The Dutch girl came in just before noon, long after Paul and Lynn had left for work. We smiled at each other, me sheepish and guilty for being in bed, her the same for waking me up. I was still stale and grimy with sleep, so I didn’t extend my hand in greeting.

“I’m Josh,” I said.

“I’m Loora,” she said. Laura.

“Where are you coming from?” I asked, question number two in the backpacker’s guide to conversation.

“Byron Bay,” she smiled. “My friend and I are here only for one night. We go home, to Holland, tomorrow.”

Her voice, her accent, did something to the English language that I liked. Plugged it in, lit it up, made it buzz. A grey sign come suddenly into neon.

“You’re beautiful,” I wanted to say. “Your eyes are a liquid held in place,” I wanted to say.

Laura lowered her pack to the floor, slipped into the empty bunk beneath me, and fell asleep.


In the dark that night, Paul and Lynn teased her about her inability to understand their thick Scottish accent. She said they didn’t speak “normal English.”

“Et’s naut frickin’ abnurml, et’s just en accent, isn tit? Surely yuv gaut Dutch fook ‘oo ‘ave en accent?” Paul said.

“Yah,” Laura said, “but dey speak English normally.”

Laura tired of trying to decipher the Scots, and we suspected she wanted to go to sleep. “Night Juhn Boy,” Paul said to me, and we all laid still and quieted our breathing.

I could feel every turn, every shift Laura made through the metal umbilical of our bunk. She seemed restless, or perhaps I was hopeful.

Who can track time in the anxious dark? Soon Paul’s breathing became a soft scraping. Lynn was either awake or asleep, you could never really be sure.

Laura moved heavily beneath me, and then suddenly her pale face appeared by my elbow, a ghostly moonrise, her blonde hair eerie and alive in the pale window light.

“I cahn’t sleep,” she whispered, then smiled with closed lips.

How long had she lain on her mattress, thinking about this moment? What to say, how to say it, whether to say anything at all. How loud were our bodies in that small room, as I moved my hand out slowly to her face, pressed my fingers along her cheek.

Was she blushing? She smiled and her teeth glowed, then disappeared, as she brought my palm to her lips. My pulse was in my throat and every beat was hunger. The snap of her lips parting, the sharp inhalation of her breath as I pushed my hand further back, into her hair. Tiny sounds that exploded against the walls. The popping of bedsprings as I moved my legs over the side of my bunk, the heavy thump as I dropped down beside her. Someone would wake. Foil an espionage of flesh.

I took her hand and walked to the door. As I slid my towel off the metal rail, she pressed her face into my back, between my shoulder blades, kissed my spine, hooked her hands under my arms and reached up, laying her fingers across my collarbones. It felt like a kind of surrender. A zebra lowering its neck into the startled lion’s jaws. A mutual favour of desire.

After a moment, I pulled open the door and we moved softly down the bright hallway together. The showers here are large and clean.


Drying her skin. God her beautiful skin. I started with her calves, kissed the tendon on the inside of her left knee, moved the towel up her thighs, ran my tongue along the outside of her amber legs and paused to suck the jut of her hipbone.

I ran the towel across her belly, up to the soft ridge of her breasts. Heavy and shy, drawn with tan lines, Loora made a soft growl as I fell upon them, taking the hard nipples between my lips, between my gentle teeth, teasing them with my tongue.

Wrapping the towel around her back, I pulled her to me and licked the small cool beads of water from her throat, one, one, one, small delicate movements, pink and precise, a cat at an evaporating pool.

I hung the towel over our heads, and we kissed, thick and quiet in the fabric darkness, until she pulled away and began to dry me.

When she was finished, we turned on the water again.


I was coaxed awake by some small sound, some small touch. My eyes came open to see a hunch of backpack slip through a closing door.

I hung my head down to look upon the emptiest bunk in the world.

Paul was gone as well, early to work, but Lynn was awake, grinning like every tooth was in on the joke. “Ya doog,” she said.

I smiled and reached down to touch the tingle on my ankle. Moist, cool. A signature of tongue and lips.

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