It’s the morning after the night before. I wake up to find myself wrapped in warm arms and I smile.
Wow, this feels good, I think.
It’s Alex’s birthday.
The radio buzzes.
“Ello, Port Control- this is Malin, we would like to get to Iceland please.”
Edouard laughs. “That’s my boat,” he says. “Their English is not very good.”
Edouard had planned to stay for breakfast but as he is the only English speaker on the boat, he has to leave early to help the rest of his crew go to the island, arrange parts for the boat, help a Scottish sailor with his sail and about another other dozen things.
“You know I want to stay,” he says, rushing up to catch the ferry his crew had just hopped onto. “But they are my family- you understand? I must help them.”
“Of course,” I say. “Hopefully I’ll see you later?”
He nods sincerely and gives me a kiss.
I watch him go feeling a little bit sad as I wave to him off on the ferry, seeing several men on board shake his hand as he departs. I return downstairs to have Brian grinning at me in the corner.
“Well done, Lizbef!” he laughs, clapping. “You’re a real woman now!”
I blushed and laughed as the crew started to fill the salon.
“I knew you would!” Karin said with a big smile. “I said that he would be perfect for you!”
Karin and Lisa had set up the table beautifully to celebrate Alex Blue’s 28th. It took a while to get her to come out of the room with Brady, her hair dishevelled and her eyes blinking blearily in surprise.
“Happy Birthday!” we all shouted as one.
Clasping her hands in front of her face, she giggled and sat down at the table before a huge cake. Lisa had made an apple pie cake extravaganza and candles were flickering eagerly for her to blow out.
And as we sat down at the table and sang happy birthday to her, I felt a sense of euphoria.
“Make a wish!” I said.
She closed her eyes for a moment and then blew. But I knew. We had conversations in the past where I had asked her what she wanted for her birthday.
She would always smile with a shrug and say, “I already have everything I could ever wish for.”
Everything was put in place. Everything was perfect. And as we enjoyed ourselves that morning, I couldn’t help but hold hope that I would see Edouard again.
And yes the thought crossed my mind that maybe he wouldn’t want to see me. Maybe this was a one off thing.
But those thoughts and fears never lingered. It was more than that.
No one teased me about his absence, giving me high fives and congratulations hugs. Strange how everything we do on Delos that makes us happy is celebrated by all.
“He’s pretty busy today,” Brian said as I sat next to him. “We’ll see him later.”
We packed up our things ready for our pool party, already on a high after some Bloody Marys specially concocted by our beloved Mr Brady. It was exactly what we needed after our epic night of drinking, singing and parting. It was one of those situations where water wasn’t going to make anyone feel better. We were beyond that.
We had to get back on it.
We had originally planned on having a beach party, but decided to celebrate at the saltwater pool in George Town. There were showers there as well and we were all keen to wash off the heat from our bodies.
And as we walked, I shared with Alex the details from the night before as girls do, giggling and blushing. We turned the corner to the pool and I missed a step.
Edourard was walking out of the pool, his hair wet and a towel around his neck.
Play it cool, Liz, play it cool, I told myself.
I had only seen him a couple of hours earlier, why was I blushing like a school girl now? Swearing inwardly at my own awkwardness, I tried to quash down the surge of happiness. Alex immediately stepped forwards with a laugh and embraced him with a kiss on the cheek. He then hugged me and did the same. I remember feeling clumsy because my water bottle was in the way.
“Are you coming later?” I asked casually.
“Yes of course,” he nodded with a smile. “Probably late afternoon because we have to help-”
He gave me his long list and I tilted my head in understanding. “I look forward to seeing you then.”
The day progressed with music, food, the pool and more drinks of course. We were all suffering from the night before and I was still getting teased about Edouard. I grinned despite it all. It was worthwhile. At the pool were the two other members from the French boat, Malin. In their 60’s/70’s they sat happily with a beer in hand that Brady had donated, watching the girl crew run around and jump in the pool in their bikinis.
It was a wonderful feeling lying there with my girl crew, spinning around in the water and feeling immediately cooled from the sun’s rays. I crawled out and lay on the floor, happy to doze, happy to daydream.
“Look at that little half smile on her face!” Alex laughed at me.
I opened one eye and shut it again. “No I’m not!” I protested, my smile widening even more.
Time ticked on and after Brady hand fed us all strawberries, he soon fixed his attention on doing the same to the other two French men, Philip and Jack. Jack declined, but Philip bit Brady’s fingers in his haste to get that strawberry.
I didn’t blame him.
They were damn delicious.
We had a giant tub of moonshine with us, simply with the huge label “FILTER’D” as we mixed it with tropical juices, doing shots and jumping in the pool again, only to dry off in the sun afterwards. It was a good cycle.
But no Edouard.
Every time the gate clanged shut I would turn around, my heart beating and expecting to see him standing there.
But there was no one.
More time ticked on.
“He’s probably busy, Liz,” Karin said when I started to pout. “You know what boat jobs are like.”
I certainly did.
Soon it was half four, and the team were getting ready to leave.
“Can we wait until Edouard gets here?” I said quietly to Brian. “Or at least another 30 minutes?”
“Of course, Lizbef.”
We waited another 30 minutes with no sign.
Dejectedly, I started to follow the group to the docks and stared out into the ocean as we prepared Maggie, my feet swinging above the crashing waves as I sat on the railings besides Alex.
The horizon stretched out before me with the promise of a beautiful sunset, Malin and Delos happily floating side by side in the distance. I squinted, seeing something move in the waters ahead.
I frowned. It was a small dingy.
“Oh Liz…” Alex said. “I think that’s…”
“Don’t say it,” I begged. “Please don’t say it.”
But I knew.
It was Edouard and his friend coming to shore to meet us for the party. But now we were going home. I watched them as they secured the small boat to the docks, feeling my chest fall.
I could see his expression as he peered curiously at us as we stepped onto the last ferry back. Could see the same disappointment.
“Are you going back?” he asked me.
“We are,” I said, trying to keep a smile on my face. “But feel free to pop on over later- we’re going to have a few drinks!”
“We will!” he promised, waving us off.
I sat down in the ferry as we started to near Delos, his silhouette becoming smaller and smaller behind me. I forced myself to look ahead, fixing a casual expression on my face as I was surrounded by a chorus of “Oh no’s!” by my crew.
But I knew there was no point in hiding my disappointment. They knew.
“Just my luck…” I mumbled, trying to swallow my emotions.
Getting back to the boat, we were exhausted and most of us fell asleep immediately. Time passed as I drifted off to sleep in my bunk, awoken by Karin.
“Dinner will be ready in five minutes!” she announced.
I yawned and lay down on the sofa, drifting off again as Brady put the finishing touches to Alex’s birthday meal.
As my eyes drifted shut, I yawned.
“It’s probably a good thing they didn’t meet us,” I said, not at all meaning it. “I’m pretty tired to entertain.”
I knew why I was saying it. I was trying to convince myself that this way was better. To discard the disappointment that whatever I had been feeling was just something fleeting. To take it for what it was.
“Hey,” Brian said, “I think we may just go back in after this and go to a club. What do you think?”
I didn’t answer, imagining my terrible luck of us heading back into town on Maggie and Edouard returning with his crew mate to see us on Delos. I was sure I wouldn’t see him that night. I didn’t know how to make it happen.
We heard a scuffle outside.
And then voices.
“Hey! Your boy is here!” Brian cheered.
I opened my eye and sat up slightly to see Edouard poke his head down from the cockpit. “Hey guys!”
Shyness overcame me again as I sat up. He took a seat next to me immediately, no reservations as he put a hand on my leg as though it was the most natural thing in the world. I could feel my crews’ eyes on me but didn’t care.
He was there.
And that was all that mattered.
Vincent, his other crew member joined him, both soaked through by their ride over in their small dingy. Vincent was his captain, a friend who he had worked with years past. He didn’t know much English but wanted to join and I was glad he had, a shining bottle of Kraken in his hands.
The crew cooed and oohed over the black liquid, pouring some out for everybody immediately.
“I missed you,” Edouard said. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there at the party. We really tried hard to get our jobs done…”
He continued to tell me about his day and I smiled back. I was just so happy in that moment that he was there. That this was still happening. That I was able to spend a few more moments with him.
“I want to kiss you,” he said. “But I am shy.”
I wanted to say, “don’t be” or just to have kissed him there and then. But all I could stammer was, “aww, are you?” Leaving it like that as I held his hand under the table.
We ate together and soon withdrew into the cockpit with the Kraken.
Whilst the rest of the group were talking, we made eye contact. It wasn’t a normal feeling within my core as I stared back at him. It was something inside me that suddenly turned to electric.
And then he kissed me in front of everyone.
A chorus of “Ooooohs” giggles and “Get him, Lizbef!” came from Brian as I simply enjoyed the moment. And there were many more.
“Do you want to stay here tonight?” I asked tentatively.
He smiled. “Of course,” he said. “I want to be with you.” He leaned forwards with a sincere expression. “I will make you breakfast tomorrow to apologise for this morning.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I protested, knowing full well I would love for him to.
“I want to,” he insisted. “I want to do that for you.”
My face ached from the amount of smiling.
The night was perfect, enjoying more drinks, conversations, stolen kisses until everyone retired to their bunks- except his friend Vincent that almost immediately fell asleep on the cushions in the cockpit.
“He has drank a lot,” Edouard explained.
And you know what? It was amazing. It was amazing just lying in my bunk having someone hold me as I fell asleep. To have my legs intertwined with another. To be lying next to another person.
But it wasn’t just that.
It was the fact that it was him.
The next morning came.
I woke up feeling giddy as he jumped out and started to make French crepes.
Vincent and the dingy was nowhere to be seen.
“He probably went back to the boat,” Edouard explained as Lisa passed his some flour.
Making myself a cup of tea, I attempted to make him some good coffee from our French press, but whether or not it was any good, he was too polite to say otherwise.
We spent the day like that. Relaxing, joking, eating to our heart’s content and him teaching me French. After lunch, Brian, Karin and Lisa had left for the island, so it was just the four of us behind.
We stood in the kitchen, sharing a spoon as we dug into Alex’s birthday cake.
“Voulez vous coucher apple pie?” I said, holding up a spoonful of Lisa’s dessert.
He laughed at me and I frowned in confusion.
“You’ve just asked me if I want to have sex with apple pie,” he said, grinning.
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh dear.”
After I learned the correct phrase, I offered him something no sailor could refuse.
“Would you like a fresh water shower off the back?”
His face was priceless. “Oh yes, I would very much like that!”
The sun was beaming as we stripped, sat on the back of Delos and scrubbed shampoo into our hair. He was so happy as the water spilled over him as he scrubbed.
“This is so wonderful, Elizabeth!” he sighed before commencing into a sing song voice. “La la lala lala la!”
We lay out in the sun like that for a long while, trusting the rays and the wind to dry out skin as we slept. Once we woke again, I withdrew to the kitchen and made us a gin and tonic.
“I’ve decided,” I said, “that I no longer believe in abstinence. I used to feel guilty after enjoying myself too much from a night before. But now? I think if I want something I’ll just have it. Life is here to enjoy.”
He accepted his gin and tonic. “I agree. If you want something you should have it. Never feel guilty, Elizabeth.”
We retired to the cockpit and spoke for hours, conversations darting so fast between us as though there would never be enough time.
And all of a sudden, it was time to make dinner. Pulling out ingredients to make spaghetti bolognaise for our second hangover of the week, I turned around to see him cutting up the onions.
I don’t know why I was surprised. Or why this made me so happy. The fact that someone was preparing dinner with me. Such a small thing.
“I want to do this for you,” he explained. “You have given me so much- this is the least I can do.”
He explained that he was happier looking after people- that he wanted to look after me instead of the other way around. This was new to me. And as he helped me in my hungover clumsiness, the rest of the crew returned for us to share the rest of the meal, including Vincent from Malin.
“I woke up cold,” he said with an illustrated shiver.
We sat there in the darkness of the night, Malin happily bobbing along beside us as we continued to eat and talk.
“Would you like to come back to Malin?” Edouard asked me.
He had explained that it was very different to Delos. He and Vincent were always going around Delos in open awe at the sails, rigging and everything else a sailor of his experience could search for.
“Of course! I’d love to see it,” I replied. “I’ll try my best to remember the words you taught me!”
Mr Brady insisted on doing my dishes for me so I could leave straight away. It wasn’t long before I was on a dingy towards the French boat, being waved off by the rest of my crew. I think part of them expected me to never return.
And suddenly I was crawling into Malin, welcomed by Jack and Philip as they prepared potatoes in a blue cheese sauce. It smelt incredible and all of a sudden I was hungry again. The boat had an incredible raw beauty within, the wood ingrained with the scent of ocean, men and spice.
I had a wonderful time with the Malin crew, and although we didn’t speak the same language, it didn’t seem to matter. With a few words in French and English that we understood, we managed to communicate stories, feelings and questions. It was Sunday now, and I knew they were to leave in a matter of days.
I don’t know whether that made the moment even more precious, just being here with these people. But I told myself to not think of tomorrow. Just to stay in the now.
The food was incredible and as we finished, Edouard stood up and started to make bread.
“I want to prepare it to make you breakfast in the morning,” he explained, kneading the dough.
I stared at him, unable to put sentences into words. This was a guy who was sailing across oceans with no technology on board, where everything had to be done manually, travelling using the stars and a sexton like the sailors of old. This was a guy who had been travelling the world for four years backpacking, working in orphanages and helping others in need. This was someone who had decided that I was the person he wanted to be with, who had just made me French crepes that morning, and now he was preparing bread by hand just to make me breakfast in the next day.
My mind was blown that he felt I was worthy of him.
I didn’t know what I had done to deserve the feelings that were buzzing through my body and pounding in my chest.
I felt so precious. So fucking precious.
A thought flashed in my mind as I watched him.
The French do everything better.
“You see that? That is the Southern Cross,” pointed out Edouard as we were sitting in the cockpit with a glass of red wine. “You can tell by two stars being above it…and to the right… you see that bright yellow star there? That’s Venus.”
I was in awe and turned downstairs to the sound of laughter and French tittering.
Edouard laughed, overhearing.
“What are they saying?” I asked with a raised brow.
“They say… “Ooo look at me, I’m Edouard and here are the stars…”
I laughed too and suddenly joined in. But nevertheless, it was beautiful and it was romantic. He held so much knowledge of the world that I had no clue about and it fascinated me as we talked, our lives being so completely different. We came from two very different places and yet we felt like kindred spirits.
We stayed out there for a long time as everyone retired to bed. Edouard’s bunk was much smaller than my own and I was still happy to share- until Vincent offered his own to us.
“Wow, that’s incredible,” I said, happiness surging through me. Vincent was giving up his Captain’s Quarters for us both and I couldn’t wait to stretch my limbs. “Merci, Vincent!”
The room was surrounded in wood, simple with a large bed. I climbed up excitedly and sighed as I lay down.
“This is heaven.”
And it was. We lay there, still talking, staring up at the stars above our heads through the hatch, side by side. He spoke of his adventures across the countries were he had been and I spoke about England and Australia. We spoke about our pasts, our futures, our dreams and beliefs. We spoke about how happy we were that we had managed to meet up again, how perfectly the day had been and how we felt about the other person.
There in the darkness I was happy.
There in the darkness, there was no tomorrow.