The tide had ebbed.
He was strolling down the still waxy sands, she, with her two frolicking children, aged three and five approached from the opposite direction. Suspended from a coarse, frayed piece of rope gripped in his hand, was a glass net-float. It swung, pendulum like as he walked. As they drew near to each other, their eyes met and their gaze held one another with that curious cognizance that lingers longer than is usual with strangers. A search not timid nor wanting but rather, as with like minded travellers in new lands, a polite familiarity in each other. The wide open sands of the tidal beach allowed plenty of room for personal space. The older child, a boy, saw the glass float, its surface sheen reflecting, with rhythmic precision of the swings, a shaft of evening sunlight into his eyes. He ran over and touched it, open mouthed, wide eyed and with the innocent inquisitiveness of a child.
“What is it?” he asked, his fingertips palpitating over the glass surface.
“A float, a glass float off a fishing net” the man continued to explain. The other child approached with the mother, its tiny arm clutching around the mother’s leg.
“Where did you find it?” The boy persisted.
His query remained unanswered because the man gazed at the woman who in return exchanged greetings with her eyes. He held out his hand.
“David MacKinnon”. he announced. She took the tips of his fingers lightly.
“Suzanne”. she replied with the natural caution of omitting the surname.
“What is it?” she asked. one hand waving across her face to chase away flies. The bridge of her nose pinched in a wrinkle.
He held the orb up by its rope, looking for all the world like a severed head with the bits of straggling seaweed.
“A glass float, rather old though.. they use plastic ones now.. or styrene foam..”
She didn’t remark on the information, just stared at the orb as it gently turned on its rope axis this way then that like a mesmerists fob watch, the “oily” aged glass swirled marbled with rainbow tracks.
“It’s almost… like…a pearl!” she delightfully exclaimed. there was a pause as he gazed.
“Why.. yes, yes…I suppose you could say that”. the thought attracted and attached itself to his mind. “But then it’s only appropriate to find a pearl at a pearl-fishing part of the coast.”
The little boy reached up to spin it around, but his hit swung it against the man’s body….he lowered it to the sand and let the boy roll it around…it had no value to him.
“I dug it up back there” he motioned toward a dark hulk of a wreck of a boat back up the beach, its rusty skeleton softened by a cluster of mangrove fronds over it.
“Maybe it’s from that boat?” she remarked.
“Maybe..but that’s not a fishing boat, its a pearling lugger.” he said.
“How do you know?”
“By the sweep of its’ deck, ….oh, I don’t know really..I’m just guessing…a feeling rather….it’s the way they used to build them”.
She laughed gaily.
“Well perhaps that is an old pearl.” she said pointing to the float “After all, I bet they don’t make THEM like they used to!” and they both joined in the friendly levity.
They stayed there together as the children played with the glass float. he looked intently at the children.
“I have two children myself.” He announced vaguely.. “A boy and a girl…”
“Seven and eleven.” ..
Here was comfortable ground and a chance to talk to another human being after that interminable drive up from Perth, with every town a seeming thousand miles from the next and oh! the dreadful endless road and the tedious bitumen.
“Where are you headed?” she asked.
“To Perth.. home ….And you?”
“We’re off to Darwin…to a new home….or at least we hope to call it that for the next couple of years.”
“I’ve just come from there.” (as if it was just up the road).
“Oh.. what’s the place like?”
“The tropics are beautiful this time of the year. It gets very oppressive in the “wet”….yes, I enjoyed it there.”
“What do you do for work?”
“I’m a carpenter.” he replied.
She smiled…for there was something secure about a carpenter, the thought of his hands smoothing over a piece of wood…the trueness of his eye, turning the wood, gauging the grain with a sureness of judgment to match and make….a workshop strewn with curled shavings, the odours of Pine and Fir resin…joss-sticks…sandalwood? ” Yes, a carpenter must have a patient touch” she mused.
“Are you driving straight through?” she asked.
“No…not tonight..I’ve just arrived..” he pointed to a distant campervan…
“I’ll book into a caravan park for the night. Get a bit of a clean-up.”
“There’s a nice one just up the road a little…at the edge of town, we’re camped there ourselves for the night too.” She gave this information over lightly, without invitation.. just as information.
“I s’pose that’ll do then…I’ll give it a burl..Gosh!..look at that sunset!” they both turned to face the ocean. the sinking star shimmered and quivered into the lapping mercury of sea. He snorted humorously.
“It’s a pearl too”.
They both stared silently.
“Yes.” she softly murmured “It’s quite divine..”
David turned to see the children frolicking, their stretched shadows flickering over the waxy sands…
” …and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine..” he said.
The caretaker showed an informal interest in his booking as there were few people staying there that night.
“Just find yourself a park over there near the ablutions block an you’ll be right”.
As he steered his van to the site he saw again the woman outside a station-wagon. She was with her two children.
“Hello!” he called, “Do you mind if I park nearby for the night?” and he smiled.
“Suit yourself it’ll be good company”.
They crossed paths to the showers later that evening and after more small talk agreed to sharing a coffee after the children had gone to sleep.
The sweeping silence of the night lent a comforting familiarity to the talk and it wasn’t long before they were sharing confidences and laughter.
“Yes, I did meet some real characters up there in Darwin there’s some beauties, especially in the building trade.”
“Tell me about one.” she leant over the little table in the van, her face supported by her fist under her chin.
“Ahh!..they’re too crazy”.
“No, really, tell me.” there was a tenderness attached to her inquiry.
He rubbed his fingers over his brow as he pondered, aware all the same of the purring sensuality in her voice, an early indicative sign that men interpret as woman’s intention and act instinctively. He sat upright and began.
“Here’s one….There was this bloke I knew up there…a Kiwi fellah…a contract painter…any how, he was telling me he done this big job for a wealthy family, the whole house, inside and out….a couple of months work..and they didn’t pay him…couldn’t get the money out of them….rich people can be the worst payers….and him with all the material costs, all the paint…and the other blokes he had working for him…a fortune..and it was sending him broke but he got this other job…with another wealthy family. He was up on a ladder painting the cornices with this dark, crimson paint one day and thinking of going down the tube what with these others not paying and thinking one thing an’ another an he didn’t know how he did it but he dropped his pot of paint!…and it fell outside the groundsheet!…all over the white carpet!….”Holy shit!” he cried “I can’t afford to pay for that!…” and he was just about to panic when the woman’s poodle walked past (he knew she wouldn’t be far behind)….He quickly grabbed the dog and threw it onto the spilled paint and cried in an exaggerated yell…”You little bastard!” ….the woman came rushing into the room ,threw her hands up in the air ….”Oh Pickles!…oh you naughty dog, I’m so sorry,..I’ll…. I’ll pay for the paint ”
Suzanne laughed as she threw her head back.
“Oh the rotten bugger!” she cried.
”Yes, I guess so…though I suppose he had to do something and I daresay the insurance would pay for the carpet…”
They both giggled a bit more, then a silence fell between them, and within that silence there rose in each of them a warmth of companionship and familiarity so they both knew the others desire, but the restraining codes of society held them yet apart. Instead, he pursued the desire with some small-talk.
“Huhm….and what are you going to do in Darwin?”
“Me?…oh..I work in jewellery shops…an assistant….so I suppose…” she left the answer open to the inevitable conclusion.
“Jewelry…” he repeated, his eyebrows raising swiftly. “Then I may have something that will interest you.” and he turned to reach into a drawer on the side of the van.
“Just a minute” she said, her hand raised and lay familiarly on his shoulder “I thought I heard one of the children…be back in a minute.”
When she returned. David had a small, dark wooden box on the table. It was very ornate with chunky carvings, of the chest-type from Thailand, only smaller, about ten by six inches. Suzanne pulled her stool up closer to David, her hair brushing over his shoulder, she noticed the “goose-bumps” that arose and she smiled to herself.
“And what has he got in his little black box?” she smirked…He chuckled.
Lifting the lid gently, a chamois bag was revealed, he lifted it from the chest and placed it between them on the table. Dave slowly untied the soft, woven cotton pull-string that choked the neck of the bag….slipping two fingers into the opening, he eased the bag apart wide. In the tarnished glow of the mozzie-candle, lay, like the waxen orbs of many tiny eggs in a nest, a regular bounty of…pearls!
Suzanne pursed her lips, for they were indeed attractive, and in this light, their buffed skins took on a living glow, like the promise of an egg about to hatch! she put her hand forward as if to touch, but David, not noticing her movement, had placed his own fingers into the burnished silvered cache. As he lifted the pearls up and let them fall dull-tacking back into the fold, he looked to her face . It was intent on the pearls, the dancing flame of the candle light lapping into and onto the soft features of her face, a face not yet drawn with the lines of care nor bitterness, a face still open and serene..David pondered on his own features, were they as easy to read? were his eyes still capable of showing impromptu emotion?…but he quickly dropped these introvert thoughts.. he longed to touch her…would she allow….?
“Where did you get them?”
“From a Melville Island local….they call these “roughs”, as you can see, they aren’t nicely rounded. but they are still pearls…”
“Why did you buy them ?” Suzanne asked, not taking her eyes off the luscious hoard.
“I liked the look of them.. the feel of them.. the sound as they touch each other….”
“Were they expensive?” she asked…he laughed.
“No…” then softly, almost dream-like he ran his hand through them again. Suzy placed her hand on his shoulder…he gazed at it, then rubbed his hand over hers, they smiled together.. she turned her attention back to the pearls.
“Why do you keep them?”
“I keep them because of how they feel.. because I like how they feel.”
“I have to ask…it’s the way you run your fingers through them.”
He looked to her eyes to gauge his answer, to feel out her capacity for a simple truth…a male truth.. for there are some secrets neither men nor women would share with each other.. her eyes answered him encouragingly. He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers, she pressed her cheek against them..but how does a man reveal that named desire for the untouchable, impermissible part of a woman that he is both slave to and yet feebly jealous of without himself sounding feeble, or foolish in a description for that most powerful sexual part of a woman.
“They remind me…” he paused in trepidation, to consider, then spoke , the timbre of his voice firm, but softly tender “I sense..they remind me..of..a woman’s sexuality .” His eyes moved away from hers to the pearls as if embarrassed in using such a description, even though his meaning was rather in a reverential tone. But how else could he say it in truth?..He once again dipped his fingers into the pearls, their satiny surfaces making a sound like…like silver….He continued ; “sort of velvety-smooth…and pleasant to touch, a sense of moist….but these, of course, are dry..” he picked one pearl up, pinched between thumb and forefinger….he rolled it gently around the ball of his fingertip….”and by themselves, like this, they are like a woman’s erect nipple….almost firm yet…so gently pliable”.
David spoke in a detached but tender tone. Suzanne was at first taken aback at David’s description and she watched him closely, looking to detect any trace of the lecher in him, but no, while certainly he could be called a sensualist, there was not that oleaginous sleaze that is attached, film-like, to the seeking voice of the degenerate. No, he had used the description as such because in the circumstance there was no other with the strength of emotion to encompass the fierceness of that strange male hunger.
Suzanne stretched her hand over his to touch the pearls with her fingertips. The smooth opalescence of her skin in vast contrast to his tanned workman’s hands….and as she dabbled them into the glistening bag, his hand moved to the inside of her thigh….Her head came forward to rest in the crook of his shoulder, his lips sought her ear….his other hand moved down the spine of her back to lift up the base of her blouse, his touch had found her so warm..he felt his hunger for her body rise..and oh to touch that forbidden place and then to be encouraged to go further..David sighed . He freed the clasp of her bra and slipped his hand to cup her breast….her lovely breasts, so full and voluptuous he squeezed the nipple gently as she softly gyrated her hips to his caresses…
“Mmm, “she cooed….”I see what you mean.” she spoke as she fingered the pearls.
“You know?” he teased.
“Oh…just a wild guess..” and she pulled back arms length with her hands clasped at the back of his neck.
They sat looking at each other for a full minute without speaking, the insect-candle sending its whisper of citrine scented plume curling over their heads. David placed his hands on her hips.. it was settled, and it seemed as if some enormous overbearing weight had lifted from their hearts to be replaced by a freedom of movement liberated from the constraints of the dualism of civilized human – spiritual animal!
Suzanne moved her hand down and felt his erection…
“All rise to the power of the beast!” she laughed quietly…he chuckled with her…”how good a carpenter are you?”
“Oh…fair to middling I always try to put my heart into my work.” he smiled.
She worked his zipper down and released his “beast” from its “cell”.
“Mmm..with a bar like this you should be able to jemmy any door!” they both laughed heartily but softly, then again a small silence…Suzanne gave his penis a gentle squeeze, noting again that soft, silken feel of the hardened flesh…with the oh so gentle undulations along its length…she felt a rising anticipation for it to press against and then to enter the opening of her vagina slowly pushing in deep up to its full length…..her breath deepened at these thoughts she had…David’s words on the beach reverbetated in her mind..” … and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine.”
“Will you stay the while ?” and David patted the cushion of the seats….”It folds down to a double bed.”
She felt a sudden flush of colour rise to her cheeks, a warmth of emotions that she had not experienced since her teens when her body was master over her mind…before the demanding constraints of social convention had enslaved her desires.
“Will she stay the while?….” Suzanne repeated his request. She looked into his eyes, she leaned toward him, her breath quickened, their eyes held till the hiatus was broken by the gentle touching of their fingers intertwined….
A kiss! a kiss!
The first glimmer of dawn sweetened the charcoal sky as Suzanne changed into top gear and headed up the highway toward her ultimate destination, the memory of parting still warm on her lips. They had made love on awakening and she had left him there in the park and drove away so as to get a good start before the children awoke. A kiss and a wave of hand the last time she would see him….oh yes!..also the pearl! The pearl David had given her as a momento. She took one hand off the steering wheel to feel into her breast pocket…there it was!
She took it out, held it up in front of her eyes and gazed at it, its polished husk glowed like a moonstone….but wait!..the moon!…there, suspended in space on a lightening horizon was the full moon, as polished and opalescent as the pearl itself! a compliment to each other! she smiled as she thought of that morning’s quiet love-making in the bed and ahead of her lay the interminable road. She glanced back at the children still asleep and then, smiling wickedly, took the pearl and dexterously slipped the treasure down inside her panties to place it strategically and comfortably between the still moist lips of her vagina.