By Rick Lakin
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Congratulations to Mary Gale
Source:: Mary Gale Hinrichsen
On her drive to the yacht club, Abigail Wilson had a sense of impending doom. But once she turned her attention to the road, she noticed the tall eucalyptus trees and radiant flowers along the winding road, and thought, “What a beautiful day.”
At that moment, she determined to put the glooming feelings to rest. Think positive and enjoy the ambiance of a new day. Quickly she loosened her death grip on the steering wheel and rolled down the window. Oh, how I love the ocean air.
While taking in deep breaths, she glanced in the rearview mirror at her niece, Lisa, and nephew, Danny. Both seemed happy and content. I’m glad they adjusted so quickly to their parents vacationing without them.
Wide-eyed Lisa turned to Danny, who was still moving to the sounds emanating from his iPod.
In an attempt to relax, Abigail filled her lungs, held her breath, and slowly exhaled. After reaching the parking lot, she pulled into a space. “We’re here kids.”
After opening the back door, Lisa jumped out and stood. She took her jacket off and tied it around her waist. She noticed that her brother was still sitting, so she yelled, “Danny! We’re here!”
The boy removed his earphones, slowly placed his iPod in its carry case, and hopped out of the car to join his sister.
“I’m hungry,” he whined while glancing at his aunt.
With a snip in her tone, Lisa said, “You’re always hungry”.
Abigail rubbed the boy’s buzz haircut. “Let’s walk around before we eat, okay?”
After adjusting his jeans for comfort, he bent to tie his tennis shoes. When he looked up, he called out to his sister, “Hey, let’s look for sea lions.”
Lisa grinned and nodded. “Let’s race to the pier!” While running, her hair swished as she gripped her jacket. When she glanced back, she noticed her brother was catching up. When he was about to reach for her, she started giggling.
“Hey you two, pay attention!” Abigail yelled. “Thank God no cars are around.”
After stretching her long legs, and twisting at her waist, she headed toward the pier. When the ocean breeze kicked up, her strawberry-blond hair blew into her eyes, so she quickly put on her visor, and dug into her handbag to retrieve suntan lotion. She rubbed it onto her Scandinavian face and arms.
The sun felt good. Once she reached the dock, she stood on her left foot with her right hand on her hip. As the sun reflected on the water, it looked like sparkling diamonds. When she turned her attention to Lisa, the girl was hopping around like a playful kitten. When she saw Danny, his hand was over his eyes to block the sun while looking for sea lions.
Just as she started to relax, she noticed a well-built man walking up to Danny and starting a conversation. When she moved toward them, the man glanced her way, and cocked his head, with his mouth slightly open. His eyes were inspecting her tight black jeans and snug tank top.
Soon, the man turned his attention to the water, and asked Danny, “What do you see out there?”
“Nothing yet, but I want to find a sea lion.”
The stranger leaned against the metal rail. “Have you actually seen them here before?”
Danny shrugged his shoulder, and said, “A few times.”
Lisa skipped over to her brother and stopped. “Find anything?”
Abigail noticed the man’s eyes sparking as he smiled at Lisa. He said, “Have you seen sea lions here?”
“I saw one, I really did,” the girl squealed.
As Abigail came near, the stranger glanced at her. She stopped and stood between the children, and quickly placed her hand on Lisa’s shoulder. She stared at the man without a word.
“Does it bother you, me talking to your children? I know some parents are pretty sensitive.”
“The boy’s my nephew, and she’s my niece. And yes, I am protective. Sorry for making it so obvious.”
It surprised her when the man’s face went from a smile to sadness so quickly. His voice lowered. “I know from personal experience, you can’t be too careful.” His forehead revealed lines, and his hazel eyes looked away. But soon he faced Abigail and said, “Never apologize for being protective. If you ask me, adults need to be more aware of what’s going on with children.” They were both silent for a moment.
Abigail wondered what caused his sudden emotional change and the depth of his empathy. Something must have happened to him or someone close. Not wanting to pry, she said, “Thanks for understanding.”
The man turned his attention to Danny as the boy was still searching the water.
While he was talking to the boy, Abigail noticed the man’s Tommy Bahamas shirt, and slacks. Most men prefer shorts on a warm day near water. She liked the man’s distinctive square jaw line and Roman-shaped nose. His appearance was appealing. She hadn’t dated for a year, but he would be a consideration if she were in the dating mood.
When she glanced at his face, his incredible hazel eyes were focused on her in a way that revealed his interest. It caused her stomach to flutter. Although she felt good inside, she was grateful when he didn’t make further advancement. I’m just not ready to date.
He bent down and sat on his heels. “I don’t think you’ll find too many sea lions out there today. Sorry.”
The boy looked up and stared, “Why not?”
“They normally stay out farther.”
Soon Abigail called out, “Well, you two, let’s get a wiggle on it. Let’s go eat.”
Just the mention of food, Danny’s smile became broad.
While walking to the restaurant, Abigail turned to give the man a goodbye smile.
When their eyes met, his smile revealed his beautiful white teeth. Their attraction to each other was so obvious, causing her to feel vulnerable. When they turned to leave, she reached for Lisa’s hand, but quickly the girl let go when they were on the brick pathway. She yelled to Danny, “Watch me! I’m jumping over all the dark colored bricks!”
“But, you just missed one,” her brother teased.
“I did not!” she yelled.
Once Abigail’s nose caught the smell of food, she realized how hungry she felt. She reached for the door and held it open for the children. The large bay window drew her attention. It would be soothing just to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Soon Betty, their petite gray-haired hostess, walked toward them. “Well, if it isn’t Miss Abigail. Where have you been, girl? We haven’t seen you in these parts for a long while. And, you, Mr. Danny, you look more like your daddy every day. You have his charming green eyes and thick brown hair. So, tell me, how old are you? You’re twelve, right?”
The boy’s chin and eyes lowered. He preferred people to guess he was older.
Betty lightly touched Lisa’s shoulder. “Look at those big, brown, cow eyes.” She pinched the girl’s cheek. “Goodness, you must be ten by now, right?”
“Soon, in two weeks,” Lisa said, while she snickered at her brother.
The woman said, “Are you staying with your aunt?”
The children nodded.
“That must be fun.”
Danny stood erect, with his chin high. “We just came from Santa Barbara.”
“Oh.” The woman grinned. “So, you’re a world traveler, huh?”
The boy awkwardly squirmed while he stared at his shoes.
Betty grabbed one adult’s and two children’s menus and led them toward a table. “Abigail, you’re the only blue-eyed beauty in the family, aren’t you?”
Abigail smiled, and snickered, “Must have been the milkman.”
When Betty let out a loud chuckle, her chin rose.
While looking for a table, Abigail noticed the seating was plentiful. Around the walls were many red-leather booths, and in the middle were many tables with black upholstered chairs. The metal portholes and sea paintings gave the feeling of being on a vessel. Her favorite picture hung over the mahogany bar. It was of a man on a boat in the middle of the ocean being overcome by waves. It reminded her of her own vulnerability — like last year, when her heart was broken at the corner booth. She pushed the thought away. Remember, Abigail, today’s a new day.
They heard a familiar voice call out, “Hey! Is that you, Abigail?”
She spun around and saw a family friend, Larry Kilgore. His hand motioned for them to come. His petite, blond-haired wife, Sandra, and he were at their favorite booth.
Abigail’s family often referred to them as the mystery couple. Both were in their mid-forties, neither worked nor offered much personal information. They spent most of their time traveling the world. Her family found them both pleasant, and everyone enjoyed their interesting travel stories. Her dad suspected that one of them inherited their family’s fortune while her mother, with her vivid imagination, teased about other possibilities. It seemed that not knowing just added to the couple’s intrigue.
Larry said, “Could that be Danny and Lisa with you?”
The man approached the children and gave them a big hug. His beard scratched Lisa’s face. “Don’t,” she said, while giggling.
His slender frame wore casual linen pants and a shirt.
Sandra pushed herself from the booth and stood to greet the children. Her short frame was Danny’s height. As usual, she wore a colorful dress and high-heeled sandals, which had shiny stones and were most likely from Neiman Marcus.
“Come sit with us,” Larry said. “We have plenty of room. Goodness, the last time we saw you, let’s see — wasn’t it at your parents’ Christmas party?”
Abigail nodded, “I thought you were off traveling someplace exciting on your new yacht?”
Sandra waited until Lisa was seated next to her before sitting. She glanced at Abigail, “We just got back.”
Lisa gawked at Sandra’s necklace. “I like those green stones.” When Lisa saw the woman’s four-carat matching emerald ring, she said, “Wow. When I get big, I want one just like that.”
Sandra said, while smiling, “I’m sure you’ll have nice things, too, when you grow up.”
Lisa sat closer to Sandra and gazed up at her. “Mommy and Daddy just got married.”
“Oh, they’re together again, that’s nice.”
Lisa grinned and nodded.
Danny sat between his aunt and Larry. “Did you really buy a bigger boat?”
“We sure did.”
“Very big, want to see her?”
Danny’s eyes brightened, “You mean, go on it?”
“Sure.” Larry’s grin became a chuckle. “After we eat, you can check her out for yourself.”
At that time, their waitress had arrived and smiled broadly at Larry. “Ready to order?”
“Is it too late for breakfast?” Abigail asked.
“You can order anything on the menu,” she replied.
Larry and Sandra ordered lunch dishes while Abigail ordered eggs and toast, and the children asked for blueberry pancakes.
Sandra asked, “Lisa, where are your parents now?”
“Hawaii? How come you didn’t go?”
“Silly. They’re on their honeymoon.”
“That’s right. That’s a very good reason for not going.” She smiled, showing her perfect teeth. “I bet you’re happy they’re back together.”
The girl nodded.
Danny looked up at Larry. “Me too! I don’t like them split up, but they yelled too much together. Daddy wants Mommy to work, and she doesn’t want to. She wants to stay home. Now, he said she can stay home, but she wants to work.”
The adults laughed.
Danny grinned as the waitress placed pancakes before him. He dug in. The juice from a blueberry ran down the right side of his mouth.
As Sandra watched him, she asked, “So, young man, was your aunt starving you?”
Lisa scowled. “He always eats like that.” The girl took her fork and picked at her food before taking her first bite.
“I can see why you’re so skinny,” Larry teased the girl. He turned to Abigail. “So, what’s going on with your parents?”
After putting down her fork, she said, “They’re both doing pretty well. They’re in good health. They had a wonderful time on their trip to London and their quick visit to France. Speaking of trips, I heard you both went to the Middle East.”
His eyes looked down and away. “Yes. We did.”
“Weren’t you afraid, with all the unrest?”
“Yes. But, we avoided dangerous spots.” His head cocked. He was silent for a moment and then said, “With the suicide bombers, no one felt safe for a minute.”
“What made you decide to go to the Middle East?”
Larry didn’t answer. Instead, he hurriedly changed the subject. “So, tell me Abigail, why was it that you left such a great career? Weren’t you the district manager of some large corporation?”
She stared at her food and nodded.
“Your dad bragged about your success. Wasn’t your district the most successful in the country?”
Abigail studied her food and then connected with his eyes. “It was a great career, but I have no regrets for leaving. I like being a teacher. But, to answer your question, I left because I felt as if I was competing against myself.”
“I spent months training my staff, and then they would leave to compete against me.”
“I see. So, what grade do you teach?”
“So, do you pass along your high moral standards?” he mocked.
“I don’t put up with much, if that’s what you mean. Especially if a child is mean to another, he’s in big trouble, then.”
“Well, aren’t you the tough one,” Larry snickered.
After the meal, their full-figured waitress returned. She leaned forward to give Larry the check, and revealed her ample cleavage. When he handed her his credit card, he also gave a twenty-dollar tip.
As they prepared to leave, Danny asked, “Can we see your boat?”
“I didn’t forget, young man. Besides, I want your aunt to see our wheelhouse.”
Abigail touched Larry’s arm. “Are you sure you have time for this?”
“We have all the time in the world, missy.”
Sandra glanced at Lisa. “Want to see our new yacht?”
The girl clapped her hands, and her eyes sparkled. She squealed, “Yes!”
While walking, Abigail said, “We sure appreciate your kindness, Larry.”
When they got to the walkway, she noticed the same man from earlier talking with someone. She was glad he didn’t see her. Even if he was charming and attractive, she wasn’t ready for any complications.
While walking to the yacht, Lisa playfully hopped over the dark-colored bricks. Each time she missed, she giggled because Danny didn’t notice. He was too busy trying to figure out which yacht belonged to Larry.
Danny yelled, “I see one!” Lisa glanced to where he was pointing. From afar, it looked like two young pups bobbing their heads.
Everyone’s attention quickly changed direction when Sandra announced, “There’s our new yacht.”
The girl put her hands to her mouth. “Oh my, it is big!”
Abigail gasped. “Couldn’t you find a larger one?” The couple laughed.
Sandra said, “It is quite big. It is more than ninety feet long and has three levels.”
As Danny examined the vessel, he said, “Check out the small boat at the back.”
“It’s used for shore visits,” Larry said, while looking over the boy’s shoulders.
Abigail looked around and said, “Why so many life preservers? I guess you don’t want to be like the Titanic.”
Larry’s head went back as he laughed in amusement, “We thought the same thing. But, they were included, so we didn’t argue.”
The boy glanced up at Larry, “Can we check out the galley?”
Lisa smirked, “Is that all you think about — food?” But, the boy was too excited to be annoyed by his sister. Larry’s hand touched Danny’s head, guiding him. “Come, we’ll go there first.”
When they entered the galley, the boy’s eyes opened wide. “Wow! This is bigger than our kitchen.”
The girl peeked into the galley. “Gee, it is big. Look! The refrigerator has two doors.”
After Sandra opened a cupboard door, she took out a package of cookies. When they were offered, Danny immediately grabbed two.
Suddenly, Larry tapped Abigail’s shoulder. “Let’s go topside.”
She grinned, and her eyes became bright while she swiftly followed him up the ladder.
When they reached the wheelhouse, she observed the metal-framed glass enclosure. On a hot day, the glass rotated to allow for cool breezes. “Goodness, Larry. You have every imaginable electrical and mechanical device possible. Do you know how everything works?”
“No. It’s too new.”
She noticed the area behind the wheelhouse. At once, she saw a Jacuzzi. It seated six and had drink holders around the deck. Nearby was a small bar, which she was sure was fully stocked.
Larry watched her inspect the grown-up play area.
“They didn’t forget a thing, did they?” she said.
“That’s part of the fun of showing it off.” He grinned.
As they walked back to the wheel, she smiled broadly. “Being here is wonderful. I wish Dad could see this. You know how he loves to check out yachts. And, he would enjoy being out at sea on a day like this.”
Larry nodded in agreement.
They turned when they heard jubilant voices coming from the ladder. Danny boldly marched up to Larry. “Wow! Will you take us out sometime?”
After placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder, he said, “Sure.” He winked.
The girl exposed her biggest smile while looking at Sandra. “Can we go out today?”
Abigail’s face turned red. She squinted with a glare at the girl. “Young lady, it is not polite to ask such things.”
“The child can ask anything she wants.” Larry smiled at Lisa.
“She needs to learn not to impose upon others. It is not right to put anyone on the spot like that. It is just not polite,” Abigail said.
Sandra stood in front of Lisa, then bent down to her level and asked, “Is it truly your desire to go out to sea today, little one?”
“Can we? Can we really go? Today?” Lisa’s face lit up. She jumped up and down clapping her hands.
After Abigail’s face turned a brighter shade of red, she stared at the child. “No, not today, Lisa!”
“But, why not?” Larry piped in. “Do you have better things to do?”
Before Abigail had a chance to respond, Sandra said, “It’ll be pleasant having you three on board.” She surveyed her husband’s face. “Abigail can help you at the wheel. Can’t she, dear? Knowing her, it won’t take long for her to get the hang of it.”
“Sure, it’ll be fun.” He then faced Danny. “Want to spend the night out at sea?”
By then, Danny was so excited he hugged Larry’s neck without letting go.
Abigail shook her head in disbelief and quickly folded her arms tightly. Everything is happening too fast, she thought, staring at the children. She looked at Larry and Sandra. “I can’t believe you’re giving in to the children — really, overnight?”
“Our replacement skipper was due to come today,” Larry said. “I’ll have him meet us at sea after faxing him our navigational chart. Sandra, we still have our clothes on board. It’ll be fun. Abigail does learn quickly. I’m sure she won’t mind helping me navigate this thing.”
Abigail’s head throbbed. How did I get us in this mess, and how can I get us out? Her arm felt tight after recalling her earlier warning while driving from Santa Barbara. Each time she had a premonition, she feared it might come true. While feeling the pressure to say yes, she really wanted to say no, but hesitated when she saw the children’s jubilant faces.
“Pleeeeease,” Lisa begged.
“We still have our clothes in the car,” Danny said. “Remember?” His eyes danced with delight. “Can we go get them, can we?”
Although her instincts wanted to say no, those happy faces broke down her defenses. She turned to Larry. “Are you sure you want to put up with us overnight?”
“It’ll be delightful.”
Soon Sandra placed her arm around Abigail’s shoulders. “Don’t worry. It will be fun for all of us. So, go get your things. When you return, I’ll show you to your cabin.”
Quickly, Larry disappeared and then came back with a luggage carrier. “Use this. It’ll be easier.”
On the way to the car, Abigail was still upset with the children and herself. At that moment, she wished she wasn’t responsible for them. And, she desperately wanted to be alone to think. Everything was moving too fast.
Why am I so upset with the children? She questioned herself. I love the sea. Why am I resisting the idea? She stopped. It’s that fear again. I must let it go. While walking to the parking lot, she told herself, we’re on vacation, aren’t we? I’m just being silly. Perhaps, I should apologize for not being more appreciative. And, it’s too late to back out now. I might as well enjoy myself. She put on a smile for the children and decided not to scold them.
When they reached the car, they quickly got their bags onto the carrier and grabbed the smaller items. Danny’s face was beaming with anticipation. “I can’t wait to tell Dad. He won’t believe we were on a yacht. I wish he were with us.”
Lisa was grinning while saying, “We’ll have our own cabin. Won’t it be fun?” She glanced up at her aunt.
Abigail grabbed the girl’s ponytail. “Yes. This will be an adventure to remember.”
When they returned with their bags, Sandra gave them a choice between two cabins. Danny said, “Can we stay in this one? It has a couch. We can all be together.”
“Can we?” The girl said, with her chin held up, blinking. “Pleeease?”
“Sure. That’ll be fun,” she said, while thinking, I desperately need alone time, just to think. My mind can’t catch up with what’s happening. Not being in control is not one of my favorite things. I feel defenseless over what others want. Everything is out of my control right now.
After they got settled in and changed clothes, the children went to the main salon and played cards with Sandra, while Abigail joined Larry topside. He was moving the vessel from the dock and it needed his full attention. She remained silent as she watched him steer the yacht away from the pier.
Larry saw her and waved her closer. “Where are the kids?”
“Playing cards with Sandra, is my guess.”
“It’s a beautiful day. I’m glad you decided to join us. Or, did we decide for you?”
While smiling, she turned away. She was grateful that at least one person knew her true feelings. It felt good to be away from the children, even if for a few minutes. She had developed a greater appreciation for stay-at-home moms.
I must stop worrying. It is a beautiful day.
After he successfully moved out of the harbor, Larry said, “Come take the wheel.” While he showed her the fundamentals at the helm, he also showed her how to shut down the engine in case of an emergency or to take a break.
“Where’s Captain Majors?”
“On leave. He is in Mount Dora.”
“Not too far from Orlando. Bill was raised there.”
“How long will he be gone?”
“Just a few weeks.”
“The person coming later today is his replacement.”
“How will he find us?”
“He’ll take a smaller boat.”
Abigail’s attention turned to the children, who were yelling. “What’s the problem with you two?”
“I won, “Lisa said, tearfully,” but he said I cheated
“You did cheat,” he said.
“No. I did not, Danny.” She pushed him.
“Stop teasing your sister,” Abigail demanded.
Danny’s chin lowered. “Okay.” The boy turned his attention to the wheel and watched. “Can I help drive the boat?”
“Sure,” Larry said. “Come here.” For twenty minutes, Larry stood behind the boy patiently teaching him how to handle the wheel.
“What’s Sandra up to?” Larry asked.
“I don’t know,” Danny said.
“I’ll go check on her.” He faced Abigail. “I need to speak to Sandra about something important. Are you okay at the helm?”
After giving him a reassuring smile, she nodded.
“Will you two promise to stay with your aunt? I don’t want her alone.”
“I can help her drive the boat,” Lisa said. Larry smiled and kissed her forehead.
As he walked away, he stopped and spoke to Danny. “Come get me if she needs me, okay?”
The boy nodded.
While she stood behind Danny at the wheel, Lisa checked out the ship-to-shore equipment and noticed the radio. She turned it on and found a station. After ten minutes, the girl was bored. “It’s my turn!” she yelled at her brother.
After Danny vigorously objected, Abigail said, “Let him be. You can have your turn later.”
Within five minutes, Lisa let out a loud breath. “Can I drive the boat now?”
“Let your sister have her turn.” This time, Danny didn’t object. While stepping away from the wheel, his face lit up. “Let’s look for whales.”
“No! It’s my turn.” Lisa grabbed the wheel. Abigail placed her hands on Lisa’s.
“Are you looking forward to going to school?”
“No. I don’t like my new teacher. She’s mean.”
“How is she mean?”
“She just looks mean. She never smiles. No one likes her.”
“Perhaps something bad happened, and she is sad. Maybe your smile can make her feel better.”
“I don’t want to drive anymore,” she said. She blissfully skipped toward her brother. Together, they searched for creatures living in the sea.
Abigail enjoyed the sun on her skin, but knew she needed more lotion. She wondered how they went from having a late breakfast to being on a fantastic yacht at sea—and all within hours. Everyone knows I’m a control freak, so how did I suddenly give in to two small children? It must be love.
Danny and Lisa stepped into the wheelhouse to visit their aunt.
“Hi, kids. Having fun?” The girl smiled, causing her teeth to show and her eyes to squint. The boy nodded.
“Hey, young man,” Abigail said, “is it true you were in a fight a few months ago?” He nodded.
“Did your dad find out?” “Yes. I said that the boy hit me first. Daddy said, ‘Kick him in the butt if he tries it again.’”
“That would be your dad,” Abigail said, while holding back a laugh.
Lisa yelled, “I see something. It’s a whale.”
He stared at where she was pointing. “No, it isn’t. It’s only a school of fish—that’s all.”
The children sat down. “What do you think Mommy and Daddy are doing?” Danny asked.
“Snorkeling?” Abigail guessed.
“No, they’re sightseeing,” Lisa said.
“You don’t know that!” Danny sneered.
The boy stood and marched up to his aunt. “I’m hungry. Where’s Mr. Kilgore? He didn’t come back.”
“Yes, I know, Danny. Maybe he is still talking with Sandra.”
“But, I’m hungry.”
“After eating all those pancakes?” Lisa said loudly.
“It’s been forever since then!”
“You’re right, Danny. Larry’s been gone for hours. I’m starting to get hungry, too.”
“Can we go now?” he asked.
She nodded and shut down the engine. As they moved toward the ladder leading to the main deck, they decided their priority was the head.
The first to return was Danny. He entered the galley and started opening cupboards to check out the food supplies. Within minutes Lisa and her aunt joined him. Quickly, he grabbed the bread and peanut butter and searched for jam. After the sandwiches were made, they went into the main salon and relaxed while eating sandwiches.
“Where are Sandra and Larry?” Lisa asked.
“Well, they must be on the lower level. Either the master suite or the engine room, I would guess.” Because she felt exhausted, she wanted to kick up her feet for a while. But, for some reason, she felt uneasy about the Kilgores. She hoped everything was okay.