Bill wandered over to the terrace clutching his glass, the party pumping through his head and creating purple shadows in the periphery. He saw a few people scattered around in various states of inebriation, Donna’s friends among them, her not among them. He threaded his way through avoiding Tanya and her group of braying young’uns and settled on the lone figure of Rosie, cooling her heels on another table and looking out to sea.
‘Mind if I join you?’ He gestured to the opposite chair. She tapped it, inviting him to sit. She picked up a deck of cards and shuffled through them intentionally. He gladly took the hint. They agreed on poker. Raised the stakes with clothes rather than money.
‘Tanya and I were going to ask you and the others if you wanted to go fishing tomorrow morning’ she mentioned casually, omitting Tanya’s reaction to the idea. Bill thought it over.
‘Sounds good. When?’
‘At dawn. It’s a good time to go.’
He couldn’t see the others getting up at that hour and said so. Rosie laughed and told him that she and Tanya had little intention of sleeping that night. They would have a siesta before the wedding. Thinking that was a good idea, he arranged to meet her in the same spot a few hours later.
‘We’ll tail the fishermen and see what we get.’
‘A giant squid?’
‘Maybe. I’d settle for a fish if it means some peace and quiet from the drama too.’
He looked at her curiously but she wasn’t willing to divulge. She realised she’d said too much.
‘Are you sure you don t want to go with one of the fishermen? I saw you looking at one earlier’ he teased.
She dismissed them with a wave of her hand. ‘I don’t want to go with them. I want to go with you.’ She smiled winningly.
‘Are you telling me you weren’t thinking of hooking up with one of them?’ He asked incredulously.
‘Oh Bill.’ She playfully punched his shoulder. ‘That’s what I did last time.’
He turned to see the type of tanned muscular specimen she’d been there and done that with twenty years ago. He was nowhere near that league.
‘Damn’ was the only response he could come up with. Real smooth.
He turned back, signified that he wanted more of whatever was in the bottle she had with her and promptly lost the next set within minutes. He compromised by unbuttoning his shirt all the way.
‘Next time you lose, the shirt comes off’ she told him with a stern smile. He affected an outraged expression and told her that he had no intention of losing.
‘We’ll see about that’ she said, laying out another set. He seriously contemplated the idea that he would lose. She was stiff competition.
She did lose the next set. His victory smile subsided when she nonchalantly plucked a pin from her hair and tossed it onto the table.
She gave him a withering stare. ‘No it’s not, I was wearing it wasn’t I?’
He spluttered incoherently and then decided she was right. He’d never played with such a ruthless competitor before.
‘Tell me a bit more. From 20 years ago’ he clarified, hoping she wouldn’t tell him about her and the fisherman. He barely remembered her from last time; his attention was all on Donna back then. She grinned and poured him a drink, drinking straight from the bottle herself.
‘You think of something and I’ll think of something.’ She was after more details about this potential sperm donor. He accepted.
They resumed their game of strip poker. He lost again and tossed off his shirt, glad to cool off from the sticky evening. She didn’t play coy and gave him an appraising glance. The key to a holiday fling was to get in the game quick. He felt reassured by her nonverbal appreciation.
‘Well’ she started while looking over at her cards. He leaned forward, keeping his eyes on the game and listening in, trying not to make it obvious that he was angling for a closer peek at her cleavage. She wore a scent he couldn’t put his finger on but he liked it, something light and fresh.
‘Tanya claims she’s had a foursome but doesn’t remember exactly when’ she mused, inspecting her cards. Bill nearly choked on his drink in amusement.
‘I reckon at least two of them were fishermen’ she continued, noting his reaction with glee. They glanced over at Tanya now sitting elegantly on Pepper’s lap while lasciviously stroking his neck and ears. Pepper looked delighted.
‘She may be on the same track tonight’ Rosie noted, dealing out the cards.
‘Is she always like that?’ he asked. Some women fascinated him. Tanya was quite the fascinating creature though he found her too high maintenance to be truly appealing to his personal taste.
‘Could you doubt it?’
He couldn’t. He wondered out loud how her husbands had put up with it. Rosie quelled him with a stern look.
‘Tanya’s been faithful with all of them. She wouldn’t jeopardise her marriages.’
‘Who were they?’
‘Husband number 1, a French architect. Sebastian. Had a yacht.
Husband number 2, Archie, an English marquis, owned a pile of rubble in Scotland.
Husband number 3, an American billionaire in the fishing industry. Randy by name and by nature.’
He got the drift; Tanya was shrewd enough not to screw up her wealth through foolish actions. Whenever she was divorced however…
‘Girl gone wild? Yes of course’ her friend confirmed with a cheeky smile. They laughed at the endless parade that was Tanya’s scrapbook of lovers. Rosie enlightened him with a few examples and then told him of some of her own. He found it promising that she dated and had relationships with men that wouldn’t be guaranteed attention; the one with a prosthetic leg (the one that Tanya kept referring to as the wooden leg guy), the Inuit sailor (‘his hair was shinier than mine’), the tiny sweaty civil servant that Tanya had set up for her (‘he was SO BORING), the guy with vitiligo and many more. Through that, they had each lost a set, encouraging the removal of his belt and her wriggling the top part of her jumpsuit down to reveal a mostly plain but impressive black balcony bra. He tried to stop looking at the lace on the straps and focus on his cards. After losing again, she considered her options and unclipped a bra strap, flipping it over her shoulder and laying on the table in quiet triumph. He couldn’t believe it. This was the most ridiculous and most enjoyable game he’d ever played. He had a feeling that if he’d been playing with Tanya, she would have less to work with, probably not wearing a bra, a concern that he voiced. Rosie laughed.
‘I know she’s not wearing a bra but even so, they’d stay up a bit better than mine would.’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’
He looked. ‘No.’
‘You wouldn’t know this but she took it up two bra sizes.’
Double take. ‘Those are fake?’
She laughed at his naivety.
‘She was sensible, any bigger and you would really be able to tell.’ He supposed that made sense.
‘How much work has she had done?’
‘I can’t tell you that! But if you noticed her twenty years ago you could figure some of it out.’
He couldn’t. He hazarded a guess. He was right. She confirmed it with a tap on her own.
‘Lest she forgets, I have photographic evidence of her old nose. She calls it a slight alteration.’
They laughed about the follies of a lifestyle that they had no wish to take part in. Theirs was a life of simple pleasures, the little things that made the difference.