Good riddance to Richard. If he found his houseguest at Sabang, as far as I was concerned, they could stay there. Not that his absence improved matters with Delcie. One moment she was up, the next, down; I couldn’t make out her mood swings. Nor get into her bed, which frustrated me.
I even found myself taking a furtive glance or two at Hannah. Her native name escaped me, but she had a lithe body and a ready smile — the gap between her two front teeth, surprisingly erotic.
One morning after breakfast — I had a restless night — I lingered in the dining room when Delcie decided to go shopping at the harbour market. Hannah, dressed in a so-called modest wrap-around that adhered to her curves, was clearing up the dishes — an ideal opportunity.
I beckoned her over, told her to sit down. My opening gambit, predictable.
‘Hannah, we need to talk about your job here.’
She shifted in her seat, lowered her eyes. ‘Meester Charles, I not know. Madam take care me.’
I reached out a hand and brushed her fingers. ‘Yes, I agree, but I want you to do an extra job for me.’
She flinched away, eyes open wide; startled to see me smiling. ‘Meester Charles, I not know. Madam take care me.’
I sighed. Subtleness wasn’t working. Getting her to understand what I needed — craved — was too much like hard work. ‘Okay, Hannah. You can go.’
She slid out of her seat, avoiding my gaze, and gathered up the remaining crockery. However, I was surprised to see her glance back at me. Not once, but twice; firstly, a questioning expression, and secondly, a tentative, toothy smile.
Mine anytime — I was certain of it — and if Delcie continued to give me a hard time, I’d turn to Hannah for my gratification.
A few hours later — I’d taken a cold shower which hadn’t quenched my ardour — when Delcie returned with a few luxuries, and we settled in our sunroom chairs sipping mid-morning tea, I asked her about Hannah. Immediately her antenna sprung up — suspicion written on her face.
‘Why do you want to know? Is there something going on, Charles?’
Outside, seagulls flew listlessly over a swampy pond near the walls, their cries remarkably subdued. I put my teacup back on its saucer and met Delcie’s enquiring look.
‘Of course not. It’s just that she doesn’t act like she’s a native.’ It was the best I could think of, but Delcie accepted the anomaly.
She picked up the teapot and refreshed our cups. ‘I hired her because she comes from a Christian community. Her family lives near Lake Toba.’
I feigned indifference, but inside I was delighted. I wouldn’t have to worry about offending strict Sharia law. ‘Oh, I see. Where’s that?’
‘Middle of Sumatra somewhere…I’ve never visited, but she told me it’s a very big volcanic crater lake.’
Interesting. I’d plan to wangle a few days break — take Hannah to visit her family.
Delcie killed that fantasy. ‘And don’t think I don’t know what’s going through your mind.’ She gripped my arm and squeezed. ‘Hannah’s off-limits.’
I shook off her hand and stood up. A grand gesture was necessary. ‘If you think like that all the time, no wonder our relationship is wavering.’ I stood my ground, waiting.
‘Sit down, Charles, and finish your tea. I don’t want us to argue. ‘Not now.’
My turn to be surprised. I raised an eyebrow. ‘Not now?’
Her cheeks reddened. ‘It’s a woman thing. Ladies of a certain age…you know…’
My feet shuffled as though having a mind of their own while my brain whirled through the implications. I rubbed my neck — my starched shirt collar felt hot — and slumped back down to listen.
Delcie fiddled about in her handbag and pulled out a carton.
‘I got these herbal pills from Jane; she’s friendly with a doctor from a French Aid agency. Soya Iso-something-or-other. They slaughter hot flushes.’
I fiddled with a spoon, drawing imaginary jigsaw shapes on the tablecloth. ‘I see,’ I said. Call me naïve, but finally the coin dropped and a smile returned to my face.
‘They take a few weeks or so to kick in, and then I’ll be like a young woman again. That means’ — she winked at me — ‘feeling frisky as a filly.’
I perked up. ‘So, perhaps’ — I pointed at the ceiling; a long shot — ‘we could have a practice ride?’
A few moments’ hesitation, but her flushed cheeks showed otherwise. She moved closer, and I smelt her heat; a fire that demanded quenching. She reached out, touched my arm, and brushed her lips against my ear.
‘Let’s saddle up then, stud,’ she whispered.