Chapter 44 -- Saying Goodbye
He idled the engine and followed the dog below.
Bree looked up, startled, and tugged the towel around her.
“What is going on here?”
She smiled and moved close, a very cold, wet handful.
“I almost didn’t make it. You were ready to pull out before I got aboard.”
He held her close. “I should toss you overboard. What do you mean pulling a stunt like this?”
“But...when you said to get another boyfriend with a motorcycle, I thought....”
“No, little idiot. I didn’t mean me.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead, still wet from her insane swim under the dock. The water had to be in the mid-thirties. There were still ice chunks floating about.
“Well, I’m here now. Free and clear. I knew my folks had made you promise to be all honorable and all. And you couldn’t betray them, so I did it for you! Now we can head off to the Caribbean together.” She grinned. “No privacy problems now.”
Tommy looked down at the dog, watching patiently. “Bert, go up and watch for boats or if we drift close to shore.” He yipped and dashed up the steps.
He sat on the bench, and pulled her into his lap. He kissed her, long and slow. She kissed back, overjoyed, until she felt him shaking.
She pulled her head back, and saw the tears. “Why are you crying?”
He smiled sadly. “Because I want you to go with me so very badly. I’m going to be very lonely.”
Her arms pulled him tighter. “Why?” Her voice held an ocean of pain and longing.
“Partly the danger.” He traced his finger over her face, wiping back new moisture, warm and salty. “Partly because I don’t trust us.
“We were thrown together, under constant fear. Are we really over our Kati and Keith? Or did we just rebound and stick together? We’ve known each other a week, and half of that we fought. How long would we last? This isn’t a vacation. I may be sailing for years.”
“But I love sailing. I’m getting good at it.”
“Yes, and that’s one of the things I love about you. But how long could you bear being broke, scavenging from port to port? How long could you bear shipboard duties, shipboard cooking, a shipboard pregnancy?”
Her head was resting in the crook of his arm. Faintly she protested. “I love this life.”
He stroked her hair, limp and ropy from the water.
Tommy smiled, as an idea crept into his head. “When is your birthday?”
The Marissa turned around, and motored slowly back to the dock, where Bree’s parents, and a bemused local watched. Bree had her hair combed and her clothes straightened.
Tommy gave her a passionate kiss as they bumped up against the doc. She stepped ashore, her eyes still hungry and bright.
Catching Marvin’s eyes, he said, “Don’t say anything.”
He looked startled, then nodded.
Tommy pulled away. Folded tightly in Bree’s hand were the instructions and the codes. As he moved out into the bay, this time, no one honked.
Tommy opened his laptop carefully, wary of the latch damage, and connected to his cell phone. The waitress took his order, and he checked the prices carefully. He’d have to be careful with his remaining cash.
From the window, he could see where the Butterfly was moored. With the blue tape he’d used to add a decorative trim to the cabin, the Marissa looked like a different boat altogether.
But it was such an enormous relief to have passed his first visit with the harbormaster. The new name decal, one of three sets that Nick had stacked among the secret documents, had a matching set of registration papers. The harbormaster gave him a quick check and everything was in order.
He tapped the passport made out to Tommy Abernathy that rested in his shirt pocket, just to remind himself it was real. He scratched his whiskers again. They itched, but he’d better get used to it. He was officially twenty, and needed to look it.
There had been two more passports. One for Nick Abernathy and another for Ruth Abernathy. That, more than anything, spelled out Nick’s plan, and just how close he and Ruth had become. It would take time to get used to the idea that Nick had found someone.
Sailing away to adventure had been Nick’s dream long before I came along. It’s a shame Mom and Nick never got to live it out.
There were other papers, too. Trusted Traveler documents should give him quick approval at any Canadian customs he should run into.
My father, the forger. Or at least he knew where to find a forger when he needed one. There were a lot of skills he wished Nick were here to teach him.
The web browser popped up. He quickly went to Nick’s web address.
Little had changed, except they’d had time to change the background to a textured pattern. He blinked and realized it wasn’t a random texture after all. It was the characters M50, repeated over and over again, filling the page.
Nick sure wants me to stay with the boat.
He glanced out the window again. The Butterfly was still there. And Bert was sunning himself up by the mast. He’d have to ask the waitress if there were any bones he could take back as a treat.
It would have been nice to have Bree along, but for all he’d grown in the past few days, he wasn’t ready, and she was a year younger than he was.
Likely, the ‘shipboard romance’ would fade quickly enough and she’d find another Keith. But if not, she had the instructions. Once they’d settled into their new location, she was to start a blog, and communicate to him via secret codes, embedded into the text. If she were still interested when she reached eighteen, he’d contact her with a way to find him.
A ten percent chance, maybe. He could imagine her then, a little more filled out, lounging on the deck anchored off some tiny Caribbean island. I hope she keeps the bikini.
He clicked over to the news pages. What had happened in the world since he’d dropped out?
He gasped. The man at the next table frowned at him, and then went back to eating.
Tommy couldn’t believe his eyes.
It seemed like all of the business links, and many of the general news links were talking about the newly announced “Free Power Cell”. A collection of three major companies revealed that they had just solved the cold fusion problem, and were ready to go into production shortly.
So. They blinked.
He nodded, feeling pride for his father rising in his chest. That was Nick’s plan. With the technology demonstrator at large, they had no choice but to go public.
Free power was probably the most valuable discovery on the list, but there were others, and it was up to him to make sure he kept the company in fear. Make them release those inventions.
He bet they were sorry they ever tried to shut down his father’s lab.
The clock ticking at the top of the screen reminded him he had limited connect minutes.
He went to the search bar and typed in “Mackinaw City news” and up popped a list of news items. The fifth one of the list was what he’d feared.
“Nancy Jones preparing for her swim of the Straits of Mackinaw reported seeing a hydrofoil ship in Saturday morning’s fog, near the southern span of the bridge. Jones and her trainer Sam Nuell gave differing descriptions of the fast-moving vessel.”
So, he’d been sighted. One more reason to stay clear of high-speed mode unless absolutely necessary.
He closed the laptop and turned off the cell phone. While he waited for his burger, he opened the chartbook and eyed his route towards the ocean.
It was there, calling to him. All he needed was a little luck with the officials, and enough cash to keep Bert and him eating.
He looked out the window at the people, a dozen or more passed by. Lots of people, all with their own business, their own troubles.
I’ll need to blend in, be one of them, no matter where the Marissa takes me. He’d say ‘eh?’ to the Canadians, drop his R’s in Maine and, if fair winds prevail, learn the creole’s of the Caribbean.
He chuckled at the echo of the advice he’d given Slab. It was a diverse world, he’d have to live by diverse rules.
There was a bulletin board up by the entrance where dozens of notes were posted. Boaters and locals left their for-sale and help-wanted messages there.
I wonder if anyone would pay for passage to Detroit? That would be nice, as long as they like dogs.