Belize Survivor, part 42

When Alexis arrived in Key West, the sun indeed helped to warm her, both heart and soul. She rented a tiny cottage on Grinnell Street, and soon found herself walking familiar beaches, visiting old haunts, and seeking the nostalgic scent of night-blooming jasmine. Having returned to the island, just as Indian Ron had said she would, Alexis passed by the marina, and the sound of slapping halyards brought back a heartache named Paul. She wondered what had ever happened to the sailboat. Like its name, Déjà Vu was a wound that had never completely healed.

Everywhere she went she asked about Indian Ron, but no one seemed to know where he was. Someone said he'd bought a house on Petronia Lane, just southwest of the old cemetery, but hadn't been seen on the island for months. More than anyone, she wanted to see Ron. She needed his insight and hoped to find comfort in his presence and his wisdom.

Her other wound was perhaps one of those that time should not heal. But nevertheless, over the weeks, the bad memories associated with Max began to fade. Alexis began to see more clearly, or so she thought. Was it truly clarity, or was it loneliness? She didn’t know, but Max was still her husband after all. Maybe the relationship deserved another chance. Eventually, the pain subsided, and the remembrance of the good times overpowered the bitterness.

"Ntombi eyami!” Max cried when he picked up the phone. “Oh Alexis, I've missed you so much! I've been such an idiot. Can you ever forgive me?"

"Hi," she said quietly. "I will ask you only one question. Do you still want to be with me?"

"You asked me that once before in California. I'll say now what I said then," he replied. "With all my heart."

"Then come to Florida. I’m willing to try again."

They set up housekeeping together in the little Grinnell Street cottage which was really one of four identical dwellings situated within a picturesque courtyard among the rubber banyan trees in the heart of Old Town. And it was like old times, indeed. Max was not only conciliatory, he was wonderful. He treated her like a queen, and Alexis was sure she had made the right decision. One day, late in the afternoon, as they sat together on the front porch swing, Alexis decided to tell Max about some ideas she’d had. "Wouldn't it be great if we could get a band together down here so we could play music? Like at Bonny Doon? I mean – one way or the other we've got to make some money soon. Why not something we really enjoy?"

"You're right about that," Max said agreeably. "Those guys, two doors down, are musicians. I think one plays bass and the other plays lead. Getting a group together is a great idea."

"I was also thinking how I used to make different kinds of handicrafts when I lived here before. We could buy some twine or jute. I could make some plant hangers, or macramé chokers, or maybe even weave a hammock. We could look into a vendor's permit like I had in Berkeley, or even rent a little shop."

"I like it." He nodded approvingly. "Ok, let's keep an eye out for some possibilities."

Sunset at Mallory Pier was still a ritual, as it had been and would continue to be for decades to come. The young couple attended the celebration of sun and sea almost every night. Alexis still used her cane occasionally and walked with a slight limp, but the warm weather was helping her heal at a faster pace. Max had bought bicycles for both of them, the perfect transportation for the island, and as they rode home that night after sunset, the sky became a lustrous backdrop of purple, slashed with brilliant fuchsia. A soft balmy breeze began to blow, and the velvety palpable darkness started its descent over the island. Pulling up to the little gate at the white picket fence, Max was quick to jump off first and open it for her. As she dismounted and wheeled her bike past him, she paused. He was looking down at the ground pensively, but then purposefully raised his eyes to meet hers, her face filling his vision. His sincerity was unquestionable. With a marked tenderness, he said, "I love you, Alexis."

Keeping an eye out for an available shop space became a priority. If they were going to make the investment, Alexis was determined to find an extraordinarily worthwhile location, right in the heart of things. As a result, she made sure to check the ultra-touristy section of Old Town on a regular basis – Front Street near the Conch Train Depot and the two northernmost blocks of Duval Street between Green and Caroline. There was also a fruit vendor tucked away on Tift’s Aly. He made the best coconut-banana smoothies ever, so she usually stopped there when making her rounds. She saw the vaguely familiar form, the black crinkly hair and nut-brown skin.

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