Jayme stepped out of the fuselage and onto the portable metal stairs that had been pushed up against the side of the plane. She paused, briefly closed her emerald green eyes and breathed in the hot humid air of the Caribbean, a light breeze lifting her deep brown curls away from her pale face. She smiled. One of the things she loved most about traveling was leaving the dreary winter behind and in a few short hours being in the tropics. She collected her luggage, which looked to be excessive, and made her way quickly to customs. Three suitcases plus a carry-on did seem to be a lot, but as Jayme opened one after the other for the customs agent, he smiled at her efficiency. One suitcase was specially fitted to hold all her camera equipment in neat foam cut out compartments, thus reducing the possibility of in flight damage; one case held her scuba gear, a smart diver never advertised the presence of expensive gear; and only one case held her clothes, as she intended to live in a bathing suit or shorts and a t-shirt. The agent wished her a pleasant stay in the islands and stamped her passport, smiling again, this time with a sweeping look up her shapely body. Jayme blankly returned his smile, collected her bags and headed for the taxi line.
The week at Fantasy Island, which wasn’t an island at all, went by quickly, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as Jayme had anticipated. In fact, she had actually enjoyed herself in the fast paced life of shuffle board, tennis and casino’s. But now she was ready for her two weeks of relaxing and diving. Being a seasoned traveler, Jayme knew it wise to find a friendly an trustable taxi driver, one who could sometimes be convinced into turning tour guide, for a price of course. A friendly native could give more information and insight than the local Chamber of Commerce! Caye Crocket was such a driver.
Caye had taken her to back street restaurants and shopping marts that few had the privilege of visiting. His insight into local politics was delightful and entertaining. Jayme would miss his easy manner when she left.
“You leaving us so soon?” Caye queried as he loaded her bags into the taxi, a sincere sorrowful expression clouded his otherwise pleasant black face.
“No, Caye, I’m going over to Holm Cay for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll be back to the Vistas,” she explained.
“Oh?” his almost nonexistent eyebrows arched upward. Subtle changes in his expression revealed ever shifting thoughts as he took in this piece of news. “Is my lovely lady here for a special reason, maybe? So much moving around is not usual. Why you not travel with a man? Someone so young and pretty should not be so alone,” he concluded.
“What ever are you talking about, Caye?” Jayme was getting a bit nervous over the direction this conversation was taking. Was he suspicious? Had she slipped up somehow? She tried to hide her anxiety by deliberately being clumsy, and knocked over her newly purchased straw shopping bag, spilling the contents.
“You take dat camera with you everywhere. It looks very expensive. What kind of film you use, Missy Haller?” Caye pressed.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jayme lied, shoving things back into the colorful straw bag. “What ever the guy at the video rental place sold me. I left all that up to those who know the business. I just hope I have enough for my vacation!” She tried to sound flippant. It seemed to satisfy Caye, for he was silent all the way to the launch. She’d definitely have to be more careful around him when she came back. Had she really slipped up or been to obvious? Or was The Reef Roamer really that well known? If that was the case, maybe the Roamer should stay home more often. The thought didn’t appeal to Jayme.
Holm Cay, Jayme found out, was a several miles long island nestled in between Elbow Cay and Tilloo Cay. Although it had a small settlement on one end of the island, the resort was, so far, its only business. It boasted only one docking area and two dozen slips.
The resort had three launches: one for snorkelers and divers, another for fishing and a small fast one reserved for emergencies. The resort was still unknown enough that rarely were two of the boats gone at the same time. A ferry, Jayme found out later, could be called for anytime of the day to take guests to any of the other islands, and most of the tour boats gladly stopped to pick up additional passengers, given enough notice.
Jayme allowed the dock crew to assist her out of the ferry. She was more than slightly damp from the salt spray that had been abundant on the crossing, and her silk blouse slung to her like a second skin. She noticed the appraising glances from the young islanders, smiled and turned her back to them so they couldn’t see the flush creeping up her face, as she lifted the soggy material from her breasts. Jayme knew she was attractive, but men staring still embarrassed her.
As she left the dock and followed the charming, primitive signs to the path that led to the resort itself, Jayme stopped to admire the breathtaking view. The island sported many of the Yellow Pine trees that dominated the Abacos. These had been trimmed to form a delicate arched tunnel which offered much desired shade from the hot tropical sun. She set her straw bag down on the gravel and pine needle walk, and brought her minicam up to her face. This will make a very appealing shot, she thought as she took several long steps forward, to give the camera’s eye the visual feeling of forward motion. Jayme dropped the camera to her side again and turned back to her bag. She didn’t expect to have all the dock hands watching her! Oops! She thought. Quickly recovering, she giggled, “My sister is going to be green with envy when she sees these pictures! Smile!” and she lifted the camera again and added footage of the crew. Maybe I ought to leave the camera in my room for a few days, she chided herself.
Jayme tipped the young man who carried her suitcases to her room, and leaned against the door with a sigh as she closed it behind him. She turned to survey her room.
“Nice. Well, let’s get this part over with so I can settle in,” she picked up her camera once more and put her back to the door. Jayme always filmed her rooms first, so none of her personal belongings would ever be seen on camera.
“This appears to be an average room. Good sized, even for two people. Queen sized bed with a firm mattress. Colors are pleasant. I like the combination of shades of pink, gray and mauve. The splashes of bright green are very cheery. And look at that! Fresh flowers. Very nice touch. Worth an extra ten points.” Jayme continued around the room taking pictures and sometimes focusing in closely on details.
“Let’s see how the closet space is,” and she slid open the double doors. “Plenty of room in here. Hmm, what’s this?” Jayme zoomed in on what appeared to be dried weeds hanging from the rods. On closer inspection, she identified tansy and lavender. “No wonder I didn’t detect any chemical odor,” she mumbled to herself. Onto the film sound track she added, “A very ecological minded staff here. Using natural herbicides for pest control. Keep in mind, if you’re in the tropics, there will be bugs. This is their natural habitat, not yours. A management that prefers to use natural means to keep bugs away without killing them, thus not interfering with the ecosystem, gets an extra ten points from The Reef Roamer!” She turned her attention and the camera to the private bath.
“The bath facilities are modern and clean. There’s lots of countertop room and even shelves. I like that. The towels are soft – and so is the toilet paper! That’s got to be worth a few extra points!” Jayme’s throaty laugh bounced off the cream colored tiles, as she fingered the tissue paper.
Returning to the main room, she gave one last pan and added, “The rooms are large, nicely decorated, and with just enough useful furniture without being crowded. It’s clean in here and even smells clean. I give the place a nine.” Jayme had never given any place a ten, nor expected to.
Completing the ‘tour’ of her room, Jayme set the camera down on the desk near the exterior glass door, and unpacked her belongings, making herself at home. The bathroom quickly took on a lived in look with a variety of creams and colognes, scented soaps and shampoos, and the small amount of makeup that, though she seldom used it, it accompanied her everywhere. She set her now empty suitcases in the closet, changed clothes, and wandered out to an inviting path that went in the direction of the beach.
Clad only in peach colored shorts and a paler peach halter top, Jayme made a very striking figure as she wandered barefoot along the silky white beach, sandals dangling from one delicate hand. Her skin had already taken on a healthy copper glow from her week in the sun on Fantasy Island, and her long auburn hair was streaked with a profusion of red and gold that now shimmer in the sunlight. At 5’7”, Jayme had a long stride and soon found herself a mile or so from where she started.
“Well, they say they have seven miles of secluded ocean beach. Maybe during the next two weeks I’ll have a chance to explore some of it.” Her tone had an unusual wistfulness to it, even to her ears, and a sudden wave of loneliness washed over her again, causing a heaviness in her chest, and a prickling sensation behind her eyes. Jayme sat down on a nearby piece of driftwood and took a couple of deep breaths of clean salt air. She closed her eyes and a moment later, an almost inaudible, meditative hum emanated from her, surrounding her. As the tightness in her chest eased, Jayme opened her vibrant green eyes and stood. With a determined look clouding her chiseled features, she reached for the ever present minicam hanging at her side, and took leisurely shots in all directions, making a complete 360 degree turn to take in the white sandy beach, sparkling blue ocean and the lush foliage alike.
“There will be NO pity parties on this trip!” she reprimanded herself, as she turned the camera off.
The camera settled back into its place on the special made belt clip around Jayme’s thin waist. Two years earlier, she had almost lost her camera by setting it down on a bench and then turning her back. The thief had just reached for it when Jayme felt his presence, and in a lightening fast move, clamped a vise like grip around his wrist, digging her thumb into the soft tissue between the metacarpal bones, instantly finding the trigger point that sent him to his knees. She’d saved her camera and valuable film that day, but vowed never to take that kind of chance again. When she returned home, Jayme contacted an engineer and explained the type of tether she had in mind. Based on the same principle of the retractable key chains night watchmen used, it also had a clasp to rest the camera on, retracted when not in use, and locked in place. Instead of a chain, hers was made of a high tensile strength nylon cord, and the device itself fit onto any of her own belts. She never set her camera down again.
Dinner that evening in the resort restaurant was a rare treat. The tables were set with real linens of brilliant yellows, fine crystal goblets and polished silver. Candles and fresh hibiscus graced the center of every table. The French doors along the south wall of the spacious room were open to allow in the evening breezes. On the air currents came the mixed fragrances of honeysuckle and mock orange, making the atmosphere heady with tropical scents.
After making her selections from the menu, Jayme was delighted to find the management employed a magnificent chef. She feasted on conch chowder, island greens mixed with a spicy secret house dressing, and tender broiled lobster served with a delicate sauce. The service was impeccable and topped off with a solitary Bahama Momma rum drink, Jayme mentally gave the place a five star rating.
Jayme drifted off to sleep that night feeling more relaxed and content than she had in ages. The uneasy feelings of loneliness long forgotten.