sand as a form of meditation. Josh’s arms were plastered with scenes of red fighting soldiers, wading through black waves, descending on red parachutes. He frightened her. He could change abruptly. Be moody, thoughtful, withdrawn: the mental scars of conflict. She rubbed his hairy forearm and kissed him on the cheek by way of reassurance.

‘Why so serious, Josh?’ she asked, even though she knew why, and understood.

‘Just thinking how lucky I am to be alive and in love with a woman as beautiful as you.’

Alix was moved to tears, she spoke softly, in her child’s voice, ‘What a lovely thing to say. I think we should go back to the hut now, don’t you, before we burn?’

He kissed her freckled shoulder. She reached across and pushed her soft fingers through his wavy hair, gently rubbing his earlobe, where he loved her touch. A subliminal message of love passed between them. Alix wrapped her body in a light, spotted shift. Josh put on his flip-flops. They made their way back to the clearing. The lagoon was still, a murky, algal green. A zephyr blew a crease of ripples across its surface. There were no signs of life: on the beach, the horizon, the pond, around the huts. No life, anywhere.

They dined on fruit and nuts. Alix bathed, dressed in her big pants, bra and jim jams, went to bed, and slept. Josh lay awake, frustrated, in his grey jersey trunks, watching the blades on the ceiling fan spin round. Feeling down, he drew their mosquito net protectively around them, but couldn’t sleep. Love is all you need, Alix, he mused sadly, reaching for his phone. There was no reception. They were completely cut off from civilization.

Fully rested, the thrill-seekers returned to the beach at low tide. The beach stretched far and wide, the flat azure sea merging into a sapphire blue horizon. Alix stripped off her floppy lemon t-shirt, shorts and fresh pants in front of Josh, driving him half-crazy as she knelt, stuffing her clothes into the beach bag. He struggled for breath as she padded up to him, arms outstretched, baring her breasts to him, her shallow navel, her dangly silver teddy bear charm, her sun-kissed mole, her curly hair. His heart sank, he slumped. She was lovely, so near, and yet so far away.

‘Well, don’t you want to give me a hug?’ she said, feeling sorry for him.

He crushed Alix, loving her full breasts squashed against his chest, running his hands down her slender back, drawing her flat stomach into his powerful midriff, gripping her firm buttocks. She pressed her lips to his, prising him open, licking the roof of his mouth salaciously, probing his palate with the tingling tip of her tongue, savouring his frothy saliva, plunging her full, lean, red langue unashamedly down his throat. He came up for air, wrestled her clinging arms off of him, pushed her away. There were tears in his eyes, great big, salty, sopping tears.

He pleaded with her, ‘Please, don’t do this to me, Alix, when we both know you can’t…’

She had short legs. He was inches taller than her. She gazed into his sad eyes, shame-faced.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘That was inconsiderate of me. I love you, Josh.’

Alix put on her white bikini and pink-rim sunglasses, and stood side-on to him, accentuating her slender figure. She smiled. ‘Take a picture of me. For you to treasure when we get home.’

Josh cheered up, reached for his phone, and snapped Alix in her bikini. She removed her top, then untied her bikini bottoms, letting them slowly slip down her legs. He photographed her. My girl, he thought, what did I do to deserve you? He told her he’d love her to their deaths.

‘Come on! Let’s skinny-dip!’

 Alix gripped the bows on his turquoise shorts, ‘What happens if I untie these?’ Down they fell. ‘Ha! Ha! And if I pull this off?’

He let her pull down his black thong, bouncing out like her private jack-in-the box. He reached for his tease.

‘Behave!’ she shrieked.

Her heart full of joy, Alix shoved him out of the way, sprinted down the beach, and threw herself head-long, into the warm, spumy surf. He joined her, and challenged her to a race. They swam as far as the headland. She won. Afterwards, Josh dressed in a crazy cartoon beach shirt, red briefs and shorts. Alix threw on her t-shirt.

‘Come on!’ she cried, ‘Let’s find the village.’

They splashed through the surf, holding hands, so happy, so in love. One hour later, they rounded the headland and strode up the crowded beach to the village. Alix took a few rupees out of her beach bag and bought some bananas from a sad-eyed little boy with a terrible hair lip. He half-smiled, thanked her graciously, and ran off into the village. Her heart ached for him, and for the characters, the fraternity of friendly people, she would write in her diary, never to meet again.

If the beach had been crowded, the village was positively heaving, with teenagers on mopeds, ladies dressed in bright orange saris, children sitting in the gutter eating rice off metal dishes, girls carrying baskets of naan bread on their heads. Alix and Josh made a beeline for the flea market, carefully treading their way through the towels strewn with cheap jewellery, the flower sellers. Many of the stalls were draped with saris, sarongs and colourful rugs. Josh bought Alix a beaded necklace, her love-beads she called them, a bead for every year of their life together. He blushed and looked away, suggesting they visited the chai shop for supper: an exotic combination of cold sausages, cashews and Alix’s bananas, washed down with iced tea. The place reeked of spices. There was a loo at the back of the shop, which also reeked, as Josh discovered.

Once they had stocked up on Kingfisher, Sprite, wine, fruit, nuts and sweets, they made their way to the tattoo shop. Alix had a blue butterfly tattooed on her ankle by a smiling girl whose skin was decorated from her face to her toes with enchanting henna floral patterns.

‘You have lovely feet,’ she said.

Alix was thrilled. She pointed at her bottom. Josh shook his head. There wasn’t time. The tide was rising fast. They had to leave, now. Alix thanked the girl, holding her hands tightly, as if she never wanted to let her go. The girl looked her in the eyes and wished her good luck. A fleeting concern, alarm, passed through her. Alix was afraid. Josh paid the girl, and they left.

They jogged awkwardly along the beach: jogging in a paddy Alix called it, until they reached the headland. The waves washed against the rocks creating a thick swell. They waded, up to their necks in seawater, until they made it to the safety of their lonely beach. If they’d arrived ten minutes later, Josh thought, they’d have been forced to ditch their provisions, and go to bed hungry.

Wednesday 5th June – Alix:

After a good night’s sleep Alix woke at sunrise, feeling much better. Her man lay on his back, snoring, dreaming no doubt, of her, entwined with him. Well you’ll just have to wait, she said to herself, swinging her little legs out of the bed. She stood up, rubbed the crusts of sleep from her eyes and stared up at the sunbeams, warming her cheeks. Alix loved Josh dearly, but badly needed some time to herself. Dare she? Go off on her own? Be at one with the sand and the sea as nature intended? Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time. She’d streaked through the bush, swum nude in a piranha-infested river, plastered her body with mud, braved snakes, scorpions. The beach would be deserted, especially at this early hour. The lagoon would be calm, still, its unpleasant residents dormant. And she hadn’t seen a snake. Well, not a live one at least. Her time had come.

She slipped off her jim jams and lacy knickers, scrawled a hasty note to Josh, left it at the foot of the bed, and padded silently out of the hut into the shady grove. Alix was astonished by the silence. There were no calling birds, no rustlings in the trees, no signs of wildlife: monkeys, parakeets, butterflies, lizards. Cautiously, she ventured up to the other huts, the doors were ajar, the huts were empty. Scared of her own shadow, she tip-toed past the lagoon, breathing a huge sigh of relief when she reached the dirt path unscathed. After that it was a short dash down the boards, across the sandy shore, and into the surf.

Alix splashed her shoulders, chest, breasts and tummy, invigorated by the chill, dipped her head under, and swam. She aimed for the headland, struggling at first with her breaststroke, slowly gaining strength. The further and harder she swam, the stronger, mentally and physically, she became. The rocks appeared in no time. Alix found a smooth boulder to rest on, a siren, a mermaid without a tail, and considered the holiday so far.

The reunions with David, secret, and open with Josh, were a serious miscalculation on her part. Not only had she underestimated her love for him, but she pitied him, felt guilty about his plight: struggling to cope in his specially-equipped house, without her support. With that guilt came an overwhelming sense of helplessness; Alix still had a place for David in her heart and he cared passionately about her. He showed concern for her, had a sense of decency and respect in her presence which Josh lacked. Increasingly, Alix saw her boyfriend for the greedy, lustful animal he was. He didn’t want to father her child, in her view all he wanted her for was the sex, and to show her off like a trophy to his mates. The IED detonation had cruelly left David without genitals. Josh, in theory, would resolve her dilemma, give her the baby she so desired. Except that she couldn’t stand him inside her. Alix resolved to visit David regularly when she returned to England, to brighten his miserable existence. And she made a decision to control Josh, to protect herself from harm.

 Her mind turned to more mundane matters: food and drink. The novelty of feasting on nuts and fruit had worn thin. She pinched her waist, felt her ribs, Alix was half-starved. From now on, she decided, they’d ignore the tides, wade or swim round the headland, eat a snack lunch in the beach café and dress up, as best they could, for dinner in the evening. She remembered the fear in the henna girl’s eyes in the tattoo shop, the relieved look on Gujariti’s face as he departed. His nervy shout: ‘Happy Holidays!’ What was wrong with this place? Why were the other huts empty?

She shivered, wrapping her arms around her shoulders to keep warm. The sun had risen higher in the cloudless sky, today would be another perfect day: sun, sea, sand, sustenance and sex - her way. Alix slid into the water, gasping as the cold reached her chest, and struck out for the lonely beach, the hut, a warm bath, and a snuggle with her man, safe in her panties and jim jams.

Wednesday 5th June – Josh:

The newly delivered Mastiff 2 armoured vehicle drew to a halt on the stony track. This was the wilderness, the isolated spread of wasteland that stretched for miles, without water, village or goat farm. There were no hiding places, no insurgents, and no threats of improvised explosive devices – even this far from base camp, the area had been meticulously swept for mines, swept clear. The last person Josh and David expected to meet in the middle of the desert was a child, wandering alone, without his parents. The boy in white robes was clearly in pain, clutching an injury to his right thigh, a bloody gash – shrapnel. He tried to stand up straight, waved his arms: ‘Help me! Please! Help me!’ The soldiers looked at one another, bemused. There was no apparent threat. David put on his helmet, with its video camera, checked his radio headset, and went to investigate.

As he closed in on the boy, the child smiled, turned and ran for his life. A moment’s panic, what was happening?

The buzz in his headset: Josh: ‘David, turn back! Get out of there!’

He turned, slipped, the IED exploded in a blinding flash of white light, sending his body in all directions. Then Josh was standing over him, staring at the severed stumps, the hole where his crotch should be, David, his best mate, screaming, hysterically, daubed in blood.

Josh woke up, saturated in sweat, screaming blue murder with no one to hear, riddled with guilt, for deserting David, for stealing his woman, his sole reason for living after leaving the specialist unit in Selly Oak. He recalled his last words to David, his final words, placing hands on shoulders, staring his best mate in the face and telling him to take care, meaning: I’m taking her from you now, from now on you’re on your own.

He wiped his forehead with his arm, then felt under the pillow for the tiny box. It was still there. He resolved to be a better man, to love and cherish Alix, to take care of her, for David’s sake, to marry her and father her child. If she would let him.

Alix had changed since the soiree in the Travellers Rest. She still loved David, felt guilty, was taking her guilt out on him. For all his wealth and the expensive gifts, he bought her, the holidays of a lifetime, there was no substitute in her heart for true love. He thought of his big issue, his obsession, his wild bouts of drinking. Josh had a mountain to climb if he was to win over Alix. He minded himself to make the proposal tonight over dinner. From this day forward he’d worship Alix, respect her, love her, like no other woman in the world. Josh saw the note at the foot of the bed. How he missed her and couldn’t wait for her to be in his arms. He remembered the promise he made her in his guilty past, bowed his head and wept.

Wednesday 5th June – Nightfall:

Josh planned the evening meticulously, checking the tide tables twice, to make sure. Low tide was at 5.12pm, sunset at 7pm, perfect for their romantic early dinner in the village, followed by a moonlight stroll along the beach, hand-in-hand, splashing through the cool surf, with Alix. They took their anti-malaria tablets, sprayed themselves with insect repellent and dressed for dinner.

Alix went to the bathroom to dab a sublime fragrance behind her ears, content, happy that she was in control. As soon as she left the bedroom, Josh retrieved the tiny box from under his pillow and stuffed it inside his stone tailor-fitted shorts. For once, he looked smart, having close-shaved before dressing in a tasteful powder blue polo shirt. He slipped his debit card and a wad of notes into his breast pocket, sat on the bed and waited, chewing his nails with anticipation. Alix appeared before him like a bride about to exchange vows at the altar. He had never seen her like this. She took his breath away. Stunning him with her simple white-on-navy spot sleeveless shirt dress with buttoned front, rose gloss lipstick, the coral studs in her ears.

‘How do I look?’ she whispered, blushing shyly.

‘Sensational, Alix,’ he gasped, overwhelmed by her, ‘Simply sensational.’

‘Thank you, Josh,’ she said.

He stood and took her arm in the old-fashioned way, escorting her past the shady pea-green lagoon, down the dirt path, and over the sandy boards until they reached the beach.

The couple arrived at the beach shack, a bustling diner with a curved bamboo ceiling hung with paper lanterns and bare wooden floorboards; enjoying the luxury of wicker armchairs and soft pillows as they sat facing each other at a mustard yellow-clothed table. They dined on delicious Chicken Xacuti washed down with cashew flavoured Feni. At the end of the romantic candlelit dinner, Josh opened a tiny-green-box-with-a-ring-inside and asked Alix if she would marry him. She said yes, she would love to, gladly. He told her that he wanted to father her children.

They strolled hand-in-hand through the dark palm grove, past the lagoon, to the deserted beach to watch the sun set, the shimmering red orb sinking on a distant horizon.

She loved him. He ached for her. They kissed. Alix lay flat on the sand, her buttery blonde hair spread out from her head in a glorious fan. Her man watched, beguiled, as she unbuttoned her dress, one button at a time, revealing the full extent of her all-over tan. Alix reached her navel, flicked her teddy bear charm, so that he bounced, alluringly, on her belly, like a naughty child on her trampoline.

‘Ah, look!’ she said sweetly. ‘He’s playing on me!’ She unfurled her dress, exposing her breasts, cupping them in her hands. ‘Would you like to play on them?’

Josh almost choked. For a moment, he was lost for words, like the loser who wins a fortune with the last throw of the dice. He felt guilty, over-dressed, pulled his polo shirt over his head. Tempting her with his finest display of manliness: the he-man presents his astounding muscles. He showed off for her, flexing his biceps, pecs and abs, for her, concurrently, so that his whole upper torso undulated, like the flagella on a microbic paramecium. She giggled, tipsy, willing him on, as he stood over her breasts, legs akimbo, his excessive masculinity tent-pegging under the stretched material of his tailor-fitted shorts.

‘At ease, serjeant!’ she laughed, ‘Please! Take them off, before you give yourself a hernia.’

He undid the bronze stud, the simple act of release made tedious by the lateral pull either side, feeling his fly creeping down of its own accord. Relieved by the sensation of the cool night breeze, tempering his burning loins, Josh raised one hairy knee at a time, in a march, and threw the shorts on the sand. He sank to his knees, sitting, lightly astride Alix’s midriff, catching his thigh-skin on her silver charm.

‘Lean forward.’

He stared down at her, confused. ‘Sorry?’

‘You heard what I said.’ Alix’s voice was afflicted with a hoarse, sexy, croakiness.

She put one hand on his shoulder, surprising him by drawing him over her until she could kiss his chest. She thrilled him, rolling the tip of her wet tongue in luscious strokes over each shiny, round, button, tasting his salt as she slid her hand over his flat, six-pack stomach, trickling her soft fingertips over his twitching abs. Josh felt as if he was going to explode at any minute. Not that he was complaining. Alix’s touch was divine, sending indescribably sensual shockwaves thru every nerve in his pleasure-tortured body. He was love-putty in her crafty hands.

‘Move up a little and sit on my breasts,’ she insisted.

Josh did as he was bid, using his haunches to gently shuffle his taut buttocks over her smooth tummy, feeling the torsion in him as he landed, nestling in the crease, the happy valley which dwelt so pleasingly between her heaving breasts. She prodded his navel with her index finger, got bored, moved on. He was ready to explode at any second. Alix hadn’t finished with him yet. She reached behind his back and slid her hands inside the sweaty jersey briefs, gripping, scratching, alternately caressing him, excavating him with her landing craft until her probe was fully extended, until he was fully extended. Alix estimated that he had 30 seconds left at most.

‘Come here!’ she shouted.

He felt like her dog, her smooth dachshund. He edged forward, clumsily, his knees drilling trenches in the sand, until he perched, hungrily, over her blushing face. His proud, feral display pleaded for her tender touch. Alix ignored him, letting her slim digits wander under her man’s crotch, weighing him in the palm of her hand, cupping, squeezing him till Josh could bear no more. She tore his briefs down, at the front, freed him, released him, held him, in her left hand.

He was crying, tears of frustration streaming down his cheeks, purple veins of strain lining his furrowed brow. Wanting, expecting, more; much more.

The girl watched them from the darkness of the grove.

Thursday 6th June:

The next morning, Alix fluffed her fiancé’s short brown hair and pecked him on the cheek.

‘I love you,’ she said unconvincingly, ‘Thanks for making me happy.’ She eyed her shiny diamond engagement ring. ‘Just off to the beach for a swim. I’ll buy us brunch on my way back. Sleep well.’

‘Mm, love you,’ he murmured drowsily, drawing the thin cotton sheet over his body.

 Alix slipped the ring off her finger, put it back in its box, lifted up the golden valance and threw it under the bed. She picked up her straw beach bag and walked out of the new bamboo hut into the fierce sunlight, passing the other newly-built huts for rental in the clearing, still struck by their eerie silence. There wasn’t a sound to be heard, not a child’s cry, dog’s bark, a seagull. She deep-breathed through her mouth and entered the shadowy palm grove, passing the black lagoon…then padded safely down the short dirt path to paradise. 

The beach was deserted, again. Alix assumed the sun-worshippers ventured inland to the bustling bars to feast upon monster one-plate lunches of prawn thali, fried fish, veg, rice, pickle, washed down with ice-cold glasses of King’s. The thought of all that food stirred her appetite. She changed into a bikini, leaving her belongings by the sun lounger, and padded into the surf, wading into the briny swell until she was thigh deep, rinsing her shoulders, tiny goose-bumps tickling her fawn skin.

The golden-tanned girl waded towards her in the surf, her gossamer turquoise sarong flitting inquisitively over her plunging sapphire blue swimsuit. She was tall and slender with a broad smile, full lips, round face, bulb nose and thick, wavy, espresso hair. Without question the most beautiful woman Alix had ever seen. She took a deep breath, plunged in, and crawled towards a line of gaily coloured fishing boats puttering on the calm sea. When Alix surfaced, she found the girl swimming alongside her, like her dolphin. They clung together in the swell, treading water, mouths sputtering, noses running.

‘Hello!’ the girl cried, riding a wave, ‘Race you to the furthest boat and back?’

Alix bobbed up and down like a pink and fawn striped float, ‘Okay! Why not?’

The girl won by her body’s length. Exhausted, Alix basked in the warm shallows, her heart thumping with exertion. ‘Alix,’ she panted, extending her hand.

‘Hita,’ the girl said, her ebony eyes sparkling with unhindered joy. 

She’s so lovable, Alix reflected. Her heart ached for the girl. Irrational thoughts welled like teardrops in her mind, consumed by tantalising emotions she hadn’t felt since her adolescence. Alix shifted in the sand until their bodies touched. The tide pulled at her pink-striped bandeau bikini bottoms. A sandy yellow cloud rose up in the water. She slid her fingers along the girl’s forearm and held her hand. Hita responded, rubbing the ball of her thumb. Alix gazed out to sea, wondering what Josh would make of her rash behaviour. He was asleep in the hut. At least she hoped he was. Hita turned and smiled, her mouth full of gleaming white teeth. The sunshine lit her face. Alix reached for her, fluffing up her damp hair, stroking her salty cheeks, thumbing open her soft lips, grasping her chin, leaning in to kiss her...

 Hita saw the swollen lump on the woman’s neck and pushed her away.

 ‘You must never kiss me like that!’ she cried, ‘Not here in public! I will be seen! I will be arrested, fined, even imprisoned. I will be disgraced in front of my family and friends.’

 Disgraced? Alix was shocked, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I won’t touch you again, I promise.’

 Hita hunched her shoulders and stared miserably at the froth lapping between her legs. Alix felt the prickly heat burning her neck, the flaking skin on her back, the pinching between her shoulder blades, taut, sore, painful. Distracted by the girl, she’d forgotten about the heat. She examined her tummy: the skin was badly burned, a cooked-lobster red. She stood up, wobbled a bit, and sploshed about, trying to prevent her plastic flip-flops from washing away in the tide.

 ‘I’ve caught the sun,’ she said, stating the obvious, ‘I’d best go in. Come and lie in the shade with me.’

 Hita hesitated for a moment, then shrugged, ‘Alright then, but just for a little while.’

 Alix pointed out the slatted wooden loungers with huge cream parasols as she stumbled up the beach in her flip-flops. Hita spun the sarong round herself in a silkworm’s cocoon, padded up the beach barefoot and smiled, seeing the yellow plastic bottle sticking out of the beach bag. She picked up the bottle, waving it like a trophy. Alix stretched out on her lounger, relishing the cool of the soothing after-sun lotion being massaged into her raw shoulders. By now, the lump on her neck had grown to the size of a large boil.

 ‘How does that feel?’ the girl asked her, gently rubbing the cream into her strawberry patch.

 Alix closed her eyes and fantasised: mmmn, you feel lovely. ‘Feels lovely,’ she said. 

 Hita told her she had lived in the village all her life. Her father worked as a doctor, her mother ran the home. She had two younger brothers, Hari and Ravi, who were both mad about cricket, crazy boys, forever playing pranks on their sisters, joking around. Hita was the eldest daughter. Her sister, Esha, loved to help her mother around the home. She was very pretty and affectionate, but shy. Her mother said Esha would make a man a good wife one day. Hita had shocked her parents by breaking with family tradition. She told them she had no intention of marrying. Hita was a career-minded, ambitious, young woman who wanted to train to be a journalist. She promised them she would work hard to earn her keep while she studied at college. Once she had earned her degree, it was her intention to leave India and travel to Britain. After several heated arguments, her father had reluctantly conceded and given her his assent.

 Alix admired Hita’s strength and determination.

‘When you visit England, you must come and stay with me,’ she said, omitting to mention the fact that she was holidaying with a fiancé.

‘Thank you,’ the girl replied, ‘I would like that very much.’

‘Alix?’ she asked.

‘Mm?’

‘How long have you had this lump on your neck?’

‘Oh, since this morning. I must have been bitten. Why?’

‘It’s just that I’ve never seen anything like it before. Does it hurt?’

‘It itches.’

‘Have you experienced any other symptoms?’

‘What is this, Hita, a medical examination?’

The girl laughed, ‘No, my father specializes in tropical diseases…’

Alix relaxed. ‘I see! Since you asked, I have been feeling under the weather this morning.’

‘In what way?’

‘Dizzy spells, headache, sweating, fever, aching joints, muscles. It felt like I had flu?’

‘I think you should see a doctor,’ Hita insisted, ‘Today.’

‘I feel fine.’

‘I still think you should see a doctor. You might have dengue fever.’

‘Thank you for caring so much about me, Hita, but I’ll be fine, okay?’

‘But…’

‘Stop fussing over me, will you!’

Hita watched Alix pull on her floppy white tee shirt, lemon shorts, straw hat and sunglasses then settle down to read, an erotic thriller. Within minutes she rolled on one side, drew up her knees and fell asleep, her long arms hanging limply, her fingertips scratching the sand.

She slid silently off her lounger and skipped up the sandy boards to the dirt path that led to a clearing in the dark, shady palm grove. There were twelve holiday huts in the resort, which encircled the mosquito-infested lagoon. She paused to watch the smoky haze, the gnats, moving in a shapeless cloud, over the foetid black water, dappling its flat surface with myriad ripples. The resort was strangely silent. The owners must be having a siesta, or indulging in lunch in one of the many restaurants and beach cafes that lined the coast, she mused. 

As she turned her back on the lagoon, Hita felt an itchy lump, the size of a small marble, on her neck. She stamped her foot in anger at her own stupidity. In her rush to leave, she’d left her sarong on the beach and forgotten to spray herself. Now she’d been bitten in broad daylight. Being a doctor’s daughter, she knew all there was to know about insect-borne diseases in India. The risk of her catching malaria was negligible to low; mosquitoes carrying malaria didn’t bite during daylight hours, unlike gnats which carried dengue fever. The fever was rarely fatal but its symptoms were extremely unpleasant and the illness could last as long as three months.

Hita felt dizzy, her head throbbed and swam. She staggered as far as the nearest hut, eased the door open and crept inside. The makeshift hut had a wooden floor, thin lattice wall, a curved bamboo ceiling. Her head span. She visited the bathroom. The luxury modern, double-ended, free-standing bath would accommodate two bathers comfortably. Hita felt a nagging tickle at the back of her throat, a thick, rising nausea. She sank to her knees, gripped the side of the bath.

I’m going to be sick! I’m going to be sick! Hita swivelled round, flipped the toilet seat, grasped both sides of the bowl and sloughed out a bellyful of prawn thali, masticated fried fish, rice slop, carrot bits and mushed peas. When her stomach had emptied, she sank back onto her calves, wiping off the slimy braque, drooling from her nose and mouth, with the back of her hand. Hita had difficulty focusing, her vision was blurred, she saw double: flashing lights, red lines, liquid floaters, dashed across her eyes. Frightened, she started to panic, tried to scream. Her throat was constricted, dry, she couldn’t speak. Her blue swimsuit was drenched in sweat, her beautiful brown hair coated in puke. She gripped the rim of the bath, tried to haul herself up, but she was weak, drained, defeated. Hita curled up on the floor and slept. She forced herself awake, rubbing her heavy eyelids, staggered to her feet, and immediately slumped to her knees again. Her head spinning, still dizzy, she rested her sweating face on the cool rim of the bath.

Hita started to feel a little better. She took off her swimsuit and rinsed it under the bath tap, spending several minutes cleaning off the slimy mess. For a moment, she pictured the scene: Alix returning to the hut to find her, sprawled across the bathroom floor, then shrugged her shoulders and grinned to herself. So? I deserve my little treats, don’t I?

After taking a luxurious, hot, soapy bath, washing her hair, and scrubbing her dirty teeth, Hita towelled herself dry, dressed in one of the fluffy white bathrobes that hung off the bamboo door, and ventured into the hut. ‘Farther up and further in,’ she whispered, like a child entranced by her discovery of a forbidden magic kingdom.

She sauntered into the bedroom. He was lying awake, dressed in just his grey jersey trunks, on the king-sized bed, a mosquito net suspended above his head. He was beautiful. He stared at her, worried, as she rolled down his chuddies.

‘It’s alright, she’s sleeping like a baby,’ she said, reading his thoughts, ‘Missed me?’

‘Missed you? Course I missed you. You’re my world.’

She let the bathrobe slip off her shoulders to the floor, and stood over him, so that he could appreciate her natural beauty. Her long, wet, expresso hair, slopping against her golden breasts. She joined him on the bed. He gathered her in, holding her to his barrel chest, crushing her slim body in his strong arms. She craved him. He ached for her. She kissed him hungrily. The hot yellow ball climbed high in the sky. He starved for her, watched her yawn, shake her head, stretch her thin arms.

‘Like you when you relax,’ he told her, stroking a wet slug of hair off her face, ‘I love you.’

She brushed his lips with hers, prising his mouth open, wondering if he really meant it, ‘I love you, too, with all my heart,’ she uttered, running her index finger around the inside of his mouth. He gagged for her. Her tongue caressed his mouth, lazily, flopping around inside him, stretching, flickering, like a cobra’s tongue, until she found her prey, the fleshy arc of his throat. Josh spat her out so that he could speak.

‘Keep pretending, won’t you?’ he laughed, turning her lithe body over, to face outwards, drawing her sturdy thigh backwards so that she rested on his flank of solid muscle. He found her breasts, played with them, ran his hand over her tummy. He caught his breath, pouring with sweat. His sight blurred. He felt tired, drained of energy, felt the growth on his neck swell the size of a ping-pong ball. Hita thrilled to the sensation of Josh’s body, enfolding around hers, feeling secure and loved as he held her tight.  

‘Of course, I will,’ she smiled, sliding him inside her, ‘That’s all I ever do, isn’t it, pretend?

Alix woke, reinvigorated by her sleep, feeling better than she had since her illness, the stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea, first struck on Sunday morning. She lifted the turquoise sarong off the sun lounger and stuffed it in her beach bag, certain that Hita would return. Their brief encounter wouldn’t be their last; the girl had been so friendly. Alix sprayed her neck, arms and legs with mosquito repellent, rolled her bikini in her towel, slung the bag over her shoulder, and walked past the pea green lagoon to the hut.

She loathed him when he misbehaved, belittling, embarrassing her in front of her girlfriends. Josh, the one-time juvenile delinquent who snorted coke, injected heroin and drank himself into a coma. Josh, the helpless flirt, who played games with mega-fit girls in the gym late at night, supple-bodied beauties who stretched for him in their beds. Josh, the pathetic wimp who came home at dawn reeking of cheap perfume. Josh, who’d vowed to love, honour and obey Alix, if they married, till death do us part.

She walked up the steps to the hut, realizing that she hadn’t bought brunch. Her stomach rumbled. The village was an hour’s walk away, high tide was in an hours time. They’d have to get a move on, if they were to reach the beach café…

She entered the hut. The hut was silent. Josh couldn’t still be asleep at noon, could he? His stertorous rattle, conspicuous, by it’s absence. She called him, ‘Josh? Josh, I’m back. Hello?’ Must be having a bath…

Josh the sexist, who hurt girls. She was lying submerged in the bath. Alix’s heart cried when she saw what he’d done to poor Hita. She was literally shrunk, shrivelled; her beauty assaulted by Alix’s beast. Horrified, she crawled away and curled up in the corner of the bathroom, under the wash basin, her face hidden by her flat palms. Alix wanted to reach out and take her in her arms. She imagined the torment, the crisis of confidence, inflicted on her by her vile fiancé, before she died. Enraged, she got to her feet and tore into the bedroom.

‘What did you do to her, you heartless, sick bastard?’ she screamed.

Josh was crashed out, naked on the king-sized bed, dead to the world, in a state of oblivion. He was inert, his face covered with vomit, his body blue with cold. Alix felt the lump on her neck, the size of a snooker ball, and slumped to her knees.

Saturday 12th June:

Alix invited her to join her for dinner, in secret, at the local beach shack at eight. They dined on a delicious Chicken Xacuti washed down with copious slugs of cashew-flavoured Feni. The girl lived in a room in the village. There was a spare bed. Alix was very welcome to stay with her, she said.

The night was hot, steamy-sauna-humid, sensuous. She stripped off her dress, climbed into bed, lay awake, and fantasised. Just after midnight, she drew back the mosquito net, rinsed herself with soapy water, dabbed a subtle rose fragrance behind her ears and crept into the girl’s bed. She was awake, waiting for her, wanting her, lying there, as naked as the day she was born. Alix held her in her arms, kissed and caressed her. Their hearts leaped for joy as they kissed, deeply, clinging to each other, loving the tender moment, never wanting to let go. Alix cherished her, loving her patterned body, kissing her, making sweet love to her again and again, until the break of dawn. As the sun rose, she ran her fingers through her shining hair, lightly kissed her soft lips then returned to her bed. When she awoke, Alix slipped on her negligee and crept in to the other bed, to see her lover, desperate for her love once more.

Sunday 13th June:

They made their way through the silent village to the tattoo shop. Alix had a butterfly tattooed on her breast by the smiling girl whose skin was decorated from her face to her toes with enchanting henna floral patterns.

‘You have lovely breasts,’ Dahija, daughter of milk, said, ‘I think I have fallen in love with you. Would you stay with me, here, in the village?’

Alix was thrilled. After all the hurt, death, anguish and deceit, she’d finally found true love.

She pointed at her bottom and smiled.

‘Only if you…!’


© Copyright 2019 HJFurl. All rights reserved.

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