I awake to the sound of movement in the kitchen. At first, this startles me. I cook; both by trade and for personal enjoyment. The kitchen is my domain, and I can be rather possessive about it. Then, I remember who it is, and I relax, a smile forming across my face knowing the responsibility of breakfast has been taken from me.
It would be laziness to stay in bed, so I sit up, pushing the mosquito netting aside. I grab my glasses and a pair of shorts. It’s already hot, so I can’t fathom even pretending to look for a shirt or tank top. I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, and remember what I look like these days; I’ve cut my hair shorter, the humidity makes my blond curls that much more wild. A thin mustache and beard frames my face. I joke it makes me look older and smarter, but I’m the only one who laughs about it.
“Our wild man of Borneo,” Rio said teasingly when she first saw me with facial hair. “Somehow I never imagined a wild man of Borneo having blond hair, blue eyes, and a southern accent.”
“You know Stormy excels at contradiction,” Hobbs put in.
“I do not!” I protested. “Go drink some Molson, and put something else in your mouth besides words!”
“I think it suits him,” Kisshandra said with her serine smile as she stroked my bearded chin. I thanked her with a kiss.
Were I the type to be given to jealousy, I would’ve been quite upset that Kisshandra and Rio slept together that night, but it didn’t bother me. It’d been almost a year since we’d seen Rio, the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs, Carmen Jordan, Rollins, or Jules. We were all at Juke and Morgan Zayne was playing. Kisshandra and I got to dance to Rattlesnake Waltz and, on that night, that was good enough. After all, Kisshandra doesn’t belong to me. She never has and she never will, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I almost took her with me to Tammy’s wedding. After all, I’d asked Kisshandra to come with me to Borneo. We decided against it. Not because of Tucker’s family; after all, Tyrone Brinkley, his wife, two young daughters, and mother were there as friends of the groom. Kisshandra and I mutually decided a heavily tattooed Afro-Himalayan girl in a Pentecostal church in a small town in Alabama might cause a certain kind of trouble no one wanted to deal with.
“Tuck and I will come and meet her some day,” Tammy told me on her wedding day. “We promise. Paul promises.”
“Reckon that’s a good thing, Tam-Tam” I mused.
I step out onto the deck. The sky looks blue, but with the humidity, there is haze. Fog swirls around the highest points of canopy like serpents coiling across the treetops. I draw a sharp breath despite myself. It’s been two years, and sometimes it’s still surreal that I’m actually in Borneo.
The treehouse is at the edge of the resort. There’s only a handful of full-time residents. Mostly, it’s tourists. Some scrimp and save for years, and others pay the fee like it’s buying a quart of milk at the corner store. Regardless, they need to eat, and someone needs to cook those meals.
It was more by default than qualifications I became the head cook. I had enough left over from my inheritance and subsequent investments that working for money wasn’t a priority. One night, I was sharing cocktails and conversation with the resort’s restaurant manager. He was bemoaning the fact he’d just lost his head cook and the challenge of finding someone who’d be willing to work at a resort in the middle of a rainforest in Borneo.
“Y’know, I cooked at this place back in the States called Wildflowers for a few years,” I said.
“Do you need a job?”
“It’d be something to do,” I replied flippantly. It was a quickest interview I ever had. A year and a half in shows my employers are satisfied with my performance.
Coming back inside, I catch the scent of freshly ground coffee. Wonderful. On the entryway table, I my eye catches the postcard that showed up a week ago. It’s from Rio. She tells of Hobbs and Carmen getting engaged, which didn’t surprise anyone. Once they got involved, the chemistry they discovered between each other was positively magnetic. According to Rio’s postcard, they’ll be sending wedding announcements which, will hopefully coincide with what has become the once a year visit back to the States.
I come into the kitchen and see Kisshandra, her back turned to me as she starts to work over the stove. She’s wearing only a pair of cutoffs, which gives me an unobstructed view of one of my favorite tattoos of hers; in black and gray, a bat wing drapes down the left side of her back and there’s a dove wing on the right. A yin-yang sits perfectly between her shoulder blades. Twin aspects; her mixed heritage, my lover and dearest friend, something I think fits her perfectly.
The scent of breakfast fills my nose. Apparently, Kisshandra’s parents created it in the early days of their marriage, mixing both African and Asian spices. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and in the nine years we’ve now known each other, I’ve asked her countless times for the recipe.
“I’ll give it to you on our wedding day,” Kisshandra will always say with a sly smile.
I have no plans to propose to her, which works out, since she’d never say yes. I content myself with the mystery. Perhaps it’s those little mysteries that keep things interesting.
My mind flashes back to that morning, two years ago, right after I got back from Grandma’s funeral. I opened my eyes to see Kisshandra looking right at me. Her gaze was quite intense. I focused my attention on the tattoos along her collar bones and where everything met just under the neck, because I knew looking at her breasts at that time would’ve been impolite, to say the least.
“I’ve thought about it, you know,” she started. “I’ve agonized over it and slept on it and I’ve made up my mind.”
“And?” I think I was trying to be cool and cavalier, but, in fact, I was nervous and excited.
“I refuse to lose you to Borneo, Joshua Storm,” Kisshandra said, stroking my cheek. I could say she was smiling, but beaming might be a better description.
The breakfast she was originally staying for ended up happening far later in the day. She would later tell me she almost said she might not belong to me, but maybe she belonged with me. Semantics. We both had a good laugh over it.
“I’d have called you such a girl if you did,” I teased.
“Fuck you!” She shot back, almost blushing.
“Maybe a little later, honeychild?”
It takes no time at all to close the distance between us. I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her close. She smiles serenely at me as her lips brush against mine and then my cheek.
“Good morning,” she whispers. Her breath is hot and seductive in my ear, as always.
“Hey, baby,” I say. “Thank you for staying for breakfast.”