In the rapidly descending darkness, Paul and I strolled hand in up the hill toward our bungalow from the jetty, after what had proved to be an enjoyable day on the water with Danny.
"I’ve had fun today," I said to him, as we climbed the short flight of steps up onto our balcony.
"So have I," Paul replied. "It’s been great."
As I unlocked the sliding glass door and slid it back to allow Paul to pass, a voice from the darkness suddenly said, "Well, I’m really glad that you guys had fun. Because I’ve been bored shitless sitting here for the past three hours waiting for you to return."
I knew that voice.
I quickly reached inside the doorway and flicked the light switch, lighting up the living room and porch, which immediately bathed a smiling Jonathan, who was sitting at the outdoor table, in light.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" I asked him, as I walked toward him and shook his outstretched hand.
"Charlotte and I have come for a holiday," he answered, giving me a wink as he did so and then reaching forward to shake Paul’s hand also.
"Yeah, right," I said suspiciously. "And paid for by New Edge Studios no doubt?"
"What can I say, one of the lurks and perks of being in the movies."
"Well, it’s good to see you anyway," I said to him. "Come on, come inside."
Paul and I stepped aside to allow Jonathan to enter our bungalow, then we followed him in and I put the picnic things that I was still carrying down on the table.
"Hey, this is just like ours," Jonathan said, as he glanced around the room.
"Well, they tell me the more you buy the cheaper they get," I said to him, to which he just laughed.
While Jonathan and I sat down on lounge chairs in the living room, Paul busied himself pouring us some drinks, before bringing over a tray with three glasses on it and setting it on a table in front of us, then handing us both glasses of Coca-Cola.
I had glanced at him a couple of times while he was pouring the drinks, I don’t think he stopped looking at Jonathan once while he was in the kitchen, and I had the feeling that he wasn’t looking at him in awe. I had the feeling that he was nervous about Jonathan showing up here, and when Paul came and sat himself on the arm of the chair I was sitting in, draping his arm over my shoulders, I knew that I was right.
Jonathan looked at us both over the rim of his glass as he took a sip.
"This place obviously agrees with you guys," he said after he had lowered his glass.
I reached up and placed my hand over Paul’s and looked up into his smiling eyes and said, "Yeah, I think it’s done us both a world of good."
"I’m pleased for you both."
"I can’t believe that Steve sent you here though," I said to him, shaking my head, as I leaned forward and placed my empty glass back on the tray.
Jonathan just grinned and said, "Well, it wasn’t entirely his idea."
"Oh?" I replied, exchanging glances with Paul.
"Well, Charlotte and I had a few days free in the schedule, and we knew you were here, so we though ‘what the heck’. When I mentioned it to Steve he went ballistic. He couldn’t get us here quick enough."
"What’s so funny?"
"So, you really are here to talk me into joining your promotional tour?"
"Well, yes… and no," he answered.
"The answer is still no," I replied.
"Yeah, I kind of figured that one out already. We just wanted a few days away from the hustle and bustle ourselves. And like I said, seeing as you guys were already here…"
The four of us ate in the resort’s restaurant a little later that evening, and I have to admit that having Jonathan there was something of a distraction for me.
As I looked from Jonathan to Paul and back again, I was filled once more with the same old doubts about my relationships with these two men in my life. Confusion crept back into my head and I felt as if I didn’t know which way I should turn, or to which of them I should turn.
I was pretty sure that Paul noticed my uncertainty as well, because I quite often glanced at him during the evening and caught him looking at me in a strange kind of way that unnerved me.
Were the feelings that I had once felt for Jonathan, during the times when I used to fantasize about him when I had written my story, and then afterwards when I had met him at that party long ago, still buried there within me? And if they were there, were they now showing themselves?
To tell you the truth, they were most probably were still there inside me, and that was what I thought may have been worrying Paul tonight.
After our dinner we all went for a leisurely stroll along a path which followed the beach, going all the way up to a lookout from where, we had been told, you could sometimes see the lights of the mainland on a clear night.
As we walked along, with my arm around Paul’s shoulders and Jonathan’s around Charlotte’s, we talked about what we had all been doing since the last time we had met, which was at the premiere in New York. It seemed like so long ago now.
Jonathan had started work on a new movie, which was apparently going to be released in time for Christmas, provided he could get back from this promotional tour in time to finish filming. He and Charlotte had found a house in upstate New York that they liked and were planning to move into it before their wedding, which was being planned for the coming fall.
"I’m happy for you both," I said to them, although deep down inside of me, I couldn’t help but think that some of my dreams were now not going to become reality. How I felt about that, I wasn’t too sure exactly, but I know that it did leave me with this kind of empty feeling inside.
"Thanks," Jonathan said, then added, "You know you guys are coming to the wedding, don’t you?"
"We are?" Paul replied.
"Of course you are," Charlotte answered, with a smile that we saw only as we were passing beneath a lamp.
"So, how about you Dave?" Jonathan asked me. "Have you been doing any writing? You know we are all still waiting for your follow-up book."
"Yeah, well, there’s a few ideas floating around inside my head, and there’s a few notes been typed up on the laptop that I’ve brought with me, but as for it being enough for a book, well, let’s just say that there’s a fair way to go just yet."
"What’s it about?" Jonathan asked eagerly.
"Sssh. Don’t ask that," Paul answered. "It’s a secret. He hasn’t even told me yet."
"Oh," Jonathan replied. "Well, I just hope that when it’s turned into a movie there’s a part in it for me."
"We’ll see," I answered.
Eventually we reached the lookout and sat on one of the benches that in daylight let visitors look out over the Great Barrier Reef. Tonight however, all we could see was the moonlight reflecting off the ocean for miles on end, and in the far distance we could make out the faint coast line of the mainland, dotted sporadically with lights.
"It’s beautiful, isn’t it?" Charlotte whispered, while safely wrapped up in Jonathan’s arms.
"Yes it is," the three of us answered, almost in unison, which only made Charlotte giggle.
After a long silence, during which we all just sat and soaked up the night, and it’s peace and quiet, I asked them, "How long are you guys going to be here?"
"Just to the end of the week," Jonathan answered. "I have to be in Sydney on Friday night. What about you and Paul?"
"What day is it?" I asked.
"Monday," Charlotte answered.
"We fly out Wednesday of next week. That’ll be our month here."
"Jeez, you won’t want to go back after spending a month here."
Paul and I both laughed, then I said, "Well, we’ve had a great time, and met some great people, but it will be good to get home."
"Yeah. I bet it will be."
It was just then that Paul, who was resting with his back against me and with my arms wrapped around him, yawned and stretched, and I realized that it had been a long day. I was quite tired myself and as always, when someone around me did it, I too found myself yawning.
"What do you think?" I whispered into Paul’s ear. "Time to head back to the bungalow?"
He turned and tried to face me, which proved difficult given the way he was leaning against me, but he said, "Yeah, I am kind of bushed," then sat upright.
"Well guys," I said to Jonathan and Charlotte, as we both got to our feet. "It’s getting late and we’ve had a pretty long day. We think we might head back to the bungalow."
"That’s alright," Jonathan replied, then turning to Charlotte he said, "What do you think honey? I think we might stay up here for a while longer? It’s nice up here."
"Hmmm," was all she said in reply.
We said goodnight to them and then left them in each other’s arms at the lookout, and headed back down the path towards the bungalows.
"That was quite a surprise, having them show up like that," I said to him as we made our way along the path towards the collection of buildings.
"Yeah. It was," he answered.
Neither of us spoke after that, as both of us seemed to be turning things over in our minds. We readied ourselves for bed in silence, and only said goodnight to each other once we were actually in bed.
I lay on my back for what seemed like hours, staring at shadows dancing across the ceiling, turning things over and over in my mind and not really knowing how I felt about things or what I should be doing.
Paul was apparently doing the same, because I could feel him tossing and turning beside me, before finally he rolled over onto his side and faced me, propping himself up on his elbow and said, "Can I ask you something? You still have feelings for him, don’t you?"
I looked straight at him, seeing only the outline of his head and shoulders silhouetted against the window behind him.
"What I feel for Jonathan isn’t the same as what I feel for you," I said.
"But you still have feelings for him, don’t you?"
"What do you want me to say, Paul?" I asked him.
"You shouldn’t need me to be telling you that. You should be able to figure that one out by yourself," he answered tersely, and with that he rolled over and turned his back to me.
Somewhere, deep in the night, we both managed to fall asleep.
I woke later than usual the next morning, after what proved to be quite a restless night, and found the other half of our bed empty.
"Are you there Paul?" I called out through the open doorway, but there was no reply.
Throwing back the sheets I got out of bed and wandered out into the living area, wearing only the boxer shorts that I slept in, but he wasn’t there. I went out onto the front porch and looked up and down the paths which led to and from our bungalow, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found there either.
Slightly worried, I headed back inside and proceeded to make a pot of coffee, pouring myself a cup as soon as it was ready, then went back out onto the porch to drink it, wondering where it was he would have gone.
A young couple out for a morning walk waved to me as they strolled past a little while later, and I waved back, but there was still no sign of Paul.
Eventually I decided that I would have a quick shower and then go and look for him, so I headed inside and placed my mug in the sink then headed for the bathroom, stripping of my shorts as I went.
I stood in the shower for what seemed like ages, allowing the hot water to course over my body, washing away some of my worries, for the time being at least. As I finally stepped out of the shower however, I thought I heard Paul return as the bungalow’s sliding glass door was opened and then closed, so with only a towel wrapped around me I walked out into the living room and found Paul there, dripping wet. He was wearing only shorts and had a towel draped around his neck.
"Been for a swim?" I asked, stating the obvious.
"Yeah," he answered. "I went down to the beach."
"I made some coffee a little while ago, if you want some."
"Thanks. I might have a quick shower first though."
I turned and went into our bedroom and pulled the towel from around me and proceeded to finish drying myself as I heard the water start to run in the bathroom, then dressed and returned to the kitchen. I set two clean mugs on the counter, then thought that a good breakfast would be better than just another coffee, so I went to the bathroom door, which was open and looked inside. I could see the outline of Paul through the frosted glass of the shower door and there was steam billowing over the top of the door.
"Do you feel like going over to the restaurant for breakfast instead?" I asked him.
"If you like," he replied. "Just give me a few minutes."
"O.K. then," I answered, then headed out onto the porch to wait for him to come back out.
It was a beautiful morning and the resort was a hive of activity, as usual, with people walking around, or riding bicycles along the paths, or relaxing on the grass in the warm sun. Between Paul and I however, things appeared to still be rather cool.
When he came out and joined me a few minutes later, we headed off down the path towards the restaurant without saying a word to each other, and a few minutes later we bumped into Jonathan and Charlotte, who were walking hand in hand toward us.
"Good morning guys," Jonathan said as they stopped in front of us. "Where are you off to?"
"Only breakfast," I answered. "Have you two eaten yet?"
"Yes, thanks," Charlotte answered. "We were just heading off for a stroll along the beach."
"It’s a great morning for it," I said.
"Yeah, it is. How about we catch up with you later?"
"Sounds good to me," I replied, then watched as Jonathan once again took Charlotte’s hand, they waved goodbye and continued on their way.
When they had gone I turned to face Paul. I found that he was studying me closely. I suddenly hoped that I hadn’t given him anything more to worry about.
"What?" I asked him, but he just shook his head and started walking toward the restaurant once more.
We ate largely in silence, talking only when a waitress asked if we wanted anything more, or when someone said hello to us. We left shortly afterwards and returned to our bungalow.
"Is this how it’s going to be then is it?" I asked him when we were safely inside, clearly starting to be irritated by the silent treatment.
More silence followed.
"Paul?" I said, grabbing him by the arm.
"Look Dave," he said to me, spinning around to face me. "I care about you. And I know that in your own way you care about me too. But this fixation you have with Jonathan has to stop. I can see it. And I’m sure that both Jonathan and Charlotte can see it, but you have to realize that Jonathan is one person who is not going to be in your future. Or at least not in the way that you dream about. Just wake up to yourself for fuck sake!"
After that he stormed out of the bungalow and I just watched him as headed back toward the beach.
Inside me there were a million emotions at once all churning around, which only left me more confused than I had been before.
I did care for Paul, of that I was certain, but then there was Jonathan, who had showed up on my doorstep and complicated things for me yet again.
I sat down on the edge of our bed and then collapsed backwards upon it, and that was where I stayed until sometime in the middle of the afternoon when I was awoken by someone knocking on the front door.
How long I lay there listening to the relentless pounding, I do not know. At first I didn’t recognize what it was, thinking that it was just my throbbing head, but when I finally heard Jonathan’s voice calling my name I sat up, then watched the room spin endlessly around me.
After struggling to my feet I shuffled out to the door and opened it, finding a smiling Jonathan standing there looking at me.
"Jesus, Dave, what’s wrong with you?" he asked as he stepped in through the door, his effervescent smile quickly disappearing.
"Nothing much," I answered. "Just feeling a little off color."
"Well, I hope you’ll be better by tonight. I’ve booked us all into the restaurant, then afterward we’re all going to the night club."
"I’m not sure if that will be such a good idea," I replied.
"Nonsense," Jonathan said. "Go have some Asprin or something, have a lie down, and you’ll be fine. We’ll see you both there at eight, and don’t be late."
And just like that he waltzed back out again. It seemed to be a pattern that was repeating itself, him waltzing in and out of my life, leaving me feeling more and more confused every time.
"Fuck the Asprin," I said to myself after he had gone. "I need something better than that," so I went to the bar fridge and found a bottle of something a little stronger.
I hadn’t seen Paul since he had left that morning, and when he did return late in the afternoon, I was asleep on the lounge. I didn’t hear him come in, but when I woke up he was sitting on a chair opposite me, looking at me with the concerned expression, like that of a mother gazing at a child.
"Hi," I managed to say, when I noticed him looking at me.
"Hi, yourself," he answered. "Are you feeling alright? I bumped into Jonathan down on the beach and he said you weren’t the best."
"I’m fine," I answered, lying through my teeth. "Did he tell you about the big night out he has planned for us all?"
"Yeah, he did. Do you want to go?"
"Why the hell not," I replied.
"But if you’re……"
"I’m fine," I said. Then I sat up.
As Paul watched, I struggled to my feet and made it into the bedroom, where I started to strip.
"I’m going to have a shower," I called out to him.
"O.K." I heard him say, then I went into the bathroom and shut the door.
We met Jonathan and Charlotte at the restaurant that evening, as planned, and found Charlotte looking lovely, as always, while Jonathan, Paul and I all went casual. Then, after enjoying a meal in the restaurant we all headed off to the night club.
I still wasn’t sure about this idea though, but Jonathan had insisted, and a short while later he and I found ourselves sitting alone in a booth, looking out across the dance floor, where Paul and Charlotte could be seen enjoying themselves immensely, dancing to some current pop hit.
We had both been drinking, me far more than Jonathan, after having had a few drinks earlier in the afternoon, and as a result of my rapidly deteriorating state of sobriety I was feeling fairly happy and carefree.
"They seem to be getting on well together," I commented to Jonathan, not sure if my speech was becoming slurred or not, and not really caring if it did.
"Do you think I should be worried?" he joked.
I laughed and said, "No, I think she’s fairly safe with Paulie."
"And what about me? Am I safe, Dave?" he asked me.
I picked up my glass and took another mouthful as I thought for a moment about the answer. How could I answer that? I really had no idea at first, but eventually some thought formed in my brain and struggled to the surface.
I leaned across the table and faced Jonathan. This was the opportunity for which I had been waiting a long time. An opportunity to actually say to him how I felt, and despite the little angel on one shoulder, warning me against it, the little devil on my other shoulder told me to let it all out.
As often happens, the little devil won.
"Jonathan," I said, placing one of my hands over his. "For a long time I have wanted to tell you something, and I think this is finally the time to do it. You know that you have been in my fantasies for I don’t know how long. Hell, you were the inspiration for my story. I can’t tell you how much I have wanted to be with you."
He pulled his hands back from me then looked around nervously, as if he was checking to see if anyone was watching us.
"Please stop Paul," he said. "Before you embarrass yourself."
"Come on Jonathan. You know how I’ve felt about you, ever since that night on the balcony when we first met. And tonight, you were the one who asked if you were safe with me. You were the one who invited me to answer you. I thought you wanted me to tell you how I felt?"
"I was just joking Dave. Please don’t do this. It’s just the drink talking now. This isn’t you."
"How do you know that?" I demanded, then swallowing the last of my drink in one gulp and slamming the glass back down on the table with a loud bang.
"Come on Dave. You’re drunk. Don’t do this. You have Paul. And you both care about each other. I know you do. You don’t want me. Why would you want to ruin a perfectly good friendship?"
"Paul doesn’t love me. And I think it’s you that I love Jonathan. Don’t you know that?" I snapped.
"You don’t love me. You love Paul," he answered.
Then, in spite of the fuzzy state of my brain, I noticed him stop and stare at someone, or something, looking more scared than I had ever seen him look.
I turned my head and there was Paul and Charlotte standing there gaping at us, holding onto each other as if they were the last two people left alive.
Charlotte looked upset, but otherwise in control of her emotions, but Paul looked devastated.
Suddenly my stomach tied itself in knots, and in that brief moment when I finally came to my senses and realized how big of an asshole I had been to everyone, and who it was that I did care about, I could only watch as Paul turned and ran.
"Shit. Shit. Shit," was all I could say. "What have I done?’
Charlotte sat down beside Jonathan and took hold of his hand, then said to me, "It’s alright Dave. Just go after him."
"I… can’t," I said.
"Of course you can," Jonathan added. "It is him that you care about. Not me."
"He won’t want to see me."
"Just get off your arse and go after him Dave. He might just surprise you."
Reluctantly I got to my feet and looked down at them both, seeing their concerned faces looking back up at me.
"Go," Charlotte urged.
I managed a wan smile and said, "Thanks." Then I went in search of the man I loved.
When I got outside I just stood there, breathing in the cool sea air and it had an invigorating effect on me. My mind became much sharper and my feelings towards Paul became much clearer.
I wasn’t sure where I should start looking, so I decided to try the beach and turned and headed off in that general direction.
I couldn’t believe how much of an asshole that I had become, and how badly I had treated Paul. I doubted if he would ever truly forgive me, but I could only hope that when I did find him he would at least be able to understand.
The beach proved to be empty, except for a young honeymooning couple I had met earlier, who were making out under the moonlight, so I started off along another path, all the while keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of Paul.
He wasn’t to be found by the pool. Nor was he down on the Jetty, or even back at our bungalow. I was rapidly running out of places to look, but then I crossed the path that led up to the lookout. I had nothing to lose, so I set off along it, growing more and more anxious with each step I took.
When I finally reached the top my spirits soared when I saw the outline of someone sitting on one of the bench seats that were there, but when I drew closer I realized that it was actually two people sitting there.
Once again I was plunged into despair.
I walked on past them towards where I knew there was another bench, but it proved to be empty.
Dejected, I sat down and dropped my head into my hands, not knowing where to try next. After a few moments I sat back and started to gaze out over the ocean, past the viewing platform where someone was standing.
My eyes snapped back to that person.
It was him.
I got to my feet and started walking toward him, not making a sound until such time as I stepped onto the timber walkway.
He glanced at me, then turned back to toward the ocean and said, "Why don’t you just fuck off? You couldn’t give a shit about me."
"That’s not quite true," I said, reaching him and leaning against the railing beside him.
"You have a funny way of showing it then," he said, with sarcasm dripping from every word.
"I’ve been a total shit to you. I’m sorry," I said to him.
"Paul, I’m not in love with Jonathan. I’m in love with you. All I have ever felt for him was lust. Pure unadulterated lust. I was just too fucking stupid to recognize the difference."
Slowly, his head turned to face me. In the moonlight I noticed the trail of a tear running down his cheek, so I reached across and gently wiped it away, all the while fearful that he would push me away.
"But tonight…," he whispered, but I silenced him by placing a finger over his lips.
"Jonathan was right. It wasn’t me who was talking, it was the drink. And I’m just so sorry."
"I did try to tell you."
"Yes, you did. And I was too fucking stupid to listen to you. Will you ever forgive me?"
He didn’t answer me, instead he just reached up and placed a gentle hand on one cheek and drew my face towards him.
We kissed for what seemed like ages and when we finally separated I could see him grinning at me in the moonlight.
"What’s wrong with you now?" I asked.
"Nothing Dave," he answered. "Nothing at all."
The following morning was Wednesday, and we slept in, after having the night we had. I woke up with the sun streaming in through the open windows and rolled over and just watched Paul as he slept. Watching the rhythmical rise and fall of his smooth chest, which was now nicely tanned after the time we had spent here, and the gentle fluttering of his eyelids as he lay there dreaming.
I dared not wake him, so I just lay there and studied him, smiling to myself and thinking just how lucky I was to still have him here with me.
As I thought of this, an idea started to form in my mind, and I lay my head back down on the pillow and stared at the ceiling, grinning to myself.
"What are you grinning at?" Paul asked me a few moments later, having now woken.
"Just thinking about how lucky I am that I haven’t lost you," I said, which was partly the truth, but not entirely.
"Hmmm," was all he said.
I rolled over and faced him, then stretched forward and kissed him.
"I don’t want to ever lose you," I said to him, as I gently stoked his cheek.
"I don’t think I’m going anywhere," he replied.
"Well, I want to make sure of that. I know this might sound crazy, but if we could, would you, err… marry me?" I asked.
"Are you serious?" he asked.
His face lit up like I had never seen it do before, and then he hugged me briefly, but moments later he let go of me and lay back on his pillow, looking almost sad.
"What’s wrong?" I asked him.
"But we can’t," he answered.
"Yeah, that may be so. But if we could, then would you?"
"Of course I would."
I just smiled at him and said, "Thank you."
Later in the morning, while Paul was in the shower, I called reception and made a request for some things I wanted for the following day, then we both headed down to the beach, where we found Charlotte and Jonathan stretched out on towels enjoying some sun.
"I see you guys found each other then?" Jonathan said with a grin, as we spread our own towels out beside them.
"Yeah, we did," I replied. "And thanks."
"Anytime," Jonathan answered, grinning.
"I feel like a swim," Charlotte said, getting to her feet. "Would you boys like to join me?"
Jonathan and I both shook our heads, but Paul got back to his feet and went down to the water with her. I was glad that they had left the two of us here. There was so much I wanted to say to Jonathan.
We watched as they waded out into the blue waters, then started splashing and playing like a couple of kids. I laughed as Paul got dumped by a large wave that had crept into shore, then got up and shook himself off, much like a dog that had just had a swim would do.
"I’m so sorry about last night," I said to Jonathan a few moments later.
"Don’t worry about it," he replied. "We all have our moments."
"I can’t believe how big an idiot I made of myself. And to think that I almost lost Paul over it."
He looked across at me, looking serious and said, "I don’t think you would have lost him. He knows you better than you know yourself. As soon as we arrived here he sensed that you were getting confused about me again. He told Charlotte that when they were dancing last night. If anyone should be saying sorry it’s me. If we hadn’t have come here this wouldn’t have happened."
"No, please don’t think like that. If it didn’t happen here, it would have happened some place else, only I might have really lost him then because Paul would have been able to take off and go anywhere he wanted to get away from me. In a way, I’m glad it happened here. At least he couldn’t get away from me entirely."
Jonathan laughed and said, "I see your point."
We watched for a while longer as Charlotte and Paul swam and frolicked in the water, then I asked, "Will you do something for me?"
"Just name it," he answered, so I told him about what I wanted to do the following day.
Paul and Charlotte came back up the beach a little while later, dripping wet and grinning from ear to ear. We threw them both their towels and they quickly dried off, before laying back down beside us both.
"You pair looked like you were having fun," I said to them both.
"Yeah, we did," Paul answered.
"I was just telling Jonathan about our boat trip the other day. We thought we might do it again if we could get hold of someone to take us around there."
"I’m sure that they’ll love it," Paul answered.
I arranged for us all to meet at the jetty the following day, around noon.
The resort had managed to make a booking with Danny for the afternoon for me, and he showed up right on time, accompanied by his friend Michael, just as I had requested.
When the introductions were over, we loaded all of our gear onto the boat and we motored out of the marina, before cutting the engine and hoisting the sails. The winds weren’t quite as strong as they had been for our previous trip, so for the next couple of hours we enjoyed a leisurely sail around the island, swapping stories, telling jokes and enjoying each other’s company.
Not long into our trip I managed a quiet word with Danny and asked if he had been able to bring everything that I had requested, to which he just winked at me.
"Good, good," I said, slapping him on the back. "Now I have a real favor to ask."
"You’re the Captain of this ship, right?"
"I’d hardly call old ‘Old Mabel" a ship Dave."
"Old Mabel?" I asked.
He just grinned and told me that had been the pet name for the boat for as long as he could remember. It had apparently been built in the nineteen fifties, and was registered as "Maybelline", but for obvious reasons got "Old Mabel" for short.
"Anyway," I continued. "I need you to sort of officiate for me. I know it won’t have any legal standing or anything like that, but for Paul and I it would mean a lot, especially with Jonathan and Charlotte and you and Michael here with us."
I held a folded piece of paper out towards him, which had a few notes on it that I had written down and he took it and stowed it straight into his pants pocket.
"I’ll read it in a minute," he said to me. "I’ll go below deck to take a leak or something."
"Thank you," I said to him.
I made my way back to where everyone else was sitting, on the bow of the boat, getting covered in sea spray and enjoying every minute of it.
Jonathan, always the clown, stood up and went right to the front, leaning against the railing and holding his arms out at shoulder height.
"Look at me," he called back over his shoulder. "I’m King of the World."
We all just laughed.
Moments later Danny called out to us from the stern, from where he was steering our course, and asked Charlotte to come back down to where he was.
"It’s your turn to play Captain for a while," he said to her. "I need to go below deck."
Excitedly, she made her way back to him and received her instructions. Danny pointed towards a large rock, which was jutting out of the sea a few miles ahead of us and told her to steer towards it. Then he was gone, and Charlotte was steering our course.
When Danny re-emerged about five minutes later, he winked at me and patted his pocket. I nodded, then looked around quickly to see if anyone else had noticed. Only Michael, who proved to be a very nice, but quiet sort of guy, picked up on it and gave me a smile.
Danny took over from Charlotte and once more she came forward and joined us, while he steered our course safely towards the cove.
It was mid-afternoon when we reached our destination and, as we sailed in between the rocky headlands once again, Jonathan and Charlotte were both dumbfounded by the raw beauty of the place, just as Paul and I had been a few days earlier.
"It’s beautiful," Charlotte said, looking all around her and trying to take in as much as she could.
"It certainly is," I said to her.
Just as he had done for us previously, Danny took the boat in as close to the shoreline as possible before dropping the anchor.
"You folks dive in or do whatever you want," he said to us. "Michael and I will bring everything ashore."
Paul didn’t need to be asked twice, he stripped off his shirt and dived straight in.
Jonathan and Charlotte both figured they would do the same, although for a moment I was a little worried as to what Charlotte would be swimming in. She unwrapped herself from the colorful sarong she was wearing, revealing a two-piece bikini underneath. They both dived in after Paul.
"Get going," Danny said to me.
"Are you sure you’re alright with all this?"
"It’s what we do for a living, remember?" Michael answered, smiling.
"Just go, mate," Danny urged. So I did.
By the time that the four of us made it out of the water, Danny and Michael had everything set up on the beach, just the way I had asked.
There was a large table, covered with a table-cloth and flowers, around which were six chairs. Then there was a ring of lanterns sticking up out of the sand, about six feet high, that we would light as it got darker, not only to give us light, but to keep insects away, as they also contained Citronella.
Danny and Michael had also brought a large ice-box ashore, that was filled with food for us to enjoy later on, not to mention our clothes and towels that we had left behind on the boat when we had dived into the water.
"Wow," Charlotte exclaimed, when she walked up the beach to where everything had been set up. "This is fantastic."
"Don’t you worry about my mate Danny," I said to them. "He thinks of everything."
"He sure does," Charlotte answered, after sneaking a peek in the ice-box.
"Did you say something about a waterfall the other day?" Jonathan asked me.
"Yeah," Paul answered. "It’s excellent. Come on."
Paul took over as tour guide and led the other five of us along the path towards the waterfall. Charlotte and Jonathan were walking hand in hand, and although they didn’t start out that way, so too were Danny and Michael.
When we reached the waterfall a little while later Jonathan and Charlotte both gasped as they entered the clearing.
After the walk, which had left us all slightly sweaty, we soon dived into the water to cool off, where we splashed around for about half an hour before going and sitting in the shade of the trees on the edge of the clearing and relaxing.
I sat with my back against a fallen tree, while Paul lay his head across my lap and I gently ran my fingers through his damp hair.
"So, Dave," Jonathan said to me. "I had to ask and see if you if you could be talked into coming on the promotional tour with me."
"Errrr… no thanks Jonathan. I’m actually enjoying myself here."
He shrugged, gave me a wink and said, "Well, I did ask you. That’s what I was sent here for. You said no, and I have all these witnesses."
I laughed and said, "Well, it’s not your fault the guy you were sent here to get is a stubborn mule."
"You forgot cantankerous and surly," Paul said, jokingly.
"And he can be a bit of a jack-ass at times," Charlotte added.
"Alright," I said. "Enough already."
We sat talking there for quite some time, finding out all about Michael and Danny, and they finding out all about us. It proved to be a really great afternoon.
When it started getting late, with light starting to fail us, Paul and I found ourselves alone, now sitting on our fallen tree, watching Jonathan, Charlotte, Danny and Michael all enjoying another swim beneath the cascading waters falling from the rocks above them.
"Paul, do you remember what I asked you in bed the other morning?" He looked at me quite warily and said, "Yes."
"And do you remember what you said?"
He nodded. "I said I would."
I dropped to one knee in front of him and said, "Will you then?"
"Paul, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to grow old with you. We may not be able to marry in the legal sense of the word, but for all intents and purposes that is what we will be. Do you want that as well?"
"I… I… don’t know what to say."
"Just say yes and get it over with. It’s getting late," Jonathan said from behind me.
We turned and saw the four of them standing there grinning at us.
Paul blushed, and then nodded, then we hugged, as our four friends either laughed or cried or cheered.
"Alright, now that that’s over, let’s get back to the beach. I’m getting hungry," Jonathan said, laughing, and then headed off down the path, with Michael and Danny following.
"You planned all this, didn’t you?" Paul said to me as we started off after them, hand in hand.
I simply nodded and grinned. He quickly reached up and pulled me to him and kissed me.
"Thank you," he said.
When we returned from our afternoon at the waterfall, we all got dressed with our clothes that had been brought ashore from the boat, and then, with the sun settling low on the horizon, turning the skies a million shades of pink and orange and crimson, we started to prepare our feast.
Danny and Michael brought out containers of food from the ice-box, followed by numerous bottles of drink. Jonathan volunteered to light the lanterns, which were to supply light as well as insect repellant. A picnic basket appeared from somewhere, from which plates and glasses and cutlery materialized, and pretty soon we were set for our evening feast.
When we were ready, I nodded to Danny who then started tapping a glass with a spoon, to get everyone’s attention.
When we were all finally looking in his direction he cleared his throat and said, "Friends, we have all been gathered here tonight at the request of our special friend Dave, to mark a very special occasion."
Paul looked at me and whispered, "Just what are you up to?"
"Now, as the Captain of the good ship Maybelline, I have been asked to perform a service on behalf of Dave and his partner Paul, and while it may not exactly have any legal standing on this island, or any other in the world, it is simply being performed to show us all just how committed these two are to each other."
"I can’t believe you had this whole thing planned like this," Paul said to me, giggling, which had an infectious reaction on everyone.
"Dave. Paul. If you would step forward please."
We did as Danny asked and he took our hands in his, then joined our hands together.
"Paul, Dave has a few words that he would like to say to you, with your friends here to witness his commitment to you," Danny said, then solemnly stepped back and nodded to me.
"Paul," I began, "I know that I may not have always shown you, or told you, but from the time I first met you I was captivated by you, and I believe that I have truly been blessed to have you become a part of my life."
Somewhere behind me someone sniffled, and I would have put money on it, right at that moment, that it would have been Charlotte.
"I know that I may not have always been focused on you in the way that I should have been, or committed to you like I know I should have been, but I want it to be known, right here and now, in front of these friends of ours, that I care about you more than anyone else in this world and I want you to be by my side for the rest of my days, if you will have me."
I put my hand into my pocket and pulled out a ring that I had purchased at one of the island gift stores, which had been the best that I could do on short notice, and I gently placed it on his finger.
"I love you Paul, and I want everyone to know that."
I looked into his eyes and watched as a tear trickled down his cheek, then I reached up and gently brushed it away.
Danny stepped forward again and placed his hand over Paul’s.
"Paul, if you would like to say anything to Dave, go ahead."
"Ummm…… I really don’t know what to say," he stuttered.
"Just take your time," Danny said to him.
"I can’t begin to describe how I felt when I first met you and got to know you, and every day since then I have thanked the Lord that you were in my life. It hasn’t been easy sometimes, but feeling the way I do about you, I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. I love you Dave, and I want to be in your life for the rest of our days, if you will have me!"
With that, we leaned in and kissed each other, while Danny protested about us jumping the gun and not waiting until he said that we could.
"Just let them go," I heard Jonathan say, then Paul and I separated and looked at him, seeing him half laughing and half crying.
Charlotte came over and hugged us both and said that she hoped that her wedding was as nice as this one, to which Jonathan said, "That’s it, we’re going to have it on a beach."
After that, the rest of the night was a bit of a blur, as we ate and drank and were merry until the very early hours.
Somehow we ended up moving the party back on board ‘Old Mabel’ but stayed anchored in the cove that night, and when morning came, I found that Paul and I had the privilege of the cabin, while I found everyone else was to be found sprawled out on the decks.
Paul and I got up and quietly made our way to the bow, which was pointing to the east, just before sunrise, and from there, huddled in each others arms, we watched the dawning of a brand new day. The first day of the life we had now committed to spend together.
We motored into the Marina sometime during mid-morning after starting the day with a dip in the sea while we were still moored in the cove, followed by a breakfast of tropical fruits on board the boat.
Danny had said he would start the motor and get us back to the resort faster, as Jonathan and Charlotte needed to fly out shortly after lunch time to catch the connecting flights to have them in Sydney by nightfall. In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have spent the night in the cove, but we all thought ‘what the hell’ and ended up having a great night.
When we arrived at the jetty we found there was quite a bit of activity there, with quite a few boats pulling in and out of the marina. Some of their owners waved to us as we passed them, no doubt acquaintances of Danny’s, so we waved back.
Danny expertly pulled ‘Old Mabel’ up alongside the jetty a short time later, with Michael jumping onto the jetty and securing the boat to a pylon, after which we started unloading our things.
When we were through, the six of us stood on the jetty, not quite knowing what to say to each other.
Eventually it was Jonathan who broke the ice, by thrusting his hand out towards Danny and thanking him for a great trip. Danny looked clearly embarrassed, but at the same time quite pleased with himself.
"If you ever come back here," he said to Jonathan, "make sure you look us up."
"You can count on it," Charlotte said to him, as she leant forward and kissed him, while Jonathan was busily shaking Michael’s hand as well.
After that, it was my turn to thank them.
Danny grinned nervously and put out his hand for me, which I took in mine, then pulled him to me and hugged him.
"Thank you for everything," I said to him. "I owe you big time for all you have done for us."
"Don’t mention it," he said.
"If you’re ever in New York?" I said to him.
"Yeah, I’ll keep it in mind."
I let go of him and then moved on to Michael, with whom I repeated the process.
Paul thanked them both as well, then they stepped back aboard ‘Old Mabel’ and Danny fired up the engines, while Michael untied the vessel from the jetty.
"See you next time," I called out to them.
Danny gave me a thumb’s up sign from behind the wheel and then we watched as the boat backed out away from the jetty, with both Danny and Michael waving to us, then turned and headed once more for the open sea.
When they were finally gone, the four of us picked up our gear and started to make our way along the jetty.
"I want a shower and some clean clothes and then we’re out of here," Charlotte said to us all.
"I don’t want to go," Jonathan said.
Just then one of the staff members came hurrying towards us, carrying several envelopes.
"For you or for me?" I said to Jonathan.
"I’d say they’re for both of us. And I think I know who they are from."
"Yeah, me too."
When the boy reached us he handed two envelopes to Jonathan and two to me as well.
I ripped mine open and read their contents, then said, "Steve!"
"And he’s pissed!" Jonathan added.
"You better go call him," Charlotte said to Jonathan.
"And tell him what?"
"That you’ve been looking for Dave but he was away sailing."
We all grinned at her then Jonathan laughed, and gave Charlotte a hug, kissing her on the forehead.
"Come on, we’d better go tell him that we couldn’t find Dave anywhere. The island he was visiting was too far away or something," Jonathan laughed.
We all picked up our gear and started marching up the small hill away from the jetty.
"What time do you have to fly out?" I asked them as we strolled along the path.
"One thirty," Charlotte answered. "So we need to check out by one, so we can get to the island’s airstrip on time."
I looked at my watch. It read eleven a.m.
"O.K. then, how about we have a shower and meet for lunch a bit after twelve. Then you can check out and we’ll see you off."
"Sounds good to me," Jonathan said, just as we reached an intersection in the path, after which we went our separate ways, off towards our own bungalows.
The four of us arrived at the restaurant at about the same time, looking clean and refreshed.
Jonathan and I stopped and stared at each other across the marbled foyer. He cocked his head to one side and smiled, then gave a slight nod towards Paul, who was standing to my right, and slightly behind me, propped up against the counter.
"You guys look good together. Do you know that?" he said to us.
We just grinned at him.
They told us that they had arranged for their luggage to be picked up from their bungalow and taken directly to the airstrip to be loaded, so all they had to do after we had eaten was check themselves out and catch the connecting bus to the airstrip.
"Sounds like it’s all organized," I said to them.
"Yeah. It is," Charlotte answered.
"Hey, I got through to Steve," Jonathan said, excitedly.
"And?" I asked.
"Hehe. I told him you were off island hopping for a few days and I hadn’t seen you."
"You’ll get yourself in trouble doing that," I offered, to which he just shrugged.
We were soon shown to a table, where we had a view of the marina and the ocean beyond, upon which there were a number of sailing boats cruising around under the summer skies.
"I’m glad we came here," Charlotte said to us as we waited for our order to arrive.
"And so am I," Jonathan added.
"Well, we’re both glad you came too. If it hadn’t been for you guys we would never have got to where we are now," I said, as I reached across the table and took hold of Paul’s hand.
Just before one o’clock we emerged from the restaurant and strolled over toward the reception building, where a bus was waiting, ready to take guests to the airstrip.
It was nice. The sun was shining. We could hear the birds singing nearby. We could smell the sea on the warm summer air.
"So I guess this is it?" I said to Jonathan.
"Yeah. I suppose so," he replied.
People were starting to climb aboard the bus.
"We’ll see you back home, huh?" I said, reaching out my hand for him.
"You can count on it," he said, as he shook my hand, then pulled me to him and hugged me.
Somewhere behind me I heard the sound of a camera shutter, and I spun around to see a young blonde haired boy at the window of the bus with a camera in his hands, still pointing in our direction.
"Mum, that’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas," we heard the boy say.
"Don’t be silly. Why would someone famous like that come all the way out here to holiday?" we heard a woman reply.
Jonathan and I just grinned at each other then, I turned towards Charlotte.
"Make sure you keep him under control," I said to her, while giving her a hug and a kiss.
"Oh, I will," she answered.
Paul hugged them both and said goodbye also, then we watched as they climbed aboard the bus.
The little boy didn’t take his eyes off Jonathan the whole time.
As the bus pulled away they waved once more and we waved back, then we stood there and watched as it trundled off down the road, taking our friends to their airplane.
Paul and I wandered back toward our bungalow and when we reached it we sat out on the front porch in the sun.
A short time later we heard the airplane pass overhead, carrying our friends away.
"It’s been a great few days," Paul said to me.
"It certainly has," I answered.
"Can we come back some time?"
"I think so."
We sat there for a little while longer, just soaking up the sun, then after a while Paul said, "What do you want to do this afternoon then?"
I looked at him and grinned.
"We’re on our honeymoon now bud. How about we go and do what everyone does on their honeymoon?"
He grinned at me and then got to his feet, holding his hand out toward me.
"Sounds good to me," he said, so I took his hand and followed him indoors, then drew the blinds closed behind me.
~ THE END ~