Things with Lisa ended after a mini-scandal rippled through the community. Her parents found out Harry was getting married and forbade her seeing him. Her father, a bigwig in Shell, threatened to tell the C.O. ‘Outrageous,’ he cried. Lisa took his car, drove to the base and was stopped at the perimeter gate. Harry got a call in Bravo Company office. ‘West-Saheb, there is a Memsaheb asking for you.’
They’d met at one of those regimental occasions dotting the peace time backdrop to sporadic jungle forays, overt ops, covert ops, playing ‘Enemy’ for visiting forces to practice on before dying at Binh Ba.
Short of girls for a ball to celebrate the ‘150th Anniversary of the Raising of the Regiment,’ Willymac had gone to Singapore to trawl his connections in the Tai Pan aristocracy.
He returned with six daughters of the great merchant trading houses when trade had become respectable, at least in the East. Lodged with the married officers they turned up gorgeous at the cocktail party that began the event. It was a great success: the military band played on the lawn till nine, a civilian band replaced them and everyone danced sedately until the official end at 2 am. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts rocked till dawn and Ruby Tuesday saw bodies star-scattered on the grass, tipples toppled at their side.
With military resilience they were up by lunchtime for a beach party sixty miles away and Lisa was Harry’s date from the night before. Now she wanted more than he could give. He picked her up at the gate, took her to Ho’s Hotel where they fucked their brains out for the last time, and said goodbye.
Harry broke the news to Holly with, ‘I guess I can’t drive you to Singapore any more. Nothing to do, nowhere to stay.’
‘Stay with me and Ricky.’
‘Won’t he find out?’
‘No. How many times d’you think I’ve arrived dripping with your come and he didn’t notice? By the time we get there he’s full of Martini – hey, you should meet him just for that!’
‘I don’t know, Holly. What would I do all weekend?’
‘Laze around the pool, smoke a little pot, fuck his friend Pippa to a whiter shade of pale. She’s looking. And good looking.’
Ricky and Harry became friends, and he sure made a great Martini. ‘Just pour the gin gently and look hard at the vermouth, Harry, that’s the trick.’
Harry found his mind blown by the creativity of Ricky’s world; Ricky was spellbound by tales of war and jungle. They’d drive around in the Galaxy, through the colored nights of Singapore City, ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ on the stereo, eat at stalls in Bugis Street watching the transvestites pull drunken British squaddies, drink Jack Daniels in the new Shangri-La – Raffles is so fusty, said Holly, (and full of people we know, thought Harry.)
Pippa was a passing passion, great butt in the Pippa tradition, but too skinny, and Harry’s return to London was looming. He told himself, without conviction, he shouldn’t overdo things before the wedding, should be happy just to hang out by the pool and pleasure himself to ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’
Spending time with Holly and Ricky he couldn’t help learning more about their sex life, a lot less than he’d imagined: Ricky loved Mr Martini so much. Some nights Harry heard him snoring and Holly convulsing on her own and wished she’d come in. On the way back he asked her why not.
‘When I’m with Ricky I’m with Ricky. I can wait for the journey back with you. In fact that’s what I think about when I’m wanking next to him. Your cock squirting in my cunt.’
‘So you’re only with him in body?’
‘Whoever got burned for what they were thinking about?’ she said.
‘Anyone who got caught.’
‘There you are. They had to be caught. They must have done more than just think. It would be the telling, or the writing.’
He said, ‘So keep our secrets secret.’
‘Then no-one gets hurt,’ she said.
‘And we can still have fun.’
‘With a K. There’s the fuckery. Make me come, Harry.’
When Anne joined him after the wedding the four of them spent most of their free weekends together. Anne and Holly got on like sisters. A striking pair, the first time they went to Barbarella’ s together to see Jane Fonda’s writhing image projected on the wall, Holly wore a crochet black cat-suit with nothing underneath, Anne likewise in gold. The dance-floor packed with Singapore’s young and beautiful stopped and stared.
Then Anne fell pregnant and felt less like traveling the hundred miles once or twice a month. Harry would stay, on unnecessarily frequent military business trips, with Ricky, and Holly who’d moved in. They drank quantities of alcohol and Ricky passed out. He always had a few on the way home from the office. One of those nights Holly wanted to put on a face-pack.
‘You next,’ she said to Harry as he watched.
‘You mustn’t move your face when it’s on. We can’t speak or even smile.’
‘How long for?’
‘About an hour.’
They sat on stools in her fragrant dressing-room, facing each other, jaws clenched, trying so hard not to laugh at green landscape faces, eyes like volcano craters and lips like red rubber. Ricky’s snores from the next room made it worse.
They both realized in the same moment that for the first time in weeks they were alone, almost. Holly loosened the belt to her bathrobe, let it fall open. Harry opened his, stiffening. They looked at each other, savoring the moment of knowing what was to come, together as ever. She touched herself for a minute or two, bringing those beautiful breasts to life, then stood, went to him, climbed on his lap, spread herself open, and lowered onto his throbbing hardness.
Ah, the relief. Ice cold in Alex. Hot rod in Holly. The relief, the intense relief of going into her, into the aching comfort of that familiar, tight, hot, wet grip, feeling that squeeze down every inch of his buried shaft. They made slow, lingering, luxurious love in their face-packs, and they did not crack.
Then they smoked. She had introduced Harry to pot, Gold-Spot, deodorant, and sex that he would remember forever as transcendental copulation.
After peeling off the face-packs they lay side by side on the floor, blowing smoke at the ceiling, free hands resting on each other’s genitals, not moving. Ricky snored from the bedroom.
‘Yes?’ He turned to look at her, Holly, the first woman with whom he felt in harmony, mind and body. In that moment he wanted to drown in her eyes, and want no more.
‘You know what we’ve never done?’
His mind ran the movie of that first time together in Willymac’s car, the first night patrol and uncounted encunters since. What had they never done? Sado-masochism, bondage, group orgies … Harry’s experience of these at that time was pretty much limited to what he’d read: not much.
‘What have we never done, Holly?’
‘We’ve never done what lovers do.’
‘We haven’t? I’d have thought we’ve done everything that…’
They had kept the bathrobes on, open. She turned on her side and pulled him to her so their bodies touched. He felt her breasts cushion his chest, her belly press his, his sex touch hers, their thighs and knees touching, even their feet. Then he felt her hand push the robe off his shoulder and slide up his back, and hold him gently at the nape. Her other arm went round his waist. He could smell the honey of her skin.
‘Hold me,’ she whispered. He did, bringing their faces so close they could feel each other’s breath. They held each other in a love embrace outlasting the space between lightning and thunder.
And then she kissed him. Her lips opened, and she kissed him. Her mouth touched his. He looked in her eyes, wide open. Lips touching, they gazed. He had no thought, no wish, nor desire, nor fear. And then she lowered those beautiful long-lashed eyelids, and with her tongue, parted his lips. Her tongue, soft, warm, moist, he had never felt on his lips, slid into his mouth.
Their first kiss.
They stayed in that kiss, that caress of lips, that most tender sweetness, and breathed each other’s breath, and heard their two hearts beat as one, and felt that beat quicken, and their breath quicken, and their loins quicken until sweet caress became raging lust. But now, this time, it was different. This passion made pale fire of all before. Together they climaxed and he filled her, and they filled each other’s hearts, until the tide receded and they lay together, one mind, one heart, one love.
‘Why didn’t we do this before?’
What might have been? One destiny? Might they once, on that first recognition of twin free spirits, have said, ‘I love you, you are the only one who fits my skin.’ The night the jungle fell silent, and the moon hung still, waiting, listening for the words that never came.
Then again, what might not have been? Harry might not have gone through with the wedding to Anne, not had their children, not broken more hearts, nor had his shattered. Holly might not have gone with Ricky to California and the good life, cash and sunshine. Now, on their last night patrol, after their first and last kiss, one of them said, ‘Shall we run away together?’
What’s in a word? How would their lives have been, had those words been ‘Let’s’ instead of ‘Shall we’? And how different Harry’s adventures from those that followed. The question was, could he now live without honey?
*Yes, there’s more to this story, so read on with a click here!
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