“I thought you quit smoking.”
“Your mother thinks so too.”
He carefully packed the tobacco into the bowl and placed the box back under the seat. We walked down the driveway and around the tall shrubbery before he pulled the lighter from his pocket and took a draw from the Jack Black blend.
“Aaahhhh.” He smiled at me.
After a few more houses, I stopped and looked at a home on the north side of the street, a stately two-story brick home with large white columns and ivy growing on the west end. Dad just stood and waited for my explanation.
“I used to know a girl who lived there,” I confessed.
“I know. She’s married now and has four kids.”
“Damn! Four kids?”
“Yeah. Her oldest boy sort of looks like you.”
Chapter one. Louis first meets Riki in the Bahamas
She told me that her family was from Ukraine and they were chartering the catamaran with another family from Portugal.
“The boat is really crowded, and there is no escaping the constant talking and arguing,” she said. “Do you have this whole boat to yourself?”
“Yes. But I own this boat. I paid it off years ago.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Different things? Mostly I am a painter!”
“Like walls and houses?”
I laughed. “Hell no! Although I’ve done that too! I do paintings of things and places and sell them to the tourists.”
We were getting tired, and it was too rough to sleep on night watch changes. The whitecaps were splashing across the deck. The water was cold, and we broke out our heavy weather gear.
I already had the main sail reduced into the mast as we still did seven knots across the big rolling waves. We were considering going back to Puerto Rico when the radio started screaming, “Mayday! Mayday! We are taking on water. Mayday! Mayday!
We slept until nine before waking to realize that we had to meet her family at Marsh Harbor by noon. I saw her panic and started to jump from the bed.
“Riki, what if we don’t show up?”
She returned a mischievous smile. “No, Daddy has been good to me!” She looked at me sadly.
“I know. I’m just so confused right now!”
“Me too!” She buried her face against my neck.
“Okay! Get dressed! I promised him I’d have you there on time. I’m going to get you there on time!”
She smiled a false smile, and we packed in a hurry. We checked out at the front desk and ran for the boat. We motored out into the channel, out past the point, and raised the sails. We were in sight of Marsh Harbor as we let out the sails for the gentle wind that was coming from the east.
Riki sat next to me all the way while leaning her head against me. The catamaran was already on the charter docks, and it looked like the dock crews were hauling off all of the contents with multiple dock carts. The closer we got, the more I wanted to just turn around and head for the blue water.
We dropped the sails and motored into the tight entrance to the charter base. We went to the closest mooring buoy, and Riki hooked it with our mooring hook. I brought her bag up from below. I had packaged her painting for her mother into a converted cardboard box for safety. I delivered her and her baggage to the dinghy dock where her father met us and thanked me for my punctuality. Riki passed him on the dock without a comment.
“Is everything okay?” he asked when he saw Riki’s tears.
“It will be,” I said as I restrained mine.
I stayed on the mooring ball overnight. They didn’t ask for payment, and I didn’t offer. I was depressed and lonely. I was so disconnected from the world that I didn’t even own a cell phone. I had no way of contacting Riki, and she had no way to reach me. How stupid was I to let her leave? She has a future as a doctor, and I have a future as a—
“Mother, before I go to America, I had a painting done for you.” Riki pulled it from the box.
“Oh, that is beautiful! Did Louis paint this?” Her father was looking over her shoulder.
“Yes, and he gave me the earrings after he did the painting!” she bragged.
“Did you see the name of this painting on the back plate?” asked Zenzi.
She turned the painting to the back and let Riki read, “I will love you forever. L. D. Amherst.”
Her mother and father exchanged a look that Riki missed as she left the room suddenly.
I sat and spun my spinel ring around on my finger, wondering if I had been played. It didn’t make sense. Too many things looked like she wanted a future with me. I opened the fridge, got out another beer, and sat on my front porch.
“Hey, Louis, you crazy man! How ya do’n?” said my shirt shop neighbor.
“Ahhh, little bit lonely. A little bit confused,” I said.
“What? That Russian girl?”
“Yeah, but she’s Ukrainian,” I corrected.
“She’s definitely hot! I saw her getting on a private jet up at the airport the other day.”
“Oh yeah?” I said.
“Yeah! She was the only passenger, and they left as soon as she boarded. The passport dude even came to the plane and stamped her passport at the bottom of the steps. Man, you know how to pick them. Beautiful and richer’n hell too. Hey man, I gotta go close up the shop! Take it easy!” He ran back across the street.