We walked for three days through a grassy rolling landscape. Small thorny trees dotted the hillside and an occasional goat-like animal stuck its head out of the long grass and watched us pass. Birds twittered, bees buzzed, and we chatted and laughed and lay on the turf and looked at the sun and bathed our feet in the streams. Shamim and I walked along and talked about nothing in particular, and Nicky mostly walked a short way ahead, occasionally looking back at us and smiling. Enayat and Amireh were almost locked together hand in hand and Muriel just seemed happy to stroll among us, singing or chatting to whoever was closest.
On the fourth day we came to a walled town set among orchards and ponds and meadows full of flowers. Entering by the main gate, I suppose I thought this must be what heaven would be like. There were narrow cobble streets and little squares with shade trees at their centres, and cafés and there was a market happening the day we arrived. A woman came out and greeted us and asked about our travels and introduced us to some people in a café. We said we had no money but she said not to worry about that this once and all travellers were welcome.
By the evening we had been found rooms and had dinner arranged for later that night. I’m describing it as if there must be some catch coming, after all we’d been through, but there wasn’t. It was exactly the way it seemed – the people were friendly, the food excellent, and the whole feel of the place at once relaxing and lively. Enayat said it reminded him of a little place he knew in Turkey but it reminded me of Spain.
Shamim and I had separate rooms now – she stayed near to her parents and I really missed having her around (although I didn’t miss the ache in my balls from watching her wandering around in nothing but a thin white gown). I was put in a beautiful room full of richly coloured rugs and ceramics and an enormous, heavy wooden bed. When I arrived that night it was dark and I was shown to the bed by candlelight. In the morning it was just as dark until I found a massive wooden door behind a curtain, which, when opened gave a view out over the roofs to a cork-oak forest and mountains beyond.
That day none of us expected to see each other at all and I spent the day sleeping, eating delicacies and drinking fruit juices and drowsily fantasising about her.
We stayed for nearly two weeks. Shamim spent more time with her parents and I had time to explore and think about things more clearly. We tended to come together in the evenings, the six of us, at a restaurant or bar. Shamim seemed happy enough but I knew something had changed between us. Muriel was rapidly making other friends but Nicky spent most evenings with us and I noticed quite a change in her. Previously she’d have been looking around to see who she could hook up with, or prattling on about clothes. Now she sat and watched and said little, with a small, serene smile. I suddenly realised she’d become very beautiful.
In the third week we discovered that Enayat and Amireh wanted to stay, possibly forever. Shamim looked at me, watching to see how I’d react. I thought about staying with them. It didn’t seem a bad idea, but... Then she took my hand and lead me away down an alley to an opening with a view across the valley where the road ahead could be seen snaking away among the cypresses.
‘I’m going to stay’ she began ‘at least for a while’ and I thought she was going to suggest I stay and I was trying to make a decision but she put her finger to my lips and shushed me. ‘You can’t stay’ she said. I began to protest. ‘No, listen to me. You have other things to do. You have Sophie...’
‘But that’s not...’
‘And you have Nicky.’
‘What? No I haven’t. What are you talking about? I’ve never...’
She thinks for a moment. I think there might be tears in her eyes but she won’t look at me. ‘You know you told me you love her, but as a friend?’ she said.
‘You never once told me you love me at all.’
‘But I do. You know that.’
‘But you love her more, and no, not as a friend. I’ve seen you together.’
‘But she’s like a child, she’s impossible.’
‘Nevertheless... and actually she’s not like a child at all. Not any more. She’s a remarkable young woman. And you know that. You love her very much, and you always have. You shouldn't be ashamed of that.’
We sit in silence for a while, watching the sun go away. I know she’s letting me down lightly, so I won’t have to make a decision. It’s good of her.
‘Are you going to stay forever?’ I say.
‘I don’t know. I had so much to do, to go back to, to finish, but my mother and father have had enough and I love them so much.’
‘You’re very lucky.’
‘Maybe you will be lucky next time.’
We left a couple of days later, Nicky and I. She was overjoyed at the news about Shamim and I, and did a little skippy dance in the new, very short, ‘fairy dress’ she’d bought at the market. ‘Now I can have you’ she said gleefully, embarrassing me mightily in front of a lot of strangers.
Shamim and I kissed and held each other for a long time on the stone road leading down from the main gate, and then Amireh and finally Enayat and I hugged too. Then Nicky hugged them all. Muriel had said her goodbyes the night before (‘Can’t stand a big public scene’ she said). And then we headed off down the lane together.
The final part of the journey was largely uneventful. It took us another two months or so but we took our time, strolling along, camping out under the stars, exploring woods and caves and lakes and ravines.
I had this idea that a respectable amount of time should elapse between my saying goodbye to Shamim and any overtures to Nicky but seeing her every day, dressed in nothing but that tiny pale blue sparkly silk dress, or in her orange sarong, walking along a little way ahead, showing her bottom, or falling out of her top when she bent over... Well, the situation became impossible. I knew she was doing it on purpose. She commented that sometimes the look on my face was just like a lion before it pounces. The strap slipped from her shoulder and it was all I could do not to make a meal of her then and there.
I gave in one day when I caught her bathing in a river, the bit of cloth she had on was heavy with water and she was holding it up rather ineffectually. I sat and watched for a while where the orange material clung transparently to her breasts and bum and jiggled as she moved. She looked shyly at me, as if caught in the act, turned away, then looked vulnerably at me over her shoulder, ‘accidentally’ uncovering a broad expanse of white flesh from hip to thigh. She admitted later that she knew exactly what that expression would do to me.
I took off my vest and chucked it away, kicked off my sandals and went down to her in just my shorts. She stood there, up to her thighs in the water, a little bent over, her hands over her breasts. I stood next to her and ran a fingernail over the curves of her hip and waist and I saw her close her eyes and gasp quietly. I gently ran my fingers over her belly, down her sides, down that fine crease that separates thigh from soft, pubic mound. She put her head back and turned to kiss me – at first tentatively, then fiercely, then gasped and broke away. She wrapped the wet fabric around herself. ‘Catch me’ she said, and ran bare-foot and bare-arsed up the slope to where our things were spread under a tree.
I deliberately took my time, trying to be cool. I felt predatory and hard. When I found her she had lost the sarong and was naked, pressed against a rock face on the bare hill side, and she looked frightened and terribly exposed. She was my adolescent fantasy, right there, ready to be taken. She covered her pudenda and nipples ineffectually with her hands and eyed me intently as I walked down to her. I could see her shivering slightly – with cold I hoped. I didn’t want her to be afraid of me – I wanted her to want me. I stood in front of her and watched her, quivering slightly, looking around self-consciously, and then back to my face. I couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that there might be someone with a camera behind one of the rocks. Then I saw the tiniest trace of her naughty little girl smile, the one she’d warned me about and I stood against her, pressed against the rock face and she began to run her hands along my sides and over my arse and she grabbed my face and we kissed hard, biting and chewing. She grabbed my cock and rubbed it brutally hard against her leg. ‘Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me...’ she said through her teeth, ferociously glaring at me, like she was asking to be stabbed. She tugged down my shorts and turned around, still gripping my cock, and bent over a rock, her breasts dangling in the thorn bushes, and yelled at me to ‘Just fucking screw me’, and I did. I pushed her down and rammed myself into her as hard as I could, up against those jagged rocks and spiky shrubs. Once or twice there was a little cry of pain and I paused and asked if she was ok and she slapped me on the thigh and yelled at me to ‘Just fucking do it, you moron!’ So I did. I pulled her head back by her hair and sucked at her mouth. I kneaded at those heavy breasts and I fucked her as hard as I could. It was bloody wonderful.
I came very quickly – I couldn’t stop myself, and sat back on my haunches, dripping, watching her. She turned around and glared at me some more. ‘Don’t think this is over’ she said, and I thought ‘I certainly hope not.’ As she leaned there, among the rocks and plants I saw her begin to rub her vagina, smoothly at first with her right hand, and caress her scratched belly and breasts with the left. I watched her put her fingers in her mouth and taste our juices and then go on, rubbing herself, harder and faster. Then she looked down and saw that my cock was hard again and she shoved me back on the gravel and straddled me and rocked back and forward on me, scraping my back on the ground, grinding me deeper and deeper inside her. I ignored the pain and watched her furious face and her swinging breasts and felt her tight clenched vagina working on me like a fist. She was grunting and telling me what a bastard I was and how I’d get what I deserved and then as she came she leaned forward and kissed me powerfully again, crying into my mouth, still forcing our pelvises together as if it might still be possible for me to be that little bit further inside her if we really tried.
Then she collapsed on me, her gorgeous wet muddy bulk squashing me into the ground. We lay there for some time, our breathing slowly returning to normal. Eventually she rolled off and lay beside me on the hot stony ground. I saw her smile. ‘Hell I needed that’ she gasped.
I don’t have much to tell about the rest of the journey. After that first time we mauled each other we made rather slow progress I admit, but between stopping for more sex (usually less violent) we walked and chatted and enjoyed the freedom of the vast landscape we passed through. There were also several small communities and hostels that took us in along the way and we took the opportunity of a hot shower and a soft bed whenever possible.
In retrospect I don’t think we ever had a huge amount to say to one another, and I feel fairly sure we would not have made a good match in life, probably because she was too young for me, but we were easy company for that time and for those last couple of months there was something rather nice going on between us that I’ll never forget. To be fair, in retrospect, I don’t think Shamim and I would have made a good match either. Things had never been right after that conversation with her mother at the hotel. I suspect it was her beautiful mystery or something that kept me entranced, rather than the reality. And that had been the problem with Mar too. I didn’t find out what she was really like until it was far too late. No doubt Shamim is a genuinely lovely person, but who can tell? One thing I could definitely say about Nicky was that I knew exactly what she was like and I really appreciated that. I think about Sophie again and consider myself very lucky to have known her, even for such a short time.
Finally the road lead us into a busy coastal town, once again with narrow stone streets and market squares, but this time with lush tropical undergrowth rooted into the walls and roofs, and monkeys in the trees.
And the place was full of travellers from many different roads, all converging on this one place in carts and rickshaws and on horseback, all milling about, moving down to the river where it met the sea. And all along the road, there were people playing music and trying to give us food and other things to take with us. Nicky wanted to go in a bright cerise dress she saw on offer. We decided to try and find a room and a guide to take us through the final part of the journey.
Nyssa, the guide, took us up to a path above the place where people leave, where the river meets the sea – the brown river water churning with the deep grey green of the marine with each wave. Men and women in brightly coloured robes waded and dipped in the water as if practising. We waited and saw one woman swim out a little way, dip under and not reappear.
‘And that’s how it’s done’ she said.
Nicky began to cry a little ‘You promise you won’t let go?’ she said to me and I promised. I was almost in tears myself.
‘Now you must enter this with as clear a heart as possible. This journey you’ve been on I know has meant a great deal, and your future life cannot be the same as a result of it. There is no hurry. You must think on this. Think about what has happened.’
We sit and think. I don’t know what to think about first. I try to look meditative anyway.
‘You Nicky I know have been hurt...’ and Nicky begins to really cry, nodding vehemently, Nyssa takes hold of her hands ‘and it was not your fault, but you must not allow it to happen next time.’
‘But I can’t’ she howls.
‘You were young I know, but you can do it. You are strong. You can change it. Carry this knowledge with you. It can be different Nicky. It can.’
Nicky lets go of one of Nyssa’s hands and grips mine. ‘Will you come and find me Gabriel?’ she says ‘If I’m on the bridge?’
‘You won’t be, you’ll be in China, or at university studying to go. You won’t do it this time.’
‘But just in case. Will you come?’
‘It’s not as simple as that Nicky’ says Nyssa. ‘We don’t remember everything we want to. Promises are hard to keep.’
‘But say you’ll try, just in case. Please Gabriel.’
‘I promise. Where did it happen?’
‘Waterloo sunset. I always loved that song. I think it was about the ninth of August. Can you be there for a few days in case I’ve got the date wrong?’
‘Of course. I’ll be there.’
‘Bring Sophie if you like.’
‘Ok, but I still think you’ll be in China having a fantastic time.’
‘And you Gabriel. You have a lot to live for I know. Avoid those that try to force you to their way – you know who they are. Have faith in your way because you do know what you are doing Gabriel, however you may feel sometimes.’
We spend a couple more days sitting around, watching people, eating spicy food and drinking sweet yoghurt with rose water, and, of course, having lots of sex.
When we entered the water that last evening, wearing just the slightest of robes – her in her cerise, me in turquoise, we were sticky and ripe with each other’s juices, still pulsing from our last orgasms. We held hands all the way, stumbling down over the stones, dipping down into the chilly water, letting it trickle in between our legs, making us gasp and giggle.
I remember still holding her hand there as we let ourselves go in the murky green water and still kissing her as my body began to feel like some cloudy sexual fluid dispersing and mingling with hers. I remember thinking how blissful it was to go together like that.