The sun was definitely westering as we turned off the main highway onto an unpaved forestry road leading into the pines near Rotorua. It was a weekday, so our chances of having the swimming hole to ourselves were average, rather than awful.
Perhaps that needs a little explanation. Kerosene Creek is one of those places the native inhabitants of tourist destinations keep to themselves, in order to remain sane. It’s a hot-water river, very poorly signposted; either you know where it is already or you’re not local enough to know about it at all. There’s a waterfall that does for a shower, then a deepish pool where one can soak, in pristine natural surroundings if one ignores the large sign warning of the danger of meningococcal infection that comes with putting one’s head underwater.
“Okay, let’s see… can you remember which is girls and which is boys, Will?”
“I think that clump over there is the girl’s changing rooms, and this one right here is ours.”
“I don’t see any buildings…” Alex said uncertainly.
“No, the clumps themselves are the changing rooms. If we put facilities here, people might start using them!”
James was already wearing his togs instead of shorts, so he just whipped his shirt off and ran for the river; Darwin retreated behind a bush, where he began to reconstruct the function and use of modern swimwear from first principles. And so it was that I was alone when I stepped out from behind our changing-bush and was confronted by Alex in a beautifully simple one-piece which somehow conveyed her perfection of form better than nudity could, the golden light streaming through the branches, shadow and radiance making a pattern on the fabric that accentuated her curves. I clapped my folded towel over the front of my togs, then tried to act as though I’d been meaning to do that even if I hadn’t bumped into her. She gave me a tolerant little smile.
“It’s all right, Will. I mean, you don’t treat me like an object, and… well, to tell you the truth I can smell the hormone surge every time you see me.” She was grinning.
“Well, I just… uh, I mean… we’re, you know… not meant to, uh… objectify -” she placed a finger on my lips, and I silently berated myself for not buying the next size up.
“You treat me like a person, and then every once in a while your biology gets in the way. But you make an effort to keep it under control, and that’s the important thing.” Her grin broadened. “Now… race you to the pool!”
Not that it was much of a race, given that I was waddling, but it meant she had her back turned and was wading out into the deep when I plunged in up to the neck and stayed there.