The next morning on Malin was beautiful. Tucking into freshly made bread and honey, I sat in the cockpit contentedly with a cup of tea.
“I’ve never had bread with honey,” I admitted.
Shock passed over Edouard’s face. “You have never had bread with honey?” he repeated. “But how, Elizabeth?”
It seemed back in England there had been a lot of things I had never tried before. I laughed, shrugged my shoulders and peered over at Delos. There was movement on deck, Brady peering over at the anchor on the bow.
“Their boat has been moving,” Edouard translates for me from his crew mate Philip. “The anchor is dragging.”
I watch them adjust Delos and raise my eyebrow as they start to sail.
Brady waves over at me, a huge grin on his face. “We’re just going for a sail mate- be back in a day or so!”
I stare at him in mid chew. “Guys?” I call as they pass us. I stand up. “Guys!”
But they laugh at me and anchor up on the starboard side of Malin. I settle back down under Edouard’s arm and continue to enjoy my breakfast.
I watch the rest of the crew work on the back of the boat, talking in French as they discuss how to best fix it. I’m not too sure what has been the problem but don’t ask. All I hope is that it could possibly take them longer to fix it and stay an extra few days.
But apparently that is not the case.
“We may leave tomorrow,” Edouard explains to me.
I nod in understanding, wishing he could stay. I swallow down my feelings and focus on enjoying the sunshine beaming down on my skin.
The crew were going into the island and we decided that after they got their jobs done, me and Edouard would go for a drink and spend some time together. After quickly stopping off at Delos to quickly brush my teeth and grab my backpack, we made it into the island, heading first to the pub, Saints.
I sit at the table thinking how nice it would be to enjoy a beer in the heat, and as if hearing my thoughts, Edouard heads to the bar.
It’s only 11:30am but I smile seeing how that means little to the crew.
“Who would like a beer?”
Five bottles of castle beer later, we tuck in for some lunch. They bought a loaf of bread, a joint of ham, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes, whipping out their knives to cut and slice.
“In France a lot of us from the country always carry a knife,” explain Edouard.
I raise an eyebrow. “In England if people are doing that it’s usually for protection- not to slice up bread and cheese.”
He laughs and then translates to the rest of the crew, who nod and chuckle.
They then ask about the necklace about my neck, a shell on a cord with a gem that I had gotten from Cape Town. They were discussing in French what shell it was and then asked about the other one I was wearing.
“It’s a St Christopher from my dad,” I explained. “He gave it to me before I left Australia.”
They made a joke about needing all the St Christophers they could get whilst out on the ocean and I laughed.
It was an incredible lunch, interrupted momentarily by a group of curious donkeys. Philip dived for his camera and managed to take a few shots before they lost interest and trotted somewhere else.
The crew exchanged a few sentences in French and stand up, Edouard remaining seated. Vincent, Jack and Philip wave to me goodbye and then leave to do whatever jobs they need to do.
“I have to buy wifi and tell my family I am ok,” explains Edouard as we head to the Obsidian hotel and Anchor Pub.
We find my Delos family there, sitting side by side in a row, tapping away on their laptops, uploading videos, editing photographs and updating our social media. I feel guilty for a moment that I am not joining in, but know that I want to spend as much time with Edouard as possible.
He talks on the phone to one of his friends in French as we sit on another table and later hangs up.
“My friend tells me, ‘I have fallen in love with a girl with blue hair!’ I say to him- ‘I have fallen in love with a girl with blue eyes!’”
I blush at his words and happily continue to write postcards as he contacts the rest of his family. Eventually we head into another room to charge his phone, sitting with my legs over his on the sofa as two workers come in.
“Are you partners?” the woman asks.
We sit side by side, looking from each other to the women. “Er…”
“Yes!” we nod as one, laughing. “We’re married.”
She frowns and then grins, sensing the joke. “Nah, you’re not married!”
“You show me the church now and I’ll do it!” I laugh.
They leave and Edouard turns to me. “When that happens in France we say we are l’amours. It sounds so much nicer than partners.”
I agree and sit back as we exchange Facebook details and show a few pictures from our lives before we both set off sailing.
“Look at you, beautiful girl!” he said, looking at my pictures.
“Oh yeah,” I replied. “That’s when I wore makeup.”
“Elizabeth- when I say you are beautiful, you do not believe me. But I do not care about clothes, makeup or how you look. I look in your eyes and I see you are beautiful.”
I stare at him speechless.
And when I do reply, I think of all the things I could possibly say. But all I reply with is:
We soon leave the pub, waving goodbye to the crew and head to the shops to buy coke, beers, cider and a bottle of rum.
The reason for this arguably large amount of alcohol is that we discovered we were both awful at making decisions. So instead of saying no to anything- we said yes.
We decided to head to the beach, settling ourselves in the middle of the strip, stepping over Turtle nests and inspecting broken eggs and ones that had never quite made it out.
It made me intensely sad, the frigate birds swooping above our heads, wondering what we were doing to their midnight feasts. I scowled back at them in return.
Lying back in the sand, I rested my head on Edouard’s chest as we continued to talk, laugh and joke, drinking two ciders and two beers each, smoking as much as we wanted.
An hour passed until we decided to move down to the other side of the beach. There was an enclosure of rocks by the shallows, and although we weren’t allowed to swim in the waters because of the unusual shark activity, it seemed like the perfect place to go.
We set up camp, finding an abandoned boat on the beach hiding behind the black rocks. After exploring for a few minutes, I pick up a shell and fix it on my chain carrying my St Christopher. I wanted to take something to remember this day.
Returning to ‘our’ boat, we pulled out the rum, the coke and settled back to enjoy each other’s company.
I must have spilled everything about my life, starting from the beginning. I told him of my childhood, of my upbringing, of my Granddad to my mother’s divorce and then her marriage to my amazing stepfather. I spoke of my sister, how much I loved and respected her. I spoke of my dreams, aspirations and how all I ever wanted to do was to write. I didn’t care wherever I was in the world. As long as I could do that.
“I think when you find the right person, it doesn’t matter where you are,” he said. “You can feel at home with that person wherever you are in the world.”
We spoke about past relationships, about what we wanted from the future and our personalities. We spoke about our journeys so far, about how we started them. He spoke about his love for the world and the universe. How he believed in it full heartedly.
We then started to speak about our own countries.
“You need to come to France!” he said eventually.
I grinned. “And you need to come to England!”
He thought for a moment. “I will be back home in September,” he explained.
He nodded with a smile.
“Promise?” I raised my eyebrow. “I want a contract!”
“You see?” he said, imitating sticking a pen into his finger. “I sign it with blood!”
We started to talk of a road trip around France then, about travelling in his car, meeting his friends and his sister. We spoke of eating cheese and drinking wine to our heart’s content, sleeping beneath the stars and meeting his friend Bruno.
“Actually, maybe I will not introduce you to him. He is far too handsome and I want you to myself.”
We laughed and walked to the shore. I watched him dip his head underwater to cool down, creeping up on him in the hope to scare him.
He paused and twisted around suddenly, hurling water all over me. I spluttered and staggered back, a chorus of laughter ripping through me as I ran towards him and then away. We sat back down in the sand, water dripping from our hair and drying on our bodies as we watched the sunset explode behind the rocks.
It’s strange when it happens. You feel the instant the sun goes down. It’s as if the sky flashes. The colours are all of a sudden so bright, dying down after a few heartbeats, the pinks, oranges, yellows and purples cascading across the sky as the light pierces through the clouds.
We lay back and kissed, overwhelmed at the sight. We celebrated by swigging rum from the bottle and lay back in the sand, wrapped up in each other.
We continued to talk and paused.
A scuffling caught our attention to our right until something tiny caught my eye.
My heart skipped a beat and I sat up in a shot, unable to get the words out from my mouth.
“Turtles!” I gasped. “Baby turtles!”
Sure enough, dozens upon dozens of baby turtles had hatched the moment the sun had set behind the horizon. They crawled eagerly towards the sea, their flippers moving frantically across the beach as they followed their brothers and sisters.
My heart burst with joy at the sight as I grasped onto Edouard.
I never thought I would ever have a moment like that. Never in my life.
But then something moved across the sky and hurtled down.
We jumped up immediately, waving our arms in the air to scare away the birds in the sky as the baby turtles endeavored to continue towards the ocean.
“Come on, little guy!” I pleaded to a baby turtle. “You can do it!” But he was going in the wrong direction, and suddenly the birds were getting braver.
There was never a moment in my mind that I didn’t do the right thing. In my mind, Mother Nature was fucked. And she needed help.
I scooped up the tiny being in my hands and ran towards the shore, feeling it move in my palms as I gently let it into the water. The birds swooped down around us as we continued like that, scooping and releasing, scooping and releasing. The ones nearest to the shore I tried to protect, encouraging them and pleading with them to not stop trying.
“You can do it! Please carry on! I know you’re so tired! You can do it!”
My heart was bursting. My blood was pumping. The sky was aflame with colours behind us and the waves were lapping at my ankles each time I ran to the shore with a tiny turtle moving in my hands.
Soon, there weren’t any left.
“We did it!” I gasped, holding onto Edouard. And I could see in his eyes the same expression in mine. Bewilderment. Amazement. Pure joy. Neither of us could handle that moment.
We ran through the shore then, kicking and jumping through the waves, screaming and whooping at the top of our voices as the energy needed to come out in some way. I watched as he sprinted through the sand, running through the ocean until he simply lay down and allowed the waves to crash over him. I couldn’t stop laughing. I could not stop smiling.
This was life.
Hand in hand, we were soaked through and made our way back to the boat, lying down as the skies darkened and celebrated Mother Nature with yet another swig of Captain Morgan.
I thought then how far I had come. About who I used to be.
I knew in that moment I would never be the same again.
We lay there as the stars started to shine from the depths, sleepily blinking their light until they became brighter and brighter with every passing second.
Soon all we could hear was the gentle whistle of wind through the rocks, the crashing of waves against the shore and our heartbeats thudding.
“I am in love with you, Elizabeth.”
I turned to him, the tiny grains of sand sticking to the backs of my arms and legs as I smiled.
What had I ever done to deserve this?
I watched him for a moment, knowing already the emotions within my core.
I had never experienced anything like this in my life. Had never met anyone like Edouard. Had never heard someone speak their heart so freely.
“And I’m in love with you,” I said, feeling the release of the words from my mouth like a sigh of inhaled breath that had wanted to come out since I first met him.
And it was true.
I fell absolutely and completely in love with a French sailor on an island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
And whether knowing he was going away made things more intense, bittersweet or just made us recognize the fact that there was no point in holding back, I don’t know.
But I do know that it was real.
We packed up our things and started the walk back into the town hand in hand. We knew there were no dingies to take us back to our boats and were prepared to get a hotel.
We walked through the seemingly deserted town in the dead of night and went straight to the Obsidian hotel. Finding it closed, we walked onwards. We passed by the bar Saints, wondering whether we would see anyone and found that empty too.
Just what time was it anyway?
“Maybe we could go to the military base and see if they could help us?” I suggested.
We had a back up plan in case we were very stuck- there was a building where Edouard and his crew had slept on the floor on their first night when they were stranded after a few too many drinks.
I didn’t care if I would have to sleep on the streets, beach or in any abandoned building, as long as I was with him.
As we walked through the streets, we heard loud music blaring from a small house.
“Someone’s up!” I said, pulling his hand. “We should knock on the door and see if they could help us.”
Edouard nodded. “Yes, but you should knock. Whenever I knock on people’s doors no one ever lets me in.” He threw me a wink. “But with a pretty English girl, I’m sure we’ll have more luck- I’ll just hide behind you.”
And so I knocked on the door, seeing a tall older man standing in his kitchen with a cigarette, ‘Diamond Cowboy’ blasting from inside.
I waved to get his attention.
Seeing my face at the door, he jumped and nearly dropped his cigarette.
“Hi there!” I said as he opened the door. “I’m so sorry to disturb you- but we’re a bit stranded and wondered if you knew of anywhere open we can stay? A B&B or maybe the American Military base?”
“Yes, yes,” he nodded, waving us in.
He led us inside through the house and to a bedroom with a double bed. “You can stay here,” he said with a drag of his cigarette. “I never sleep in here. Too many bad memories. I sleep on the sofa now. My wife is gone.”
Edouard and I couldn’t believe it. “Wow, I don’t know what to say!” I gasped. “Are you sure? That’s very kind!”
“Very kind,” nodded Edouard, now looking like he couldn’t believe all of the goodness that had come our way in the past 24 hours. “Thank you, sir!”
Our minds were blown at our host’s hospitality and kindness. His name was Raymond and he had just lost a big Darts Tournament. He had stayed up to drown his sorrows a little bit and I thanked all of my lucky stars that he had been up whilst we were walking around.
I looked at the clock. “It’s half eleven,” I gasped. “We’ve been at the beach for over eight hours!”
“It does not seem so long,” Edouard said, just as surprised.
Raymond nodded, not understanding our bemusement and lit another cigarette.
My stomach rumbled. “Raymond, is it possible to buy a couple of slices of bread from you?” I asked tentatively. “It’s just we haven’t eaten all day…”
Immediately, that opened a whole evening of food. He gave us cans of spam and rolls of bread, followed by a spicy curry, and then potatoes and thick ham. He gave us whiskey, shared his cigarettes and danced in the kitchen with us to 80’s music.
Edouard joked that I wouldn’t be able to handle the curry being English.
“I can tell already that it will be too hot for you,” he said seriously.
I took a bite in defiance, scrunched my eyes shut and nodded in surrender.
“It ok?” Raymond asked.
“Oh yes!” I said, stuffing another spoonful into my mouth. “It’s delicious!” I then gestured at Edouard to pass me some water as soon as Raymond’s back was turned.
It was an incredible evening that Edouard and I were struggling to process after everything we had already seen that day.
“Thank you so much,” I said to Raymond for the thousandth time as we danced to ‘Don’t let the Sun go down on me’ from the Lost Boys film soundtrack. It had been my favourite film growing up and I couldn’t believe seeing the soundtrack cd in his collection.
We danced some more, celebrating in the moment, celebrating in the universe and celebrating life as a whole.
“Would you like a shower too?” Raymond said, standing up to get a towel.
Our eyes met across the table and we shook our heads in disbelief. “This is incredible, Elizabeth,” Edouard said, missing the ‘H’ from my name. I always liked that. “I am so happy… I cannot tell you how happy I am…”
I held his hand, smiling. “I know.”
It’s strange how the small things can become precious. A bed for the night. Food. A hot shower.
And as Raymond settled on the sofa beneath the covers to watch his favourite television series before he fell asleep, Edouard and I shared a shower with beautiful hot water.
I wanted to stay in there forever, scrubbing the saltwater and sand from each other’s hair and drying each other off.
“I feel so amazing,” I sighed as we walked into our room for the night.
We stretched out across the bed and held each other, lying like that for a long time as our hearts tried to accept the amount of love we had received from the universe. Tried to accept what we had seen.
What we were feeling.
Knowing that tomorrow could potentially be the day that I said goodbye to Edouard for a time, I held onto him that little bit tighter. I didn’t want to let go.
I didn’t want to say goodbye.
“I love you, Elizabeth.”
I smiled in the dark.
“I love you, Edouard.”
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