"Under the Mango Tree" is the Jamaicans.com 2009 Short Story Contest Winner. Congrats to the writer, Bandanna.
Culture

Under the Mango Tree

Lora had been going to Jamaica for years. She knew the runnings, she knew the hustle. She had made many friends and she understood the struggle that led them to do the things she had witnessed. She didn’t like it; she hated to see good people resort to bad behavior in order to put food on the table. She helped where she could, but she never partook in the “pleasures” she’d seen so many tourists indulge in. No, Lora went to Jamaica to unwind, to recharge and to help where she could. She’s had enough heart break in her life, Jamaica was her healing place and she wasn’t about to mix the two.

***

George sat on the edge of the property under the mango tree watching her. He wondered how he could approach her without scaring her off. He’d seen her turn down every man who’d tried to make advances. George just wanted to make conversation; he wanted to know why such a lovely woman came to this beach every year alone. Most women George had seen who came alone eventually ended up with some company. Not her. She spent her days in the sand reading; she went next door and enjoyed a little medi with the Rasta man, all the while declining anything more. Never rude; always smiling, she was beautiful. George watched as she called out to the fruit lady. He admired how she always noticed the hardest workers and lined their pockets with something. Her smile was genuine and it never failed to stir his emotions. Why did this foreign woman draw him so intensely? George had never looked twice at foreign women in general. There were times when he’d been offered, money stuck in his pocket, words whispered in his ear. George always told them he was there for their security and he could not keep them safe with such distractions. Every morning George went home to his modest shelter alone. It had been three years since him and Baby Lee had broken things off. He didn’t miss the drama that woman brought to his life.

***

Lora felt his eyes on her again. It unnerved her that she could tell his presence even before she saw him. She knew the days he worked, she knew his shift, and she even knew his name. George. In the three years since he had been hired here at her favorite resort, he had not said one word to her. After 10 years of vacationing in Jamaica she had heard all the lines. She could spot the players a mile away, but most of them had given up on her. They knew she was not interested and they seemed to respect her more for it. George never said a word to her. She realized that was the second time she had thought those words… why did she want him to talk to her? Why did he draw her so? He took his place under the mango tree every evening and he stood guard all night. Even tho she would not admit it to herself she looked forward to seeing him in that chair under the mango tree. She felt safe when George was on duty.

***

George watched as she packed up her book and sun block, wrapped her fresh mango and pineapple in her towel and headed back to her condo. He knew she would come out to sit on her balcony later but he had lost his chance to speak to her. Silently he cursed himself, what the heck would he say to her anyway? Why did he want to talk to that foreign woman? Who cares why she comes alone every year. There could be nothing between them. George was sure of that.

***

Lora turned up the music and made her way to the kitchen to clean up the afternoon dishes before dinner. She could see him perched on his chair out the kitchen window. He looked angry. This disturbed her as he always seemed so even tempered. Just then the knife she was washing slipped and cut a slit in the palm of her hand. The crimson color quickly filled the sink. She jumped back and grabbed the towel off the counter. Wiping the cut she looked at the wound. It was deep. Lora had nothing here in her apartment that could bandage such a wound. She made her way down the stairs and to the bar clutching her towel wrapped hand. The bartender quickly jumped into action offering her another towel as the one she had was already blood soaked, he called out for George to come. Lora swallowed hard. She refused to take her eyes off her own bleeding hand and look his way.

***

George was already on his feet and moving toward them when Clive called out. He had seen her coming and he had seen the blood. Why his own blood felt like ice coursing through his veins he could not say, nor did he care about anything but getting to her. And then he was there and he was holding her hand keeping pressure on it and telling Clive to get the first aid kit from the front desk.
Lora looked up at him and their eyes met. She did not know if the dizzy feeling was due to the blood loss or the worry she saw in his gaze. Somehow he sensed she needed a chair and he gently led her to one. George kneeled in front of her and Clive brought the first aid kit. With the tenderness of a nurse George’s big hands cleaned and dressed her wound without a word. When he was done he looked back to her face. George spoke his first words to Lora that day: “You must be more careful sweet one; I can’t bear to see you bleeding.”

***

They talked for hours every day thereafter. They laughed till they cried. They both felt a connection like no other and one year from that day Lora married George under that mango tree.

About the author

BandannaBandanna