Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 100

That evening, after a delicious meal of lobster bisque, rice, and baked grouper, Alexis tucked the tired and sun-browned little boy into bed. Kissing him tenderly, she walked back out on the beach under the stars. Meanwhile, Max was on his way to the bar, and returned a few minutes later with two piña coladas. Reclining in the lounge chair in the sand just outside the cabaña, Alexis settled herself in his arms. It felt like the old days.

"Look at those stars," she said, softly. "There are so many of them, like a blanket, more stars than sky. In fact, the sky looks like it did when I was a little girl. Not so many years ago in Key West, I remember thinking that maybe there weren't as many stars as there used to be. But now I know it was only the pollution. Belize has its faults, but the air is absolutely pure."

"That's one of the reasons we came here, to provide a clean environment for our children," said Max. Alexis sensed something in his tone. "I want another baby," he admitted, quietly. Instantly, a thousand thoughts raced through Alexis' mind. No longer naive, she knew what was involved in child bearing and rearing. Max had made tremendous demands on her during Jordan's infancy. She thought of the long heavy pregnancy, the pain of childbirth, the rewards of giving life, the burden and joy of responsibility for a brand-new human being.

"You know I don't believe in people having irresponsible numbers of children,” he continued. “The focus should be quality, not quantity. We already have a fine son, and I would love to have a beautiful daughter. She would be a miniature of you, a little girl to spoil and love – someone for Jordan to play with. Haven't you ever thought about having a little girl?"

Of course she had. In her early childhood, Alexis loved her dolls and had spent hours of make-believe as their mother. She had bathed them and fed them, changed them and cuddled them when they pretend-cried. And of course, during the fifties, all dolls were girl-dolls. What little girl didn't want a real live baby girl when she grew up?

"You don't want Jordan to be an only child,” he added. “Do you?"

"No. But it's a big decision. I'd need some time to think it over."

"That's fine, Ntombi. We don't have to rush into it."

That night, Max made love to Alexis with a tenderness she never thought possible. That night he was the man with whom she'd fallen in love, and when the sound of seagulls awoke her the next morning, she stretched like a sleepy cat, still caught in the spell of the magic the night before. Max sat framed in the open doorway, looking out on the ocean, the yellow orange sunrise behind him.

"Jordan’s out here playing in the sand,” he said. “Want some tea? I’ve got two cups here"

"Perfect. I'd love some."

She sat up and Max propped two pillows behind her as he handed her the steaming mug. “So what’s on the agenda for today?" asked Alexis.

"Swim in the ocean, get a tan, scope out the town in general, and see what we can buy and sell,” Max answered, smiling. “I'd like to try to meet some of the gringos that live on the island. There aren't many, but a few have started up some partnerships with the San Pedranos. I'm sure they could give us some insight into what's happening out here."

As they talked, Alexis suddenly became aware how normal and unstilted their conversation was. For the first time in years, she had let her guard down; they were talking like regular people. What was a common occurrence for most couples was a rare moment for her, and she wondered if this trip could be more than a new start, maybe a complete renewal of their relationship. Whatever it was, it was great, and she didn't want it to end.

They made many new friends and business associates during the course of the next few days. They swam and snorkeled inside the reef, went for boat rides, and Jordan caught his first fish. After a life of relative solitude on the farm, the little boy knocked himself out playing from dawn to dusk with dozens of children and the next morning surprised both his parents by speaking a few words of Spanish. Alexis met many of the hotel owners and sold some of her finished products. She also sold wholesale silver wire, chains, and other findings to the local craftsmen, exchanged valuable carving tips, and bought a pound of raw black coral from local divers. Max also made the rounds of the village, getting new ideas for other wood products that might be saleable on the local or international market. On the third day, he was breathless with excitement.

"Ntombi, you won't believe what I found. You've got to come and see."

"What is it?"

"It's a chair,” he said happily. “In fact, it’s THE chair – a chair that is going to take us down the road to success. It's a great design. It's wood, it folds, and we've got almost everything we need to manufacture it. I bought one as a sample to take back to Cayo. We'll take it apart, improve the design, and turn it into a first class product." Ceremoniously, he led her into their cabaña with his hands over her eyes. "There it is. What do you think?"

Uniquely designed, the chair was made of mahogany slats. Each individual slat had been drilled and cleverly sandwiched with the others to form a comfortably contoured seat. The slats were held together with hidden pieces of heavy-gauge wire, and the overall effect was that of a pair of inverted hands folded in prayer with four slats extending beyond the main body to form the legs. Of course, this inelegant prototype had been made by a Mennonite or San Pedrano using limited tools; it was short, stumpy, and rough. But its weight and low center of gravity made it the ideal deck chair. Alexis understood Max's excitement. He was right; the chair definitely had major possibilities.