By Martyn McCarthy
I’d spent the day sprawled on a sun lounger on the beach, basking in the warmth of the Antiguan sun, from time to time, cooling myself in a holiday brochure blue sea, but otherwise, reading the latest Lee Child novel, The Sentinel.
Having lazed the day away and finished The Sentinel, I slipped into a tee shirt, pulled on a pair of trainers, stood and moved away from the sun lounger toward the nearby beach side bar for a cocktail and to watch the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea.
Pulling up a bar stool, I climbed on to it placing on to the bar top, to my left just in front of me, the Lee Child novel. As I did so, John the barman, placed in front of me and to my right, a vibrant red coloured cherry topped Antiguan Smile then with a broad smile entreated me to, ‘H’enjoy’.
As I sipped the potent white rum-based cocktail through a May-pole stripped straw, my attention was singularly on the setting sun. Like a molten ball of flaming iron, it appeared to be sliding in to, melting and puddling over to be instantly doused by a blackening Caribbean Sea. My attention on the setting sun was disturbed by the smell of heady perfume that me aware of a presence to my left.
Begrudgingly, I turned my head slightly to the left to see a dark-haired woman with tanned skin and wearing a cotton wrap almost as white as her too perfect teeth. She smiled at me and asked, ‘May I sit here?’ Her accented voice was as rich and deep as her tan, her red manicured nails indicated to, despite there being others free, an empty bar stool next to the one I had perched on. I turned my face fully toward her and, as I did so, took in and was almost drown by her perfume. I smiled a non-committal smile as, with an open hand toward the empty stool, I gestured the international sign that it was indeed free.
As the woman sat, immediately and without bidding, John placed a tall glass in front of her into which he decanted a pale sparkling wine. Sensually raising the glass to her lips, she turned her face to me and, without having taken the smallest of sips from the glass, commented in an unnecessarily intimate way in my opinion, ‘A handsome man should not drink alone’. I’m certainly no spring chicken, more of an autumn broiler. My immediate and involuntary reaction was to look around in search of the handsome man that was drinking alone. There wasn’t one. Well not that my eyes could discern that is
After touching the glass to her lips, she pointed those red manicured nails to the book that lay on the bar to the left of a now half-drank, cherry nibbled, Antiguan Smile. She raised a questioning eye brow, I sensed what she was asking and replied, ‘Oh, that’s my latest novel, I’ve just finished it’. I could have added that I’d bought the book in W H Smith at Gatwick Airport, that I was an avid Lee Child fan or made a thousand and one other inane comments about the novel or Jack Reacher the novels principle character. I didn’t. The sun having now set, I simply wanted to finish my drink and head back to my hotel room for a long hot shower.
Her hand moved toward the book, which she touched with her middle finger and then appeared to caress its cover. Smiling she asked, ‘Perhaps I can read it, Lee?’ Having read and enjoyed the novel, I no longer had any need for the book, so responded, ‘Yes of course, please take it’.
Leaning into me in a whisper, she requested in that rich deep accented voice, ‘Please, will you autograph it for me, Lee?’ I thought it best that I disabuse her of any misunderstanding and immediately advised her I wasn’t Lee. I was Martyn. She giggled. Leaning even more closely into me, cloaking me in her perfume with breath soured by alcohol she said, ‘So Lee is your writing name?’
I smiled, planted my feet on the floor, stood and, leaning forward on the bar, gestured to John with my hand the need for a pen. He immediately obliged.
Pen in hand, I opened the book and wrote on the inside cover, ‘I hope you enjoy my book’, before leaving a space then scribbling. ‘Lee Childs’. Lifting the book with the insider cover open toward her, I displayed what I’d written. With those overly white teeth, she smiled and gave a single clap of her hands.
Before returning the pen to John, in the space left after, ‘I hope you enjoy my book’ and before ‘Lee Childs’, I added, ‘I’m really not…’. I closed the book and slid it gently across the bar top toward the dark-haired woman in the white cotton wrap.
As I returned the pen to John, I moved the bar stool aside, turned on my heals and, just as I was ready to leave said, ‘I must go now, have a pleasant evening and do enjoy my book’.
With the sounds of the Antiguan night crowding around me and a broad smile on my face, I made my way from the bar, off the beach back to my hotel room where a shower was calling me.
I certainly had a story to tell on my return home from Antigua, the story of an amazing sunset.