The airport's air-conditioning fought against the intense humid heat of the island's summer. On a wall, a thermometer showed the outside temperature to be a sweltering forty degrees Celsius. To Rebecca it felt close to midnight, while a clock on the opposite wall ticked slowly past noon. She was so exhausted.
Waiting for clearance through customs, she paged idly through a brightly colored travel guide, looking at the pictures of long, palm-lined beaches, sparkling blue water and quaint little thatch huts hiding in the rich green foliage. She shifted uncomfortably in the plastic chair before returning to the bustling markets and myriad tourist sites featured in the guide she had bought before leaving home. Home, Rebecca sighed, it seemed so far away now that she was finally here. After seemingly endless hours of flying and numerous other waiting-areas, in as many different airports in half a dozen countries, she had arrived at last. Half way round the world, she had traveled to this emerald island to begin the adventure of her life.
She started as an airport official approached her, disturbing her introspection. "Your papers are all in order, Miss Hart. You may go now," he informed her as he handed her passport and visas back to her. "Welcome our island, I hope you enjoy your visit," he added as she packed away her guide and picked up her camera.
Unfolding her legs, she stood in one fluid motion and walked over to collect her luggage from baggage control. All she had was one duffel bag and a traveler's daypack. The contents of which were to last her until she found an apartment and could afford to have more shipped over, but it was enough. Travel-pack on her back, camera round her neck, she hefted the duffel bag and made her way to the exit.
Hot waves washed over her as the doors slid silently open. She stepped out onto the sidewalk running down the side of the main airport building. Sweat was already trickling down the small of her back as she searched for her guide. The pavement was crowded with rushing people, mainly locals. The torrent of people swept her up as the combination of intense heat and lack of sleep took its toll on her heavily taxed body. Suddenly, a white card with her name on it was trust into her face and her duffel bag lifted from her sagging arms as she was ushered into a waiting cab.
Serenity returned once she was inside the cab and could relax somewhat. She wondered how the cabby had known who she was. They raced along narrow winding roads at a terrific pace, through markets and poorer areas towards the beachfront. Rebecca stared eagerly out the window, desperate to catch every detail of this diverse city and its people as they bumped along. Old crumbling buildings towered over the crowded streets nearly blocking out the harsh sunlight. Awnings of many colors leaned over the barrows in the market squares, as the merchants tried to sell their fruit, spices, fish and bolts of cloth.
Filthy children swarmed around the cab begging for coins as they came to a halt outside "The Hotel Royal." Harsh reality hit home with resounding impact as she realized this world was no different to the one she had just escaped. People were still in need, still hungry, still homeless. Even in paradise, not all was perfect. The driver hurried to get her door and her bags. While shielding her from the prying hands of the urchins, he escorted Rebecca into the reception area of the quaint, old hotel.
"I suppose now is as good a time as any for introductions," the driver mumbled, "I am Jade Soul and I hope you are Miss Rebecca Hart."
"That's correct, but how did you know?" Rebecca inquired.
"Oh, it's written on the label attached to your duffel bag," Jade replied beginning to overcome some of his original shyness.
"Oh, so it is, "Rebecca blushed. "Is this where I am to stay until I can find an apartment?" she asked while turning slowly taking everything from the delicate stained-glass dome of the reception hall to the exquisite fountains in the luscious gardens beyond.
"No, actually this is where your apartment is. This hotel is a tourist hotel that also has a few luxury apartments. One of these has been made available to you for the duration of your stay," He replied.
Rebecca was shocked; she hadn't expected anything like this. When her contract had said that accommodation would be provide for her, she hadn't imagined a place like this.
"We can go up to your room now, if you would like?" he suggested aware of her surprise.
"Yes that would be nice," Rebecca replied dazed.
From just left of the reception hall, they climbed an elegant stairwell to the second floor, where he led her to the end of the hallway. Jade stood back as he opened the door for Rebecca to enter. He watched her drift around the suite enchanted by her mobile features that showed her obvious amazement.
The suite was everything Rebecca could have hoped for in her own choice of apartment. A single bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, a kitchenette and a living area to entertain in. The view from the balcony was breathtaking, over looking a perfect white beach with blue waves and an emerald-green palm tree fringe. It looked just like one of the pictures in her travel guide.
Jade left her on the balcony to put her duffel bag and travel pack in her room, and gather his thoughts. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her long wavy hair, the color of matured red wine, her bright blue eyes and long, dark lashes were an intoxicating mixture he was having trouble resisting. "Don't go thinking like that. You know she's is off limits," he reminded himself sharply.
From where she stood on the balcony, Rebecca heard Jade moving about inside the apartment. She turned to see him emerge from the bedroom. "I just put your bags down," Jade stammered trying to justify his actions. "Don't worry, I was just curious to know where you had gone to," Rebecca assured him with a smile.
"Are you hungry? Or would you prefer to sleep?" Jade asked resuming the role of humble help.
"I am famished," Rebecca answered, "Some lunch would go down really well right now."
"I know a great place just around the corner from here that serves the best sandwiches, if that's okay?" Jade suggested.
"Sounds great, let's go," Rebecca replied.
With Jade leading the way, they left the apartment and headed towards the beach. Right on the beachfront, barely a block away was a nice café with sidewalk tables and an excellent menu. After ordering, Rebecca lent back catching a slight sea breeze.