Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chapter 17


Emi retreated to the bridge and missed the animated conversation between the priest and Nate.  Had she been privy to what was said she would not have been happy.  Nate wasn’t exactly happy either but the priest had at least confirmed the truthfulness of part of Emi’s story and he decided he was willing to wait to see if she would reveal the rest.  For some reason however he wasn’t sure whether he wanted her to or not.  Some of it he wanted to be assured didn’t matter by her forgetting to bring it up.  One bit of information definitely bothered him and as soon as his business was concluded Nate went to find her. 

He found Emi looking pale green and shaky as she tried to change the bandage on her arm.  Immediately Nate changed his tact and eased her gently down into the chair she’d occupied most of the night.  “What am I to do with you?” 

Emi misinterpreted his words and turned defensive, “We had a deal!” 

Nate tut-tutted at her tone and said, “Have a deal, not had.  You’re not wiggling your way out with semantics.” 

“I’m not the one wiggling out, you are.” 

“Not hardly I’m not.  And I mean it when I say I mean to make sure everything is tied up right.  You’re mine Emi, by your word and mine.  Now let me undo this mess you made.  What do you call this knot anyway?” 

“A one-handed make do,” Emi answered slowly letting go of the worry that had been eating at her. 

Nate chuckled unwillingly at her bald-faced honesty.  “Well that’s a good name for it.” 

As the quiet stretched into an uncomfortable one Emi said, “If you’re waiting on an explanation I don’t have one.  All I can tell you is it wasn’t planned.” 

Nate sighed.  “I saw your face.  You were too shocked and upset to have planned this.  And as for the rest of it, you had no way of knowing where we would land and Kiko said he never discussed anything with you or the other women.  At best you knew you were heading for Florida, not the exact location.”  He carefully unwrapped and rewrapped the bandaging making sure it was tight enough to stay on but not so tight that it would cut off her circulation.  “If you wish to speak with your family …” 

“No,” Emi snapped revealing a deep well of anger.  “He’s no family to me and there’s no one else as far as I know.” 

“You sure?” 

“Yes.” 

“And that’s the way you want it?” 

When he stepped back to look at his handiwork Emi tried to explain.  “Want is the wrong word.  My wants haven’t mattered for years, certainly they never mattered to him. You can want yourself to death.  I choose to live with what is, not what might have been or what could be.” 

Gaining more insight into Emi than she doubtless thought she was giving him Nate brushed a finger gently against her cheek and told her, “Then let me tell you what is.  That old man was shaken.  He tried to justify what happened.” 

“Don’t tell him my business.” 

“I didn’t but I did tell him that you weren’t treated very well even before they threw you out on the street through no fault of your own.  He may be a priest but he is still a man like any other and doesn’t want to believe what he doesn’t want to believe.  He may come around, he may not.  If he contacts me I’ll let you know but I don’t think either of us should hold our breath on it happening.” 

“As if I would.  And before you ask the answer is no.  I don’t hold anything against the church.  My father explained it to me when I became old enough to notice.  He said contrary to the way people act, they don’t get to hide behind anything when it comes their time to be judged.  We each stand before our Creator as individuals.  No excuses, no rationalizations, no justifications.  No church, organization, nor its leaders, are going to protect us from our own choices.  I may not like how my father’s uncle hides behind his vestments and ceremony but that doesn’t mean that I blame other people in the church for how he is.” 

“You sure you don’t have any other family left?” 

“About as sure as anyone else can be these days.” 

“Will you tell me about them?” 

Emi sighed.  “Right now?” 

“I suppose not,” Nate said disappointed but unsurprised that she obviously didn’t trust him but so far.  Especially as he was feeling much the same way.  “We’ve been given the use of the town’s river boats – for a price of course.” 

“Of course.” 

“The men have started the unloading process.  It will be completed within a couple of hours but not soon enough to be worth the risk of entering the mouth of the river against the tide.  The river boats have their own crews and security but Miguel and a couple of the other men that are returning to Alva will remain onboard with the goods.  Barb has opted to stay with Miguel.  My plan was to stay with the cargo as well but …” 

“But?” 

“Would you rather we rent a room for the night?” 

“That’s up to you.  I’m perfectly capable of sleeping on deck so that you can stay close to your stuff.” 

“Good.  And you are right, I would rather stay close to the cargo.  I suspect after they are cut free the remainder of the crew will take their share and go try and trade it for some … entertainment.   That will get the word on the street that we have valuable cargo.  Normally I would trust my crew with my life but after Ernie and then the mutiny … I’m preferring caution to trust.  The first night back in port is usually … uh …” 

“Like I said Nate, I know sailors … and men in general are about the same to some degree or other.  And now, tell me what I can do.  It makes my skin crawl to just stand around.” 

“Nerves?  You?” 

“I would be a fool not to feel something about this deal we’ve agreed to.  Perhaps for you it is …” 

“Mmm,” Nate said running another finger along her skin, this time along her the bare skin of her uninjured arm.  “For me as well.  But there is … anticipation as well.  I enjoyed marriage until the last year.  Have you ever …” 

“Ever what?” Emi asked in alarm. 

“Emi I’m trying to ask without looking like a fool.  You are a very … resourceful … young woman but … dammit … you’re eighteen.” 

Emi snarled, “You WERE talking about my business.” 

“Not intentionally.  I put two and two together.  Certainly no one else remarked on it, if they even bothered doing the math.” 

A little more calmly Emi said, “What does a number matter?  One of my cousin’s daughters was out of the house and married at fourteen to an hombre ten years older than she was.  All that mattered is that he had a job as a clerk in his father’s carneceria.”  A little morosely Emi added, “She’s the only one that didn’t act like I was …”  Emi whispered the awful memory.  “She was pregnant when her brother in law went crazy from the smell of the bloody butcher shop and tore her apart when she went to check to see if he was ready for almuerzo … the noon day meal.  I was one of the ones that had to … to clean …”  She stopped and shook her head.  “You see I carry antibodies but never exhibited the symptoms of the virus.  Uncle Roger and I are both immunes.  It’s why the Honduran government approved the application for immigration that the judge filed on my behalf.  It didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t even speak the language.” 

“Wait .. .what?  You didn’t speak Spanish?” 

“Nope.  And the family that didn’t want me spoke no English.  When I was born my parents and grandparents agreed that I was going to be raised Anglo.  Knowing the culture was ok though my grandparents had already been in the country over three decades by the time I was born and had Americanized.  They spoke both Spanish and English at home with some of my older cousins but my brothers and I spoke only English.” 

“Brothers.” 

“Yeah.  I was the middle child and only girl with two older and two younger.” 

“Emi …”

Emi avoided the hand he’d reached towards her with and went to look out the forward window.  “Yes, the story is sad and horrible but not unusual.  Ft. Myers … well you heard the stories I’m sure.” 

“I was here.  And just because I’d left the seminary didn’t mean that I’d totally left the life.  Gina and I had just married … I …I worked in the grief counseling center at Lee Memorial.” 

Still not looking at him Emi said, “Rough assignment.  My family never made it into the hospital system but were triaged outside of Southwest Regional in the big tents.  They all … expired … within twenty-four hours of each other which supposedly meant that they caught it all at the same time and place.  Only way that could have happened is if they caught it at my recital two weeks earlier.” 

“You danced?” 

Emi snorted, “No.  Music.  My Poppy … my mother’s father … classical acoustic guitar … look, I’m done talking about this.” 

“For now?” 

Uncomfortable but understanding that this sharing was part of getting to know each other so they could fulfill the deal Emi slowly nodded.  “For now.” 

“Then let me ask you to help me pack up my personal items and get them stowed on the river boat.  And while we are at it perhaps you will have some questions for me.”

4 comments:

  1. Thank you :) happy dance here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great to have another chapter !!

    (I can't dance but I could try an Irish jig for you...)
    Oh well, I'll just send brownies and pepsi as a show of gratitude.

    ReplyDelete