The Ghost of Timor – Ch.8 – Sally

“Now you’ve listened to my story
Here’s the point that I have made
Chicks were born to give you fever
Be it Fahrenheit or Centigrade.”

– Peggy Lee

There was only one problem with Sally. No. That is too easy. Let me go back to the beginning.

I can’t remember the day I met Sally. We had been working in the same office in Canberra for over a year before we ever spoke. I mean to say that we might have made small talk at lunch or a morning tea, but I don’t remember it. I must have been aware of her existence-we sat only a few metres apart-but cannot for the life of me remember the day we were introduced let alone became friends.

In retrospect, I think the day we bonded was when I came back from Queensland with the news that I had met Alison and that I was going to visit her the following weekend. After giving Sally the blow-by-blow account of how I met Alison, she came with me into the city to buy some massage oil and a blindfold for my impending liaison. It was an unfamiliar experience for me to have a gal-pal cheering on my happiness from the sideline.

As Alison and my relationship grew, Sally would eagerly probe me for details, and she seemed to be genuinely excited about our budding romance to succeed. But she was also a quick wit, and I copped my fair share of good, matured teasing from her over Alison and my antics, too.

“Keep your fluids up!” she would remind me just before I left for a weekend in Sydney. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”

That last one was always delivered with a smile and a wink, which kept me guessing at her level of seriousness. If I hadn’t been so enamored with Alison, I would have wondered if Sally was flirting with me. But I was, so I didn’t.

But to see her again now in Timor, the last place I ever expected to see her, was just the shot in the arm I needed. Months had passed since I’d first landed and with the operation now settling into a steady rhythm, I was becoming bored and depressed. Bored because there was nothing to do other than work, drink, and wank. And depressed too. Even though I knew my chances of survival here were now very high and that I would soon likely be going home a much richer man. Because when I got home, I wasn’t going back to any happily ever after. I had nothing to live for.

But now that Sally was here, her girl-next-door face beaming with a huge smile and a naughty twinkle in her eye, I suddenly forgot about my future problems. I had someone to talk to. Someone from my hometown. Someone that I trusted.

How she got there exactly was no mystery. Sally was junior “aircraftsman” the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Not a pilot or ground crew, but in one of those myriad of other roles that the military seems to need to keep the bullet chuckers of all nations shooting at each other. And which, for some stupid reason, they always seem to duplicate-or triplicate in this case-with the other services. Yes, Sally was a translator.

After completing her basic RAAF training, she had been found suitable for language training. They had sent her back to her hometown of Melbourne to learn how to speak and translate Indonesian or more correctly; Bahasa Indonesia. In a land of over 700 local languages, Bahasa was the lingua franca of Indonesia. It can be quite a trip to listen to as Dutch lone words heavily influenced it. It is easy to be under the impression that you almost comprehend the strange combination of Western European and Southeast Asian languages. You hear the occasional clearly understandable word, but you can’t understand. You still have to learn it from first principles.

Sally was as adept in Bahasa as the next translator, but she had another string to her bow. In the lead up to the Timor emergency, the Australian military had rounded up as many translators as they could teach, and teachers. The students were given a crash course in Tetum, the language of Timor. Their training hadn’t been completed by the time we went in, so we had to make do with whoever we could get. This including some the locals who claimed that they could speak English. But three months in, the first Australian translators arrived and Sally was amongst them.

“When did you arrive?” I asked, fumbling to make small talk while not swearing like a sailor.

“Three days ago. We have been acclimatising in the lines next to the airport.” Letting new comers adjust to the heat and humidity over a few days and not over taxing them was standard practice. Much the same as resting a camp as you ascend a mountain.

“And you’ve been waiting three days to come and visit me? Some friend you are,” I teased.

“Shut up, idiot!” Sandy retorted with a smile. “I had to do some sightseeing and visit Disneyland first. And besides, you haven’t exactly advertised your whereabouts!”

“I’m on a secret mission and I didn’t want to paint ‘spy base’ on my door just in case it scared away the pizza boy.”

“You have pizzas?!”

“No. No, we don’t.”

We continued with our banter and catch up for another hour, and I felt myself relaxing and forgetting all my previous woes. Sandy had a disarming manner and a self-deprecating sense of humour that I had never encountered in a woman before. She was the kind of girl that was very comfortable in her own skin and would have been happy to be doing shots with the boys or cheering her team on at the footy.

Sandy was fully briefed on all my activities, so when she asked what I had been doing, I was more than happy to share all the boring details. I tried to spice it up by letting her know we were still keeping our eye on the Indonesian army. They were just a few miles away, over the border. The local militias hadn’t been disarmed entirely and would take pot-shots at any poor unfortunate who strayed into harm’s way.

“We keep hearing rumblings about their plans for something ‘big’ but so far it’s all just been talk. No one thinks they can mount any serious action that would threaten us here.”

“So it is all pretty quiet here, then? You have finally caught up on your angry letters to the editor.”

“Pretty much.”

“Or have you just been wanking every night?”

I almost choked on my drink when she snuck that carefully timed barb in.

“You can leave anytime you like you know,” I said, trying to regain composure.

“Not until you’ve shown me around your flat.”

Realising that she had discovered my secret lair, I led Sandy into my private area behind the packing cases. I hadn’t wanted anyone to suspect that I was living in my air-conditioned office. I had made the passage as narrow as I could and still squeeze through and hidden the gap behind some camouflage netting that I’d “found”.

As I lifted it aside so that Sandy could squeeze through, she smiled and said, “What a gentleman. I was going to give you the ass, but now…”

Not quite understanding what she meant, Sandy grinned at me and turned side on to the passage, which brought her face to face with me. “Don’t mind me,” she said, “just a little frottage between friends.” And with that, she slid her body past me, her breasts grazing my ribs, and her hand steadying itself on my arm. I instantly felt a rush of blood and a sense of dizziness that I last had two years earlier when I had met Alison. At that same moment, I suddenly looked at Sandy in an entirely new light.

I showed her into my humble home, which was furnished with a camp bed, a reading desk and chair, and a few other items of furniture. It was clean and tidy but I thanked God that I had refused all the hard-core porn that been offered to me recently. I had standards and in that moment; that had been a wise decision. I could tell that Sandy was a little disappointed by my lack of comfortable surroundings, but I had tried and the local Ikea had gone out of business recently.

“So this is where you do your wanking, then?” Sandy asked, her tongue only half in her cheek.

“Do you see any porn in here?” I replied, somewhat defensively.

“No. Why not? Have you had lady friends over recently?”

“I would like to, but there is a distinct lack of talent in Dili at this time.”

“We’ll have to do something about that then, won’t we?” Sandy said as she winked at me and let herself out the door. I felt myself stiffen involuntarily as hormones poured into my system. I stood there for a few moments, wondering what had just happened.

Sandy was lovely. Sandy was funny. Sandy was sexy.

Yes, there was only one problem with Sandy. Sandy was married.

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