He looked at the text message on his phone: 'I need to see you, ASAP!' As usual, a real flair for the dramatic, he thought, but it was his boss, so he got out of bed and quickly showered and dressed. Forty-five minutes later and he was entering the office.
"Stuart, it's another 'special'...and when I say special, I mean special!" Joe Morris exclaimed.
"So what's so 'special' about this one, Boss? I thought you said after that last god awful job I was, and I quote: '...Entitled to a couple of days with my feet up in front of the box, with a cold beer or three'..."
"Look, I'd love to tell you more, Stuart, but the truth is, I don't know myself! But let me ask you a question: have you ever seen those fancy signs on the front of buildings...By Royal Appointment...well, Stuart, perhaps we could have one of those! Do you know how good that would be for the business if we did."
"I see! Which one is it: The Big Boss?"
"I told you...I don't know. I was just told: send someone good, with Level One security clearance...and you're it! You know you're the best, Stuart, and that job you did in Whitehall last month gives you the credentials."
"Okay! So no cold beer and TV for me, yet. But did they say how long this time; I was three days on the Whitehall job?"
"No, they said probably a day...max! And when you've done this one, I promise you...nothing more for the rest of the week..."
"Well, considering it's Thursday today...you're all heart, Boss!"
Joe Morris had to smile. Stuart Simms really was the best! He was his 'go to guy' for all those jobs that the others started but couldn't handle, and the ones that maybe seemed impossible at first glance. Stuart would go in, and within an hour, he'd have it all worked out in his head. 'No problem!' he'd say...and it never was!
It wasn't common knowledge, but he was happy to pay Stuart twice what any of the other Analyst Technicians earned: because he was worth at least twice as much as any other employee to the company! And he knew for a fact that he had been offered at least that much again by other companies. But not only was he one of the best in his field, he wasn't overly-ambitious or greedy and he was straight-as-a-die honest and loyal.
"You're to report to New Scotland Yard, to Commissioner Bob Williams, he'll fill you in," Joe said, "Have fun, and I'll see you Monday!"
Stuart drove to New Scotland Yard, where he was shown to his office of his contact. The Commissioner shook his hand and asked him to sit.
"Would you like a cup of tea, Mr Simms?"
"No, thank you, Sir!"
"I'm sorry we had to make you go through all this, Mr Simms, but I'm sure you understand that protocol has to be followed."
"I understand, Sir...it's not a problem!"
"Good man! I have a son who's mad keen on computers, so I'm not unfamiliar with them myself, and to be perfectly honest, Mr Simms, I think it's probably a case of the proverbial 'using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut'! But you have the necessary clearance, so I'm afraid you've been called in to do what I suspect is a job for a trainee, and I apologise for having to do so. If you wouldn't mind driving to the Royal Apartments, at Kensington Palace, someone there will explain the task and anything else that you need to know." He stood up and offered his visitor his hand.
"Thanks again for coming at such short notice, Mr Simms, I'll have someone show you out."
Stuart walked back to his car and got in. Less than ten minutes later, he entered the grounds of the Royal Apartments; he parked his car and walked to the Superintendent's office.
"Stuart Simms: I believe I'm expected."
"Yes, Mr Simms. If you'd care to follow me. One of the private, personal computers has what we believe is a virus, which has corrupted the hard drive. We'd like you to see if you can retrieve the personal files, if that's possible, then get everything working normally again, if you would."
"Do you know if there's any back up?" Stuart asked. The superintendent looked at him in a way that spoke volumes.
"No, Sir, I'm afraid not!" The superintendent picked up a telephone and pushed a button.
"Excuse, me, Ma'am, there is a gentleman here who has come to attend to your computer. Very well, Ma'am, I'll bring him up. If you'd care to follow me, Mr Simms."
They walked up a flight of broad stairs, then along a series of corridors, until they came to the appropriate door. The superintendent rang the doorbell, then waited with Stuart. The door was opened by a young woman who Stuart recognised instantly.
"This is Mr Stuart Simms, Ma'am," the superintendent announced.
"Thank you, David! Please come in, Mr Simms! I'll bring Mr Simms down when he's ready to leave, David."
Stuart followed the young woman into the large, multi-roomed apartment. He tried hard not to look at the shapely bottom in the blue jeans walking a few feet in front of him. He had seen almost the same view within the last few months in one of the tabloid newspapers. He followed her into her study, where there was a large, highly-polished desk, with a top inlaid with red leather. Behind the desk was a matching chair, on castors.
"Please have a seat, Mr Simms!"
Stuart sat in the chair: also upholstered with soft leather. The young women put one hand on the chair back, then leaned in to turn on the computer. By sheer force of will, Stuart stopped himself from turning his face towards the slim body now only inches away from him, and instead looked towards the computer monitor. But he could still smell the sweet aroma that emanated from her. The computer took a few seconds to boot and at once Stuart could see the problem.
"It's definitely a virus, Ma'am. I've seen something similar a lot lately: it's a scam...the virus infects your hard drive, then a supposedly legitimate window appears, claiming that they can remove it...if you send them money, of course!"
"...And do many people pay?"
"I'm afraid a lot do: especially those people who know nothing about computers or the Internet, only how to turn their computer on and click on links."
"So can you undo the damage, Mr Simms?"
"I should think fairly simply, Ma'am. You should be back to normal quite quickly."
She gave him one of those smiles that he had often seen in the media, too. He had wondered whether it was sincere, or manufactured like some celebrities' smiles obviously were; but this close up he was certain that he now knew.
"Would you care for tea or coffee while you work, Mr Simms?"
"If it's no bother, Ma'am: coffee, please."
She went off to get the coffee, while Stuart set about accessing her computer's interior. Upon her return she put the coffee on the desk.
"Do you mind if I watch?"
"No, of course not!" She placed another chair near to his.
"Is it very technical? I'm afraid I tend to be one of those 'turn their computer on, and click on links' people you mentioned. Although I use word-processing quite a lot, too."
"No, not really, Ma'am: I'll remove your computer's hard drive, then link it to my laptop; then, using a special piece of software, I can check every file on your hard drive for the virus and when it's isolated it can be removed. I then check the whole thing again, and if it's clean I can replace the hard drive and the problem should be solved."
"And this special software: is it the same as you can buy in shops, that's supposed to detect virus'...I thought I had that already."
"It's a similar principle...but mine is better, Ma'am. Most of the ones you buy or can get free, are only effective against known virus', so they have to be constantly updated. However, the people who write the virus' are at least as clever as the people who detect them, so it's like a constant battle between them. It's like antibiotics in the body: after a while the things they are there to stop mutate, and the antibiotics are no longer effective, so new antibiotics have to be created. My software is different: because it looks for certain alien key markers in the code, which when it finds any, activates the virus detection program."
"...So why don't all anti-virus programs do that?" Stuart smiled.
"Well, in the first place, I didn't buy the software, I wrote it; and it's a secret. If it was widely available, it would only be a matter of time before the bad guys modified it and were able to use it: which would make virus detection a whole lot harder! I don't want that to happen, and I don't want to exploit anyone just so I can make a lot of money. If I may make another comparison, Ma'am: because you are a public figure, there are people who see you only as a way of making them money, or of becoming famous themselves; which is why you need legal and physical protection, and I certainly don't want that for myself!"
"That's very admirable, Mr Simms; I can wholeheartedly sympathise with that sentiment!" He thought that he detected a hint of wistfulness in her facial expression.
"So how long have you been doing this kind of work, Mr Simms? Did you go to university to learn it?"
"No, Ma'am, I'm largely self-taught, although I did take some computer programming courses. I started off like a lot of people, by tinkering and building my own computers in my teens; it's not so hard. And then people ask you to look at theirs, and you discover what all the common problems are, so you become good at fault diagnosis; and then the better you become, the more opportunities you get to work on different systems, and so on..."
"I would imagine that you're constantly in demand, Mr Simms: doesn't that affect your private life and your family?"
"No, Ma'am! Until a few years ago I was constantly travelling, so I've never thought it fair to have a wife and children if I never saw them! I lived in hotels and rented rooms and consequently I never needed a place to put down roots."
They continued to chat in this way while he worked, and although she was nominally interested in what he was doing, her eyes rarely left his really quite attractive face. She liked his personality: his attitude to life; but she also liked the fact that she wasn't the centre of attention...which was how most people treated her.
Stuart pushed the on-button and within a minute she was looking at her computer's familiar desk top image: he clicked on various folders and files to see if they would open, then he opened her email client software and web browser. Everything appeared to be working properly. His final task was to replace the computer's access panels.
"...I think that's it! Don't forget, Ma'am, that you usually have to invite virus' into your computer for them to work. Your anti-virus software is on all the time now and I've set it to check for updates as soon as the computer's turned on, so you don't have to check manually. You may find that you have a slight delay each time before you can start working; but it's a price well worth paying. I would recommend that you change as many of your passwords as you can, too; and never open emails with attachments unless you can be sure that you trust the source. And finally, always be wary of anything that you download from the Internet." She smiled.
"Well, thank you so much, Mr Simms, I've learnt a lot today! I'll see you out...this place is a bit of a maze if you're unfamiliar with it!"
"...Before I go, Ma'am, I'll give you my card, in case you have any more problems," Stuart said, handing her his business card. They walked together to the front entrance.
"Thank you again!" she said, as she shook his hand.
"You're very welcome, Ma'am!"
Stuart went straight home from the Palace. He was very discreet by nature, and he fully appreciated the issues of confidentiality regarding his work. He was not afraid to admit to himself that he had read those things about her in the press and it had influenced his opinion; but meeting her in person had changed his mind and he would have loved to be able to voice his opinion about her now; but he knew he could not.
Joe Morris was good to his word and he was left in peace for the rest of the week. Stuart had begun to think about 'family', too, and he thought that it was time that he visited his parents again, so on Saturday morning he had driven the not-so-far-distance to Sussex, to see them; staying the night and then driving back after lunch on Sunday. He had arrived home and was preparing to settle down for the evening, when he heard the distinctive ring tone of his mobile phone. His first thought was: No, Joe...don't do this to me! He picked up the handset, but it didn't say Joe Morris: instead it read: Caller unknown. He pressed the button to connect the call:
"Hello. Stuart Simms."
"Good Evening, Mr Simms," a familiar voice said, "I apologise for the lateness of the call, and calling you on a Sunday...but I was wondering if you'd mind coming over here again."
"No, of course not, Ma'am! Are you having more problems?"
"...Hmm...kind of! But not the same as last time. Have you eaten, Mr Simms; if not I can arrange something?"
"Thank you...but I had lunch with my parents earlier. I'll be with you as soon as possible."
"Thank you! If you go to the Superintendent's Office again: when they ring me I'll come down to meet you."
He didn't think that he had time to shower and change again, so he just put his tools and equipment in the car and set out for Kensington Palace. From his home in North East London, it took him just over thirty minutes to get there. He parked in the same place as before and once again presented himself to the duty superintendent, who wasn't David, as last time.
"My name's Stuart Simms."
"Yes! Good Evening, Mr Simms!" The duty superintendent replied, as he picked up the telephone: "Mr Simms has arrived, Ma'am!" It wasn't very long before she came skipping down the stairs to meet him. She produced that lovely smile again.
"Hello again, Mr Simms! Thank you, Chris!" she said, before leading Stuart back upstairs. This time he paid more attention to the corridors and galleries they passed through. Inside the apartment he followed her as before, and recognising the study door he was prepared to go in, but she turned and said:
"No, not that one...a bit further!" She entered another room: much less formal.
"Please have a seat!" she said, indicating a fairly large, well-upholstered sofa. "Can I take your jacket? Coffee?"
Without thinking about it, he slipped off his jacket and handed it to her. Then, regarding the coffee: "...Yes, please!". He sat down on one end of the sofa and looked around the room: apart from its height and the ornate and decorative embellishments on the walls and ceiling, he could almost have been in anyone's living room! All of the furniture was fairly contemporary and well-used, and looked like it had previously been used in far humbler surroundings than those he was in. She returned with the coffee and a cake on a plate: the crockery was again of a very simple design, the sort found in most high streets.
"Would you like some cake, Mr Simms...it's my favourite!"
"Yes, please, Ma'am!" He was waiting for her to explain why he was there: politeness rather than protocol prevented him from asking.
"I'm afraid I've brought you here under false pretences, Mr Simms...may I call you, Stuart?" He nodded to acknowledge her request.
"Firstly, I wanted to thank you for doing a great job on my computer...it seems to be working better than ever now; and secondly...and this is a bit harder to say...I think you're an attractive and intelligent man, with a great take on life; and one who I think I'd like to get to know a lot better!"
He seemed to appreciate immediately what she was trying to say. Her life appeared to be under constant scrutiny, and more than once he had seen her referred to in the press as: 'The Black Sheep of The Family'! It was one of those awful tabloid things that had unfortunately stuck! It was perhaps a little unfair...but also more than a little self-inflicted...as she had been in some very public and questionable relationships. These may have passed unnoticed in anyone else's life: but when you were a member of that family, people could be very unforgiving!
"...And I think I'd like that, too, Ma'am!" She smiled that smile again and moved a little nearer to him on the sofa.
"There's only one thing, though...I hate being called 'Ma'am'...please call me 'Alex', like my friends do!"
They spent the next few hours getting to know each other, and despite the fact that they appeared to have so little in common, sometimes opposites really do attract! Their ages weren't really that far apart, and they both had a very easy-going disposition, and they made each other laugh and smile a lot. Because Stuart had to return to work the next day, at just after midnight he said he really had to go. Alex leaned in to kiss his cheek, but somehow their mouths came together instead, and neither resisted.
"I really do want to see you again, but I don't want us to have to run the gauntlet of photographers. Do you mind coming here to see me again, Stuart? I'm quite a good cook...I'll make you dinner one evening!"
"I'd like that! But sometimes I work long days and have to travel around, so we might have difficulties arranging it."
"All right! I appreciate that: I'll try ringing you in the evening, but if you're busy, I'll leave a message. I hope we can do this again, soon...but here's something to be going on with!"
She pulled him towards her and kissed him intensely, then she walked downstairs with him, and out of sight of the duty superintendent, she waved and blew him a kiss.
On Monday, when he got into work, Joe called him into the office.
"Well...how did it go?"
"...Easy job...no problem! But I'm not sure we've done enough to earn the 'By Royal Appointment', yet!"
"Well, not to worry! I want you go to Liverpool for two or three days, Stuart. You can go home and pack now, travel up there today and start work on Tuesday. Any problem with that?"
"No, nothing I can think of." When he got home he packed and then called Alex:
"...Sorry! I have to go up to Liverpool to work for a few days; but we can talk now, if you like..."
They spoke every day while he was up there. Sometimes he did twelve or more hours a day so he could get jobs done quickly, after which he would just go back to his hotel to rest. But on the third evening he told her that the job was completed and he would be back in London the next day.
"...And with luck, I won't have to work again at the weekend!"
On Friday morning he checked out of his hotel and drove back to London, going directly to see his boss before going home.
"Joe, try and keep my weekend free: I must be getting old, I'm absolutely exhausted!"
"Okay! I'll do my best. Look, you haven't had a holiday in a long while, why don't you take some time off, recharge your batteries...we'll just have to struggle along without you!"
"Maybe I'll do that! Can I start Monday, if I want to?"
"I don't see why not!" When Stuart got home he rang Alex:
"Hello! Are we on for this evening?"
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it! What time are you coming over?"
"I thought I'd get a few hours sleep, then come over about 6:30. Is that okay?"
"Yes! Sooner if you want, but 6:30 will be fine, see you then!"
He lay on his bed and was soon asleep; while in a different part of London, Alex began her preparations for the evening.
David was on duty again at Kensington Palace when Stuart arrived.
"You're expected, Mr Simms. Do you need me to take you up, Sir?"
"No thanks, I think I can find my own way; if that's all right?"
"Certainly, Sir! It's up one flight, then keep turning right. If you should go wrong, you'll eventually come back to the stairway.
But he found his way and rang the bell. Alex greeted him with a smile, and as soon as the door was closed behind them, they kissed and then she took his hand as they walked to the drawing room. They sat on the sofa with his arm around her as she snuggled up against him.
"Dinner should be ready for seven...I've missed you!"
"Me, too, and I've got some news. My boss has given me some time off: can you get away at short notice?"
"Yes, I don't have any public duties; my time is pretty much my own. Where can we go?"
"Well, I would imagine that you'd like to go somewhere away from photographers. Do you think you could give up civilisation for a couple of weeks and go native? I know just the place if you're up for it."
"It sounds lovely! I just need to check my passport...and do I need to get shots?"
"I'm not sure about the shots, I'll check. I might need some myself. Can you get them done at short notice, too, if we do?"
"I should think so! Stuart, I know this is our first official date...but would you like to stay the night?"
"Would you like me to?"
Alex really was a good cook and they had a great meal together. Stuart told her about the vacation:
"I have a friend...very wealthy...who owns a small island, miles from anywhere. He lets people he knows stay there when he doesn't and I rang him, and he says it's free for the next month, so if I want to go for a couple of weeks, I can. I told him I'd be taking a friend, but no names: but it wouldn't matter if I did; he values his privacy as much as I do."
"And will we be completely alone?"
"...Pretty much: there are indigenous people on the island, but they keep to themselves, but they'd be there in case of emergencies." Alex smiled.
"So just us and sun, sea, sand...and other things beginning with 'S'!"
Stuart laughed now.
"...Yes...as long as you don't mean 'sunburn' and 'sadness'!" Alex laughed, too.
"Oh, no...I was thinking of something much nicer!"
"Oh, good! I love sandwiches, sauerkraut, and semolina!" Alex chuckled, and gently punched him in the arm.
"Idiot...I think you need a practical demonstration!" Taking him by the hand, she led him into her bedroom.
"...Stripping, seduction and...er...somersaults?" Stuart offered. Alex smiled.
"...Nearly!" She lifted his shirt over his head then undid his trousers. Pushing him onto the bed she pulled off his shoes and socks, then worked his trousers and shorts over his hips and down his legs. Stuart stood up and soon had her stripped her naked, too.
It was glorious, wonderful, unadulteratedly-fantastic sex! It had been a while for both of them and they threw themselves into it like rutting beasts at the height of the mating season: pure, animalistic lust! Afterwards they lay, exhausted in each others arms, too tired even to speak: just lying inches apart, looking lovingly into each others eyes and smiling smiles that said much more than words ever could.
"...Oh! Sex!" he said, when his strength returned again. She pulled him closer to her,
"...Oh! Shut up!" she said, before she kissed him.
On Saturday morning she sat on his lap, at the desk in the study, looking at various web sites, regarding overseas travel and inoculation. They came to the conclusion that a few preventative injections wouldn't go amiss, so Alex made an appointment with her doctor for Monday morning and Stuart did the same with his.
"Why don't you come back to my place for the weekend. I can leave first, then you can follow in a taxi a little afterwards. I have a nice house, with a good kitchen, and a lovely big bed."
"Do you have any food in the house, or shall I get some on the way?" Alex said, being all practical. "...And when do you think we'll be able to leave for the island?"
"I think that there's enough food there for a few days, but you can get some milk. Once we get the jabs, I'll see what I can arrange for travelling Tuesday or Wednesday. I'll write the address down for you."
"...Er...I'm not sure if I should say this, Stuart Simms...but I think I'm in love with you!"
"Well, I'm a bit cautious about saying it for the sake of it; but I think that if I'm in love with anyone, it's definitely you! But to be honest, we still need to tread very carefully. Let's just have a great holiday, then we can talk about what lies ahead of us!" She nuzzled into his neck.
"Mmm...that will do for now! Two weeks at least of sun, sea, sand, and...surprises!"
Perhaps the years of being in the public eye had made her a little paranoid, but Alex had first taken a taxi to an address in Belsize Park: an apartment belonging to a friend. She then walked the short distance to a mini-supermarket in a filling station where she bought some milk. Another short walk took her to a taxi stand, where she got another cab to Stuart's house in the North East London suburb. Although her face was well-known, she wore anonymous blue jeans, a simple shirt and a faded denim jacket. Her hair was tied into a pony tail and she wore dark glasses on a bright, sunny day.
She had never seen Stuart's car before, but the nice, black Mercedes E-Class Saloon parked in the drive looked like the sort of thing that he would drive. His house was a four-bedroom semi. Stuart earned good money and had little to spend it on, so he had no mortgage to worry about. Alex rang the doorbell.
"It's nice around here. I rarely get further east than Hampstead," Alex said, as she hung her jacket in the hall.
"I'm glad that you got here okay. Most of us take public transport for granted and we don't appreciate the problems of being in the public eye all the time. And I'm afraid I'm one of those people who only knew about your life mainly from the tabloids," Stuart said, "Even though I know it's not proper journalism, just mainly scandal and gossip."
"Yes, it can be a pain, but I'm used to it. It's the price we pay for our so-called 'free press'! But I don't think they really know, or even care how much it can hurt sometimes! But I've done some really silly things in my life, Stuart, so I suppose I've been my own worst enemy!" Stuart held her in his strong arms.
"I just wish that people could know the real you, though! The sensitive, funny, gentle you!"
"Yes, but you know...and that's all that's important to me right now! I am what I am, by accident of birth, and we can't change that: we can only deal with it as best we can."
"But there are precedents, aren't there! Some of your people have had successful relationships outside of their social class."
"Yes, that's true! In fact it's almost encouraged nowadays...and I haven't lived that other lifestyle for a long time...if you don't count where I live, I suppose!"
"No, you have to admit, though: that is a bit special!" She smiled.
"But I'll willingly trade it all for this, and you!"
Alex unpacked her things in Stuart's bedroom, then they settled down on the sofa together. Later Alex cooked them another excellent meal, after which they bathed together, before spending a few hours in front of the TV. In bed their love-making perhaps lacked the intensity of their first time together; but in its tenderness it was in no sense any less satisfying for both of them. On Sunday morning Stuart brought her coffee and croissants in bed, where they lay together afterwards until nearly lunchtime.
"It's a pity we can't go out," he said, "there are some nice walks and pubs around here; but there are also unfortunately a lot of people with cameras in their phones."
"Maybe when we come back from holiday we can 'go public'...if you feel it's what you want...but I'm happy to carry on like this: nothing can ever be as good, or as satisfying, as being in bed with you!"
Sunday was a particularly nice day for the weather, so they sat on loungers in the garden, holding hands, and wearing as little as possible! The day was much like Saturday had been: just lazing and loving, and loving just living!
They got up fairly early Monday morning. Alex stayed at the house until Stuart returned from the doctor's with a sore arm. Stuart then drove her back to Kensington Palace, from there she would get a cab to her own doctor's, where she had a thorough medical check-up...her first for some time; several injections; and she also got a new prescription for oral contraceptives. Neither she nor Stuart had any objections to using condoms; but not using them would be nice, too; and it meant that their island love-making could be more spontaneous.
This was going to be a holiday were they would spend most of their days and nights in hot, sticky, humid temperatures, so taking lots of clothes was unnecessary. Alex had once been resident in the Indian province of Goa for more than a year, so she knew more-or-less what she needed to pack, and she advised Stuart, too. He had spent long periods in Singapore and Malaysia, so was used to the climate; but he'd still needed to take lots of clothes, so it wasn't quite the same.
Stuart had booked two seats on a scheduled flight from Heathrow to Jakarta and it was a long flight. They planned to stay in Indonesia for one night, then meet the small seaplane that would take them to the small island in the Indian Ocean. Although they had adjoining seats on the plane from England, they contrived to check-in at the airport at slightly different times, then come together and play out the scenario of being strangers on the plane, who naturally get friendlier as the flight progresses: a little fantasy role-play can often be an amusing way to pass the time on a long-haul flight!
But hour after hour confined in a limited space...even occupying one of the better seats as they were...is never wholly enjoyable, and so they slept. Alex's main regret was that she couldn't sleep naked in Stuart's arms.
Once installed in the hotel in Jakarta, Alex climbed into a hot bath and spent a very happy hour, almost, lazing and languishing in the soothing hot water; then, in air-conditioned bliss on top of a comfortable bed, where she was eventually joined by Stuart, fresh from his shower.
They made an early start the next morning; and having bathed, dressed, and breakfasted, they met up with the pilot of the plane that would take them on the last leg of their long journey. Provisions were procured and loaded onto the plane, and then they were heading out into the blue vastness of the Indian Ocean. There wasn't much to see, so Alex sat close to Stuart with her head resting on his shoulder, while he chatted to the pilot.
The plane finally touched down in the sea, a hundred yards from the island, and then the experienced pilot slowly manoeuvred the aircraft as close as he could get to the beach. They all unloaded the supplies onto the shore, then carried them towards Stuart's friend's single-storey bungalow. The friend always kept a supply of aviation fuel nearby: some of which Stuart helped the pilot carry back to the beach, then to refuel the plane ready for the return flight. Stuart thanked him, then stood at the water's edge while the pilot took off again. Back at the bungalow, Alex was sweeping the inside of the little dwelling, after which they stored away their supplies.
It was not unknown for it to rain suddenly and heavily for short periods of time, and measures had been taken to collect as much of this precipitation as possibly at the time; and this provided the bulk of their water supply. There would be no daily baths for Alex, but there was the sea on their doorstep, or small amounts of water could be hand-pumped into a header tank, which enabled refreshing tepid water showers on demand.
Most of Alex's usual on-island clothing consisted of a sarong, tied about her waist, and augmented if necessary with some sort of light, sleeveless top: but usually without. Stuart wore a pair of shorts. Both wore light sandals to protect their soft, western feet. The whole experience reminded Alex of the better times in her 'wild child' teens and early twenties; living the hippy lifestyle in the former Portuguese colony of Goa, in the south west of India. She had gone there with her lover at the time: they were poor, but they were happy; until they had rowed about something trivial, and he had left her there on her own. There were other Europeans there who she hung out with for a while; but without her boyfriend it wasn't the same, and she had eventually walked for several days to the nearest British Consulate, where she told them who she was and asked if they could arrange to get her home.
But the last thing that Alex wanted to do now was go home. She wished that she could stay there with Stuart, for ever! She knew that all too soon, however, they would have to make that long, long journey home again; they couldn't hide away here indefinitely, however much she wanted to, so every minute of every day would be savoured!
"I think it's time we were in that water, don't you!" Alex said, "You do swim, don't you, I just assumed..."
"I can, even though I don't a lot."
She stood outside the bungalow waiting for Stuart, and when he came out she held out her hand to him, but he picked her up and put her over his shoulder, in a fireman's lift, and carried her laughing form down to the beach.
"Brute! I think I've bruised my boobs!"
"Aw! Shall I kiss them better!"
"Later, Lover!" she said, unwrapping the sarong and kicking off her sandals, before running into the crystal-clear blue water. Stuart took off his shorts and followed her in.
There wasn't a lot to do on the island, except swim and relax. For this reason, the island's owner had imported one of those swinging bench seats that was very comfortable but looked slightly incongruous amid the bungalow's natural setting. In the evening it got dark very quickly, so Stuart would sit at one end of the seat and Alex would lie on her back, with her head on his lap, occupying the rest. The island's owner was a keen reader, and although the pages tended to quickly discolour because of the humidity, there were always books there to be read. And although they were mainly the sort of novels that you found in airport bookshops, they provided a few hours enjoyable diversion.
Alex would read one and Stuart another, and every now and then they would read out loud a particularly entertaining extract to each other. At other times, though, they would take up these same positions, but instead of reading, they would just quietly talk to each other, while holding hands.
And of course they never got tired of the sex! They could do it wherever and whenever the mood took them: in bed, on the veranda, on the beach, or in the sea. Sometimes it was full-on, all guns blazing, sexual athleticism; but other times almost tantric, with Alex sitting astride Stuart, his penis deep inside her, while she gently rocked to-and-fro, as the sexual excitement grew and grew; until that final intense moment of release, when she put her arms around his neck and they kissed long and slow.
Stuart's friend had told him that if they walked to the beach, then turned left and north; after walking for a while, they would come upon the village of the island's long-time, indigenous inhabitants. They were used to contact with visitors; although hardly ever initiated it, and both parties could usually make themselves understood to the other. Alex felt that on this occasion she should wear something under her sarong, and over her breasts, and thus attired they began their journey.
There was no rush at all, so they just walked slowly through the fine, white sand, an arm around each other's waist. Every so often, they would spontaneously stop and kiss. Stuart hadn't shaved since they left Jakarta and although Alex had taken a while to get used the stubble on his face, now that the hairs were longer and softer she was getting used to it.
While still some way from the village the beach straightened out, and from a distance they could see people going about their everyday tasks, smoke from fires and fishing boats that had been pulled up onto the shore. In the water the little naked brown children were happily playing in the surf. As they got nearer the children ran up to greet them, taking them each by the hand. Stuart had never had much to do with children, but he was soon as entranced by them as Alex, who had been used to such things in Goa. Like Stuart, she usually had little to do with them in her day-to-day life, but there was something about their innocence that endeared them to her.
The adults allowed the children to pull them into the sea, where they laughed and splashed around like children themselves; and if they looked towards the village they could see the smiles and laughter on the faces of the children's families. After playing for a while, Alex and Stuart walked towards the village.
Although western feature film makers tend to portray these scenes as they think film-goers expect to see them, rather than using detailed anthropological evidence; in this case the stereotypes seemed quite accurate. A simple way of life, for a simple people; who lived out their existence in harmony with nature, and apparently untroubled by the rest of the world!
The only major incursion into this lifestyle for generations of islanders, had been one wealthy white man, who had purchased the legal right to call himself the island's owner; but who was sensitive to its needs and intelligent enough not to try and change it too much. He occasionally inhabited a small piece of the island, where he tried to live as simply and quietly as the native islanders did. They had few needs that they couldn't satisfy themselves, but whenever something extraordinary was bought to his attention, he did his best to do whatever he could to deal with it. One notable example of this was the village water supply: which was a similar system to the one at the bungalow and was essentially just a more efficient way of collecting and storing a natural resource...the rain.
A dark-skinned man came to greet the lovers: he smiled and shook hands with them, and by means of gestures, invited them to follow him. They sat on the ground and were given something to eat and drink. They stayed for about an hour, mainly talking quietly to themselves: it's hard to make conversation without a common language or shared points of reference. When they finally got up to leave, they once again shook the man's hand, then waved enthusiastically as they walked back along the beach the way that they'd come earlier. When they arrived back at their own familiar beach near the bungalow, they took off their clothes and lay together on the sand.