When I asked Omar about going to Ocho Rios, he was delighted at the offer. He was so happy, in fact, that it actually made me feel guilty about the whole Kevin situation. I couldn’t tell him that it had been someone else’s idea to invite him, and that I was completely infatuated with said person.
“Get it together, Nadiya,” I muttered to myself as I was getting ready the next Saturday. “Omar is a great guy, and you’re going to the beach with him. What could be better?” I tried to ignore the voice in my head that piped up at that moment and said, Going to the beach with Kevin!
We had decided that the easiest thing would be for the two of us to go down with Jeremy and his date, Amanda, in one car. The drive down to Ochi was one that I remembered well from when I had lived in Jamaica, and before we started on the road that day, not one that I was honestly looking forward to. As a child, I had been terrified to go across the narrow bridge with no side railings known as Flat Bridge. I had had visions of the car going over the side and slowly sinking down…down…down…into the bottomless water of Bog Walk. But now that I was older (and the bridge much safer), it didn’t take me long to realize that the drive was fantastic! The transition from town to country made for some beautiful scenery, and I made Jeremy stop the car several times so that I could take pictures of the mountains, the sea, and any other thing I found interesting. The rest of them didn’t seem to mind too much because one or the other of them ended up buying something from roadside stands practically every time that we stopped.
We had a great time on the drive, listening to music on the radio, singing along, eating mango and other fruits, and just making jokes. For those couple of hours, I was able to put aside my apprehension of the day to come, and started to think that I was being silly to worry myself about Lily and Kevin. Like Adrianne had said, if he was with Lily, then I should just forget about him. Omar was his usual charming and entertaining self, and Amanda was very friendly, clearly eager to impress Jeremy and anyone around him.
When we arrived at James Bond Beach, the last ones to get there, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t a couples’ event after all. So it seemed like my worries about everybody being paired off and having to watch Lily and Kevin fawn all over each other had been unfounded. It was clearly just about a group of friends having a good time at the beach. There were seven other people there, plus the four of us. As soon as we walked on to the sand and Lily spotted us, she rushed over to greet us with a wide smile. “Hi, you guys! I’m so glad that you made it, Nadiya. Come on, you have to come and meet everyone.” Lily grabbed me by the wrist to pull me over to meet everyone else, and the rest of my group trailed behind.
I didn’t see Kevin among the group that Lily and I were walking up to, and for an instant, I felt panic. As much as I didn’t want to watch him and Lily together, I was hungry for any opportunity to see him, and that’s part of what this day was about for me. Truth be told, I was dying to see him with his shirt off. “Where’s Kevin?” I asked as lightly as I could manage. “Did he not come after all?”
“Oh, he’s in the water. As usual! Every time we come to the beach, I can’t get him to stay on dry land,” she complained with a roll of her eyes and a grin. I had a sudden urge to choke the girl.
For the first half-hour that we were there, Kevin was little more than a bobbing head. I spent most of that time getting to know the other people there, most of whom I hadn’t met before. Everyone seemed almost as friendly as Lily did, but as soon as they heard my accent, they started talking to me like I was a tourist. If anyone else asks me what I think of Jamaican food, Jamaican living or Jamaican people, I’m going to lose it, I thought after the third or fourth inquiry. This is my culture too! But I knew the real reason I was getting irritated with everyone was just because of my jealousy of Lily and Kevin.
The sun was hot and blazing right down on us, so it didn’t take long for Omar to suggest that we go in the water as well. “Come on, Nadiya, we’re going to melt if we stand up in this hot sun all day.” I appreciated the way Omar’s eyes lit up when I took off my cover up, and was relieved at the idea of getting away from the group and going to where Kevin was, but I was disappointed to see that as we headed towards the water, Kevin was now coming out.
“Hey, Nadiya,” he called as he approached us. “I’m glad you guys could make it,” he greeted me, and then looked at Omar. “Hey, what’s up?” he said with a nod and a hand pound, the typical male greeting. Omar responded in kind. How sweet, I thought wryly, maybe they’ll become friends!
Omar and I splashed around in the water for a while, but the whole time I had one eye on the shore, trying to watch any interaction between Lily and Kevin. The two of them were always at each other’s sides, and at one point, they were play-wrestling. I couldn’t look away as Kevin swept up a screaming Lily in his arms and pretended to drop her on her head before gently placing her back down. They looked very happy and very comfortable together.
Omar’s hungry belly eventually brought us back to land in search of food. Jeremy had secured beach chairs for the four of us in the meantime, and my stuff happened to be placed on the chair closest to where Kevin was sitting. I was secretly glad to see that Lily had finally left his side and was off talking to a couple of the other girls. I had been starting to wonder if they were handcuffed together.
As I sat down beside him, I tried my best not to stare at his perfectly sculpted chest and arms, but it was hard. The guy clearly found time in his busy schedule to go to the gym. A lot. Suddenly I wondered if I looked okay, and what the water had done to my hair. What if it dries into a big frizzball? Why am I saying ‘what if’? I know it’s going to- “I’m going to grab us some food. I’ll be right back, alright?” Omar’s voice blared into my thoughts.
“Oh, OK, sure, thanks.” Jeremy and Amanda were engrossed in their own conversation, so I found myself, for the moment, alone with Kevin.
“So Nadiya, yu see how Jamaica nice?” he declared with a smile, making a broad sweep with his hand at the beach and the water. “You cyaan live like this in cold Canada, now can you?”
“OK, fine, maybe not for a lot of the year, but still! We have very nice summers there, you know!”
He laughed. “I jus’ messin’ wit’ you, Nadiya. Lily said that Toronto’s her favourite place in the world to visit. She was going on and on about it after we saw you in the shoe store the other day.”
My smile got a little less bright at the mention of Lily. But I didn’t want to show my jealousy. I knew I needed to be mature about the whole thing. “I like Lily a lot,” I announced. I tried to sound as sincere as I could. “She’s a really sweet girl. You have very good taste.”
He looked right at me with a look that I couldn’t interpret, and for a moment I felt uncomfortable. “Yeah, she is great, isn’t she?” he said finally, looking over to where Lily was standing. “Everybody loves her. Especially my mother. My mother and her mother are close friends from they were young, so she thinks that Lily is just the greatest thing on earth.” He turned back to look at me. “And you? How are things going with you and Omar?”
“Good.” For a second, I considered being honest with him, and saying, The only thing is, I’m still single. Omar’s not my boyfriend, and I don’t want people to view him that way. And I don’t want him to view things that way either. I’m still interested in meeting and dating other people. I’ve only been in school here for a month. But instead what I said was, “Things are going really well. I like him a lot.” My pride wouldn’t allow me to say what I was really thinking, not after he had just told me how perfect Lily was.
“Well, so I hear, everybody says that you two are madly in love.”
I felt slightly annoyed to hear that people were talking about me, mostly since they weren’t speaking the truth, but I didn’t want my annoyance to show. “Oh, really?” I said lightly. “I didn’t know so many people on campus were interested in my love life.”
He didn’t answer, but instead looked past me over my shoulder. I turned to look behind me, and felt disappointment and dismay. Disappointment that Omar was returning, which meant that more conversation with Kevin would have to wait until later, and dismay at my disappointment, which meant that I was being unfair to my date.
Anyway, further conversation with Kevin wasn’t going to happen that day. Omar never left my side after that, except for once when I went to the bathroom, when he had no choice. I suspected that he would have followed me in if he could. He always seemed to be touching me in some way, whether it was his arm around my shoulders, his hand on my leg, or his hand playing with my hair. By the time that we were ready to go back to town, my patience had worn out and I had to admit to myself that, great as he was, and although I generally enjoyed his company, Omar definitely liked me more than I liked him, the Kevin situation notwithstanding. The more time that we spent together, the more smitten he seemed, but he was already moving dangerously close to the “just friends” category for me.
Why does Kevin have to ruin everything? I thought, annoyed. If I hadn’t run into him at the shoe store, I’d probably be just as crazy about Omar as he is about me. But seeing Kevin and Omar beside each other all day had unfortunately made the latter much less appealing.
In spite of it all though, I did have a good time that day. It had been the perfect day for the beach, with only an occasional white fluffy cloud in the sky. It had been hot, but not humid, and there had been a constant cool breeze blowing. The sand was near white, and the water was crystal clear and had been the perfect temperature. I felt happy to be there, but I also couldn’t help feeling envious of the many Jamaicans that could enjoy beaches like this every weekend, beaches that people travelled from literally all over the world to experience. I was sure many of them took it for granted.
We all said our goodbyes in the parking lot, and while Kevin was talking to Kamal and some other guys, Lily jogged over to me. “Nadiya, let me give you my telephone number. We need to get together sometime and hang out!”
“Oh, good idea!” I said, trying to sound as bright and cheery as she did. I begrudgingly pulled out my cell phone and plugged in her name and number.
“Make sure you call me now,” she trilled, giving me a big hug. “I’m going to take you all around town, we’ll have a great time!”
Although I’d taken the number, I honestly didn’t plan to call. What on earth would we talk about, how in love she and Kevin are? No thank you. Kevin came over and gave me a hug goodbye as well, and I hoped that nobody had noticed that I’d had my eyes closed while his arms were around me. He still had his shirt off when he hugged me, and I was sure I was going to melt. I felt guilty about taking such pleasure in his hug with his girlfriend standing two feet away, but I couldn’t help myself.
In the car on the way back to town, I was very quiet. I decided to pretend to fall asleep, just so that I wouldn’t have to be talkative and so that I wouldn’t have to deal with Omar and his affections. I just didn’t feel like being touched anymore.
I can’t blame Kevin for picking Lily, I thought to myself, eyes closed. She’s so pretty and she’s so sweet. And it always helps when your families know each other and get along so well. Plus, they’re both in medical school… She’s the perfect package. She’s been right here with him for years and will continue to be right here with him, and I’m just a foreigner. There’s no way that I could compare to her.
A couple of hours later, we were back in Kingston. Jeremy dropped me and Omar at the gate to Rex, and headed up to his parents’ house to give them back the car. I was delighted to see Arlene coming in the gate at almost the same time. It avoided any awkward attempts at a kiss from Omar. Once again, he’d looked very disappointed.
“So how was your day?” asked Arlene, after we parted ways with Omar. “You had a good time?”
“Yeah, it was fun, but really, could Lily and Kevin be any more sickening? They were always together.”
“So is she definitely his girlfriend then?”
“Yep, he confirmed my suspicions today when we were talking. They may have been just friends before, but she’s his girlfriend now, and from the sounds of things she’s perfect for him. Isn’t that the best way to start, as friends? So that’s that.”
“Well, don’t fret, yu hear?” consoled Arlene, rubbing my arm. “That just means it wasn’t meant to be. You’re just looking to have fun for a year anyway, and maybe his mind was set on a serious relationship. You’re a beautiful girl, Nadiya, and there are many boys on this campus who are dying to get to know you. There has to be one out there who’s just as good as him! And what about Omar, we can’t forget about him!”
I grimaced. “We can’t?”
My friend let out a loud laugh. “You’re not interested in him at all anymore, are you?”
“Isn’t that terrible? But no, not at all. Today clinched it. The thing is, I think today clinched the opposite for him!”
“Well, he’ll get over it, I suppose. Anyway, there are many more boys at UWI that can keep you entertained.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping. I think it’s time that I meet someone new!”
After catching up with my other flatmates, I decided that, even though it was still early, it really was time for bed. It’s amazing how tired you can get from lying around at the beach all day! It didn’t take me long to fall asleep at all and I slept well. I didn’t remember much about my dreams the next morning, but I knew that Kevin had been in all of them.