Chapter 4 Junie Moon Rising

It’s Monday morning Down Under, so time for a new chapter.
I have not received many comments. If you see any errors, please let me know. However, do note, I am using American spelling.

CHAPTER 4 Another Fresh Start.

A week later, I sat on the plane trying not to think about the behavior responsible for this trip. My outburst and self-degradation were best forgotten. As my mother always said, “You can’t unscramble eggs.”
I cleared my mind by focusing on Robin who was in exuberant spirits. He wandered, drink in hand, up and down the aisle, chatting and joking with the Jamaican passengers in childlike happiness which I found endearing. He was never so carefree in New York although I had noticed his eyes lit up whenever he spoke of Jamaica. Liz was matching him drink for drink but looked petulant. I remained guiltily silent, ‘on the wagon’.
At the Kingston airport, Robin’s caretaker, Julius, was waiting beside an old Chevrolet sedan. We loaded the luggage and left immediately for Port Antonio. Thirty minutes into our trip, the last of Kingston’s shantytown houses disappeared, replaced by a dazzlingly lush, tropical landscape.
“This is more my style.” I smiled at Robin.
“We know your style!” Liz snarled.

Many travel writers, then and now, have extolled Port Antonio’s natural beauty. It sits off the beaten track but attracts the world’s wealthy. Today, although its heyday of hosting royalty and movie stars has passed, it remains peaceful and uncrowded. Most tourists traipse to the more familiar destinations of Montego Bay or Ocho Rios on the opposite side of the island.
In 1970, Port Antonio was a very small community indeed, home to a cheerful Jamaican community and a handful of semi-permanent Caucasians. Most of the Caucasians were wealthy English who spent summers on their inherited estates.
Our arrival coincided with the seasonal return of the gentry. As we approached our destination, I stared in admiration at the glistening white homes and sparkling swimming pools dotting the hills. They sat amid verdant gardens of bougainvillea and palms, overlooking spectacular views of the sparkling ocean.
“I’ve owned The Blue Hole for many years,” Robin volunteered as Julius slowed down. “These homes belong to friends of mine. You’ll meet many of them while you’re here.”
“Native Jamaican’s, too?” I prodded.
“Of course! There’s no racism here.”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow. The mood in America at that time was changing. Robin was one of the many whites appalled by the treatment of African/Americans. Yet even while he called for ‘equality’, he was not averse to laughing at a racial joke. Like so many of his class, his liberalism was tinged by an unconscious air of superiority towards other races and people of lower social strata. After all, he was a Harvard graduate, a proud achievement occasionally flaunted.
There was little variety to his generous wardrobe of conservative Brooks Brothers suits, routinely accessorized with the old school tie. So while I never considered Robin a racist, he was definitely a Wasp, (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) smug in his benevolent whiteness and family background.
We passed a sign reading “Fairy Hill” and Julius parked the car on the side of the road.
“Home!” Robin sighed contentedly.
“I thought you lived in Port Antonio. What’s this Fairy Hill?”
“The outskirts of Port Antonio. We’re not in the town proper.”
“Yeah. There are no men about here to keep you company.” Liz sneered as we grabbed the luggage.
“Quit it, Liz! We are going to be stuck together every day, so give it a break.”
Robin and Julius took the largest suitcases and we set out in single file down the narrow, hillside path.
“A real rain forest. What a paradise,” I said, following along.
“I live in the top house,” Robin volunteered. “You go with Julius to the writing studio a little further down. It doubles as a guest cottage. His wife or one of his boys will come in and straighten up each morning.”
Liz shrugged. “I’m ready for a drink.”
“Now, now, Liz dear. Let’s unpack first.”
We stopped beside Robin’s cottage. Birds squawked overhead and blue water glistened through the palms further down the track.
“Julius runs The Tea House at the bottom of the hill. We’ll catch you down there beside the lagoon in an hour.”
He and Liz left and, moments later, Julius unlocked the door to my temporary home.
The simple guest cottage, enclosed within glass louvers, was an improvement over the place above the Chinese restaurant. The air smelled of earth and flora, not deep-frying fat.
I clattered noisily across bare boards to the small bedroom where a mosquito net hung above a white, iron bed. A couple of geckos played tag on the planked walls. I threw myself onto the bed and lay there, in no hurry to move.

After unpacking and taking a shower, I followed the path to The Blue Hole. Liz and Robin were already there, drinking pina coladas while bathed in the kaleidoscopic colors of a magnificent sunset. Nearby, a fire pit emitted mouth-watering aromas of sizzling pork. The cheerful sounds of reggae music drifted across the lagoon.
“Who owns The Tea House?” I asked, observing several Jamaicans sitting outside the nearby thatched structure.
“The property’s all mine,” Robin began “but I…
“Yours and mine!” Liz interrupted.
“But I lease The Tea House to Julius and his family,” Robin said, ignoring his wife. “They make a decent living and take good care of my place. I like my privacy so I keep The Tea House separated inside the fence. Customers have the view but not the use of the lagoon.”
Moments later, one of Julius’s well muscled teen-age sons appeared carrying a flaming torch.
“Hullo, Mr. Boss.” He grinned at Robin. “I chase away mosquitoes.” He passed on bare feet and lit the bamboo flares around the water’s edge. I watched his progress, quietly admiring his well-developed abs until Robin caught me and I blushed. Wisps of black smoke rose in the evening air, tinging it briefly with kerosene fumes. The yellow flames grew brighter, their flickering light dancing across the darkening water. I sighed heavily; the romantic setting made me wish I wasn’t just a third spoke in the wheel. It had been a long time since any thoughts of romance had entered my head.
“In the past, I rented this place out as a movie location,” Robin interrupted my thoughts. “It was used as location for one of Robin Williams’s movies. A little later, Brooke Shields made it famous with her movie, ‘The Blue Lagoon’. Everyone started calling it The Blue Lagoon then and the name stuck. The older folk still call it The Blue Hole and claim it’s bottomless.” His voice softened. “Wait until tomorrow. When the sun hits it at different angles, it changes color between aquamarine, turquoise and sapphire.”
“Oh shut up with the travelogue.” Liz rasped. “Isn’t it time Julius brought another round?”
Back in the cottage, my first night was restless. No sooner did I fall asleep than a huge crash made me leap up, yelling “Incoming!” A heavy object thumped noisily down the corrugated grooves of the metal roof before smashing into the gutter and shooting out to the ground below. Within moments, I realized the sound had come from a coconut falling onto the tin roof. That sound would disturb my sleep many times in the coming weeks.

Robin and I were early risers. Neither of us ate breakfast and, by the time he knocked on my door at seven a.m., I had the coffee ready and we commenced writing. The house was not air-conditioned and we avoided the midday heat by taking a long lunch break with Liz joining us beside the lagoon.
After lunch, she and Robin took turns skiing across the sparkling water with one of Julius’s boys at the boat helm. They both possessed the grace and skill of elite athletes. Surprised by, and envious of, their talent, I worked on my tan, drawing lascivious glances from Robin. If I lounged too close to the water’s edge, Liz delighted in skiing close to shore. After turning sharp and fast, drenching me beneath a watery fountain, she flashed away, her laughter spinning out across the lagoon. Her intent backfired one day when Robin ran forward and enfolded me in a huge fluffy towel, holding me in his arms long enough to infuriate Liz.
“Can’t you ski, Junie Moon?” he asked, one other day. I shook my head ‘no’ and Liz smirked. Thanks to Robin’s flirting, her jealousy had reached alarming proportions. I suspected Robin deliberately provoked her insecurities and I occasionally felt sorry for her. I had considered trying to befriend her but she was too mean to me. Briefly, I thought of exchanging my skimpy bathing suit for something less revealing but Liz, too, followed the current rage and wore a tiny bikini. Unfortunately for Liz, by cultivating that “New York Thin” look, she had lost her behind. Whenever she entered the lagoon, her bikini pants filled with air and bobbed on the water’s surface like a floating balloon.
“I’ll have to teach you to ski, Junie Moon.” Robin grinned. “There’s no time like the present.”
Although I had been a professional dancer for many years, I was surprised to find myself completely hopeless on skis. I spent more time under water than on top. When I surfaced, choking up water and with my nose running, the sight afforded uproarious entertainment for Liz. The Jamaican tea room customers, upon hearing Liz’s merriment, turned to stare, their voices soon joining hers in raucous laughter.
Following lunch, Robin and Liz routinely returned home so Robin could take an hour siesta – or so he said. I suspected Liz owed me a debt of gratitude. While Robin ‘rested’, I took long, lonesome walks through the rain forest. Sweating in the humidity, I often stopped by one of the many waterfalls to crouch and drink the pristine contents. It never occurred to me that, in years to come, people would waste money buying water to carry everywhere, as if embarking on a trek through the desert.
One afternoon, while wending my way back to the guest house, I stopped to enjoy the wonderful song of a nearby bird. I looked up, searching the branches of the surrounding trees. Slivers of sunshine splashed my upturned face. I inhaled deeply and was stunned by a thought. I was happy!

 

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