A Caribbean island. Not far off being a desert island. Population of about 5,000, of which probably half are from somewhere else. Haitians, people from the Dominican Republic, Brits, Americans, Canadians. Not all of these people are wealthy expats. Most are just working people who have somehow found themselves in this place. Including Frank. He’s a surgeon, from the UK, here on a two-year contract. Most of the staff at the hospital areforeigners, much to the disgust of the patients, who would just like to be left alone. Frank and his colleagues are trying to help them, but the locals prefer the old system, with a ramshackle, badly equipped building, few specialists, and if there was anything badly wrong with them they got packed off to Miami for treatment and could do some shopping while they were there.
Frank can live with it. He’s got plenty of friends among the outsiders, and the fact that that’s what they are makes the bonds especially strong.
It’s Christmas and there is always a big hospital party, primarily for the children, and a big party needs a big house. Frank has a big house. It’s not fancy but it is certainly big. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge lounge that was originally three or four small rooms. It’s close to the beach and there are no close neighbours. So Frank is the host this year.
He has a decent music system and a wide-ranging selection of styles on his iPod, so he thinks he’s got that covered. He buys a few bottles of wine, some beers and big bottles of soft drinks for the kids (and any adults that don’t drink, for whatever reason, and he can’t really understand that, but each to his own.)
The guests start to arrive at 5.30, headed by a radiographer and a nurse, Mollie and Fletch, who have organized the event. They bring in big trays of food. Other guests will be doing the same, so Frank is supposed to just relax and enjoy it. In fact he’s been ordered to do that.
These two are both Jamaican. Mollie is educated, well-travelled and has an air of sophistication. She is quite tall and slim, with a pale brown colour, large but controlled breasts and short, neat hair. As a radiographer, she feels like a woman in a man’s world, but her expertise and forthright nature mean she can hold her own in any professional company.
Fletch, Nurse Fletcher, is taller, darker and built like an athlete. She has a vast birds-nest of curly hair that on this occasion is tamed by a skillfully tied narrow scarf but still looks like it could explode at any minute. Some men think Fletch is scary – that’s the word they always use – but Frank has worked with her and knows her as a pleasant, helpful and diligent nurse. He is always glad when he finds she is on his shift and they often find themselves working together.
Guests arrive steadily and most are outside on the large decked area. Frank turns the music up loud and enjoys the fact that he has something for all tastes. There is plenty of reggae on there, as well as heavy rock, pop, folk, you name it. Nothing very recent, though, because Frank has just turned 40 and has lost track of the pop charts. Mollie is about 30 and Fletch perhaps 25.
After an hour or so, as the light begins to fade, a pickup truck enters the sandy yard and two men unload professional DJ equipment. Nobody asks Frank, They just set it up on the deck, the speakers pointing through the open door, and proceed to blast out reggae Christmas carols. The dancers like this and Frank simply turns off his own music and tries not to look offended. He gets the camera out and takes lots of pictures, including a nice one of Mollie and Fletch in the kitchen, looking happy and very much big buddies. Mollie has a broad grin and Fletch smiles in a restrained way.
More carols, more dancing, and the DJ is downing large measures of Frank’ s rum as if he is immune to it. And finally it is all quiet on the western Caribbean front. The people have gone, the DJ and his friend have given up and are in the kitchen where the booze is. And there’s Mollie and Fletch and Frank. He has his music on again and is happy about that.
He fetches his guitar from the little bedroom and they’re all impressed that he can play. He does a bit of Bob Marley – I Shot The Sheriff and Three Little Birds – and they’re singing along. Then Mollie gets giggly and says “Have you heard The 6.30? It’s a song. And a dance. You know it, Errol,” she says to the DJ’s friend.
Errol does know it. “Wanna do it?” he says, smiling.
“Yeah,” Mollie says, and Fletch looks away at nothing in particular.
“Fletch, see if there’s anything on Frank’s iPod,” Mollie orders, and the big girl goes over to where Frank is already scrolling through the songs. He gives her the unit and she carries on. She is sitting on the floor, very close to him, and their arms touch occasionally. Frank decides he could be in love with this girl.
Fletch doesn’t find anything, so she turns her attention to her iPhone and Frank gets a small speaker for her to plug in. They go back into the kitchen and Fletch starts the music. Mollie smiles at everybody, ending up at Errol, and turns her back to him. As the rhythm continues she bends over, touches her toes and stays there.
“Six,” says Errol, standing tall, “30.” He bends like Mollie to emulate an analog clock. Then he gets behind her, with his thrusting loins bumping her bottom, and the dance takes place.
That is pretty much it, Frank thinks, as the repetitive music choreographs the repetitive actions. Errol is simply miming fucking Mollie, who is smiling with self-satisfaction. They are enjoying it.
Fletch catches Frank’s eye and gestures towards the door. Frank makes his way in that direction, moving and tidying things as he goes. Out on the deck, they sit down and both heave a small sigh of relief.
“You enjoy that?” Fletch asks.
“Is that a modern thing?” Frank replies. “The music, maybe.”
“What are you doing here?” Fletch asks. “Why are you on this island.”
“I don’t know,” Frank says. “Everybody’s got to be somewhere. I didn’t want to stay in the UK, and the agency found this.”
“You not married?” she probes.
“Divorced,” he says. “You?”
“”No,” Fletch says, looking at him. “Never met the right guy.”
There is riotous laughter from the kitchen, followed by sounds of disgust.
Frank hurries in to find the DJ leaning over the kitchen sink, throwing up.
“We’ll take him home,” Errol says as he and Mollie manhandle the drunk into a standing position. Frank and Fletch shepherd them to the door and watch as the three get into the pickup.
Errol leans out the window and calls out “Pick the gear up tomorrow, okay?” They disappear in a cloud of sandy dust.
Frank and Fletch sit on the deck for a while and enjoy being alone together. Then he says “I’m working tomorrow.”
“Me too,” Fletch says. “We’d better…” They stand up and take glasses into the kitchen, and as they stand by the fridge, loving being together, he puts his arm around her and they kiss, happy, relieved and hopeful.
“You’re not scared of me, are you?” Fletch says. It’s an observation, not a question.
“I think you’re lovely,” he replies. “You’re not like people think.”
“I know,” Fletch says. “I’m quiet, reserved, a bit boring.”
“You’re not boring,” Frank says, pulls her to him and kisses her again.
“I can do the 6:30,” she says. “Want to see?”
“Okay,” Frank says. She takes her phone and puts the music on. Free from the eyes and opinions of others, she bends over in front of this man and looks back at him slightly anxiously. She is wearing a very short, stretchy, pale blue dress and when she bends over, nothing is left to the imagination. But to Frank it’s a move full of love. She is not flashing at him, she is showing herself to him because she wants him to have her. Have. Possess.
He stands behind her in the male 6:30 position, but doesn’t thrust at her. He sinks to his knees and kisses her through the cotton of her panties.
“Fletch,” he says. “It’s Elizabeth, isn’t it?”
“Liz,” she says.
“Liz, he says. “I think you’re wonderful.” He pulls her panties aside and licks her bottom.
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