Identity Series Book 2: I Am Sarah

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Chapter 16

We spent the full three days in Jamaica. I had wanted to leave immediately, but Erik had decided that since he had promised the crew three days leave, it wouldn’t be fair to them to cut that short. We spent most of those days on the boat, although we did take a couple of trips into Kingston to do some shopping, and we took several walks along the Palisadoes.

At the end of that time, we set off for the Panama Canal. It took us three more days to reach it, and, once we passed through, we had the entire Pacific Ocean ahead of us. Captain Cunningham ensured us that the weather should be beautiful for the two months we planned to spend traveling among the islands of the South Pacific. From there, it would take us a week or so to make our way to Australia. We had decided on this route after looking at the captain’s charts and discussing it with him.

We stopped at the Marquesas Islands and then skipped down to the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Fiji, spending about ten days at each. We were between the last two islands when one morning I woke up, my stomach churning. I barely made it to the washroom in our cabin before losing what little bit was left from supper the night before. Erik rushed in and held my hair back as I retched. When I finished, he wet a washcloth and gently wiped my face.

“Eat something that didn’t like you last night?” he joked.

I was breathing heavily. “I guess so. How do you feel?”

“I feel just fine. I must have a stronger stomach than you do.” He tipped my face up. “How are you? Are you going to be sick again?”

“No, I don’t think so. Maybe I just had to get rid of whatever it was.”

I felt fine after another hour, and we spent the day fishing in the blue Pacific waters. We had opted to anchor offshore Fiji instead of docking at a marina, and we were able to cast off straight from the stern. It was absolutely wonderful, even if the smell of the fish caused my stomach to twist.

The next morning was a repeat of the one before, with Erik holding my hair and me feeling fine after an hour or so. The third morning, after more of the same, Sheryl pulled me aside on deck after Erik had gone to the helm to guide the Rebecca into a berth at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. We were going to spend some time on dry land.

“Sarah, are you feeling all right?”

“I’m okay, Sheryl, thank you. I guess my stomach has finally rebelled against all the foreign food.”

She narrowed her eyes and studied me. “Have you been sick any time other than in the morning?”

“No.”

She glanced at the helm and then lowered her voice. “When is the last time you bled?”

My eyebrows went up and then came together as I thought. I hadn’t bled once since our journey began. I took a deep breath. “Before we left New York,” I said quietly.

“Sarah,” Sheryl whispered, her face lighting up with a smile, “that’s almost two months! You’re expecting!”

A baby! My Erik had given me a baby! I returned Sheryl’s smile, and she hugged me tightly.

“When are you going to tell him?”

I looked up at Erik. We had reached the marina, and he was guiding the Rebecca into a berth. When he was finished, he brought his eyes to mine and smiled brightly.

“Right now,” I said, and I walked to the helm, Sheryl following behind me, practically skipping in her glee.

“Erik, I have something to tell you,” I said as I stepped up to him.

“What is it?”

I took his hand and led him to the bench on deck. “I think you’d better sit down.”

He frowned as he sat. “Sarah, what? Are you sick?”

I knelt at his feet. “No, my love.” I took his hand and placed it on my belly. “I’m expecting.”

“Expecting.”

Erik looked so confused that I had to laugh.

“A baby, Erik. I’m pregnant.”

“You’re…” He looked down at my hand covering his and then back at my face. A slow smile formed until it was a full-blown grin. “A baby? You’re having a baby?”

“No, we’re having a baby.”

He jumped to his feet and picked me up. He spun in a circle and kissed me firmly before stopping and hastily setting me on my feet.

“Sorry,” he said contritely. “I don’t want to hurt you.” He ran his eyes over me. “Are you okay?”

I laughed again. “I’m pregnant, Erik, not fragile.”

He stared at me for a moment before dropping to his knees and placing both hands against my abdomen. He whispered something that I couldn’t hear as I put my hands on his head. We stayed like that for several minutes, and then he looked up at me.

“I love you, Sarah,” he said softly. He laid his head where his hands had been and pulled me close.

“I love you, too, Erik.” I trailed my fingers through his hair.

He stood and hugged me tightly. When he released me, I turned around, and our crew was all standing at the helm smiling at us. Sheryl and Xavier had their arms around each other, and the other three were leisurely leaning against one railing or another.

“Congratulations, Erik, Sarah,” George said as he stood up straight. “You’ll be great parents.”

“Most definitely,” Brice agreed, and Jared nodded.

“Thank you all,” Erik said. “Now, it’s time to enjoy the island.”

“Amen to that!” Jared emphatically said, and he and Brice put the gangplank in its place.

“We’ll stay here at least a week,” Erik said. “None of you has to come back to the boat if you don’t want to. I’ve reserved rooms for us at the Grand Pacific Hotel.”

“Thank you, sir,” Xavier said, holding out his hand for Erik to shake. “Congratulations.”

Sheryl stepped up to us and, to his surprise, gave Erik a hug. “I am so happy for you two,” she said softly. Then she hugged me before turning to George. “Captain, we’d better be on dry land when this baby is born. I’m not about to deliver a baby on this boat.”

Erik looked at me. “When will that be?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Probably in about seven months.”

He looked at George.

“Not a problem, Erik. We can definitely plan for that.”

“Good.” He took my hand. “We’ll get you to a doctor as soon as possible, Sarah. I want to make sure everything is okay. We’ll probably have to wait until we reach Australia, though.”

I nodded, and everyone on board got ready to go ashore. I knew that I was looking forward to being on dry ground for a while. By the time we had all the luggage packed into the car Erik had hired, there was no room for everyone to ride, so I said that we should just walk.

“No, Sarah,” Erik said, “you can ride in the car. The rest of us will walk.”

“Why? How far is it?”

“Only about a mile and a half, but you need to ride.”

I frowned at him. “Erik, this is not going to happen.”

“What?”

“You are not going to treat me like I’m some piece of china that will shatter at the slightest touch. I am perfectly capable of walking just like you.”

“But…”

“No! I will not be coddled and pampered and overprotected for the next seven months. I can walk, I can feed myself, and I can even dress myself. You will not do this.”

The others were standing some distance away, but I could tell by their faces that they were amused by our discussion. Erik glanced at them and then turned his back and took my arm. He led me farther away from them and looked at me pleadingly.

“Please, Sarah. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“And nothing will. It’s just a walk down the road. I’m not going to climb a mountain or wrestle an alligator.”

He still looked unsure, but then he nodded slowly. I smiled brightly and kissed him. “Thank you. Now, it’s really hot out here. Let’s get moving.”

I took his hand and walked back to the crew. I saw the grins the men were trying so hard to get rid of, and Erik did, too, based on the rumble that came from his chest and the glare he gave them. Sheryl’s glare toward them was almost as scathing.

“Come on,” he said shortly, and then he took my hand and started walking. The others came behind us, and every so often, I heard a snicker from one man and hushing sounds from the others. Erik tensed slightly each time it happened. Once, I glanced over my shoulder and Sheryl gestured that she wanted to talk to me.

“Erik, Sheryl wants to ask me something.”

He looked at her. “She can come up here and ask you,” he said shortly.

“Or I can go to her.”

Erik’s back straightened, and he frowned. “Fine.”

“Erik? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Sarah. I just love it when people laugh at me.”

He dropped my hand and kept walking. I stood still for a moment before Sheryl came up beside me.

“Is he all right?”

“No,” I said with a sigh as we followed my husband who was walking away from us with long, determined strides. “He’s really upset.”

Sheryl smacked her husband’s arm. “I told you, you morons! Go and apologize to Erik right now!”

“But we were just teasing,” Xavier said.

I frowned, and tears threatened to form as I thought about how little Erik knew about normal human relationships. “He doesn’t understand that,” I said softly.

“Touchy, isn’t he?” Jared said.

I stopped in the middle of the road and whirled on him. “He has reason to be, Mr. Burton. Reasons that would horrify you if you knew what they were!”

Everyone’s eyes went wide.

“I…I’m sorry, Sarah. I didn’t know.”

“No, you don’t know! None of you know! None of you know what he has been through!”

“Sarah, calm down,” Sheryl said, laying her hand on my arm.

I turned my wrath on her. “You think my story was bad, Sheryl, the little you know? Erik’s is a thousand times worse! I hope to God he someday has the courage to tell you what happened to him, but if he doesn’t, know this. He is the bravest man I know, and he has overcome more than most people will ever have to go through in their entire lifetimes! Things that would drive most people insane! And he does not deserve to be laughed at when he doesn’t react like people think he should!”

The tears that had threatened earlier were now streaming down my face, and I tried to turn to storm away from them, but Sheryl grabbed me and pulled me into her embrace.

“Go!” she said to the men, and then I heard their footsteps recede as they ran after Erik.

“Come on,” she said as I sobbed into her shoulder, “let’s get to the hotel. We can get freshened up, eat some exotic foods, dance to some Fijian music, and have a great time.”

I nodded as my sobs began to subside, and she tilted my face up. “I’m a really good listener, Sarah. If you want to talk on the way, that is.”

We walked about a quarter of a mile before I decided that I did want to talk. I looked down the road, and the five men were in a group with Erik in the middle. George had his hand on my husband’s back, but they were too far away for me to tell what Erik’s mood was.

I held up my hands in fists and slowly turned them. When I spoke, it was barely over a whisper. “These are from the rope my mother would tie around them in order to hang me up in the closet. The doctors said that if it had dug into me any further that last night, it might have severed a major blood vessel. It had been tied so tightly that they had to pick fibers out of the wounds.”

“Sarah…”

“The ones on my back were mostly from the night my mother almost killed me, but I’m sure some were there before that. She beat me practically every night. I was seven or eight years old, the doctors said, but I was as small as a four-year-old. That was because I never got enough to eat. My last night in that apartment, my mother whipped me with a belt and a cane until I passed out. The next thing I knew, I was in a snowbank in an alley, half-frozen, barely dressed. My mother probably thought I was dead, and she just threw me out with the trash. Somehow, I made it onto Central Park West, and Keenan McAllister found me collapsed in the street. He saved me and adopted me.”

“How old are you now?”

I looked at Sheryl. “I don’t know for sure. He found me twelve years ago, so I’m either nineteen or twenty. Officially, I had my nineteenth birthday on December fourteenth, but that was simply a date my father and I picked. I don’t know my birthday, I don’t know my real last name, I don’t know if I have any blood family. Everything about me is made up.”

“No, Sarah, everything about you is real. Your name is real, your family is real, and your love for Erik is real, as is his for you.” She paused. “I can’t imagine what he went through if you said it’s worse than your experiences.”

“No, you can’t imagine.” I sucked in a breath. “I caught my first glimmer at one of his art showings. He had painted a series that depicted a little boy in white surrounded by a background of black and red. As the series progressed, a monster appeared who caught up the boy and tore him in two. The last of the five was all black except for blood dripping from the top to pool at the bottom.” I took a deep breath to keep myself from crying again. “Erik sent me the paintings as a present this past Christmas.”

“He was the boy?”

I nodded and bit my lip to stop it from trembling.

“Who was the monster?”

“I won’t tell you that. I told you, it’s his story.”

Sheryl said nothing more. She put her arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. We walked in silence for a while, and I kept my gaze on my husband, a hundred yards ahead of us.

“My father said he is still tormented by his demons. I hadn’t seen any evidence of that on this trip until today,” I said softly as the hotel came into view. “He was really hurt by the laughing, Sheryl.”

“Which is why those buffoons are up there with him,” she answered, giving my shoulder a squeeze. “They need to realize that he’s not like other men. Part of it is his history, I’m sure, but another part is his genius. For him to create the art that he does, his brain cannot possibly work like others’. They have to understand that.” She glanced down at me. “So do you.”

“I know.”

When we got to the front door of the hotel, Erik and Xavier were waiting for us. I immediately went to my husband, and he put his arm around me. The only indications that he was still upset were his clenched jaw and the tension in his body. He was trying not to let anyone notice, but I could tell. Without a word, he led me into the hotel, up the staircase, and into our room. I looked around at what had to be the largest room available.

It was a two room suite with a living room and a bedroom separated only by two small walls that left a very wide, empty doorway between them, and I could see that our luggage was already in the bedroom. Off the living room was a veranda that overlooked the harbor. Erik let go of me and walked outside. He placed his hands on the railing and clenched it tightly.

I went to him, wrapped my arms around him from behind, and laid my head on his back.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Not really,” he answered as his head dropped. “What’s the matter with me, Sarah?”

Irritation filled me, and I stood up straight and moved to his side. “Nothing is wrong with you, Erik! Look at me.”

He slowly raised his head, and the pain in his eyes caused me to catch my breath. Tears came to my eyes as I gently pried his hands off the railing and turned him toward me.

“Erik, you are my husband, and I love you. I wouldn’t change anything about you. You are perfect just the way you are.”

He shook his head. “I can’t even recognize when someone is teasing me, Sarah. I overreacted again.”

I started to play with the buttons on his shirt. “Erik, how many times has someone teased you about anything?”

He frowned as he thought. “Never,” he finally said.

“Then how could you expect to recognize it when it happens?”

His frown deepened, and he took my hands in his. “I still shouldn’t have gotten so mad.”

“How about we make a plan?”

He looked at me skeptically but said nothing.

“From now on,” I continued, “when someone does something that you would normally get upset about, talk to me first. I’ll tell you if I think you should get mad about it.”

He nodded slowly and took a deep breath. “I guess I can do that.” He leaned down and kissed me. “Thank you, Sarah.”

I smiled. “You’re welcome. Now, what is there to do at this hotel?”

He relaxed a little. “They’ve got a pool and a restaurant, or we could just go for a walk.”

I took his hand and led him back inside. “Food,” I said. “I’m hungry. I’m just going to change.”

He followed me into the bedroom and leaned against the doorjamb as he watched me. I chose a green floral dress from the trunk and also pulled out a blue shirt for Erik. I handed it to him with a smile, and he took it without a word. He simply stood there as I changed into my dress, but I saw his eyes widen slightly, and he took a deep breath.

“Erik?” I said when I finished brushing my hair out and pinning it up in a bun.

“What?”

“Aren’t you going to change?”

“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”

I walked over to him and started undoing the buttons on his shirt. “I know you think so,” I said, “because you always tell me.”

“I always tell you because it’s true.”

I looked up at him while I worked the buttons, and he watched me. As I finished the last button, I slid my hands up to his shoulders underneath the shirt and pushed it off onto the floor. I let my fingers graze the scar on his shoulder, and he sucked in a breath.

“Are you ever going to tell me where you got that?” I asked.

“Someday,” he answered, and his arms went around me, still holding his clean shirt. He pulled me close and dropped his head to kiss me, but I kept it short. He frowned when I pulled away. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m just hungry, and I want to eat.”

“Sarah…”

I smiled and kissed him. “I promise, Erik. I’m just hungry. Now, put your shirt on and let’s go eat.”

“Only if you promise me something.”

I nodded.

“Promise me you’ll dance with me after we eat.”

“Erik,” I sighed, “you know I can’t dance.”

“No, I don’t know that. The one dance we had before…Anyway, it was nice, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was,” I said with a smile. “All right, I’ll dance with you, but you’d better not expect me to do much more than sway.”

“Hmm,” he said, returning the smile and putting his hands on my hips and pulling me close. “You and me swaying together. Sounds heavenly.” He kissed me and then stepped back and put his shirt on. “Come on,” he said, holding out his hand to me, “I’m hungry.”

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