Henry Walsingham heaved a deep, chest-rattling sigh and poked a pair of fat fingers into his vodka and tonic, fishing out the two irregular cubes of muddy-coloured ice and chucking them over the veranda. It had taken him 20 minutes to persuade a member of staff to locate the ice cubes and put them in his drink, and now…
Peering into his glass, he wrestled with himself. The conundrum had been: warm or cold? Now it was: giardia or sobriety? Sod it. He knocked the drink back in one go just as Honeybee came out through the slatted double doors wearing a bikini top and a sarong.
“Happy, darling?” she asked him.
“Blissful, darling,” he said. He was sweating like a pig. Happy bloody honeymoon, he thought, until his new bride bent down to pick up her Paolo Coelho novel and he felt his bad temper lift. Honeybee was two years younger than Henry’s eldest daughter and, by goodness, had she rejuvenated him.
Sarah had taken him for the house and most of his seizable readies in the courts. But that unpleasantness was now over and it was a new life for a new Henry. Even Honeybee’s crystals had said so.
For Henry, until he left Sarah, the ideal holiday involved a comfortable chair, a decent book, a good supply of the red infuriator and the charred flesh of something endangered. Perhaps a potter round a gallery in the morning so as to earn your lunch. Honeybee, however, had different ideas. And why not? She was young. She craved adventure. She had a younger generation’s optimism and a Buddhist’s love of all living things.
And so here they were. Not the Cipriani, which had been Henry’s idea, but the Mua-Mu Eco-Lodge. He wondered how eco it could really be when you had to fly from London to Newark, and Newark to San José, before boarding a light plane to the resort. They’d practically had to unload him in a wheelchair.
The view from the treehouse, he had to admit, was spectacular. And once the boy had shooed out that iguana, their living quarters – the sort of rugged combination of timber and mosquito-netting that might win the Turner Prize in a slow year – had a certain rustic charm. Showering in unheated rainwater wasn’t even that disagreeable, although he didn’t love the soap’s rough bits (was it bark?).
But the loo – back down the ladder, and 30ft down the path to a lime-lined long drop in the undergrowth… Henry had avoided having more than a pee, so far, but it could only be a matter of time.
Given the chance, in other words, he’d have swapped it like a shot for the Marriott Guanacaste. Honeybee had caught him Googling it wistfully back in London, and he’d quickly tabbed across to pretend he’d been looking at The Wine Society. He still hadn’t entirely ruled out the Marriott. The question was: could he go without using the loo longer than his bride could go without washing her hair? On this, everything pivoted.
Honeybee had not yet noticed – she was busy saluting the sun on the veranda when Henry shaved each morning – that there was no electricity in the treehouse. Those hanging hurricane lamps weren’t just for atmos.
Very particular about her waist-length blonde tresses, was Honeybee. She didn’t wash them every day, but when she did, it was a two-hour operation. Come hair-wash day, he calculated, she would be led like a lamb to the Marriott.
The following night it happened. Honeybee, hair soaking, emerged with her hairdryer and a frown. Henry shrugged. She vanished off down the ladder, and the sounds of the ensuing conversation drifted up through the still night. The generator powered the kitchen’s single fridge, and the scant lighting for the bar and pathways. To use it for a hairdryer and curlers would be out of the question. Henry had underestimated Honeybee’s determination. Soon, “drifted” was the wrong word. Even the insects fell silent. The few points of light located down the hill below dimmed, then became extinct as the whoosh of a hairdryer rose into the night.
At that precise moment something in Henry’s stomach made an announcement. It might have been an ice cube. Henry set out, with steady purpose, for the long drop.