When the women gathered for breakfast, Amber asked, “Who’s up for another adventure?”
Lizette replied, “Sure! What do you have in mind?”
Amber’s eyes sparkled as she said, “You’re going to love this, Liz. We have an appointment to visit the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation center. We’ll get a guided tour, listen to a presentation about the animals, and participate in the flamingo show! Caribbean Flamingos are the highlight of the zoo. Apparently, this is the breeding ground for these birds.”
“Flamingo show?” Lizette asked almost incredulously. “I can hardly wait!”
Amber commented, “I knew you would love it, girlfriend! Our tour starts at 1:00 PM.”
“Do we have the morning free to spend time on the beach?” Pru asked. “I think there’s another volleyball game today.”
Ellowyne stifled a yawn. “I’m going to take a nap until lunch.”
Her friends laughed. They were all surprised when Ellowyne was willing and able to keep up with them. Usually she would bow out of most activities, begging off because of her ennui and fatigue. But the only activity in which she did not participate was nightclubbing, and that was because she was in love with Rufus and didn’t see the point of meeting other men.
After a leisurely lunch of baked crab and conch salad, the four friends headed for the Ardastra Gardens. They were early for their tour, so they wandered around to look at the birds. Lizette was immediately enchanted by the birds. She had her binoculars and shared them with her friends. Prudence wrote down the characteristics of the birds, and Ellowyne and Amber took pictures. They saw yellow-breasted bananaquits, yellow-headed blackbirds, and common yellowthroats that had not migrated back to places with northern climates. There were aptly named painted buntings who boasted a kaleidoscope of colors on their bodies and equally colorful parrots. The women were surprised to see birds that were common in the US, like pigeons, doves, and even robins. They saw different types of hummingbirds, several that were endemic to the Bahamas. Ellowyne noted that there was a rare hummingbird called the rufous hummingbird, or Selasphorus rufus, and she snapped a picture to send to her sweetheart. All of the women giggled over the brown boobies, but they didn’t laugh when they saw a booby dive for some fish. They watched cockatoos and Cuban parrots, and listened to the songs of the mockingbirds. And then it was time for their tour to begin!
The attendant giving the tour was a little surprised that four adults rather than a classroom of children were taking the field trip. Amber explained that they wanted to learn more about the animals and the gardens, and Prudence piped up and said, “Our friend Lizette is planning to go to veterinary school to be an avian vet.” Of course Lizette blushed. But the tour guide was intrigued, and told Lizette that they always needed vets with that and skill set, so perhaps she could think about them when she finished school. Ellowyne, Amber, and Pru thought the guide might be flirting with her, but Lizette seemed oblivious.
The guided tour took the women through the lush gardens of the facility. They deeply inhaled the fragrance of Chinese hibiscus, lignum vitae, allamanda, and frangipani. Ellowyne especially loved the orchids, since they were her favorite flower. There were hanging vines, coconut palm trees, bromeliads, mango and papaya trees, and bougainvillea. The guide told Lizette that frangipani was most fragrant at night. Animals—many of them rescued–lived in the rich vegetation. The women were delighted with the lemurs and monkeys, pot-belly pigs, and the so-ugly-they’re-cute hutia, also known as stout rodents. They shuddered at the reptiles, especially at the rock iguanas and snakes. And then they saw more birds—macaws, swans, and peafowl. They got to hand-feed the lory parrots! Before they knew it, it was time to watch the march of the Caribbean flamingos. The majestic birds, who were wandering in a central location, actually began marching in a large circle.
All too soon, the adventure in Ardastra Gardens was finished. Before the women went back to their hotel, the guide pulled Lizette aside to ask her something. She was beaming when she returned to her friends. “Keanu asked me out tonight! He’s taking me to dinner and, afterwards, we’ll meet you all at the nightclub.”
Naturally, Ellowyne, Amber, and Prudence were excited for Lizette. Ellowyne suggested, “Hey, let’s get you ready for tonight. I’ll help you with your clothes and jewelry, Amber can do your makeup, and Pru will do your hair.”
“Better yet,” Pru replied. “Let’s take you to get your hair professionally braided. If we go now, you’ll easily be ready for your date!”
And so they went. By the time Keanu picked up Lizette, she was beautifully clad and gorgeously coiffed, and her makeup was subtle but made her face glow. They dined on stewed fish, which was reminiscent of the gumbo Lizette loved when she lived in New Orleans.
Once Amber, Prudence, and Ellowyne were finished getting Lizette ready for her date, they decided to have dinner themselves. They had deep-fried fish, grits, a papaya salad, and rum punch. Afterwards, they strolled along the beach, taking in the smell of the ocean, the warmth of the sand, and the pink, peach, and purple of the evening sky.
Then it was time to join Lizette and Keanu at the nightclub. Amber and Pru applied makeup and perfume, and dressed in their flashiest clothes. Ellowyne said she felt fatigued and declined their invitation to go to the club, preferring to read poetry written by people who lived in the Bahamas. And, of course, to text Rufus.
Amber and Prudence were having a marvelous time at the nightclub. They looked downright gorgeous and danced most of the night. They sipped Mai Tais, rum swizzles, and piña coladas. They also met up with Lizette and Keanu, who was utterly charming and sweet.
Finally, it was time to go back to the hotel. Pru and Amber were exhausted and a little woozy after their drinks, and their feet hurt. Keanu walked Liz back to the hotel and they stayed on the beach for some serious snogging.