Chapter One: Predictions
They say that sunset in the tropics is instant. One moment it’s daylight and then it’s dark. If you’re lucky, in between you can see the “green flash.” I’m convinced that the so-called green flash is a myth based on the way the light appears at sunset some nights. And as for instant — hardly. Sure, twilight doesn’t last forever like it does in a Canadian summer, but it happens. I know it does, because there I was, sitting on the beach in Mo’orea, watching the sunset’s colours illuminate the few clouds dotting the sky out to sea.
The party was in full swing behind me, people laughing and eating, the twang of a guitar as someone started up a song.
“I was wondering where you’d gone to.” That non-existent twilight managed to cast a shadow over me as Isaac settled into the sand next to me. He wasn’t even ten years older than me, but he felt like a kindly uncle. As the mate on the ship I served aboard, Isaac kept both the boat and the people working.
I smiled at him. “I’m fine,” I said, “just enjoying the view.”
“Hmm,” he said, “it is beautiful.” I could just make out him gesturing back to the party. “They sure know how to have a good time.”
He wasn’t referring to our shipmates, although the sentiment applied to them as well. We were enjoying our last night in the area, which was often an excuse for a party. But this time it was especially worth noting, as our hosts were Tulia’s extended family.
She was one of the deckhands and Mo’orea was her home. When we’d arrived two weeks previously, they’d tried to convince her to stay. It had been touch and go for a while, but she’d eventually convinced them that she wasn’t ready to quit sailing yet. The captain, Mat, had agreed to stay in the area longer than usual to let them spend a little time together, but we had to get moving. At least, that was what she said. I didn’t completely understand our schedule, but I did understand that Mat got squirrelly if we stayed in one place too long. At first I thought it was part of our business model but now I wonder if it had more to do with the captain’s personality.
“They’re going to miss her,” I said.
“They will,” Isaac agreed. “I’m going for another plate of ham. You coming?” He stood, brushing sand off his butt. I watched as the dying colours deepened in the sky.
Rainui Laille, Tulia’s brother, had laid in a proper Polynesian spread for the party, including a whole roast pig. I wasn’t a vegetarian or anything, but honestly it put me off. I tried not to look it in the face as I took a plate. I stood next to a young Polynesian woman, one of Tulia’s cousins, waiting for my turn at the salads. She was tall, with long wavy hair that fell almost to her hips, and even in the dim light I could make out the swirl of a tattoo on her upper arm. She caught my eye, and said in accented English, “You sail with Tulia?”
I said I did and introduced myself. “I’m Devi.”
“I’m Marie. Nice to meet you.” She scooped a large helping of something that looked like coleslaw onto her plate, then gestured to me. I nodded and she gave me an equally generous portion. “How long have you been sailing?”
“I joined the crew…” I had to mentally count the days, “… a couple of months ago.”
“Oh. And before?”
Before I was on the boat I was a regular university student in Vancouver, and I’d ended up on board the Byte Bucket as my internship working for a company that offers clients untraceable, remote data storage. Explaining cloud data storage was hard enough; explaining that I administered servers installed on a boat that most of the time was sailing in some of the remotest parts of the world, when even I didn’t really understand why we did what we did — well, it wasn’t exactly easy small talk for me.
“This is my first time on a boat.” I left it at that, and she seemed surprised but accepted what I’d said without question. We took our plates to a nearby table and sat.
After we’d each had a mouthful, she said, “There are a lot of ladies on your boat, no?”
I couldn’t help myself and I laughed. “Yup.”
“I work with Rainui at the company.” Tulia’s brother and his wife ran a local tourist charter firm; they’d just added a float plane to their fleet of jeeps. “We see many of the cruising yachts. There are not so many ladies on other boats, I think?”
I nodded. “We are unusual, it’s true. There are lots of couples, a few families. The big, fancy boats have crew; they’re mainly guys.”
She nodded, thinking it over. “It’s good,” she said, finally. “It’s hard to be the only lady.”
“It is.” I knew it wasn’t as bad as it used to be in computer science, but I’d still had plenty of experience being the only woman in the room. “What do you do?”
“I’m the pilot,” she said, grinning. I grinned back.
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