The Colombian Sojourn – Chapter 22

Lake Laguna De Tota and Bogotá
Pixabay License

He was awake before her and was busy in the kitchen but keeping the noise down. He took a mug of milky coffee through to her and she smiled at him and kicked off the covers. It amused her to catch him looking at her legs and the short nightdress. So, he was human after all.

“Do you want some breakfast?” he asked.

“What can you do?

“Eggs and bacon.”

She thought about it, “Not too much bacon.”

“How would you like your eggs?”

At the moment, unfertilised.  “Over easy please.”

She pulled on a jumper because it was still chilly in the morning air and followed him through to the kitchen cum sitting room. He had opened a window by the cooker to let the smells of bacon out and then rummaged in the cupboard to find a frying pan.

She crossed her legs. Perhaps the sight of my legs will wake up the animal in him and losing all control he would attempt to jump me, force me down and…. But then she looked at him and he looked back at her shyly. Absolutely no chance. He was a buttoned-up Brit.

“What are we going to do today? It’s our last day,” she said sadly.

“Not much. Perhaps go for a walk if you’re up for it?”


They ate a companionable breakfast and chatted about Puerto Rico and Nuneaton, marvelling at the differences and similarities in their upbringings It was clear to them both they each had an ambivalent attitude to their fathers, she because he had abandoned her and her mother and sister at a very young age, he because his father had shown him no interest or affection. He even told her that he suspected that his father wasn’t his biological father, that crown sitting with his uncle on his father’s side. But he had no proof and conjecture served no purpose.

He talked a lot about his mother and he looked sad when he told her he didn’t make it home to be with her while she was dying. He detested his sister, never made the effort to see his father and explained that was why he hated the jungle so much. His mother had died while he was in Belize completing his jungle warfare training. What surprised her most of all, was that this tough and ruthless soldier had been in some ways a Mommy’s boy.

“Why did you join the Army when you were that close to your mother? It must have broken her heart.”

“Because family life was toxic and I had to get away from Nuneaton. It was a shit, Midland town with dying industry and I felt smothered by the sheer monotony of living there. I knew that I could do well in the Army, and I was amazed when I was accepted for the Special Forces. I worked hard at soldiering and the academic side of things that I had flunked at school.

“I’ve had my runs of bad luck, some of them were probably down to me, but other things weren’t. I’m under no illusions. I’m here because I laid out that useless and bigoted SEAL and this is my penance, perdure if you wish, but it has had its perfect benefits. I met you and you have turned out to be a wonderful friend to me. You’re probably sick to death of me when I pitch back up in the capital, but I’m always glad to see you.” I just wish I could totally trust you, Clarita,

“And you were kind to me when Ryan died,” she said looking into her coffee, “No judgement. No criticism. I knew it was unprofessional. We both did, but we are all of us flawed characters. You can’t help who you fall in love with. I miss him and I miss his help and guidance. He could keep the rest of the Station off my back, but now I feel like I’m drowning in crap, having to fight constantly for the space to do my job. These few days with you have been an opportunity for me to recharge my batteries and put the world in perspective, so thank you for that, Mark Edge.

“I’m sorry I teased you when we first met. I was expecting a British hard-man with a superiority complex, like a Guy Ritchie gangster, who would look with contempt at what he thought was a Wetback. But you pushed back with good humour and didn’t take yourself too seriously. I appreciate that and so do the boys down at Pasto. I just wish there was some flaw in you, like you murder kittens or kick kids when their parents aren’t looking.”

“But I am flawed. My anger is something I’m ashamed of and when I get angry, I feel as though it’s consuming me, hollowing me out and I’m deeply worried by the emotions it stirs up in me.”

“I’ve never seen you angry like that. You’ve always been kind to me.”

They relaxed and let their breakfasts go down and Edge looked out over the lake. There were no boats or any other sign of habitation and it felt like they were the only two people on Earth.

“Where is everyone?” Edge asked her.

“The season hasn’t started yet, but in a couple of weeks, you won’t be able to move for boats and people water-skiing or on the shores. Make the most of it. Just in case you think I’ve forgotten, I’ll have to do your war wounds this evening, although they do look a lot better. Have you been taking the antibiotics?”

“Yes, Miss.”

They washed the dishes and got ready to go out. Edge decided to leave his Glock in his room under the pillow. He had a pretty good idea that she hadn’t been carrying her Sig since they had arrived. He waited for her, sitting on the sofa and reading a bit more of the Great Gatsby. He was not a huge fan of F Scott Fitzgerald and thought it was a book of his time, almost one hundred years ago.

She eventually surfaced from her room wearing a simple light cream shift dress and training shoes. The dress went perfectly with her dark, olive skin and Edge smiled approvingly.

“Wow,” he said and she looked up in mock exasperation.

“Have you never seen a woman before, Edge?”

“Not a woman like you, a forest nymph.”

“Let’s go, asshole.”

They followed a path through the pine forest that followed the lake northwards and occasionally they could see the blue waters through the trees. After a few minutes, they saw a strange black and grey mammal that looked like a cross between a small bear and a fox, with white circles around it eyes and on its nose. The animal stopped and looked at them.

“What the hell is that?” Edge whispered to her.

“It’s a Coati. That one must be a solitary male. They are not harmful to humans, but a female with cubs can be a little fierce.”

They stood and watched the Coati as it climbed up the trunk of a tree and ran along a branch over them.
“It’s lovely,” she said thoughtfully.

“When I was going down the river, on the night I poisoned myself, I saw a jaguar. It was less than three metres away from me, sitting on a rock, just watching me puke my guts up. I think the only reason it didn’t attack me was because it knew I was sick. That’s what I think anyway.”

“Could you have imagined it in a state of delirium?”

“No, I don’t think so. It was as real as that Coati, only it was beautiful in the moonlight,” he said wistfully.

“You have poetry in your soul, Edge.”

“I like poetry. I’ve even tried to write some and the odd haiku.”

“What’s a haiku?”

“It’s a Japanese verse form most often composed, in English versions, of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. A haiku often features an image, or a pair of images, meant to depict the essence of a specific moment in time. For example:”

The forest is Jade,
The lake gleams like cut diamonds,
Your hair smooth like Jet.

“Admittedly it’s a bit clumsy, but it’s the best I can come up with in the spur of the moment.”

“And a person in your line of business can compose something out of thin air. Why, Mark?”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think I’ll ever understand you.”

“Don’t even try. I don’t.”

But I want to look into those cold, and cynical, yet gentle eyes when I’m about to come and feel you possessing me. She closed her eyes and gave a slight shiver.

The Coati had gone, disappearing into the trees and they stared after it. The path continued to head in towards the lake, seen more clearly though the trees. It opened out to a large clearing with wooden picnic tables and a track leading off to the left. It was rutted by old tyre tracks and a wooden jetty jutted a short distance out into the lake.

“I guess they launch boats from here,” she said and he nodded.

About three hundred metres out across the lake, a water ski jump was moored with some floats depicting the demarcation between the boat and swimming areas. The lake was totally empty and they felt like the only two people in the world.

Edge was suddenly overtaken by a wild notion and she looked at him in amazement as he pulled off his shoes, socks and all the rest of his clothes. He waded into the lake until the water was just above his knees and dived in. He felt the cold hit him like a firehose and swam out a few strokes until he was treading water.

“You really should come in, the water’s lovely,” he lied proficiently.

“What the hell are you doing, Edge?”

“Swimming, I’m going to swim out to that ski jump and feel the sun on my body. It’s a manly thing, not for girls.”

He set off with a slow crawl into the lake and she watched him with a sense of resentment. A manly thing, not for girls, is it, Edge?

She ran through the options: OK, he won’t see anything more than if I was on holiday sunbathing. Right, Edge, you manly dickhead. We’ll see who gets out there first!

Rivera took off her training shoes and pulled the dress over her head. She kept on her briefs and waded into the water. He was about one hundred metres ahead of her when she started to swim. His swimming was strong but rather laboured, bludgeoning through the water like a tug. She had spent long afternoons swimming with the boys in the Largo Carrizio, cycling there from home. She cut through the water like a clipper, an economic crawl that soon caught him and gracefully overtook him. The coldness of the water was an added incentive to get on the water-ski float and into the sun as quickly as possible. She reached the float and he was still fifty metres behind her, when she pulled herself up out of the water, and sat on the edge watching him.

“Not for girls, is it, Edge?” Rivera asked sarcastically.

“You’re not injured like I am.” He told her in a pathetic voice.

He pulled himself up and lay on his back, totally unselfconsciously. She’d seen most of what he had anyway, clearing up the sores and stings. One of the leaches had taken up residence in his groin, conveniently leaving an open wound that the river had contaminated. He rolled over to face her.

“You lied to me,” she said with mock annoyance, “You told me the water was lovely.”

He tried not to look at her breasts, but a rivulet ran down from her hair and dripped off her nipple. With a great deal of effort, he looked at the profile of her head and realised that he had to roll onto his stomach to hide his obvious desire.


She turned her head to face him.


“Has anybody ever told you that you’re beautiful?”

“Yeah, you did, and I didn’t believe you then either.”

Edge looked at the treelined shore and shook his head, “Look, if someone said to me, “you’re handsome,” I would know they were lying because I’m not. I have other traits that women might find attractive, but I am not handsome…”

“Your wife was obviously attracted to you and that Croatian lady.”

“Jozica Marić initially hated my guts, but taught me so much and Moira thought I was a member of International Rescue. Don’t change the subject. I was talking about you.”

“Everybody said that my sister was the pretty one,” she said with a little rancour, “I was the smart one, the geeky kid. Maybe if I got lucky, someone would want to marry me, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think it ever will.”

Edge looked at her and couldn’t fail to be bowled over by her trim body and flawless skin. He wondered if she was suffering from a form of body dysmorphia, “You must accept compliments when they are given. People generally don’t have a hidden agenda. Relax. Stop trying so hard because out there, there is someone for you.”

Yes, and he’s lying right next to me.

They lay on the float and the sun warmed and dried them. Edge watched a few avocets wading by the shore and said out loud, “This country could be perfect apart from the damned coca tree. If only there was a disease that could wipe it out.”

“I think they tried that a few years ago, but it wiped out everything. So now they defoliate selected areas. It’s so destructive and only lasts a season. The coca shrubs are so hardy they will grow almost anywhere.”

“Do you think we’re fighting a losing battle with the cartels?” he asked.

“Pretty much. They come from such large families, you kill one generation and the next is ready to take up the helm. As long as the coca grown, people will exploit it and grow rich on the takings. You just wouldn’t believe how sophisticated the cartels have become in moving the stuff north and into the Caribbean. They use aircraft, fast boats and even submarines and for every consignment you stop, ten more get through. They think it’s worth taking the risk, because they’re nice and safe in Ecuador or Peru. We need to take the fight to them.”

Edge thought about this and the tiny part he played in this game. He really was a bottom feeder, compared to Rivera and the work she was doing.

“You’d go mad if you think about it too much.” She said sadly, “And these last few days have made me feel almost normal. And tomorrow we go back to it. Let’s make the most of what we have now…”

“For tomorrow we die,” he finished for her.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk like that,” she admonished him.

“I have to. You think about it and then just get on with the job. It’s something I have to confront every day on Ops.”

She looked at him with alarm, “But you say that you love life and yet you constantly think about death.”

“It’s a paradox, isn’t it?”

They looked at each other, communicating on a different level, in perfect understanding.

“Yes, it is getting cold. Last night of this. I wish it could go on forever.” She observed wistfully.

“I would never tire of looking at you, Clarita Rivera.”

“Race you back.”

Edge stayed on the raft watching her elegant crawl as she struck for the shore, then went into the freezing water, which instantly took care of his turgid phallus problem. She was pulling the dress back on by the time he made it to the shore. He felt a disappointment as he pulled his clothes back on, not easy because he was wet.

They walked back to the cabin and on the way, he investigated a large web between two trees. In the centre of the web was a large, black spider with an orange hourglass marking on its back. She looked over his shoulder and shuddered.

“I think that it’s a black widow spider,” he said to her.

“It is. I hate spiders but don’t kill it.”

“I won’t. Live and let live, but it is a nasty looking bastard. The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

“She eats the male after procreation. I hope she was worth it.” She said. And then she thought of Charles Medwin.

As they walked back, she took his hand and he didn’t protest. They looked like an item, lovers, if anybody had been around to see them, but they were quite blissfully alone.

Back at the lodge, Edge lit the fire and went for a shower. She cleaned his sores with antiseptic and couldn’t help noticing that he had started to fill out again. The red rings of infection around the wounds had diminished and he seemed more at peace with himself. She looked at the old gunshot wound on his side.

“It’s still red after all these years. Did it hurt?”

“I was in agony and it felt like I had been split open with a double-handed sword. It’s the ones that don’t hurt that you need to worry about.”

That evening she cooked paella to use up the frozen prawns and they finished the wine. They both lay on different ends of the sofa and Edge sketched something while she read more of the Life of Pi. It wasn’t too late when he started to yawn.

“Go to bed if you’re tired,” she said to him.

“I think I will. Goodnight, Clarita. Back to reality tomorrow.”

“I’m dreading it.”

When he had gone, she looked at the sketch he had been doing. It was a pen drawing of her reading a book. She smiled despite the tears that suddenly came to her eyes.

“Damn my body and its timing. Damn it to hell.”


The next morning, they had a leisurely breakfast and she stripped the beds and tidied up, while he packed the car. They made a last sweep and he dropped off the key at the brick house. They drove back to Bogota, mainly in silence, seemingly mulling their thoughts over. He dropped her off at her apartment block and they both seemed to be suffering from a sudden awkwardness.

“Goodbye, Mark. I hope this isn’t addio.”

“It isn’t. I’ll look you up next time I’m in the capital, but it will be good to get back to the boys at Pasto.”

“Thank you, I’ve had a lovely time,” she said and kissed him on the cheek.

“Promise me something, Clarita. Wear that green dress again. The one you wore at that restaurant.”

She smiled, “But you’ve seen just about everything.” But not the lotus flower that hides in the forest.

“It’s never enough,” he said.

How true, she agreed.

She kissed his cheek again and went inside the apartments, lugging her bag. Edge shook his head and drove back to his hotel. By lunchtime the next day he was landing at Pasto and was back to reality. Whenever he thought about the time at the lake, it was tinged with a degree of sadness. His cot and medical bergen were still there and he drew his rifle from the armoury, got changed back into fatigues and put Mr Skippy in his smock inside pocket.

The dream was over.

© Blown Periphery 2022