Tuesday, 29 October 2013

MANscapes: Excerpt Chapter 8

She tottered back to her seat, eased past her sleeping fellow passenger, lifted the plastic blind and gazed down at the endless blue below her. It stretched to the horizon in a lapis lazuli expanse, with delicate shades of turquoise blossoming randomly, indigo depths plunging dizzily.

The sudden banking of the airplane pressed her forehead to the icy window. From under the wing shyly slid the island, banded in bracelets of opalescent blues and turquoise, a white dazzling necklace of white around a vivid green crescent.

The surrounding waters were so clear, the underlying sands so white; the boats seemed to magically levitate above their own shadows. The clustered wooden structures around the serpentine bay were bleached to delicate shades of salmon pink, yellow and palest blue.

The plane eased down ponderously, like a fat bottomed dowager dragging a train of lacy white foam, settled with an ungainly splash, and buzzed up to the silvery grey quay.

A gleaming white minibus, chauffeured by a young man in an intricately patterned bowling shirt, waited to be boarded by the seven passengers. The man greeted them with a broad grin and deftly loaded their luggage in to the bus, calling out to Clara standing hesitantly with her suitcase and her portable easel: “Here Pretty Lady, this be the transport for Paradise!” His dark eyes gleamed with laughter. “You a painter-Lady? You be like Gauguin? You paint me!”

“I’m not going to the resort. I was wondering, is there a guest house in the town? That you could recommend…”

The dark eyes studied her shrewdly. A slow smile, quite unlike his original cheesy grin, curved his full lips.

“A seeker! Well then, the only place for you is The Retreat.” The “island boy” accent was gone, replaced by the crisp enunciation and rounded vowels of an upper-class British accent. “Hop aboard, I’ll give you a lift. It’s on my way.”

The mini-bus stopped outside a wooden two-story with a pale blue picket fence. A flowery script on a swinging plaque proclaimed “The Retreat”. An air of gracious negligence pervaded the house. Rambling bougainvilleas sturdily climbed up the walls to peek into the windows of the upper story, shading the deep verandas with a riot of colour, in vivid contrast to the peach sun-bleached walls. There was a woman in the garden, moving slowly through a veritable forest of roses. Thick-trunks and knotted branches with viper-toothed thorns produced a riot of blowsy roses, the bruised scent pervading the warm, moist air. The woman looked up at the sound of the engine, placing one hand on her hip, inquisitively tilting her hat in the opposite direction.

“Winston?” A warm contralto, “What are you bringing me now?”
The young man slid the door open for Clara, helped her down with a warm, lingering touch to her elbow, and unloaded her luggage.
“A seeker, Mamma: a painter-Lady with pretty eyes!”

Manuela Cardiga

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