The apartment was perfect. On the first floor, we were high enough for panoramic views and security, and low enough not to make it a chore to get to the water.
The huge balcony overlooked Maxwell Beach, a tiny strip of Caribbean perfection just – literally – a stone’s throw away. I lounged on the daybed and took in the view: azure blue skies, a handful of nearby coconut palms, a sliver of impossibly-white sand, enormous high-tide waves rolling through the turquoise water to crash into white foam as they raced to shore.
Further out, the white sand under the water stopped, and a deeper navy blue indicated rocks or deeper waters. Two women about my own age in bikinis strolled along by the water’s edge. By the colour of their skin they had been here a good ten days, sun-worshipping. A lanky teenager in red board shorts parked his bicycle in the shade and waded into the waves, to cool down in the heat and humidity of the mid-summer afternoon.
I picked up a beach towel and made my way down to the water’s edge through the villa gardens. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin as I took the first tentative steps into the warm Caribbean water. It felt more benign than the harsh Australian sun, which feels more like radioactive waste falling from the sky. I’d forgotten how much I loved the sun.
The tricky part was getting past those huge waves as they crashed to shore. Once I had braved two or three, the water got calmer and I stood chest-deep and let the water lift me. It was easy to lose half an hour, an hour, bobbing up and down in those enormous swells, floating rather than swimming, nothing more in my mind than that very moment.
Later, on the balcony, rum punch in hand, I could feel the air was heavy with moisture. The wind was getting up as some heavy rain clouds rolled in from the south, faintly dimming the impossible blue of the sky and the sea for the first time. The first heavy raindrops fell: did I imagine an immediate lessening of the humidity, a freshening of the breeze? The waves crashed even more angrily against the shore. It’s going to be difficult to sleep tonight with this as the soundtrack, I thought.
Early next morning, the jetlag awakened me to the sound of the churning waves outside. A bare hint of grey light trickled through a chink in the heavy curtains. It wouldn’t be dawn for at least another hour. I climbed out of bed quietly, and expertly wrapped a sarong around me in the darkness.
I padded through the silent apartment, spilling light everywhere as I opened the big American refrigerator door. On the balcony there was just enough light to see a faint greyscale version of the normally Technicolor panorama before me: a handful of monochrome coconut palms swaying in the stiff breeze, a paler grey sea still hurling silver-white waves to the shore.
I felt Orlando’s arms around me as he emerged from the bedroom into the weak pre-dawn light. We stood together in silence waiting for the sunrise, and breathed in the tropical air – our first morning in Barbados.