I heard the girl wake up and use the bathroom, keeping myself hidden in a passage she would hardly have already discovered in the house. At the end of the internal corridor that led to my room, the was a pivoting wall in disguise, giving way to a small cubicle. Located right in the center of the house, it had no windows nor any other way out. Armand and I wondered if it were a secret room Herr Weissmann had built with the intent of eventually hiding from pirates or even from a fierce storm, since all other rooms were constantly vulnerable and open. It had one wall in common with my own room, another one with Armand's -- now occupied by the girl -- and the fourth one with the bathroom.
I felt guilty at wishing to watch her take a bath, and I restrained myself from doing so, though aware of certain cracks in the walls. I just sat there, in the dark, my eyes closed, observing as my body reacted to the imagined scenes my mind produced based on the sounds of the blonde taking her bath. My organ kicked and drooled, but I didn't touch myself, afraid that she could listen to the movements of my hand, or even smell my spit or sperm. We were incredibly close, only a few feet apart -- yet, I remained completely undisclosed to her. Only when I heard her calling me from the beach -- not my name, for she hadn't even asked it, just "Hey, you! Where are you?", did I appear.
"Bonjour..." She tried to be polite, although her expression could not hide the disappointment and disdain to see me wearing the same stained clothes from the previous day. Had they been stinking, too? Of sweat and maybe even sperm? In contrast to her, who looked so fresh and healthy in her first morning on the island. Was she wearing perfume, too, or a flower had bloomed?
"Bonjour..." I tried to imitate the pretense cordiality in her tone, and I think it came out as artificial as her own. I saw myself fighting to hide my lust upon noticing that she was wearing the same low-cut dress that enhanced her breasts, and bared so much of her soft skin and her back... that again, almost instantly, gave me a hard-on. I was embarrassed with the increasing volume under my worn shorts, troubled in trying to cover it with my ragged shirt.
"It's a beautiful morning, isn't it?" The girl seemed completely oblivious of my embarrassing situation. "And that's a lovely garden... Have you been working on it?" She directed an artificial smile at me, while again noting with disgust my clothes covered with dirt, and full of holes. "Is breakfast ready yet?" she asked, trying a seductive smile. "Could I have it served at the table by the swimming pool?" I had noticed that her gestures were more restrained, but since I had already seen her enraged, it was hard to believe in that pretentious elegance. "I thought it would be more enjoyable than at the veranda upstairs..."
The idea of breakfast being served by the swimming pool seemed to me even more ridiculous than her request for wine the previous night -- but this time I did not laugh. Not because I did not want to upset her, but because I understood the implications of that new request. It was not the least funny.
Despite my clarifications, she seemed to want to keep her attitude of being a guest at a hotel. And that implied I had to behave as her employee.
No matter how humble I had been all my life, I felt humiliated.
"Oh, and it would be perfect if you could provide a sunshade for the table, where I'll be waiting for breakfast, reading..." That last sentence, she uttered having turned her back on me, already retreating back to the table.
Instead of her sexy bared back, I saw the disdain in the haughty attitude with which she walked away, giving orders without even facing me. I had to restrain not to follow and throw myself on her -- not to kiss her, not to force her to make love to me, but to throw her into the swimming pool, instead of actually punching her, as was my will. Did she know how to swim? We'd see...
And suddenly I realized that the easiest way not to feel lust for that girl was being in her presence. My throbbing hard-on had already gone limp, at her nonchalant request for breakfast.
And now I was worried at how we would manage with food and water for two on the island. Armand had left enough provisions for me, and I could certainly share them with the girl -- it was my duty to -- but it was sensible to have a conversation on those topics with her.
Clearly, I was incapable of beating her or pushing her into the pool -- even if I was currently willing to drown her. To touch her in whichever way was unthinkable, not even lay one finger on her skin, just to confirm it was silky soft like I imagined it to be.
I hadn't lost all my mental clarity, even if now my body had another ruler, haha... I could still observe my anger and all thoughts connected to it, and I chose not to react, rather taking the route of reconciliation -- I simply had to consider her my guest, as she had suggested it herself, in my home if not at the nonexistent guesthouse. And so I was to offer her breakfast, simple as it would be, and along with it give her some guidance on how to live in harmony, among ourselves and with Nature, during the week we would spend together on the Île du Blanchomme.
"What took you so long?" She challenged me when, ten minutes later, I put a tray of food in front of her. "What is this supposed to be?" She spat those words.
"Don't you think it looks like breakfast?" I replied wryly, trying not to give in to the anger her disdainful tone had again aroused in me.
"This?" She said sarcastically, with disgust indicating the tray as if it contained garbage. "How can you serve me things like that? These plastic bags, these packages?" She fidgeted through the boxes. "Are you the only employee of this hostel? Is there a manager?"
"May I sit?" I asked politely, although nothing prevented me from taking place at the table that I had often occupied with Armand.
"Are you kidding?" She stared at me in disbelief, raising her brows. "You want to share this ration in two?"
In Buddhism, there is the figure of the 'hungry ghost', the 'pretas', beings that undergo more than human suffering, and who are never satisfied. I think your mother could have been one of them, Laurent. Although skinny, petite and sedentary, Catherine had the appetite of an athlete -- and apparently the metabolism of one too, because though eating a lot she was never fattening, but was never satisfied either. And not only relating to food -- as a 'preta', she was never satisfied with anything, no person, no place nor condition, neither quantity nor quality. Nothing. Never.
I confess that I had approached her with the tray from behind, to be able to catch another glimpse of her breasts under the fabric of her dress -- I was behaving like a teenager, ruled by my impulses and desires, like the lustful youngster I had not been in the Apennines.
"No, it's all yours. I have already eaten." I answered with patience. "We need to talk about a few things... First, repeating what I said yesterday, this is not a hostel here." Surprisingly, not even the seriousness of the conversation that I wanted to have with her slowed the impulse of my erection at the vision of her bare skin.
"It is noticeable," she indicated the tray of food with greater disdain, "but that's not what people are saying around these islands... That's not what I heard, anyways."
"What do you mean?!?" I gasped. "People are talking about a guesthouse here? Who?" I was baffled.
"I heard about it from... other travelers..." She seemed equally bemused. "The hostel... on Armand's island."
"Do you know Armand?" I was even more surprised.
"I've never met him..." She blushed, as if she had been indiscreet. "I just heard that he was French, owned an island and that he was running a guesthouse..."
I was not so surprised that other travelers were aware of Armand's whereabouts, because he was well-connected in the Colonial government, and he had traveled throughout Asia for nearly a year, having met a good number of people at retreats and resorts... But I was shocked and worried at the news that other travelers could appear on the Île du Blanchomme, having also heard about the guesthouse... I wasn't prepared for that.
For a few minutes I was so lost in my worries that I even forgot the issues I wanted to discuss with Catherine, but I returned to them when my erection again jumped in my shorts and woke me up.
"During the time that you're here, I'll certainly share the food I have with you..." and I know it did not sound any gentle, but inevitable and compulsory, "but we may have to... restrain our appetites... I am very frugal, I don't know about you..." and before she could reply, I continued, trying to chose my words more skillfully, "Since this is not an inn, and I have lots of things to do, I cannot fix meals for you. While preparing them for me, I shall surely add a portion for you..." With the corner of her eyes, the girl eyed the breakfast tray with dismay. "But I have no fixed schedule... I'm usually so busy with the garden that I often forget to eat... and now even more, since I'll start painting the house." I smiled, humbled. "Nor can I cook so well... But I'm sure that Armand won't care if we use his spices during the week you'll have to stay here... please use them if you want to cook..." As she remained silently upset, I asked "Can you cook?"
"No." she replied briefly and definitively, without facing me.
I realized she was only hoping I'd finish and leave her, to start eating her breakfast alone.
For a spoiled girl like Catherine, who was used to being flattered and never contradicted, just imagine the amount of bad news that I gave her, one after the other -- that she wouldn't be served, that she would have to take care of her own meals, and for the first time in her life lay hands on pots and pans, that she would have to restrain her appetite, rationing a food that by itself was very simple and mild... And there was more, and maybe worse, to come.
"Well, we'll manage the food..." I shall be angling if I have to, I thought. But there was a more embarrassing subject. "And we have to care for the water. We cannot waste it... Depending on how... heavy... you use the toilet, you flush it or not... before the next time you use it again... Or else I'll flush it, the next time I use it, if necessary..." It was weird to have this conversation with a stranger, a girl I had just met. "Do you understand?" She looked at me with a mix of anger and indignation. "And the septic pit here on the island is very delicate, so..."
"Do I really need to hear these things?" she asked me, horrified.
"Unfortunately, yes..." I felt a bit sadistic, having the power, and the pleasure, too, to set the rules. "I'll ask you to clean the bathroom after having used it..." Except from the fancy address on her backpack, I had no other idea about Catherine's background, and I was truly demanding from her the unthinkable... I thought she was going to cry, yet I did not stop. "And you've slept in the room that belongs to Armand... If you intend to keep using it..." I paused, because I thought that was the moment when she'd ask for my permission... but she never did. "'I ask you to be very careful, please."
"This is absolutely unnecessary!" She squealed, as her pride had been hurt. "How could I damage anything?" She gave me a bitter, defiant smile, implying I was so blind as to mistake her for someone as rude as myself. "I thought you were going to dislodge me..." Her shoulders trembled, and again she looked like a very fragile, helpless girl. Was she pretending, trying to victimize herself?
In that conversation with Catherine I was able to shift our relative positions and forces, or so I imagined, and from her employee I became the host, rude as she liked to repeatedly point out, but at least I was able to impose my rules -- something Armand in his generosity and politeness had never done to me.
For I did not see myself cleaning toilets, dirty with the girl's vomit, nor washing her dishes, or tidying her bed.
But nothing would be easy or simple with Catherine. I had noticed, laying on the table, the book she was reading -- Simone de Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex'. No, she wouldn't be facilitating anything.
Next, she averted her eyes, and staring into the empty horizon, she pretended I was not there any longer, in a clear indication that she wanted me to leave.
Adjusting the shirt to disguise the volume in my shorts, I got up when she ended our unpleasant conversation -- which however had been peaceful -- to rummage through the food tray, looking for something she could eat. And then she remembered her other demand. "Could you at least provide a sunshade for this table?" Again, without facing me, and with a blasé tone in her voice that later I was to discover was not provocative, but her natural way of speaking... and of being.
"Unfortunately, we have no sunshade. Do you want me to be holding a palm leaf at your side while you eat?" I asked, with good humor, and before she could be unkind, I continued, trying to be nicer. "It's still early, but I recommend you to be careful with the sun here on the island. If you wish, I can take the food to the veranda... at this time it is still shaded and cool." I had noticed her skin was already quite reddish.
"No need, then." And when I had already walked away, she remembered to murmur, softly "Merci."