It was all I could do to keep my boat to a course as straight as a bat's and pray. I had been warned of the storm and advised not to brave it. At about this time, I was wishing I had listened.
But I had had no choice. I had heard that she was on the next island. In the past, a night's hesitation had proven pernicious to my pursuit. My only chance to succeed had been to take the risk. And now, it seemed, it would be taking my life.
Every muscle in my body strained at the oars, fighting with all my strength the waters that would surely consume me if I yielded. Meanwhile, another part of me prepared to meet my Maker.
I don't know why I looked up at that moment. Perhaps it was mere happenstance. Perhaps I sensed the arc of brine looming above me. Whatever the reason, I looked up, and I saw it--and it is a sight I will never forget.
It was as if, for a moment, time froze. The wave was the gaping mouth of a massive sea monster poised to devour me and my dinghy whole. Water dripped from its tip, glistening in the lightning like fangs.
And then it lunged. Before I had even time to react I was submerged in water, the salt stinging my nose and nostrils, already my lungs beginning to burn for air. I had no idea which way was up, no idea what I was seeing, if, indeed, anything. I could see nothing but the bubbles surging before my face, I could feel nothing but the water simultaneously attempting to pull me apart and constrict me. My mind began to fade. Spots appeared before my vision. But they were not spots--there were but two. They were eyes. They were here eyes. In my ears I heard her laughter. The throbbing in my chest was just the my ardently beating heart.
I saw a ray of light. With my quickly ebbing energy, I swam toward it. I was ready. And the last thing I felt was her hand in mine. . . .
And then, the impossible happened. I opened my eyes. A ceiling fan with palm-shaped blades circled lazily above me. The whole bamboo-furnished room was cast in a greenish glow, due the sunlight filtering in through the viridescent curtains.
Suddenly the curtains slid apart, and there stood framed in the window a figure. As my eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, I discerned the back of a screen of ebon hair. I knew immediately who it was.
"You're awake now. I'm glad. I--I was worried that you might be----"
"I'm not," I interrupted. "Because--you saved me--right?"
The head bobbed. "What were you doing out there?" In a rush, she went on, "What were you thinking? Why aren't you in America? How are you here?"
"I should think that was obvious."
"Were--were you really looking for me?"
"Of course I was. You didn't think I would give up on you that easily, did you?"
"I'm a criminal. After what I did--how can you----?"
"Because I trust you. I don't know why you did what you did. But I know you had a reason."
"How can you believe in me so easily?"
"Because I love you. And I know you."
"How long? How long have you been following me?"
"Since you left."
Her voice wavered for half a tone, then steadied. Her command over emotion had always been absolute. "You followed me all the way around the world?"
"I'd follow you around it a hundred times."
She was silent. I went on, "I believe in you, you know. I always have. That's why I didn't give up, and why I wouldn't let you get away. That's why I've followed you, all the way here to Yahoolala or whatever this forlorn place is called." She still didn't give an answer. Normally she would have corrected me, but the circumstances were far from normal.
"I'm only disappointed that you couldn't trust me."
She still didn't move. Breathlessly she whispered, "You know I trust you. But I loved you too much to let you suffer for what I did."
"You're my wife. I don't care what in blazes you do, because I know who you are and what she will do! What you did--I don't understand it. But I know, and that's all there is to it."
I swung my legs out of the bed and rose unsteadily to my feet. But the battle with the storm had been too much. My legs were weak with fatigue. I stumbled; and then she was there, her arm around my torso, her shoulder under mine, her other hand on my face.
She said only two words, and nothing more. "I'm--sorry."
Then I felt a prick in my thigh, and I collapsed on the bed. Her convulsive sobs shook the bed. All I wanted, as I slipped into unconsciousness, was to kiss away the tears that now ran freely down her face. . . .
I was awakened by cold water in my face. When I looked up I saw an aged woman standing over me in the traditional vesture of the islanders.
"You hurry," she urged, trying to pull me to my feet. "You go dock! You still catch her!"
I didn't lose a moment. With no more than a "thank you" to the woman I ran from the room. I made all haste to the dock, where many wooden vessels were being prepared for launch. Then I caught a flash of sleek black hair amidst the tangled, upswept locks of the native women, climbing aboard a catamaran. Her eyes widened when I appeared by her side.
"I know why you don't want me to come with you. And I appreciate your concern. But isn't that my choice to make?" I searched her gaze, but she turned her face away. "Can you really leave me behind?"
"My heart's torn. I want to be with you--but I don't want to force you into all this." She flung her arms in a sweeping indication of her surroundings.
I seized her in an embrace. "You're not forcing me into anything. All I want is to be with you, wherever we are, wherever it takes us." I turned to the expanse of blue that stretched to the horizon. "If you have to flee, then you'll flee, but not alone. We will run--together."
She was at a loss for words. She threw her arms around my neck and let actions speak louder than words. We kissed. With all the passion of months of separation, with all the apology she could express, with all the faith I could give. The catamaran cast off and set sail toward the rising sun, and still neither of us released the other. This time we would not let go.
~ THE END~
From the desk of Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith