Avoidance Of Doubt

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

20th May 2016
Part Two - Blue is the Colour of Temptation

It was Rob, and I tried not to feel the teenage leap of excitement that flipped in my belly at the sight of him. I almost succeeded, but not quite. My heart was still beating at the fight or flight response that'd kicked in when I heard the rustling in the undergrowth and it carried on, and made me stammer out a response.

'Casablanca,' I said.

He smiled. 'So what happened to you? I got lost but heard this distant 'Are you?' and thought it was the other hashers. It must've been you.'

'I wandered off the track,' I said, looking at my feet, thinking, and don't let me wander any further... Because it was suddenly exciting, all this, me lost in the jungle, the appearance of Rob, who looked at me in a way that my husband didn't.

In the last half hour I'd come to doubt everything, every part of the move here, what had happened to Jim and I, all of it. I'd been so certain this was good for us as a couple. It was going to bring us closer. But all it had done was confirm he could be just like everyone else. Not special any more. Just Jim, an expat who could be tempted, just like any other.

Rob watched me for a moment. 'I think we're screwed,' he said, grinning at his own black humour, 'becasue it's going to get dark in a bit and I've no idea where we are.'

'I don't suppose you've...'

'... got a phone?' he finished for me. 'No. It ran out of power so it's in the car. And I've never run this part of the state before, have you?'

I shook my head and slapped at the mozzies which were coming now in clouds.

Ron reached into a tiny rucksack on his back, pulling it round to the front. 'Here,' he said. 'Repellent.'

I took it gratefully and wiped it all over my arms and legs and neck. Rob did the same and then put it away. He pulled out cigarettes and matches and I laughed. 'A runner who smokes,' I said. 'Nice.'

'A runner who carries fags for his mate, who left him in the jungle. I hate smoking. But I do like fires. Let's grab some dry wood.'

We got to work and collected wood. There was a small clearing, perhaps caused by animals trampling down the undergrowth when they came to drink. I built us a fire and Rob lit it, then we stood back as the smoke turned to flames and crackled. Rob dragged over a log and we sat down.

'This'll keep the snakes away,' he said. 'Til we're found, or morning comes. But you know, they won't come and look for us, don't you? Hash rule, if you're stupid enough to get lost, sit tight til morning and expect harsh punishments next week. Hope you're good at downing beer, reckon this is at least a three-tinner. Speaking of which, here, have a swig.'

He'd pulled a small bottle of rum out of his pack. I shook my head and laughed. 'Why on earth?' I asked him.

He shrugged, and took a swig. 'Fancied a change from beer, afterwards. And it's Gav's turn to drive this week. Not that that usually deters me but I'm being a good boy at the moment. Applying for a new visa.'

I looked at the fire and the rum and put out my hand. 'What the hell,' I said, and felt the burning slip down inside. It was good, and I took a larger swig.

'I love it here,' Rob said. 'First time in Asia, unlike most Aussies who come of age in Bali's clubs. I was always working. The I saw this job, just as I qualified and thought, what the hell. Now I don't want to go back. You?'

I sighed, took another pull on the rum and stretched out my legs. I wasn't sure if I should tell him the whole sorry tale; he'd have heard it what, ten times already from other women? I stared at the flames. 'Got any food in that bag?' I asked him. He shook his head. 'I was planning to take Jim to that new place tomorrow night, that Italian. You been?' he shook his head again. 'It's ten years since we first met,' I said, and sighed again. 'Okay,' I said. 'Here it is. A tale of two expats...'


'Firstly, let me say the bloke's mad. Risking losing you? He's tapped. Secondly, you gonna drink all that rum yourself, or share it?'

I looked down at my hand and saw that the bottle was nearly empty. 'Oops,' I said, and giggled.

We sat in a companionable silence and watched the fire for a few minutes. The insects' song changed, the day time singers slowly quietened and the evening chorus took over. Now frogs played their part and deep bass sounds mingled with the chirruping, all of it mixing with the taste of rum and making me tingle. I almost wanted to dance.

'You need a plan,' said Rob. 'Thing is, do you want to save it - your marriage - or now you've seen this side of him, do you feel differently?'

'You're pretty direct, aren't you?' I said.

'Us Aussies tend to be like that. Sorry. But you need to know that before you make a plan.'

I nodded, and felt tears prick my eyes. Damn it, crying twice in one day... What was happening to me? At home I'd been happy and only cried on occasion. Here, I was crying most days and now twice, with a relative stranger, in a jungle.

'Why are you still single?' I asked, thinking, I can be direct, too.

He stared at the fire. 'I wasn't, but got dumped for a firefighter. Big hero type of bloke. She swooned, he caught her, the rest is history. I came here. Can't seem to find the right girl, now. And all the good ones are taken.' I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, looking sideways at me and grinning.

I smiled, and felt again that leaping inside me, that teenage feeling that, after a few years, doesn't happen any more. Mostly when I saw Jim I experienced a trickle of diappointment at him, at us, at our inability to do anything but tread a well-trodden path.

Rob touched my arm. 'Look,' he whispered. I followed his other hand, pointing, all the while aware of the tingling burn where his hand was on my arm, aware of his nearness, hearing his breath. I swallowed and concentrated. There were tiny blueish glowing dots flitting here and there.

'Fireflies,' I said. 'I love them.' I watched them and saw that there were lots, tens of them, flying between the branches, thorugh the darkness that surrounded us.

Rob's hand was still on my arm. We stared straight ahead. I could sense his breathing get faster. My heart had picked up its pace again. Too fast, too soon, too... Bad. This was bad. I stood up.

'Going for a wee,' I said, so he wouldn't follow me.

I walked a few steps back to the stream, stepped across it in a big step and squatted beside a bush, vaguely lit by the fire. I hoped he couldn't see me. I did some deep breaths and tried to calm my mind. If Jim could be unfaithful... But he might not have been... But if he has... But you might do it first... He might just have thought, not done anything... Rob's young and kind and different... And you're a married woman and if Jim doens't honour those promises, you are damn well going to... But you doubt his feelings, don't you? Come on, admit it, he looks at you differently. He's lost that admiration he used to give you... But...

'You okay?' called Rob.

'I'm fine. Just coming back.' I pulled up my shorts and shivered, despite the jungle heat, I was chilled as all my clothes were damp. I picked up some wood on the way back and added it to the fire, watching as the sparks danced upwards, orange flashes with the blue of the fireflies. I watched them all rise into the dark blue of the sky above the tree tops until they disappeared. I wondered how long fireflies lived. This glowing was them trying to find a mate, shining their light out for all to see, showing off, blatantly asking for sex. I felt myself redden as my thoughts rambled. Thank god it was dark becasue I was blushing like that teenager who kept taking over me.

The silence between us grew, until it felt charged with possibility, with magic, with excitement. I swallowed and concentrated on looking up. If I moved, it would break the spell, and then what? We were in a bubble, if it popped things could go either way, and I didn't want anything to happen. Didn't I?

Into the space between us something moved. Rob's hand crept over to mine I could feel his hesitancy but also his need, in the way his hand shook as it enveloped mine. I heard him swallow and I heard him breathe out a long breath. Ever so gently, I felt him squeeze my hand, the slightest pressure which sent shockwaves through me. I'd forgotten this feeling.

And it was stronger because it was forbidden. I thought of Jim, and wondered if he was still in the car park, waiting for me, or had he gone home and was using my vanishing as an excuse to go and find whoever he wanted to find? I wished I knew her name but all I really had to go on was an inkling. I squeezed back. Just a little. Just enough for him to know that for the moment, I was here too. he ran his thumb across the side of my hand, back and forth, back and forth, and the energy between out hands grew until I could imagine it having a light, just like the fireflies above. Is this what happened to them? Did they feel excitement like this?

A breeze blew across my face, bringing me back to the present with a shock. What was I thinking? This wouldn't help the doubt I was feeling about Jim and I. This wouldn't help me decide what to do. This would only muddy the waters further, when I should have been concentrating on getting them to settle and clarify, so I could see the bottom once more, and avoid any of the bad stuff that might come my way, if I didn't try to mend things. What was I thinking? If I gave in to this and kissed him (and oh god, how I wanted to), what would that do to the doubt Jim already had? That I already had? That had crept into our marriage?

For that is what it was, I could see now. Doubt had moved in and settled in with us, become a third being in our marriage. Jim was doubting I was enough for him, I was doubting his fidelity, we both doubted our future. And if I gave in to the feelings that Rob's hand on mine had awakened, I'd only give that doubt more fuel, feed it, make it bigger. And eventually, it'd grow so big we'd both be forced out.

I turned to tell Rob this, and found that he'd turned at the very same moment and that his face was inches from mine, smooth skin in the firelight, lips slightly apart, eyes dark yet alight with a half smile. I allowed my eyes to meet his and I felt a blue light of my own flowing from me...

PS- Marker Two from last week - I write start to finish in an hour, no notes even, or what's thepoint?XXX