The South African Airways flight to Mauritius was routine, what I remembered of it. I had gotten on the plane, settled into my seat, and woken about 15 minutes before landing. Don't get me wrong, I love India. The history, the architecture, and the energy are all positives. I detest the crowds, the dirt, the smell, and being there I hate. I was overjoyed to be headed to paradise on earth, if only for a couple of days.
The call earlier in the week with my assistant had set this weekend in motion. It had been a strange and magical moment.
"Bonnie, from the travel agency, has worked it out. You leave Bombay, sorry, Mumbai, on Thursday night. Instead of going directly to South Africa, you will be staying in a resort on Mauritius for a long weekend." Marge, the wonder-assistant, was doing her normal magic.
"Really? Wow, I've always wanted to go there. I've heard about the place for years and wanted to check it out."
"You're kidding, you've heard of it?"
"Heard of it, I know where it is! 600 miles due east of Madagascar in the middle of the Indian Ocean."
"Well, great. Steal my thunder! All of us had to look it up." The pause was long enough for me to question the phone systems in India. "By the way, you said I could join you on a trip if I could prove the value of my being there." Oh, no, what's going on. "Well, I'm going to join you there, along with Dave." Dave was one of my top folks and was due to meet me in South Africa.
"Okay, I'm really glad you took the initiative."
Staring out my window at the sun setting across Ahmadabad, at least all the pollution made spectacular sunsets. I was sitting with a glass of single malt whisky in my hand, in a luxury hotel room high above the shantytown on the riverbanks. At least, in the States we'd call it a shantytown. I might be giving this collection of huts and junk more credit, yet it this is where thousands lived, worked, slept, ate ... Their possessions were represented by this spot on the banks of a filthy river. Thinking about value and money brought me back to the tens of thousands this trip was costing.
"What's the value proposition?"
"Okay, first, you've been gone for over a week. There is a lot of stuff you need to deal with that I can't e-mail. Second, I know the folks in South Africa and can help brief you, and help in the negotiations anyway you need me." It had started weak, not enough to justify being chaperoned after the forced celibacy in India – the Center for Disease Control has only documented a fraction of the problems in this land of contrasts. I needed to explore my hedonistic side after the forced celibacy, and I am always reluctant to do this around those I work with.
"Look. Bottom line, I know Gerald is going to be a tough nut to crack. And, he is part of the whole deal, isn't he?" She was referring to one of the bankers we needed to sell on this partnership. "Well, I can seal the deal by using my female charms on him."
"And your husband?"
"Only flirt with him, that's all."
"Okay, after the trip, prove to me that you added at least the cost of being there, if not twice. Now, how are you justifying the trip to Mauritius for you and Dave?"
"Oh, believe it or not, it's actually cheaper to go through Paris to Mauritius than straight to Johannesburg. We save almost a thousand dollars, so the resort is a wash for the weekend." I gave in. She knew too much, and she knew how to control me.
After the arrival routine, a car from the hotel met me, and I took the 45 minute drive across the island to a fancy resort in Flic-n-Flak, right on the beach. I checked in, dumped my stuff. My dirty clothes carried too much of a reminder of where I had been, so I changed into shorts and a t-shirt, slipped on a pair of sandals, and headed out to explore paradise. Uninhabited when the Dutch first discovered it and used it as a watering stop for their trade routes, the French and British fought over it for centuries until the island gained independence in the 1960s.
By 11am, I had wandered around enough and was sitting at the beach bar. It was just a little grass shack set right on the edge of the beach. The resort is mainly frequented by the French, so I had a perfect view of all the topless sunbathers. George, the bartender introduced me to the local beer – Phoenix – and I fell instantly in love. Anything was better than the Kingfisher in India, but this really was good.
"Does life get any better: sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean, topless women all around, a perfect beach, and a cold beer in my hand?" I asked George. We bantered for a bit before he was distracted by one of the topless sunbathers ordering something in French.
While I had been talking to the bartender (one of my rules in life, always make friends with the bartender), a red headed woman had taken a seat at a table behind me. After a few minutes, we began chatting. She was medium height, had long curly red hair (ouch – a real weakness of mine), healthy sized, and had a wonderful Australian accent. She was wearing a dark blue tank top with spaghetti straps and a beach wrap.
"So, you're the American everyone has been talking about." She said, raising her beer in a mock toast.
"Excuse me?" I can be a brilliant conversationalist at times!
"It's a small island and they don't get many Americans, you're the only one on the island at the moment, so you're news." She said, continuing to hold the beer out in the toast.
"Well, and here I was trying to hide out!" I turned and offered my beer, we clinked bottles. The banter continued. I was enjoying chatting with her, and really didn't have anything else on my mind (sex had crossed my mind, but I had two of my people flying in later that day – what kind of leadership example would I be setting!).
"Don't mind, do you mate?" She said as she moved up to the bar and took the stool next to me. "This way you won't have to keep turning around to look at me."
"Not at all. I'm Mark." The cleavage had been worth the turn. When she sat down, I noticed the curve of her hips and legs – why is this part of the female anatomy so appealing to me? It was one of the most complex curves in all of nature and no two women are exactly the same here. The flow from the waist, over the hips, and moving into the legs – fascinating!
"Jane," she simply stated in the wonderful tones of the land of Oz.
When we got our second beers, she ordered a Phoenix as well. I discovered she was staying at a hotel down the beach, but had to move out today. I was memorizing the curve of her flesh as it disappeared under her top, burning into my mind, when she said she had a flight out tomorrow and was looking for a place to stay for the night.
"If it weren't for two of my employees showing up this afternoon, I'd be delighted to share my room." Would I ever! It must have gotten cold, I noticed a couple of nice bumps on her top.
We chatted some more, enjoying our beer and the beach. She was pleasant to be around and I was enjoying being around her. I felt an internal warmth on a beautiful tropical day.
"I'll make you a deal," she says, taking my hand and looking in me in the eyes with those beautiful blue-green eyes. "You share your room with me, I'll stay out of the sight of your friends, and we'll have a lot of fun."
Me, Mr. Verbosity, was suddenly lacking for words. Of course, this is one of the things I have always admired in the Aussies, they are very direct and open about their desires and needs. I kept eye contact with her (maybe I shouldn't have, but damn), took a sip of my beer, thought for about two microseconds, and said: "Deal."
Which head was full of blood and thinking then I wondered? "Both," they screamed.
That part of the pressure of meeting out of the way, we had another beer, chatted, while the bartender ran an errand for me (as I said, always make friends with the bartender). When he returned, he handed me another key to my room, which I gave to Jane. She reached over, put her hand behind my head, pulled me to her, and gave me a kiss. No friendly peck, it took no time for us to adjust, as if we'd been kissing this deeply and passionately for years. As time stopped and I enjoyed the warmth and wetness of her mouth, the duel of our tongues, I knew she was in the same realm of timelessness with me. Yet, it was still full of promises for things to come.
Very naturally, we both ended the kiss. I had my arms wrapped fully around her, and she still had on hand behind my head and the other snaked around me as well. As we broke the deep kiss, the little pecks continued, the slight smooching. We both took our time pulling back from the embrace.
Slowly, awareness of the surf, the sunshine, the people and places around us returned. The phone was ringing in the distance. George interrupted and handed me the phone saying something that I didn't hear. I put the receiver to my ear while continuing to stare into her eyes.
"So where are you?" It was Marge. Damn, my mind thought, as I reluctantly pulled away from Jane and now focused on the real world.
"Where do you think? You called me." I said, quickly returning to reality.
"The hotel switchboard said they would connect me, but wouldn't tell me where you were! Have you paid these people off, or what?"
"I'm down at the beach bar, why don't y'all come down and join me."
.... There is more of this story ...