The Charm – Chapter 1


Traci and Jemma gingerly step off the Tuk-Tuk and it roars away. Wide-eyed with fright and flushing with excitement they survey the busy Bangkok streets that claim them. They are irrefutably lost, dehydrated and a little scared. Where to go and what to do is a matter of too many choices and not enough time to decide.

The confusing crush of people, the noise and unfamiliar pressing wet heat combine to overload their senses. Jemma stands on tiptoe, looking for a space to slip out of the flow of humanity. She pushes at a group of giant Scandinavians who block the way. Someone shoves back. The devil-may-care attitude she’d used to get them this far dwindles. Panic wells within her and a previously unknown claustrophobic reaction threatens to descend.

Their abrupt delivery here is Traci’s fault. They’d left the airport and shouted ‘take us to the shops’  at the the taxi driver who had dumped them at a huge shopping plaza. This wasn’t Thai enough for Traci, and Jemma remembers she had agreed, but wished they’d sat down and planned their new destination with more care. Traci wasn’t known for her planning skills.  She’d turned her back on the plaza and flagged down a passing Tuk-Tuk, stipulating a ‘real Thai market’ to the driver. They’d hung on for a fast, hair-raising ride and now,  here they were, in the middle of a vibrant, solid crush of milling humanity.

Jemma’s mind demands order. An impossible request in the midst of this chaos. Something whips her face. Her senses race to obsess about Traci’s long, black hair that is swirling back and forth with practiced head tosses. As a substitute to the uncontrollable situation it will do. Her eyes dart across Traci’s cute pixie face, looking for flaws. Why did her hair look so clean and light anyway? Why doesn’t she feel the effects of the long flight they’ve just completed, or this country’s humidity that drapes itself over them like a blanket, or the  smog that thickens the air making each breath catch in her throat? Jemma runs a hand through her own blonde hair. It feels like a dirty, wet mop slapped on her scalp.

Traci’s good fortune is galling. Even her makeup looks fresh! Jemma wipes sweat from under her eyes and stares distastefully at hands and shirt sleeves that have smeared her makeup. Already uncomfortable being dolled up to suit Traci’s fashionable urgings, now she’ll be paranoid about the mess her face must look until a mirror is found. If she’d ignored Traci and worn the shirt and casual shorts like she wanted, without any makeup, she’d be able to think more clearly right now. However her busy mind concludes that thinking clearly might be a double-edged sword. She might have to justify to herself why she’d brought Traci to a foreign country to satisfy a whim.

This was all bloody Traci’s fault.

Despite being best friends Jemma was often annoyed by Traci. Being Traci’s fashion accessory was only part of the reason. She would allow Traci to dress her in revealing clothes when they went out to match her friend’s tastes and to keep the peace, but on each occassion Jemma’s shyness would let her down. She’d  turn away the appreciative boys, almost always creating bad feelings that ruined the night for her. Traci, on the other hand, had no problem attending to each and every one of the young men who flocked to her low cleavage and high skirts. She couldn’t understand Jemma’s reticence when it came to enhancing ones assets. If you had a full figure you made the most of it with shameless flirting. Knowing how to accentuate your gifts made a girl glamorous and popular at any outing. Traci saw Jemma’s contentment to fade into the backgroundwait as wasting opportunities to be fawned over. How could anyone not enjoy manipulating the young men who hung around them?

Jemma’s criticism of Traci’s one-track, boy-orientated mind had caused them to bicker unreasonably over the years. Then there was the latest blow up that had threatened the foundations of their friendship. The trigger and reason for this inadvisable holiday.

Traci’s emotions ran close to the surface at the best of times, leaving her vulnerable to Jemma’s cutting remarks about her shallow ways. She liked many other things besides boys!. Makeup, hair and clothes for instance. So what if she blatantly relied on cuteness and a well-proportioned body to get what she wanted? And if she occasionally marred her attractive packaging with impulsiveness bordering on stupidity, wouldn’t Jemma always be there to bail her out?

Traci didn’t realise how dark a shadow her flamboyance created for those around her. She would have been surprised to know of Jemma’s sefl-esteem issues. How she would question herself concerning the size of her boobs, or whether these particular jeans hug her butt like Traci’s did, or whether she was pretty.

Judging by the wolf whistles Jemma got; in a bikini chosen by Traci; she needn’t worry overly about her desirability.

However the seeds of doubt planted by Traci’s pressure to improve her had grown in Jemma.

Externally, they were a pair of slim, pretty, late teenagers, proud to be mistaken for sisters. Under the skin, their opposing traits served as magnetic poles. Despite huge differences, they were strongly bonded.

(Chapter 2)

Published in: on Wednesday, 29 October, 2008 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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