The Charm – Chapter 3


Jemma trails behind, jealous of her friend’s ability to live for the moment. She sighs. Those qualities weren’t in her genetic makeup, although she’d broken many of her self-imposed laws by agreeing to this impromptu holiday without planning every detail or discussing every option.

“I have to pee,” she yells at Traci, competing with three nearby boom-boxes, all blaring different songs. Traci studies her friends strained face for a moment as if weighting her need to shop against Jemma’s discomfort, then decisively grabs Jemma’s wrist in an iron grip and snakes through the crowd.

“C’mon, we’ll use the toilet in here. I need to go too,” she shouts, dragging Jemma towards a bar decorated as a tropical hut, her strength belying her slight frame.

They have already jostled their way up the crowded bar’s steps when Jemma notices the large central stage. Bikini-clad Thai girls gyrate woodenly upon it under the hot eyes and raucous comments of male onlookers. Jemma sees an older Thai woman moving towards the stage carrying a piece of bamboo. She is repelled when the woman lashes a dancer across the legs in a well-practiced move. The Thai woamn then yells abuse at the girls too far away to strike before returning to tend the bar. The chastised girl winces until the pain fades then makes more of an effort to interest the audience in her body.

Jemma winces too and jams her feet into the pavement, pulling Traci to a stop.

“I’m not going in there.”

Confused by the disgust in Jemma’s voice Traci halts her headlong rush and looks around the choked bar. A bunch of uniformed American sailors notice the two attractive girls hesitating in the doorway and nudge their mates. Shaved heads turn from the stage and shouts and whistles erupt from the booths as ths sailors vie for the girls’ attention.

Traci tutts in annoyance before turning around and pushing  Jemma backwards into the crowded street. Taking her hand again she yanks Jemma away. They pass bar after bar, rejecting each as similarly afflicted by loud drunken men. Traci ploughs onwards with determination. Jemma lets herself be towed, impressed and slightly incredulous at Traci’s unexpected leadership.

Traci escapes the crush and noise of the market by turning suddenly down a dimly lit, stinking, rubbish-strewn alley. A deep culvert, full of sluggishly moving black liquid, runs along one side. Jemma notes the absence of a fence to prevent pedestrians falling into it. High walls topped with broken glass line the alley, rising well over their heads. Immediately Jemma’s slightly drunken state dissipates. She remembers warnings about tourists not frequenting places like this.

“Let’s go back, this is disgusting.”

Traci, as usual, can’t see the problem.

“You want to pee, so pee,” she says, then rolls her eyes at Jemma’s obvious mistrust of their dark, filthy surrounds. Without waiting for an answer she swings her pack off and thrusts it, and her other shopping bags, into Jemma’s reluctant arms. Traci unbuttons her jeans and struggles to push the skin tight fabric down before squatting near the culvert.

“I’m busting. I’ll go first while you keep a look-out.”

“Well, don’t fall in that drain. I swear I’ll leave you there if you do. There’s not enough Dettol in this whole city that would make me share a bed with you after that.”

They’d taken the last cheap ‘couple’s deal’ which the travel agent found for them. Sharing a bed wasn’t an issue for them. As close friends since kindergarten they’d slept in the same bed on many occasions. Given time to think, Jemma could only dwell on the looming problem of actually finding their accommodation in this huge, sprawling city of fifteen million people.

(Chapter 4)

Published in: on Wednesday, 29 October, 2008 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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