After months of lonely nomadic life I realized something was mellowing inside me, creating the desire to finally settle down. .
Suddenly the need to move from one place to another wasn’t important any more.
In the morning, I set up my camp on a deserted beach, a few kilometers out of town, where only a few occasional visitors came for a swim or tried their luck to catch some fish.
One morning, while I was strolling along the beach, I noticed a “FOR SALE” sign outside a property. It was an old solid cabin, adjoining a mango plantation.
On the next visit to town, curiosity made me to stop at the Real Estate office for some information. “Pure curiosity” I told myself “It’s not time yet to put roots here or anywhere else.”
When I inspected the place, I came to like the rustic nature of the cabin. It consisted of a large open room; the walls were built with boulders and squared ironbark logs.
It was an old spartan lodge and had solid clumsy furniture, left behind by the previous owner.
In great contrast with the simplicity of the place there was a magnificent mahogany desk with a matching bookcase containing old yellowish books, emanating an intriguing musky odor.
Seeing those luxuries in front of me, made me feel weak, and my old passion resurfaced. I swiftly passed my fingers over the smooth silky patina of the old refined desk and I could no longer resist the overwhelmed temptation of owning the desk. I paid a deposit of the property, becoming the new owner.
My life changed overnight. Again, I had a roof over my head, and I had a well with plenty of fresh water. Behind the house, and belonging to me, was the orchard with dozens of mature mango trees, heavily loaded with fruit.
I was proud of my new possessions. I found the books valuable to me, and I was fascinated to read in them of the first settler on this land, two hundred years ago. Other books described sea voyages from Europe, on elegant brigantines, swiftly flying on the waters with their white canvas filled with wind. These stories took me back to the old days, which are unreal in today’s existence.
I was proud of my new possession, but mostly I loved the magnificent desk that I had always dreamed to possess. My new life ignited the old passions and the love to write resurfaced in me. The laptop’s keyboard once more created musical notes in my ears, and words flowed like rivers from my soul, and translated like songs, into written words.
The first time I met Mata was at the local Hotel, where she worked as a bar attendant. I used to go there at night for a schooner of beer and my evening meal.
I was attracted by her remarkable beauty and the charming smile on her lips while she served her customers.
The next morning, while I was strolling down the beach, a jogger overtook me, running on the wet edge of the sand. It was Mata passing me and she saluted me waving her hand, and with a melodious voice she threw a good morning. I replied, even if I didn’t recognize her immediately. Dressed in her shorts and T-shirt she looked quite different from the young woman I knew at the pub. She jogged to the end of the beach and turned back. As she came towards me again I asked her,
“Hi Mata, what about a cup of coffee with me?” .
She wasn’t surprise at my invitation and with a large smile she simply replied:
She didn’t ask where I was living. In such a small community, word of mouth spreads quickly and became obvious to the locals the whereabouts of newcomers.
We walked back together, exchanging a few pragmatic words till we reached my home.
We sat out in the cool verandah facing the sea, with the coffee and toast that we prepared. When we finished our frugal breakfast, Mata in a commanding voice ordered,
“My morning is free. If you don’t mind, go and do your usual things. This place is a disgrace and in need of a woman’s attention to brighten it up and make it presentable.”
She left me speechless. Mata, seeing my embarrassment, added,
“I am your neighbor and I don’t mind, but it won’t become a habit.”
It was the beginning of our friendship. Mata told me,
“On my island, we live like one big family and we used to help each other. You are a man and not used to domestic chores. That’s the main reason I want to help you.”
As days passed Mata became indispensable around the house and the orchard with her help and some practical suggestions.
“You have to rack the leaves under the trees and burn them. The smoke will keep away the fruit fly. That’s what we used to do on my island.”
She also dug a garden bed telling me
“The soil is fertile and we have plenty of water in the well. It’s time to grow fresh vegetables. I will also plant dalos and cassavas for us. You will find them delicious to eat.”
Mata silently entered my life through the back door. Soon I found myself depending on her.
On her day off, Mata cooked our dinner. After our evening meal, we used to rest outside facing the sea and admiring the bright stars above us.
The semidarkness allowed us to share our confidences. I told her of my shattered life, while she confided back her disappointments in life,
“When I was in Suva I had a boyfriend.” She told me, “He was Indian, one of the many living there. Raj was young and handsome and was full of attentions for me. We fell in love and spent most of our time together.
“I never asked him to marry me. I was happy the way it was. We were young and we had decided to save money before our marriage.
“Regularly, Raj visited his family, who lived on the western part of the island.
“I remember once I asked him if he ever mentioned about our relationship and love to his family. He told me that the Indians have different conception about marriages and they believe love would follow the arranged marriages by the families. For them and in their traditions, marriages are stipulated contracts to created wealth in the family and where love is seldom known between husband and wife. Raj told me that his family wouldn’t understand the way we loved each other. Nevertheless, he promised that one day, when the proper occasion came, he would talk of his intentions to the family.
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as he said. A few months later, he returned from a visit to his parents with some unexpected news. Bluntly he told me that his family had arranged a marriage for him with a young woman that Raj had never met.
He didn’t object to the tradition of his people and accepted the marriage for the good sake of family interest and for respect to the laws of his people.
“I wasn’t prepared for such terrible news and I have never completely recovered from that heartache, and I’m still suffering today.”
“But Mata,” I told her “You must think about your future. I’m sure soon you will find the right man and you will have your family.
“In the past, I have suffered like you. But believe me, time heals the suffering of the soul and I can see things differently today. I know we have much in common because of our suffering for love. In time, we have become friends. I notice you are a wonderful woman and I know you care for me. I like you very much Mata and I believe in the future we can find our paths running in the same direction giving back to us love and happiness.”
Mata snuggled closer to me. Softly she told me,
“My dear, I haven’t completely freed myself from the past. I have to find myself first, before I can speak to you about my inner feelings. Even though I know that inside me there are warm feelings for you I cannot yet speak of love for you, simply because I don’t want to hurt your feelings and dreams for the future.
“I’ll be honest with you. Raj’s ghost is still with me and makes my life miserable. He stands between us disrupting and delaying our possible future. I can’t pretend to you.
“If I marry you now, it would only be because of the security and comfort you can offer me, but if I would act in this way, it would be dishonest…”
With trepidation I asked,
“But if things change, and you became free of his ghost, would you reconsider…?”
“Yes, I will, I know one day things will change. Our lives are changing every day, and the way we see life is changing equally. But I promise you, that if my past can be forgotten, the feelings and love that are growing in me for you would become more imperative in my thoughts. But as now I need more time to mend the pain in my heart.
Please understand and let us be good friends as we are now, for a while longer. I’m sure, the day will come, when I will be receptive to love again, and ready for you. Then our future will be possible. Making a decision today is premature. We still have the scars from the past, they haven’t healed completely. Our future is so important to me. We have to wait and hope.
The morrow will be then, a better one for us.”