6: Open water

The world was vast, but it was only when you escaped from the confines of humanity could your eyes widen enough to enjoy the view. Being out on the ocean opened Blake’s mind to that simple fact.

She and Toby had gallivanted the globe, but not once had she felt as free as she did on the Island Dreamer. Once they’d left Port Vila, the island of Efate becoming a dot on the horizon, the other signs of human interference began to drift away with the current. Sightings of the odd passing yacht, pleasure stink boat, tourist copter and cruise liner became less frequent, until finally they were gone, leaving just the four of them on Jack’s battered old sailer in the big blue.

Here truly was life, in the roll of the waves, the sting of the salt, the splash of the fish below. She breathed it in. Why had she never taken the time to appreciate the natural beauty of the world before, far more intoxicating than a hundred hotel rooms filled with caviar and champagne? True luxury lay in the simplicity of natural existence, the knowledge of your own insignifcance, far from the excess of man-made baubles that Toby so desired, that so many showered under as a show of delusional self-importance.

They ate simply on the boat. Snacks made of canned fruit and whatever fish the sea threw their way. Neri and Jack taught Madison how to throw a line. The sheer glee of her first catch was a wonder to Blake, almost bringing a tear to her cold eyes.

Almost.

There was always the reason for their journey in the forefront of her mind. Toby. Her wayward husband, father to their daughter, who she hoped wasn’t really dead, because she’d like to kill him herself.

She watched Neri play with Madison, both children young and old. She soaked in the pleasure of this faux holiday. She watched Jack casually steer his ship, clearly at home on the water, relaxed and sure. He was wrong about him, she realised. First impressions were our own taint on another, far from true perception.

He wasn’t just another expat crook trying to rape the islands for all they could grab. He really did love his Ni-Van girlfriend, you could see that in the ease they moved around each other, the casualness of their banter, the smiles they threw each others way, the lack of affectation, only genuine affection. Jack wasn’t about the money, he wanted a better life, and was just about smart enough to realise that could grow on trees if you picked the right spot.

He was a hell of a stoner though. To be fair on him he did make an albeit pathetic attempt not to smoke in front of Maddie. Blake sat down next to him as the wind rippled the smoke in a ganja curl around him.

Jack smiled. “Sorry,” he said. “Old habits die hard.” He motioned with the spliff and she accepted.

It had been a long time for her. The grass was strong and it took her a while to reply. “There’s worse things to do with yourself,” she said eventually. They sat for a while and breathed in, not needing to say anything, and Blake appreciated not thinking too much for once.

“Land ahoy!” Madison was jumping up and down and clapping. Blake squinted trying to see what her daughter already could. Just a blemish on the horizon.

Jack was already up at the wheel. “That’s the baby,” he said. And so it was. The blemish turned into a shape, and before they knew it, Crab Island was appearing before them from the blue.

TO BE CONTINUED

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