His head pounded and pulsed in time with the mass of shadow and colour circling the pair. Shapes swayed to the beat of the over-powering music. She smelt of expensive perfume and cheap liqueurs; enough to blear his eyes, though his vision already had naught but bitter-sweet memories of a time when focus came easy. His mouth gaped wetly as he leaned in for the kiss.
Spun about, a fist smacked him solidly in the eye. His vision had enough, threw a few things in a battered suitcase and beat a hasty retreat. As the chair he was in sailed backwards, and him in it, he paused to wonder how his brain could so distinctly hear the crashing white light that flashed in the ebon vacuum behind his eyes.
He came up swinging wildly, half-blind, but half-mad with anger too. A chair was plucked up single-handed and rolled up over his head into a double grip. Somewhere between intending to dash his opponents brains out and lurching forward, bent almost double, the chair was pulled out of his hands from behind.
He thought to catch the knee that snapped towards him. He succeeded, but with his already throbbing eye. Collapsing sideways, he curled on the floor. The shadow and colour closed in on him, pressing him down with many hands. A face, dark of aspect and yellow of eye, declared, "Fetch a steak."
Declan held the raw meat to his eye, sitting on his jacket atop the white sand, looking out across Jumby Bay. The sun had almost set and dappled shadows rode the dark blue water as a lone speed boat, with whooping water-skier in hot pursuit, skimmed the surface. He could smell the faint whiff of brine, and the tantalizing smells of a beach barbecue thirty or forty yards down the sands.
"Here, take this." It was Connor, the bride's brother. He held out a plastic bag filled with ice. "You'll get an infection off that."
He sat down beside Declan and said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have hit you."
Declan pressed the ice to his face. Unsure what to do with it, he held the steak in his other hand. "It's fine. I didn't hurt your knee, did I?"
Connor snorted a laugh. "Ah, it'll be grand." He was silent a moment. "It's just..."
"No need to say it. I was out of order. Carrying on with your mother... she's a well-preserved woman... but I shouldn't have done it. I can imagine how I'd have felt if it had been you, with my mother."
"That's not likely," Connor said.
"What are you implying?"
"Not a thing. I just have too much respect for your father."
Declan nodded. "That's under- hey, I didn't think you'd met my father before today."
"I hadn't, but he makes a wonderful first impression."
"I suppose. He's awful plausible."
"Are you coming back?" Connor asked.
"I'm going to sit a spell. Clear my head."
Connor followed Declan's gaze out over the water. "She's beautiful isn't she? Antigua."
Declan nodded. "And then we arrive."
"You can take the wedding out of Ireland, but you can't take the Irish out of the wedding."
Connor got up off the sand. "Don't leave it too late. She's wanting more photographs tomorrow."
"More? Lord preserve us from more photographs."
"She wants it to be memorable."
They exchanged a wry look and both laughed weakly.
"I'll need to be careful what side of my face I show the camera," Declan said.
"No problem," Connor said. "We'll use plenty of concealer."
"Concealer? That's a sly trick."
Connor winked. "This isn't my first wedding."
Declan sat a while after Connor had gone. The speedboat was no longer visible, but the distant putt of the engine and the faint holler of its tow was just audible. The ice had melted in the bag. He pinched a hole in it, letting the cool water drain into the sand, then crumpled the bag and stuffed it in his pocket. In another time, and at another place he might have left it there, but the sand and the sea was so perfect he couldn't imagine defiling it.
He looked to the hotel, thinking on an early start and more photographs. Then he looked at the steak, still in his hand, and instead, walked slowly towards the barbecue, drawn to the noise, the scents and the promise of new adventure.