Chapter 38 -- Waiting Time
Tommy scanned the horizon for the tenth time.
“Was the ship under sail, when you left?”
She nodded. “Heading northeast. Daddy had trouble getting the sails set properly, since I refused to help.”
Marvin had never taken to sailing quite as enthusiastically as his daughter. He could hold a course, and trim the sails, but Tommy had never let him handle a tack by himself. His first impulse was to drop the sails and maneuver under power.
So, if he’d been abandoned by Bree, and he had to retrace his course, against the wind, to get her, he’d have to either do it under motor power, or learn how to tack.
He shouldn’t expect to be picked up any time soon.
Tommy shifted on his seat, little more than an unpadded board, trying to find a more comfortable position. With the motorcycle taking up the free space in the middle, it wasn’t likely he’d find one.
“Thanks for coming back to get me.”
She beamed. “I couldn’t leave you. We’re in this together.” Her eyes wavered and looked down at the dog. “Right, Bert?”
The only expression from the pile of fur on the bottom of the hull was his eyes, looking up at her, and then over at Tommy.
“So,” she continued, “You went shopping. I see you didn’t buy any clothes.”
He laughed, and fingered his shirt. It was definitely showing signs of extended wear. “Pretty soon they won’t let me into a restaurant. No, I didn’t buy clothes.”
He reached down to get the saddlebag. It was partly trapped under the rear wheel. “Help me with this.”
Once free, he opened it up and pulled out the laptop.
“Oh, wow.” It looked like it had been through a war. The case was dented, and the latch was sprung.
“It was brand new,” he mumbled, as he cautiously opened it up. Hesitantly, he pressed the power button. For a long pause, there was no response, and then with a flash, the screen lit up. Not too much later, there was a rattle.
“The speaker’s shot. That’s supposed to be the startup chime.”
“What happened to it?”
“I had a crash. I jumped a creek on the motorcycle. I almost made it.”
“Oh, wow. Were they chasing you?”
He shook his head. “No, I was trying to get to the pickup on time. I’d taken back roads to avoid the roadblocks.”
The laptop seemed functional, but it was intent on trying to make a network connection, not very likely out in the lake, far from the city. He shut it down.
“I’m surprised it still works.”
He pulled out his police scanner, and turned it on. The numbers raced madly, hunting for a signal that wasn’t there.
“And finally, this.” He pulled out the cell phone.
She leaned forward, “Does it work?”
“Maybe.” He turned it on, and there was a weak, but usable roam signal. He turned it back off.
“This one isn’t traceable to us at all. I paid cash and never gave my name.”
“So we could use it?”
“Yeah, but we don’t need to. I didn’t really buy it for voice. It’ll let me make an Internet connection, when we’re near a city.”
She was silent, but he could tell her brain was churning.
“Okay, what gives?”
Her eyes were wide, fearful. “Um.” She looked away.
“You want to make a call...,” he prompted.
“Yes.” It was a whisper.
“Keith?” he guessed.
She nodded, not meeting his eyes.
He was angry. I went through all this, and was nearly caught, and she wants to compromise the phone to call her old boyfriend.
His face neutral, and hopefully keeping the anger from modulating his voice, he said.
“Tell me about him. There can’t be any chance that the company would know to monitor his phone.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
Keith Beeman was a senior, two years older than she was, a comic book artist, and rode a motorcycle.
“That’s how I knew how to ride this.” She touched the bike with her toe. “Keith taught me.”
“Bert sniffed it out in the bushes?” He’d wondered.
Keith had taken her on several jaunts about town, before her parents caught on. The most high-minded of those was to a publishing house in Racine that had hired him as an artist intern.
And there were parties, the details of which Bree skimmed over.
But her parents were waiting when she arrived home one morning at dawn.
“Daddy yelled.” She shook her head. “He never used to yell.
“He scared Keith off. I expected a call, but it never came. And then Mom was watching me every second, and they took my phone, so I wasn’t able to call him.”
She looked forlorn. “Could I please, please call him now, before my parents come back?”
He was strongly tempted to turn her down. How public was the showdown? How many people connected Bree to Keith? And just how serious was the company at tracking down all possible connections?
But Bree had come back for him. She’d rescued him, and it wasn’t because she wanted to use his phone.
And what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if she had my only way to contact Kati?
He sighed. “Okay, but try to make it quick.”
She crawled over the bike and sat down beside him on his bench. He handed her the phone. Eagerly she turned it on and started punching numbers. Then she hesitated, bit her lip, and completed the number.
“Almost forgot it.” She shrugged. “Speed dial.”
Tommy could hear the ringing signal. It went on and on. He glanced at his watch. It was Thursday afternoon. He might still be in school, if he had any finals left.
Click. “You’ve reached me. Leave a message.”
Tommy wished he could move away, give her some privacy, but not in a small boat.
But Bree said nothing. She turned the phone off, and angrily handed it back to him.
Her face was a snarl. “Something wrong? Something wrong? He erased the announcement message I made for him! And I could hear....”
“Sandra! I could hear Sandra’s voice in the background. She was with him when he erased my message.”
She sat rigidly, with her arms crossed, wound so tight he thought he could feel her vibrating.
“I suppose that’s not a good thing?”
He was at a loss. Hesitantly, he put his arm around her and gave her a little hug. She resisted, for a second, then leaned up against him. She was shaking. Probably sobs she didn’t want to let out.
She said nothing, and he was content to leave it that way. He watched the horizon for several minutes.
“Are you going to call Kati again?”
He removed his arm. “Uh, no. I think we said everything, that last time.”
“Does she have other... boyfriends?”
Tommy nodded. “Yeah. Fred is there. He’s been waiting for me to get out of the way for some time.”
“You don’t sound too upset by that.”
He looked at her, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t think you know who I am by looking at the surface. I’m deep.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know how deep guys are.”
She pouted at him, rolling her lower lip. “Ha. Tell me you’re going to pine away for her the rest of your life and never look at another girl.”
“I thought not.”
She tapped her toe at the bike again. Bert looked up, woken by the noise of the wheel spinning slowly. He put his head back down.
Bree looked at Tommy with a critical eye.
“You know, up close like this... you stink.”
He winced, “Yeah. I know.”
She reached to his chest and undid a button.
He slapped her hand away. “Hey. What’s going on here?”
She looked innocent. “Hey, we’ve got some time to kill.” Waving at the surrounding lake, she asked, “All this water -- why don’t we wash it?”
He shook his head. “Ha. I know what you’re up to. You’re a tease. You just want to get my shirt off.”
“Well?” She tilted her head.
“Not gonna happen. I’m not undressing until you do.”
She grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.” With an easy practiced motion, she grabbed the bottom of her shirt with both hands and started pulling up.
“Hey! Stop. Just kidding.”
She peeled it in one motion, revealing her white bikini top beneath. Mischief was all over her face.
“A serious tease.”
“Okay, Bud. Your turn.” She reached for his buttons again.
He leaned back. “No. You tricked me. I can’t do this.”
“Why not?” She played with his top button.
“For one thing... we get... playful, and for sure, your parents will show up.”
She undid the button, and went down to the next one.
“And that’s a bad thing, how?”
He frantically scanned the horizon. Still no sign of them. He sighed, and then brushed her hands away again.
“Okay, we’ll wash my shirt. But no way is anything else coming off!”
He regretted his vow. They’d washed his shirt, and draped it over the motorcycle’s handlebars to dry. That hadn’t stopped Bree from offering to do the rest of his laundry.
An hour later, after giving in to a few initial kisses, and spanking her when she attempted to remove more of her costume, they settled for some serious slow cuddling. His vow, and the uncomfortable, cramped quarters in the dinghy kept things from getting out of hand. If there’d been a comfortable place to stretch out, he feared she’d have worn him down.
“This is nice.” She ran her finger over his face, tracing the contours. Her fingernails scratched his trace of whiskers, and she smiled.
Something crossed her face, some sober thought. He didn’t ask. It was just nice to be able to lean back, even with the sharp angle of the gunwale in his back, and feel her stretched out in his arms.
She was just on the rebound. He knew that. He hoped she knew that. Nothing here was serious. It couldn’t be permanent, with their parting just days away.
I guess I’m on the rebound too.
Her gaze was sober. “Kiss me. Kiss me a good one.”
He complied, pulling her close, putting his whole spirit into it. The sun burning his skin, the pain in his back, the leg going asleep under her weight -- all of that faded away into a warm, vibrant, bliss.
She pulled away, finally. “That was good.”
He smiled. “I can do it again.”
She grinned, “I’ll hold you to it. But for now, they’re here.”
He practically dumped her on the motorcycle, in his effort to get up and get his shirt back on.
She was right. Off in the distance, there was a white sailboat, heading their way.
“Do you think they saw us?”
She had a bemused look on her face. “They’ve got binoculars. We don’t.” She pulled her shirt back on, and tugged it straight.
“Here,” she straightened his collar and buttoned one he missed. “Laundry done.” It sounded sad, the way she said it.
“He’s only sailing with the jib.” That’s why he’s moving so slow. The Marissa looked strange with only the small fore sail showing.
Cautiously, he stood up in the dinghy and waved his arms slowly, side to side. There was a flicker of motion on the ship. They’d seen him. He sat back down.
The jib went down when the ship was a few hundred feet away.
“Hang on.” Tommy turned the throttle and closed the distance. Shortly, they tied up.
“Sorry,” was the first word out of Marvin’s mouth.
Tommy said, “There’s a police dragnet out for me. You were right to leave. Let’s go.”
Bree went up and Marvin helped pull the bike from the dinghy. One minute after they pulled the dinghy on board, Tommy was raising sail. He’d had enough of this shoreline. The wheel felt good in his hand. The Marissa had come back.