Craig was propped up on an elbow staring at her, smiling.
“You do sleep,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, seeing moonlight reflecting into the room.
“What are you laughing at?” she said.
“Your pun about the jet. The cabin in the woods,” he said.
“You just got that?”
“No, I’m enjoying it a second time around,” he said. “Come on. The moon is out, lets go for a walk.”
“What time is it?”
He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
He led her out onto the patio and toward the beach.
“What if someone sees us?” she said since they were both naked.
“Then they’re on the wrong island,” he said. “And José has his own beach.”
The waves were small and gentle as they lapped the beach. The water sparkled in the moonlight.
“This is the protected side of the island,” he said. “Low waves. Gentle winds. The trade winds hit us from the back side. Good snorkeling on this side.”
“I’ve never snorkeled,” she said as he held her hand, leading her along the water.
“You float in the water with a mask to protect your eyes from the salt water with a tube that goes up to the surface allowing you can breath. You can float facedown like that forever watching the fishies until the sun gives you a nasty sunburn,” he said.
“You’ve done this before,” she said.
“Yep, and the sunburn was hell.”
They reached some rocks and Craig turned them around. The moon was getting lower, throwing less light, but there were hints of red in the east.
“I’ve been so busy of late that I forgot about the long weekend. We might have visitors if they see the jet or if we go to the big island,” he said.
“Oh?” she said.
“Bill and Amy,” Craig said. “You remember them from the art gallery?”
She noted he did not mention the Italian restaurant.
“They have an island?”
“No, they have a condo on the big island,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve come down. They do a lot.”
“I don’t have any other clothes,” she said.
“We can fly over and do some quick shopping,” he said. “I need some shorts.”
The sun was now peaking over the horizon when they reached the house. They showered and dressed.
“I like this,” Craig said, pointing out her knife under her jeans.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be sorry. Good to be protected,” he said. “Never guessed it was there until I undressed you last night.”
He stepped in the kitchen.
“Yes,” she said, taking a can of soda from the fridge.
Seroje watched while Craig fried up some potatoes and eggs.
“You are a good cook,” she said as she tasted his concoction.
“I’ve been a bachelor longer than I’ve been married,” he said.
He piled the dishes in the sink after they had eaten, but Seroje stepped in to wash them and set the kitchen tidy.
“Good team,” he said. “Come, lets go.”
The helicopter was a small two-seater. Seroje felt anxious as she fastened the seat belt straps. He handed her a headset with a microphone, helping her set them on her head, making sure the microphone was in the proper position.
Craig ran through a ritual checklist before starting the helicopter. Then he hit switches and wiggled a control bar. She hoped he knew what he was doing.
“You okay?” he said through the headset.
She nodded though she was uncomfortable.
The helicopter lifted and soared over the house and out over the water. Seroje thought she saw José sitting in a chaise lounge by the water on his side of the island. The island wasn’t very big, just large enough for the landing strip, the main house and the small guest house.
The windows of the helicopter allowed her to see in just about every direction. There were other islands, but a large one loomed in front of them.
She couldn’t hear him, but Craig was talking in Spanish, saying the numbers and letters she’d seen on the helicopter and giving coordinates as well as requesting permission to land. He gave his estimated time of arrival.
The permission must have been granted since they continued to fly direct and over the larger island. He slowed as he reached what looked like the town and hovered over a building that contained four large squares, each with a large letter H in the middle. One square already had a helicopter. Craig lowered his helicopter, coming to land on the roof. He cut the engine.
“We’ll wait for the blades to stop,” Craig said, before removing his headset. He took hers and finished his shutdown of all the systems on the helicopter.
She smiled with relief that they had landed.
“New experience?” he said.
She nodded. “You fly well.”
“I’ll teach you sometime,” he said, opening the door. He came around to open her door and help her out.
He locked the doors, leading her to stairs that led down into a shopping area.
Seroje was surprised to find they’d landed on the roof of a shop. The smells of chillies, cumin, and flour rose up amid the smells of sour garbage, rotting fruit, fish and plastic. She wrinkled her nose as she followed Craig into the shop where he checked in with the shop owner, who welcomed him. Seroje didn’t know if she was supposed to be shopping now so she just stood there waiting for Craig.
“Follow me,” Craig said once he was finished talking with the shop owner. He led her out of the shop to another that was cleaner and smelled much more pleasant.
He found her a green bikini and a white cover-up.
“That’s all you’ll need around here,” he said. He also picked out some flip-flops for both of them. “Dressing room is there. Make sure it all fits.”
The bikini was a good fit. The cover-up was a little large, but she decided she liked that. The flip-flops fit perfectly.
“Here’s a bag for your other clothes and shoes,” he said, taking tags from her. He was now in shorts and a flowery shirt. He added two hats to their purchases and some suntan lotion. They already had their sunglasses.
“There,” he said as they went back out into the sunshine. “We are officially on vacation. Let’s go see if Amy and Bill are here.”
They’d only gone a block when the shriek reached them.
“Seroje.” Amy and Bill were at a café, enjoying coffee. “Craig.”
The pair waved like wild maniacs at them as if they’d not seen them for ages.
Bill was in tan shorts and a colorful Hawaiian style shirt. Amy was in a pink sundress and pink wide brim hat. They both wore sunglasses.
Craig led the way over to them. Bill pulled over two more chairs.
“How nice to see you. Didn’t know you intended to come down here,” Amy said with a big smile.
“Last minute plans,” Craig said as they sat. “Qué deseas? Té o soda?” he said in a soft voice to her, using Spanish.
Seroje already didn’t like the dirt and the smells. Her mind calculated what would be safe to drink.
“Aqua embotellada. Soda sin abrir. Sin hielo,” she said in Spanish without thinking, indicating bottled water or an unopened can of soda and no ice.
He nodded, ordering coffee for himself and an unopened cold soda for her, speaking in Spanish to the waiter.
Amy frowned. “You make that look so easy. I just can’t learn the language. This old dog can’t learn new tricks.”
Bill laughed. “I know enough to get by.”
“Spanish is so close to Italian it was an easy one to pick up,” Craig said with a shrug. “Helps when you have a pilot that is fluent in Spanish to practice with.”
“And where did you pick up Spanish?” Amy said to Seroje.
“I listen,” Seroje said, not giving any further details.
The drinks came.
Seroje wiped the top of the can off before opening it.
“How’s your shoulder?” Bill said.
“Oh, my goodness, yes. How are you doing, dear?” Amy said.
“Fine,” Seroje said.
“Just a little scab,” Craig said.
“Did anyone hear what had happened? Any arrests?” Bill said.
Craig shook his head. “I’ve not heard a thing.”
Seroje didn’t respond. She sipped her soda.
“Would you two like to come to dinner tonight? You do have the boat, don’t you?” Craig said.
“You cook?” Amy said with a smile to Seroje.
“No,” Seroje said.
“I’m chef tonight,” Craig said. “Hope to find some lobsters or crabs at the fish market.”
“Yep, we’ve got the boat,” Bill said. “You staying at the island?”
“Yes. Haven’t been there in a while,” Craig said.
Seroje could feel some unspoken communication flow between Craig and his friends. She figured it was the last ex-wife ordeal. She ignored their looks.
The area was filling up with vacationers. There was a steady stream of people walking up and down the street as well as in and out of the café. Seroje tensed, giving herself a moment to register why. Then she stood, staring direct at a man walking past, right into his eyes. He looked startled and left the area. Seroje sat back down.
“Che cosa?” Craig said, asking “what” in Italian.
“Pedinare,” she said, saying they had a shadow, a tail. She made sure she was turned away from Amy and Bill while she spoke. The word caused Craig to tense. He stood and walked away.
“What is the problem?” Amy said with concern.
Seroje stared at her soda for a few minutes. Bill and Amy stayed quiet.
“Saw someone we know who is not a nice person,” Seroje said as she figured out what words to say without stating the truth or lying.
“Oh,” Amy said.
Seroje sipped her soda.
Bill and Amy finished their coffee.
“I’ll tell you what,” Amy said. “We’ll get the food for tonight and come over later this afternoon.”
“It will takes us a bit, so we better go get ready now. Coming by boat takes longer than with a chopper,” Amy said rising. “Will you be okay?”
The pair walked away, leaving Seroje at the table. They’d left money for the drinks. She sat for another twenty minutes before rising to go look for Craig, taking both their bags of clothes and heading in the direction he’d gone. As she neared the shop where they’d landed, she thought she heard his voice. She climbed the stairs to the helicopter pad.
Craig was pacing and talking with anger on his phone.
“Tuesday morning, god damn it. Tuesday morning,” he said, ending the call. He stopped in his tracks as he turned and saw her.
“Keep going,” she said, approaching him, dropping the bags by their helicopter.
“Keep pacing. You’re pissed. I’m not having you fly pissed up,” she said. “Against the rules of a pilot.
“I...I...not...” he said with a sputter.
She took his arm and walked with him down the helicopter pad, knowing she’d already dissipated a large part of his anger.
“Amy and Bill are bringing dinner. They will come later this afternoon,” she said in a quiet voice, turning him and pacing him back across the roof.
“What did you say to them?” he said.
“I told them we saw someone we knew who was not a nice person,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’m okay. We can go. Let me check out down below.”
She released his arm, watching him go. The garbage smell was stronger up here. Craig returned in a few minutes and they loaded up the helicopter.
Seroje didn’t feel the apprehension on the return trip, maybe because she’d seen how he flew. Knew how the helicopter moved.
“What’s that?” she said, startled.
Craig jerked in his seat because of her reaction, then laughed. “Whale,” he said. “With a calf.”
He flew a little lower, but not too close.
“She’s huge,” Seroje said, seeing their shadow and comparing it to the whale. She marveled at how they seemed to spew water when they breathed, just like she’d seen in documentaries.
“Wow,” she said with awe, watching until the whales were out of view.
“Neat to see,” Craig said as they approached their island and landed. He waited until the blades stopped turning. “Can you put the clothes away? I’m going to get José to help us move chairs.”
“Yes,” she said. She returned to the house, putting the clothes into the bedroom, then found some scissors to trim the plants along the walk.
“You don’t need to do that,” Craig said, appearing with José.
“I want to do that,” she said as they continued on. She swept up the mess and went looking for Craig. He and José were on the patio outside the kitchen area, setting up and cleaning off the tables and chairs. They’d also moved the furniture from the other patio so there were two tables and enough chairs for five people.
The time was four minutes after three when a large yellow and white sailboat appeared with sails down, maneuvering using the on-board motor.
“Amy and Bill,” Craig said as he headed toward the water. José and Seroje followed him.
The sailboat came in only so far and set anchor. Seroje noted they dropped an anchor at the front and back of the sailboat to keep it in the same orientation.
A small inflatable boat was dropped over the side, then Bill and Amy jumped into the water, swimming until they could walk, pulling the inflatable boat.
“Hello,” Amy said, looking cheerful. “The water’s nice. Hey, José.”
“Afternoon,” José said, helping with the boat. He was barefoot, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
The boat contained the food and bottles of booze. Everyone helped carry things in, then the three men started a fire on the beach and set up the grills.
“I love cooking on the beach,” Amy said, seeming to be extra cheerful. “Is he okay?”
Seroje nodded, watching the men.
“You seem to handle him well,” Amy said.
“He handles me well,” Seroje said, thinking of another pun. Why was she so fascinated with puns lately?
“He can’t handle the high-maintenance type of woman, although that seems to be what he’s attracted to, and you are not that,” Amy said with a knowing smile.
“How can you tell?” Seroje said. She really wanted to know.
“A high-maintenance woman can’t land on a island and find new clothes in less than twenty minutes,” Amy said. “We saw the chopper come in. And then there you two were, carrying the clothes you flew in with, dressed as if you’d been here for hours.”
“I didn’t pick out the bathing suit,” Seroje said.
“Proves my point,” Amy said with a grin. “Come, let’s make a salad.”
Amy took over the kitchen, telling Seroje what she needed to do. Seroje was comfortable following orders, not having to think. Amy talked steadily, not requiring any input from Seroje, which was fine with her as well.
“You girls doing okay?” Craig said, coming in for one beer and a soda. He was watching Seroje.
“Wonderful, of course,” Amy said.
Seroje nodded and smiled.
“Good. Come out when you can,” he said, heading out the door with the drinks. “We’ll be putting the lobsters on the grill soon.”
Amy handed her plates and silverware while she carried bowls of salad and fresh fruit out to the table.
The fire was settling into hot embers. The men were skewering the lobsters and setting them on the grill. Seroje joined them to see how it was done.
“Those don’t look like the lobsters I’m used to seeing,” she said.
“Spiney lobster,” Craig said. “No claws.”
“Less meat and a hell of a lot uglier,” Bill said with a laugh.
The lobsters cooked fast, and Amy made sure everything that was needed was available. Seroje would never have known what they needed for the meal. There was melted butter and lemon quarters for seasoning the lobsters. The salad was a good mix and Amy brought only one dressing that was just right. The fruit was local, ripe and juicy sweet.
Amy and Bill kept their glasses filled with booze. Craig only had two beers while Seroje and José drank sodas.
“I don’t usually prefer lobster,” Seroje said. “These are delicious.”
“Fresh is the best,” Amy said.
“Grilled,” José said. “Over an open fire does it.”
They sat watching the ocean, the stars, and the embers on the fire, talking only a little while their dinner settled.
Seroje stifled a yawn.
“We need to get back to our boat,” Bill said, but he was drunk.
“I’ll swim you out,” Craig said.
“You’re so sweet,” Amy said.
They rose unsteadily on their feet. José and Craig helped them get into the inflatable boat, then Craig waded out, towing them. A single light on the sailboat was the only indication that there was even a boat out there.
Seroje heard laughter while she waited on the beach with José.
“You’re a good influence on him,” José said in a low voice. “He would have been as drunk as them if you weren’t here and I’d a been swimming out there taking them back.”
Seroje said nothing, watching intently until Craig reappeared, wading out of the water.
“They’re settled,” Craig said, dripping over the sand.
“They’re not sailing home, are they?” she said.
“No. They’ll spend the night there,” he said. “Thanks José.”
“Good night sir. And thank you,” José said, heading up back toward the house.
“Why did he thank you?” Seroje said as José disappeared from view.
“I asked him to join the party,” Craig said. “As a guest, not as an employee.”
“That was nice,” she said as they headed toward the house.
Craig poured water on the last of the embers until they were all out, then covered the area with sand.
“Required to put it out in case the wind picks up,” he said.
They both showered and lay in bed naked, but Craig seemed pensive and elsewhere. Seroje pretended to go to sleep, counting his shallow, tense breaths and the time. He didn’t fall asleep until over two hours later. Now she could fall asleep because his breathing was even and soothing.