26: Crab island

Regret. The realisation that so much more could have been achieved, so many words doomed to remain unsaid, before the chance was lost. We only have so many fleeting moments before they pass, sometimes never to be repeated.

Blake was feeling something she’d never truly known before. Guilt. Had she driven Toby to pursue ridiculous dreams to better himself in her cold eyes? Had that blankness left him unsatisfied? Was their daughter not enough to fill both their hearts?

They made their way along the shore line, navigating sandy inlets, rock pools and scrambling around cliff edges. Jack surmised this being the safest route back to the village incognito in the slim chance of escaping back on his boat. No one else in the party had any better suggestions.

As they clambered, slipped and scraped along the rugged island coast Madison held Neri’s hand, rather her mother’s, while Blake reflected on her own path alone. She was glad of the warmth the Ni-Van girl exuded, an honest love of life, strength from gentleness, a genuine care for the well-being of others, especially her daughter.

Had they ever been a happy family before? She and Toby had always felt easy together, even when they were cheating on Leo, but was their bond forged by duplicity, a oneupmanship against the world, rather than something more honest?

They had drifted, caroused, sniggered and sneered their way around the globe, caring little for the friendship of others, rarely repaying debt without shame. Was that a good life? Was Toby’s demise a just display of karma for the various misdeeds that had brought them here?

A true feeling of belonging in the world had only appeared for Blake with the birth of Madison. For once she felt almost whole, knowing that she’d created someone wonderful, giving something to the world rather than stealing from another. This was hers, she was theirs. But had Toby felt the same way?

Perhaps that was why he’d set about buying Crab Island? To replace whatever was missing in their lives together. Or was was it for them? To build a better life, a new home, free from the duplicitous road they had travelled until then?

Unfortunately, he’d begun the mission with deceit. Had that tainted their chances from the off? Could anything good come from a bad place? She looked at Madison, hand in hand with Neri. Yes, it could, came the answer.

Her daughter was smiling again, and hope returned to Blake’s world. She saw the coldness in her eyes earlier, a reflection of her own blank eyed stare, the childish wonder drained from those blue pearls. She had felt a machete to her throat, killed a man, seen her father’s rotten corpse buried in the mud in the last 24 hours. Blake had taken her daughter to hell, a regret greater than any before, but now there was a chance she might return.

Madison and Neri were kneeling at a sandy burrow in the beach, staring down at the largest crab Blake had ever seen. It was a monster, ugly as hell, with a purple blue shell near two feet wide. Birgus latro, the coconut crab native to Vanuatu, so named because it’s huge pincers caught were strong enough to crack open the coconuts that littered the islands with ease. What could it do to a child’s skull? Blake felt a shiver of panic.

But Madison wasn’t afraid. “Don’ be scared chile,” said Neri. “He more scared of you than you of it.” The 8 year old giggled. She reached out a finger towards the crab and it curled away. That fearless curiosity had returned. Inwardly Blake breathed a sigh of relief. She joined Neri and Madison watching the crab scuttle inland towards the shelter of the palms.

“All creatures like us,” said Neri. “Jus’ trynna survive.”

Never a truer word was spoken.


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