The morning came too soon.
Blearily blinking my eyes I curled up closer to Edouard, hoping that we still had time in the morning to enjoy each other’s company.
“Good morning,” he said with a smile.
“Morning.” I tapped my finger on his chest, nervous for some reason. “Hey… did you mean what you said last night?”
He turned to me in surprise. “Of course Elizabeth,” he said sincerely. “You know how I feel about you.”
“…Did you still want to meet in September?”
He held me tightly. “Of course.”
Relief coursed through me and I relaxed. “Oh good,” I murmured with a sleepy smile on my face. “I’ll endeavour to be fluent in French by the time I get there.”
“I like the way you talk,” he said. “I do not want you to be fluent in French. I like your accent when you try words. I like these sounds you make- ‘wha-?’ and ‘eh?’”
I laughed hard then because my accent was something that got made fun out of the most on Delos. Eventually, we both got out of bed to find that Raymond had left breakfast supplies and toothbrushes for us in the kitchen.
“What an amazing man,” Edouard said. “We should do something for him.”
As we tucked into spam and bread rolls, we spoke about the difference of food between Britain and France and what Paris represented to the world.
“For me,” I said, “Paris is the city of love. And not only that- the history is incredible, the culture, the architecture. You have the most wonderful language on earth. There’s a reason why there’s a stereotype that the French are the most romantic people- that women will swoon at their feet.” I took a bite from my bread. “I mean- look at me. I’m swooning every time you say something. I’m fascinated with your language, even though I can’t speak it. You must realise how special your country is.”
He seemed surprised of my conviction. “Really? Do people think that?”
“I tell you now, Edouard, my Nan would be blushing and swooning if she got to have one conversation with you.”
After making a ‘faux pas’ of explaining spam to Edouard as “It’s like paté, I suppose,” and his reply being:
“Elizabeth, I love everything you say, but this you cannot. You cannot compare this to paté.”
Our morning was set once I had made him his first English cup of tea. Now, I am a master of tea. Every English person goes through the training at a very young age and I can remember bringing my mother a cuppa into her room before school every morning as soon as I learned how.
I started him off on a ‘standard’ brew. Medium milk, medium colour with one sugar.
“This is good!” he announced.
I never thought I’d see the day when I would be making a Frenchman a cup of tea.
Raymond returned just at that moment for his tea break. We hugged him, thanked him for his hospitality and I rushed to make him his own cup of tea. Soon friends of Raymond’s joined us, spilling into the kitchen as they clapped him on the back, exchanged jokes and kissed his cheek.
He was a loved man.
I was glad that he had friends. The house was surrounded by pictures of him and his wife together, and seeing that his wife was no longer with him, it made me sad to see a wedding picture just by where he slept.
But he was smiling, laughing and content to be in our company.
“This is for you,” Edouard said, handing him an origami swan.
Raymond took it with an excitable expression, pulling on the tail slightly to make the wings flap. He nodded his head in thanks.
And that was all he would accept from us. He wouldn’t let us clear up for him, wash up or make him lunch. Leaving the house with a hug, I promised Edouard I would think of something to do for Raymond.
Going to Port Control to contact Malin to pick us up in the dingy, we bumped into his crew on the island, excitedly showing them the videos of the turtles and retelling our adventure. They started to talk amongst themselves in French and suddenly I knew they were talking about the repair on the boat.
As the rest of the crew walked away to arrange a few final things, Edouard turned to me.
“We leave today,” he said.
A heavy stone of sadness coiled within me as I nodded. “That’s ok,” I said, holding his hand as we walked through the town. “The sooner you go, the sooner you will be in Cape Verde and can get a flight back to France, right?”
He nodded in agreement, still looking sad.
“And there’s September, right? If you still want to then…” I knew I was babbling.
He kissed me. “Of course I will want to, Elizabeth.”
I knew he was going to Tanzania in August for a few weeks and I was heading to Brazil for a while. That anything could happen. He was aware of it too.
I know I am free. I can do what I want. I knew there was no expectation from him.
But I said it anyway.
“I know we already talked about you saying for me to be free in Brazil and do what I want,” I said slowly. “And I’ll always do what I want to do. But I’m not interested in anyone else. And there will be no one.”
It was a big thing to say. To say basically- ‘I will wait for you.’ We had shared such an amazing life changing moment and I knew we had become bound in some way from what we had experienced together.
I just had to say it.
I wanted him to know.
We had discussed giving something to the other person to decorate our bunks whilst we were on passage to think of the other person. I had grand plans of doing him an illustration or making him a string bracelet, but we had spent all of our time together.
Then I had decided. Pulling off the necklace I had worn around my neck since I had arrived in Cape Town- since I had started this journey, I held it in my hand.
“I’d like you to have this.”
It was the shell necklace. I had begun wearing it when I decided that I wanted to start again. That I was going to be the real Elizabeth I had always wanted to be.
That I would always be true to myself.
“Elizabeth, I cannot accept this-”
“I want you to have it,” I insisted. I explained the story. “So then, when you look at it, you’ll think of me.”
He grinned as I put it around his neck. “It suits me, no?” he said. “Oh Elizabeth, thank you so much. I love it. And you see? I will carry you always.” He turned and pointed to a part of his Polynesian tattoo of a turtle. “That is where you will always be also.”
He kissed me then and we hugged in the middle of the road for a long time.
I didn’t want to let go.
Soon it was time to ride back to Delos. I swallowed down my emotions for a while, accepting his hand as he helped me back on board.
Going below deck so he could say goodbye to everyone, he hugged each one of my Delos family in turn.
“I’m going now!” he announced and then started to tell the crew how much they meant to him.
I could hear the thoughts of my family as they listened to him, making sounds of protests at the news of his departure. I knew what they were thinking. I could feel their love and concern for me.
I remained in the cockpit, feeling a strange sensation wash over me. I couldn’t go below deck yet. I couldn’t let them see my face.
I was trying so hard to be brave. I was trying so hard to smile.
Edouard soon came back up and kissed me.
“Thank you for everything, Elizabeth,” he said. “I will miss you.”
I held him. “I’ll miss you too. But I will see you soon.”
He stepped onto the dingy and waved to me as he started back to Malin. I sat on the backstep of Delos and stared out, watching him go.
“Are you ok, mate?” I heard Brady’s voice behind me.
But hot tears had started to trail down my face. Surprise hit me at the sudden strong emotion pour over me, turning my skin into fire as all of my efforts to keep it together unravelled.
I muttered something inaudible, unable to speak.
“That was something really special, huh?”
I nodded and wiped the tears from my face, still not turning back around.
“I will really miss him,” I murmured at last.
I stayed out there for a while until I walked back to the cockpit, finding Brady there waiting for me. His smile was sad and understanding, feeling my pain.
I told him of our adventures, a smile breaking out on my face as I spoke about the boat, the sunset and the baby turtles, about having nowhere to sleep to being taken in by a total stranger and having a hot shower. I told him of Edouard wanting me to go on a road trip with him around France in September, about hoping it will happen.
“That’s amazing, mate!” he said. “I’m so happy that you got to experience that. He’s a wonderful human. And you will see him in September.”
“I hope so,” I sniffed.
Soon I was below deck, sharing the stories, showing the videos and hugging the rest of my crew.
“Hey we’re going to go to the beach soon for a bbq,” Brian said. “If you’re up for it.”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! I can show you my boat!”
I stepped outside whilst Brian continued to make us lunch, looking out to Malin as they prepared her sails and anchor. I was afraid to look away in case she would sail off without me seeing her.
Biting my lip, I asked Brian if we could go over and leave a bottle of wine for the boat.
“Of course we can, Lizbef.”
I wrote a quick letter to Edouard, trying to someway convey what spending time with him had meant to me. I pulled off a sketch I had done of Delos from my bunk wall and scratched my email on the back, signing it off with ‘Elizabeth- the English Queen.’
Soon we were in Maggie, waving to the French boat as they gathered out.
“Thank you, Elizabeth,” Edouard said, leaning down to accept my gift.
All I wanted to do was kiss him then as he peered down from the railings and I stood up from Maggie. But we were separated by the roll of the ocean and all we could do was exchange a look.
A look that said, I feel the same way.
I waved as Brian I started to head back to Delos.
“Thank you, mate,” I said to my captain as the wind whipped through my hair, looking back for a moment to see Edouard showing my sketch to his crew.
Swallowing, I made myself look forward.
This is ok, Elizabeth, I told myself. This is ok. Trust in the universe.
It wasn’t long before we were on the docks back on the island, staring out to Malin as she started to set sail. I wanted to stand there forever to watch her slice through the ocean until I could see nothing, not even a speck.
“Come on, Lizbef!” Brian called.
I forced my leaden feet to move.
Soon we were all on the beach, listening to music and enjoying the sunshine as I showed the rest of my crew my boat.
I sat in it with a bottle of cider in hand, staring out into the ocean as I replayed the previous night’s events. The crew explored the beach and started the bbq as I ran back and forth to the shore to dunk my head underwater, the heat sticking to my skin.
Alex and Brady were curled up in the sand with one another and I felt a pang inside my chest. That had been me the previous night with Edouard.
That had been me.
Eventually we ran out of alcohol and I volunteered to walk back into town to pick some more up. I don’t know what I was looking for. Maybe a distraction. Maybe an adventure. Maybe I was hoping for Malin to have turned back and for Edouard to be looking for me. Whatever it was, I just needed a walk.
Leaving the group, I skipped down the path and tried to keep my own spirits up.
But they were up. I was on a high. I felt changed somehow.
Finding out the shops were shut, I went to the pub Saints to buy beer from there. Spending my money on a rum and coke, the woman then told me that I couldn’t pay on card. I then pulled out the rest of my money and managed to buy two bottles of Savannah cider.
My plan of supplying my crew with booze had failed.
I took a breath, trying to pretend that the day hadn’t happened. Trying to remember how I had felt before all of this. But I couldn’t. Something irrevocable had happened inside of me.
Talking to the locals, they started to buy me drinks and shots. I knew I should probably walk back to the others straight away. But the rum was delicious and the conversation was flowing.
“Are you married?” one of the locals said to me.
“Are you engaged?”
“Are you with someone?”
I hesitated. What was even the answer of that? I wasn’t with anyone, but my heart was. “We’re both sailing,” I explained, the words like choking up rocks. “In different directions. Hopefully we’ll meet again.”
The local nodded in understanding and ordered me another drink.
Eventually one of the locals gave me a lift back to the beach. But the Delos Crew were packing up by then and I had missed the bbq.
I walked back to the abandoned boat behind the rocks where Edouard and I had spent the previous day and looked at it sadly. You could still see our footsteps in the sand and I suddenly wished I could replay that day forever.
Returning to the hut where everyone still was, Kevin, who had given me a lift waited for us all to pack our belongings into his truck and headed back to the docks.
By this point I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was definitely maybe more than a little bit merry.
Ok, maybe I was drunk.
Saying goodbye to Kevin, we walked off to the saltwater pool to use the showers. I watched as Lisa tore off her clothes and jumped into the black waters with a scream.
I laughed at the sight, thinking how beautiful the waters looked as they reflected the stars above. Grabbing her towel, she ran off to the showers whilst Alex and Brady went in the other.
I stared at the water for a long time, wanting to jump.
“Just do it, Elizabeth!” Lisa urged me as she washed in the shower. “Don’t think- just jump!”
I returned to the edge, no one in sight as I thought about the past day. I thought about what Edouard would say if he was there now. He probably would have jumped in by now.
I pulled off my clothes until I was standing naked and took a few steps back.
Don’t think- just do it! I told myself. Just do it!
I don’t know why this jump felt so significant for me.
But as I ran across the ground, hurtled through the air and plunged into those warm black depths, something changed.
The waters wrapped around my limbs as I swam upwards, laughing as my head ripped through the surface.
I plunged back under, again and again as the water rushed against my ears, my heartbeat thudding in my chest.
Coming to the surface, I floated on my back and gazed at the stars.
The Southern Cross blinked back down at me, and I knew I would never forget where it was. Staring at it made me feel connected to Edouard somehow. And I wondered if he was looking at it too.
Getting out of the pool only to jump in once more, the rest of the crew emerged from the showers, staring at me bemusedly as I pulled myself out, naked and dripping water everywhere.
And you know what?
I didn’t care.
I was so in love. I was so alive. And I was so free right then.
The Universe had made itself known to me and I was celebrating in it. Rejoicing in it.
Making our way back to Delos, I sat on the backstep for a while with a cigarette, music softly playing from my phone as I held a cider in hand. Brady came and sat next to me.
“Remember when you said, ‘now you know how I feel?’” I murmured to him.
“I’m feeling that now. And yes, I do know how you feel.”
We sat there for a while, as I explained how different I felt from when we had first set out. How I felt as though I had truly come to life since landing on Ascension. Since I met Edouard. I was happy. I was living.
By God I was living.
He said goodnight to me and I stayed out there a little bit longer, not willing to go back to my empty boat.
“It’s so sad to sleep alone,” I remembered Edouard saying.
And in that moment, I prayed that the Universe would feel my heart, hear my thoughts and take all the good vibes I held in my soul.
I prayed September would come and I would be with him again.
I looked up at the stars, gazed at the Southern Cross and smiled.
Thank you, Edouard.
Read more about Lizbef here! www.earlewrites.com