25 Godforsaken land

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I

It was a brief quiet time.

Said Livvi to Jenny, to Miles, also to Jodi, to all of them in fact:

‘Jenny, you will come around over Miles, he sees the rights and wrongs now, as I said to you. Plus some hard work from you both.

Miles, Jenny doesn’t want ‘pity love’ or for you to think ‘since we are married I suppose I’ll stay’ love or ‘if I coulda I woulda with someone  else but I got caught with you instead’ love or even because ‘everyone thinks you are a great catch so I got caught up in it’ love. Jenny needs real, hardwork love. You can do that. It will even out. 

And you Jodi … poor Jodi … you need to wait on the Lord. It cannot be forced, sweetheart. Even if you never find the one, it is better than being a sex slave. You cannot force it. Give it time. You are still very young, work on yourself before you get married.

And Miles again … you need to stop worrying like a mother hen … it worries Jenny because you’re fretting about Jodi not having a lover … even though that is sexual urging upon the poor girl.  Leave her be, let it play out … forcing things is not the way.

Jodi is not a nothing because she has not found her mate. If she bases everything on finding a man and sexuality which I am not condemning by the way, there’s much in that union … but still … there is more to you than that.

And Miles, you are not God. There is a God to take care of such matters, Ok? I’ve nothing more to say on the matter.’

There was silence in the salon for the space of maybe a minute, then Miles had to race back to the helm … the last he saw, the two women were doing as they needed in the salon with the girl Jodi.

The three of them came back to the wheelhouse, wooden chairs, usual thing.

‘Ok,’ said Jenny, ‘decision time. Luke has a cabin plan, which is basically a ‘who’s on what boat’ plan. Gabby wants over here with the two of us, she’s not ready, after losing her hubby, nor is Luke ready yet, let’s see at the other end.

Now here’s my idea … the real sailing knowledge is in Hubby, Livvi, Miles, apparently not Jesse, not really Luke, although he’s an all round talent, plus the fact is … he owns the boat … it means he stays captain there.

I’m not personally keen for my mother to come over here, this does not have the mod cons and I like my privacy. Jodi will speak in a minute. Miles and I stay here, Livvi virtually swaps for Gabby. If Jodi goes over there, two must come here … I’d say that would be Jesse and Julie. If Jodi stays here, I’m delighted and I’m the one who counts concerning Miles. But can Miles be trusted?’

Jodi answered that. ‘That’s up to the girl, Jenny, not just Miles. This girl says he can be. But I’d still like Jenny and I to visit our moms for now, my kid bro too. Can we do that?’

Jenny was finishing writing: ‘I’ve included that. Ok, Jodi … here … get sending.’

.o0o.

The reply was not long coming back. Luke had put the swimming platform in the up position, Jenny and Jodi would go over to visit, Livvi still on helm here, Miles helping at the bow, there was fifteen minutes for all the meeting and greeting, the girls would come back with Gabby and at least one other to help sail the tri, the mothers would stay there, everyone would meet up at the other end. When everyone was safely aboard their boat, the tri would fly the changing to port flag, go past the cat and their crew would all wave, capsizing both boats. No, just a joke.

II

The massive surprise was that Hubby and Livvi had immediately gone to Hubby’s single berth below to starboard, Livvi had then come back over with the other two, rejoining them. No one else.

Just in time too. They were now onto that wave rollercoaster as they drew away from land, it was getting nasty already, some dried food had come the tri’s way, some water the other way. They understood the signals.

Gabby knew there was limited time for conversation, Jenny filled her in on all the routines, sleeping arrangements would be interesting on the tri.

On the cat, the berths basically arranged themselves. The two newbies, most keen to say they were celibate till marriage … must have been a topic on the Patron’s ship … they occupied the for’ard double to port, the mothers had the other one to starboard, Luke had the single in that hull and seemed happy enough, Hubby had the port single.

On the tri, it was more in the line of singles as it had been before, except that Livvi and Jodi had earlier chosen to kip down in the salon in the central hull. The other two had been glad but that was not now possible.. Jenny and Miles still occupied their cabin, except that Jenny had thrown the for’ard boudoir open to the females. The four others changed and swapped berths – Jodi had a double in the port aka, Livvi had the starboard … Gabby kipped in the salon but used the boudoir and their loo.

In a rare half hour she was allowed with Miles on cushions in the salon … Gabby spoke. It was all very well Livvi and Jenny taking this stance on the fullness of time for relationships to develop but circumstances out there were not so kind.

‘I know,’ said Miles. ‘I’m not God, as Livvi put it …’

‘Did she now?’ Gabby chuckled.

‘… but I do see, and I suspect you do too, Gabby, that the Patron’s choices were not accidental.’

‘Precisely. It helps no one to say it out loud but all females here except Livvy do need to start the new colony. Obviously, the emphasis is on us all first finding some hiding place in the wilderness and either holding out until it’s over and we can return … or else it’s a new nation we start. Both Julie seem to want … it was one of the factors for the Patron. As for Livvy, have you tumbled to it? As a man, possibly not?’

‘She’s already had her children? No, never crossed my male mind,’ he smiled. ‘They’re presumably somewhere well hidden at this moment, those kids.’

‘Which says something about her age, yours and mine. No pressure on Livvi of course but on you and me, Miles …? You’re halfway there with a partner who wants … but you’ll need to get down to it soon. So will I.’

‘Yes.’ He thought some moments. ‘Delicate topic, yes?’

‘Uh huh. Livvi says leave that side to God. There’s sense in that but it doesn’t hurt to be aware.’

‘How are you coping, Gabby? It’s been rough.’

‘No more than with others. I feel we’ve crippled the enemy every so often. In the end, it does have an effect, war of attrition. Miles, we need to relieve those two on duty.’

She went to her place in galley and on deck if necessary, he on helm.

III

About halfway to destination, things were well into a routine on both boats, the constant pounding, the contant instability, even for stable boats, the need to repair the drogues, their amazing effect, changing the storm sail and repairing the battered one, screaming winds, heaped up seas, with sudden plunges, the constant rising and then the huge wave breaking ahead, everyone praying it would not break under them … all of this was exhausting … they had Dramamine onboard too.

Time off was so precious. Also communication. At certain set times, a personal message went up from one to another on the other boat … their time on the masts. Luke-Miles, Hubby-Livvi and so on … they wore those flags out.

IV

All knew about Hell’s Gates which guarded the entrance to the harbour, more a reference to the convict past and the loss of any hope, nowadays it was the shallow, treacherous nature of the entrance. They’d read up on it, they had tide tables for many places and this had been one.

The cat had almost overshot it and there were moments for the tri, but then they were through about twilight and the grounding on the sand near Strahan was mindnumbing after the past four week’s horror … and yet deliverance. There were a fair few prayers of thanks on that beachy strip.

There was almost anger from Luke:

‘How the hell did we get through that?!’ he demanded of the assembled gathering on the battered catamaran, two days after grounding … in a good way.

‘You’re angry,’ said Miles, ‘and I don’t blame you. You bought the cat from the Patron …’

‘For a song, I confess.’

‘Yes, but it was your nest egg, Luke, and even though we knew it was going to be a pretty dire rollercoaster, I’m not sure any of us were quite expecting how bad it was.’

Said Jenny: ‘The cat’s not built for that sort of sailing, our crazy craft is but we lose comfort as a result. Nice riding but lethal. Your cat is so buoyant, too buoyant to keep a straight line. Mod cons are fabulous though right now in the harbour. Locals have been great – they thought the tourists were all gone, suddenly here we are, spending like crazy, even though it’s officially no longer legal tender, but the locals know how to get it converted it seems – also we’re in the real wild west here.’

‘That’s one thing I suppose,’ said Luke. ‘Logging country here, they don’t like interference. I feel sort of at home to be honest. All right, we’re in one piece, time for sorting our personal issues, for our post-mortems. We’ve had food and sleep … now … what the hell do we do next? Miles, I’m shattered, take it away, we’re all ears.’

‘We’re all shattered I think. I wasn’t sure we’d make it, to be honest, even getting into the harbour, except by prayer. Look, we’re here now, the locals are friendly, the authorities are kept out, led astray because it would cost the locals our paltry custom, communications to Hobart have mysteriously been jammed … thanks Jenny and Livvi, we’re doing all right, except … except …’

‘We can’t stay here,’ sighed Jenny. ‘And yet it needs to be said and said publicly. We have to decide, one by one, do we stay here and chance it, mix in, do we try for a new colony as two of the locals said, offering to pilot us to that godforsaken place they called it, food is not an issue if we like fish and the occasional bird, not much else until we could get chickens going … or else do we stay on the run, not knowing which places are hospitable or not.’

Said Hubby: ‘The downside of tropical is the islands are oversubscribed, they’re also bristling with globo. This way ain’t great but there are upsides. We’d desperately need warm gear … almost eskimo gear. And we’d never know who’d shopped us.’

‘So what do the others think?’ asked Gabby.

.o0o.

By the time it got to Stas, it was clear everyone wanted to try this place further south … wild, raging gales but possible if they dug in. They might be able to offer succour for Strahan locals on the run, who knew? Where there are humans, there’s also treachery.

The news through Strahan, though admittedly narrative, was still not good. The world was certainly in shellshock, pestilence was rife in populated areas. To be expected of course.

If they could dig in at this new place … if … then came the prospect of no medical assistance, no operations, just a life eking out a living. All very well speaking of who loves who, it was going to be a reality show … for real. Harsh. At least all were able-bodied.

Jenny asked if they could go back to their boat for now … alone? Most but not all thought she was going to tell Miles off.

.o0o.

Gabby it was a short while later, some called her the cat burglar, who’d snuck across, had seen, had gone the colour of the discarded dress at how the rug in the salon was now seeing action.

Livvi was poised to come over, Gabby indicated ‘no way’ and got out as quickly as she could.

.o0o.

At the end of the hour and a half they’d been allotted by the others, they appeared on the catamaran … but only to collect Jodi, who ran after them as if she was going to miss some of the fun, whatever it was.

The instant they went below, she could smell it … a smile spread across her face. She looked at Jenny.

‘It was our rug, not the salon rug,’ said Jenny, quickly, ‘we swapped them back afterwards.’

‘You don’t need to explain.’

‘No,’ said Miles, ‘but I do.’ He went and got three juices, handed them theirs. ‘Jenny resolved the matter of Jodi and me but she didn’t completely, she couldn’t. You see, it wasn’t just the moral issue but I was so unfair to both of you. I could relieve the tension between Jodi and me later … inside Jenny … I could also shut Jodi out during it by filling myself with Jenny. Purely selfishly, I was ok.

Livvi said I’m not to play God, also that Jodi needs to just find her way in life. Good advice but Gabby, while agreeing, also said it would be nice, if we do set up a new nation … that’s the word she used … if the females … um … did their thing … like not hooking up but partners you see. All that will work itself out but my point is that I was so unfair to both of you and I’m sorry.’

Jenny glanced at Jodi, slight smile both had on their lips, Jodi made to speak. ‘Miles, Jenny, remember some things. My job was to infiltrate and split you two but once I was in Jenny’s arms and training with her, then you were so nice too, Miles, I could not do anything like that, no way. But it sure looks like it with that naked bed business. Truth is … I just had to, needed to, Miles did too … we went past the point where it could stop. But those droplets stopped it. Miles, how close were you …’

‘Very. Ultra-close.’

‘I see. I don’t show a lot of emotion but I was too. There were too many obstacles, Miles, even if you’d been free, which you weren’t. And you’d have done that to me too, it’s a worry with you. Maybe I would have. But at that moment … well let me put it another way … I’m not against being your partner in principle … but no way with Jenny my best friend.’

Jenny just looked from one to the other. ‘Honesty. Phew. Good. By the way, I had no idea Miles was going to say that just now … or you, Jodi. Listen, we have to get back over there.’

.o0o.

There was an issue back on the catamaran.

Julie was speaking and something had happened with Jesse and her so it seemed. ‘It’s not always bad things, negative you know. Sometimes there are some special things which are big pluses. I’m not good at explaining. Stas’s family.’

‘That’s also Jodi’s family,’ said Jenny-come-lately.

‘Yes, I know that. I don’t want to marry Jodi here. We’re friends.’

‘Jesse? Thoughts?’

‘It’s better.’

‘Whoa, stop!’ said Miles. ‘Will someone explain?’

Gabby did. ‘I swear it was not my doing. Those two just came up from below, no fight, no trouble …’

Jodi cut to the chase. ‘Who’s free?’

No one was saying but Jodi looked at Jesse, who looked back at her. ‘Oh my goodness,’ she murmured. ‘Prayers do work.’ She thought some more. ‘All right, I take it that you, Stas, are with Julie.’ Both confirmed. ‘Ok, seems to me that it comes down to Luke and Jesse in the end.’ Luke held Gabby close. ‘Right, so that one is taken care of … Jesse?’

He walked up, knelt on one knee on the floor before her, took her hand and kissed it.

‘Do that again,’ she commanded.

He did. Then … ‘Is all this for real?’

No demur, the two mothers were beaming.

They dispersed, Stas and Julie below, Jesse and Jodie to the deck, Jenny between the two mothers.

‘Thank the Lord for that,’ muttered Hubby to his wife. ‘Now may we eat?’

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