The next week was absolute bliss. We kept our tail wind and made really good time to Jamaica. The weather was perfect, the days were warm enough that the mist from the sea felt amazing, and the nights were cool. During the first two days, I learned a lot about our boat. I learned that words like left and right weren’t used; it was port and starboard. The kitchen was the galley, and our room was a cabin. Our cabin was at the bow of the ship, and the wheel, or helm, was located at the stern. I also learned that she had an engine in addition to sails. Erik said that we couldn’t always rely on Mother Nature to take us where we wanted to go.
She had been built at my father’s own shipyard. Erik had talked to him almost a year earlier, not knowing who he was or that he would fall in love with and marry his daughter. My father hadn’t been overly busy at the time, so he dedicated thirty of his builders to the project full-time after he found out what Erik was willing to pay if he got it done quickly. The last month had apparently been crazy as they worked around the clock to finish it in time for our honeymoon. The paint had barely dried when we started our journey.
Erik spent much of his time that week drawing. He had brought several sketchbooks, a portable tabletop drawing table that he had designed himself, and various supplies with him, and, more than once, I found him below decks, seated at the low table with the couches, completely absorbed in whatever he was working on. Often, I would sit on one of the galley stools and just watch him. On one of these occasions, when I did so, he glanced up at me with a smile before returning to his work.
“You know you don’t have to keep me company, right?”
“I know that,” I said, leaning back against the bar, “but I like watching you.”
“Watching me do what?”
“Anything.” I laughed when he looked at me skeptically. “I’m serious, Erik. Whenever you do anything, you do it with everything in you, and I like to see it.”
“You’re easily entertained, Sarah, if watching me is high on your list of exciting things to do.”
“I didn’t say it was exciting. I said I liked it. Reading a book or watching a play isn’t necessarily exciting, but I enjoy doing them both.” I got up from the stool and took a step toward him. “May I see what you’re doing?”
“Of course,” he said, putting down his pencil.
I walked to him, and he pulled me onto his lap. On the paper was a little boy dressed in a smart-looking suit, but his feet were bare, and his pant legs were rolled up to his knees. He was standing in the shallows of a pond with his arm stretched out behind him, and he was laughing. Behind him was just the beginning lines of what looked to be another person, an adult by the size of it. I pointed to that part of the drawing.
“Who is that going to be?”
Erik shrugged. “I haven’t decided yet. Maybe his father, maybe a brother. I don’t know.”
I pointed to the boy. “Is that you?”
He sighed. “It’s who I wish I was. I draw the life I wish I’d had, Sarah. I draw fantasy.”
“It doesn’t have to be fantasy,” I said softly.
“Yes, it does. I will never be that little boy. I will never have the memories of my father teaching me to fish or to play ball or to drive a car. I will never be able to remember my parents holding hands as we walked down the streets of Willow or kissing each other when they thought I couldn’t see. My memories are filled with evil, Sarah. You know; you saw the sketchbooks in my studio.”
“Then we will have to make enough new memories that you have no room for the old ones anymore.”
He hugged me tightly. “I wouldn’t mind that at all.” Then he pushed me off his lap. “Now, go away,” he said with a grin. “You’re distracting me.”
I laughed and left him to his art.
Captain Cunningham and Mr. Speare spent a lot of their down time teaching Erik more about sailing, and true to what I had said, he put his all into it. I watched them while lounging on the bench, usually with a book, and I couldn’t help smiling when I saw the carefree, happy look on Erik’s face every time he learned something new. He took over the helm during the middle part of the fifth day while the captain and first mate ate their lunch, and I wandered back to him.
“You look like you’re having fun,” I said, leaning on the rail and studying him. He was barefoot with linen trousers and a white, short-sleeved button down shirt. The buttons on his shirt were undone, and I stared at the muscles of his chest as they flexed and contracted with each of his movements. He looked marvelous.
“I am,” he said. “Come here.”
“Why? I told you I like watching you.”
He smiled, improving the view considerably. “Because I want you to.”
I shrugged, and he released the wheel to pull me in front of him. He picked up my hands and placed them on the wheel before draping his arms over my shoulders and covering my hands with his own.
“Don’t worry. I know enough to keep us on course and upright. You just have to hold on.”
I laughed softly, and he tightened his grip on my hands.
“That is my favorite sound,” he sighed.
“Your laugh. It’s pure and light and beautiful. Just like you.”
I leaned back into his chest and said, “You need to laugh more, Erik.”
“I try, Sarah, and you help with that, but I haven’t ever laughed much. Hell, for the first twenty-one years of my life, I don’t think I laughed at all.”
“I know,” I said as I pulled my hands from under his and wrapped them around his muscular forearms, “but I want to make sure you have every opportunity from now on.”
We stood there for another half hour until the captain came back on deck and retook the helm.
Another day sped by. At one point, we sailed the coast of Cuba for about fifty miles and then headed southwest for Jamaica. We rounded the eastern tip of that island and finally arrived at Port Royal. After going through the proper channels, we continued along the Palisadoes into Kingston Harbour. About three miles into the harbor, Captain Cunningham guided the Rebecca into a sheltered inlet that already had dozens of boats lined up along the shore.
“Where are we?” I asked Erik as the captain maneuvered us into a berth with the guidance of a man standing on the dock.
“The Royal Jamaica Yacht Club. I paid for a berth here two weeks ago.”
“How long can we stay?”
“As long as you like. I’ve already paid for three days, but we can stay longer if you want to.”
After the Rebecca was docked, Erik and I stepped onto dry ground. The first step was fine, but when I tried to take another, the ground wasn’t where I thought it would be, and I stumbled. Erik grabbed my elbow and kept me from making a fool of myself.
“Careful,” he said, wrapping his arm around my waist. “Take it slowly. Your body is used to the motion of a boat. It’ll take a little while to get used to ground that doesn’t move beneath you. It’s called getting your land legs.”
“How do you know that?” I asked, clinging to his arm. “How much time have you actually spent on a boat?”
“Since you and Sebastian convinced me to reveal myself to the public eye, I have been taking weekly sailing lessons.”
“Really?” I looked up at him in surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He shrugged and gave me a shy smile. “It didn’t seem important. I could take the helm of the Rebecca myself if I wanted to, but I really don’t want that responsibility right now. That’s why I hired the crew.”
I tentatively took another step forward, and my legs stayed under me this time. After a few minutes of walking, Erik led me to the street where a shiny, burgundy convertible was parked on the side of the road. The top was down, and a driver in a splendid white uniform was standing beside the car. As we approached, he pulled open the back door and bowed slightly.
“Mr. Desmond, sir. Mrs. Desmond, ma’am. My name is Thomas. I’ll be happy to take you anywhere you want to go.”
“Thank you, Thomas,” Erik said as he helped me into the car. “We’ll be going to the Silver Slipper.”
After sliding in next to me, Erik draped his arm over the back of the seat and rested his hand on my shoulder. He grinned, looking every bit the rich, young man that he was in his tailored grey linen suit and white open-collared shirt.
I was wearing a short-sleeved light-blue linen dress that came to my knees. I had thought to wear white lace gloves to cover the scars on my wrists, but I knew that they made no difference to Erik, and since he couldn’t hide his scar, I had no right to hide mine. On the heels of that thought had come another, and I had pinned up my hair in a tight bun before putting on my hat which had a wide enough brim that it covered much of my upper back. Erik’s eyes had widened when he saw my hair up, and a smile had slowly formed on his face.
“I like your hair like that, Sarah,” he had said as he trailed his fingertips down my neck from my ear to my collarbone.
I had shivered from the sensation and had smiled back at him. “Thank you,” I’d said softly, and then he had kissed me.
“The Silver Slipper Club?” I said, my thoughts coming back to the present. “Do you have connections in Jamaica I don’t know about?”
“No connections needed,” he said. “I simply reserved a table the same time I paid for the berth at the Yacht Club. They were very accommodating once they realized who I was.”
“I’m sure they were,” I laughed.
The Silver Slipper was a night club that was well-known for its exclusivity. That evening, the King’s Rhythm Aces were playing jazz, there was a delicious salmon on the menu, and I learned something about Erik that I never would have guessed.